11 Best Watercolor Brush Pens Reviews in 2021 (MUST READ!)


Colorful header on yellow Best watercolor brush pens very create.com

A new invention for artists, illustrators, and craftspeople in the last decade or so are watercolor brush pens. The ingenious aspect of these pens is that you don’t need to keep a container of rinse water handy in order to create watercolors!  They so versatile and fun to create with. Everything from calligraphy to coloring to portraiture to landscape painting can be accomplished with the best watercolor brush pens

They are mess-free, therefore they are an ideal art medium to take while traveling, especially if you don’t have access to very much water.  You can preload blank blending pens with water and voila, you are all set for travel!  

If You Are Short of Time, Here Are My Top 11 Recommendations for the Best Watercolor Brush Pens

  1. Mai Moi set of 48 <<Best Low Price-point Option and Best Performing
  2. Kuretake Zig set of 80<<Best Quality, Selection, and Reputation
  3. Chromatek set of 50 
  4. Genuine Crafts set of 50 
  5. Ohuhu Set of 48
  6. Benicci set 26
  7. Carepen set 48    
  8. Spreey set of 24       
  9. Arteza set of 50  
  10. Winsor Newton set of 12 
  11. Tombow  Dual Brush Pens set of 10

 

feathers Best watercolor brush pens very create.com
Easy and fun watercolor feathers from watery to multi-layered and stylized are all possible with the best watercolor brush pens!

Introduction to my top 11 Best Watercolor Brush Pens

There are two varieties of watercolor brush pens: A pen barrel that contains pre-moistened watercolor pigments or a pen barrel that is filled with inks.  Pigments are going to be artist quality and will be lightfast and supposedly won’t fade for up to 100 years. They will have the most versatility and also the highest cost.  You can be proud to frame your finished work and sell them anywhere. 

 Inks are going to be intensely vibrant but they won’t be archival or lightfast. The ink colorants will definitely change color over time, especially in sunlight, so if you wish them to remain in their pristine state, photograph or scan them and make a digital file that you can print off indefinitely. 

 As both are water media, they won’t be permanent, meaning that they will not be waterproof. Which is the whole point of using them to begin with!  Many of the watercolor techniques you enjoy using artist’s watercolors can be done with these wonderful watercolor brush pens!

 

Here’s how the brands of watercolor brush pens differ:

  • All brands are going to contain colors that will dissolve with water, yet remain able to be rewetted once completely dry on the paper.  
  • Some brands use better quality or higher density of the base coloring agent (either pigments or inks). Zig watercolor brush markers will use more intense and longer lasting colorants in their inks (which translates to a higher price) and Winsor and Newton use real mineral and manmade pigments that are the same as in artist’s watercolors.
  • The nibs, which are the brush part, are mostly made of nylon (with the exception of Winsor and Newton and Tombow which use a combo nylon brush/felt tip hybrid).  I found that the nylon brushes have a great spring back action and will last a long time.  Some brand’s brushes are longer than others, come to a smaller point than others, some are floppier than others and some are more versatile. 
  • Furthermore, the inks vary from brand to brand.  Some sink into the paper and don’t move well and don’t lift well. Some are very vibrant chroma and some are a bit duller.
  • Given that so many ink brands are from identical or similar manufacturers, the biggest differences from brand to brand amongst the ink category might be in color selection in each kit and the name of the brand itself.  
  • Some kits come with a refillable water brush.  You can fill it with water to dilute the inks. The Tombow brushes come with a non-refillable pen.
  • Price point varies from less than $10 to over $145!!  You will be as surprised as we were by our comparisons and recommendations! 

 

Calligraphy using watercolor brush pen Best watercolor brush pens very create.com

Watercolor brush pens are ideal for lettering and calligraphy

Before we get started, here’s some insider information to help you with your selection of watercolor brush pens

Six pro tips to keep in mind:

Pro Tip One

All the watercolor brush pens we sampled that were made with ink reacted in similar ways. The variations were quite small, but nonetheless just enough to nudge our star rating.  There are a couple of different manufacturers and each company will make private label products for other brand labels.  That’s why there are so many brush watercolor ink pens that look so similar. Sometimes the only differences from brand to brand will be in the color selection in each set and some extras included like a pad of watercolor paper or a great traveling case.  

