Category: Pen Review

Brush Pens, Part 1: Waterproof Felt Tips

Guest Review by Tina Koyama

First, I’d like to welcome Tina to The Well-Appointed Desk and thank her for stepping in and helping with reviews. This is her first (and hopefully not her her last) review here. I’m thrilled to have Tina on board bringing a new perspective and point of view. Please give her a warm welcome! –Ana


As an urban sketcher who draws way more often when I’m outside my studio than inside, I value any product that’s portable and can be used easily and conveniently in the field. And if there’s one drawing medium that piques my interest, it’s a brush pen that gives me the variable marks of an actual brush without the fuss and mess of bottled inks.

Art material junkie that I am, I have tried quite a few brush pens. A major issue I have is that some brush pens mush down on me relatively quickly. They still have plenty of ink in them, but I don’t want to use them after their formerly sharp tips turn into fuzzy flatness. I don’t know if the types of materials brush pens are made of tend to wear out quickly, or I just have a particularly heavy hand. In any case, I have made it my personal quest to find brush pens that can stand up to my abuse long enough to use up the ink they contain, so that’s one focus of this review series.

The term “brush pen” is used for two primary types of tips: those made of a compressed fiber or rubber that flexes slightly (I’ll use’s term “felt tips” to refer to them), and those made of natural or synthetic hairs or bristles like an actual brush. Some contain waterproof ink while others contain water-soluble ink. Given that I have nearly four dozen brush pens to compare (and that’s only the ones with black ink!), Part 1 of this brush pen series covers only the 14 felt tip pens containing waterproof ink.

The scribble/waterproof testing was done on Canson XL 98-pound mixed media paper. The bleed-through testing was done on 60-pound Finch Opaque Smooth paper in a Field Notes notebook.



First, let’s talk about ink. All pens in today’s review contain black inks that are completely or nearly completely waterproof within a couple minutes of application. The hard tip Pilot Pocket Brush slipped onto my test sheet inadvertently because I assumed it had the same ink as its soft tip counterpart, which was indicated on as having waterproof ink. It turns out that it only becomes waterproof after several days. I generally use a waterproof ink when I’m thinking I might want to apply watercolors or some other liquid medium afterwards, and I’m definitely not going to wait several days to do that, so I consider that ink to be water-soluble.

Sailor Mitsuo Aida 2-sided brush pen in Field Notes Lunacy Edition
Sailor Mitsuo Aida 2-sided brush pen in Field Notes Lunacy Edition


All inks performed comparably with no bleed-through on the 98-pound paper, as expected. They also performed surprisingly well on the Field Notes paper, although several bled through at points where I paused briefly or, in the case of an actual sketch, colored some areas solidly. (None of the inks bled through at all under any circumstance on Field Notes Lunacy’s Domtar Earth Choice 60-pound paper, however, which has a very different sizing.)


Back side of Field Notes with 60# paper using Zebra gray body brush pen
Back side of Field Notes with 60# paper using Zebra gray body brush pen

All pens contain highly saturated black inks with the exception of the soft tip Tombow Fudenosuke and the fine/medium Sailor Mitsuo Aida, which look a bit grayer to my eye. For my sketching purposes, though, I’d say the inks have negligible differences in appearance.

As expected, the biggest difference among the 14 pens is in how their brush tips perform or in the marks they make.

The pens tested here include a wide range from fine (such as the Tombow Fudenosuke and the fine Kuretake Bimoji) to bold (such as the bold Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen). You’d probably choose a tip based on the size and type of work you do and personal preference. I tend to favor bolder marks, but that means I want the tip to retain a fine point so that I can get a full range of marks from it.


While I initially liked both the Marvy LePen Technical Drawing Pen and the Deleter Neopiko Line 3 brush tip pen for their soft, slender, flexible nibs, they both mushed down on me quickly. I prefer softer fiber-tipped pens because they seem more responsive to variations in pressure, but their ink supplies long outlive their tips. Ultimately, this review taught me that pens with firm but spongey, thicker tips stand up to my heavy-handedness longer. My favorites are the fine/bold Mitsubishi double-sided brush pen and the fine/medium Sailor Mitsuo Aida. These two are also the best value and serve my need for compact, road sketcher materials because the double tips are like having two pens in one.


I also like the medium side of the fine/medium Pilot Futayaku double-sided brush pen, but for some reason, the fine side is scratchy and acts like it’s out of ink, even though I store it horizontally, so I know it’s got the same amount of ink as the medium side.

