If you’re an artist who likes to use a variety of paints and tools, you’ll know that sometimes there are projects that require a balance between fluidity and control.
For example: you hand-paint cards, design logos, or like to paint using lots of fine lines and detail. While you love the soft, bleeding effects of watercolors, even a tiny brush still doesn’t quite give you the control you need to paint each line and shape with perfect precision.
On the other hand, using colored pens or pencils look too static and structured for your liking - so what’s the solution? You’ve tried every pen, paintbrush, and paint type on the market, but have you tried brush pens?
Brush pens basically offer the blending ability of watercolors, in the control of a flexible-tip pen. There’s no mixing of paints required, no mess to clean up afterward, and yet you can still achieve the soft gradients of watercolors and the fine lines of a pen in one easy-to-use tool.
If you’re completely new to brush pens, fear not. We’ve compiled the best brush pens on the market, along with a handy Buyer’s Guide to take you through everything you need to know before purchasing.
So, let’s get started.
OUR TOP PICK
These Arteza brush pens come in a pack of 24 and offer a rich variety of colors. They provide great bang for your buck, offering vibrant shades and finer, more flexible tips than a lot of the costlier brands.
Each brush has a supple tip composed of durable nylon bristles and these are tapered to a point to allow you to create thin lines, or simply brush downwards for thicker, fuller strokes.
They can be used in a variety of ways: either with water for a delicate watercolor effect or without water for bolder, brighter dry-painting. They’re ideal for creating paintings but also for coloring, calligraphy, and even doodling.
The great thing about these brush pens is the amount of control they give you: you can do everything from airy pastel washes to precise lines and details, to subtle shading and gradients.
These pens are also ACMI-certified for safety and are non-toxic, so they’re ideal for the whole family to get creative.
- 24 bright, bold colors included in each pack
- Great value for money
- Allows you to achieve both fine lines and fuller strokes
- Use with or without water for various effects
- Nylon bristles for flexible durability
- Because of their watercolor nature, it can be difficult to get a ‘clean’ edge.
If you’re looking for a brush pen for calligraphy purposes, look no further than Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens.
These contain both soft and hard tips to accommodate different strokes, from extra fine to fine or medium, depending on how much brush pressure you exert.
The brush tip is flexible to allow you to achieve different types of lettering and drawing techniques, and the ink is water-based and super pigmented, so you can achieve a bold, dense color that looks super professional.
The iconic Fudenosuke brush pen comes in black, color, or neon variations, but you’ll have to purchase these separately.
The rich ink is specially formulated to sit lightly atop the paper without saturating and bleeding through - so they’re perfect if you want clean, bold lines, rather than the watercolor effect achieved with something like the Arteza set mentioned above.
- Perfect for calligraphy and drawing
- Soft and hard tips included
- Accommodates different types of lettering techniques
- Richly pigmented, water-based ink sits on top of the paper rather than bleeding or soaking
- If you want to acquire different colors, these may be quite expensive
These 24 vibrant brush pens cover the full spectrum of colors, offering bold, pigmented ink. The set comes with two brushes: a smaller tip for finer lines and a larger one for bolder strokes.
Colors can be diluted with water to achieve a gradient effect and can easily be blended to achieve a sfumato effect.
The brushes are top quality and are made of flexible nylon bristles for a natural feel that allows you to achieve professional results.
The great thing about these brush pens is that the tips are real paintbrushes rather than stimulated fabric tips which simply don’t give you the same amount of control and versatility.
The tapered tip of Crafty Croc brush pens allows you to achieve maximum control, whether you’re painting intricate details or practicing calligraphy, and you can even use them with your real watercolor paints.
The pen itself has a leak-free design, and the ink is 100% non-toxic and water-based, so you needn’t worry about it getting on your skin.
This set also comes with a handy hard-cover travel case that allows you to store your pens safely without risking them getting crushed or lost.
This also makes them super portable and ideal for transporting to school, college, work, or simply for storing at home.
- 24 vibrant colors in each set
- Real bristle brush tips
- Achieve a gradient watercolor effect
- Alternate between two different tip sizes
- Each pen has a leak-free design
- Hard travel case included
- Ink is 100% non-toxic
- It’s difficult to layer colors as they’re so saturated
Tombow provides exceptional quality when it comes to brush pens, and this pack comes in 9 bright colors with the addition of a colorless blender pen that enables you to create a watercolor effect and blend colors together.
Each pen is also dual tipped, so you have a flexible brush tip on one end to work like a paintbrush, and a fine tip on the other end to provide careful, consistent lines and intricate details.
The ink is acid-free, non-toxic, and odorless, and can be used dry or with water to achieve a water-wash effect.
The resilient nylon brush retains its point even after heavy use, and the pen tips self-clean after blending so there is no messy clean-up.
This Tombow set is ideal for coloring, rubber stamping, hand-lettering, doodling, journaling, and more.
- Dual-tipped pens for paintbrush technique or intricate fine lines
- Resilient nylon brush retains point stroke after stroke
- Pen tips self-clean after blending
- Colorless blender pen included to blend colors
- Can be used with water to achieve a watercolor/water wash effect
- Acid-free, non-toxic, and odorless
- Only 9 colors in each pack, so it’ll be a little expensive to build up your collection.
Great for kids and art beginners alike, these dual-tipped brush pens are perfect for all types of art projects: from coloring to calligraphy.
With a 0.4mm tip on one end and 1-2mm brush tip on the other, you can alternate between drawing fine lines and thicker, fuller strokes.
With 36 vibrant colors in each pack, this purchase is great value for money. These brush pens are also non-toxic and acid-free: so they’re ideal for use in the classroom as well as at home.
The odorless water-based ink doesn’t bleed and accommodates fine details and brush lettering - so you can have greater control over your work.
