M y interest in calligraphy first started when I was in 5th grade, thanks to a memorable teacher named Mrs. Lagrave.
A few other students and I had an “enrichment” class once a week where we got together to get creative!
Calligraphy was one of the skills we spent some time on, and its definitely the most memorable. We used the old school calligraphy pen with the cartridge and all, but since it was such a short part of the school day we didn’t make it very far through the basics, and I haven’t touched a calligraphy pen since!
As soon as I started my creative bullet journal journey, I became extremely interested in brush lettering and modern brush calligraphy. I wanted to try ALL of the pens, and I hoped one day I would just become a lettering master.
Well, it doesn’t exactly work that way – it takes a ton of practice and even after two years, you’ll realize there’s still a lot to learn.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t even realize there WAS a “new” style of calligraphy.
It’s called brush lettering, modern lettering or brush calligraphy and it uses these super-awesome pens where the tips actually move WITH your stroke. The stroke thickness depends on how hard or light you press – the harder you press, the thicker the stroke. I fell in love after ordering my first brush pen and practiced constantly to get the technique down…
Now, I’ve never taken any official lettering classes, but I’ve watched infinite amounts of Instagram videos and developed my own style of cursive (script) and block lettering that I use in my journal spreads.
Over my few years of practice, I’ve latched onto a few favorite brush pens, but I completely forgot about some of the ones I ordered in the beginning!
The difference in the brush pens is the thickness and firmness of their tips.
Some are “wetter” like paint brushes, and some are quite firm. So I decided I should pull out ALL of the black brush pens I’ve accumulated over the past few years and do a pen test comparing them.
Read on to see how each pen measures up and watch the video to learn more!
Watch & Learn
This video shows you how to use each pen (the writing is sped up 2-4x speed), and shows you the types of strokes each pen makes.
Also, I’ve listed out all of the pens below and rough prices for each – they’re all relatively affordable, and most are great for beginners!
You can also download the Free Supplies Guide for a handy cheatsheet of all the supplies and their prices!
More About Pens
Since I haven’t used a few of these pens in over a year, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I KNEW I loved my Tombow Fudenosuke pens, I use them almost daily – but I didn’t know what to expect when I was trying out the last 4 pens. It’s been a while since I wrote with ANY of them, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Turns out two years of using the “easy” brush pens makes the others a little less intimidating!
1. Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip
The Tombow Fudenosuke hard tip pen is the very first pen I recommend to beginners – in fact, every time I order these pens, I order them in bulk, just so I can include them in all of my giveaways. The tip is very firm, and its a lot easier to control your strokes without it feeling like a paint brush.
2. Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip
The soft tip Fudenosuke is my other favorite brush pen – I alternate between the hard and soft tip here! If you haven’t seen these pens yet, you may be wondering the difference between the hard and soft tips. The soft tip has a little bit more ‘give’ when you’re writing – meaning, when you press down for your down-strokes, you get a wider line.
Another question I’ve been asked too is how to tell the difference between the Hard & Soft tip when you have them both in front of you (before you write). The pens’ outer colors are a bit different – one is black, and the other has a bluish-almost navy tint. The black one is the soft tip and the bluish one is the hard tip.
I always look at the markings on the side to tell them apart – yes most of it is written in Japanese, but if you find where it says WS-BH or WS-BS you can know the difference immediately. The H in BH is for the Hard tip, and the S in BS is for the Soft tip.
These pens are relatively cheap in a 2-pack and you can order to try them both out! These are BY FAR my most used brush pens.
3. Tombow Dual Brush Pen
I’d say this is the most popular brush pen I see out there. When I first got in the journaling game, I ordered these right off the bat because I saw them used EVERYWHERE. Plus they come in a TON of different colors (and I finally got my hands on all of them)! The 10-packs are what I started out with – the bright pack first, then the grayscale pack. There’s just something about all of those shades of gray!
