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How to Use a Waterbrush Pen: A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Robert S. Brown / Fact checked by Helen B. Harris

how to use a waterbrush pen

Watercolors are among the safest, most accessible, and most forgiving mediums. However, when you’re always on the go bringing a jug of water might not be convenient at all.

That’s where water brush pens come in. They serve like a stand-alone brush with a water reservoir that is refillable and ready to use anytime, anywhere.

In this article, we’ll break away from traditional brushes and show you how to use a waterbrush pen. I will also share some tricks on maximizing the use of water brushes for watercolor and other ways you can enjoy them.

Guide to Use a Waterbrush Pen

1. Get Started and Learn the Fundamentals


Step 1: Choose your paper.


Water brush pens require thicker paper that can absorb a decent amount of water without tearing. Use watercolor paper or any smooth paper that is not lower than 300gsm.

Step 2: Open the water brush pen and fill it with water.


1. Unscrew the barrel.

  • Regular water brush: Use a syringe or manually fill it with water.
  • Squeeze-type water brush: Dip it into a cup of water, and squeeze.
  • Piston/plunger-type water brush: Dip it into a cup of water, and pull the lever at the end of the barrel.

2. Return the brush section.

Note: It doesn’t need to be full. Some water brush pen sets like the Ohuhu only need about ⅔ of water.

Step 3: Moisten the bristles with water.


  • Regular/Squeeze-type water brush: Squeeze the barrel to let some water out into the brush
  • Controlled water brush( Ex. Caran d’Ache & Faber Castell: Press the push button to release water.

Step 4: Choose your coloring medium and start coloring.


  • For beginners, use any watercolor paint. Other water-soluble coloring mediums can work as well.
  • After knowing the fundamentals, maximize them. You can now go to the next level and use watercolor brush pens to try the techniques below.

2. Use Different Coloring Mediums


Step 1: Transform watercolor pencil art into a water brush painting.

  1. Get a coloring book or sketch your piece from scratch.
  2. Color your piece with watercolor pencils. Leave some space for water washes and blending.
  3. Use the water brush to melt and run over the colored pencils.
  4. Squeeze or press the barrel to supply more water as needed.
  5. Get a paper towel handy. Pat the brush into the paper towel if it gets too wet or you need to clean your brush.
  6. Alternatively, you can use the water brush to pick up the color straight from the watercolor pencil if you need some areas to have a more saturated color.

Step 2: Hand lettering and calligraphy using water coloring brush pens and a water brush as a blender.


  1. Draft using a pencil or a light-colored brush pen.
  2. If you are using a pencil to draft, slightly erase them to avoid the graphite from mixing with your colors.
  3. Trace the lettering using your choice of brush pen color. Leave a small space in between or when you transition to another color.
  4. Use the water brush to go over the pattern. If you are doing calligraphy, opt for a water brush with a pointy tip.

3. Refill It With Ink


Step 1: Look for an ink that’s compatible with water brushes.


  • Fountain pen ink

Noodlers ink and J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor are tested to flow with water brushes without a problem.                   

  • Copic ink refills

Copics are alcohol-based; you can no longer use water to dilute or blend it. Use a colorless blender or alcohol instead.

  • Sumi ink and India ink

Kuretake Sumi ink and Speedball Super Black India ink can give you a good water brush ink flow as well.

Step 2: Before you fill a water brush pen with ink, do the following:


  1. Fill your water brush with water.
  2. Squeeze all the water out. This is done to make sure your brush is clean and remove any clogging beforehand.
  3. Let the water brush dry completely.
  4. Apply a small amount of silicone grease around the thread of the barrel.
  5. Screw the barrel to the grip section back and forth to spread the silicone grease to create a sealed barrier. This will prevent ink from leaking.
  6. Wipe clean any residue.

Step 3: Fill the barrel with the preferred ink.


  1. Screw the grip section back and make sure it is tightly closed.
  2. Press the barrel and let out some ink.
  3. Go ahead and test them out.


How to clean a water brush pen?

While in use, clean them by dabbing the brush on a paper towel or a sponge while keeping it wet. However, follow this procedure for thorough cleaning:

  1. Empty your water brush.
  2. Remove the grip section.
  3. Hold the bristles firmly and push them out.
  4. Once out, you’ll see a small black cap at the bottom. Gently remove it and take out the bristles.
  5. Soak the parts of the grip section with soapy water and then rinse it with water.
  6. Put back the bristles while it is still wet but don’t assemble it yet.
  7. Let the parts dry.
  8. Assemble the water brush.

How to store water brush pens?

It is always recommended to clean and dry your water brush pens before storage, especially when you are not going to use them for some time. This will prevent clogging if you store inks in it and, most importantly, prevent algae or mold bloom.

Quick reminder:

  • Put the cap on when you are storing your water brush pens with ink or water to prevent the liquid from leaking and drying.
  • To keep the bristles in excellent shape, smooth out the bristles using your fingers before storage.

What are the differences between regular paintbrushes and water brush pens?

The main difference is that water brush pens are made with two basic parts that are removable: the water reservoir and the brush section, while paint brushes have their brush permanently attached to the holder.

For water brushes, the brush is made with nylon bristles. With that, it can’t hold much water though you can always supply water by pressing the barrel, while paint brushes have softer and more natural bristles that can hold more water.

Having a water reservoir is a clear advantage for water brushes. However, they come in limited sizes and options as compared to paint brushes.

Is there a water brush pen with natural bristles?

Yes. Most water brush pen bristles are made with synthetic nylon, but some brands, like the Blue Heron Arts water brush, use natural hair from rabbits, weasels, and sheep for their bristles.

However, they are quite rare and expensive.

What are the available tip sizes for water brush pens?

Most brands, like Sakura Koi and Caran d’Ache, have water brushes in 3 sizes. These are the small, medium, and large tips that are rounded.

Apart from those, some brands like Pentel Arts and Derwent additionally feature water brushes with flat chisel tips.


Learning how to use a waterbrush pen is fun and easy. You just have to be aware of the type of water brush you have so you know exactly how to fill it.

Once it’s filled you are ready to unfold all the amazing things you can do with your water brush pens. You can use it as it is with water, mix and match it with different coloring mediums or fill it with ink to elevate your coloring experience.

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