Learn more about the best waterproof pens for watercolor. I tested 10 different pens and inks to see which pens perform the best when used with watercolor paint.
You might also like this post on watercolor versus gouache.
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Should I ink before or after using watercolors?
It's really a personal preference. Inking before using paint makes it easier to start over if you mess up the inking. It also makes painting easier because you're just filling in the areas.
However, there are also reasons to ink after painting with watercolors. Some of the colors can dull the ink if painted over the black. It's also easier if you don't have a waterproof pen handy.
For more information, check out this post all about when to ink with watercolor.
What's the difference between waterproof and water-resistant ink?
Waterproof ink will not smudge under water or paint. Water-resistant ink may need time to dry before it does not react to water or paint.
Are Micron pens waterproof?
Yes. Sakura Micron Pens work very well under paint and water. They also dry fast, which results in less smudging when inking.
Testing Waterproof Pens for Watercolor
I tested 9 different pens (and 1 ink) to see how well they work under watercolor. The pens tested were an accumulation from this list, pens I already owned, and a few extras that looked promising on Blick.
Waterproof Ink Testing Process
Each pen was tested for smudging right after writing with it. Then each pen was tested by applying paint over the ink after 15 seconds and then 30 seconds.
If the results were bad, the ink was also tested after 1 minute to see if the ink needed more drying time.
The pens were also tested over watercolor paint. (All of the inks performed well in this test.)
The weight of the pen varies depending on what I already had but also depending on the brand of pen.
The Testing Results
(I've provided links for both Blick and Amazon where possible. I like to order from Blick because it's so much cheaper than other places.)
- Copic Multiliner. (Amazon Link) This pen passed the smudge test. It may have been because it was a thinner weight of pen. This pen passed both tests for painting over the dry ink with watercolor. It also worked well over the paint.
This pen performed well, but it was the most expensive pen that I tested. This pen comes in a variety of colors and weights.
- Sakura Micron. (Amazon Link) These pens are known to perform well with watercolor paint and this test showed that. It only smudged a little, but it passed the rest of the tests.
The micron pen comes in a variety of colors and weights.
- Pilot G2. (Amazon Link) This is my favorite pen to write with, so I knew that it wouldn't pass the smudge test and sure enough, it did NOT. It also failed the other tests. (This pen was tested because I found it on a list of waterproof pens.)
It does work pretty well on top of watercolor paint, though.
- Pentel Brush Pen. (Amazon Link) This pen also failed all of the tests. I plan to further experiment with this pen to see if letting it dry even longer would work since the description says that it has permanent ink.
This pen works nicely over watercolor paint, but the tip is very thick.
- Tombow Fudenosuke. (Amazon Link) This pen failed the smudge test but passed the other tests. I like the brush tip of this pen a lot.
- Uniball Vision. (Amazon Link) This is another pen that I already owned and use for writing. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. It failed the smudge test but worked great under watercolor paint. It also works nicely over the paint.
- Winsor and Newton Fineliner. (Amazon Link) This pen passed all of the tests. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors.
- Zig Mangaka. (Amazon Link) This pen smudged a little but worked well under watercolor paint. This pen is incredibly affordable compared to Copics and Microns!
- Sharpie Pen. (Amazon Link) This is my usual pen for using with watercolor paint, so I knew that it would perform well. It didn't pass the smudge test though.
These pens are very affordable, so they will probably remain my favorite.
- Higgins Ink with Dip Pen. (Amazon Link) Inking with a dip pen can take some getting used to, but I love the quality of lines that you can get with a dip pen. The ink failed the smudge test and the 15-second test, but it passed the 30-second test.
The 1-minute test had a thicker application of ink, and it failed. So keep in mind that ink takes a while to dry before adding watercolor paint.
I also tested white pens over watercolor, so be sure to check that post out!
Overall Thoughts on Ink for Watercolor Paint
Of all the pens I tested for watercolor compatibility, I still love my Sharpie pen the most. It's affordable and easy to find in stores. Plus it performed really well under watercolor paint.
The Copic, Micron and Winsor and Newton Fineliners all performed well too. They can be found in most art stores, but cost more than a pack of sharpie pens.
This test also showed me how fun it is to play with different weights of pens. I love how the Tombow pen creates different weights depending on the pressure. I also really loved playing with my dip pen.
What is your favorite pen to use with watercolor paint?
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