 Pro Tip Two

What made the biggest difference in how they behave is the paper.  The best paper for watercolor brush pens is good quality watercolor paper, multi-media paper or bristol paper.  For in-depth information, check out our article on Best Watercolor Papers For Beginners here!

Pro Tip Three

Some reviewers complain about some watercolor brush pens drying out, however, all watercolors need periodic recharging with water, unless you are using true tube artist watercolors . (Those are packaged in a liquid state and are sealed against air contact). Since water evaporates, it is not surprising that the brush pens dry out a bit every now and then.  As you use them, air will get into the colorant chamber via tiny gaps in the bristles.   Just soak the tip of the watercolor brush in water for a few seconds and let it wick back up into the tube. Stand the pen up with the bristle vertical for a few minutes and let it rewet itself by gravity.   Swish the brush on a paper towel to remove excess water and you should be good to go.

If you receive a new pen that is too dry to recharge, then contact the manufacturer for a replacement.

Pro Tip Four

Like a ballpoint pen, once the ink is thoroughly gone from the barrel chamber, throw away the pen; its chamber is empty of ink and unlike the most expensive brand of markers with alcohol, they are not refillable, regardless of the brand.

Pro Tip Five

It is not unusual for pens to be so similar to each other in a set that there are duplicates.  You can see in a sample chart that I did with a low price point set and a mid-range price point set, that BOTH sets had duplicate colors. It’s not too big of a problem for me, but feel free to message the manufacturer and see if they will replace the dupes for you!  Customer reviewers who opted to try were pleased with the results.

Duplicate swatches Best watercolor brush pens very create.com
Even higher-priced sets sometimes include duplicates
Pro Tip Six

Because watercolor brush pens are ink-based or artist pigment-based, keep in mind that they may stain clothing and furniture. 

Here are some important test samples I did to show you how a few watercolor brush markers handle with two different types of paper and then  brushed out with water:

It always amazes me how products can react differently than from what I predicted!  I assumed the tried and true artist’s brand Winsor and Newton would outperform the dye-based inks. I must admit that I am constantly leaning towards archival products. See for yourself how five brands stacked up to our test.

If you intend to rubber stamp or hand draw your artwork then color in with your brush pens, then you will likely enjoy using Bristol paper, which is a very white, smooth paper that is heavy like cardstock.  If you like a delicate flower wreath subject matter or hand lettering, then smooth paper will be your jam.

 

 

 

test on bristol Best watercolor brush pens very create.com
Our test on Bristol smooth paper

 

If you want to create different watercolor techniques like drybrush, multi-layered glazes and embossing into the paper, then artist watercolor paper cold pressed will fit the bill. Here is how the watercolor brush pens reacted on Strathmore series 300 watercolor paper cold pressed.  All the pens did not saturate the paper as heavily as they did on Bristol, yet all the brush pens released much easier on watercolor paper. That is no surprise, as good watercolor paper is 100% cotton and very absorbable.  See my article on which watercolor paper would be best for you here.

test on wc paper Best watercolor brush pens very create.com
Our test on Watercolor paper

See Below My Reviews For Each Of The Top 11 Recommended Best Watercolor Brush Pens

 

Mai Moi set of 48   – A wonderful value and performance! My Number One Recommendation

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

Ok. this NEVER happens!  The least expensive set that we tested performed the best overall!  This new set by May Moi is an excellent value for price-point.  If budget is a major factor, you can’t go wrong with this set.  The quality is high enough for adults to have fun with and low enough to gift for kids and teens.  

I was pleased with how the paints handled with the exception of the red-violet in a certain application.  In my demo article, when I wanted to lighten it very light to the water closest to the shore, the colorant clumped and would not release.  It left a grainy texture which I decided was interesting. IF I had wanted a glass-like finish, I would have been disappointed with this brand. It is important to test your pens before you use them on your artwork! 

Here is my tutorial using Mai Moi Watercolor Brushes.

