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Love painting or inking but hate the mess? Consider brush pens, which combine the flexibility of brushes with pen technology. Highly portable and relatively easy to use, brush pens are also versatile: They can produce fine lines or thicker, fluid marks, depending on how you angle them. They’re a perfect tool for hand lettering or calligraphy, but you can certainly use them to add flair to illustrations and even paintings if they carry the right type of ink. Many have a brush tip at one end and a fine-tip or chisel-tip marker at the other, doubling your mark-making options. Browse our picks of brush pens and dual-tipped brush pens below.
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Suitable for artists of all skill levels, Tombow’s brushes are budget friendly, easy to use, and reliable. The nylon fiber brush on one end balances firmness with flexibility, offering control to produce crisp lines or cover larger areas with ease. On the other end there’s a fine bullet tip that is ideal for writing. Each pen comes with water-based ink that you can use to create watercolor effects; they are also very blendable and can be layered to achieve darker shades. These are excellent everyday pens, whether you intend to use them alone for illustrations, for hand lettering, or with watercolors. This set comes with nine colors and a clear blending brush.
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Copic Ciao Double Ended Marker Set
This line of alcohol markers from the celebrated Japanese brand is designed for beginners and children, but professionals can also enjoy using them. They carry a pretty high price tag, but they are a good entry into standard Copic products—which, being even more expensive, are a true investment. Like the Sketch and Classic lines, these showcase impressive blending and layering capabilities, are fast drying, and are permanent. They also feature a versatile brush tip, which performs similarly to a paint brush, and a broad chisel tip. What makes these markers different is their smaller, circular barrel and more limited color palette of 180 colors—sold individually or in curated sets, of which there are more than a dozen. (This particular set features 24 colors, a mix of bolds and pastels.) Also unlike Sketch markers, you cannot swap out any of the nib types for even more versatility.
Sakura Brush Tip Color Set
Sakura’s brush markers dispense the brand’s proprietary Pigma ink, which is renowned for its high saturation and archival qualities, being chemically stable and resistant to fading. These feature a single brush tip that is pleasantly springy and quite flexible—definitely softer than Tombow’s—so colors run smoothly. In fact, it almost feels as if you are painting with a paintbrush. Because the bristles are quite long and soft, however, we find that it takes a little while to achieve ideal precision, especially if you have a heavy hand. Still, because the ink system is very responsive to pressure, you can achieve super-saturated or subtle effects as well as alter the stroke thickness. This set features eight intense colors.
TOP OF THE LINE
Copic Sketch Marker Set
As mentioned above, these are dual-ended alcohol markers to invest in. The permanent and fast-drying ink practically glides from the pen to the page, whether you are using the brush tip or the chisel tip. Because they were originally developed for manga artists, they showcase stunning pigmentation and blend exquisitely. The Sketch line offers a whopping 358 colors, available by the pen or in curated color sets. You can swap out the standard nibs for a bullet tip, and you can also buy replacement nibs and ink refills, so these markers can effectively last a lifetime. We love the oval shape of these markers, which make them super comfortable to hold for lengthy drawing sessions.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Set
These innovative markers are loaded with India ink, which is typically sold in bottle form. Each pen features a big brush tip that comes to a fine point and moves smoothly across the page. Thicker than alcohol ink, this ink is highly pigmented, and each color features a very high lightfastness rating. Being a pigment-based formula, the ink can be used with alcohol markers once dry; the pigment won’t move. We recommend these for highly expressive drawings, hand lettering, or mixed-media art. This particular set includes 48 assorted colors; many other sets are also available. Be sure to shake before use.
Purchase: Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Set, $99.99 on Dick Blick