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Pen Review: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens (now with available colors, yay!)

The Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens have long been our go-to pens for many lettering projects. We struggled to correctly pronounce these pens for years, lovingly naming them “fa-dush-key’s” since neither of us know Japanese. Although, maybe we should learn since we can all agree many of the best pens are Japanese! We finally did some research and are getting in the habit of pronouncing them as correctly as we can, “foo-deh-NO-skeh”, or just Fude, “foo-deh”, for short. These beginner-friendly pens come in both hard and soft tips, and we’re excited to share why we’re so into these pens!

So, why do we love Tombow Fudenosuke pens so much? The clean and precise lettering capabilities of these fine tip pens make our work easy to scan and digitize. The ink is permanent and bleed proof, making them wonderful for lettering envelopes, place cards, and other small scale lettering projects. Of course, we always have at least two in our purses at all times, ready to letter at a moments notice.

For some, the small brush tip can be much easier to learn brush lettering with than larger, broad tip brush pens like the Tombow Dual Brush. Since these are great entry level pens, our Introduction to Brush Lettering Workshops always feature the black hard tip Fude. An added bonus? The barrels are made of recycled plastic – yay for the environment!

Up until October 2018, these pens were only available in black. You can imagine our excitement when we found out they were releasing a whole set of colors! We each immediately ordered ourselves the set. The pack comes with 9 colors plus black, you can get order yours here!

So what makes these colored pens so special? Fine tip colored brush pens can be hard to come by, and these ones are so vibrant, yet won’t bleed through most papers. Their sturdy, yet flexible brush tip is perfect for using pressure to create the thin and thick strokes for brush lettering. Can we say must haves?!

Size and Stroke

If you’ve never used these pens before, we recommend buying the Hard and Soft Tip 2-Pack so you can see which feels more comfortable to you. You may end up leaning towards one or the other when you’re first learning. Only catch – the colored versions are currently only available in hard tip. We especially like the precision and control of the hard tip, but also enjoy the smoothness of the soft tip. 

You may notice a slightly streaky or distressed look to the Tombow Fudenosuke ink. This is typical, since they are not as “juicy” as some other brush pens, actually making them easier to learn with. As the names suggest, the hard tip pen is firmer than the soft, allowing for sharper thin strokes. The soft tip is a little more inky, allowing for a slightly broader downstroke than the hard tip.

As we’ve mentioned, both of these are fine tip brush pens, so they are great for small scale lettering. The thick stroke tends to be about 1/16″ wide, while a practiced thin stroke is about the same thickness as a pencil line.

Durability

We’ve found that the tips for both the hard and soft pens last a bit longer than other brush pens. The tips are made of elastomer, so they are a flexible plastic. They will last longer if they are used on high quality, smooth paper, you can learn more about our paper recommendations here. We’ve also noticed that the ink tends be used up before the tip gets frayed, especially for the hard tip. Unfortunately, the pens are not refillable, but they are affordable and still last quite a long time for disposable pens.

In Action

Keep in mind every pen has its own unique feel and flow and each person is going to have their own preferences. We always recommend trying out as many brush pens as you can get your hands on to see what your favorites are. We’ve only just started playing with the color Fudes, but we’re instantly obsessed. Follow our Instagram to see our new colored pens in use and below are some examples of us lettering with these go-to fine tip pens. We look forward to hearing what you think about the Tombow Fudenosukes! 

Choosing the Best Paper & Notebooks for your Brush Pens

Yay, you have new fun pens to play with! Congratulations, and welcome to the pen hoarding club. But with great pen ownership comes great paper responsibility, as paper choice is just as important as selecting your fab pens. When you’re first starting to use your new pens, it can be tempting to use regular printer paper to practice. This is going to result in a shorter life span for your pens that you are so excited to start using. Fortunately, we’re (very) into paper and are here to share some tips on what will help your pens stay in good condition and last longer.

Let’s start by breaking down paper. Sheets of paper are made from pressed paper fibers that have been blended together. When these fibers are long or coarse, the paper has more “tooth”, which is the amount of roughness the paper has. Smooth paper has shorter fibers, resulting in a gentler surface for your pens. Although the tooth might not be noticeable to your touch, pens will definitely feel the difference! The images below show how brush pens react to smooth versus textured paper. You can see on the textured paper that the ink is uneven and rough around the edges – and writing on it tears up the felt pen tip!

Paper Finishes

As a pen owner, you should think of paper like a carpenter thinks about wood. Different woods are better suited for different purposes, just as certain papers are better for certain uses. So what are the different types of paper? Generally speaking, there are two basic categories of paper finishes: smooth or textured. Although wove, bond, and vellum are all considered smooth finishes, we recommend sticking to the actual smooth finish for best results. This will prevent your pens from fraying quickly, because no one likes a frayed tip! Stay away from the textured finishes such as laid, felt, or linen for your pens.

