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Sketching with a Water-Soluble Pen and Watercolors

July 21, 2017
The finished portrait was made with a photo reference from Sktchy.. I started with a gray Tombow Brush Pen (see the image below) and added watercolor washes. An 8 x 10 inch sketch on Fabriano Artistico.

Sometimes I like my sketch lines to be a little less strident than a black brush pen or black ink pen. It’s also fun to sketch with water-soluble markers which can dissolve into the wet media washes you add later.

In the sketch posted today I began with a quick Tombow brush pen sketch in gray. (See the second image in the post.)

Tombow brush pens are water-soluble. (They are also fugitive if that matters to you, but for quick sketches I’m not concerned.)

Because the lines are water-soluble and I was working on a watercolor paper that has a good surface for lifting (Fabriano Artistico) I could do some reworking and adjusting with my watercolors as I painted. You can see some areas of the drawing, such as the top of the head and the jacket shoulders, where the pen ink bled into the colors, but overall it was relatively easy to keep my colors clean. It was a fun balancing act.

Photograph of the initial Tombow Brush Pen Sketch. Tombow Brush Pens are water-soluble and the ink is fugitive, but with a little bit of wet media on top you can dissolve the lines and keep what you want.

As you can see from the original sketch (second image in the post) I wasn’t making a loose gesture sketch to start. Instead I visually measured and worked on my placement of lines as I worked around the face. 

If you instead use the water-soluble pen to make a quick gesture sketch you can be pretty free and easy with your lines, washing away the ones that no longer matter, as you work with your paint. That is of course if you begin with a pen that has a light gray ink or something fairly neutral that won’t disrupt your color plan. 

Make it a game to see how bright you can keep the colors.

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