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Review: non-felt tip brush pens

While watching a promotional video of the career of Jeff MacNelly by Tribune Media Services back in the lat ’90’s, I saw Jeff use what looked like both a office pen with a cap that was putting down a line that only comes from a brush. I asked Jeff’s assistant Chris Cassatt if he knew what Jeff was using. He pointed me to the Pentel Pocket Brush pen. That’s been my brush of choice ever since. The line is perfect for comics and not having to worry about spilling ink was a relief for an accident prone guy like me.

Cartoonist Jonathan Case reviews a few brush pens that he’s found to work best for him:

Across my adventures with brush pens, there are two features I?ve required: brush bristle tips as opposed to a felt marker tip and the ability to fill a pen with my own ink. I hate throwing away all the plastic cartridges, and I hate buying them. Once I have a brush pen in hand, I?m also looking for two performance qualities: consistent flow of ink over long spans (many brush pens don?t put out enough ink for quick lines over long spans, resulting in an unwanted dry-brush effect) and a fine tip that allows control over detail work.

Community Comments

#1 Kelly Ferguson
August/1/2014
@ 11:54 am

Ah yes. I recognize that one from the Jet Pen sample set you linked to awhile back. Not long ago I picked up that set since I’ve been trying to find another good brush pen. It’s funny, of the 5 pens, the Pentel was actually my least favorite; the brush was too “squishy” for my unique needs, way too tough for me to control the line. My favorite of the bunch was the Pilot Pocket Brush; you can still get a variety of line thinknesses, but the brush has a little more stiffness to it, so it’s easier to control. I usually switch between the Pilot & my trusty Micron brush pen.

#2 Gary Brookins
August/1/2014
@ 1:36 pm

Jeff used a variety of drawing tools over the years, from the old reliable Winsor & Newton Series 7 w/c brush, to felt tips, designer’s markers, ballpoint pens, and finally, the Wacom tablet. He did indeed use the Pentel Pocket Brush for several years during the ’90s prior to going digital. He introduced them to me when I took over “Pluggers” in 1997, and I still use them on the feature. After Jeff passed away in June, 2000, Chris Cassatt and I were going through some things in his studio, and came across a box of new and used Pocket Brushes. We divided them up, and I got about ten or so. I didn’t have to order any new ones for several years. In fact, I still have one of his that I can use for broader strokes and filling in larger areas with black. If taken care of, they can last a very long time (a couple of years, for me). They are consistently of high quality and are great not only for drawing, but for “one-stroke” lettering. I also refill the cartridges with Rapidograph Univeral ink, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the new ones at three bucks a piece ( one small $5 bottle of ink will refill 20+ cartridges). And as you can tell, we pluggers are thrifty.

#3 Charles Brubaker
August/3/2014
@ 3:09 pm

Yeah, brush pens are a godsend to me. I’m using Kuretake now, but I also ordered Pentel Pocket Brush. Can’t wait to try that one.

#4 Terry LaBan
August/11/2014
@ 7:46 am

Hmm…if you can refill a brush pen with rapidograph ink you avoid my biggest problem with brush pens–the ink tends to bleed through Pro White. Of course, if I went digital I’d avoid the whole business. Which I will, some day.

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