Today I’m excited to be sharing my very top favorite brush pens for hand lettering. I find these to be the best brush pens for the style of lettering I do and although I’ve tried SO many, I wanted to make a post that focuses on only the ones I love the most. If you want a more comprehensive review of many pens (and other brush lettering supplies) you can check out my MASSIVE brush lettering resource.
Meet the [IMHO] the very best brush pens for lettering:
Notice one isn’t a pen… I know, it’s an actual paint brush. But I’ll tell you why below. I’ve linked to Amazon where I purchase almost all of my lettering supplies and have used affiliate links.
This guy gets a work out. He is the first brush pen I really fell in love with (thanks to Hello Tosha!). The brush end is bigger than some of the other brush pens I’ve tried (and certainly HUGE compared to the tiny fude bolow) and it’s softer. I love how great the variation can be on this pen and how versatile these pens are. I carry one in my purse (you never know) and the bullet nib on the backside can be used for notes.
The Tombow Dual Brush Pen is an actual felt tip which means that it can fray or break if you’re too rough with it. Keep that in mind and use it only on smooth paper and don’t be too rough with it. It also comes in SO many colors. I have only 3 colors other than black… and about 20 blacks. Can you tell what my favorite color to letter with is?
These guys can be a bit of a trick to find-
there’s actually NO art store in my town that carries them, [UPDATE: Michaels now stocks them in packs of colours] so most often I order them from Amazon.
TWO: Tombow Fude Soft
It took me a reaaaaally long time to try the Tombow Fude out. It’s not that I didn’t want to… it’s just that I loved the Dual Brush Pen so much I thought- why bother? But I’m so glad I did! It’s itty bitty in comparison which makes it so great for cards, envelope addressing, and place cards. Plus- sometimes I just need to letter tiny while I warm up.
This one isn’t a true ‘brush’ tip. It’s a felt like the Dual Brush Pen but it’s also not as long and pointy. It looks kind of like a bullet nib, but it bends under pressure allowing you to get that thicker downstroke. It doesn’t fray in the same way that the Dual Brush Pen does but it does break which gives you a kind of streaky stroke.
It’s important to note that there are two kinds of Tombow Fudes. There’s the soft which I’m a fan of and there’s the hard. The lovely Dawn Nicole explained that the hards are better for beginners to manage fine upstrokes as they don’t respond to pressure as quickly as the soft. In the same sense, if you’re used to lettering with a paint brush or softer brush… you’ll love the soft.
Speaking of tricky to get your hands on… these guys aren’t even available at Opus *sigh*. You bet I’ve told them they should get them though ;) Amazon is definitely the way to go- you can order a combo pack to figure out which tip you like best here. Oh and this guy only comes in black (and gray), so if you’re a color lover, maybe this one isn’t for you.
THREE: Pentel Aquash
If you haven’t used a water canister brush pen before… you’re in for a treat. These things are SO much fun to play with. There were a couple months when I first got this guy that it was the only thing I would use. It actually comes without any ink or water or anything. You fill it up yourself. I fill some of them up with ink and some up with water and I actually fill some up with liquid watercolor as well.
The idea is that by squeezing the chamber as you write, you control how much ink or water or whatever-the-heck is in there comes out. That said, it can take a bit of trial and error to master getting enough liquid out without getting blobs.
This is a true brush tip. What that means is that it’s actual bristles, not a felt tip in a brush shape. Why is this rad? Well… you can’t fray it or break it! That makes it great for rougher surfaces, like beautifully textured paper or kraft gift bags or aaaaanything. It also means that you don’t get a totally consistent flow of ink like in a brush marker. That gives you lovely voids and gaps in your lettering that are really beautiful. Every time I share a photo of lettering with this guy on Instagram, I get asked about the pen I use- and specifically how to get those voids. It’s cool, you guys.
And if you choose to use it with watercolor (y’know, what it’s meant for)… it’s totally rad too. One of my fave things about lettering with the aquash for watercolor is that there is NO prep or mess like regular watercolor lettering. I don’t have to go to the sink and get water (my desk is on a different floor than every sink in our house) and they’re self cleaning so I don’t need to wash it out afterwards. This makes them perfect for at my desk or on the go.
So where do you get them? I can actually get these ones in town! Our local art store just started selling them, but honestly I still order them from Amazon most of the time. The art store is in the mall and have you tried bringing three toddlers into the mall recently? It’s a zoo out there. There are three different sizes and I have and use them all. The medium is about on par size wise with the Tombow Dual Brush Pen as a reference. This is the pack I purchased that has lasted me years.
Before I move on to the next pen… you can actually get Pentel Colorbrushes as well. These are prefilled with ink but are not refillable. So they’re rad for travel and really are lovely to use. But I’m cheap and go through a LOT of ink so I love that I can refill my Aquabrush as many times as I need without buying a new body.
FOUR: Number 3 Round Paint Brush
Okay, so this isn’t a brush pen at all. It’s a brush, I know. But I LOVE lettering with a brush. I tend to letter slower so am almost always happier with the final result. Maybe you’ll find the same! I use my brushes with ink or watercolor and although the Number 3 is my fave… I love the number 2 and number 4 as well. Somewhere in there is a great place to start. If you’re doing envelopes or teeny tiny place cards, go smaller of course.
You can see me lettering with a brush and watercolor in this Instagram video if you’re interested about sizing- this is a size 4.
I talk about this a lot in my course but if you’re just learning brush lettering and you’re practicing and practicing but don’t seem to be improving- try switching to a brush. I had to when I was learning just to break some bad habits I was carrying over from writing with a pen.
You can get a brush on Amazon, but honestly- I just pick them up when I head to Michaels. I also grab ink at Michaels, but for reference I use both Higgins Eternal Black Ink that’s shown here, it’s a bit more gray and Bombay India Ink which is more of a true bold black. As for watercolor, I’m pretty darn obsessed with my Kuretake Gansai Tambi set- I have the 36 one. If you’re just planning on using one color (like black) then you’ll find getting one tube of your color is the best bang for your buck.
I so hope that you’ve gotten some good information from this post. If you are interested in reading about some other brush pens and supplies that I use (papers, tools, etc!), you can hop over and check out my Mega Lettering Resource page.
If you’re wanting to get more tips on lettering as new posts come out, make sure you sign up to my email list! By signing up, I’ll also send you over a free brush lettering warm up sheet!