The Best Brush Pens for Painting and Calligraphy

Brushes and brush pens are an integral part of sumi-e, or Japanese black ink painting and calligraphy. It’s worth every penny to invest in high-quality brushes in order to create a wide array of exquisite lines. Natural bristles, such as weasel or sable hair, are springy and responsive, ideal for making fine, thin lines and sweeping thicker marks, but high-quality nylon bristles mimic the excellence of natural bristles and are more durable and affordable. Brush pens are a convenient alternative, combining the best of traditional calligraphy brushes with the latest fountain pen technology. Browse our picks of the best sumi-e brush pens to find the one that’s right for you.

1. Tombow Brush Pen Set

This trio of pens vary in tip style. One is hard, another is soft, and the third is a dual brush with both black and gray ink. The set is a great option if you’re seeking variety or trying to decide which stylus type is best for your project. The pen barrels are thin and easy to maneuver, and they provide a clean and simple way to practice your calligraphy without worrying about messy jars of ink.

2. Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen

Kuretake’s affordable Sumi brush pen features a durable nylon tip with bristles so fine and responsive, you will think they are made of all-natural, premium hair. The tip retains its shape over time to create fine, thin lines and thick, sweeping ones. This set comes with three replacement cartridges of non-waterproof ink. However, the pen is compatible with the Platinum Fountain Pen Converter, which allows most types of inks to be used, including waterproof.

3. Pentel Fude Brush Pen

Pentel designed its brush pen with traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes in mind. This pen is affordable and convenient, an ideal pen for introducing calligraphy to students. The nylon brush nib has an extra-fine tip for creating extremely thin yet nuanced lines. Its handle serves as its inkwell, and the amount of ink that flows to the brush nib is controlled by squeezing the handle. Refill handles are available; just unscrew the old handle and replace it with a new one. The pens hold a lot of ink and won’t run out quickly. Teachers love these pens because they are affordable and durable.

4. Kuretake No. 40 Brush Pen

The tip of this high-end brush pen is made of natural sable hair, which makes applying ink seamlessly easy and true to classic calligraphy. The pen is used in conjunction with an ink cartridge (of which there are three included in the initial pen purchase). But instead of a classic pen body made of no-frills wood or bamboo, the tip is connected to a body that is coated in thin rubber for a comfortable hold and no-slip grip. This pen is not for the beginner, however, as it takes practice to learn how to achieve the strokes that you desire.

5. Kaimei Sumi Brush Pen

Kaimei’s sumi brush pen offers the versatility of a traditional calligraphy brush with the convenience of a fountain pen. The bristles are made of resilient, responsive weasel hair that creates a variety of strokes, from thin, one-hair lines to thicker, free flowing sweeps. The pen’s ink cartridges are easy to replace, and this set comes with three of them. The ink is not waterproof, but fine permanent sumi inks such as Pelikan 4001 may be used with the pen. The body of the pen is designed for comfort, ensuring hours of pleasurable use.

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