Tools: Water-based Markers and Pencils

Preface: I've always loved color and writing tools, but summer of 2016 got me back into pens when I taught a summer course at CCA, "Letter by Letter: Letterpress Printing and Handwritten Text." I researched what was hot in lettering art, taught myself a script with the brush pens, and posted about it here.

Recently, I needed to replace three Faber-Castell PITT artist pens, my go-to markers for drawing in regular and travel journals. But I strayed to the Winsor & Newton aisle, eyeing the colors of the watercolour (I'm going to be going in and out of American/British spelling, so hang on) markers. I would get just one. But which color? 

An interesting question: if you could get only one color of marking pen, which would you choose? For me, yellow is not versatile enough. Red too strong for me. Same for orange. Purple is, perhaps, predictable. Green would have to be dark and foresty, which I didn't see. A brown might be nice for a sepia-toned effect. Blue? Blue-gray? Ultimately, it was between blue and brown. I settled for Payne's Gray, a lovely color. Goodbye, six bucks.

Hello, watercolour pen. How and what do you do? You have two ends: rounded and brush. The ink flow is JUICY! They are pigmented and lightfast. What happens when we add the Niji Water Brush and use it for shading and gradations? This got me thinking about all the watercolor pens and pencils I already have. Watercolor pencils, my first love.  I experimented with the addition of the Caran D'ache Supracolor pencils. 

I also dug out my Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers (also round on one end, brush on the other) and their colorless blender. Some of the pens were a little dry or the tips not as crisp, but with the waterbrush, I would be able to smooth out the dry spots.

TOP, from left to right: Tombow with waterbrush; Tombow with blender; Caran D'ache pencils
BOTTOM: two colors of red from Tombow: 847 (more pinkish red); 845 (more warm orange-red). With these I just outlined the shape, then used the waterbrush.

If you want bright colors and not so much of the wash effect, the blender can work, but it's not really necessary if you have a waterbrush.

Sample colors
TOP: N25 (Payne's gray); N65 (light gray); 055 (bright yellow); 296 (green); 346 (bluer-green);452 (light blue)
MIDDLE: 535 (slightly greener-blue); 555 (blue); 636 (purple); 725 (hot pink); 845 (warm red); 847 (pinkish red)
BOTTOM: 879 (sepia); 990 (beige); 992 (taupe); 933 (orange); 993 (yellow-orange); N15 (black)

I did the lettering in the Winsor & Newton pen, the iris drawing with Tombow and waterbrush. The border outline is a Sakura Pigma Micron PN pen. The PN, polyester nib, pens have a better ink flow and tip than the regular Microns, similar in tip size to the .05. The blue-black is the same color as the W&N Payne's Gray. 

In all of these photos, you can see the buckling of the drawing paper; it's the sketch paper in my Canson black journal (from this previous post). For better results, use watercolor paper or watercolor postcards. But it should be noted that the Tombow pens are dye-based, which is not lightfast, so they are fine for illustration that is meant to be ephemeral or reproduced, not so good for fine art because they will fade.

The Tombow pens are also good for hand-coloring rubber stamps (in place of a stamp pad) before you stamp them. They wash off the stamp very easily. This is a weird little hand carved design. But see how you can spot color it?

Derwent Inktense acrylic water-soluble pencils. Very smooth. Blend well. Permanent when set (you can layer over them, too) and lightfast, I think.

Some water soluble crayons I forgot I had: Cretacolor metallic. Verrrrry crrrrreamy. Good for larger drawings, I think.

And what about the PITT brush pens? They are permanent, pigmented, and blend with each other. What about with the waterbrush? Nope. The dark green bled a tiny bit, but they are permanent, as advertised. I could not get the colors to budge.

The Winsor & Newton watercolour pens really are beautiful, permanent, and less expensive if you get them online. And many options to mix and match with other watercolor pens and pencils. 

Sakura Micron PN (black) | Micron PN (blueblack) | Micron .05 (black)
Winsor & Newton watercolour marker 465 (Payne's Gray
Derwent Intense (Ink Black) | Caran D'Ache Supracolor II Soft (black)
Tombow dual brush pen N25 (Payne's Gray)
Niji Waterbrush (medium)

It turns out the Winsor & Newton watercolour pen in Payne's Gray is perfect for shadows and outlining. Subtle.

Shadows. Subtlety. Sometimes it feels strange to think small and subtle when the rest of the world is shouting.


Tom Hitt said…
Great post, thank you! Crafters are the most enabling creatures on the planet. Now I have to try some of these. TH
Alisa said…
Thanks, Tom! I walked to Blick today and picked up another Winsor-Newton pen (Sepia) and a Micron PN in brown to mix washes with drawings. Like eating a delicious dinner. Have fun!