How to use Tombow dual brush pens: 5 tips for beginners

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When I first started using Tombow brush pens, it was their versatility that impressed me the most; the more I used them, the more I loved them.

And they’ve found a happy home on my craft desk ever since!

If you’ve heard wonders about Tombow brush pens and have been curious to try them out, this tutorial is for you.

Learn how to use Tombow brush pens for the first time with these handy user tips and techniques for beginners!

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How to use Tombow brush pens

Tombow dual brush pens are exceptional water-based brush pens that offer heaps of versatility and superior performance.

But are they easy to use? Absolutely!

The key is learning how to use Tombow dual brush pens properly to take full advantage of their potential, whether for calligraphy, illustration, mixed-medium art, or even watercoloring.

Having once been a brush pen newbie myself (although I’m still learning!), I’ve gathered some of my top tips on how to use Tombow brush pens to help you get started.

These tips were really helpful for me as a beginner, so I hope you find them just as useful!

1. Holding your Tombow brush pens

How to hold a tombow brush pen_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

One of the essential things to know before using Tombow brush pens is how to hold them properly.

When using the brush tip, hold your pen at a 45º angle. This will enable your hand to move more fluidly to create flowy, paintbrush-like lines.

In addition, make sure to hold your pen at the upper end of the barrel rather than closer to the nib.

Holding pen with Tombow bullet tip
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

When using the bullet tip, you can play around with angles more, but holding your pen at a ~90º angle is more effective for straight, sleek lines.

You can also hold your pen more freely, whether closer or farther from the nib.

2. Choosing the right paper

Best paper for Tombow pens_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

When learning how to use Tombow brush pens, it’s important to consider the type of paper used. In my experience, there are four types of paper that work best: 

  • Blank/dot grid journal paper
  • Copy paper
  • Sketching paper
  • Watercolor paper

Journal paper

Journal paper for Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

I love drawing in my journal with Tombow brush pens.

Journal paper tends to be incredibly smooth, which is perfect for this type of art pen. And you don’t need to buy anything particularly fancy or expensive, either.

Personally, I prefer blank journals, but dot grid journals are great when learning how to use Tombow brush pens, especially if you’re working on calligraphy.

We have a complete guide on left-handed notebooks and journals if this is something you’ve had trouble finding!

Copy paper

Copy paper for Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Copy paper is lightweight, thin, and generally very smooth. This is a great surface for practicing calligraphy and lines, although ink will bleed through easily.

Still, it’s one of my favorite types of paper to draw on with Tombow pens since it enables really soft, clean strokes.

Sketching paper

Sketching paper for Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Sketching paper is heavier and textured, which may not always work well with brush pens since your tips can eventually fray.

On the other hand, it’s great for mixed-medium projects, such as ones that incorporate pencil or fineliner pens.

Watercolor paper

Watercolor paper for Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Watercolor paper is perfect for Tombow brush pens since you can also use these pens for — watercoloring!

Of course, this type of paper comes in various weights and textures, so it’s about figuring out what works best for you. I prefer cold-press sheets since they’re more absorbent for watercolors.

Looking for options? Besides the Strathmore pad above, check out more of our favorite watercolor sketchbooks and watercolor blocks.

3. Tombow brush tips vs. bullet tips

Tombow brush strokes_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If you’re new to Tombow dual brush pens, learning when and how to use both tips is very helpful.

Here’s a quick rundown of simple things to keep in mind.

Brush tips

Tombow brush tip_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)
  • Use brush tips for wider lines
  • Brand-new brush tips can be a little rigid at first but will soften with use
  • Hold pens at a 45º angle when using this tip
  • Rather than gripping the pen tightly, try cradling it in your hand
Bold strokes with Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)
  • Avoid applying too much pressure to prevent damaging the bristles.
  • Perfect for calligraphy and lettering
  • Excellent for incorporating watercolor washes into illustrations
  • Draws straight, vibrant, broad lines

Bullet tips

_Tombow bullet tip_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)
  • Use bullet tips for thin lines
  • You can hold pens at a ~90º angle
  • Perfect for faux calligraphy
  • Great to write tiny monoline print
Tombow bullet tip_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)
  • Best for coloring in small blank spaces or details
  • Can apply more pressure vs. brush tips
  • Can be used with a paintbrush or a water brush pen

4. Easy techniques for beginners

Example Tombow pens for faux calligraphy
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Are you looking for easy techniques and project ideas to begin using your Tombow brush pens? Here are three simple ways to get started.

Faux calligraphy

Tombow bullet tip for calligraphy technique
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

As someone who has terrible handwriting, I love the fake-it-til-you-make-it aspect of faux calligraphy.

Instead of creating perfect flowy letters and words in a single go, faux calligraphy allows for a bit of cheating — you draw letters out first and then use your pens to add more body to your lines.

A method I like to use is applying bullet tips for thin lines (drawing upward: see image above) and interchanging it with brush tips for thicker strokes (drawing downward: see image below)

Tombow brush tip for faux calligraphy
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Although things won’t look perfect at first, practicing this technique is super fun and soothing.

It’s also a great stepping stone to taking up calligraphy more seriously if you discover this is something you enjoy.

We suggest checking out these online calligraphy classes if you eventually decide to hone your skills!

Watercoloring

Watercolor effects_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Have you ever tried to watercolor without a watercolor set before?

With Tombow brush pens, you can enjoy all the watercolor fun you want; it’s really simple, and the outcomes are pretty neat. Also, there is definitely less of a mess.

All you need is watercolor paper (although I also enjoy doing these in my journal), a paintbrush, water, and your pens.

Next, draw as you would with your brush and bullet tips, and use your paintbrush and water to dilute the ink as you work.

The end result looks just like real-deal watercolor work. Trust me, it’s worth trying out!

Blending Tombow pens with watercolor brush
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Tombow’s water-based ink is really easy to blend, too. Just make sure to stick to hues that will blend more organically.

This allows you to create a lot of cool gradient effects or new colors from scratch.

Using a water brush_how to use Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Besides paintbrushes, water brush pens are also great for achieving smooth blends and washes that mimic traditional watercolor paintings.

Highlighting

Highlighting with Tombow brush pens and Micron pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

There’s a lot of cool highlighting work you can do with Tombow brush pens. This is ideal for creative hobbies like scrapbooking, bullet journaling, cardmaking, and more.

One way to do this is by first jotting down words, symbols, or phrases with a pen. Be sure to use one with quick-drying ink (see image above).

Highlighting Micron pens with Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Next, highlight your writing with your dual brush pens. Make sure you select colors that won’t override what’s written/drawn!

Highlighting sample with Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Another way to do this is by laying down lines first with your brush tips (see image above).

Using Micron pens on Tombow brush pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Once the ink is completely dry, write directly on the lines with your pen (see image above).

I like using Sakura’s Pigma Micron pens for this technique, but there are many great fineliners and gelly pens that will get the job done just as well.

5. Storing your Tombow brush pens

Storing Tombow brush pens in pencil case
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Storing your Tombow brush pens properly is key to making them last longer.

The good news is that these dual-brush pens require very little maintenance.

Unlike Posca pens, which need to be stored in a specific position, Tombow pens can be stored vertically or horizontally.

Personally, I like to store mine in pencil cases, but it’s good to know that they can also be kept upright in a pen stand, whether for aesthetic purposes or to create more room on my craft desk.

If you want to take your Tombow game to the next level, the brand sells this awesome dual brush pen desk stand and a transportable marker case for artists on the go.


And that’s it for my top tips on how to use Tombow brush pens! Let us know if you have more ideas on how to use Tombow brush pens in the comments below!

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