I am going to give another shout-out to my big sister again this week. She lent me her brush pen for testing comparison and helped me review all of them.
Ink brushes, like the ones used in Asian calligraphy, are believed to have been around since 300 B.C. Brush pens work much the same way and can be used for the same purposes without the inconvenience of requiring liquid ink to dip the brush into. Instead, the brush tips are fed by an ink reservoir. These pens are also great for western calligraphy and sketching.
I first tried out a brush pen last year when my daughter brought me back one from her visit to Japan. This Akashiya pen is beautiful – pretty to look at and nice to hold. I have done a little calligraphy with it but mainly have just had fun sketching. You have to get used to the feel of this type of pen since you control thick and thin lines through pressure.
Elisabet’s pen is a Pentel pocket brush pen. It has a classic plain black body so is not as attractive as mine but has the advantage of being refillable by buying ink cartridges. The ink in it also seems to load into the brush part a bit better than mine but that might be because it is newer. She purchased it locally at the Paint Spot when she took a brush style calligraphy workshop there. Both pens have nice dark ink.
Similar to these pens are brush markers. The ones I have are from a company called Stampin Up! that sells rubber stamps and paper crafting products through direct sellers in the same way that Avon or Tupperware do (and to a similar demographic), although mine were purchase from a garage sale. They have dual tips so one end has a brush and the other a fine marker tip. They are fun but are more like markers than brushes so you don’t get the same feel of a brush stroke.
Finally, I have a Pentel Color Brush that came in a box of random calligraphy supplies at a different garage sale. This one is quite old but newer versions of it are still on the market. The casing part of the pen is a soft plastic that can be squeezed. The whole casing on this brush pen is the ink cartridge and to replace it you need to buy a new one and screw it onto the brush tip.
All of the brush pens, even the markers, are from Japan and the type of line you get depends a lot on the type of paper used. Smooth paper gives a smooth line while rougher paper gives a rougher line. I personally think it works best on a smooth surface like tracing paper but there is also some appeal to the quality of the brush strokes you can create on slightly coarser paper.
Overall, I have a bias towards my own brush pen but if a trip to Japan is not in your future, the Pentel pocket brush is a great refillable pen.
If these pens were people, they would have to be Japanese with a respect for tradition but a love of modern convenience.