I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now. Probably over two years. The time has come for my official round up and ranking of Brush Markers. Many bullet journal enthusiasts find themselves drawn to brush markers thanks to their ease of use when lettering or drawing. They can be blended – more on that in a second – and often used as watercolors.
As this ranking is based on my opinion, it’s also based on my personal use preferences. I am going to rank based on four criteria: color selection, value, ease of use, and durability. There are plenty of other people who can show how to blend these markers or turn them into watercolors – but personally, I don’t find myself using my brush markers like that. So I decided not to include it in my ratings.
I am going to be ranking seven different brands brush markers: Mildliner Brush, Karin Brushmarker Pro, Caran D’Ache Fibralo brush, Kuretake Zig Fudebiyori, Staedtler Brush, Crayola Signature, and the trusty Tombow Dual Tip Brush.
Two quick notes: the cost is approximate and subject to change. If you buy any of the products through my link, I may earn a small commission.
7. Crayola Signature Brush Markers
Best for: Literally no one, save your money and get a 100 pack of the Crayola Supertips instead
$15/16 two sided Markers ($.93 per marker)
Color Selection – 1/5 – Each marker has two colors – one on the brush side and then the thinner felt tip. Overall, these colors don’t inspire me. The greens and turquoises are really redundant for such a small number of colors. The black looks almost green here. Compare this with the 100 pack of super tips for a similar price point – just get those. Sure, there are some redundant colors in a pack of 100 but that’s the beauty of a giant color selection. And don’t even get me starting on how dirty they did the thin yellow here. Highlighter yellow. Everyone’s favorite.
Value 3/5 – These are on the cheaper end of the markers we are looking at today. If they were better markers, I would give them a better value. I can say with certainty that I’ve never touched one of these markers in a bullet journal spread. So there’s not a ton of personal value even if they are cheap.
Ease of Use 3/5 – There isn’t that much inherently wrong with the writing quality on these pens. But there isn’t anything that special. My biggest issue is bleed through and ghosting. Personally, I prefer a slightly dryer formula for brush markers so it may be a preference issue.
Durability 1/5 – Here’s the thing. Immediately these things started to fray. When I say fray, I mean the tip of the brush begins to unravel which makes lettering more difficult. Sure, you can use them to fill in areas with color but why would you? The colors are uninspiring. I also notice that the tips don’t always go on correctly so some of the colors have inexplicably started to dry out. All around, it’s just a no from me dog.
6. Karin Brushmarker Pro 63 Pack | 27 Pack
$118 + shipping/60 Colored Markers + 3 blenders ($1.87 per marker) – available on their website
Best for: Coming up blank. People who like liquidy ink? Maybe…?
I actually wrote a blog post about how frustrated I am with my feelings on these markers. Find it here.
Color Selection 2.5/5 – Had you asked me when I first got these, I would have ranked them at leas t a four out of five. I love some of the hues they went for – this is one of the only sets that leans towards darker, saturated colors but doesn’t feel so redundant. It had some of my favorite colors I’ve ever used. However, since I got these, many of the colors have changed completely. In particular, my favorite brown (rosewood), most of the grays and some of the greens. So yeah – color selection for me now just makes me sad. I guess if you are going to go wild and use these up immediately, you won’t have the same experience as me.
Value 1/5 – These suckers are on the high end of this list and do not hold up. I read the instructions, properly stored them (never tip down) and I never reach for them. So yeah, for me these aren’t worth the price.
Ease of Use 2/5 – In terms of lettering, these aren’t specifically difficult to use. However, they are going to bleed through any thin paper. They work really well as water colors or being blended out because the formula is extremely liquid. Another note which is mainly an aesthetic and waste related problem – each marker comes with a sticker with its name. Pulling the stickers off is basically impossible to do cleanly. Just keep it in mind.
Durability 3/5 – This one is a bit hard for me to comment on as I barely reach for these, but I also have never seen any fraying or signs of wear on the marker itself.
5. Staetdtler 36 Pack | 12 Pack
Best for: those just trying brush pens for the first time who want a decent color selection
$27/36 markers ($.75 per marker)
Color Selection 3/5– I’m a bit meh on the overall colors of this collection. There are some which I LOOOOOOVE (I’m looking at you dark coral color int he third column) and a few redundancies (why is it always the turquoise and teal colors?). One think to be wary of is that the color of the marker cap does not always correspond with the actual color you are going to get.
Value 5/5 – These are under a dollar a piece and absolutely get the job done in bullet journaling, doodling and even using as regular pens. I think the dual tip makes sense for this line especially since the thin tip is both durable and thin. High marks from me here.
Ease of Use 2/5 – You’ll find some ghosting using these markers on thinner paper. I also have to say that they aren’t the easiest to hand letter with. I tend to grab them for blending or coloring areas of my bullet journal.
Durability 1/5 – Ugh! The downfall! The brush end of these pens fray almost instantly for me. They are very delicate. You might be able to see in some of the close ups that the lettering is not very consistent in certain colors. Those are probably the ones that I’ve used the most often. It makes it harder to get those nice thin upstrokes that are so coveted in hand lettering.
Best for: those looking for great quality in a medium sized tip
$30 for a pack of 15 ($2 per marker)
Color Selection 2/5 – There are 15 colors of varying interest to me. This set has my favorite gold color as well as a really nice brown. I’m also quite taken with the gray blue and dark green. But it’s only 15 colors. Can’t really say much else.
