How I make color brush pens
Adding some color to my beloved pocket brushes
Last October I wrote about my beloved Pilot Pocket Brush pens. If you watched the most recent diary walkthrough, you might’ve noticed that I added a blue spot color in January, which immediately gave the diary a new feel:
The way I made this blue brush pen was to simply take an exhausted cartridge from one of the black brush pens and refill it with blue ink using my ink pot and syringe method. (I’ve discovered that syringes can be hard to shop for? I use these blunt-tipped ones.)
I used Lamy fountain pen ink — the same kind of black ink I use to refill my black brush pen. I like that it’s a little bit watery and doesn’t bleed as much as the super thick black Pilot ink that comes with the brush pens.
Now, why bother with this method when you can actually buy colored brush pens? First, I really love these specific pocket brushes. Second, it winds up being cheaper and a lot less wasteful to refill the cartridges. Third, using the syringes, I can actually mix inks in the cartridges to get weird colors — I keep my blue brush “pure,” but sometimes I’ll pop a little blue ink in the black cartridge for fun.
It’s springtime in Texas, and color is everywhere. This week I thought, “Why stop with blue?” I bought a batch of new pocket brush pens and some magenta and “lemon” ink and made a set of CMYK brushes.
For the magenta and lemon inks, I rinsed out and dried some spent cartridges before I filled them. I wrapped colored washi tape around the pens to keep track of which is which.
Here’s what my test page looked like:
Something to know about me: I’m slightly colorblind, especially when it comes to red/green combinations. Color has never been a strength of mine. (Hence all the black and white.) That’s one reason I love making my tape and magazine collages: I don’t need to mix colors, I can just steal them from magazines and move them around and see what works well together:
I’m excited about the possibilities of drawing and writing with extra colors in the diary. One thing that is true of my practice: I rarely have an idea for something I want to do and then buy the tools for it. I often buy the tools first, and then the idea springs forth from playing with the tools. (I’ve written a bunch about this.) More often than not, it’s discovering a misuse of the tool that leads to new work…
Here’s a fun exercise courtesy of Lynda Barry: make three drawings of something with three different colors without looking at your paper. Start with the lightest and end with the darkest. (Here’s an example from her Instagram: Batman.)
We’ll see how this diary shapes up with new color and whether it leads me to new places…
If you want to try to make your own color brush pens, here are links to the materials I mentioned above in one place. Feel free to make your own substitutions:
Of course, if you have a local art supply store, head over there and see what they have. (I recently discovered I can bike to Kinokuniya and Jerry’s Artarama. What riches!)
Okay, now I want to hear from you: Do you have any special art/writing supply hacks? How did you learn color? Tell me in the comments! (I’m also happy to answer any questions you have.)
Thanks for reading and for your support. See you Friday.
PS. One last little tip: keep the boxes of your ink pots around so you can keep your syringes matched. (Also helps you not make a mess.) Here’s what mine look like in my art cart:
I learned color from my favorite professor in undergrad, Stan Sporny, who made me mad by forbidding black paint in the studio. (I tried to sneak some in but he could totally tell in my painting). Instead we used colors like ultramarine blue and burnt umber to make “black” which we could balance out warmer and cooler to get more realistic darks. That forced me to really see color in everything because I couldn’t just rely on the same black paint to darken colors and create shadows.
I also use a syringe to fill my pens, best method! My variation is filling waterbrushes — the kind intended for watercolor — with ink. They hold more ink than a cartridge, and come in a variety of brush sizes. I also had that greyed-out ink problem — I found that Noodler’s X-Feather Black, with just a tiny bit of water, is as black as the Pilot.