How to Use Brush Pens

Brush pens are great tools for beginning and advanced crafters/artists alike! Brush pens are versatile tools that are great for hand lettering and can be used as watercolors with a water brush. In this tutorial, we’ll look at two different sets of brush pens and compare how they both work with water brushes as well as on two different types of paper.


Paper to use with Brush Pens

Use good quality printer paper (at least 24 lb) to practice hand lettering with your brush pens. For hand lettering, bristol paper works best because of its smooth surface. Pitt pens work best on bristol paper and give you a nice, even look to the letters compared to the Prismacolor Scholar pens. For blending Pitt Pens, it’s best to use bristol paper because you can layer the colors right on top of each other. Water is not recommended for bristol paper because it warps the paper and does not allow for the full blending that watercolor paper provides.

Pitt Pen versus Prismacolor Scholar on bristol paper

Watercolor paper has a rough texture that can dull the tip of your pen, and is not recommended for writing or for direct blending. Watercolor paper works best for using the water brushes to give your pens a watercolor look. You can apply the ink directly with the water brush for a watercolor effect. This technique works with both Pitt Pens and Prismacolor Scholar, however, the Prismacolor scholar will give you much brighter colors. You can also add the Prismacolor pens straight to the watercolor paper and then go over the top with the brush pen to blend. This cannot be done with the Pitt Pens which are waterproof.

Pitt Pen versus Prismacolor Scholar on watercolor paper

How to Use Brush Pens for Hand Lettering

Using a brush pen for hand lettering is a terrific way to add a personal touch to cards, envelopes, place cards, and artwork. There are three methods you can use: writing directly onto the surface, coloring in hand-drawn letters, and using a water brush for a watercolor look. It’s a good idea to practice first. A great tip for starting out is to hold the pen as close to the tip as possible for the most control and best results and to practice your strokes.

Tip: Hold the pen as close to the tip as possible for best control. Practice heavy, broad strokes using the side of the pen for the downstroke.

Generally, when hand lettering, you want to apply the most pressure on the downstroke as you press the side of the brush tip into the paper. For the upstroke, you want to apply very light pressure as you draw a thin line using the tip of the brush pen.

Use lighter pressure and the tip of the pen on the upstroke.

It’s helpful to print out some practice sheets. You can create your own by opening up a word document, selecting a brush script or handwritten font and typing out the alphabet, some words or a favorite quote. Then make sure the font color is set to the lightest gray possible and print.

Creating your own practice sheets is an easy way to practice hand lettering techniques.

You can use your brush pens straight onto the printer paper, following the grey letters as a guide. Thinner fonts work best with Pitt Pens and thicker fonts work best with Prismacolor Scholar pens. Once you’re done, you can also use these as art prints to frame and hang on your walls!

Use your practice sheets to practice hand lettering.

After some practice, begin lettering straight onto the bristol paper. It’s a good idea to use a ruler and pencil in some very light guidelines that you can use to line up your words (the lines can be erased later).

Practicing different fonts with different brush pens

It’s best to use smooth paper such as bristol paper, printer paper, or cardstock when you use your brush pen for hand lettering. These papers work well for both Pitt Pens and Prismacolor Scholar.

How to Use Brush Pens for Watercolor

You can apply the brush pens as watercolors using a water brush. Just color with the pen onto a paint palette or other plastic surface and pick up the color directly with your water brush (just like you would with a regular watercolor set). Apply to the watercolor paper just as you would paint with watercolors.

Apply the ink from the brush pen onto your palette. Use the water brush to pick up the ink.

To achieve darker colors, wait until an area has dried and apply more ink on top. When adding more color to your palette with the brush pen, be sure that the palette is completely dry before adding more color. Dipping your brush pen into water would ruin the tip and might make it unusable again.

Color in hand-drawn letters with a brush pen to create a faux, hand-lettered watercolor look.

You can create a faux watercolor hand-lettering piece in a few simple steps! Print out a quote just like you did with the practice sheets (using a script or handwriting font in very light grey).

Tape transfer paper face down on watercolor paper. Tape the printed quote on top.

Place a sheet of transfer paper carbon-side down onto the watercolor paper and tape to keep in place. Be careful not to lean on the paper or move it too much, as you will leave smudge marks on your watercolor paper. Then, tape your printed quote on top of the transfer paper. Use a sharpened pencil to outline all of the words of your quote.

Trace around the words with pencil. Lift up transfer paper to reveal your quote.

Remove the transfer paper and use the water brush to color in each letter. You can leave a little bit of water in between each color to allow the colors to blend naturally (just be sure to use two colors that blend well and are not on opposite ends of the color wheel, or you will make brown/muddy colors). Or you can let each color dry and leave a little bit of space in between to color in later, to avoid any unintentional blending. I used the small Royal Langnickel brush for the larger words and the Sakura Koi Water Brush (round #2 small) for the smaller words.

Fill in the letters with the water brush. Use different size brushes for different widths.

You can color on top of watercolor paper with the Prismacolor Scholar pens and blend with a water brush or use the water brush to create letters using the watercolor method. Pitt Pens blend well on watercolor paper, just without water.

Different ways of using brush pens on watercolor paper

Quick Comparison: Pitt Pen vs Prismacolor Scholar

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on how to use a brush pen and that you are inspired to try out some of these fun and easy techniques!

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