Value 2/5 – These hit the two dollar mark which means they are pricey. But I also find them to be pretty unique. The brush is significantly smaller than any other pen on this list but it’s still distinctly a market. While they are expensive, they hit a niche in the market that makes them have a unique purpose to me.
Ease of Use 4/5 – I find the Caran D’Ache markers are surprisingly easy to letter with. It comes down to that nice thin brush end. I use these more often for card-making and hand lettering than I do for my bullet journal but I always like working with them.
Durability 4/5 – I have never seen one of these fray. They are just really good quality overall. The component is light and easy to move around and I never feel like I apply too much pressure that will hurt the nib.
5 Packs: Friendly | Noble | Refined | Bright | Florescent
Best for: those who value control and style over color selection
$22 for a pack of 15
Color Selection 3/5 – This one is a bit tough for me. Some of these colors are hands down my favorite colors in my collection. The spring green, golden yellow and mauve brown are my absolute favorites. But then the whole pastel pack is such a let down for me. They aren’t pastels at all – there are three florescent colors. I know that Mildliners are marketed to be soft highlighters but it’s just so incongruous that it bothers me. Also right now, I can only find these 15 colors in Europe. However, I did link the other two packs above for those USA readers.
Value 4/5 – While they aren’t under the $1 per marker price point, I think they still are pretty good value. Some of these colors are so unique and unusual, it could be worth it. I will absolutely be getting the other 10 colors when they are easier to find in Europe. So I think that says everything I need to!
Ease of Use 4/5 – I love the brush end of these pens. The very end is flexible but the base is firm enough that I’m able to get great lettering out of these. The upstrokes are pretty thin and the downstrokes can be pretty thick depending on pressure. Based on how much I grab these for when I’m going to school and want something to use to work on my bullet journal – these are some of the easiest ones to use.
Durability 4/5 – Both my brush end and the thinner marker end hold up exceptionally well. One problem I’ve had with the original Mildliners actually has to do with the cone tipped end which ends up fraying pretty easily. With the Mildliner Brush, they made the thin tip thinner which holds up extremely well. It’s firm and is excellent for monoscript. (Please note: I may have made that word up. But I’ve heard something before that’s similar. Basically I mean writing normally without any calligraphy like strokes necessary.
2. Tombow Dual Tip Brush Pens
Pastel 10 Pack | Primary 10 Pack | Tropical 10 pack | The whole Shebang 96 Pack
BEST FOR: Color Lovers with a Generous Budget
Color Selection 5/5
The color selection of Tombow Dual Brush Pens is essentially unparalleled for me. As of January 2021, there are 108 colors. Originally, there was 96, but they added 12 new colors to the line in 2018 to round out their selection. They range from pastel to saturated and every hue has a number of shades to pick from. While I wouldn’t describe the color choices as necessarily unique – there are so many that you can essentially find whatever you need. My favorite colors are the yellow () and the Navy Blue which was added in 2018. It is hands down the best Navy Blue marker I own.
Value 3/5 – Tombows are expensive. There’s no way around it. Individually, they run around $3-$4 depending on where you purchase from. You may be able to snag a pack for a deal but usually it works out to about $2.50 per marker. These are hands down the most expensive on this list but the value comes in their longevity of ink. I use my yellow (993) in almost every single bullet journal theme and I only replaced it after 2 years. I’ve never had a problem with these drying out. The colors may become slightly desaturated after a few years but I haven’t noticed them changing tints.
Ease of Use 4/5 I find Tombows to be one of the easier brush pens to control – especially within the first 6 months or so of buying them. The tip remains relatively stiff and any brush lettering is controlled with some practice. The bleed-through is minimal on most paper and while there might be some ghosting, usually that’s only with the bolder colors.
Best for: Everyone – as long as they use a higher GSM paper
$12/10 pack or about $1.80 per pen bought individually
Color Selection – 4.5/5 – I love the color selection of these markers. Granted, I favor bright colors to pastels. I think there are some unique shades in this range. All three brown-y yellow-y colors are interesting and dynamic. I would say the same for the blue-grey color. The navy is a decent contender to my Tombow navy. The dark pink is a lovely shade. I just think they’ve done a good job curating a brighter color story but with some interesting picks.
Value – 4/5 – While these are pricier than some on our list, I actually think the price is reasonable all things considered. It can be a bit difficult to find larger packs (the standard 10 pack seems to be the easiest to track down) but I was able to find some individual markers as well. For under two dollars and considering I use these all the time, I think they have pretty good value!
Ease of Use 4/5 I knocked a single point off for the ink bleed you can see. This ink isn’t perfect and when you are using it on a lower paper weight, like the Leuchtturm 1917 I wrote on here, it will bleed through the page. Now that I’m using a notebook with a higher GSM – I am so excited to use these more often.
Durability 5/5 – I use these all the time. I never get pooling of ink. There’s nary a fray in sight! I don’t worry about replacing my favorite colors. These are just reliable and utilitarian.
So there you have my round up! I am thinking of continuing to add to this list as I inevitably acquire more and more pens for no other reason that they make me smile. If you enjoyed this or know someone who would appreciate the round up – be sure to send it along to them!