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Painting with watercolour brush pens: The best of both worlds

Do you want to create light and airy motifs with the help of a handy tool? Then use watercolour brush pens for your watercolour painting.

The practical brush pens are among the absolute must-haves if you are committed to watercolour painting and lettering. In this part of our online course, you'll learn from our artist Nadja:
✔ Which brush pens are suitable for watercolour drawings and lettering âœ” Which basic techniques you can learn âœ” What materials you need to paint with watercolour brush pens âœ” How to apply the techniques you have learned

A feature from Nadja

A little excursion before we get started:

What are watercolour brush pens?

Watercolour brush pens belong to the category of felt-tip pens. While felt-tip pens are usually equipped with a classic round tip, brush pens - as the name already suggests - are equipped with a brush-like tip that creates thinner or thicker strokes through the use of pressure. Our water-colourable double-fibre brush-tip pens offer the further advantage of an additional fine tip that allows for a perfect interplay of curved lines and fine details. With this type of watercolour pen, you can create the following when painting:

  • A rich colour application
  • Beautiful letters
  • Curved lettering
  • Fine details

Since the ink of the watercolour brush pens is water-colourable, you can even use them for watercolour painting. You can find out exactly how this works on this course.

Instructions for painting with watercolour brush pens:

The materials you need

If you use the brush pens for watercolour painting, you should use watercolour paper with a higher weight and thus a good water absorption. Mixed media papers or watercolour papers with little structure are best suited for this purpose.

Here is an overview of all the materials you need for this course:

  • Watercolour paper with little structure and high weight
  • Watercolour double-ended fibre-tip pens with brush tip
  • Paint brush or water brush
  • Cup with water
  • Mixing palette (e.g. laminated paper)
  • Paper towel

To the products used

Painting with watercolour brush pens:

How to use watercolour brush pens correctly

Watercolour brush pens or brush pens are also used like normal felt pens or fine liners, for example, in lettering. They have very versatile uses:

  • Use the tip to draw many strokes close together or overlap them.
  • Colour larger areas with the brush pens and create interesting structures with them.
  • Use the so-called "stippling" technique, in which you create whole shapes from many small dots by dabbing and quick movements.

There are many different ways to get creative with the brush pens in watercolour painting. In the video below, our artist Nadja explains the differences between the individual techniques and how to use them correctly.

Our guide: 10 techniques for watercolour painting with brush pens

Here you can download the exercise sheet for the techniques used in the video:

Exercise sheet

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "dry-on-dry": Pink drawn flowers on white watercolour paper

#1: Dry-on-dry

With the dry-on-dry technique, you draw the motif by using the brush pen like a conventional felt-tip pen or fineliner. Draw with the brush pens directly on dry paper without water colouring the colours afterwards.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "dry-on-wet": Pink drawn flower with colour running at the bottom, on white watercolour paper

#2: Dry-on-wet

As with painting with watercolour paints and pencils, you can also paint with brush pens on moistened watercolour paper. The pigments then move with the water across the paper, which can create beautiful soft lines, patterns, and effects. However, it also means giving up some control over your artwork. If you have wet the paper too much, simply "soak" it up with a dry brush.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Flat Wash": Pink drawn flower, whose colour becomes lighter at the lower end, on white watercolour paper

#3: Flat wash

The flat wash  technique involves spreading the colour evenly over the surface. To do this, colour the desired area as evenly as possible with the brush tip of the double-ended brush pen before you loosen the ink with a wet brush or water brush and paint it.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Gradient Wash": Pink drawn flower, whose colour becomes lighter at the lower end, on white watercolour paper

#4: Gradient wash

If you want to paint the colour from dark to light, use the gradient wash technique. Colour only the base of the motif with the pen and dissolve the colour with water. Now use the brush to paint it from the inside to the outside, so that a colour gradient from dark to light is created.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Colour gradients": Pink-purple drawn flower whose colours run into each other, on white watercolour paper

#5: Colour gradients

Colour gradients are always a special highlight in your watercolour motifs. Watercolour brush pens make it easy to create beautiful gradients. First apply the different colours with the brush pens and then dissolve them with a moistened brush or water brush to paint them. Make sure that you leave some space between the different colours on the paper so that they can blend in nicely.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Layering": A dark blue line and a purple and pink flower in a purple field on white watercolour paper

#6: Layering

For this technique you need to be patient, as each layer of ink has to dry before you can apply the next one. Always start with the largest area. Once this has dried, you can gradually apply more layers in other colours or an additional layer in the same colour to intensify individual areas and create depth in your painting.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Mixing colours": Pink drawn flower with green leaves on white watercolour paper

#7: Mixing colours

You can also mix colours yourself with watercolour brush pens, as with normal watercolours. For this you need a palette with a water-repellent surface (for example, laminated paper). Apply different colours of the brush pens in a separate small area on the palette. Next, mix the applied colours with a paint brush or water brush, pick up the colour from the palette and transfer it to your paper. This way you can easily create your own individual colour tones.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "colour application with fine tip": Blue flower drawn with fine lines on white watercolour paper

#8: Paint application with fine tip

Use the thin tip of your water-colourable double-ended brush pens for this purpose. This way you can easily draw very fine outlines or filigree details in your pictures.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Tip-to-Tip Blending": Purple-pink serpentine lines on white watercolour paper

#9: Tip-to-tip blending

Tip-to-tip blending is when you use brush pens in two different colours. Here you transfer some ink with the tip of the darker pen to the tip of the lighter pen. If you now draw with the lighter colour on the watercolour paper, you can clearly see both colours blending into each other. Don't worry, you won't ruin your watercolour brush pens with this technique! As soon as you have drawn a few strokes, you will notice that the colour applied with the other pen becomes less and eventually disappears again.

Watercolour technique with watercolour brush pens "Textures with mixed palette": coloured areas of different colours on white watercolour paper

#10: Textures with mixing palette

For this you need your palette or laminated paper again. Apply different colours to the surface and let a few drops of water fall onto the paper. You can then move the paper back and forth a little and let the colours run on the palette. Then press the painted side of the palette onto your watercolour paper. With this technique you have less control over how the colour gradients look in the end. However, it is ideal for creating multi-coloured backgrounds

And off you go:

Create your own watercolour with brush pens

Don't hesitate and apply what you have learned directly! In the motif video, Nadja shows you how to create a delicate eucalyptus branch in a watercolour look using a combination of techniques.

And to make the whole thing a little easier, we have prepared a free template for you to download.

Not sure how to transfer the pattern onto the watercolour paper correctly? Nadja explains the individual steps in more detail in the video on our watercolour painting page.

Want more inspiration?

Check out the creations of other watercolour fans! Once you've created your first painting, link to us on social media with the hashtag #myDesignJourney!

Watercolour painting with brush pens:

These products are used

STAEDTLER® 3001 STAEDTLER® 3001 Double-ended watercolour brush pen Wallet containing 36 double-ended watercolour brush pens in assorted colours
STAEDTLER® 989 STAEDTLER® 989 Synthetic brush Blistercard containing 3 brushes: #2 round, #8 round, #8 flat
STAEDTLER® 949 STAEDTLER® 949 Water brush Blistercard containing 1 brush: round fine
STAEDTLER® 949 STAEDTLER® 949 Water brush Blistercard containing 4 brushes: round fine, round medium, round large, chisel
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Other materials needed:

  • Watercolour paper
  • Mixing palette (e.g. laminated paper)
  • Water container with water

Instructions for watercolour painting: To the other courses