Tombow Fudenosuke - Hard Tip vs Soft Tip Photo

Tombow Fudenosuke: Hard-Tip vs. Soft-Tip

Which one is which? 
Which one is better for beginners? 
What’s the difference?
Which one should I get? 
Are they both small tipped pens? Big pens? 
Are they black ink? 
Are they green ink? Blue ink? 

I don’t understand. I’m so lost. 

I get these questions and comments all the time – especially in my beginner calligraphy course. No worries though – I’m here to help! 

First Things First…

The links below may be affiliate links where appropriate. This means that your purchase through these links may result in a few cents in payment to me, to support creating further resources like this one! That being said, I will never suggest supplies that I do not personally use and fully recommend.

Supplies Used

Rather watch than read? No problem! You can watch me practice calligraphy with my left hand in real time in the video below.

Let’s Get Started!

Tons of calligraphers will tell you that Tombow Fudenosuke pen is the very best for beginners. But when you look it up… there are actually TWO versions. If you look hard enough, you’ll actually find three versions. I want to help make the decision process a bit easier for you when you got to purchase one for yourself. 

Both of these pens are considered small tipped pens.

Once you begin learning calligraphy, you’ll often see workbooks that refer to being for “small tipped pens” or “big tipped pens.” This is how I describe my own workbooks. I have one version scaled for small=tipped pens and one version scaled for big-tipped pens. You need to know what size your pen tip is before ordering, so you know which workbook version to use. Tombow Fudenosuke pens are small-tipped, so you would want the small-tipped workbook version.

Small-tipped pens are often easier for beginners than big-tipped pens.

This means both Tombow Fudenosuke versions (hard-tip and soft-tip) are good for beginners. If you can only find one or the other, they’re both good options.

Both of them write in black ink.

I go into more detail on this later in the post, but both pens write in black ink. There are colour options for Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens if you’re looking for colourful options – all of the colour options are hard-tip though.

Seriously though… how do you tell them apart?

Sometimes when you purchase Tombow Fudenosuke pens, they come in packaging like this. A lot of the writing is in Japanese. Other times, they come in Tombow packaging that’s in English. Sometimes they’re sold separately. And sometimes they’re sold together. It can be hard to tell them apart.

If you get them in individual packaging like this – the one with blue on the package is hard-tip, and the one with green packaging is soft-tip. 

But if they come outside of the packaging. and you only see them like this:

…you can tell them apart by the barrel. 

The hard-tip pen has a blue barrel (left). 

The soft-tip pen has a dark green/grayish barrel (right). 

Despite the colour of the barrels, both of them write in black ink. 

There’s also a third version that has two tips and comes in different packaging. The barrel is gray. One tip is black ink, and the other tip is gray ink. Honestly, we’re not going to cover this one in this post. It’s a bit of a specialty pen and not one I recommend for beginners. Stick with the original two Tombow Fudenosuke pens in today’s post. 

I also get asked a lot what this little blue thing is inside the Tombow Fudenosuke packaging. 

This is actually a template for writing Japanese Kanji. If you don’t write in Japanese Kanji, you can use it for your own guideline purposes. I often throw it out since I don’t know how to write in Japanese.

So what’s the actual difference between a soft-tip Tombow Fudenosuke and a hard-tip Tombow Fudenosuke?

These are both brush pens that have flexible tips – they flex when you push on them. You can get thin lines and thick lines with the same pen. Your lines are going to be thicker when more pressure is apple or thinner when less pressure is applied. 

First up – hard tip (blue barrel). 

This is my thinnest upstroke and my thickest downstroke with the hard-tip Tombow Fudenosuke.

Second – soft tip (gray/dark green barrel). 

This is my thinnest upstroke and my thickest downstroke with the soft-tip Tombow Fudenosuke. As you can see, both the upstroke and the downstroke are a bit thicker with the soft-tip.

It truly isn’t a big difference between the two pens. As a beginner, you might not even notice the variations in thickness between the pens. Side by side you can see the difference though. 

I really want to show you a bit of the alphabet using each of the pens.

First up with the Tombow Fudenosuke hard-tip. 

Next I’m going to do the exact same thing with the Tombow Fudenosuke soft-tip. I’m going to keep the sizing and everything the exact same. 

Here is the same alphabet with the Tombow Fudenosuke soft-tip. 

Now you can see the difference between the two. One is a bit heavier than the other. It’s a very slight difference but is definitely there. 

The two Tombow Fudenosuke pens are pretty similar. Both write in black ink. Both are small-tipped pens.

Here’s a photo of the size difference for reference. They’re both pretty small, but the hard-tip is a tiny bit smaller. 

What it comes down to is that the soft-tip Tombow Fudenosuke is a tiny bit more flexible, which means it gives you a little bit of a thicker line. 

So the question is – which one of these should you choose for yourself? If you’ve never done this before, I’ll break it down. 

These often come in packs together where you get one of each. If you have that option (to get both), go for it. That way you can try both and see which you prefer. I really like them both honestly. 

But if you have to choose one, here’s my advice. If you are really heavy-handed and tend to have a bit of a death grip on your pens (hello, that’s me), get the hard-tip. It can take the added wear and tear, and you won’t struggle to get the thick downstrokes you need (because you’ll naturally be applying the pressure you need). 

But if you’re light-handed, go for the soft-tip. The soft-tip will help you get thicker downstrokes because those who are light-handed often struggle a bit to get those nice thick downstrokes. 

Heavy-handed = hard-tip. 

Light-handed = soft-tip. 

Both are great for beginners, so don’t even question it if you only have one of the other available to you. They’re both great. Grab whichever you can get your hands on. 

And that’s a wrap!

Are there other pens you want to get posts on? Let me know in the comments! 

Now that you know all about the Tombow Fudenosuke pens, check out this post on HOW to actually USE them.

And finally, your MOM joke…

Why is a computer so smart?
It listens to its motherboard.


  1. This was SO incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for this breakdown! I’m definitely heavy handed so now I know which one to pick. Can’t wait to start!

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