Saturday, 29 August 2009

Product review: Pentel Waterbrush

My Pentel Aquash Water Brush next to Derwent's new small/fin waterbrush
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Product: Pentel Aquash Water Brush
Manufacturer / Distributor: Pentel / Derwent & various online suppliers - see below
Technical Details:
  • made in Japan by Pentel
  • nylon tipped brush pen with one way valve and barrel to supply water
  • barrel can be filled with plain water OR a dilute solution of any water-soluble art medium (the best being artists' inks, watercolours or gouache)
  • provides a constant supply of water when the brush applied to paper; squeeze the barrel to control the flow
  • Pentel Aquash comes in three sizes - fine (10mm), medium (13mm) and broad (17mm) - see Heaton Cooper website for a very good photo of the different sizes of Aquash waterbrush pen
  • Derwent now supply two sizes - small and medium
Summary: This is a very popular and effective waterbrush. It's made by Pentel but is now also available via Derwent and Derwent retailers. It's repackaged with the Derwent name on the packaging.
Who should buy this?:
  • artists using watercolour or watercolour pencils
  • artists wanting to use dilute solutions of artist's ink
Who should not buy this?
  • artists who don't like brushes
  • artists who use media not amenable to dilution using water
  • neat and effective design - very simple to use
  • easily portable - a way of taking a brush and water out with you without carrying a pot of water
Think Again?
  • Fine for sketching. However, if using watercolour pencils indoors, conventional brushes may well give you more control
  • Nylon brush is springy but does not provide the quality of control of (say) a sable watercolour brush
  • Requires a support which accepts water - and not all sketchbooks do, although most will take a light wash
  • Not always easy to locate these brushes in B&M art materials shops. Unless you've already seen them in your local shop you might find them easier to obtain from an online supplier. However, this situation may well have changed now that Derwent is supplying two brushes to Derwent retailers
Suppliers: Available from:

Derwent now have a small Waterbrush. When I was sent a sample to try I looked at it and was very puzzled. I had to go and get my existing waterbrush to check it out - you can see the photo above. They were exactly the same! I asked Derwent about this and it turns out that Derwent is now repackaging the very popular and very efficient Aquabrush/waterbrush made by Pentel - which isn't always very easy to find in art materials shops.

Derwent have sold the medium size waterbrush for some time but are now also selling the small/fin waterbrush which is suitable for more detailed work as well. So that's good news!

Basically this is a tool which has a nylon brush on one end (with a cover) and a transparent plastic barrel sitting behind it. It works very like a conventional pen - hence the name brush pen. There's a one-way valve which allows water through to thr brush when there is pressure on the end of the brush. Squeezing the flexible barrel increases the flow - and you can squeeze out drops if you try hard!

You need to give the brush a good 'wash' in warm water before using it for the first time. I'd also be very wary of using it with inks which you shouldn't put in conventional pens - like Indian ink. Essentially you don't want to use it with anything which when dry will stop the valve from working or refuse to budge from the inside of the barrel!

This is a tool which is very useful for those who sketch and those who use watercolour pencils. I was sat on a tube when I dried my waterbrush out for the first time! This is a page of my Talens watercolour pencils on a sheet of Winsor & Newton heavy weight (80lb) sketchbook.

I think I probably need to do a review at some point of all the different brands of watercolour pencils when used with this brush!

Tim Fisher has produced a very helpful video about watercolour pencil techniques in which this brush features which has been posted on YouTube by Jacksonstops (who I think might be Tim - it's not obvious from YouTube). See this post on Making A Mark - Watercolour pencil techniques.

The differences in cost between different suppliers are not very significant. For most people it's going to boil down to whether you prefer to buy your supplies at your local art shop or online and which retailer you usually use!

I can confidently state that if this is a product which you like, you'll find yourself using it a lot and will probably want more than one - especially you want dilute solutions of water-based medium in the barrel - and that's when cost will be of more relevance.

See also:
Art Equipment - Resources for Artists
Art Equipment -   Resources for Artists
This site is for visual artists. It provides links to: items of art equipment and tools recommended ways of putting together toolkits and recommendations for equipment for working in the studio or plein air

1 comment:

Roz Stendahl said...

Karen, thanks for linking to my post about the Pentel Brush Pens (with black ink).

I use a Niji waterbrush most of the time when I want a waterbrush to use with my watercolors and gouache palettes when I'm out and about. But recently these Pentel waterbrushes have been available in my area so I have purchased a couple and I enjoy working with them.

Your readers might be interested to know that Pentel uses this same brush for another of their products: The Aquash Brush pigment ink filled brush. You can see it here in a blog post

If they like the action of the pentel waterbrush they will enjoy this ink-filled brush pen because it is the same "structure."

I like how the ink is waterproof so you can paint over it—perhaps using a Pentel waterbrush filled with water!

Anyway, I continue to have great fun with it.

Also, I routinely fill my Niji waterbrushes with Dr. Ph Martin's Hydrus Watercolors (liquid) and Noodler's inks.

(I even will put acrylic inks in them if I'm going to do a quick sketching session and be able to clean the brush quickly—because the acrylic ink will clog the brush if left in.)

So if people want to have brush pens filled with different things I'm sure they can use the Pentel waterbrush in the same way—I just haven't because I've only started using them for water. I tend to use a "worn" waterbrush for testing with inks first, before I jump into that type of adaptation.

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