Fun with lettering: paint marker brush pen comparison

I’ve been working on my hand-lettering lately; I’ve always been able to do several types of regular handwriting, but now I’m getting fancier, so I can fold that skill into my graphic design portfolio. (Did you know that there’s a whole handlettering / calligraphy community out there? Tons of great stuff to check out. The Instagram hashtag “#handlettering” alone has almost two million entries.)

I’ve acquired a few brushes and pens, most of them on the cheaper side, to see what I like. In my quest to find something that will make really fat lines, I’ve found several different kinds of “paint marker brush pens.”

Target Paintbrush Markers

First up are the house brand (up&up) paintbrush markers I found at Target. These little guys were around four dollars for six colors (no black included). And I have to say, I really like the line you get from them!

Target Paintbrush Marker Test

Nice and thick and heavy on the downstroke, yet the ink/paint doesn’t bleed through the cheapo cardstock I use. The thin upstrokes are a little sketchy, but that may be just because I wasn’t really warmed up when I wrote out these tests.


Crayola Paint Brush Pens

The Crayola Paint Brush Pens are obviously the product that Target is copying. Though you get only five colors with Crayola instead of the six Target gives you, and the Crayola pens are more expensive — about six bucks for the package. (Though in the grand scheme of things, a dollar and a quarter for a quality brush pen is a bargain.)

Crayola Paint Brush Pens Test

The feel of them is almost indistinguishable from the Target markers. A nice, thick downstroke, and you can get a pretty nice thin upstroke. The Crayola markers seem wetter and heavier than the Target set (although they still don’t bleed through the cardstock). My concern is that means they’ll dry out faster. Time will tell. I also worry about premature drying because the cap has holes along the base, so that the cap isn’t airtight. (The Target markers have a fully-enclosed cap.)

The Crayola pens also come in a 40-count box, which contains five sets of eight colors — finally, black is included. But I haven’t fallen in love hard enough yet to stock up that heavily.


ArtStyle Brush Pens

Last up are the Art+Style Brush Pens. These are the most expensive of the lot, at $15 for a package of 10 pens. (Still, a buck and a half each. Relatively cheapo.) And as opposed to the other two, these actually have a synthetic-fiber bristle brush at the end, not a flexible felt tip. And hey, black!

Art+Style Brush Pens Test

These are certainly a more difficult level of pen than the other two, due to the brush tip. With the felt tips, it’s much easier to make a consistent wide line. Brushes are a lot less forgiving. These brushes also needed a few test strokes to get primed; they’re pretty streaky right out of the gate. (I worry about drying with these too, since they also have holes in the caps.) I’ll have to work with these more to see how I really feel about them; I’ve been doing most of my work with felt-tip pens so far, so it’ll take some adjustment to find my comfort with these bristle-brush tips.

Four pen samples

Here they all are side-by-side. You can see that the Crayola is darker and richer than the Target, and the Art+Style has the inconsistency of a brush (which can be an asset if you know how to work it). The last one in the row is a Tombow Dual Brush pen; they’re one of the more popular options for handlettering. But as you can see, the line doesn’t get anywhere near as thick as these new pens (though it does look much more smooth). The Tombow would be better than any of these new markers for smaller-scale work, or tighter spaces.

I’ve been working on more fonts using my handlettering — as always, they’re up on my Behance page if you want to check them out. 🙂

New art toys: watercolor gel crayons

I’ve been upping my art lately, now that I have a permanent home where I can unpack all of my supplies, and a nice big desk with good lighting to work at.

The other day at Target, I spotted a product that baffled me, so I had to check it out:

watercolor gel crayons

Watercolor gel crayons? What the heck are those? The instructions on the box make it seem simple enough, and they were less than four dollars, so why not give ’em a shot?

The tips are rounded and kind of waxy-ish looking, and you can push more out by twisting the base.

watercolor crayons close-up

So, what to color? I decided to just do a version of a recent Holiday Doodle, wherein a beaver had a beer. I just thought the beaver was cute. So I roughly drew him out in pencil on plain old copy paper (my instinct there was to write “typing paper,” which is a hallmark of my age). Then I used my light box to draw him in fine point Sharpie on watercolor paper.

(My light box is this one, and it’s fantastic. Super thin, flat all the way across, and a nice, bright light. I highly recommend.)

sketch and Sharpie copy

I waited a couple of minutes to make sure the Sharpie was dry (it’s waterproof when it’s dry, which makes it perfect if you want to draw something and then color it in with watercolors). Then I used the brown crayon and drew in the areas where I’d want the color to be the darkest.

watercolor crayon rough use

It certainly goes on like a crayon, especially on the rough surface of watercolor paper.

I used a water brush (love the heck out of these things too — no more cup full of dingy water) and wet the crayon, brushing it around. It stayed darker in the areas I scribbled, and I was able to fade the color away pretty easily.

watercolor crayons in action

I did find that you never really get rid of the original crayon-ish marks, no matter how much you scrub at them with your wet brush. But if you’re okay with that look, then these are a really quick and easy way to get painting with watercolors without all of the setup. A filled water brush, a folded paper towel, and these crayons, and you’re good to go.

watercolor crayon test painting

Next time, I think I’ll try coloring on another piece of paper, then rubbing my wet brush in it to pick up the color. That should avoid the crayon-looking marks, although I worry that the color wouldn’t be as vibrant.