What I Used for Inktober 2016: Tombow Dual-Brush Pens

Welcome back to the What I Used for Inktober series!  Last week, we looked at the Prismacolor Premier 0.005 black pen for inking, and today we’re looking at Tombow Dual-Brush Pens.  Which means we’re at my favorite part: Coloring!  \(^o^)/

Last year, I wanted to try coloring with markers after seeing so many amazing marker paintings on the Web and so many amazing speedpaints on Youtube.  As a beginner, though, I didn’t want to heavily invest in a huge set of markers or purchase the most expensive professional materials (looking at you, Copics!) – or not yet, at least.  So I chose to try the water-based Tombow Dual-Brush Pens after hearing that they are a good brand and (luckily) were on sale at the time.  Better yet, they were reported to be durable, self-cleaning, and even blend well.  Sounds good, right?

Long story short, yes, they’re great!  I like them a lot,  though I’m also using other brands these days.  Tombow markers do have a few downsides, mainly due to the nature of water-based markers; but the water-based vs alcohol-based debate is a post for another day.  Let’s get started!

TL;DR Version

This review turned out super long, so here’s the short version!

Tombow Marker Review Painting + Markers Photo Watermarked

Tombow Dual-Brush Pens are a good introductory marker.  There are a wide range of colors available, and I love, love, love the self-cleaning feature!  Also, being water-based they don’t smell strongly like alchohol-based markers; so if strong smells bother you, you can rest easy with these.  🙂

However, Tombow markers will pill and ripple the paper if you lay down too much pigment, a common problem among water-based markers; though it isn’t as bad as the Crayolas I used when I was a kid, it’s still annoying.  And while the blending feature is cool, Tombow markers don’t blend well on paper. 😦

I would recommend them for sketching, lettering, and for simpler coloring styles (like cell-shading, perhaps).


  • Durable
  • Self-cleaning tips
  • Budget-friendly
  • Wide range of colors available
  • Cool blending feature
  • Doesn’t have a strong smell – like alcohol does


  • Pills the paper
  • If you use a lot of wet-on-wet layering, the paper will ripple
  • Doesn’t blend well with color on paper
  • Prices tend to vary widely from $10-$25 USD per 10-pack

Now let’s get into the in-depth review!

The Packaging & Design

Tombow markers come in a pack like this, with nine colors and a colorless blender:

Tombow Dual- Brush Pens BoxAs the name says, the pens are dual-brush: They come with both a flexible brush tip and a fine tip:

This design makes these pens very versatile!  The brush pen is perfect for lettering, filling large areas, and blending colors:

Tombow Dual-Brush Pens Brush Tip ExampleThe brush tips are also durable, so you can bend, twist, and otherwise abuse them and yet they spring back into shape!

Tombow Marker Brush Tip Bending ExampleCan you tell how far the brush tip is bent in the picture above?  It looks alarming, but it doesn’t hurt the marker at all.  And you can bend it further than this with no issues.

The fine tip is great for inking / outlining; the only thing to note is that as these markers are water-based, coloring over an inked image with other water-based markers will cause it to bleed slightly.  Here’s what the fine line looks like:

Tombow Dual- Brush Pens Fine Line Tip

I also wanted to mention this cool design feature:

The large caps have a little ridge that keeps the markers from rolling around!  Very useful.

The Colors

Now let’s take a look at the markers that came with the Grayscale Palette:

Tombow Dual-Brush Pens Close Up

It’s a little hard to read the numbers in the picture, I know!  The colors included in the Grayscale Palette are listed below.  (The numbers are the official Tombow reference numbers, while the descriptive text in parentheses are my own interpretation of the color for clarity.)

  • N00 (Colorless Blender)
  • N95 (Lightest Lavender)
  • N89 (Light Warm Gray – almost a light beige)
  • N75 (Light Lavender)
  • N65 (Warm Gray)
  • N60 (Purple-Gray / Lavender)
  • N55 (Dark Warm Gray)
  • N45 (Dark Cool Gray)
  • N25 (Charcoal)
  • N15 (Black)

The Grayscale Palette includes both warm tones (N25, N55, N65, N89) and cool tones (N45, N60, N75, N95), making this palette very versatile. 😀

I’ve found that the colors of the caps are fairly accurate about 2/3 of the time.  Even for the markers where the shade is different than the cap indicates, it gives you a good idea of the color’s value and tone. For example:

Tombow Dual-Brush Pen color test page one. Featuring N15, N25, N45, N55, N60, N65, and N75.

From top to bottom: N15, N25, N45, N55, N60, N65, and N75.

