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A brush pen is the ultimate tool if you want to achieve nice looking letters or draw vivid illustrations.

In short, a brush pen is a pen with a brush nib, and by varying the pressure against the paper the lines will vary in size. Phenomena like lettering or bullet journaling have made the brush pen very popular in recent years. Maybe it is time for you to lay down the fineliner or pencil for a moment and try something new? When choosing a brush pen there are three things that are good to take in consideration: size, flexibility, and materials.

Choose the right type of nib

The nib on a brush pen can consist of different materials. There are felt-tips but also tips with synthetic bristles or natural hair. As a beginner it is easier to start using a brush pen with a felt-tip, because it is easier to control as you begin to learn. 

Hard tip or soft tip?

Different brush pens are more or less flexible. Generally speaking, tips with bristles are more flexible than felt-tips, but of course there is also variation among felt-tips. Sometimes you can find information in the description of the product, or the product name, whether the brush pen has a hard tip or a soft tip. The hard tip is easier to control and because of this it is more appropriate for beginners. Tombow’s Fudenosuke, Pentel’s Fude Touch Sign Pen, Faber Castell’s Pitt Artist Brush and Stabilo’s Brush 68 are all different examples of brush pens with a harder nib. Feel free to try them out if you have not used a brush pen before. 

A benefit of using a soft nib is that you can get a bigger variation in the size of the lines. If you want to try a flexible, soft brush pen we would recommend checking out for example Zig Kuretake’s Cartoonist Brush Pen, Clean Color Real Brush, or Sakura’s Pigma Micron Brush.

Small nib or large nib?

Brush pens are, just like most other pens, available in different sizes. If you want to illustrate and draw with a brush pen, a small nib is better for details and contours, and a larger nib is better for colouring. Royal Talens’ Ecoline Brush Pen and Tombow’s ABT Dual Brush Pen both have larger brush nibs. They are very popular for lettering but work great for colouring as well. 

What do I use brush pens for?

Brush pens can be used for brush lettering and calligraphy, but also illustrating and colouring. Learning how to write with a brush pen can be difficult in the beginning, but do not give up. It is all about training your muscle memory, so with time it will feel a lot easier. To achieve the style and dynamics of the letters, remember to push a little harder when going down, and a little lighter when going up. Also, remember that you do not need to write everything at once, and that it can be good to take a break and rest your hand sometimes. 

When drawing with a brush pen, thanks to the flexibility you can achieve dynamic pieces that feel more vivid than if you were using a fineliner, or any other pen with a round, hard tip. The most common thing is that the ink in a brush pen is water-based, which means that it will not bleed through normal paper (unlike alcohol-based ink). You can also use the ink to get watercolour effects, just apply the paint from the pen on a piece of plastic and then apply the paint on a paper with a wet brush.

In short, the brush pen is flexible in a double sense, both in its nib but also in what you can use it for. Just press the tip against the paper and start trying it out!

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