If you’re an experienced user of brush pens, it’s likely that you’ll want something slightly more advanced than this set.
However, If you’re somebody who is just starting out in brush lettering or you simply like to color for art therapy or for fun, then these brush pens will be ideal.
Plus, considering the vast array of colors in each pack and the low price point, they’re great value for money.
- 36 pens in each pack - great bang for your buck
- Dual-ended to accommodate both fine lines and brush strokes
- Non-toxic, acid-free, and odorless water-based ink
- Perfect for beginners
- Some users found that the ink dries out easily
Best Brush Pens Buying Guide
You should definitely consider the brush tip when it comes to buying brush pens, as these will influence everything from the styles you can achieve, to the thickness of the lines you can create and how much ink flows onto the page.
Here are the most important things to consider:
- Consider the shape/thickness of the pens and whether or not these suit the type of artwork you’ll use them for. A flexible tip is important for being able to adapt between thicker strokes and more intricate work, but dual-tipped pens can be ideal for alternating between a paintbrush technique and precise, fine lines.
If you’re new to the art world, pens with dual tips, or with different tips you can switch between, are ideal for providing maximum versatility. On the other hand, if you’re looking for brush pens for calligraphy, you’ll probably want a brush pen that is slightly stiffer and won’t bleed easily.
- What is the brush tip made out of, and do you want a real paintbrush at the end or a simulated tip? Many brush tips on the lower end of the market are made from felt and are simply shaped like a brush, which means they’re unlikely to achieve a paint-like effect due to the stiffness.
- On the other hand, if the tips are made out of nylon bristles, they’ll work as an actual brush and will have greater flexibility and allow you to achieve a greater range of techniques. They’ll also mimic a real paintbrush, allowing you to create watercolor effects.
Some brush pens can be blended like actual paints, whereas others work more like felt pens and the ink is often too dense to blend. Pens that can be used with water will allow you to achieve a watercolor effect, so you can blend colors, layer them, and achieve a gradient effect. These can also be used dry so that you can achieve denser colors.
If you’re looking for brush pens for general coloring, you don’t need to worry about watercolor ones. Just bear in mind that with your average brush pen you won’t be able to easily layer colors or blend them into each other.
You can get different sets of color brush pens that are dedicated to different color schemes or aesthetics, from soft pastels to bold neons. When you’re starting out with brush pens, it’s best to opt for a set of primary colors, as this way you’ll cover the spectrum of colors you’re likely to need, then you can branch out and add more unusual colors to your collection.
Don’t forget that if you’re using watercolor brush pens you can also mix colors to achieve a specific shade. Bear in mind that while some of the cheaper brands offer an extensive range of colors in each pack, some of the higher quality brands come in smaller packs, so you’ll have to spend significantly more to build up your collection.
How much you spend on brush pens really depends on what you’ll be using the pens for. If you’re a professional artist or you plan on selling or showcasing your work, then of course you should consider spending more on your tools to ensure you can produce work to the highest quality.
If you’re new to this medium, you don’t need to spend much while you’re getting started. You can get the most bang for your buck in the $10 to $30 price range, where you can get an array of colors in one bumper pack. These packs are great for anyone who is looking to try out brush pens, from kids to adults, and they’re also great as an art therapy tool - whatever your age.
If you intend to use the brush pens for calligraphy, you may want to spend more on a professional brand like Tombow, as you’ll need a very precise tip in order to keep control over those fine lines.
What are brush pens good for?
Brush pens are ideal for a wide range of different crafts and tasks. They’re great for calligraphy and brush lettering and can be used to design greeting cards, invitations, posters - you name it. Alternatively, they’re also great for fine arts purposes and can be used in a gradient, watercolor effect, or for intricate, detailed designs.
They’re really versatile, which makes them ideal for amateurs and professionals alike. Most people love the control brush pens give them because you grip them and use them as a pen, while still being able to achieve a delicate water wash effect or a clean line, depending on the type of brush pens you use. They’re also ideal for adult coloring, art therapy, and art sessions at home or in the classroom.
What are ‘real’ brush pens?
Real brush pens are those that actually have a brush tip, usually made out of nylon, rather than a stimulated felt, chisel, or sponge tip.
This allows you to achieve a paintbrush effect due to the flexibility of the tip, which is usually tapered so that the tip can be used for fine lines, or brushed downwards to achieve fuller strokes.
Real brush pens also allow you to achieve a myriad of different effects, just like with real paintbrushes. For example, with watercolor brush pens, you can add water to achieve a water wash effect, you can layer paints, and you can even achieve a soft, gradient effect.
How long do brush pens last?
Most brush pens will last about 1.5 years, or maybe longer if they’re a good brand. If you use your brush pens frequently, such as every day, they’re likely to last only a few months.
However, sometimes brush pens become dry if you haven’t used them in a while. If your brush pens have shriveled up, you can revive them by soaking the tips in water for a few hours.
Do brush pens bleed through paper?
Bleeding can be frustrating if you’re not trying to achieve a ‘watercolor’ effect, for example, if you’re using brush pens for lettering or calligraphy purposes, or for journaling. Whether or not brush pens will bleed largely depends on the pens you’re using but also the paper, too.
If you’re using watercolor brush pens, premium brands usually create an ink that sits atop of the paper, but it can be best to use them on cardstock or watercolor paper to ensure the ink doesn’t soak through.
The same goes for most types of brush pens - usually, you’re better off using thicker paper, as otherwise you risk the ink soaking through.
The thinner the nib, the less likely the pen is to bleed through. So if you’re using fine-tip brush pens the amount of ink flow landing on the paper surface is less than with a normal brush tip, and therefore, you can probably get away with using normal paper.