You don’t have to be a serious artist or calligrapher to create beautiful script. With a huge variety of brush pens to choose from on our site, we’ve compiled a guide to help you find the best brush pen for calligraphy. Read on to see our top recommendations for brush pens that suit beginners, dramatic lettering, and Asian calligraphy.
Brush Pen Characteristics
There are three main types of brush tips: natural hair (made from animal hair), synthetic bristle (generally constructed of nylon), and felt. Felt tips are good for beginners because their firm, marker-like tips offer good control. Natural hair and synthetic bristle brushes are softer, so they require more practice to use.
Brush Pen Tip Firmness
Brush tips range from soft to firm depending on the bristle type, density, and size. Felt tips tend to be firmer than bristle tips and produce predictable strokes. Loosely packed nylon tips offer more flexibility, but they have a tendency to fray and lose their shape over time. Bristle tips with individual hair fibers are the softest and respond best to subtle hand movements. However, they require extra practice to master.
Brush Pen Tip Sizes
Varying brush tip thicknesses can be advantageous for different uses. Thin tips allow for more detail but can feel scratchier. Broad tips feel smoother to write with and create bold, expressive strokes, but they’re not able to create extra fine hairlines.
Brush Pen Tip Elasticity
An elastic brush tip is springy: it bounces back to its original shape when lifted from the page. A brush tip with high elasticity can create very fine upstrokes because it returns to a conical shape as pressure is released, ensuring that the finset part of the tip is used. On the other hand, an elastic brush tip tends to stay deformed when pressure is released. They can be reshaped by gently pressing the opposite side of the tip against a piece of scrap paper.
Brush Pen Ink Flow
A brush pen with good ink flow dispenses ink consistently without streaking or pooling. Some brush pens have wet flow and create rich lines as soon as the tip touches the paper. Other brush pens are drier, so you can let the tip linger on your paper without creating ink blobs.
Brush Pen Ink Color and Pigmentation
Most standard brush pens come with black ink unless they’re designed for coloring or other special uses. Black inks vary in darkness across different brands. Pigmentation is a priority if you want your work to be bold and noticeable. If you desire a subtle gradient or a softer look, try brush pens with a muted black ink.
The Best Brush Pens for Beginners
Most people are familiar with the feel of a firm felt-tip marker and intuitively know how to control it. Good brush pens for beginners behave more like markers. Their firm tips are easy to control and create predictable lines. With some practice, you can learn how to apply pressure properly and create the line variation that makes brush calligraphy so popular.
In Japanese, kokoro (心) means heart and iro (色) means color. As its name implies, the Kuretake ZIG Cocoiro lets you customize the color of the pen and ink inside to match your heart’s desires. You have plenty of color options for building a pen that’s truly your own, whether you match colors or create a contrasting combination of pen bodies and ink refills.
When new, the Cocoiro’s felt tip is very firm with a relatively mild amount of flex. The felt brush tip breaks in over time which allows it to produce bolder downstrokes. However, hairlines also become more broad. Available in twelve different colors, the ink is water-based and water-soluble. We don’t recommend the bristle tip for beginner calligraphers because it’s harder to control, but the interchangeable refills ensure you can reuse your Cocoiro body as you graduate to intermediate lettering tools.
To assemble a Cocoiro pen, remove the transparent cap from the refill and insert the refill into the pen body. Match the threads of the refill to those on the pen body and screw them together firmly.
Marvy Le Pen Flex Brush Pens have small brush tips that are flexible yet firm, allowing for excellent control. The slim barrels don’t take up much space, which makes storage easy: you can pack all eighteen colors into a pen case and have room to spare for pencils and other daily essentials. These brush pens come in many of the same colors as their fineliner siblings, so color-coding enthusiasts can mix and match between bouncy hand lettering and precise writing.
The Pentel Fude Touch has many features in common with the original Sign Pen: a simple plastic body, secure snap-on cap, and rich ink colors. The Fude Touch swaps out the marker tip for a firm brush. Although thin, it feels buttery smooth to write with, making it suitable for long writing sessions. The Fude Touch comes in twenty-four colors with bodies that match the ink inside.
The Tombow Fudenosuke allows calligraphers to control strokes with precision. The tip is made from elastomer, a material that returns to within 90% of its original shape when stretched and released. The Fudenosuke’s tip retains its shape even as you apply various levels of pressure. It’s great for creating extra crisp hairlines on invitations, greeting cards, and other crafts.
The Best Brush Pens for Dramatic Lettering
We’ve all seen beautiful lettering with fine hairlines and whimsical twirls. For dramatic lettering, the brush pen tip should be soft and elastic so that you get as much stroke variation as possible. Pigmentation is another consideration: we recommend using a dark black ink to convey your message boldly, or vibrant shades for fresh pops of color. Additionally, seek out brush pens with archival ink—you want your beautiful lettering to last!
The Copic Gasenfude Nylon Brush Pen sports a narrow, flexible synthetic brush nib that creates dark, expressive line variations that are perfect for dramatic lettering. The nib has a super fine point that is excellent for detailed work. If you press down on it, the nib yields broad, strong strokes. The water-based ink is archival and Copic compatible—the second part means that it won’t bleed when used with Copic markers. You can also produce a dry brush effect with the long, flexible bristles.