Practice Paper

When choosing your paper for lettering, think about what the purpose will be. Are you practicing or are you looking to letter a project for a gift or framing? Luckily there are great options for both that are easily available on Amazon, Michaels, or other craft supply stores. Here are our favorite practice papers to use.

Strathmore 370-9 300 Series Tracing Pad, 9"x12" Tape Bound, 50 Sheets

Strathmore Tracing Paper is great because you can easily copy over example letters to get a feel for how to form the strokes. You can also place guidelines or a pencil sketch underneath to then trace over with a brush pen.

HP Premium Paper is perfect to have on hand for practicing your lettering. It is affordable and super smooth.

Rhodia Classic Black Notepad 8.25x12.5 Blank (80 Sheets)

Rhodia Notepads come in various sizes and with different types of sheets. You can opt for blank, lined, dotted or graph paper. The guides are helpful for keeping your lettering a uniform size as well as keeping your lines straight.

The Canson Marker Paper works well if you’re looking to practice on a bound pad. The paper is great for any brush pens. It is semi transparent, so you can also put some guidelines underneath. The sheets are thin but ink does not bleed through.

Project Paper

When you are creating a lettering project that you’ll want to keep, use acid-free, archival paper as it won’t yellow over time. After spending time perfecting your masterpiece, the last thing you’ll want is for your paper to start curling or fading! Below are a few recommendations for quality project paper.

Canson Bristol Paper is great for finished pieces because it is heavy weight and has a smooth finish. It also comes in 11x14 if you’re looking for larger paper.

Similar to the Canon Bristol, we also recommend using the Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper for a heavy weight smooth paper that won’t hurt your brush pens.

If you’re looking for smooth card stock for a final piece that won’t fade over time, this White Heavy Weight Stock Paper is perfect! You can trim down to your desired size, or even fold to create greeting cards.

Astrobrights Colored Card Stock variety pack is great if you’re looking for fun color options. It is acid-free quality paper so works well for finished projects.

Notebooks

Of course, it isn’t always possible to carry around a large pad of paper to practice your lettering. We usually carry pens and a few notebooks in our bags so we can easily letter on the go – you never know when you’ll be inspired! 🙂 Although some of these aren’t extra smooth paper, you can still use them with your brush pens, we just don’t recommend them for repeated, long-term practicing. We’ve noted which ones are smooth!

The Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Notebook is one of our favorite notebooks. With a dot grid and silky smooth pages that are great for your brush pens, we love this for sketching and practice. And it comes in a variety of colors!

We also love the Compendium Motto Journals for lettering on the go. They are pocket-sized notebooks with dot grid smooth paper pages and come in fun colors and quote options.

There are a variety of notebooks available at Muji, including both glue and ring bound in many sizes with blank, lined, dotted, or grid sheets. Since glue bound notebooks don’t always lay flat, the ring bound are especially useful for taking pictures of your lettering. Not all of these are smooth paper, but are great to have as options!

Of course, we love the gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. pocket sized notebooks. These have blank sheets and are always fun to carry around for inspirational lettering while you’re out and about. 

Happy lettering!

We can talk about pens and paper all day, but the main takeaway here is to not use regular printer paper for brush lettering. Since felt brush pens aren’t refillable, they won’t last forever, but if you take care of them using quality paper they will last longer. We’d love to hear about your favorite paper and notebooks for brush lettering!

Pen Review: Tombow Dual Brush Pens

Tombow Dual Brush Pens may be the most well known brush pens on the market. They can be found in nearly any arts and crafts store, and even sometimes in specialty shops that don’t carry other products related to brush lettering or calligraphy. As such, they’re obviously very popular for their availability. We recommend them as a great beginner pen, and always give one to our students at our lettering workshops. But we also still love them as long-time brush letterers! Here’s a little bit about the pens themselves, what we use them for, and why we love them!

Size & Stroke

The brushes on the Tombow Dual Brush pens are a medium size, with a fairly flexible tip. The ink flows smoothly, dries quickly (no smudges on our beautiful lettering pieces please and thank you!), and doesn’t bleed. They also have a regular fine marker tip on the opposite end, which comes in handy for touch ups and swashes. The shaft is fairly long, which gives your hand a lot of room to pull back and create more expressive and gestural strokes.

Thick downstrokes using these pens can get up to about 1/4″ thick. The brush tip really has a good capacity for a thick stroke when you’re pressing in through the side of the tip! Yet thin upstrokes are still easy to achieve by applying less pressure. We like to use these pens for medium scale brush lettering, like short word combinations and quotes. It’s much more difficult to use these pens on a smaller scale, like envelope addressing, so we don’t recommend them for that.

Colors & Blending

These pens come in SO MANY COLORS! 96 to be exact! There’s not another brush pen out there with so many color options. And some of them are straight up drool-worthy. (Yes, pens make us drool).

