Review: Daiso Color Brush Pen

After reviewing the Daiso Fluently, I really wished Daiso had marker with a brush tip… and it turns out, they do have one: the “Color Brush Pen.” What even is the difference between a pen and a marker? I dunno, but I’m gonna call this a marker anyway.

The Color Brush has a water-based ink, rather than an alcohol-based ink, and while it’s really about average for the category, I’m somehow still a bit disappointed.

Daiso Color Brush Pen in packaging
Set #1, yellow ochre and brown. Set #3, blue and light blue.

The Daiso Color Brush Pen has really similar packaging to the Daiso Graphoo Calligraphy Marker, with the colors in katakana across the top and a picture of the pen marker in action on the bottom.

And like the Graphoo, the Color Brush comes in five sets of two for a total of ten available colors, though they’re different colors than the Graphoo. The two sets my local store had were #1, yellow ochre and brown, and #3, blue and light blue.

After squinting at the katakana on photos online of the other sets, I discerned that #2 is red and yellow, #4 is yellow green and green, and #5 is light grey and dark grey. (I don’t know what I expected, but イエロ for “yellow” is weird… why are all of these colors in katakana anyway.)

Daiso Color Brush Pen initial test
Daiso Color Brush Pen, initial scribbles.

My first impression of the Daiso Color Brush: this reminds me of a Crayola marker.

The ink feels extremely light and watery, which is weird since the actual dry times aren’t terrible. Maybe it’s because the dye-based ink visibly pools in certain areas of the stroke, making the color seem uneven and thin? Color saturation is otherwise decent, but color mixing is impossible. This is basically my exact memory of Crayola markers.

I don’t like the quality of the brush. The felt tip is soft and easily misshapened, leading to “catches” on the ends of strokes. You can see it in most of the letters in the “DAISO” above, but especially the D, A, and S. The brush tip doesn’t “keep” well and can become irreversibly damaged very quickly, especially if you have a heavy hand.

This makes lettering particularly annoying, but the problem comes up even when using the markers to color. You gotta go slow, especially in small spaces, or you’ll end up outside the lines by accident.

Daiso Graphoo VS Color Brush VS Tombow Dual Brush
Left to right: Daiso Graphoo, Daiso Color Brush, Tombow Dual Brush.

This is pretty disappointing since the brush tip on the Daiso Graphoo is noticeably better.

The brush tip on the Color Brush is about 10mm vertically from base to tip — the 0.7 ~ 4.5mm dimensions on the packaging refer to the diameter of the brush from tip to base. The brush tip on the Graphoo is also about 10mm in length, but it’s 3mm in diameter at the base and you can tell even at a glance at the felt is denser, more compact. This makes the latter easier to control and gives it some measure of resistance against a deformed tip and subsequent “catching.”

The Graphoo is the odd one out here though, as the Tombow Dual Brush, the water-based brush pen/marker I use most often, also has this problem.

Daiso Color Brush vs Tombow Dual Brush
Daiso Color Brush vs Tombow Dual Brush. You can see the “catching” at the end of the small strokes with both brushes.

Water-based markers tend towards less sophisticated use cases though.

Unlike alcohol-based markers, they aren’t waterproof, don’t bleed through most papers, and don’t blend well. They’re intended for simple coloring needs. The classic Crayola is a water-based marker for kids, after all.

And indeed, I use Tombow Dual Brush markers almost exclusively for quickly adding value to sketches or sloppy comics. For these applications, a weak, floppy brush tip isn’t a deal breaker, nor is sloppy pooling and uneven distribution of dye.

Daiso Color Brush
Daiso Color Brush, decent for adding quick value (shading).

On the other hand, the Daiso Graphoo, as a calligraphy brush, seems to have higher standards. The brush tip is firmer because letterers really don’t want the tip catching on the end of strokes.

Still, given that the Daiso Graphoo is the same price as the Daiso Color Brush… surely it wouldn’t have hurt to give the latter a nicer, firmer tip as well? Maybe it’s a matter of preference, but I don’t think there’s a downside to having a firmer tip.

Unfortunately, the brighter and more highlighter-like colors available for the Graphoo really limits the sort of coloring projects you can use them for. The colors available for the Color Brush are much more standard.

Daiso Color Brush "brown" VS golds and browns elsewhere.
Daiso Color Brush “brown” VS golds and browns elsewhere.

I’m confused by the “brown” Color Brush though.

It’s definitely not brown?? There’s no actual metallic quality to it, but the texture of the ink looks different from the yellow ochre, and it’s similar to the color of metallic gold pens and markers. That yellowish green undertone doesn’t look right. Brown should skew more towards red!

Copic’s E18 “Copper” is definitely on the redder end of brown, but even E47 “Dark Brown” and E48 “Dark Bark,” which are a little more neutral/yellowy, have a more “solid” brown look than this Daiso Color Brush… maybe the problem is the watery ink? The semi-transparency and uneven distribution of ink just doesn’t look brown enough, especially since it’s a shade lighter and even more yellowy while the ink is still wet.

In any case, color names are missing from the marker body of the Daiso Color Brush, so you just have to remember the colors, which, if you don’t want to puzzle out the katakana, are also in English on the back of the packaging.

Daiso Color Brush Pen
Clear caps and colored ends, which are unfortunately easy to miss if the marker is angled the other way.

I don’t really like this marker, but it’s hard to pinpoint why.

The Tombow Dual Brush, which I don’t actively dislike and have recommended before, has a similarly lackluster brush tip, but the rest of the marker is much more solid. The ink in the Dual Brush, while still water-based, feels less thin/wet. The marker body is more elegantly designed, more solidly constructed and a little weightier, a little nicer to hold. The Dual Brush is, of course, also a dual-tip marker, while the Color Brush is not, but I never use the other end anyway.

Maybe it’s really just the ink then? Or I’m just biased towards the Tombow because I’ve used them for so long?

But the Tombow Dual Brush is also 4x the cost of the Daiso Color Brush — Dual Brush singles are ~$3 retail, while the Color Brush is $0.75 per marker; $1.50 per set of 2.

Daiso Color Brush Pen in packaging
Here’s a shot of the back of the packaging, featuring the colors in English at the top.

In the end, like most Daiso products, the Color Brush is still pretty good bang for your buck.

While water-based markers mostly aren’t made for serious business arting, the Daiso Color Brush is nevertheless a solid member of the category.

But man, imagine if the Color Brush was the firm brush tip of the Graphoo, but in less fluorescent colors — we could’ve had it all!

Drawing with Daiso Color Brush