Brush Pen Drawing – Why These Are The Perfect Drawing Tools For Artists

Brush pen drawings allow you to experiment with different textures without having to invest in a lot of specialty supplies, you only need paper and a brush pen loaded with ink.

You can create a quick study with brush pens to calligraphy art to completed works in a short time because brush pens allow you to complete easy to elaborate brush pen drawings quite easily.

Brush pens can be used with most types of paper from smooth to textured surfaces which makes them great for artists who want to experiment with different textures in their work. 

Brush pens are the ultimate drawing tool for artists, whether they’re beginners or professionals. They offer an incredible range of expression and can be used with any type of paper surface.

Brush Pen Drawing Techniques and Brush Pen Tips

How do you use a brush pen to draw?

You use a brush pen to create a brush pen drawing the same way you would a pen drawing or a brush drawing with a sable brush and ink.

Gentle strokes, not pressing to hard and take your time drawing. That is how you use a brush pen to draw. I have a video for you below to demonstrate how a brush pen can be used.

brush pen drawing video link

Use thick and thin lines to create visual interest

To add visual interest, use thick and thin lines. Use the ability to vary the line thickness by applying extra or reduced pressure when drawing with a brush pen. Lighter pressure will create a thinner line and heavier pressure will create thicker and more bolder lines.

Hold the brush pen as you would a pencil or pen

Hold the brush pen as you would any other pen or pencil when you draw normally but a little closer to the middle of the pen.

This helps you be a little less rigid in your line work. Brush pens are more pen than brush and you will get the best results when creating a brush pen drawing when you use them in a way that feels more natural to you so feel free to experiment and see what works for you.

Use color with the brush pen

While some people such as myself only use a black brush pen, they actually come in all types of colors. Try to use them as part of a holistic artwork instead of just drawing in outlines.

I use brush pens to draw over pencil outlines after I have painted over the pencil work. I tend to use them to supplement watercolor painting rather than as a medium on their own. I should do more complete artworks with brush pens.

using color with a brush pen

Use them like a pencil to create texture and patterns

You can actually use brush pens as you would a pencil to create various types of line work and texture. I sometimes use them to emulate the look of block prints or etchings, using cross hatching techniques and vertical hatching line work.

Apply them last if you are using paints as well

If you are working on a brush pen drawing that will also use other water based mediums such as watercolors then apply the brush pen last when everything else has dried.

This ensures that the brush pen ink does not run and it also ensures that the layer of brush pen ink does not have other colors overlayed on top of the rich black lines.

So the rule of thumb is to go from light to dark as you would a watercolor painting. Do all the light colors first and gradually work to the darker colors until you do black last.

You can’t blend brush pens

You can’t blend brush pens as you would coloring pencils, watercolors, gouache or paints. If you are using water based ink brush pens then all you can really do is dilute the brush pen ink with some water and a clean brush and slowly work the paint and mix the colors of other brush pens or paints as you would a watercolor paint.

Treat them as a brush not a technical pen

Many artists try to use brush pens as they would a technical pen when working on a brush pen drawing.

If you try to use them the same way you will not be happy with the result as technical pens will give you a consistent line thickness whereas brush pens will vary their thickness based on how much pressure you apply when drawing.

You can use the two together though. I love using both my brush pens and my Sakura Pigma Micron pens in the same artwork, both pen types serve a purpose and I use them knowing that.

sakura pigma brush pens

Brush pens nibs wear out over time

Brush pen nibs or brushes actually do wear out over time. So you will start to see a degradation of the line work a brush pen creates when working on brush pen drawings.

Newer brush pens will create a nice line whereas older brush pens will have some frayed ends or start to produce a more rough line as an older brush would.

Do no throw these brush pens away as you can use them to create different effects that a new brush pen can only dream of.

What are brush pens?

There are a variety of different brush pens out there, but for this blog post we’ll be focusing on the most popular type: commercial brush pens with water-soluble ink.

Water soluble ink is incredibly versatile and makes it easy to experiment with your drawing techniques without having to worry about ruining hours or even days worth of work. All you need in order to start creating beautiful brush pen drawings is some paper (any kind will do!) and a stack of inspiration!

Ink pen vs paint brushes

Many beginners might wonder why they should use something like a brush pen when regular ink or gel pens can achieve nearly all of the same effects at a much lower cost?

The reason that so many artists love using these types of pens has everything to with how they work and how they feel when you’re using them and the final result when using a brush pen.

Most pens are filled with some kind of fluid, but most brush pens have water-soluble ink that is incredibly easy to control and the brush pen itself feels more like a paintbrush than anything else because it has a much larger hold for fluid.

This makes these tools perfect for artists who want to experiment and play around without worrying about ruining their work or spending hours on one drawing.

They also feel like a brush that has a steady but controlled flow of ink that lets you create brush pen drawings that look way more impressive than the time you put into them.

You can create a brush pen drawing that looks like Japanese calligraphy or art or even a brush pen drawing that resembles a quick Henri Matisse portrait sketch.

