Regular readers of the Tin Teddy Blog will know that I really like pens. Whilst I have many, many pens, of different types, brands and colours, amongst my favourites are my Tombow ABT Dual Brush markers.
I use these pens a lot for journalling, calligraphy and a bit of colouring.
High Quality Brush Markers
These water-based marker pens have been made by Japanese company, Tombow since 1984. They are one of the most popular marker pens available.
The pens were developed for the Japanese calligraphy market. Japanese characters require one to use varying pen stroke thicknesses. Brush tipped markers are ideal for this as well as being more convenient than using an actual brush and ink.
Tombow brush markers have now become something of a staple for artists, journal writers, calligraphy students, cartoonist and many more creative people, all over the world.
The Tombow brush markers are totally odourless. Some artist prefer to use water-based markers rather than the popular alcohol based brands (such as Copics and Spectrum Noirs) for this reason. They are also non-toxic and acid free.
The Dual Tips
As the name indicates, the Tombow pens have two nibs, one at each end of the barrel.
One brush tip is flexible and gives the varying thickness effect that these pens are famous for. With a little practice it is possible to use this tip to create all sorts of lovely writing and art effects. This brush tip is very hard-wearing. Some cheaper brush markers go out of shape or splay out after a lot of use.
The other nib is a firm nylon tip. This is ideal for basic writing or colouring purposes.
Lots of Colours
For many years there was a total of 96 colours available. These could be bought as a full set, in groups or singly. Recently the company has added some more colours, including some limited editions. Because the colours blend, and you can use them like water-colour paint, you can create very colourful projects with quite a limited number of pens if you wish.
I have heard quite a few people saying that they found the Tombow markers much easier to get to grips with, for creating calligraphy and similar effects, than some other brush markers on the market.
Versatile to Use
The pens can be blended together, either on the page or on a non-porous surface. There is a clear blender pen available that will help with this process, or create “colour lift” effects on the page.
It is a bit harder to get a streak-free finish with water-based markers than with alcohol markers though. However, one can use a damp paint brush to smooth out any lines afterwards.
Some cool things you can do with brush markers
If you scribble on a non-porous surface, such as a glass mat or shiny ceramic tile, you can then pick up the ink with a paint brush and use it like watercolour paint. You can add more water to thin it.
If you scribble two colours next to each other you can blend them together with your brush to create a new colour.
You can press the tip of one pen to another, lighter colour, pen, and some of the darker colour will transfer. Then, when you colour with the lighter pen, you will get an interesting mix of the two colours that will eventually fade gradually into just the light pen colour again. This will not harm the pens at all.
They are also great for colouring onto rubber or acrylic stamps, for printing. Colour the details on the stamp, then “huff” over it to warm and mositen the ink again… then stamp.
The Pens’ Construction
These are rather long pens. They do not fit in my Artbin Super Satchel, Meeden Professional Marker case or Copic carrying case. They do fit the Togood Marker Pen bag, but I actually have my full set in a child’s unicorn backpack as they fitted perfectly in this! The pens are 19 cm long, that is 7.5 inches. They are slimmer than many pens and round.
The brush tip has a cap that is the colour of the pen. There is a little bit poking out of the side of the cap that stops the pen rolling around on your desk – very handy. The other nib is covered with a black slim cap and there is a thin ring around the pen at this end in the colour of the ink. Both lids fit on firmly and I have never had a Tombow pen leak.
The pens are quite expensive here in the UK. I was lucky enough to be given most of my collection, or I would certainly not have many.
However, they are very good quality and seem to last very well.
They are not refillable. I have had some of mine for many years and they have not dried out yet. They seem to stay juicy if not used for some time (unlike some pens). If they do dry out, dipping the nib in water for a few seconds may get a pen to come back to life, at least for a while.
Tombow pens are available in many art supply stores as they are so popular. Tombows are also available worldwide on Amazon.
Buying individual markers will probably work out the most expensive in the long run, but may be a more convenient way to build up a collection. Remember that you do not really need ALL the markers. You will be able to do lots with just core group of colours.
Like many artists and crafters, I use my Tombows mainly for lettering effects in my journals and on scrapbook pages. There are many tutorials, videos and blog posts where artists explain how to use them for all sorts of lovely effects. Like with all such things, they will take a little practice to really see great results, but it is worth the effort.
Although they can do the fun watercolour effects, as they are rather expensive, I tend to use other water-based markers for these uses.
For the bulk of the writing in my planner and journals I use Paper Mate Flair felt tip pens. These are not brush pens, but have a firmer bullet tip – ideal for everyday writing.
Another brand of water-based markers that I use regularly are the Distress Markers by Tim Holtz from Ranger.
Links to Supplies of Tombow Dual Brush Markers
Here are some links to the products mentioned on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you buy from any of these links, I may receive a small commission from the shop for sending custom their way. This is at no cost to yourself. Thank you.