I’ve also learned that since these stouter brush tips don’t flex as much, I have to vary the angle they are held to the paper to get a wider range of marks – the more perpendicular they are held to the paper, the finer the line. Now that I’m used to this, I can get a pretty good range, but it took a while to train myself.

Kuretake 2-sided brush pen on 140lb paper
Kuretake 2-sided brush pen on 140lb paper

The bold Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen has a sturdy tip that would probably also hold up well, but something about the cap design gets ink all over the inside of the cap, which then transfers to the rear end of the pen when I post it – and then when I cap the pen again, the inky rear end makes a mess on my hands and bag. I stopped using it early in testing because that mess annoyed me too much.

One characteristic of most of these pens, probably due to the material their tips are made of, is that they can make a split or dry-brush-like mark when dragged quickly on their sides, especially the finer-tipped pens. In some cases they can look like they are running out of ink. It’s a nice effect if you want it, since it mimics an actual brush. If you don’t, the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen and the broader sides of the two-sided Pilot, Sailor and Mitsubishi pens are more likely to retain a consistent stroke.

Zig Mangaka on Field Notes Lunacy Paper
Zig Mangaka on Field Notes Lunacy Paper

I have one idiosyncratic quibble: pen caps that don’t post properly – or that post backwards! The caps on the fine/bold Mitsubishi double-sided brush pen post insecurely, so they are always at risk of falling off while I’m in the field (and a brush pen without a cap is going to die very quickly). And the two Kuretake Bimoji pens and the fine/medium Kuretake Disposable Pocket Double-Sided pen have caps that must be turned around before they will post. Needless to say, I have absent-mindedly jammed those tips into the wrong end of their caps many, many times (probably shortening their lives, even if they haven’t mushed down on me yet).

Zebra black body Brush Pen on Lunacy Field Notes
Zebra black body Brush Pen on Lunacy Field Notes

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Delta Virtuosa Medium Fusion Nib Fountain Pen

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

The Delta Virtuosa is my first experience with a Delta pen and with the Delta Fusion nib.

First, let me mention the packaging, which is not something I normally do because, honestly, I prefer the packaging to be protective and recyclable. In the case of the Delta packaging, it is protective but not particularly recyclable. However, it does speak to the designer in me. Its kind of cool looking. It has a screen printed, clear plexiglass top that has an elastic closure on one end and is hinged to pivot at the other end. Inside is a cut out in foam to hold the pen. Since the Virtuosa is such a vibrant blue, its visible through the lucite which is pretty cool. There was a paperboard slipcase as well to hold the box and paperwork but it was not as interesting. So, the packaging is pleasing and noteworthy.

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

Inside the box is the beautiful blue swirl resin of the pen. The color is phenomenal. All the hardware is silver. When I showed it to my husband, his one comment was that he thought the clip was kind of boring and that was the one thing I was particularly pleased about. The clip is notably understated which is rare with Delta that tends to embellish their clips. I like the clean simplicity, especially with the vibrant color. So, clearly, to each his own.

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

Now to get to the nitty gritty of the Fusion nib. I will try to explain it as best as I can from the documentation included. The idea is that Delta attempted fuse gold to steel (and other precious metals) to somehow get the best properties of the metals. As best as I can tell, putting gold on TOP of a steel nib just gives you essentially a glorified gold-plated steel nib. That said, the nib is super smooth and writes well, even for an upside-down, left-handed writer.

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

The cap posts easily and since the pen is resin, it is a relatively light pen overall. I preferred using it unposted but posted and filled, it only weighed 22gms making it similar to a Lamy AL-Star in regards to weight.

Fountain Pen Weights

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

I don’t normally use a medium nib because of my teeny, tiny handwriting and the Delta Fusion nib is quite a wet writer overall but it writes very smoothly and I could write from any angle with no issues which is a huge plus. It also needed very little pressure to write and showed off the shading of the Robert Oster ink beautifully.

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

I also tested the pen on some standard office copy paper (20# bond and Moleskine Cahier) just to  see how much a big juicy medium nib would feather and bleed. Obviously, my ink choice may play a role in how much feathering and bleed I get, YMMV. As you can see, the Moleskine had some feathering and the office paper softened the lines a bit but it wasn’t horrible. There was a bit of showthrough on the back of the Moleskine but the copy paper was fine. I’d recommend a drier ink if you wee to use this as your daily pen though.

