Review: Daiso Pocket Brush Pen

It’s hard for me to resist stopping by Daiso Japan anytime I’m downtown. For those who don’t know, Daiso is a 100 yen store. They have a couple of locations in the US, including two in Seattle, and it’s basically a $1.50 store full of random Japanese stuff. (The yen has recently fallen against the dollar; if it stays that way, will it become a real dollar store??) They have a ton of items that are really useful for conventions, like price label stickers, containers, gift bags and stuff, but they also have a nice collection of stationary and office supplies.

And recently I noticed they carried some “made for DAISO” brush pens. $1.50 is damn cheap for a brush pen! They carried four or five different ones, but I grabbed two to start:

Mysterious DAISO Japan brush pens.
Mysterious DAISO brush pens.

The bottom pen in the photo — the one with the red packaging and the patterned body — looked fancier, so I started with that. At first glance, I thought it would be similar to my Kuretake #13 or Pentel pocket brush because the tip is similarly long and flexible. It’s a felt tip though; no nylon bristles on this one. Still, I was kind of hopeful that I’d struck gold and for all of a minute thought that maybe despite being a felt tip, this pen was in the same league as the aforementioned.

Pen test on watercolor paper. Red is Copic marker; seafoam is watercolor.
Pen test on watercolor paper. Prawn red is Copic marker; seafoam is watercolor.

Because the tip is so long, this pen writes flexibly. Unfortunately, the felt tip isn’t as flexible as it needs to be and has a bad habit of “flicking” the tip up unexpectedly if you’re too rough with it, or try to transition from a thin line to a thick line and back again very quickly. The line width variation is still pretty decent, but only if you can live with needing to make thin and thick lines in separate strokes. And it’s way better for the thick lines than the thin ones. The point of the felt tip isn’t very fine, nor is it very hard, so it’s difficult to get a consistently thin line. You don’t have enough control.

The packaging for the pen boasts that it’s “waterproof and fade-proof,” but I’m not so sure about that. Wetting it after 2-3 minutes will smear the ink. Wetting it after five minutes of drying time yields better results…some of the time. The line width tests that smeared all over the upper right had been dry for probably 4-5 minutes when I wet it, though maybe it ran more badly because I used straight up water instead of diluting it with watercolor pigment? Copic smears it regardless of drying time, though not really as badly as water/color. Still, I wouldn’t really say that this pen is waterproof or alcohol-proof. Fade-proof? Well, I’ll get back to you on that in a few years.

All in all, I’m rather disappointed with this pen. It’s not a very good sketching pen because it isn’t good with thinner lines, forcing larger-format roughness. Maybe it’d be better if I sketched on like 22″x30″ sheets, but I don’t! It’s not a very good inking pen, again because of its lack of precision, but also because of it’s lacking resistance to marker and watercolor, which are what I pair with my inks the most. Oh well. It was a cheap pen.

Pen test on the smooth backside of watercolor paper, ha. Vermillion is Copic marker; seafoam is watercolor.
Pen test on the smooth backside of watercolor paper, ha. Vermillion is Copic marker; seafoam is watercolor.

The other pen has a sparkly grey-blue exterior and I was less excited about it because it looked like it would be like most of my other felt tip brush pens (all my fude pens, basically), which don’t really have that much variation between them. And I was kind of right…

This “pocket brush pen” writes like something in between the Kuretake Fudegokochi super fine and the Tombow Fudenosuke soft, which is actually pretty amazing because that is the entire range of my fude pen collection in terms of tip hardness and flexibility. The Kuretake super fine writes a very thin, consistent line because the tip is short and hard and easy to control. The Tombow soft tip is deceptively flexible and so has the greatest line width variation of the lot, though at the expense of ease of control. This mysterious DAISO pen also has a deceptively flexible tip, and it comes to a surprisingly fine point as well. The line width variation it gets totally dominates that of the Tombow Fudenosuke. It is also somewhat hard to control at times, but its tip is half the length of the Tombow, so that difficulty is cut back by about as much.

The packaging on this one says outright that it uses water-based ink, so definitely not waterproof, this. It holds up against Copic very well though — I’m not sure how long I let the ink dry on this one, but it was probably 3-4 minutes. But the tiny smudge in the 鮮 up there is the only imperfection, so I’m confident enough to declare it alcohol-proof. And Copic is what I normally use with my fude pens, so this works out great! Very pleasantly surprised by this second pen. It’s still way too early to tell, but it may end up a contender to my Tombow Fudenosuke hard tips as my favorite fude pen??

I wish I knew the official names for these pens.
I wish I knew the official names for these pens.

The Tombow fudes run $2.50 on Jetpens while the Kuretake fudes are $3.50. Both are probably a little more expensive at Kinokuniya, though I’ve never actually checked that they carry them there. There are a few other brands that make fude pens I’ve yet tested, but nothing goes for less than $2.50. So basically, the mysterious DAISO fude is both awesome and a great deal; if you’re lucky enough to have a DAISO store in your vicinity, definitely check them out! The other DAISO brush pen doesn’t do much for me, but it could still be a nice pen for someone else, particularly for someone who likes working bigger/looser?

I should have taken a photo of DAISO’s complete brush pen offerings at its Westlake Center location (where I got these pens), but I didn’t. I remember there were at least another version of both these pens though, in different tip sizes. The pen with the patterned body is a “medium point,” so there’s probably a “small point,” at least, if not also a “large point.” The 2.3mm is probably the projected max line thickness on it. Same with the 0.4 – 2.0mm on the other one (though I think it can actually get to about 0.2mm on the thinner side).

I’ll definitely grab all variations of the fude pen next time I’m there, and while I don’t think variations of the other will get much better results, I’ll probably cave to curiosity and nab them too. ‘Cause $1.50 is damn cheap for a brush pen.

Addendum: The body of the DAISO fude pen is identical to that of the Kuretake disposable brush pens; however, my specimens of those pens are pretty old/dried out, so I can’t do a proper comparison. I’ll report back when I get fresh ones…

Worth mentioning: both pens smear like a bitch if you don't let them dry at least a few minutes, nevermind even coloring on top.
Worth mentioning: both pens smear like a bitch if you don’t let them dry at least a few minutes, nevermind even coloring on top.

About the author

Kiri is a Seattle-based artist, writer, and (brush) pen enthusiast with over 12 years of convention vending experience and a lot of opinions.