Jun 4, 2018

Brush Pens Review & Comparisons for Calligraphy Beginners

Before I start, I would like to make a disclaimer that I'm really not good at brush calligraphy, nor I attempt to show off my "hideous" handwriting. This post is solely focusing on the quality of the brush pens and what I think as a beginner in brush lettering. 

After I embraced the Traveler's Notebook religion (thanks-but-no-thanks to Alie who converted me, now I have another hobby to spend my money on), I find myself exploring other creative departments as well such as watercolour, photography, doodling, and now... brush lettering.

Related post: Brush Calligraphy Workshop by @NoveByVivient

The conventional way of brush lettering is, of course, using a brush and paint or ink. But now we have the convenience of brush pens that make life simpler. I have tested out 7 types of brush pens and will do the comparisons for its performance, water test, and highlighter test. The pens that we are comparing in this post are:

  • Kuretake Fudegokochi
  • Tombow Fudenosuke (Hard)
  • Sakura Pigma BB
  • Sailor Permanent Ink Brush Pen
  • Pilot Fude-Makase Brush Pen
  • Pentel Fudemoji Brush Sign Pen
  • Pentel Pigment Ink Brush Pen

For the test, I have left blotches of water on the words for 1 night, it is pretty extreme. And I also highlighted the words with multiple layers of highlighter to ensure the words are soaked up in the alcohol of the highlighter ink.

Kuretake Fudegokochi (Hard)

In terms of writing, it gives a good precision on smooth paper. The sample that I made is using watercolor paper and some fine bleeding is seen, but not too obvious. The tip of the pen is really small and guarded by a plastic to hold the tip secured and doesn't move too much. It has a felt tip. For water-resistance, I think it did a good job holding a pool of water overnight. If you mistakenly pour a drink over, quickly dry it with a towel and it will be fine. You can also use a light watercolor paint on top of the wording after the ink is completely dry. It shouldn't run too much. As for highlighter, the performance is average. The ink follows the movement of the highlighter lightly. If you gently highlight over the wording once, I don't think the ink will run.

Price: RM18.00
The place I purchase: CzipLee

Tombow Fudenosuke (Hard)

The Tombow Fudenosuke (Hard) is probably the neatest brush pen. It has a solid and firm tip that easy to control. This is a good brush pen for a beginner. It is also waterproof and highlighter-proof. It is a perfect pen for watercolor lining. I really recommend this pen if you want to have a good beginner experience. There is really nothing to complain much about the pen, other than it is pretty hard to find in Malaysia.

Price: RM10.60
The place I purchase: CzipLee

Sailor Permanent Ink Brush Pen

I know a lot of Japanese journalers are recommending this pen and when I get hold of it, I finally know why. It has a wide felt tip that is really soft. It has the feel and grip of an actual brush, but the felt takes away a little bit of the natural feel. Because of the effect that mimics an actual brush, you can use this for Chinese calligraphy painting. How cool is that? It also works perfectly for Chinese calligraphy compared to other pens. It is completely waterproof and highlighter-proof. One downside of this pen is the control. You may require some practices before unleashing the full potential of this pen. I hated it on my first try, now I can't live without it.

Price: RM7.50
I purchase from: Stickerrific 

Pilot Fude-Makase Brush Pen

To do some justice for this pen, firstly, the brand did not claim that this is a waterproof pen. But then I think, what is the point of having a non-waterproof pen anyway? It is a pretty good pen by itself. The ergonomics and flow is easily picked up for beginners. I just don't like the fact that it is non-waterproof, that's all. For the price, it is affordable and a good pen for practice. But I wouldn't use it on my precious journal with that ink.

Price: RM5.70
I purchase from: Stickerrific

Sakura Pigma BB

This is my very first brush pen. I have it in a few sizes, all of them have a pretty same consistency in terms of quality. The only difference is the size of the nip. I love everything about this pen, it is waterproof, smudge-proof and highlighter proof. However, for beginner, the brush leans towards the softer side. To have a good control, you have to hold the brush 180 degrees straight. It might be a tough one for those who are used to write in romanized words. But if you have slight Chinese calligraphy skill, this can be easy to overcome. I'm not sure if I have gotten a faulty pen, the tip keeps leaking. Or is it the way that I hold the pen is incorrect?

Price: RM8.90
I purchase from: Kinokuniya

Pentel Fudemoji Brush Sign Pen

This pen is recommended by Alie. She said it's the best brush pen for a beginner. I totally agree! It truly represents the Chinese term: pheng leng cheng. It gives a very clean line and easy to control. If you're looking for a pen to practice - this is the one. It is so affordable, even cheaper than a normal writing pen in some cases. But it is definitely non-waterproof and doesn't work with highlighter. I still love the fact that my calligraphy always look perfect with this pen even though I'm really not good in it.

Price: RM4.70
I purchase from: Stickerrific 

Pentel Pigment Ink Brush Pen

Of all the pen brushes in this post, this pen has an actual brush bristle. The rest is made of felt or soft plastic, but I really love this one for the real brush. It gives the authentic brush effect (if you're looking for that). It doesn't withstand water, but weirdly it is highlighter-proof. I'm not sure what is the science behind it. The brush gives a bold, strong stroke and the amount of ink can be controlled by putting pressure at the neck of the brush when you're holding it. It has a refillable cartridge which you can replace anytime. The ink runs of pretty fast if you don't know how to control it. It can be a hard-to-use brush pen, but I love that it gives a brush effect that similar to what you can do with watercolor.

Price: RM18.00
I purchase from: CzipLee

After so many pens being reviewed above, here are my recommendations for beginners:

  1. Pentel Fudemoji Brush Sign Pen
  2. Tombow Fudensosuke (Hard)
  3. Sailor Permanent Ink Brush Pen

And if you're looking for a real deal brush pen, I would recommend:

  1. Pentel Pigment Ink Brush Pen
  2. Sakura Pigma

The ones that I think you should skip are:

  1. Pilot Fude-Makase Brush Pen
  2. Kuretake Fudegokochi

Don't just take my word for it. All pens are not made equal. The designs are different and it depends on the individual preference which type we prefer. But if you're a beginner with no direction where to start, you may want to consider my opinion.

If you have any recommendation on the pens I should try, please comment below or tag me on your Instagram. I am always experimenting and would like to know what is your holy grail when it comes to brush pens or writing pens. 

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