  • Excellent price point and value
  • Ink-based colorant
  • Two water brush refillable brushes
  • Pens not labeled for color
  • Highly rated by customers 
  • Frustrating storage container
  • Water brushes sometimes leak easily
  • Some brushes do not blend easily
  • Some colors do not wet out evenly and leave colorant in deposits

Total rating 100 %

  • 5 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

Here is a sample sketch I did showing how the brown pen dyes the paper (to be expected with an ink-based colorant) but will not lift if I make a mistake.

dye no release Best Watercolor Brush Markers verycreate.com
The dye won’t lift after application, making corrections impossible to get back to the white of the paper.

But click on our tutorial link on the last page of this article to see a demo of how useful it can be when a dye does not lift after rewetting.

 

Kuretake Zig set of 80

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

These are quality brush pens with a loyal following.  However, for this price point, a better choice might be Windsor Newton because they are pigment based, not ink.  We are also disappointed that for the price, a blending watercolor pen is not included.  Seriously??  For a hobbyist, you can get a great set for one third the price of this brand.  

  • Highly recommended by customers 
  • Ink based colorant
  • Colors do not fade as easily as other brands
  • Pens labeled for color, and ends are great color ID
  • Blend beautifully
  • Better storage container
  • Blending pen not included
  • Quality ink
  • High price point
  • Stand up storage container so pens don’t dry out as fast and are easy to load and unload

Total rating   90  %  We’re lowering our rating merely because of the high price point, although the quality is superb!  For bang for the buck, you may get more versatility and longevity from other brands, although the selection of colors here is amazing. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

Chromatek set of 50   

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

For those who don’t need artist quality, this set is amazing.  The addition of four refillable water blending brushes goes above and beyond the competitors and the free pad of paper will get you started right away.  Check out their set of free how-to videos on Youtube.  This company is serious about filling the hobby artist’s needs.

  • Four different refillable water blending brushes with a variety of brush shapes for the ultimate versatility
  • Tutorial pad of paper
  • Ink-based colorant
  • 7 part video tutorial series
  • Frustrating storage container
  • Colors newly labeled on pens
  • Very highly rated by customers
  • Great color selection with no duplicates

Total rating   93%

  • 4 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

 

Genuine Crafts Set of 50  

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Genuine Crafts makes a great set of 50 brushes that are ink-based.  We really like the addition of the neon colors for hobby coloring, but unless you are doing a high chroma work they are of limited value.  Why in the world they do not include at least one blending pen with each set is a mystery.

  • Not marked for color
  • Ink-based colorant
  • Similar colors in the set
  • Beautiful saturation of color
  • Releases color flawlessly with no granulation
  • Blends well
  • Frustrating storage container
  • Very highly rated by customers
  • 20 pack has a blendable pen, but 50 does not have a blending pen
  • 5 neon colors

Total rating  90 %   We’re dinging them a couple of percentage points because the pen sets do not always include a refillable blending pen and the pens are not labeled for color names. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

 

Ohuhu Set of 48

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

We like these pens.  The color selection is kind of odd, though. They include several very light hued colors, which would make sense in an alcohol marker set, but with a watercolor pen, you can add water with the blending pen on a palette and reduce any color to its lightest value.  For our needs, it would have been more useful to include a few more varieties like some grey-toned neutrals.  If you are on the go, however, and don’t have much access to water, then this set makes a lot of sense.

  • Some people report loose brush tips and inconsistent tip quality
  • Ink-based colorant
  • Not labeled or numbered
  • Frustrating storage container
  • Highly rated by customers
  • Two refillable watercolor brushes

Total rating    88 %

  • 4 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

Benicci Set 26 

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

The only watercolor set that includes a sturdy fabric carrying case sets the Benicci brand apart from the pack.  With the exception of the Winsor Newton tin case, the other brand’s carrying cases are problematic. The pens are difficult to take out and put in and the trays are flimsy and take up a lot of room on a table.  The pens here are easy to insert and take out of their case and would be ideal for travel in an airplane, car or train. The pens themselves perform as well as just about any other ink-based watercolor pen brand.  It’s a shame they couldn’t create a set of 40 with a fabric case for the same price point, but if you know how to mix your own colors and have access to a palette of sorts, it’s irrelevant and this might be your ideal travel choice. 