Tombow Dual-Brush Pens Color Test pg 2 - featuring N00, N95, and N89

From top to bottom: N89, N95, and N00 (colorless blender).

(Please note that these color tests are not quite the same as the in-person colors due to the lighting.  They may also look slightly different on your screen.  So while they’ll give you an idea of the colors, take ’em with a grain of salt!)

As you can see in the color tests above, the caps give you a good indication of the marker’s shade, but aren’t always exact.  So it’s important to always test your markers before coloring!  That way, you’re always sure of the shade. 🙂


Tombow Marker Review Painting + Markers Photo WatermarkedI’ve used the Grayscale Palette for several pictures, mostly during last Inktober; and while I am no master of markers yet, I have figured out a few things during the 10+ hours I’ve spent with them.

First, I like the look of laying down two to three layers of color in a color block.  Except for N15, which is a dense black, seam lines appear anywhere two lines meet.  Going over the area with another layer helps to eliminate that effect.  For example, you can still see darker seam lines in the picture above, but trust me when I say they are about 5x less visible with only one layer of color!

When shading, try to keep the dark and light colors within the same warm / cool color group.  I’ve run into issues using, say, N95 (Lightest Lavender) over N55 (Dark Warm Gray).  I’m not saying to only use warm or cool tones in a drawing (though that would be cool too), but rather, keep the color group in mind when shading a specific area (example: River’s vest in the picture above).  This is one of those things that’s obvious – in hindsight, haha.

Finally, I’ve noticed that with my heavier 50-70lb papers, the Tombow markers don’t bleed through even with many, very wet, layers of colors!  The paper will ripple before it bleeds.  It seems that the pigment is inclined to stay on the surface of the paper, even if the water seeps through.  For example:

Here’s the back of the painting in my sketchbook, along with the next page (the eraser test for the Caran d’Ache blue pencil review).  There are a few places where the color is distinct, as if it’s begun to bleed through, and yet there are no marks on the next page!  A definite plus.

Blending with Tombow Dual-Brush Pens

One of the awesome things about Tombow Dual-Brush Pens is the blending feature!  “But River, didn’t you mention earlier that they don’t blend well on paper?”  Well, yes, that is true.  However, there is a way to blend colors with the Tombow Markers: picking up a darker shade with the brush tip!  We’ll take a look at that in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at the blending performance:

Tombow Dual-Brush Pens Blendibility TestWhat are we looking at?  From top to bottom:

  1. Using colors N25 (left) and N65, attempted to blend the colors on paper.  First, I laid down a block of N25; then colored over it while it was still wet with N65.  Looks good, right?  Well, unfortunately, the block of midtone in the middle is actually a second layer of N65!  I usually forget to blend on the brush tip, so this is how I shade!
  2. Same method, without the second layer of N65 in the middle.  So there’s one layer of N25 on the left, then colored over with a single layer of N65 while wet.
  3. Using colors N25 and N00 (colorless blender), attempted to blend the colors on paper.  Like example 1, first I laid down N25 then colored over it with N00.  There’s a slight blurry line where the N25 bled, but it’s not very well blended.  This would be good for softening the edges of a line or color block, to give a slightly hazy effect.
  4. Again using N25 and N00, I picked up some N25 pigment with the N00 marker and then colored on the paper.  This can truly be called a “blended” effect!  Or perhaps “gradient” would be better.  This is good for shading small areas, and gives a lovely effect on lettering!

Now, you may be asking, “How do I get the effect in the 4th example?”  If so, I’ve included a short tutorial. 😀  (Or maybe you already know how, in which case, feel free to skip ahead.)

Tutorial: Blending and Gradients with Tombow Dual-Brush Pens

First, pick out the darker and lighter shades.  In this case, I’ll use N25 and N00, for a dramatic effect.  Then dispense some of the darker shade onto a palette, like so:

Tombow Blending Tutorial 1: Dispensing the Darker Color

Dispensing the Darker Color

Then, pick up some of the darker pigment from the palette with the lighter color:

Tombow Blending Tutorial 2: Picking Up the Color

Picking Up the Color

Don’t worry, the tip isn’t stained!  Tombow markers are self-cleaning, so the N00 will bleed off the color as you work until only the colorless blender is coming out.  Cool, huh?  Now you’ll have a gradient effect:

Tombow Blending Tutorial 3: Color!


I picked up a lot of pigment in these pictures, so it was a nice, gradual gradient.  Try picking up more and less color to get longer or shorter gradients!

After the darker pigment runs out, the tip will look like this:

Tombow Blending Tutorial 4: Tip is clean again!

Nice and clean again!

