I’ve been using Tombow Dual Brush Markers for years. You’ve probably seen my Tombows in the background of my photos. I used them a lot while in college for illustrations. The Tombow markers have also become very popular in the bullet journaling community because of how versatile they are.
I think today it’s finally time to share my thoughts on Tombow Dual Brush Markers and what makes them such a great pen for bullet journaling. Are Tombow Dual Brush Markers as good as everyone says they are? Because while the Tombow markers are great, I also have a few problems with them.
A REVIEW OF THE TOMBOW DUAL BRUSH MARKERS
Tombow is a Japanese company who specialises in high end writing supplies. As well as the Dual Brush Markers they make several other writing utensils such as pencils and gel pens.
From what I’ve read on various sites their Mono Eraser is meant to be extremely good. I’ve also tried the Tombow glue tape roller which is something similar to the Tip-Ex correction pens and is fantastic if you’re like me and can’t be bothered to deal with double-sided tape.
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As well as the dual brush markers Tombow also makes a range of Fudenosuke pens. They are very similar to the ABT Dual Brush Pen but with a much smaller brush nib.
Like the name suggests. The Tombow ABT Dual Brush Marker is a double-ended pen. One end of the marker has a large nylon brush nib. The other end has a 1mm nylon nib. Having two types of nib to choose from makes the marker extremely versatile.
Though it’s personally not my favourite brush marker for hand lettering. The Tombow markers are very popular among the bullet journaling community for calligraphy. The other marker nib is also very useful, I’ve used this many times in the past for illustrations. Having a bold marker pen was essential when I first started doing branding projects at college.
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However, there are a few downsides to Tombow Dual Brush Markers. First, they can’t be refilled. Meaning when the ink runs out, or more likely the nylon brush nib wears away. You have to buy replacement pens. It would be a lot less wasteful if the pens were designed in such a way that they could be refilled.
TOMBOW DUAL BRUSH MARKER NIBS
Another problem I have with Tombow Dual Brush Markers is the nibs. The 1mm fine point nib is fantastic. Like I mentioned before I’ve used it in many college projects. Most of my problems are with the brush nib.
This nib tends to wear out over time, especially if being used on rough paper. If you are using the Tombow markers for calligraphy you need a sharp point on the brush nib. Over time this sharp point wears away until you can’t use the pen any more. This makes it useless for calligraphy, your lettering won’t come out the way you want.
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As much as I love these markers this is an issue. Especially if you’re buying the Tombows specifically for calligraphy. I use the Tombows a lot in my design work, but like I said earlier. I think there are better pens out there for calligraphy.
The Tombow markers come in a range of 107 colours. This may not be the exact number, it changes between 96 and 107 depending on the website you look at. This probably means Tombow has been adding more colours to the range.
The one thing I love about the Tombows is the range of colours they come in. There are some nice bright primary colours, a full range of grey tones. But the thing I love most is the muted colours. I like using earthy colours in my bullet journal. Somehow they match my whole aesthetic.
The Tombow pens come in sets or individually. The primary colour set is a really good place to start your Tombow collection. From there you can go on to choose some complementary colours.
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Similar to the promarker range Tombow has colour sets for specific uses. So you can get manga set which contains colours which would commonly be used with manga drawings. There are other sets also available such as skin colours, secondary colours and one set which is just called galaxy.
If you don’t want to buy a full pack of pens you always have the option to buy pens individually. This gives you more freedom to choose the exact colours you want. This is typically what I do if I’m ever adding more markers to my collection. I prefer buying colours which work with colours I already own.
Keeping track of all these colours can get tricky once you own a good number of them. Tombow now has a swatch sheet which you can download as a PDF from their website. You can use this to swatch all of your pens and keep track of which ones you own.
This can also double as a paper test. If you have a specific type of paper you want to use with the Tombows you can print the swatch sheet out on that paper. This gives you a chance to see how the Tombow marker ink looks on the type of paper you will be using.
The Tombow Dual Brush markers use a water-based ink which can be blended by adding more water. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on how the markers are used.
If you are using the markers to create illustrations or pieces of hand lettering you should take care to ensure these pieces won’t get wet. For example, if you use the Tombows to write on a postcard or envelope. These could get wet which would cause the ink to run.
From experience, it only takes a little amount of water to make the ink move. This has ruined some pieces of design work in my sketchbooks.
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However, you can also use the blending properties of the Tombow inks. You could create a piece of hand lettering using one colour, then go back over with another. Creating a gradient effect.
You can also use the Tombow markers similar to paint. Adding the ink from the pen to a pallet, adding water before using a brush to lay this on paper. If you don’t want to go through all these steps you can just add colour to the paper and go over this with a wet paintbrush.
Used in this fashion the Tombow ink isn’t quite as versatile as watercolour paint or liquid ink. But this is something which can still be used to create some interesting effects.
