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Fountain Pen Water Painting

27 Mar

Isn’t it great when you find a new use for something? For those of us who love (and purchase) nice pens, it’s especially great because it makes your already valuable tools even more valuable. 

The particular use I’m going to share with you today works with any fountain pen no matter how expensive (or inexpensive) it may be. And for those of you with a creative aptitude, you’ll really like this.

Fountain Pen Water Painting is a very simple technique. Draw a line with your fountain pen, inked with a favorite color of course, and then come along with a wet brush to make it bleed.

It creates a lovely effect and really highlights your inks.

In the images of the orange flower, I’m using a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen with a Fine nib and Diamine Ink in Pumpkin. I’m using a Kuretake Waterbrush, but you can use any water brush and for that matter, any paintbrush at all. What makes a waterbrush nice is that you can house the water in the barrel of the brush itself.


Do you see in the progression of the flower being colored in how much variation there is in the color of the ink? This technique really gives a lot of dimension to the piece and it looks lovely too.

I stumbled into this technique a few years ago. It was spring and I was sitting outside with some postcard-sized pieces of cardstock, a fountain pen and a waterbrush. I drew a simple outline of a manatee and then ran back over the lines with my water brush. The ink didn’t bleed, but rather I was able to spread the ink around to exactly the spot I wanted it. My simple line drawing of a manatee became a nicely shaded illustration in just a few seconds with very few tools.

Here’s the original manatee, it was done with a LAMY Safari as well and I used Diamine ink in Damson.

This method became my method of choice as time went on. All I needed was paper, a fountain pen (which I already carried in my purse) and a water brush. No need for paintbrushes, cups of water, mixing dishes, blotting towels … the simplicity of the technique and the portability of the items needed is what has kept me coming back.

This technique lends itself well to lettering. The effect created when you add a little water to ink is beautiful. I’ve used this on the front of notecards myself and I always surprise the recipient when I tell them it’s just a little ink and water and a few minutes of time.

Here is the front of a notecard. Just lines.

Now, with my waterbrush, I trace over the letters. And I go over the letters once more, making them even thicker.

This technique can include actual watercolors too. You follow the same procedure as above, except you fill in or highlight specific areas with watercolors, acrylics, inks, marker or otherwise. Don’t be afraid to add more than one additional color.

Aside from being fun, this technique is incredibly relaxing. Since you don’t have to fuss with many materials, your focus can entirely be on the illustration. And for those of you who enjoy scrapbooking, journaling or writing letters, you can probably see how the addition of a waterbrush might be a worthwhile one. The options are as endless as your inks!


Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.



9 Responses to “Fountain Pen Water Painting”

  1. Wolfy March 27, 2012 at 8:35 AM #

    Fantastic. I have got to try this.

  2. Rita March 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM #

    Depends on the ink you use. Some of them don’t move and some of them are amazing!
    Nice post! :)

  3. Cole April 1, 2012 at 7:35 PM #

    Glad you guys enjoyed it! If you give it a try, will you post a link? I want to see how yours turns out.

    • Rita April 1, 2012 at 8:54 PM #

      If you scroll down on this blog post you can see where I used two inks to draw my cat. I am pretty much a novice and hadn’t used just ink and a waterbrush to draw before. It was fun!

      • Cole April 4, 2012 at 7:56 PM #

        I love it! It looks great. I too like painting on smaller pages rather than 8.5″ x 11″.
        I also see you have organized your embroidery floss collection or at least started to. I have to do the same thing and it will be quite a task, so I plan to put it off even longer! ;)

  4. April August 25, 2012 at 10:14 AM #

    This looks like such a great technique that could supplant the misery of carrying around my huge box of prismacolor pens for fashion illustration projects. I will have to give this a try. Can you tell me what kind of paper you used for this?

    • Cole December 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM #

      I used 110# cardstock for this from Strathmore. It is a bright white. You can purchase it at an office supply store….not like a Staples but more like an Xpedex. I bought a ream. This paper is meant for office use, but I use it for illustrative work. At about $16/ream (250 sheets) it’s a good deal. Assuming you don’t mind that the pages aren’t bound into a sketchbook.

  5. Eileen P. Goldenberg August 28, 2012 at 7:16 AM #

    I was buying permanent pens to draw with, I use water color pencils, Faber Castell are the best, to color and shade. I also now have been using non permanent pens to shade with a water brush. I love it…

  6. Lea July 17, 2015 at 2:52 AM #

    Aw, Thanks. I do have a solution for that too! I heard/read in an intirveew from some female artist that they take their loose paper and throw it in a shoebox.I started doing that, but then I got too anal about making sure the dates were in chronological order, and the size of the paper were descending. So if you’re not anal like me, you should definitely try it. 0

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