Thursday, May 2, 2013

Art Lesson: About Paintbrush, Pen, or Ink

My lesson for this week is a day late; I am sorry about this.

There is quite an assortment of options to be used in getting artwork onto the page
but also onto crafts as well.
I am going to share with you some of the methods I use and why
(not that you have to use mine because much of what an artist uses depends on what he is most comfortable with and the surface he is applying it to.)

First we have paint pens.

 Paint pens are a handy way to tackle those fine lines.
You can get a variety of these pens, oil and acrylic,
or a specialty type for glass.  They come in several tip thicknesses as well.

I have used them on signs and to draw on glass.
I do not prefer them because I don't feel like I have the control over the flow of ink that I like:
I find that as I write, the tip does not make an even line but becomes dry.
In order to get the flow going again, the tip needs to be pushed down upon.
This always seems to make a large puddle come out from the tip.
(I recommend pushing the tip down on a scrap paper, so that the puddle is contained there, but then I find I am going back to rewet the tip in that puddle since the tip stops flowing evening quickly.
Perhaps you can find an alternative to this problem, but I have not been able to.
Please share with me if you have.)

I have used them for certain tasks despite this problem.

I have used them on fabric:

For the horses on this seat, I used a paint pen,
using a scrap paper to re-wet the tip when needed.
(Images from the Graphics Fairy and transferred using the charcoal-transfer method)

I felt the pen gave me more control on the fabric to draw the fine lines that would have been much more difficult with a paintbrush.  I knew the ink would not bleed on the fabric because the fabric had been painted first, giving it a sealed surface.

This sign made from an old cupboard door center piece was done using the paint markers,
but I think I would have actually preferred a fine paint brush.  
This is  personal preference just because I like how easily paint on a paintbrush glides onto a soft, smooth surface like this was.  My paint pen needed to constantly be re-wet on a scrap paper and I find this more tedious than painting with a paintbrush; but again, this is a personal preference.  If you feel more control with a pen, you may like the pen method.

For doing drawings on paper, such as for a coloring page or a drawing for a card,
I like to use these art markers.

 I picked up the Prisma set at a Staples store,
and ordered the Copic markers through Dick Blick Art Supply.
These are nice because the ink color will not fade as cheap markers will;
these are alcohol-based so they can be painted over as well with paint or markers,
and they have various sized tips.

For this method, I generally start with a light sketch in pencil and then draw over the image with the pens, lightly erasing the pencil when the ink has set in.
(Sketching directly onto the paper with these pens is a great option, too).
They give a crisp, clean look.

(This is from part of a coloring page I am in the process of making.)

Another of my favorite outlining methods is using a dipping calligraphy pen with interchangeable tips
and dipping ink.

Here is a warning: the kind of ink that I find at the craft stores is Higgins.
It says that it is waterproof, but I have not found it to be.  I like inks that I can paint over, if I choose to, and I find that these inks bleed into the paint or wash completely off of crafts that I have used them to draw on.

When looking for an ink that will really be permanent and allow you to paint over it without smudging it,
I find that getting a shellac based ink, an Indian ink, or an acrylic based ink is permanent.

There are an assortment of colors to chose from; I purchase mine through online art supplies because I also like to read the reviews; although much of what I have learned from these inks is from trial and error.

There are many different tips that may be used.

Be sure to clean them when done using them.  Using permanent inks will stain your tips.
 (Honestly, I actually just rinse mine in water right away.  I know that technically, mineral spirits or such should be used,
but I don't like to keep that sort of thing sitting around because I have young children, and I find water does a good enough job at rinsing if the pen is thoroughly whisked around in the water immediately after use.  If my tips get too abused, I just purchase new ones.  I have only purchased new ones 2 or 3 times in my 20 years of using my dipping pen, so it is not a real problem.  I use my dipping pen a good amount, too, as it is one of my favorite methods.  I suppose if I used an expensive dipping pen, I would take care of it properly, but I find this inexpensive version works well and affords me this easy clean up method.
If you are a real artist, please, find it in you heart to forgive me for this. :) )

I often use a piece of charcoal pencil (or sketching charcoal) to lightly sketch in my design before using the permant ink when using dipping pen and ink on crafts.  This wipes off easily after the ink is dried.

I use the dipping pen to paint on small large objects (like artwork done on a slab of wood or repurposed cupboard door), and small objects (like Christmas bulbs and gourds)

I liked to draw the image on and then paint it in after the ink has thoroughly dried.
This method is easiest for me to control,
but you may find you prefer something else...

like the simplicity of a fine-tipped paintbrush and paint.

The choice is up to each artist, and with the variety that is available,
there is always a method for each of us.

Let me know what your favorite is.
I always enjoy hearing different methods and tips we can try.

That is what is great about sharing our pails of paint.


  1. Thank you so much for this post; I've been looking forward to your posting this.

    I am heading tomorrow for an art supply store so your post comes at just the right time. Will check there first to see what they have and if not successful, will check out Blick. Your post was very helpful as I am a visual person, so seeing your bottles of inks, pens, etc. was super helpful. I'm really interested in trying my hand at using the inks method of art on smaller projects. I'm looking/thinking of Christmas gifts I can possibly make.

    Will you be doing a demo lesson here with this medium?

    Have a blessed day!

  2. A lot of things/media that will run when wet, you can prevent that with a coat of spray sealer. There are lots of brands & grades.


Thanks for your thoughts! If you have a question, I'll try to answer it.