How to Use Your Brush Pens + Best Papers

You just got your first set of Brush Pens.Yay!! I’m so excited for what you are about to explore. These pens might look like a marker in the package, but with their unique brush tip and water based inks they are SO MUCH MORE!

A Brush Pen is one of the greatest tools an artist can have in their stash. I love my Tombow Dual Brush Pens because they are so versatile and they spark my creativity in multiple ways. You can use these pens for Brush Lettering and Brush Pen Drawing. But they are amazing as Watercolor Markers and you can easily blend these markers to create beautiful color transitions!

best brush pens

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how to use a brush pen

A brush pen is a marker which basically has a brush tip. Think of it as a paintbrush attached to the top of a marker.

what is a brush pen

This flexible brush tip can draw thick lines when you press it down onto the paper. But if you use just the pointy tip of the brush pen it can draw thin lines!

brush pen thick thin

This pointy tip of a brush pen needs to be maintained so if you use poor quality paper it will fray very quickly and disappoint you.

brush pens how to use them in different ways:

There are so many ways how to use a brush pen! Explore each topic (with their own dedicated post) which will explain the technique in depth and have multiple examples for you to try!

  • Brush Lettering or Brush pen calligraphy: This is probably why you bought your Brush Pens! Learn more about how to hold, press and use your marker tip for lettering.
  • Drawing with Brush Pens: Brush Pens are basically markers and the flexible tip make them amazing to draw with!
  • Blending Marker Colors 5 ways: Whether you have a few or all of the colors, it doesn’t matter- because you can easily blend the marker colors to create new ones
  • How to use Watercolor Markers: The best part of these Brush Pens is that they have water based ink that react with water to create soft dreamy watercolor effects!

Do you need special paper for Brush Pens?

The short answer is yes. For two reasons:

  1. Since the Brush Pens have a flexible brush tip, one of our key concerns is to prevent that pointy tip from fraying on the wrong paper.
  2. Since the Brush Pens have water based ink, you can paint over the ink to create wonderful watercolor effects with the right paper. This watercolor technique does not work on all papers.
paper matters

What are the Best Papers for Brush Pens?

As an artist, I love using my Brush pens because they are so versatile. You can use them for Brush lettering one day and the next day use them as watercolor makers. I list all of the papers I’ve successfully used with below

I’ve linked each sketchbook individually so that you can easily grab them.

best paper for brush pens

4 Best Sketchbooks for Brush Pens

1. The Rhodia Classic Orange Notepad and Rhodia Black Dot Pad have smooth marker paper that is perfect for brush pens to glide on. Choose blank (orange) or dot grid (black)

Rhodia pad for brush pens

2. The Canson XL Mix Media Pad sketchbook is a great beginner choice and comes in many sizes. The paper is allows for watercoloring with Brush Pens and also is smooth enough for lettering.

canson mixed media-sketchbook

3. The Strathmore Mixed Media Pad has a smooth vellum surface finish to the paper. The sketchbook is larger in size and great for brush lettering quotes.

strathmore mixed media paper

4.   The Canson XL Series Watercolor Paper has a heavier 140lbs paper that is thicker than the mixed media paper. This paper definitely can hold more water on top without warping and works great with brush pens.

canson watercolor paper

5 More Brush Pen Papers I love:

  1. The HP Printer Paper is not a sketchbook, but a ream of loose paper. It a smooth finish, great to print lettering worksheets and practice.
  2. The Bee Paper Marker Pad, has the smoothest paper great for brush pens.
  3. This Strathmore Tracing Pad has a smooth finish and is transparent. You can lay this paper on top of anything and trace.
  4. I love these Strathmore Watercolor Cards for easy handmade cards. The Brush pen will watercolor easily on these cards. Bonus, the cards come with matching envelopes too!
  5. The Canson Montval Watercolor Pad is a higher quality watercolor pad that works beautifully with brush pens.

5 tips for using your Brush Pens

  1. Never use your Brush pens on rough, textured papers, this will fray the brush tip quickly.
  2. Do not dip your Brush pen tip into a pot of water! I have taught many in person classes, and this is the most asked question!
  3. These Brush Pens are not designed to be refilled.
  4. This goes without saying, but make sure you are not leaving the markers out uncapped. Click them shut tightly to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Store these pens horizontally if possible, this ensures that the color stays consistent.

I have tried many sketchbooks and honestly, the best paper for Brush Pens is not just one single paper. There are many options for many needs and I hope today’s post help you get started! Let me in the comments below if you have any questions!

Smitha Katti creativespace e1577349763159

Hi I’m Smitha! I live in Minnesota with my husband and two daughters. You’ll always find me painting florals in my sketchbook. And I love the sheer joy of making something with just my hands! But my bigger love is capturing it all on camera Read more.

Thanks for stopping by today! If you learnt something from this tutorial, do share this post with a friend or on social media! Tag me @smithakatti #smithakatti I’d love to see what you create!


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    • Yes I’ve seen that one with the spiral binding too. Which do you prefer- spiral or any binding? Am I the only one who doesnt like the glue binding?

  1. Hi, I love to use the Tombows for watercoloring in my bullet journal. I have tried the Scribbles that matter one (160g/m2), but the color doesn’t look good on the paper and it doesn’t blend easily. The same happened with the Moleskine art sketchbook ((165 g/m2). I usually use the Leuchtturm 1917 (80 g/m2), because it’s the best I’ve found so far, even though there is some ghosting and bleeding. I also have to put some books on top of the bullet journal to flatten the pages once I’m done using the watercolor because the paper bends with the water. Do you have a special brand for bullet journal that works well with the Tombows dual brush for watercoloring?

    • Most dot journals I have used do not work well for watercoloring with Tombows. Mixed media papers or watercolor papers are the best really

    • My favourite paper is Canson. I’ve tested it with several pens and pencils and it works fantastically. I had no problems with this paper using the brush pens I have. The pens glide so effortlessly across its surface. It’s also acid-free, so the paper will not turn yellow over time.

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