Delta Virtuosa Fusion Nib

Overall, the Delta Virtuosa is a beautiful pen and was a great introduction into the Delta product line. They  definitely make a quality pen and work hard to create unique and interesting designs.

Pen Chalet still has some of the Delta Virtuosa in stock in the Light and Dark Ivory with steel nibs and the Light Ivory with the Fusion nib at a substantial discount. Or check out the full range of Delta fountain pens that Pen Chalet offers, some are available with the Fusion nib.

For an in-depth review and more details about the Fusion nib, check out The Pen Habit’s video review of the Delta Fusion 82.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Chalet for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Namisu Nova Titanium Deluxe

Namisu Nova Titanium

The Namisu Nova Titanium Deluxe is my first experience with a titanium fountain pen and a titanium nib. The overall shape and feel of the pen is a smooth machined cigar shape. It’s very space-aged. There is no clip so it will roll off the table at a moment’s notice. This is definitely a pen that might need a pen sleeve to keep it protected from potential tumbles.

Namisu Nova Titanium

The nib is also titanium, as I mentioned, in medium. Its a Bock nib. The titanuim give the nib a very matte look. The pen is a standard converter and/or cartridge filler so it allows for easy filling.

Namisu Nova Titanium

The pen does not seem particularly large or heavy until I started measuring it and weighing it. Lengthwise, its comparable to a Lamy Safari at 5.5″ capped. Uncapped and unposted, it was a hair shorted than a Safari at 5.125″. The Nova does post but it becomes extremely heavy at 52 gms but is a 6.25″, about a 0.25″ shorter than a posted Safari.

Fountain Pen Weights

See what I mean? 52gms is a seriously heavy pen! Unposted at 36gms, the pen was well-weighted and pretty comfortable overall though I suspect an aluminum model might be lighter.

Namisu Nova Titanium

In writing, I discovered that the Nova with a titanium nib has a little bit of softness but also a little bit of feedback and squeak. It was like there was a little hamster in a cage living inside the pen for me, running on its wheel while I was writing. I don’t know if this was just me or if others have had this experience but by the time I’d written a few pages, I was ready to switch to a pen that had less back talk. I suspect I’d get less “small pet” noises with a standard, steel nib as I’ve had experience with Bock nibs in other pens. The flexibility had some appeal but I couldn’t get past the squeak.

Overall, I really like the look of the pen. The sleek, modern look is very appealing and I loved having a chance to try a titanuim nib though I wish my experience had been better overall. Squeaky but flexy.

You can pre-order a sandblasted version of the titanium design now or purchase the Orion (the same shape with bands engraved out around the center of the pen) in aluminum or titanium with prices starting at £70 with a steel nib. There is also a stonewashed titanium Orion for £60. All versions are available directly from Namisu.

Special thanks to Kasey for loaning me the pen, my own personal enabler. Safe travels and thanks for keeping us safe.

Pen Review: Zebra Sarasa Fujiya Scented Gel Pens

zebra sarasa milky

I’ve always liked the Zebra Sarasa gel pens and because somewhere inside me there’s a 9-year-old who occasionally has to be entertained, when I saw the limited edition collection of Fujiya scented Milky 0.5mm pens, I had to try them all. Can you blame me? I mean, don’t you always sniff those Mr. Sketch scented markers too?

Each of the Zebra Sarasa Fujiya scented pens is $3 each. There were pre-packaged sets available but they are already sold out so if these are calling to your inner grade-schooler, or your actual grade-schooler, you better hit the “buy now” button now because they are all marked LAST CHANCE. But, first, best to read on… because you might want to skip a couple of them.

zebra sarasa milky

First of all, the actual barrel designs are a cacophony of Japanese candy wrapper mayhem, complete with a Milky kid medallion at the top of the clip. If this is going to make that dreary Monday morning staff meeting al that much better, than I say go for it. The Lemon Squash, while not particularly lemony scented, has a glittery translucent barrel with white polka dots that is definitely going to liven up some seriously dreary winter days. The Nectar Peach has no discernible scent at all which was a complete disappointment since peach is one of my favorite candy flavors but the ink color is a fabulous peach-tinged pink and the pen barrel is bubblegum pink.

And can we pause for a moment and thank all that’s holy for the absolutely awesome shade of green tea green in the Maccha Milky Light Green? My photo does not do it justice. It’s pretty much the perfect spring grass green. It does not really have much of a scent though. Sadly because if it actually smelled like matcha green tea I would be in heaven.

