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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 to traditional brushes, combining the responsiveness of a flexible brush tip with the ease of a fountain pen or marker. Browse our picks of the best brush pens to find the one that’s right for you.
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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.
Pentel Fude Brush Pen, Medium
Pentel designed its brush pen with traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes in mind. This pen is affordable and convenient, an ideal pen for introducing calligraphy to students. The nylon brush nib has an extra-fine tip for creating extremely thin yet nuanced lines. Its handle serves as its inkwell, and the amount of ink that flows to the brush nib is controlled by squeezing the handle. Refill handles are available; just unscrew the old handle and replace it with a new one. The pens hold a lot of ink and won’t run out quickly. Teachers love these pens because they are affordable and durable.
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.