  •  
  • Refillable brush pen
  • Ink-based colorant
  • Durable carry case that makes sense and is very useful for travel
  • Bonus pad of paper included
  • Great price point
  • Colors not labeled
  • Highly rated by customers

Total rating   86%

  • 4 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

Carepen set 48 

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  • Two refillable brushes
  • Several repeated colors
  • Frustrating storage case
  • Highly rated by customers

Total rating  86 %

  • 4 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

Spreey set of 24

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

  • Amazing price point
  • Refillable water brush 
  • Ink-based colorant
  • Frustrating storage case
  • Pens may leak
  • Low color selection 

Total rating  70%

  • 3 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

 

 

Arteza set of 50

>>Check Price On Amazon<<

The reviews are mixed on this one.  Personally, we were disappointed with the colorant ink in its saturation and in its ability to rewet enough that it leaves us wondering why they are so highly sold.  Good marketing!  The size of the set choices is remarkable though and the company responds with great customer care and service if there is an issue.

  • Arteza is one of the most popular manufacturers of watercolor ink brush pens.  
  • The sets come in sets of 24, 48, 96.  
  • The colors are numbered and labeled.
  • Colors do not release well when rewetting
  • Refillable water brush
  • Frustrating storage case
  • Inconsistent brush tip sizes and too long
  • Brush tips splay out are thin
  • Reputable company 
  • Good customer ratings

Total rating 70%

  • 3 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry -blotchy on our tests
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Value for price
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips – splayed out and were thin and too long for detail use
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments – lay down granulated
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in kit
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink

                                                                                                                        

 

Winsor Newton Set of 12    

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This is our number one recommendation if you enjoy working with real artist pigments.  These are true watercolor art materials, not ink.  For watercolorists who like to draw thin lines, travel unencumbered by lots of supplies or those who like to make crafts with watercolor methods, these pens are a huge asset.  They will act like traditional watercolors in every way with the added bonus of being dual-tipped.   If you are a hobbyist who doesn’t need or want pigment-based watercolors, then there are better choices as listed above.

  • Archival pigments -lightfast for 100 years
  • Works perfectly with artist’s watercolors
  • Stiffer brush for tight control
  • Dual tips. One chisel, one flexible brush
  • Sturdy storage tin
  • Individually labeled with true artist colors (like French Ultramarine Blue, not Tropical Cabana Blue  or  28B, for example)
  • Highly pigmented
  • Does not have a lot of color choices but you won’t need more if you know how to mix colors on a palette

Total rating    45%

  • 1 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry – this was a huge surprise in our tests.  
  • 2 out of 5 stars    Value for the price – unless you need archival, there are better watercolor brush pens
  • 5 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips
  • 2 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments  – another surprise, these brush pens had low chroma and low coverage
  • 2 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in the kit – given the dull chroma and coverage of these pens, their blendability is limited 
  • 2 out of 5 stars    Easy release of pigments -another surprise in our test 

Tombow Pens Dual Tip set of 10

>Check Price On Amazon<<

  • 96 color possibilities
  • Blending PEN included- but customers say it is relatively ineffective
  • Water-based ink
  • Fine bullet tip on one end
  • Fiber blend brush tip on other end
  • Long time trusted brand with loyal following
  • Very high price point
  • Nibs wear down easily
  • The pastel set is good for bullet journalling

Total rating:  40 % 

  • 2 out of 5 stars    Ability to rewet when dry
  • 1 out of 5 stars    Value for the price  – there are more affordable watercolor brush pens at a much, much lower price that deliver quality and versatility too
  • 1 out of 5 stars    Consistent brush tips – not as durable as pure nylon
  • 4 out of 5 stars    Vibrant pigments  
  • 1 out of 5 stars    Useful color selection in the kit – you need several kits for versatility. 
  • 3 out of 5 stars    Easy release of color ink 

 

 

Last but not least

Check out my tutorial here using watercolor brush pens to paint a stunning seascape painting.

And you might find our article on selecting the best watercolor paper for beginners useful as well!  You can find that article here.

 

No matter which watercolor brush pen kit you purchase, you will have a blast with your pens.  There are so many techniques you can use!  Keep your eyes open for new product lines, we predict this art supply will be a long time hit with crafters, illustrators and artists for decades to come.

Anita HC

I hope you are enjoying this article! I love helping creators learn. My goal is to help you find the knowledge and inspiration you need. Check out our library of articles and visit often...I'm adding articles every week! Thank you again for reading!

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