WHERE TO BUY
The Tombow Dual Brush Markers are slightly more expensive compared to similar fiber tipped markers. At around £3.50 for an individual pen. The sets of pens work out to be slightly cheaper however you have less choice over which colours you get.
If you are near a Cass Art you can find the full range of Tombow markers on sale. Both in sets and individually. I much prefer being able to buy individual pens. This gives me more control over which pens I buy.
Cass Art also sells other products made by Tombow such as the Fudenosuke. This is another brush pen made by Tombow and works well in combination with the Dual Brush Marker.
The Tombow markers can also be bought in sets on Amazon. A 10 pen set usually works out at around £20-25. It is possible to buy larger sets. You can buy the full set of 96 colours for around £250. But I don’t see the point in buying this full set. Some of the Tombow colours are similar to each other so you don’t need the full range.
You’re better off to buy one of the primary sets to start. Then buy more pens individually based on your own artistic needs.
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I will admit the price is one of the downsides of the Tombow marker. These markers are something I use regularly but I can’t deny that £3 is a lot for one pen. If you’re more of a hobbyist and don’t need a more professional art supply you can look at something like the Zebra Mildliner.
The Mildliners are a type of highlighter. However, if you’re just wanting to buy Tombows to use in a bullet journal these are a slightly cheaper replacement. The Mildliners don’t have a brush nib but are otherwise very similar. You don’t have as much choice over colour. But I like the Mildliners and use them and the Tombows interchangeably in my bullet journal.
LETTERING WITH TOMBOW MARKERS
The Tombow Dual Brush pens are very popular in the bullet journal community for calligraphy. Now, this is where it gets tricky. I need to explain why they are good for calligraphy and also why personally I don’t like using them for calligraphy.
The Tombow has quite a firm brush nib. This means its much easier to control the amount of pressure you are placing on the pen. This pressure is what creates that calligraphy look. You place more pressure on downstrokes making them broader, this contrasts with the thinner upstrokes.
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The firm nib makes it easier for beginners to learn how to control that pressure. However, I don’t like how broad this brush nib is. I find that it makes it harder for me to control the pen. I don’t like how thick this makes the downstrokes.
I’ve found that this makes it harder to learn calligraphy. If you are just starting with calligraphy I would recommend something like the Tombow Fudenosuke. The brush nib is much smaller while remaining quite firm. This makes it easier to control the line weight.
I’m not saying the Tombow pens are bad if being used for calligraphy. Some people have created incredible pieces of hand lettering using the Tombow pens. I think I just prefer a thinner line weight. Something more similar to a dip pen rather than a broad stroke.
BULLET JOURNALING WITH TOMBOW DUAL BRUSH MARKERS
I didn’t intend on being so negative about the Tombows. There is a reason why they are so popular online. The ink works well with the paper in most popular notebooks. I’ve never had a problem with the ink bleeding or ghosting.
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They are an easy way of adding a little bit of colour into your bullet journal. You can do anything from really simple spread layouts to full-colour illustrations. You can even use them for calligraphy or to add a piece of hand lettering. They are a great choice compared to some other markers.
TOMBOW PRO DUAL BRUSH PEN
Tombow also makes a pro version of the brush marker. The PRO Dual Brush Marker is aimed at more professional artists and designers. This seems to be Tombows version of the Copic Marker. The PRO markers have a brush tip and a chisel tip. They also use alcohol ink rather than a water-based one.
It should be noted that alcohol ink will bleed through most papers. If you’re looking for something to use in a bullet journal buy the regular Dual Brush Markers instead. It will be interesting to see how lightfast these pens are. Alcohol inks tend to fade over time.
This is the reason why Copic markers should not be used to create pieces of finished artwork. They were created as a tool for designers to create quick sketches which would be scanned onto the computer.
Suffice to say. If you’re an artist and know what you’re doing maybe look into the PRO Dual Brush Pens. If you just want something to add colour into a bullet journal buy the regular Tombow markers.
I like Tombow Dual Brush Markers, I use them a lot at university and in my bullet journal. I like having them to add a little something extra on my bullet journal spreads. They also work fantastic as an art tool for creating illustration work.
The markers are slightly more expensive compared to other fiber markers but I think they are worth the price. I’ve never had any problems with the ink in my markers running dry. I also really like the range of colours available with the Tombow markers. I love the dull muted colours but there are also some nice bright primary colours available in the range as well.
The only downside to these markers is the nibs. They might almost be the perfect pen if the brush nibs didn’t wear away so easily. Replacing a £3 might not seem like much, but it’s annoying when the pen is perfectly useable apart from the worn end.
But what do you think? Have you tried Tombow Dual Brush Markers before or are you thinking about buying a set? Let me know in the comments.