Thursday, June 12, 2014

a peek inside my sketchbook- working with white pens

I get asked A LOT questions about the white pens that I use so I thought I would answer a few of those frequently asked questions today!

1. What kind of white pens do you use? I have tried just about every white pen out there and I always go back to the Sharpie Oil- Based Paint Markers in a variety of sizes. It's my favorite white pen because it works so well on different surfaces (paper, wood, canvas, etc).

2. Do your pens leak, clog, bleed or blob white ink? Yes but I haven't discovered a paint pen that doesn't. Most paint pens (that you have to shake up and then depress the tip) can be tricky at times. What I have found is that the extra fine tip is the most sensitive- it tends to clog and blob ink quite easily while the fine tip and medium tip (my two favorites) rarely ever give me problems. I have also found that the water based paint pens (while I don't use them as much as the oil based) have fewer issues.

3. My paint pens don't show up on paper, why? In my experience, I have found that the white paint pens don't work well on plain paper and if I want to use them on paper (in my sketchbook), I start with a layer of acrylic paint. If you are trying to draw over the top of watercolors, plain paper, fabric or unprimed canvas the ink typically won't show up. I am sure there are many white pens out there that will work but the white Sharpie Paint Markers seem to work best on painted surfaces.

4. How do you get so many lines and details when working with a white paint pen? I love playing with different sizes of lines and marks when I am drawing so I make sure that I have a variety of pen sizes on hand. I typically have a few extra fine point, a fine point, a medium point and a bold point on hand when I am drawing. I like to switch back and forth between the different pens- often I will outline with a fine point and do detail work and dots with my extra fine point.

OK! I hope that answers a few of those questions about my white pens! If you have a favorite white pen that you love please leave the information in a comment below.


  1. i have been inspired to use white sharpies through your work. but let me tell you it ain't as easy as you make it ( for me anyway) i don't know how to get through one project without a leak and a mess-up. But i'll keep trying...

  2. White acrylic ink and a small (and I mean small) brush works on top of watercolor. You can still get the tiny details, the white is solid and no clogging. I use Daler Rowney acrylic artists ink.

    Love your posts - always an inspiration.

  3. My experience with the oil based sharpie pens is that if you push the tip all the way down to where the plastic touches the surface it will make it leak. I only push half way down and I haven't had any more leaks.

  4. You´re so talented!

  5. I love the your work xx

  6. Thank you for the tips on the white pens. I was having the disappearing issue and now I know why! Thank you Alisa!

  7. I'm sorta obsessed with white ink too. I do most of my work on paper and my current favorite it the Sakura Gelly pen. Flows well for me. Love your work Alisa!

  8. Love your posts. One tip about the oil based markers, they should be used on a painted or gessoed surface (that's dried) and not just plain paper. Over time the oil based markers will start to eat through uncoated pages. Just an fyi... :)

  9. Beautiful!!! Thanks for these tips maybe now my white pens will work better.


  10. I've found that Sakura's Pen-Touch white paint pens work well layered over watercolor. Thanks for mentioning that the Sharpie oil pens work best on acrylic paint. I was wondering why they didn't work over my watercolor sketches. :)

    Lovely sketches!

  11. thank you!!
    Little gems!

  12. The Sharpie fine tip works for me but the extra fine did not work and ended up only leaking. I contacted customer support where they told me they guarantee their products so I should send it back. I did a few weeks ago and haven't heard a word since. Sakura fine Pen-touch did the same thing. The Faber Castell Pitt artist pen in white only comes in the a thick size but it is great! And finally, I like a simple white pen called a Gel Xtreme that I got at Blick. It writes like a super fine gel pen - in white.

  13. It's really beautiful!
    I also love doing these drawings.
    if you go look at my blog, for example this post

  14. I have issues with the shake and depress tip paint pens, but have discovered that white signo uniball pen does a great job over both watercolor and acrylic paint. It has become my go-to white pen of choice.

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