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Brushes and brush pens are an integral part of Chinese and Japanese black ink painting and calligraphy, and it’s worth every penny to invest in premium brushes. Natural bristles, such as weasel or sable hair, are springy and responsive, ideal for making fine, thin lines and sweeping thicker marks, but high-quality nylon bristles mimic the excellence of natural bristles and are more durable and affordable. Brush pens are a convenient alternative, combining the best of traditional calligraphy brushes with the ease of fountain pens or markers. Browse our picks of the best brush pens to find the one that’s right for you.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
You get four different brush tips to cover a range of needs when you buy this set. Included are soft- and hard-tip brush pens with black ink and a twin-tip instrument with black and gray ink. Each is filled with water-based ink that you can blend on the page with water without losing vibrancy. The pens also blend very smoothly when used together. Because the brushes retain a fine tip, it’s very easy to maintain a thin line with these pens—particularly with the hard-tip tool. Their thin barrels also make them comfortable to hold and easy to control.
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Copic Sketch Marker
Copic’s markers, which were originally developed for manga artists, are a top-notch option if you are looking for black pens for coloring. One end features a paintbrush-like tip and the other has a chisel tip. While they can certainly be used to execute fine lines, these alcohol ink markers excel at laying down uniform coverage across larger areas and blend seamlessly when used with other Copics. This Black 100 appears as a slightly bluish black that features a high concentration of dye. We especially love Copics because they are virtually odorless, and because the nibs and ink cartridges can be replaced.
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Sakura Black Pigma Pen
Sakura’s technical pen is loaded with the Japanese brand’s proprietary ink, an archival formula that is waterproof and fade resistant. It features a fine-tip brush point that is made of a rather soft felt to produce a great range of strokes, from medium-wide marks to ultrathin lines. The ink dries impressively fast to reduce the chance of smearing, doesn’t feather, and doesn’t bleed through most papers. The black color is opaque and lays down evenly. Each pack comes with two pens.
Artist’s Loft Black Brush Tip Illustration Pen
Those on a budget might want to consider this illustration pen, which features a very slim brush tip. It can be challenging to achieve consistent and neat wide lines with this pen, so we recommend it for finer detail work. The pen is loaded with water-based ink, so you can dilute your strokes to produce subtle washes. The ink is very black, but it doesn’t blend as smoothly as pricier products, with the nib leaving some splotchy areas in its wake.
TOP OF THE LINE
Kuretake Brush Pen
Kuretake’s brush pen is the best you can buy. You can create smooth, controlled strokes with the tip, which is made of superfine and highly resilient nylon bristles; varying the width of your lines is also a breeze given the brush’s flexibility. The flow of water-based dye ink is steady and ideal for producing highly expressive lines with no sudden skipping. This is also a wonderful pen for calligraphy. It comes with three cartridges of jet-black ink.