There are no end of pencils, pens and paints you can use to add colour to your artwork, be it a mandala, geometric art or Celtic knotwork. The choice is rather bewildering and I’m often asked by my students what I use. The answer does rather depend on what I’m drawing and the effect I want to create.
For Celtic knots, my preference is watercolour pencils. When I’m drawing the knots freehand pencils are the most forgiving.
For something where I want strong vibrant colours, I might use water brush pens (used dry) or if I want a softer watercolour effect I prefer watercolour paints. However, I know many people, especially those starting out, find using watercolour paints tricky and pencils or brush pens are less daunting and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Whatever, you opt for, when trying a new combination of paints, pencils, pens and paper, always test them out on a scrap of paper first in the order you intend to use them. Keep in mind that some pens you can paint over, some you can’t. And some paints you can draw over with ink pens, while others you can’t. And of course, if you’re using anything with water, most paper will buckle when you get it wet so you’ll probably need to use watercolour paper and even that may buckle to some extent unless you stretch it first, but that’s for another blog post.
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Featured image: I used a silver pen from Pilot with Arteza Real Brush Pens, both dry and wet to make the above image.
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My favourite pens, pencils and paints
Sakura Pigma Micron Pens are smudge-proof, waterproof and shouldn’t fade over time. They are my go-to pens whatever I am drawing. They come in a wide range of nib sizes but this pack of three would be my choice to start off with. I also use the brush pen from the same range when I want to fill in an area in solid black.
If you want to know more about my favourite tools for drawing geometric art, including how to choose a compass, check out this blog post The best mandala drawing tools.
My pen of choice when it comes to white is the Uni-ball Signo. It’s head and shoulders above other white gel pens I’ve used. It also comes in a range fo metallics which I’d love to try but haven’t as yet.
I love my gold Pebeo Marker 4Artist with a 2 mm nib. It is also available in silver, copper, and white although I’ve not tried these. I use a Pilot Super Colour Gold Extra Fine if I want a finer line but I don’t rate it as much as the Pebeo. I also have a Sakura Pen-touch gold pen and it is completely useless which surprised me as their fineliners are so good. Maybe it’s a faulty pen but I wasn’t able to use it at all and as it was a present I couldn’t send it back.
All these pens fit in the pen holder attachment for my compass.
I particularly love Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache in gold and silver. I also use Coliro metallic watercolours and Arteza metallic acrylic paints. Keep in mind that some metallic paints will need more than one layer to look their best. You may even want to use a solid colour underneath before you apply the metallic paint. Some metallic paints loo very different on white as they do on black paper. It’s worth experimenting a bit with the supplies you have before applying them to any artwork.
I’ve been using Winsor & Newton Coteman Watercolours for years and I’m very happy with them.
Derwent Inktense are my favourite colouring pencils to use. Technically, they are water-soluble rather than watercolour but they work in the same way. As their name suggests, they produce wonderfully intense colours. They are expensive but you can buy them individually. I started my collection by buying a tin of 12 different shade of blues and greens that I individually selected, as these are the colour I use most often.
Watercolour Brush Pens
I love Arteza Watercolour Real Brush Pens and use them dry for vibrant colours (such as the blue stars) or with water for softer, blended shades. I’ve found I can use them on thick printer paper, even when wet.
Winsor & Newton Art Masking Fluid – Slightly pigmented, I use this to cover parts of my artwork applying it with a colour shaper. Once the fluid has dried to a gum, I then apply watercolour. Once that is dry you can rub away the gum so the colour of the paper shows through where the gum had been.
I apply masking fluid with a soft colour shaper size 0. If you aren’t familiar with colour shapers they look like a paintbrush but instead of bristles, the tip is a rubber point that can be firm or soft. A soft colour shaper can be used to apply masking fluid when painting with watercolours.