Brush pen control

  • I’m using a brush pen for the first time thanks to Jake Parker’s recent Pentel recommendation in one of his email newsletters. I’ve also signed up for the free month of SVS Courses (I highly doubt I’ll be cancelling my subscription anytime soon!😎) and started with Jake’s inking class. I’ve been drawing in ink with a pen (Zebra Sarasa) for years and though I really like the brush strokes coming out of the brush pen, I’m having a hard time holding the brush pen lightly when I’m trying to make thin lines. And it seems to be situational.

    For instance, when I do hatching in one direction, the lines are nice and thin. But when I then go over it in another direction to do crosshatching, I just can’t get the lines to stay thin no matter how lightly I hold the brush pen. Is this common for beginners?

    Here’s a photo:

    Mind you, I’ve only been using the brush pen for a few days now.

    Perhaps it’s muscle memory from years of using a gel pen?

  • @danielerossi It's probably just a matter of learning. Brush pens are sensitive, some more than others (the Pentel Pocket Brush being one that will make you want to scream when first using it).

  • @JerrySketchyArt Then it’s a matter of practice, time, and lots of patience 🙂

  • I think @JerrySketchyArt is right. Just gotta go do a few pages of practice lines 🙂

  • Seconding practice!

    My first half dozen or so brush pen inked pieces were really similarly inconsistent in line quality

    Because it is a flexible brush tip, it's more important to pay attention to what angle and direction your pen is going in and if the brush is still holding a good point

    I use a pentel color brush which has the synthetic bristles instead of a felt brush tip and have to remember that drawing a circle has to be done in two half circles instead of one stroke. If you hold the brush at more of an angle too, that'll change up the lines you're getting.

    You'll get there! Brushes are just so sensitive but it's really satisfying when it works out

  • @danielerossi I agree about practicing but a quick hack is to turn the page in the direction of your better stroke until you get the hang of it.

  • @JerrySketchyArt omg the pentel brush pens have such a learning curve!

    I thought I had a pretty delicate hand with pens and pencils but those brush pens are on a different level of difficult

  • Pro

    @danielerossi Turn your paper in the direction you need to get either the thick or thin lines 🙂

  • @danielerossi besides practice... I would recommend that you rotate your paper. Your stokes end up being different depending on the direction you are pulling or pushing your hand. I rotate my paper a lot to get different types of lines.

    Just a thought.

  • @VivianTong said in Brush pen control:

    I thought I had a pretty delicate hand with pens and pencils but those brush pens are on a different level of difficult

    You can't truly understand @Jake-Parker 's reference to drawing with "butterfly kisses" until you've met the Pocket Brush.

  • @JerrySketchyArt so that explains my recent screaming bouts...........ha ha ha

  • Thanks everyone! After reading all your replies, I’m smacking my forehead 🙂 I didn’t even think of turning the paper! I guess I was way too focused on technique.

    I didn’t know how sensitive brushes would be. Leave it to me to choose what ended up being the most difficult one. 🙃 Although, the instructor in the brush pen course did mention how it usually takes him 6 months to get the hang of a new brush pen so I have at least 5 and a half more months to go!

    @VivianTong Thank you for your tip on drawing half circles in order to draw a full circle. This is definitely a new medium for me!

  • Are you using a brush pen with the flexible middle area where the ink well is held? Something I didn't realize when I first started was squeezing that area to quickly refill the tip.

    So for super clean and thin lines you're using a lot of tip control but you're going to need to keep it pretty saturated for the consistency, so squeezing that more often will keep it from breaking the lines. When you don't get that line you're looking for, the reaction is to press harder which then makes it worse 😛

  • Yeah what @NessIllustration said, turn the paper or change hand positions or both.

  • @danielerossi If you want a less sensitive brush in your arsenal this Tombow set is really nice. I primarily use the Pentels, but these are great when you're looking for something more solid.

  • @JerrySketchyArt Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll write that down and keep it in mind if I end up failing to take the Pentel 🙂

  • And now tonight, suddenly, my brush pen is flowing too much ink. No matter how lightly I go, no matter how I turn the paper, I’m getting more ink coming out than previously. A Google search only brought up advice for less ink flow. Not the other way around.

    I’m getting little pools of ink. Did I break my brush pen? I swear I didn’t press too hard or hard at all!

  • @danielerossi Which type do you have? Left or right?


  • @danielerossi I've had this issue with both types of pentel pen in the photo that @JerrySketchyArt posted

    I usually have just defaulted to keeping a scrap paper or tissue to wipe away excess ink on the brush and it also keeps me checking that the brush tip is still good shape

    Following in case there's a better solution!

  • @danielerossi Okay, that one does not have any special way to control the ink flow amount. (The one on the left can control it by squeezing.) My guess is that it just wasn't flowing steady on your first couple of goes and is now working as intended. I store mine tip up, and it still flows like mad from the moment I start.

    The pocket brush is crazy sensitive as previously mentioned. You can do what Vivian mentioned and just wipe away excess, or do what I do and embrace the fact that lines will come out on their own terms. "Happy little accidents!" That brush is a bit like watercolor, in that it adds variety whether you like it, or not. I've recently started playing with using short, animator type lines, to give it even more unpredictable life!

    Here's an example of one of my favorite pieces from a recent sketchbook full of elephants using this technique (prompt was "tired"):

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