Pentel’s refillable brush pens create crisp lines and strong strokes. These brush pens are similar in appearance, and they’re also compatible with the same cartridges. All of the pens are made for traditional Asian calligraphy, but are suitable for modern Western script too.
The Standard versions use water-based inks and come in a variety of tip sizes and bristle densities. From least to most dense, they are Extra Fine, Suki, Tsumi, Medium, Washi, and Broad.
Available in eighteen different colors, the Art Brush Pens have tips that are similar in size to Pentel’s medium tips. The water-soluble inks can be blended together to form beautiful gradients.
All Pentel Brush Pens are particularly conducive to creating a dry, streaky brush effect. Wipe the tip on a paper towel to reduce the amount of ink loaded in the bristles, then flatten out the hairs on a piece of scrap paper. You can also increase ink flow by gently squeezing the brush’s body.
The Royal Talens Ecoline contains a liquid watercolor ink that is transparent and easy to mix. This brush pen lays down a wet, juicy line, so it’s best paired with high-quality paper. The soft, flexible tip can be used for creating fine details or filling in large areas. The colors and semi-transparent shades are great for creating curly, whimsical fonts in addition to artistic illustrations.
The Tombow Dual Brush Pen is an iconic pen beloved by calligraphers and artists alike. Its large nylon brush tip isn’t as flexible as one made out of bristles, but it’s able to create bold strokes thanks to the sheer size of its surface area. Additionally, the Dual Brush comes in over one hundred colors. You can pick and choose exactly which colors you want individually, or bulk up the collection with ten to twenty pen sets. We should note that the Dual Brush Pen uses ink that isn’t water resistant. On the bright side, it lends itself to beautiful gradient effects. To blend colors together, use a Colorless Blender or plain water. A Tombow Water Brush with its built-in reservoir ensures you have a blending tool on hand even when you’re painting outdoors.
The Best Brush Pens for Asian Calligraphy
Brushes are the traditional tools for calligraphers who write Chinese characters and Japanese kanji. However, brushes often require messy liquid inks and regular cleaning to ensure optimal performance. Modern brush pens are an affordable option that don’t skimp on quality. They’re easy to carry with you and don’t require much clean up.
Like English script, Chinese characters can be written in different styles, from ancient hieroglyphic-like characters to more stylized writing. A dry brush effect (where lines are “broken” to show texture) is an artistic feature of Asian calligraphy and only possible with brushes that have individual hair fibers. If you want to hold your brush the traditional way—that is, pointing perpendicular to the paper—choose a longer pen for more balance.
In Japanese, bimoji means “beautiful letters.” The Kuretake Bimoji Brush Pen has water-based ink pigment. It is water resistant and alcohol proof when it’s dry. Its beige, wood-like barrel imitates the aesthetics and weight of traditional calligraphy brushes. The brush pen also has modern twists for added convenience, such as a nylon cord and comfortable rubber grip.
The pen is available in four felt-tip sizes and a nylon bristle brush tip. The felt nib allows you to transition from heavy to light strokes easily. However, these pens have more limited effects, so they are not suited for artistic calligraphy. The bristle brush has individual fiber hairs, which offer more flexibility and can yield a dry brush effect.
The Kuretake No. 13 is a luxurious brush pen with gold accents on its shiny, lightweight body. It comes with three black cartridges that are filled with water-based dye ink. The tip’s nylon bristles produce a steady, dark line and have great elasticity. It’s compatible with the same cartridges as Platinum fountain pens, and can even be paired with a fountain pen converter. You can create stunning, vibrant calligraphy using any bottled fountain pen ink of your choice.
When the pen is inked with the included cartridges, the brush should be used at least once a month. If the ink dries in the bristles, soak the tip in room temperature water overnight. You should also soak the tip to make sure it’s clean when refilling the pen with a new cartridge to prevent clogs. Replacement bristle tips are also available.
The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen has a soft, flexible tip. Made of individual nylon fibers, the brush tip is springy and retains its shape after each stroke. This brush pen uses rich, black ink that is slightly transparent. It’s fade resistant and waterproof, so it pairs well with watercolors. The Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is convenient and portable thanks to its lightweight body and cartridge-filling system. Learn more about the Pocket Brush Pen in our comprehensive guide.
The Pocket Brush Pen comes in a variety of different body colors and designs to match your style. The shimmering Kirari styles and limited edition barrel wraps add extra flair to the pen. Note that the versions labeled “GFKP3BPA” and “XGFKP-A” differ only in packaging—the pen itself is exactly the same.
Futayaku (ふたやく) means “two uses” in Japanese, and this double-sided brush pen certainly lives up to the name. The black version has a medium felt tip on one end and a fine tip on the other. The medium tip is soft and flexible for bold writing, while the fine tip is firm for detailed work. The Futayaku pen with black and gray ink uses a fine tip on both ends. It’s a great option for new calligraphers or those who want constant ink flow without having to worry about splayed bristles.
The pen delivers a constant and juicy line of ink in a satisfyingly opaque color. The ink has some water resistance but isn’t entirely waterproof. We found that this ink takes about thirty seconds to dry, which is slower than most of the brush pens mentioned in this guide. However, if you simply must have quick-drying ink, the Shunpitsu Double-Sided Pocket Brush Pen has ink that dries to the touch in just one second.
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