I have even seen illustrators use brush pens to fill in larger scale ink drawings using a brush pen as you don’t get a consistent shade of black no matter how much time has elapsed from when you started to when you finished.

brush pen script art

Are brush pens good for drawing?

Brush pens are great for artists who want to create loose, expressive drawings.

They’re not as precise or fast-drying as technical drawing tools like Sakura Pigma Micron but they do offer more control due in part because of how thick the line can be.

This makes them perfect for detailed artwork where you don’t always need perfectly defined lines.

Brush + Pen Art = Brush pens!

What can you draw with a brush pen?

Yes, not only can you draw with a brush pen but brush pens are amazing for adding color to drawings that would otherwise be black and white.

They’re also great if you want the fancy watercolor look without all of the mess!

I use them to mark in broad strokes on top of my pencil sketches. I have also drawn directly to paper using a brush pen, using them the same way I would when creating ink and brush art.

Are brush pens hard to use?

Brush pens can be a little difficult to get used to, but after you practice with them for a while they’ll become really easy to use.

They handle and feel like a pen as they usually have a long cylinder with a brush nib on the end. The cylinder is usually filled with a controlled but flowing ink that won’t drip.

When you start to draw with a brush pen, you will notice that the result looks and feels like a nice round sable brush.

The nib is usually soft at the extreme tip and a little more rigid as you get up to the base of the pen itself.

Hardness of the Tip

The softness or hardness of a brush pen tip varies from one manufacturer to the next. Tips that are softer allow for greater line variation, but they need more control to execute.

My favorite is the Kuretake brush pen, the tip is not too hard and not too soft and easy to use. I also love the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen brush for the same reasons.

kuretake brush pens are amazing

What ink do brush pens use?

The best ink to use in brush pens is probably the Sailor Kiwa-Guro, made by the same company that makes the Sailor fountain pens.

This ink is dark, dries relatively fast, is matte when dry and flows well. When used to cover large areas, the application is also quite even. You can pick these up at most good art supply stores.

sailor ink for brush pens

Personally I tend to use brush pens that are pre-filled and I stick with the ink from the same manufacturer of the pen but there is no harm in mixing things up.

As long as you are using the same type of ink eg. black pigment ink and not mixing alcohol based ink with water based ink, everything should be ok.

There are lots of cheaper alternatives if you shop around.

Can you refill brush pens?

Absolutely! There are two ways to refill brush pens, using an ink cartridge and using a dropper.

I find it very useful to be able to refill my brush pens and that’s why Sailor and Pentel make brush pens with an ink cartridge. You can stock up on cartridges and they work very well in most of the brushes out there.

It is possible to refill your own brush pens with a good old fashioned dropper as long as you have some patience, good paper towels (tissues won’t cut it) and a steady hand or tweezers if need be.

There are many tutorials online but simply, open the back end of your brush pen if it allows. Some are easy to twist open and some will require a pair of pliers to pull the top cap off.

Once you have the cap off, you can get an eye dropper and extract ink from an ink bottle such as one from Sailor, Kuretake or Faber-Castell and then slowly drip the ink into the pen.

old fashioned dropper for liquids to refill brush pens

Don’t add too much or it will overfill and drip from the brush nib when you place the cap back on.

Give it a few minutes for the ink to drip down to the nib and then do a few test brush strokes to make sure it’s all working properly.

Can you use acrylic ink in brush pens?

Yes you can. Acrylic ink is a great choice for brush pens and you can use it in the same way as regular fountain pen ink.

You will find that with most acrylic-based paints, there’s no need to add any water or mediums to thin them down because they are already fluid enough for this purpose.

What type of paper should I use when creating a brush pen drawing?

I generally like to use a Bristol/Strathmore watercolor paper but you can try any paper as long as it has the ability to absorb water based pigmented ink. Anything too shiny will make it hard for the ink to be absorbed and you will just have ink dripping down the paper.

Can we use brush pen on canvas?

Yes you can use a brush pen on canvas. You can use a brush pen on primed canvas and even on raw unprimed canvas. My only comment is that you will need an awful lot of brush pens or ink to work on an entire canvas.

Can you use brush pens on fabric?

Yes you can use brush pens on fabric. They will not be colorfast will not be permanent. If you do want a more permanent solution I would suggest using Posca paint pens or specialist acrylic fabric paint which are a more permanent solution.

Are brush pens toxic?

Brush pens are not toxic to the point where they will kill you or do serious harm After reading the Materials Safety Sheets (SAFETY DATA SHEETS) for many ink properties I found that they err on the side of caution and state that if ingested that the person should see a doctor if they feel sick or are having a reaction to the ink being on their skin.

Swallowing the brush or nib or pen could be more of a choke risk so please avoid putting any of it in your mouth and keep them away from children under the age of 5.

To be 100% sure, I suggest you google “Materials safety sheet for ” and then insert the brand of ink you are using.

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