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How To Use Watercolor Markers?

how to use watercolor markers

If you know how to use watercolor markers, you can quickly make washes and drawings with soft details much faster than the traditional way. With enough practice, you can create stunning works of art without having to use brushes.

Watercolor brush pens provide you with almost the same kind of effects that you can get from traditional brushes and watercolors but in a compact and portable package. This article will teach you how to use watercolor brush markers. They might just become your new favorite.

What to Prepare:

  • Set of watercolor brush pens
  • Thick stock paper for practicing

Step 1 – Choose the Right Watercolor Brush Pens

There are many different brands of watercolor brush pens to choose from and it can be quite hard to choose just one. Although it is more convenient to order these pens online, it is better to visit your local art supplies store and check out as many of the watercolor brush pens as you can.

These pens resemble regular brush pens due to the fact that both have felt brush tips. Although these pens don’t have real bristles, felt tips act the same way. These tips can bend so the lines get wider in the same stroke.

When choosing a set of watercolor pens, pick the ones that feel right when you hold them. They should have good balance, be comfortable to hold, and easy to control.

Step 2 – Choose the Paper to Use

One of the most important steps on how to use watercolor brush pens is to pick the right paper. Although it is fine to use regular paper for practice, if you will be doing serious art pieces, you will need to use thicker-gauge paper.

Watercolors are quite loose, so they will bleed through regular paper and cause the paper to crumple and shrink. Thicker card stock will be able to hold more pigment without getting damaged by the water.

The ideal weight for watercolor techniques is 300 pounds or 640 gsm. This type of paper is just the right thickness for watercolors and other wet painting techniques.

Learning the Basics

Here’s one way to get the feel of using watercolor pens. This is the basic way of creating a simple color gradient.

Step 1 – Draw the Outline of a Basic Shape

To keep things simple, draw the top half of a square, circle, or any shape that you like. The important thing is to keep the bottom half of the shape open. Use light and even pressure on the watercolor pen while you are coloring.

Step 2 – Use the Clear Water Pen to Fill in the rest of the Shape

While the color ink is still a bit wet, use the water brush pen to complete the rest of the shape. Start by moving the colors to the inside of the shape, and then make the outside edges.

You will be using the water brush to “pull” the color down to create an effect of gradually lightening the color.

Layering Colors

Here’s a way to practice blending two colors to create a shading effect.

Step 1 – Draw the Outline of the Shape or Object Using the Lighter Shade

For instance, draw a circle using a light blue watercolor brush pen. Try to get the color as even as you can. You do not need to put too much color. Watercolors should be soft.

Step 2 – Draw Part of the Outline using the Darker Color

You must first allow the first layer to dry, not doing so will only muddle the colors. For this example, outline the lower third portion of the circle. Use the clear water brush pen to pull the darker color towards the center of the circle.

This will give your drawing a shadow effect. You can also go one step further by placing a shadow of the circle underneath the shape using a darker color.

Creating Colorful Gradients

This is great practice for when you want to transition smoothly from one color to another.

Step 1 – Choose Several Complementary Colors

To create a good-looking gradient, you need to use complementary colors. Lay down the lightest of the three at the top and then leave a bit of space before laying down the next color.

Step 2 – Move the Water Brush Side-to-Side

Starting at the top color, move your water brush side-to-side. Move down gradually to roughly the center of the space between colors.

Do the same with the bottom color but this time, move from the top and meet the lighter color at the top. Also, remember to clean the water brush pen before working on the other color.

Using Watercolor Markers for Calligraphy

how to use watercolor brush pens

Although you cannot use watercolor markers for calligraphy the same way that you would brush ink pens, you can still use them in their unique way.

Step 1 – Trace the Outline of your Lettering Lsing a Lencil

Using light pencil strokes, draw the calligraphy letters on the paper. Take extra care not to put too much pressure on the pencil so you can still erase it with water later.

Step 2 – Carefully Color in Between the Lines

Trace the outlines of the letters first and then carefully fill in the spaces with color. Doing it this way will make it easier for you to color within the lines. Leave some of the letters with just the colored edges.

Step 3 – Blend the Color Using a Water Brush Pen

Prime the water brush pen so that the tip is nice and wet. Then carefully brush the colors in the letters. Try not to wet the outer edges of the letter so that they turn into fine outlines.

For the letters that only have colored edges, use the water brush to pull in the color towards the center. Make sure that you don’t touch the outer edges.

How to Clean the Water Brush Pen?

Since the water brush pen is the one that you use the most and because it works with different colors, you need to clean it often.

To clean the clear water brush, you only need to use it on a clean piece of paper. Water brush pens are self-cleaning, so if you use them on their own, the strokes eventually turn colorless again. At this point, you can use it in another color.

Helpful Tips

  • After buying your first set of watercolor markers, you should first make a color swatch of all the colors – Create small squares using the watercolor markers first then gradually fade them using the water brush pen. This will serve as a guide when you use watercolor pens for your art projects
  • You can also use your watercolor markers like you would regular watercolors – Just put a few of their inks into a watercolor palette. You can now use your regular watercolor brushes to apply the paints


Watercolor markers combine the versatility of watercolors with the convenience of markers. This makes watercolor markers the ideal choice for watercolor beginners, and you might still want to stick with them even after you’ve gained a bit more experience.

Since you made it this far, you now know how to use watercolor markers. Keep practicing and have lots of patience. Eventually, you will surely be better at using this medium. Also, just like any other hobby, always aim to have fun.

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