Review: Speedball Steel Brushes

As an illustrator who likes exploring various line styles, I recently came across these Speedball Steel Brushes on the Dickblick site. Most online sites describe them as calligraphy nibs for poster lettering (for a time gone by?) but I wanted to see how they functioned if I used them for drawing. So I got one to try out. This is how it worked.

It came packaged like this.

It looks like a dip pen nib but the tip is made up of metal sheets clamped together.

The packaging says you will need a Speedball Style B Pen Holder. I used a regular dip pen holder and it fit. (My Tachikawa dip pen holder could not fit it, though.) Once you attach it into a dip pen holder securely, just dip it in ink and let the fun begin.

FLEX: The steel brush is flexible. It's kind of like a flat brush. But not as soft/flexible as a flat brush made of hair. This gives you more control over the line.

LINE VARIATION: It produces interesting lines. When you dip it in ink, the ink gets trapped between the metal sheets. Putting it to paper, Ink will flow out from any corner of the steel brush (Just like a Parallel Pen). Drawing using the corners of the steel brush will give you thin lines. Tilting it and turning it on its broad side, gives you thick lines. For the nib size that I got, I could only produce thin lines and then thick lines. Getting a line stroke between thin and thick was not so easy. But still, it is possible to produce interesting drawings with just thick and thin strokes.

APPLICATION: This steel brush is great for very quick drawings with lots of splatters and delightful accidents. You can also flick it like a brush and add splatters to your drawing. When it runs low on ink, it will give you a dry brush effect. If this is your thing, you will like this. Of course, if you are using it for its original purpose of lettering, it can produce neat broad lettering.

FEEL: It's not smooth like a fountain pen. It's scratchy as you would expect steel dip nibs to be. Doesn't bother me, though. On rougher papers, it will catch and splatter if you are drawing using the corners, which I like. Compared to the Pilot Parallel Pen, this steel brush nib creates more grungy lines.

INK: I used Ecoline ink for my drawings. You would be able to use any kind of ink. But then thicker inks would require more cleaning. I didn't want to damage the metal sheets while cleaning so I stuck to ink that was easy to wash off. If you used inks like acrylic ink, it would be possible to use something thin like a sheet of film to clean between each metal sheet. The packaging on the back recommends using hot water to wash it after use.

CAPACITY: This is how much Ecoline (watercolour) ink it could hold in one full dip before running out. Holds quite a lot of ink as you can see. This was written on an A5 sheet of paper.


They are available at and

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