Arteza Real Brush Pens -- Review and Comparisons


In preparation for my Holidays in Ink challenge, I've got my eyes open for supplies that might be interesting to work with. That's not to say that I don't have PLENTY right here in the studio, but when I saw this 48-color set of Arteza Real Brush Pens on Amazon Prime Day, my willpower abandoned me! I decided to dive in and give them a test drive, since I love working with ink and brush pens. I did a few sketches and tests with them, along with several comparisons with other non-waterproof inks and brush pens that I'm already using. 

I have to say right off the bat that these were a huge challenge for me. As a result, I apologize in advance for the sketches you're about to see! Art materials are a very personal thing; what works for one person may not work for another, so your experience may well vary from my own. 

The color assortment in the 48-color set is very nice. There is a wide range of bright hues, plus a lot of very natural, earth tone colors. In terms of color selection, Arteza did a great job.

I pulled out some photos I took at the zoo to do some quick sketches. For me, "quick" is always a challenge, but if you really want a challenge, try doing "quick" with these! The color doesn't flow out the way it does with my other ink-filled brush pens, so it takes more time to get the color down. They aren't felt-tipped like the Pitt Brush Pens, for example, so you can't press them into the paper the same way. The ink also doesn't move well once it's out, so you end up with very dark, patchy areas where the ink will not move, and it's hard to nail the values. They're not waterproof, but they aren't really washable either. I found I had to spray the paper, then wet wherever I wanted to apply ink with a waterbrush first, then apply the brush pen color.  Even then, the color stayed put more than I would have liked. It would be nearly impossible for me to use these without a waterbrush and spray bottle. 

I did not find the colors easy to blend, although they call them blendable. Inks can have a tendency to stain and not move. It was certainly the case with these. If you look at the small swatches above on the right, I let the color dry, then wiped to the left with a waterbrush. Most of the colors were difficult to move, though I truly loved the color assortment. The same was true with these colors below:

Next, I tried dipping the ink brushes in water before putting it on the paper, thinking that might be the best way to dilute the color and get it to move better. That wasn't very successful either. I couldn't get the right amount of color to emerge, so I tried using a watercolor palette to dilute color, but the ink from the Arteza brushes wouldn't come off onto the palette easily. The brush barrels are hard, so you can't squeeze them to get ink out. I longed for my watercolors.

Because I was getting so frustrated with these, I decided to do some comparisons with other inks and ink brushes that I like to work with for monochromatic sketches. Without going into a long-winded explanation, I think you can see at the bottom of the page above that the Arteza colors fixed themselves to the paper more than the other brands of non-waterproof inks I like to use.

In all fairness, when I use ink in a brush pen, it's nearly always for the purpose of doing monochrome sketches like these:

I have not tried that with the Arteza brush pens, and most of those bright or light colors wouldn't lend themselves to doing so. I'm going to try a few of the earthier, darker colors for monochromatic sketches though, and will let you know how that goes. I suspect that because of the way the Arteza inks tend to stay in place, combined with the lack of flow, they won't work as well as the Noodler's Nightshade used in the sketches above, or other non-waterproof inks I love. But maybe I'll be surprised!

Often I see a product and I think, "Oh, this would be great for quick sketches in my sketchbook!" But the reality is that it's hard to beat a small watercolor pan set and a couple of fountain or brush pens and pencils for sketches on the go. If you scroll up to the first image on this post, look and consider how much more space all those pens take up on my table surface or to travel with, compared with a tiny watercolor pan set. Plus, every time you need a new color, you have to go find it, instead of just grabbing it off a palette. To top it off, these are fugitive inks and not lightfast. If they were easier and faster to work with, or gave me the result I wanted, I'd definitely be willing to sacrifice lightfastness when working in my sketchbook. But for me, they are not. It's taken me three times as long to get half the result.

That being said, I really liked doing the page lettering with these! When it comes time for my Holidays in Ink challenge, I may well end up using these Arteza Brush Pens for headlines and some page decorating. I don't want to interfere with the Inktober Challenge, so I will post the prompt lists and information for Holidays in Ink on November 1, for those who are interested in the project.

Although I couldn't get these brush pens to work for me using these applications, I still need to test drive using them in a more monochromatic way, like I normally use ink brushes. The fact that they came with such a huge variety of colors made me feel I have to do something colorful with them! I can also see how those whose artwork lends itself more to areas of flat color without value changes might find these appealing. I'll post an update to this review once I have a chance to try some other approaches, and have something to show for it. 

If you're interested in knowing what inks and ink brushes I love, here's a short list of some of my favorite refillable pens and inks. The inks listed are in the image above, except for Caran D'Ache Grand Canyon, which unfortunately is no longer made. I welcome any replacement suggestions! I can't seem to find anything in the brown range that I like quite as much. (Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links, which provide a small commission to me should you decide to purchase, at no additional charge to you.)

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen - Save empty ink cartridges to refill with inks of your choice

Kuretake No. 40 Brush Pen -- Save empty ink cartridges to refill with inks of your choice

Pentel Arts Colorbrush Pen set - Huge reservoirs of great, non-waterproof inks, and can be refilled

Noodlers Nightshade Ink (used in the sketch above)

Iroshizuku Yama Guri Ink

Private Reserve Velvet Black Ink

Ink Syringes for fountain pens to refill cartridges

Here's an Amazon Affiliate link to the Arteza Brush Pen set that I got.


Keep an eye out for my November 1 post, with all the prompts for Holidays in Ink! The Challenge (to complete at least 30 days of ink work during the 40 day holiday period) will start on November 24, and go until January 2. 


  1. I've barely dabbled with Yupo paper, but I'm wondering if these pens might work better with it? The ink wouldn't have a chance to grab the paper.

    1. Cathy, I often use Yupo as a palette for my ink brush pens. Ink grabs onto Yupo quite well, yet moves on it easily. I tried the Yupo palette with these too, as a way to then pick up a little color with a waterbrush, when a traditional palette failed! It did stain the Yupo, but most ink will do that. If you decide to try a sketch with them on Yupo, let me know how that goes! It's an interesting idea, and maybe I'll give that a go during my "Holidays in Ink" challenge. Thank you for your comment and thoughts.

  2. Thank you for this very informative and helpful post, Jamie! As always, I very much appreciate your careful, thorough approach to trying out and reporting on various products and mediums.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Melissa. I just edited the post to say that I still want to try some other approaches with these, and will update the review when I've had a chance to do that. I don't usually "color" with ink brushes; I tend to use them in a more monochromatic way. Some of these colors will lend themselves to that, and the fact that they stay put a bit more than other ink/brush combinations I have could turn out to be a benefit in another way. I'll keep you posted!