Friday, June 9, 2023

Messing Around with Sennelier Ink Brushes

I got this 6-pack of Sennelier ink brushes at Blick.

Back in April when the Auckland Urban Sketchers Symposium participants were sharing images of their goodie bag contents, of course I was a bit envious. Based on all the times I was fortunate enough to receive those bags, I know they contain generous product samples from symposium sponsors. It’s a fun way to learn about and try new materials.

One product that caught my eye was Sennelier Ink Brushes. There was no point in envying symposium participants; why not just “add to cart”?

As a huge fan of brush markers, I had intended to give these ink brushes a full review eventually. Unfortunately, they aren’t going past the “messing around” stage because I have nothing but complaints.

Right off the bat, the caps are terrible. They are a perfectly smooth, conical shape with no gripping texture at all – so they are a bear to remove! As if that weren’t bad enough – they don’t post! Do they do any kind of product design testing with actual humans removing the caps?!

Smooth, tapered caps are a bear to remove!

The pen form is similar to Kuretake Zig Brush Pens, Pentel Pigment Ink Brush Pens and others with soft, ink-filled barrels that are squeezed to release more ink. The Sennelier brush tips are serviceable enough, but nothing special.

Serviceable brush tips that won't get much use from me.

But those brushes aren’t going to get much use from me because the inks in the six-pack I bought are so inconsistent. The packaging says they are “blendable, water soluble, permanent when dry and pigment-based ink.” I made the swatches below and waited the same length of time for all the swatches to dry. Then I took a waterbrush and washed through them, sometimes scrubbing fairly vigorously. As you can see, black, red and green washed easily, despite being “permanent” at this stage; yellow and brown moved a bit; and the blue hardly washed at all. I also tried mixing with the primary triad. They blended while wet (though the mixes are unattractive), but you can see the hard edge the blue made. What weird inks!

Some colors are water-soluble; others aren't.

Finally, I made a portrait sketch. Knowing that the blue would dry “permanently” very quickly, I tried to keep up with it while also getting the brown to wash a bit. It’s too much work to “time” these markers if you want them to wash. Alternatively, if you prefer inks to be permanent so that you can use watercolors over them, some colors will be a rude surprise. I don’t like products that are inconsistently water-soluble.

5/23/23 Sennelier ink brushes in Hahnemuhle sketchbook (Earthsworld reference photo)


  1. Given the number of products I've gotten that simply don't work (like Sennelier caps), I don't think design testing is something being done any more. Sad is that.

  2. Thanks for the honest review. I hate caps that are difficult to remove and when they don't post I really can't be bothered. For the amount of money these materials cost there should be some design testing done for sure!

  3. Sadly I feel that Sennelier, more and more, runs on their past glory as their main asset. Some of their product are still awesome, I totally love their oil pastels for instance, but some others products are now made in French colonies so they can still legally stamp them as "Made in France" with the cost/work condition of "Made in China" -_- (from one of their shop person in Paris)

    1. I'm not surprised to hear that. I guess it's just the economy of the world that drives all companies toward cheaper production and quality suffers. I'm glad to hear the oil pastels haven't changed. Maybe their more traditional products stand a better chance of maintaining quality, while newer things like brush markers have no "heritage" with Sennelier so there's less at risk.

  4. I stopped being a fan of anything Sennelier a couple of years ago when I got a tube of lemon yellow watercolour that was actually rotten, separated and stinky. I politely contacted the parent company in France — not even asking for a replacement, but suggesting that they might want to check the batch for other rotten lemon yellow. Sadly, they didn't care at all. There are better brands around these days, so I don't bother even looking at Sennelier anymore.


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