Watercolor pens are basically water-soluble markers with a brush nib. They are also called watercolor brush pens. These are not alcohol-ink brush markers like the Copic brand. These are filled with water-based pigmented or dye-based inks.
difference in the ink type is important if you are concerned about the permanency of
Dye-based inks fade very quickly under normal light conditions unless they are protected in some way. Pigment-based inks last longer, so if this feature concerns you, keep that in mind when you are choosing a brand. The Winsor and Newton brand of watercolor brush markers use pigment-based inks.
When I first learned about watercolor brush pens, I got them confused with another product called a “water brush.“
Part of the confusion came about because when searching for “watercolor brush pens” on Amazon or Blick, you get both products and a whole bunch of others in your search results.
But once I took a closer look, it became clear that “water
brushes” are just empty marker bodies with a brush nib. You fill it with water and then use it as a
brush for blending on the paper. You can also fill it with diluted watercolor
paint or ink and use it as a brush.
Some of the watercolor pen manufacturers, such as Arteza,
call their ink filled products “Real Brush Pens” which is better, I
Watercolor pens are made by many companies, and there are some important differences in the performance and useable features.
The ColorIt and Tombow brand pens are popular with calligraphy buffs because they have blunter, tougher nibs and a looser ink flow which makes it easier to create lettering.
The Zig and Arteza brands have a very fine, very soft tip which is not great for lettering, or, in my opinion, for controlling where the color goes. I suppose over time, you learn to use them with a very soft touch.
The pens are offered in single colors, small or large sets, depending on the brand. For instance, the Arteza brand comes in large 48 and 96 color sets, and have cool inclusions
like a traveling case or a water brush for blending. I have a set of the Arteza
pens (gifted to me by my lovely friend Johanna) and have been teaching myself
how to use them.
One thing to note about color strength when using watercolor pens. These markers lay out colors at full strength. You can dilute it with water and blend them just like watercolor paint. But be aware, there’s only a limited amount of paint in each marker, and on larger paintings, I'd bet it gets exhausted quickly.
But, not to
worry, the ColorIt brand offers a fix for that issue. Their markers can be refilled with
separately sold inks. However, for me, the
idea of having 24 pens and 24 bottles of refill ink sitting around doesn’t
appeal. Watercolor paint is a lot cheaper, and just as saturated right out of the tube or pan.
Another thing to note: the paper I use when working with
these markers makes a huge difference. I
did a test on four different kinds of paper I had laying around and here’s a
pic of the results:
After using these for several weeks, these are what I see as the pros and cons. The pros include:
The cons as I see it include:
This artist in the video below mentions the paper issue too, and she has some great ideas on using these markers. Check out her many different blending techniques: