Review: Newpen Ginza Pro Brush Pen

Newpen is a Brazillian art supply company that’s apparently been around since 1980. Marker Universe began distributing the Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens in North America recently, and I picked up a few from their booth at Emerald City Comic Con last month.

Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens
Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens. The pens themselves just say Newpen Ginza Brush Pen… the “Pro” only appears in the most miniscule text on the side of “Ginza” on the box packaging.

These are disposable, felt-tip brush pen/markers with water-based ink. They come in a set of 30, which is the full line of colors (actually, it’s only 29 colors and a blender), or are available as singles. The singles are individually packaged in little boxes, which in addition to feeling incredibly wasteful, means the markers aren’t actually open stock, and I couldn’t test them prior to purchase.

At just under 5.5″ capped, these the Newpen Ginza Pros are light and small — definitely more pen-sized than marker-sized. The pen’s design is really lacking though.

Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens
Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens.

The only visual indicator of color is at the base of the nib, which is obscured when capped. The three colors I got were black (onyx), grey (grafite), and lavender, and I was constantly mixing up the black and grey. The name of the color and the color code is written in teeny tiny text above the bar code on the pen body, but this isn’t useful at all. The pens are largely identical at a glance, and I wasted a lot of time checking the color names prior to each use. I eventually Sharpied the color names onto the caps.

Despite being only a tiny bit shorter than the Tombow Fudenosuke, the Newpen Ginza Pros have noticeably less girth and are lighter, less solid. They felt too small in my hand, which made using them a little uncomfortable. The semi-transparent caps are flimsy and don’t post consistently — the cap of my lavender pen kept popping off when posted, but the other two posted fine.

Also, I don’t know why Newpen made the color codes so complicated when there are only 29 colors… there doesn’t seem to be much in common between different colors in the same family. “Scarlet” is 1787, but “Red Candy” is 189. “Sky Blue” is 2975 while “Sapphire” is 072. Are they planning to eventually introduce hundreds of other colors? Thousands??

Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen
Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen, initial tests on Strathmore Bristol.

The brush tip is ~6 mm long and ~2 mm at the base and is toted as being Japanese-made. You can get a decent range of strokes out of the pen, but the brush tip isn’t very flexible, which means varying line width within a single stroke is difficult.

Controlling the brush seemed harder than usual, and I chalk this up to the small size of the pen. A smaller instrument requires more tension in the hand to keep it in place, which tires out the hand faster, and is just bad ergonomics. Inking with the Ginza Pro was frustrating due to the added difficulty in control — I had a hard time getting finer lines where I wanted them and getting them to connect. People with bigger hands than mine would have an even harder time, I think.

Sketch with Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen
Sketch with Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen in a Punctuate Sketchbook. Inking a piece with lots of connected lines like this wasn’t fun.

Ink performance was pretty good though. Dry times were a bit better than expected for water-based ink.

Three seconds was enough to keep ink from smearing when touched with either your hand or another color. There’s still a bit of visible mixing when layering a lighter color over a darker one, but it was pretty negligible — at least with lavender on black/grey.

Sketch with Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen
Sketch with Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen in a Punctuate Sketchbook. Looser drawings like this, without lots of connected lines, were less frustrating.

Brush pens with water-based ink are often double-ended and come with a bullet tip, like the Tombow Dual Brush and even the random ArtSkills Brush-tip markers. I feel like I don’t use the bullet tip often, but I ended up really missing it with the Ginza Pro, which isn’t double-ended.

Because brush control was difficult, getting fine lines consistently was difficult, which meant it would’ve been way easier to achieve with a bullet tip.

Newpen Ginza Pro VS Daiso Graphoo and Tombow Dual Brush
Newpen Ginza Pro VS Daiso Graphoo and Tombow Dual Brush. The end results look similar, but handling/control/feeling is very different with all of these.

Weight and construction-wise, the Ginza Pro actually reminded me a lot of the Daiso Graphoo — they’re both light and have the translucent caps.

But the Graphoo is still a smidgen wider in diameter and easier to handle. The brush tip on the Graphoo is also way better quality; it’s denser felt, which doesn’t degrade as quickly, which means it will keep a finer point for longer. And the Graphoo is also double-ended, though the other end is a chisel, not a bullet.

Newpen Ginza Pro
Brush tip sizes, left to right: Newpen Ginza Pro, Daiso Graphoo, Tombow Dual Brush.

Felt density on the Ginza Pro brush seems less than the Tombow Dual Brush, too. The thinnest possible line with the former isn’t very thin at all, and it’ll get worse faster (because of that lower density). The Ginza Pro brush is also much smaller, limiting its usefulness in covering large areas.

Newpen Ginza Pro lettering VS Daiso Graphoo and Tombow Dual Brush
Newpen Ginza Pro lettering VS Daiso Graphoo and Tombow Dual Brush.

I still suck at brush lettering in general, but the small size of the Ginza Pro made it uncomfortable for that usage, too. The lack of line variation in single strokes also made it boring to use for Chinese and Japanese writing.

Nightjar with Newpen Ginza Pro
Nightjar drawing, inked with Tombow Fudenosuke, shaded with Newpen Ginza Pro.

So I wouldn’t use the Ginza Pro for lettering or inking, but it’s still pretty good for coloring and shading. I don’t need nearly as much precision for that.

My requirements for a shading/toning tool are pretty basic. The Ginza Pro gets into small spaces well enough and dries quickly! Not bad! It’s just tiring to hold.

Newpen Ginza Pro
Newpen Ginza Pro in Punctuate Sketchbook. Looser inking like this is okay, but I wish a lot of those lines could’ve been thinner, or that they tapered more.

Marker Universe has the individual Newpen Ginza Pro brush pens for a $1.99/ea list price (on sale now for $1.25); the 30-piece set is $49.99 (on sale for $37.50). Newpen’s own Brazillian site has the singles for $7.90 BR and the set for $219.90 BR. At time of writing, that comes out to ~$1.39 USD and ~$38.75 USD respectively, so pretty comparable.

At ECCC, I bought the singles for $1.50/ea.

Tombow Dual Brush singles usually go for ~$3, though Marker Universe has them on sale right now for $1.60. Even at a higher price though, I feel like there’s no reason to ever choose the Newpen Ginza Pro over the Dual Brush. The latter is double-ended, comes in way more colors (108), and is more comfortable to use and hold. The primary downside to the Dual Brush is just that it’s extra long in size, so it doesn’t fit in many pen bags.

Newpen Ginza Pro display at the Marker Universe booth at ECCC
Newpen Ginza Pro display at the Marker Universe booth at ECCC.

The Newpen Ginza Pro brush pen isn’t a bad pen, but neither does it have anything that makes it stand out in a crowded market.

It performs fine, and I’d be fine to use it for simple shading. But it’s just fine. If alternatives like Tombow aren’t as easily available in Brazil, then sure, the Newpen works well enough — but in North America, where Tombow is already pretty common in even big box stores, I don’t see Newpen giving it much of a fight.

Espeon with Newpen Ginza Pro
Espeon with Tombow Fudenosuke and Newpen Ginza Pro.

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.