The Pop Candy Orange reminds very much of an orange Starburst candy and is a nice bright orange color too. Totally acceptable.

For some reason, a decision was made to make the black ink smell like “Country Ma’am Chocolate Chip” rather than make it a brown or brown-black. Okay fine, suit yourself. It’s a bit of a faux chocolate smell and not the cutest barrel design. If you were looking to save a few pennies, this might be one I’d pass on as the scent is a little odd and it took me awhile to recognize the floating shapes on the barrel as cookies.

And now, the ones I didn’t like…

First, the least offensive was the Strawberry Milky but it was emotionally the biggest disappointment as Strawberry Milky is one of my favorite candies. And the pen does NOT smell at all like Strawberry Milky. NOPE. It smells like fake strawberry. It’s okay but I didn’t like it. I might just swap out the ink cartridge and keep the cool barrel. Because I love the bee and Peko and the strawberries. Problem solved there. Next is the Soft Cream Milky which has the standard blue ink and smells like a flowery air freshener. Blech! This is another one I’ll have to do refill replacement on. I love the goofball graphics but it smells awful. And the last offender for me, the Milky Light Blue which smells like licorice. This is a personal distaste. I don’t like the smell of Red Ropes licorice at all. If you like the way they smell, you will love the light blue. If you don’t, you’ll be in the same boat as I am.

So, mostly these pens rock for the Milky packaging and some of the colors. If you have young kids who like the slightly artificial candy smells, they might love the strawberry, chocolate and licorice scents and even the weirdly air freshener smell of the blue one. I give three cheers for the lemon, orange and maccha (matcha) for sure.

And of course, Zebra Sarasa gel pens in general rock for the feather-resistance, lightfastness, and water-resistance. So, you know, you can’t go wrong. And you could always try the Chupa Chups ones instead.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Regal Alice Fountain Pen

regal alice fountain pen title

The Regal Alice fountain pen is a slender copper body pen with a shimmer metallic finish and silver tone hardware. The pen is pretty, inexpensive and feels nice in the hand. Everyone who sees it compliments its looks and asks about it because the color is unusual and the slim understated design is something not often seen in modern pen designs. Originally, the pen only shipped with a medium nib but is now designed to accept an EF fountain pen nib ($10) or can be retrofit to accept a rollerball refill if you change out the grip section..

The pen ships with standard black ink cartridges and there is an option to use a cartridge converter. A cartridge converter is available directly from Regal for $3 or the Monteverde Piston Converter which is more widely available.

regal alice fountain pen

regal alice fountain pen EF nib

I swapped out the medium nib for the EF nib which is quite fine and perfect for everyday office writing since its fine enough to stand up to inexpensive copy paper and the like. I also went ahead and got the cartridge converter because I wanted to be able to use lots of ink colors easily.

regal alice fountain pen writing sample

Fountain Pen Weights

The pen is fairly long and slender but because of the brass base material it has a nice weight. The cap does not post because of a plastic lining material inside the cap that helps seal the cap and keep the pen closed tightly. It reminds me of the cap on the Pelikan Stola III in that way. I didn’t mind that it didn’t post but I know this might be an issue for some folks.

regal alice fountain pen close-up writing sample

I normally write pretty small for notes and daily writing so the EF nib on a small, slender body fits my writing style nicely. The Alice is a bit drier writing pen overall so it felt more like a needlepoint rollerball or gel pen and may feel more familiar to people just starting in fountain pens than a wet writer. It also makes it a good candidate for mucking about on everyday office papers where you don’t get a lot of say on the types of paper it is on but would still like to use a fountain pen.

regal alice fountain pen writing samples

I tested the Alice on a bit of Moleskine Cahier paper, Tomoe River Hobonichi and some cheap 20# office paper just to prove my point. There was no feathering and very little show through with the light turquoise ink color I was using. YMMV.

The Alice is available for $20 from Regal in black, white, pink, turquoise,  and champagne pink (fuchsia). It’s also available as a rollerball or ballpoint. At a price like this, if the colors appeal to you, its a fun pen to add to the collection and one that may intrigue non-fountain pen users into the hobby. It definitely catches attention.

regal alice fountain pen

The Alice got to visit my very own Wonderland… in my backyard this weekend. I think it looks right at home.

regal alice fountain pen

Review: Kaweco Special Dip Pen

Sometimes the right tool shows up at just the right time and your whole work process just falls into step. For me, that tool was the new Kaweco Special Dip Pen.  This elevates the dip pen out of the realm of old school or art school into a classic, modern tool for the modern calligrapher. The material for the Kaweco Special line is a matte black, faceted, anodized aluminum that has a nice weight to it. At the end, where the nib is inserted, there is a nice shiny bit of chrome giving the pen a polished look. It’s a lengthy tool, like a paint brush for a bit of an artsy look.

