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How to use Watercolour Brush Pens & Watercolour Markers.

How to use Watercolour Brush Pens & Watercolour Markers.

There are many watercolour brush pens/markers on the market and a lot of them perform differently to each other, this can be somewhat confusing for the novice or beginner who would like to add them to their repertoire of art materials in their tool box!  Doing your research is vital for saving time and money. 

A head start with your research!

Firstly watercolour brush/markers are very different from felt tips pens, alcohol Copic pens, or alcohol Promarkers.Alcohol Brush pens/markers require an alcohol solvent blender pen to create techniques such as gradients and blending, whereasWatercolour brush pens/markers only require water! The Watercolour brush markers offer vivid colour saturation and translucency, and are very similar to traditional tube and pan watercolour paints. You can also create larger areas of washes of colours or can layer tones to create more opaque areas of your work if required. Most Watercolour Brush Pens/markers are non-toxic and do not contain any harsh chemicals and are odourless. However, always check the safety guidlines of the brand you are using. 

Watercolour Brush pens or Markers have been designed for all creative specialisms such as; colourists, illustrators, cartoonists, animators, fashion illustrators, designers. They are also used by watercolour artists for themes such as landscapes, seascapes and botanical work. They are an excellent tool for the crafter, creative card and calligraphy artists, great for journaling, and mixed media pieces etc...There are many brushes and Brands out there but you must find the one that caters for all your creative needs! If you need a specific Watercolour brush pen for calligraphy for example you will need a hard to medium brush pen nib opposed to a softer watercolour  brush pen used by colourists and landscape artists! 

Also don’t be misled by the word BRUSH pen or BRUSH marker. They may have a brush shaped fibre tip that acts like a brush in that it delivers a lot of pigment to the paper, but the ink doesn’t always act like paint! Only the Brands that specify that it is an ‘AQUA’ or ‘Watercolour’ brush pen or‘AQUA’ or ‘Watercolour’ brush marker will allow you to add water to dilute the pigment which should then wash across your paper like traditional watercolour paints do. Using a watercolour blending brush that has a reservoir you fill with water or a traditional watercolour brush dipped in water is ideal for creating these sweeping transitions from line to wash.

A lot of watercolour brush pens/markers have dual nibs! This is such a bonus for all types of artwork or design work. Small nib for detailing and adding textural details, larger brush shaped nib for laying more pigment down for larger wash areas. They are easy to control and handle just like a pen or pencil. The most important thing to remember is the pressure you apply to the watercolour brush marker. Too much pressure will result in releasing too much pigment on the paper. It is recommended that you build up your layers with a softer touch until you reach your desired effect or tone rather than flood the paper with pigment which cannot be washed out with water. The beauty of these watercolour brush pens is that you can let areas dry, then layer up the same colour to darken an area or use other hues to create new palettes, glazes or gradients. 

The pigments used in the higher end more expensive watercolour brush pens are very saturated, lightfast and similar to the pans and tubes. Most will stain the paper. However these pigments can be lifted with water to create highlights, again similar to traditional watercolours. 

Always test the pens before using them in your work, ie; check colour palettes, staining qualities, mark making abilities, gradients from dark to light, blending, lifting ability, small nib and brush nibs.

Why watercolour brush pens are easier than Watercolours paints.

  • Huge range of colours that don’t need mixing. (but you can blend colours if required)
  • Are available singularly or in sets, with some palettes chosen for you and ready to go!
  • Can be used in conjunction with traditional watercolours pans and tubes.
  • Can be used in conjunction with watercolour pencils.
  • Very clean and easy to use.
  • Portable and lightweight.
  • Vibrant and vivid colours.
  • Can provide excellent precision and control for drawing and detailing using the finer nibs/brushes.
  • Can be used to create washes to cover a larger area.
  • Makes little mess.
  • No prep time or clean up time.
  • Most watercolour pens are dual ended so it’s like using two brushes at the same time.

