scrawls and sketches

pencil in a brush

i did say in a previous post that i didn’t like pencils. i still don’t. but when it’s liquid and requires a brush to lay it down, well now you’re talkin’.

the pentel aquash watercolor brushpen
the official name, at least on jetpens‘ website, is the pentel aquash watercolor brushpen pigment ink, light black. (i’ve no affiliation to jetpens, only as a long-time customer.) it looks very much like the standard pentel waterbrush, with its nylon tip and curvy tapered barrel. i’m more accustomed to this bell shape than pentel’s standard brushpens that contain ink, which i find are less prone to leaking but not as comfortable for my hand. the barrel on the light black brushpen is opaque, an irritating feature that hides just how much ink you’ve got left. (are you listening, pentel? at least provide some kind of window if you want to forgo the messy visual of a half-empty ink barrel. some of us like to see ink slosh about. it helps to know when we’ve got to buy more.)

brush tip size compared to an American penny

the pentel aquash brushtip beside an american penny

the brushpen comes in a medium-sized tip, springy and responsive, the same good point pentel waterbrushes and brushpens have. it’s the first reason i prefer them over the kuretake waterbrush, which wears its tip down so quickly that it’s really best for looser and dry-brush strokes. (well, at least the way that i work.)

the gray pentel waterbrush is as close to a liquid pencil as i can get: a gray waterproof ink. (there was sharpie’s late-2010 release of the liquid pencil, which generated lots of excitement but ultimately disappointed.) now, the official shade for this ink is called “light black”. why, i don’t know. i blame the marketing people: pre-owned for used, graphic novel for comic book. same sort of sparkly magical phrasing more suited to poetry and prose. me, i call the thing gray. if you want to be specific, a warm dark gray. (let’s not get into word wars. i like simplicity in product descriptions and advertising. you may not. good for both of us.)

sketch on langton not (cold-pressed) grain paper

sketch on langton not (cold-pressed) grain paper

i like a good matte black ink for brush- and linework. i also like a dark sepia ink. but gray? too close to pencil, but hey, it’s a brush, and my dear poppets, i love them in an unhealthy sort of way. which is why i bought the brushpen at my local kinokuniya.

and ahh, not a bad decision after all. a month of regular use has put this pen in my regular sketchkit, though i don’t plan on getting the refill barrels (yes, ink refills! yey! know what would be better? the same ink in a bottle so i can use a syringe to pour it into the current pen. ahem.) points for refills though, pentel.

sketch on t.h. saunders hot-pressed watercolor paper

sketch on t.h. saunders hot-pressed watercolor paper

sketch detail on t.h. saunders hot-pressed watercolor paper

sketch detail on t.h. saunders hot-pressed watercolor paper

but the brushpen’s best selling point is the waterproof ink. i don’t have to wait a day or two to lay a thick layer of paint on top of it like the kuretake ink, and pentel’s standard brushpens, which remain stubbornly non-waterproof no matter how long a body ages and waits for it to dry. for some this is a good thing, for others like me who like to glop on other things without muddy streaks, not so much. perfect for plein air painting. and old folk like me.

also, i’m not sure if the ink is lightfast, and i’m not in the right season to conduct that kind of rigorous test. (it’s snowing now in nyc, and it’s october. there are still green leaves on the trees. snow. in october.)

sketch on rhodia dot grid paper

sketch on rhodia dot grid paper

the ink flow is okay. it’s well-regulated from the barrel, though a gentle squeeze is all you need for ink to release. the ink is drier than platinum carbon ink and comparable to platinum sepia pigment ink. (confused as to why an ink would be dry, see this lovely explanation.) it performed well on the few surfaces i tried it on: hot- and cold-pressed watercolor paper, smooth sketch paper, and a napkin.

sketch on a napkin

sketch on a napkin

but for about $10 per pen (it cost more at kinokuniya, plus tax), some of you might be hesitant. you can just as easily fill a pentel aquash waterbrush with ink or watercolor mix and get similar results, with the added benefit of being able to see when your reservoir is running low. these pentels, as i mentioned before, are prone to leaks, but i’ve only experienced that when i loaded holbein’s special black ink, which is a dense ink and ill-suited for even a waterbrush. i’ve also filled a pentel waterbrush with diluted sumi ink, and that did not leak. neither did a raw sienna/cadmium red watercolor mix. surprisingly, platinum carbon ink did leak, so i keep that ink for use in a pentel pocket or a kuretake fountain hair brushpen. so it may just be a matter of finding the right ratio of ink/watercolor-to-water mixture for other custom blends.

i’m not one to skimp on art supplies, but i’m on the fence about this brushpen. i’m not wild about the ink, though it’s waterproof (it gets 50 points out of 100 automatically just for this). the price point may be too much for many people, and if you can use a regular, (slightly) cheaper pentel aquash waterbrush and fill it with your custom ink or watercolor, i see little point in spending $10 for a brushpen and then fork over for refills. it’s a nice addition to a sketchkit, but consider your budget accordingly.


2 comments on “pencil in a brush

  1. NIkira

    I got this pen some time ago, really like it, won’t call it liquid pencil though. Plenty of liquid pencils really exist on a market. Never leaked.I wish they will make it capable of mixing your own ink in it. Nice review. Here is my experiment with this brush pen :

  2. inkpaint

    lovely sketch — wonderful range of values and fluid lines! it has a very soft, airy mood to it.

    since the review i’ve found i’m still on the fence about it. i like it for what it is: a very good brushpen with a nice gray ink. but i hesitate about the cost of refills when i can use a syringe and refill it with ink (i hope to solve that leak problem with platinum carbon ink or at least find a workaround). i’m not wild about the gray ink, but refills for it may be worth the cost for some. i still wish they’d release bottles of it along with a blunt syringe, though.

    i still prefer my black permanent ink, and was happy to see that pentel released a colorbrush version of pigment black. sometimes the pentel pocket brushpen has too small a tip, and i like a range of brush sizes to weigh down my bag. (their sumi brushes are also great, but i’ve only been able to find them at kinokuniya.)

    (and my apologies for such a very late reply!)

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This entry was posted on 10.29.11 by in Review and tagged , .

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