The pen comes with a fairly flexible nib (totally unlabelled so I have no idea what it is) but it will hold any standard nib so you can replace it with your favorite nib like a Zebra G, Nikko G or anything else, vintage or modern.  I do recommend scrubbing the nib with standard white toothpaste to remove the oil from it in order get inks to adhere to it before using it. Lindsay over at The Postman’s Knock has several other tips for removing oil residue but toothpaste has become my recommended method.

I used the Kaweco Special Dip Pen to annotate all my new ink swatches from all the pen shows I’ve gone to this summer. I also used my favorite paintbrush for the ink swashes. It’s a Silver Black Velvet #6 round watercolor brush and the swatches are done on the last of my Maruman Mnemosyne Word Book cards. I don’t know what I will do when I run out of these cards.

Overall, the Kaweco Special Dip Pen is more expensive than a Speedball plastic nib holder but I think its worth it. If you’re the kind of person who would drop $100+ on a fountain pen than $36 on a dip pen nib holder probably doesn’t seem crazy. The Kaweco Special Dip Nib Holder feels nicer and weightier in the hand and looks much better too than a cheap $7 plastic one. If you know someone who uses a dip pen, it would make a good gift too.

The Kaweco Special Dip Pen is available from JetPens.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Kaweco for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black Fountain Pen

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black and Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love

Once again, my dear friend Kasey was kind enough to loan me a pen. This time, it was his beloved Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black. I laughed when I pulled it out of the box because it is the absolute antithesis of the only other Sailor pen in my life right now. Where the Sailor Imperial Black is matte black finish with ruthenium trim, my Sailor Pink Love Pro Gear Slim is ridiculously vivid pink with metallic sparkles embedded in the material. So, I’ve spent the last few weeks putting Imperial Black and Pink Love next to each other in a strange “opposites attract” sort of way. And to be honest, its totally true.

Fountain Pen WeightsFrom a purely technical standpoint, I was delighted to have an opportunity to try out a full-sized Pro Gear and discover that it is not nearly as large or heavy as I anticipated. Compared with the Slim model, its really only about a half an inch longer and only slightly wider. Weight-wise, the Pro Gear is only 4 grams heavier at 24 gms than the Slim which weighed in at 20 gms, capped and filled with the converter. Compared to a Lamy AL-Star, which is a bit longer than the Pro Gear, the weights and width are quite comparable so really, the Pro Gear is a a fairly light but solid feeling tool. I’d almost describe it as compact. Especially with the Imperial Black since all the design elements are understated making the pen feel very clean and functional but at the same time very classic and elegant.

Within minutes of putting the pen to paper, I started researching how much it was going to cost me to get my own Imperial Black. Seriously. Fo the record, there are not many of these beauties left in the wild. Anderson Pens still has some in stock with a broad nib for $472.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

Part of the expense of this Imperial Black is that this particular model of Pro Gear came with the 21K nib instead of the more common 14K nib. Wow. This particular pen has the medium nib. And as is common with Sailor pens, the medium nib is actually quite fine and actually a bit crisp so the line has a lot of character. Its not often that I get excited about a medium nib, but this one is quite something. There’s nothing “medium” about it.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black and Sailor Pro Gear Slim Pink Love

When I put it next to the music nib on the Pro Gear Slim Pink Love, the Imperial Black looks slim, delicate and all business. The Pink Love looks a little bulbous. It does show the vast range of nib size differences within the Sailor line though.

Sailor Pro Gear Imperial Black

In writing, the medium nib 21K is absolutely buttery. It was conducive to writing at any angle and as a left-handed writer this is a big deal. I could write over-handed, under-handed, or side-writing with the lightest of touches and the nib glides on the paper. The medium nib handled my small handwriting with no issues, I seldom had the counters of my letters fill in even using 6mm guide sheets.

I really was blown away by this pen and am seriously considering purchasing, if not an Imperial Black Pro Gear, than at least a Pro Gear, in the near future. It is a beautiful writing tool and the Sailor medium nib should be renamed something more poetic. Maybe the “majestic” nib. That’s what that “M” really stands for.