Review: Zebra Usu-Zumi Grey Brush Pen

My local Daiso has stocked Zebra brush pens pretty regularly for a while now, and it’s usually where I load up on the Zebra super fines I like so much. While I was in Richmond, BC, though, I stopped by their monstrous two-story Daiso and saw some pens I hadn’t seen before, including this mysterious Zebra one.

Zebra Usu-Zumi brush pen in and out of packaging

Searching around later, it seems this is the Zebra “Usu-Zumi” brush pen (P-WF1-GR), which is confusingly labeled “black” in most places, despite actually being a grey ink pen.

The pen doesn’t seem widely available online, and when it is, it’s usually bundled with the other Zebra brush pens or priced anywhere between $3 and $8 as a single pen, so Daiso’s $1.50 price ($2.00 CAD) was a great deal.

Zebra Usu-Zumi brush pen writing and drawing sample
Initial brush test. Alcohol-proof, but not waterproof.
Zebra Usu-Zumi brush pen tip VS Zebra brush pen super fine tip
(Fresh) Zebra Usu-Zumi vs (Used) Zebra brush pen super fine.

Unsurprisingly, the Usu-Zumi is very reminiscent of other Zebra disposable brush pens. I don’t really use the Zebra medium or regular fine brush pens much, so I didn’t have any on hand to compare, but the Usu-Zumi’s brush tip was a tad longer than the super fine and generally felt more flexible, so it’s probably comparable to the regular fine.

Precision and control are still very good though, and the brush allows for an excellent breadth of strokes.

The ink is very wet and takes a good while to dry, so it’s easy to smudge if you’re not careful. The pigment is deposited a little unevenly, which I think gives it a nice character, but wouldn’t be good great for coloring solid blocks.

Once dry, the ink is resistant to alcohol-based inks like Copic, but doesn’t hold up to water at all.

Drawing of a chipmunk inked with Zebra brush pen (super fine) and toned with Zebra Usu-Zumi.
Inked with Zebra brush pen (super fine) and toned with Zebra Usu-Zumi.

I mostly use grey pens to add value to ink drawings. For that purpose, the Zebra Usu-Zumi feels a little overkill because its tip is so fine and precise. I don’t usually need my value applicator to be as fine-tipped as my primary inking pen. (Tombow dual brush pens in grey are my usual go-to for tones.) The precision might be great in some instances, but in most cases, I think a blunter tip would be fine.

The Usu-Zumi is also a little darker than the greys I usually go for, but that might be for the better… I tend to be conservative with grey tones because I’m afraid of messing up or hiding/”ruining” the details of the inks, but most of the time they’re just sketches anyway, and strong contrast and light/dark balance has always been a weakness of mine. The grey in the Usu-Zumi is a good medium tone.

Sketch of a sleeping bird using the Inked with Zebra Usu-Zumi brush pen
Sketch using only the Zebra Usu-Zumi.

The Usu-Zumi is okay for sketching, though it’s not ideal for quick work since it smudges easily. I wouldn’t want to use it for non-sketchwork for the same reason. It’d be too easy to make mistakes, and I already have a problem with messing up and redoing inks more often than I’d like.

Overall, the Zebra Usu-Zumi is a very solid pen — great line variation, control, and color — but doesn’t really quite fit into any of my personal uses for pens.

Too wet and smudge-prone for fast sketching or final work; fine for grey toning, but a little overkill. And it’s hard to find online, so even if I did have a better use for it, it’s just easier to use something else.

Drawing samples with Zebra Usu-Zumi brush pen
Left is inked with the Monami Olika and toned with the Zebra Usu-Zumi; left is the Zebra only.

About the author

Kiri is an illustrator, writer, and pen enthusiast in Seattle with over 12 years of Artist Alley experience and an inclination towards verbosity.