Honestly, the self-cleaning nature of the pens is my favorite part of using Tombow.  Even if you accidentally brush against a different color, the tip isn’t stained; it’ll clean up with a few strokes on scrap paper! I just love it. ❤️

Final Thoughts

As I said in the TL;DR version, the Tombow Dual-Brush Pens are a great introductory marker.  The few cons (will pill the paper, don’t blend well on paper) are just annoyances really, and the many pros speak for themselves.  I especially love the self-cleaning feature!  They work well with lettering, sketching, and simple coloring styles. I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to try a new brand of water-based markers.

See you all next week with the fourth and (for now) final installment of this series: Sakura Gelly Roll Pens!

Inktober Day 30: Alice’s “Drink Me” Bottles & Chess Pawns

Whew, I’m almost done catching up with my weekend’s work!  Here’s the next batch:

drink-me-inktoberFirst up, we have the Drink Me bottles and the Eat Me chest from Alice in Wonderland!

Alice was one of my favorite stories as a child.  Still is, in fact.  What’s surprising is that it took me this long to draw something inspired by the book!

And this card wasn’t all. Next up we have. . .

chess-pawns-inktober. . . Chess Pawns from Through the Looking Glass!

The two pawns are modeled after my dolls, Japan Ai Clover and Matricaria.  Having a tiny model made them really easy to draw!  The biggest problem was the eyes; making them too realistic resulted in creepy doll eyes, so I had to simplify them a bit.

It seems there are many artworks of Alice in Wonderland, but not so many of Through the Looking Glass. . . or at least not many I’ve seen.  I’d like to see more – do you have any suggestions?

Inktober Day 29: Beta Fish


This weekend was very busy, but I still managed to do a few art cards for Inktober!  These two little betas were fairly quick – and I’m quite pleased with how their fins and tails came out.

I’m also going to count this little guy for Inktober:

beta-sketch-inktoberA quick sketch I made first, to make sure I remembered what a beta looks like!  Even though it was quickly done on my scrap napkin, I’m also pleased with it.  Just goes to show, even quick sketches on a napkin can look wonderful!

Inktober Catch-Up: Nature Art Cards

nature-art-cards-inktoberHere’s a few more art cards for Inktober!

For these, I used my Tombow markers to “paint” the image.  A wash of light gray to block out the image, with darker shading added. . . almost like a watercolor painting!  Since I didn’t sketch the image first, these were very loose and quick – they took between 2-3 hours for the whole lot, drying time included.

This time I used kraft paper art cards.  They stood up to the water-based markers very well, even with blending and layering!  The manila card I used the next day didn’t stand up so well; I’ll post that card later.

My favorite part was adding the fairy-dust-like white sparkles and wind with the Sakura Gelly Roll pen.  Somehow my cards don’t seem finished without a little sprinkle of white!

And with this batch, my Inktober count is up to 17 / 31.  We’re getting there!

Inktober Day 28: Cloud Bakes

cloud-art-card-inktoberFor Day 28 of Inktober, I continued with the art cards!  The first was Cloud, with a cake.  This is a common scene in the webcomic.  She loves to bake. ❤️

Somehow, Cloud’s hair ended up very wavy! It’s a cute look, but not quite canon.  Maybe she slept with braids in?

Inktober Catch-Up: Seasonal Witch Art Cards!

seasonal-witch-art-cardsI had some extra time over the last few days, so I made some extra Inktober pieces on black art cards.  This series is a companion to the Seasonal Witch series I completed today, with a card for every season!

These were pretty quick to do.  I sketched each piece with my Caran d’Ache non-photo blue pencil – they show up surprisingly well on the black art cards!  Then quickly inked over it with my white Sakura Gelly Roll pen.  Unfortunately, it takes about two layers of the Gelly Roll to make a nice bold white.  You can see some patchy spots in the snowflake where I didn’t cover it quite enough.  (Hmm, maybe I should go over it again. . . . )  Even so, they turned out really well!  Especially since it only took about a half an hour each, instead of 2+ hours.

I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow; there’s another small series I’d like to do with other webcomic characters, but I also had a ton of fun with this art cards, so I don’t know!  I guess we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

Inktober Days 26-27: Nutmeg, the Witch of Autumn


Rounding out the Seasonal Witch series, we have Nutmeg as the Witch of Autumn!  I would have been done with this image yesterday, but her hands gave me a lot of trouble. orz

I believe this is Nutmeg’s first appearance on this blog!  Nutmeg loves cooking, and she and Cloud can often be found in the kitchen whipping up scrumptious pies, cookies, and cakes. . . which quickly vanish at snack time!

I’m doing something a little different for tomorrow’s post!