How to use them! Watercolour Brush/Markers Techniques;

  • Can be used for dry line drawing and sketching or blocks of colour. 
  • Use for dry line drawing then wet out lines to create a soft diffused line.
  • Use for colouring areas of block colour then add water to soften stroke marks to create a flat blended area of colour. 
  • To create gradients of colour, use the brush tip to deliver pigment to one area, then with the water blender brush or a soft watercolour brush, brush the pigment with water and pull the diluted pigment down the paper. The more water you use the lighter your pigment will go. Work fast as the Watercolour brush pigments dry quickly.
  • You can also work your Watercolour marker over a dampened watercolour paper to create an instant diffused area of colour.
  • To create a multi coloured gradient, simply lay your desired palette of colours juxtaposed to each other then using the watercolour blender brush blend colours down the paper  in one direction. This can be done on dry or wet paper, depending on your preference.
  • For calligraphy artists, create thin and thick lines by altering the pressure on the paper with your Brush pen, remember to turn your pen often so it doesn’t stay bent in one direction, there is no need to ever press really hard, if you have a fine nib and a brush nib even better use both.
  • To create a smooth transition between colours in your calligraphy,  bring your dark colour to your light colour and touch nibs. Your light nib will turn the colour of your dark colour but when you begin to write your lettering will go from dark to light seamlessly without having to lift your marker off the paper. 
  • You can also put down pigment onto a palette first and pick up pigment with a blender brush, traditional watercolour brush or another brush marker. Mix colours together or simply dilute them on the palette.

Additional equipment you may need;


  • Use watercolour paper, hot press, smooth works well for detailing. Medium texture surface if you want more of a watercolour effect.
  • Store your watercolour brush pens horizontally, this will stop the ink from moving to only one of your nibs if it is a dual pen and drying out.
  • Keep a clean paper towel at hand for picking up excess water.
  • Create a colour palette chart before starting your project, this will help you understand the potential performance of your brush pen and help you to practise water dilution wash techniques. Along with choosing the right combination of hues.
  • Let areas dry out before layering the next colour for subtle gradients.
  • Work wet on wet for diffused gradients.
  • Keep turning your brush pen around often to keep your nib from curling/bending to one side. 
  • Use a hair dryer to speed up drying.
  • Tape paper down to minimise movement whilst working or to stretch if your paper tends to buckle.


  • Use paper that is too thin, this will ripple/warp if you use a lot of water.
  • Use paper that is too rough, this will wear out your brush pens or cause them to shred/fray.
  • Store your brush pens/markers  vertically.
  • Store them near a source of heat! They will dry out.
  • Press down too hard this will bend the nibs.
  • Press too hard as this will deliver too much pigment.
  • Scrub the paper when wet this will cause pilling.

Watercolour Brush/Marker Brands.

Faber-Castell 16 Albrecht Durer Watercolour Markers

Faber-Castell 16 Albrecht Durer Watercolour Markers

The new Albrecht Dürer artists’ watercolour marker is the modern definition of watercolour painting: a high quality drawing instrument that supports spontaneous sketching as well as painting in watercolours. The water-based ink is always ready and is excellently usable with water.

The colours follow the Faber-Castell colour system and are therefore reliably combinable with other artist pencils from Faber-Castell. The versatility of the Albrecht Dürer watercolour marker convinces above all on its travels. Whoever likes to capture impressions while on the road will reach for this pen with relish. Two nibs – a brush nib and a fibre-tip – offer the artist flexibility in the personal drawing style. The ink lends drawings and preliminary sketches a high dynamic that is intensified through painting with water.

W&N Watercolour Markers - Individual Colours

W&N Watercolour Markers - Individual Colours

Ultimate Water Colour Performance now in a marker for precision.

  • Lightfast and highly pigmented for excellent colour and blending performance.
  • Twin-tipped with a fine point and flexible brush nib, perfect for multiple line thicknesses and superior detailing.
  • Intermixable with Winsor & Newton Water Colours.

