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Friday, April 13, 2012

Working with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch and watercolor . Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I've been doing a series of posts on intermittent Fridays in which I suggest projects which can be done in an afternoon or on the weekend.

Today I posted the first in a multi-part series on getting used to the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. If you have one of these pens but haven't used it much, or have seen people using them and wondered if the pen might be for you, check out the post and the series (there will be at least 4 more on the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in future weeks).

I'm also hoping to get some videos up so that you can see me drawing with the pen (but International Fake Journal Month is making my life a little full right now).

You might ask yourself, "Why would I ever use a brush pen? There doesn't seem to be any control, the lines are so dark…" and so on.

It isn't for everyone. But as with any tool practice will give you greater control. I'll also show ways you can work with its lines and paint in later segments.

I believe you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try because it might just be the increase in line vocabulary for which you're looking.

I'm not in anyway connected with Pentel or anyone who sells these pens. I just like to see the happy smiles on the faces of people when they pick one up and begin to sketch with it.

Why the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen? It's got individual synthetic hairs that make up a resilient and springy tip  that allows you to have sweeping as well as dry brush strokes. One friend admitted he'd never tried the PPBP because other brush pens he'd tried had no body in the brush tip. He walked out of my studio with one and has been using it ever since. While I can't give everyone in the world one of these pens (I wish I could, but I can't) I can let people know how fun it is to use.

(Note: I have also found the tip to be long-lasting. I use my PPBP daily, sometimes for several hours at a time and my pens last a long, long time.)

Also it has rich black ink which is waterproof (immediately on most papers depending on the paper's sizing) and that means you can paint over it right away with your watercolor or gouache washes.

I have always been a rather tight and detail oriented sketcher. OK, let's just say fussy. I typically use a dip pen or a fine point pen of some sort. The switch to the brush pen was massive for me because it meant darker bold lines. But I embraced the difference because it gave me access to quick sketching on a larger scale and because it helped me hone my editing capabilities. While I have more editing work to do in my sketching (and I'll enjoy every day of it) I have found that using the PPBP has actually improved my work with other pens as well.

And it's a great way to warm up and let your hand move across the page.

For all those reasons I think you should give the PPBP a try. For the next several weeks I'll be posting a new Project Friday with different exercises for using this pen.

I urge three things on people: Chocolate Chocolate (not a typo) Cake from Cafe Latte, journaling (both written and visual), and using a PPBP. All three are great fun. It can also be argued that all three are addictive.  But the last two can only have a positive effect! I hope you'll give the PPBP a try.

Don't Be Confused: Some people are confused by the various pens that Pentel makes. Here is a post I wrote about two of Pentels brush pens: The Pocket Brush and the Color Brush. You'll find out pros and cons for both there.

At the end of last year I started using Pentel's Aquash Brush Pigment Ink Filled Brush (I know, I know, but it is what it says on the package and you have to add the Pigment Ink Filled bit because they also call their waterbrush, which is empty, Aquash). I will have something more to say about this brush pen in my series on getting used to the PPBP, but in the meantime you can read my adventures of first using it by using my blog's search engine to look for "Aquash" posts.


  1. Thanks for the great post! I purchased a PPB a few years ago after seeing your work with it..I admit I haven't used it enough to be proficient. I think I will put it in my bag today after reading this post!!! Looking forward to seeing your videos too! Have fun with the rest of the Fake Journal Month..hoping to see something on Friday 13th! Thanks again Roz!

  2. Nancy, I'm glad you have one and am glad that you are going to carry it around to day and sketch with it. Here's the thing for me with this pen—even when the sketches are complete garbage I have such fun making them that I can't stop! And that's a good thing. So hang in there and keep using it. Have a fun day.

  3. So glad you posted this Roz! I enjoy the Pocket Brush too and had just been playing with it again. Great fun...I hope you'll put your Friday posts here too!

  4. I introduced someone I met today to the PPBP, she was blown away. I managed to sketch in my mini purse portrait book, less than 3"x4", I wasn't sure I could pull it off, I definitely had to slow down, but given how quick you sketch with this pen and the editing I still finished my quick portraits in about the same time. I'm in for the weekend, and sometimes that is just the start of my latest craze. Thanks!

  5. Just came across my original post on these pens, here: http://artistsjournalworkshop.blogspot.com/2011/05/testing-toolsmore-ink-pens.html. They ARE fun!

  6. Thanks so much for this series, Roz. I bought a PPBP, mainly because I admired your work with them so much. But I don't know what to do with it! I haven't liked anything I've tried with it so far and have to admit that I'm a little afraid of it. Off to read the article!

  7. Kate,
    Have you seen this?
    A pocket piston filled waterbrush--looks great>

    1. I hadn't, Bill, thanks for the link! I was just working with a similar brush today. I'd tried the piston fill ones a few years ago, I'm glad to hear they've improved them. I may have to try again!

  8. Hi, I just got my pen... and I am just wondering, cause there are sp many opinions on the internet... do you wash the pen after every use? thanks!

    1. I've never washed mine--somehow the ink in these stays moist, unlike some of the other ink-filled pocket brushes!

  9. Just bought one. After about ten minutes of experimentation, I can tell that this tool is not for me. You can get very fine lines IF you keep the strokes going in one direction (the natural direction of your hand). But the slightest pressure causes the thing to make a HUGE mark. There is no happy in-between, at least not consistently.

    The problem is the shape of the brush. It comes to a nice point, yes, but it gets too fat too quickly. We need a brush pen shaped more like high quality watercolor brush. Something shaped like a Raphael 0 would be ideal (and no doubt expensive), although the W&N university brushes deliver a great line -- and they're synthetic.

    The great inker Alfredo Alcala made his own brush pens by snipping off "real" watercolor brushes and somehow affixing them to a fountain pen. Have you seen his work? Amazing stuff. No way you can get THAT with a big, clunky Pentel brush pen.


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