Review by Tina Koyama
One of the simplest sketch tool combinations I use is a black brush pen to make a line drawing shaded with a gray marker. When I’m feeling minimalist, I grab one of each, and I’m good to go. I was excited when the Akashiya Keicho double-sided brush pen first came out: It has a black brush tip on one end, and a gray one on the other – an ideal two-in-one tool. The Akashiya Keicho, however, contains water-soluble inks. While I sometimes enjoy the effects of inks that wash, I kept wishing Akashiya would come out with a waterproof version.
I don’t know about Akashiya, but Tombow did – the Fudenosuke double-sided gray/black brush pen ($3.80).
Compared to the Akashiya Keicho, the Tombow’s tips are much smaller and firmer. I’ve been sketching with this one consistently for more than a month, and so far, the tips haven’t mushed down (a pet peeve of my heavy-handed self).
The slightly flexible brush tips are similar to sign pens that are intended for Asian calligraphy and other fancy writing. With pressure, the tips are just spongy enough to give my writing or drawing line an interesting variation without so much flexiness that I lose control. Like any brush pens, the tips impart a fine line when held upright and a wider line when held at an angle.
For action sketches (like the one below in which I was observing an art class), the black side keeps up with my speed-drawing, and then I use the gray side for fast shading. My only complaint is that I like being able to make a wider mark when I’m shading a drawing, and the Tombow’s tip is smaller than I would like. Calligraphers, however, would probably appreciate that the two tips are small enough for lettering and corresponding drop shadows.
For me, the biggest benefit of the Tombow Fudenosuke is that the ink is waterproof. In the sketch below, I used the black side to make the line drawing, then added shading with the gray side. Finally, I added color with watercolor pencils, and when I activated the pigment with water, the line work and shading stayed clean and crisp.
The gray/black double-sided Tombow Fudenosuke is a handy, compact tool that now has a permanent place in my sketch kit. I would like it even better if the gray side were wider, but its waterproof inks make it more versatile, so it gets big bonus points for that.