Introducing Winsor & Newton WaterColour Markers, an outstanding range of highly pigmented water-based markers which deliver Winsor & Newton’s superb colour performance with added precision. Dedicated to providing artists with new ways to explore the expanse of their creativity, the new Watercolour Markers are one of our latest innovations, adding a new dimension to working with watercolour.

Expertly crafted with a twin tip, the new markers enable artists to achieve unrivalled definition and control with watercolours. Each marker has a fine point on one end and a flexible brush nib on the opposite, helping you create a variety of stunning, sweeping line thicknesses and superior detailing. The colour is easily blended with water to create soft and vibrant watercolor washes.

The new markers have been specially formulated using fine quality artists’ pigments. They not only offer incomparable vibrancy, flow and blending ability, but they also provide excellent permanence and durability  far superior to their dye-based marker equivalents.

Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers are available in a balanced spectrum of 36 brilliant colours and are fully intermixable with traditional water colours and mediums. For optimum results, use them with the new Winsor & Newton Watercolour Marker paper, which provides excellent lifting properties to further enhance the blending abilities and flow of the markers.

Delivering impressive precision combined with our expert colour performance, the new Winsor & Newton Watercolour markers are an indispensable addition to the watercolour artists’ palette. Trying is believing, so start using the markers today and experience their wonders for yourself.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Watercolour Marker - Basic Tones - Set of 12

Winsor & Newton Promarker Watercolour Marker - Basic Tones - Set of 12

Set of 12 includes:

Cadmium Yellow Hue | Alizarin Crimson Hue | Prussian Blue Hue | Sap Green | Yellow Ochre | Ivory Black | Burnt Umber | Hookers Green Dark | Cerulean Blue Hue | Dioxazime Violet | Cadmium Red Hue | Lemon Yellow Hue

Ultimate Water Colour Performance now in a marker for precision.

  • Lightfast and highly pigmented for excellent colour and blending performance.
  • Twin-tipped with a fine point and flexible brush nib, perfect for multiple line thicknesses and superior detailing.
  • Intermixable with Winsor & Newton Water Colour.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Watercolour Set of 6 - Basic Tones

Winsor & Newton Promarker Watercolour Set of 6 - Basic Tones

Set of 6 includes:

Highly pigmented lightfast watercolour. Flexible brush-tip and fine point. Use watercolour paper. Store horizontally. 

Colours Included:

  • Alizarin Crimson Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • Ivory Black
  • Prussian Blue Hue
  • Sap Green
  • Yellow Ochre

Staedtler Double-Ended Watercolour Brush Pen Wallets

Staedtler Double-Ended Watercolour Brush Pen Wallets

These double ended watercolour brush pens come in sets of 18 or 36. Can be used dry or diluted to create a variety of watercolour effects. The colours are easy to blend together with a watercolour blending brush or a soft traditional watercolour brush dipped in water. They are highly pigmented when used wet or dry. The colours transition well to create smooth gradients and blend well to create new tones. The colour can be lifted with water to create highlights in your work. Great for Calligraphy artists, watercolour artists, designers, urban sketchers, fashion designers, crafters and hobbyists.

  • Packet of 36 assorted double ended watercolour brush pens
  • Has the flexibility of a brush and a pen
  • Brush line width: 1.0 - 6.0 mm
  • Pen line width: 0.5 - 0.8 mm 
  • Ellie Jakeman
    Ellie Jakeman

    I have had a strong interest in the visual and creative arts since a very early age. After completing an Art and Design Degree and Post graduate studies I have taught Art and Design, Fashion and Textiles, Textile design , Fine Art print and Illustration for over 20 years. Before teaching I was a freelance artist and illustrator and decided 4 years ago I would return to freelance and commissioned work. I have created many domestic and commercial murals for hospitals and hospices. I work part time for ARTdiscount as a content creator and product tester.

    1 Response


    February 18, 2021

    Really useful. Thanks

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