Let's Get Inky with Brushpens: An Inktober Series

Last week, we got inky with brushes.  This week, we're gettin' inky with brushpens.

Brushpens are a great alternative to inking with technical pens.  They offer variable lineweight with affordability and ease of control, and are a great option for artists of all skill levels.  I use brushpens on a daily basis- particularly fude pens.  Fude pens, also known as sign pens, are typically used in Japan for writing kanji, and are a wonderful tool for creating expressive lines.

brushpen illustration, watercolor illustration
Watercolor illustration inked with Sailor Mitsuo Aida on Fluid 100 CP watercolor paper

watercolor, kidlit art
Limited color watercolor illustration inked with Sailor Mitsuo Aida on Strathmore Field Watercolor paper

spot color illustration, retro illustration, cute art, kidlit art
Sakura Pigma FB+ Pentel Red Brushpen on Strathmore Field Watercolor Paper
You guys might wonder why I introduced brushes before brushpens- I want you to try both!  Many artists treat brushpens as an alternative to brushes, and never try inking with a brush.  I feel both tools have unique traits to offer an artist, and I'd love for you to give both a try.

What's Inside My Pencilcase:

Pros to Brushpens:
  • Portable
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • Available in alcohol proof and waterproof inks
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find
  • Expressive lineweights
  • Easy to use
  • Low learning curve

Cons to Brushpens:
  • Lack the nuance of brushes
  • May be difficult to pull straight lines
  • Every pen handles differently, may take getting used to

Brush pens are flexible and work well on most papers including:
and many more.  I recommend experimenting to find your favorite combinations, but below are a few of my favorite combos:

cute illustration, kidlit illustration, painting with fountain pen ink
Colored Lead, Fountain Pen Ink in a Waterbrush, Sakura Pigma FB on Strathmore Field Watercolor Paper

Sailor Mitsuo Aida+ Illustration Board

Commission portrait sketched with non photo lead on cardstocked, inked with a Kuretake Fudegokochi and Pentel Pocketbrush.  Corrections were made with a Signo white gel pen. 

Commission illustration sketched with green lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

Commission illustration sketched with non photo blue lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

Commission illustration sketched with green lead, then inked with Copic markers.  Final inks were added with a Kuretake Fudegokochi

I use brushpens frequently- for sketchbook sketches, studies from life and reference, for convention commissions, and for pieces I plan on completing digitally.  I think brushpens are wonderful, versatile tools that make inking easier and more accessible, and highly recommend you give them a try.

For brushpen recommendations and reviews, make sure you check out my Brushpen hubpage, here on this blog!

Best Brushpens for Illustration:

Three Types of Brushpen:
Fiber tipped- like Pitt Pens
Foam Rubber Tips- like fude pens or Copic marker Superbrushes
Nylon Bristles- like Pentel Pocket Brush

Inktober 10 Brushpen Showdown: Felt Vs Bristles:

Brushpens can be:
  • Piston filled
  • Refillable
  • Disposable
  • Eyedropper converted

Copic Safe Brushpens:

Watersafe Brushpens: 
Lilliputian living, 7" Kara, worldbuilding art, teacher
Sakura Pigma FB and Pentel Pigment Brushpen on Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper

Pentel Brushpen on Blick Sketchbook Paper

Alcohol marker and Kuretake Fudegokochi on Blick Sketchbook Paper

Sakura Pigma FB and Pentel Brushpen (purple) on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper

Looking for brushpen reviews and recommendations?  Check out my Brushpens hubpage! 

Homemade Sparkle Pens?  More Likely Than You Think: 

Waterbrushes can be filled with the ink of your choice (barring acrylic, that's not recommended) and used as a brushpen.  You can also modify a Pentel Pocket Brush to take the ink of your choice with a little silicone grease.

Hacking the Pentel Pocket Brush: Eyedropper Conversion:

You can try: 
  • Sparkly fountain pen inks
  • Sumi ink
  • Waterbased ink for inkwash effects
  • Indian ink
  • Dye based ink such as liquid watercolors, fountain pen inks

Cartridges can also be cleaned and refilled using the ink of your choice, using a syringe, as demonstrated in this tutorial.

Brushpen Inking Demonstration:

Final Inktober Inks+Mermaid Sneak Peeks:

Fountain Pen Inkwash Timelapse:
Pen and ink study, drawn from reference

Pen and ink study, drawn from reference

And your inking doesn't have to stop with sketchbook illustrations- brush and fude pens can be useful for inking comic pages as well.

Cicada Summer: Pencils and Inks

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer, Page 1

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer Page 3

Kidlit artist, kids comics, kids comics artist, graphic novels for kids
Cicada Summer Page 10
The above pages were inked with a variety of brushpens, including the Kuretake Fudegokochi and the Sakura Pigma FB, MB, and BB brushpens.

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SCBWI Illustrator's Contest Spread- inked with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida, Pigma Calligraphy Pens, and Micron fineliners

kidlit artist, kidlit illustrator, kidlit comic artist, watercolor comic artist
Watercolor over these waterproof pens

Tips for Inking with Brushpens
  • It helps to have a variety of sizes- fine for details, large for spot blacks and larger fills
  • Nylon bristled brushpens are prone to drybrushing- inkflow can't keep up with linewidgth- you can use this technique to your advantage
  • Nylon bristled brushpens are fun to sketch with, and are great for travel journals
Brushpens for Color Sketches

Monochromatic Magic with Colored Leads and Clean Color Real Brush

Colorful brushpens usually contain dye based inks, and are very similar to watercolor markers, and are often marketed as such.  For me the difference is all about the body of the pen- a waterbrush or brushpen body is typical used for these colored brushpens.

Looking to Add Spot Color?  Try: 
  • Pentel Brushpen
  • Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush
  • Mermaid Markers
  • Alcohol markers such as Copic or Prismacolor markers

Colored Leads with Clean Color Marker Tutorial:

Axolotl Illustration with Clean Color Real Brush Markers:

If you're using refillable brushpens, they will require a degree of care to keep them performing at peak condition.  This tutorial shows you how to clean an Akashiya bamboo brushpen, and the techniques used work for other refillable brushpens as well.

I hope this post has inspired you guys to pick up some fude and brushpens, and try them out!   If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to support what I do on Patreon

And check out my webcomic, 7" Kara.

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