The pen I’m using here is the N15 (Black), you can tell it’s a LOT thicker than the first two, and it’s actually not the best for beginners. The thicker the stroke, the bigger the chance for error. These are available in a huge selection of colors, though – 96 to be exact. If you’re not ready to make the plunge into all 96 colors, I’d start out scoping the 10-packs and practicing with them. There’s actually TONS of different uses for these pens, and they’re really fun once you start using them!
4. Pentel Sign Pen
These are some of my favorite brush pens with a variety of colors. They’re very similar to the Tombow fudenosuke soft tip pen – maybe a tiny bit thicker on the downstrokes – meaning the tip is not as firm, bit it’s still a fun pen for beginners. I use the pink one ALL the time with my mailings & the black one is great for headings in your journal.
They make 11 separate colors and run about $4 each on Amazon.
5. Tombow Fudenosuke Twin-Tip Pen
I couldn’t leave out the twin-tip Tombow Fudenosuke pen! There’s a brush tip at each end, so that makes it a dual-threat. 😂 These are also great pens for beginning letterers they’re a little over $5 each OR you can get the 3-Fude pack for $6.85!
I love having a gray option to change things up a bit. Each tip writes a lot like the Fudenosuke soft tip – but you just get that extra value with the gray!
6. Zebra Funwari Fude
The Zebra Funwari Fude Sign Pen is by far the most firm tip of the ones I tested. When you draw your down strokes with this one, you may need to press a little bit harder to get the best results.
These pens are good for your smaller headings and also come in a variety of colors – 8 to be exact. I’ve only found the variety pack on JetPens website, but you can buy ’em in bulk on Amazon! I’d totally recommend them for beginning letterers!
7. Sakura BB Pigma Pen
The Sakura Pigma Bold Brush pen is one of those I haven’t touched in over a year, and I’m now wondering why!
Actually, I know why — I put them in a pen case I don’t ever touch anymore 😥 BUT, now that I’ve found them again, I can do all kinds of playing!
This pen is more of an intermediate level pen, because it is like a firmer paint brush, but you can add tons of character to your letters when using a ‘looser’ brush tip like this. I love the bold strokes – and this comes in a few different size tips. I bought the 3 pack from Amazon for about $10. With the 3-pack, you can mess around and learn the difference between the Fine, Medium, & Bold tips.
8. Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen Big Brush 199
This Big Brush Artist pen is one I bought about a year ago, but I never messed around too much with it. It also happens to be about 4 times the width of a typical pen! It reminds me of those giant crayons we used when we were little – before we could really get the hang of the regular Crayons…
The width of this pen does however help control the strokes when lettering. Also, the tip is a little firmer than the Sakura Pigment pen, so its easier to control when writing. I’d recommend it to a beginner-intermediate letterer – the quality of the pen is killer!
9. The Zebra ‘tan’ Pen
Ahhh I hate that I can’t give you a name or a link to this pen, because the link where I bought it from 2 years ago has changed and now lists a dual-tip pen. I went on a pen-buying spree at one point when I first started out in this hobby, and haven’t touched many of the pens since first opening them – including this one!
It’s a Zebra brush pen, well at least I think it is… and its very similar to the Faber Castell Big Brush pen I used right above it. The stroke is thicker and the tip is firm, but still is a fun practice pen for intermediate users. PLEASE holla at a girl if you know what this pen is 😉
10. Zebra Fude Brush Pen, Double-Sided
Last but not least, I tried out the Zebra double-sided Fude pen. The two tips on this pen are very different. The bigger tip is JUST like a paintbrush, so its definitely recommended for more advanced users. The smaller tip is more like a regular brush pen, and the stroke is a little more sensitive then the earlier Fude pens.
This two-tip pen is a little less than $6 from Amazon & I’d recommend trying this pen later in your lettering journey, unless maybe you’re a master with a paintbrush!
Since I did this video, I’ve run across a few more black brush pens, so I have a feeling I need to make a part 2. 😂 Just pulling these pens back out has been fun, especially since I feel like my lettering skills are a lot different than they were a year ago!
What are your favorite brush pens? Have you tried out any of these? 👇 Let me know in the comment section 👇 and I’d love to hear what you’d like me to test for you next!