Zebra brush pens are highly regarded as some of the best brush pens for lettering beginners, and I’d say they deserve that reputation.
They are available in three tip sizes – extra fine, fine, and medium. I own all three, and compare them here.
Extra Fine Brush
The Extra Fine brush is great for those who struggle with thin upstrokes. I think this is the most challenging part about learning brush lettering — I’m STILL figuring out how to be consistent with my upstrokes!
Because the tip is so tiny, even if you are a bit heavy-handed on the upstroke, it still looks fairly thin.
However, the Extra Fine tip size also writes a bit on the dry side. Just as gel pens with 0.3 tips tend to be scratchier and more skip-prone than 0.5 or 0.7, sometimes the ink flow just can’t keep up with the pen.
In my opinion, the Fine brush is the juiciest of the three. It’s like the Goldilocks porridge of brush pens — the tip is wide enough for smooth ink flow, but still fine enough to easily create hairlines.
I was not a huge fan of the Medium brush at first. Compared to the dainty Extra Fine tip, the Medium tip felt like a pair of clunky ’90s platform shoes. I kept getting “bottom-heavy” letters, which happens at the the transition between downstroke and upstroke.
However, with some practice, I found that it IS possible to get really nice line variation. It was just harder to achieve than with the firmer Extra Fine.
Waterproof: One really awesome thing about these pens is that they contain waterproof ink! I ran a waterbrush over some scribbles and they stayed completely legible. Not even a smudge. I’m impressed.
Size Variation: With 3 sizes to choose from, I can easily pick the best for the project at hand — whether it’s a quote, an envelope, or a gift tag.
Fraying Tips: These are designed as disposable brush pens and as a result, the felt tip does wear down pretty quickly :/ You can prolong the pen’s life if you write exclusively on butter-smooth Rhodia paper or marker paper, but understand that eventually your tips WILL lose their springy hairline-creating abilities.
Not Refillable: Unfortunately the brushes are not refillable. I’ve heard of people prying off the end cap and syringing black ink into the pen barrel to “refill” the pen, but I haven’t tried this myself.
However, that doesn’t mean you should throw out your dried-up brushes! You can create some pretty cool textured effects with a dry brush.
Overall I’m a fan of the Zebra brush pens and would definitely recommend them to any beginning lettering artist. They are firm enough that the tips doesn’t squash easily under a heavy hand, but flexible enough to achieve dramatic thicks and thins.
Many experienced artists swear by these as well. Check out Matt Vergotis on Instagram for serious Zebra brush inspiration — he achieves amazing line variation with the Medium brush here.
I can't tell you how often I umm and arr over whether something is post worthy or not. For some reason I always thought the later for this, thinking I've got better in me. The day I did this I found a pen that was giving me the thinnest of thins so I thought I'd see how thin I could take it whilst still being legible. Re word: breathing is good.
ALSO, an extra tip– if you live within close proximity to a Daiso (it’s like a Japanese dollar store), you might occasionally get lucky and find these brush pens in the arts/stationery aisle. The packaging differs sometimes, but it’s the same pen.
I hope this review has been helpful!
Here are some more of my own brush lettering samples :)