Review: Akashiya Bamboo Barrel Brush Pen

Is the Akashiya Bamboo Barrel Brush Pen the perfect portable brush and ink replacement? No, but it's close. Akashiya Bamboo Barrel Brush Pen

Akashiya Bamboo Barrel Brush Pen, in box

Product photos courtesy of

The Akashiya Bamboo Barrel Brush Pen (ABBP) is a fairly large pen at 17cm (capped) or 6 3/4" in the old scale. It has a nice girth and a warm, natural feel due to the bamboo body. The cap cannot be posted, which can be a little annoying for a cap-poster like me, but the balance is good and the pen is nice and light.

The sample sketches below were done on 11"x14" bristol board, but this pen performs well on most papers I've tried. As with all of my sample sketches to date, they are done quickly without pencil guidelines.

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Akashiya brush pen sample sketches

Unlike all other brush pens I've used, this one is WET. And not only wet, but the ink is black, like india ink. Only when bearing down hard on the brush does it dry out thicker strokes - with normal brush-like use it is the closest thing to a sable #2 or #3 that I've found in a pen - it actually feels like a real brush.

The bristles/tip doesn't taper into as fine a point as other brush pens (Kuretake, Pentel GFKP etc), however, making it harder to achieve fine lines. Also, the point does wear down after a week or so, making it even harder to achieve detail. The sketches above were all done with an older pen. I thought that to show it off brand new would achieve better results, but not an accurate sample of what the pen is like after the 'honeymoon period'.

I've found that to use the ABBP professionally (which I have on one occasion so far) I need to pair it with another pen or brush that can achieve more subtle hairlines for detailing and cross-hatching. Most of the pens in my big brush pen review would work, but I prefer the pilot brush pens. In fact, for a while I had the two pens rigged up as a mega-double-pen, using gaffer tape! This actually worked pretty well, as I'd flip them around depending on whether I'd need brush or pen lines, but the non-circular shape of the new double barrel made inking a little cumbersome.

So besides the non-posting cap and the easy-wearing tip, I would say this pen has a lot going for it; wet flow, good feel, dense black ink, and did I mention that it's refillable (with cartridges)? You can also replace the brush tip only to save a few bucks. Thumbs up for the Akashiya Bamboo Barrel! It's no Series 7, but it's a damnside better than your average brush pen.