The water-based ink is also ideal for blending. Aka creating varying shades and that ever beautiful ombré effect. In fact, most basic sets of these pens even come with a clear pen, called the blender. But blending can be done in a few different ways.

One of our favorites is by using one pen to apply color directly to the tip of a different color brush tip. Applying a color ink to the tip of the clear pen (like pink below), creates an ombré effect where the color slowly gets more translucent. Similarly, you can apply a colored ink to a different color pen to create a transition stroke through different color combinations (the blue ink on the yellow pen below created the varying green to yellow effect). To restore your pens to their original color, simply use the pen until the applied ink color is colored out.

The pens will also blend quite easily on top of paper. Start drawing with one color, and then layer over another. The lighter colored brush tips will pick up the darker colors and carry the color through as you continue to write. Another tactic is to write with two different colors touching, but not layered, and use the clear blender pen to combine the two. The blending possibilities are really quite varied. Just be careful – too many layers of ink can start to break apart the paper fibers!

Durability

We haven’t had an issue with the Dual Brush Pens running out of ink quickly, they have been very long lasting for us. However, we have noticed that the nylon tip can have a tendency to fray. You’ll start to notice on your thins that the stroke may begin to appear less smooth or have a wispy texture. Typically this will happen from writing on rough or toothy paper, but even regular computer paper can be tough on the brush tips. We’d recommend using smooth, coated paper to help keep your pen tips at their best quality (for these as well as all brush pens)!

In Action

And here are some examples of these bad boy Tombow Dual Brush pens in action. We often carry a few of these pens in our bags for lettering on the go. If you’re looking to do medium sized lettering in a variety of colors, then these are the pens for you! Do you love these pens as much as we do!?

All designs shown here were created by We’re Into It. All photography is our own except where credit is given.

Brush Lettering Tips & Resources for Lefties

So you were born left handed. You are one of the lucky 10% of the population! Did you know that you are most likely right-brained, meaning you have a good imagination and are drawn to the arts? So all this brush lettering you’ve been seeing all over the internet seems right up your alley. You may have even gone so far as to purchase some fun new brush pens. But some people still wonder, can lefties do brush lettering? The answer is yes, of course!

Before your blame your left handedness for making brush lettering more difficult, let me reassure you that learning to brush letter is difficult for everybody! I don’t believe that you are at a true disadvantage by being a leftie – you are absolutely just as capable to master the art of brush lettering, which you’ll see in the examples below. The beauty of brush pens (unlike calligraphy nibs) is that they’re round and can move in any direction. As with everybody who learns to letter, it’s just about figuring out what works for you. And we’re here to offer you a few tips and suggestions!

Tips & Tricks

The basic mechanics of brush lettering involve pulling the pen down and pressing into the side of the brush for thick strokes, and pushing the pen up with lesser pressure for thin strokes. Each letter is comprised of thicks and thins, and brush lettering is truly the art of mastering the transition between the two. No matter which hand you write with, this amounts to a ton of practice. Even if you start out unsure and your letters are shaky, keep at it regularly and you will improve.

In our brush lettering classes, we typically have 1-2 lefties in every group of about 15-20. Now, Natasha and I are both righties, so we can’t tell you exactly what it’s like to letter as a lefty. But we’ve worked with enough left handed students to start to learn what tricks help them to master brush pen. Here are a few:

Turn your paper. You’ll notice in the first image above that her paper is turned nearly 90 degrees to the right, while in the next image his paper is straight on. Most likely, your paper will be turned to the right to some degree (while righties will turn their papers to the left). But what works for each person varies, so make sure you experiment with your paper angle!

Adjust your hand position. You probably have a natural tendency for how you hold your pen, whether your hand curls over or under the pen, or goes straight across the page. But brush lettering is different than regular handwriting, so try adjusting your hand position and see if that helps.

Ease back on your grip. By pulling your hand further back on your pen shaft, you’ll have more room to get into your thick strokes, and you won’t be as tempted to press too hard on your thin strokes.

Use scrap paper under your hand. You’ve probably been fighting ink smudges your whole life, but it’s even worse to smudge your beautiful hand lettered creations! Slide scrap paper under your hand and adjust as you write to avoid grazing disasters. As a note: many brush pen inks actually dry pretty quickly (like Tombow Dual Brush Pens), but some of the inkier (or as we say, juicier) pens will cause you more trouble (like these Kuretake Metallic Brush Pens).

Resources & Inspiration

We’ve also found some great lefty letterers that can do what we can’t do: show you. We recommend following some left-handed Instagram accounts because they often share tips and information from personal experience. And of course the same community can be found on on YouTube, with lots of resources and examples. Here are some of our faves:


Have fun!

Again, don’t forget that learning brush lettering is tough for righties too. Repetition, practice, and finding what works best for your personally is key. We hope these tips will help you lefties out there, and we’d love to hear what works for you!