Sunday, March 26, 2023

Review: Marvy Uchida Le Pen Flex Brush Pens


How did these Marvy Uchida Le Pen Flex brush pens hop into my
shopping cart?

Years ago, I tried a few Marvy Uchida Le Pens with the standard writing tips, but nothing about them impressed me enough to keep using them. In fact, the skinny barrel was uncomfortable to hold. I’ve ignored them since.

Perhaps you’re familiar with this scenario: You need a few things at JetPens, and you’re getting close to free shipping. Hmmm, you’d forgotten that Le Pens are available with a brush tip you’ve never tried . . . a couple of colors would get you to free shipping – but oh, the six-pack is a better value! That’s how the “Jewel” color assortment of Flex Brush Pens fell into my shopping cart recently.

The product information describes the Flex as a “rubberized felt tip that is flexible yet firm.” The only other brush pens I own with a similar “rubberized” tip are much larger, and I enjoy how flexy they are.

Unlike a fude fountain pen or the hard brush tip markers I have been using lately (like the Uni Pin and the Faber-Castell Pitt Fude Pens), which vary their line widths by changing the points’ angle to the paper, the Le Pen Flex responds to pressure. It was a delightful surprise to get the same “rubberized” flexiness that I knew from the larger brush pens in a much smaller point size. I’m a little concerned that the tips will mush down quickly under my heavy hand, especially when I get overly enthusiastic about their flexibility. (I’ll update this review if my concerns are warranted.)

First I tried making a couple of Earthsworld portraits (Earth recently featured one of these on his website!) in a Moleskine sketchbook (the old kind with the manila-folder-colored pages and odd, waxy surface). I noticed that the ink took a while to dry, especially on that paper, and if I acted fast enough, I could smudge the ink deliberately the way Don Colley famously works his Pitt Artist Pens. I used a waterbrush to test the ink’s water-solubility, and it literally beaded up on the weird Moleskine paper. Strange but interesting!

3/19/23 Le Pen Flex brush pen in Moleskine sketchbook

3/20/23 Le Pen Flex in Moleskine

The 6-pack pen wallet has a handy easel top for desktop use.

Next I pulled out my Hahnemühle Akademie watercolor sketchbook to see how the Le Pen ink would respond to paper with better sizing. Though I didn’t think these vibrant colors would do well in a portrait mix, I perversely chose a Zorn palette – red, ochre and black.

3/21/23 Le Pen Flex in Hahnemuhle sketchbook

Look at the black... it's nearly waterproof!

They are rather garish here, but the big surprise was that the black Le Pen Flex barely moved compared to the other very water-soluble colors. I even wondered if black came only in a water-resistant version. I read the product information, but it still claimed that black is water-soluble. It’s strange that only one color would behave this differently.

3/22/23 Le Pen Flex and white Gelly Roll in Uglybook 

Of course, if you put any black brush pen in my hand, I will take it out on my next walk and sketch a tree or two – the fastest way to test a brush tip’s line variability. And what a beauty this one is! I love how easy it is to apply pressure for the thick lines like the trunk, then ease up on the pressure gradually to taper the ends of the branches. (Is it even possible to sketch a tree without a brush pen? Of course it is, but it’s not nearly as much fun!)

While I had my color journal out, I decided to see if I could make a CMY triad from Le Pen Flex colors. Unfortunately, the only yellow available is fluorescent, which is a bit weak when mixed, but look at the lovely violet I got when I mixed magenta with oriental blue.

Zorn palette and CMY primary triad mixes

If you’re wondering how I got those Zorn colors and fluorescent yellow from my “Jewel” set, it’s because by then I had already decided I needed more colors – like all 24 of them (a much better value than smaller sets or individually!). I still find the slender barrel uncomfortable, and I admit, I am unlikely to use some of these colors. I find myself smitten with the flexy brush tips, though, and the ink is weirdly fun to smudge and bead on Moleskine paper.

7/22/23: Here's the update on the pen tip.

Unlike the heavy-plastic wallet that the 6-pack comes in, the set of 24 comes in a flimsy cardboard box.

Like many water-soluble colored pencils, some colors wash more vibrantly than others. Black (lower left) hardly washes at all. I'd call it waterproof.)


  1. I think “ I need a few things at JetPens” is a clearly identifiable life philosophy that I fully support. Especially now that the horribly high pandemic related shipping costs have settled. I missed JetPens, though my credit card did not.

  2. These pens look interesting...but I really wouldn't have much use for them. I'll watch to see how you use them in the future.

    1. I think you were using a similar line-wash technique with that pen that has ink that separates into different colors (I forget what it's called)...?

  3. Are they wearing out at all? What were the larger pens with the rubberized ends? I have a few of these and they’re fun for the rare coloring/ doodling I do.

    1. I've been using the black one nearly every day, and it has held up so far. The larger brush pens were all from Japan, and I can't read the names on the barrels! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...