Above the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and the Pentel Color Brush (top, gray cap; the cap color denotes ink color). Note that the orange tape around the Pocket Brush Pen is just something I do to identify old pens from their younger siblings.
I get a lot of questions about which Pentel brush pen I am using. Consequently I try to always be specific when I post a journal page using one of these tools on my website journal postings.
This post is my attempt to be even more crystal clear about these two pens and their attributes so that if you are interested in trying a brush pen you can know exactly what you are getting, and what results or working capabilities you can expect.
The Pentel Color Brush Pen
This pen, as you can see from the above photo (it’s the pen with the gray cap because it is filled with gray ink, but the cap will be whatever ink color it contains) this brush pen looks like a Niji waterbrush. It has the same sort of soft-bellied construction to hold fluids, in this case ink (or is it dye? I suspect it is but no one will tell me for sure). The tip of this brush pen is a synthetic brush with individual “hairs.” This is important because it allows you to achieve very idiosyncratic strokes, drybrush strokes, in general, strokes with lots of flair, not possible with a felt-tipped brush pen.
Left: A journal sketch of a llama using a Magenta Pentel Color Brush and gouache. Click on the image to view and enlargement and see how the magenta ink dissolves when it is touched with a wet paintbrush carrying pigment. (Note you can also use a clean brush and water only to blend out some interesting shading.)
The next thing you should know about this pen is that the ink is WATERSOLUBLE. It always remains so even after it dries. So if you are painting over brushstrokes made with this pen the lines are going to bleed.
Before you groan in complaint, let me tell you this isn’t a bad thing. I actually enjoy sketching with these pens and then adding gouache over the ink drawings. Whenever my paint brush touches one of the ink lines the ink blends and mixes with the gouache in interesting ways, creating tonal shifts and interesting sedimentary patterns. It’s just fun.
Now you can groan because there is some bad news. The ink in this line is NOT LIGHTFAST BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION. So if you use this pen to make your artwork please scan it right away and consider your digital file the “original.”
I don’t use these brush pens in my artwork any more, and I don’t use them often in my journals. But I do use them at life drawing, where they provide the perfect tool for warming up with the 2-minute opening poses.
The Pentel Color Brush sells for about $8.00. There are about 20 colors (maybe more, maybe less; I only use about 5 of the colors). They last for a reasonable amount of time, don’t “dry out” if left capped and alone for even weeks at a time, and when the ink is finally gone you can buy a new barrel full of ink for less than the cost of a new pen.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This is my preferred brush pen. In the image opening this post it is the bottom most pen, the one with the black plastic body and cap that looks like a fountain pen. (I think in Japan people do use this as a fountain pen.) Like a fountain pen this brush pen has cartridges. Regular visitors to my blog will also recall that I recently started using a new pen of this type after 3 years of intense usage of my previous one (the tip finally got a little worn). That’s good value for money in anyone’s book. And the old pen, which is pictured in the photo above hasn’t been tossed, it has just retired to my desk, no longer my constant companion.
The fact that these pen tips last so long should make you feel better about the cost: from $13 to $18 with 4 cartridges, depending on where you shop. (I get mine at Wet Paint in St. Paul.)
The other thing that should make you feel good about these pens is that the ink tested lightfast (I can’t find my card). And, for those of us who like to sketch and then add watercolor or gouache washes you’ll find that the ink is waterproof. (There may be some bleeding on some papers if you don’t let the ink completely dry, but I sketch quickly and typically by the time I’m ready to paint the ink is dry.)
This brush tip is also made of individual "hairs" and it allows you to get all the interesting strokes you can achieve with the other pen. The tip is slightly smaller in girth and also fiber length, making a different range of marks possible because of the smaller size.
This brush pen makes a great travel companion. I carried my first one around for three years and a couple airplane rides and there has never been a moment's leakage. You can view additional examples of journal pages made with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen here, here, and here.
I hope that this post helps clarify the differences between these two brush pens from Pentel. Now you have a visual image to aid you when shopping in person, or when looking at photos in catalogs (print or on-line). Be sure to use the specific name when ordering and remember that price is also a big clue as to whether or not you’re getting the pen you think you want. I hope you'll start experimenting with a brush pen!