How to Use Watercolor with a Glass Dip Pen


You probably know that glass dip pens are fun to use for writing and drawing, but how about as a watercolor art tool?

I use my glass pen with watercolor more than anything else. In this post, I’ll show you three ways you can use a glass pen for watercolor art!

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glass pen with colorful watercolor circles

Can you use watercolor with a glass pen?

Yes! You can definitely use watercolor with a glass pen, and in more than one way.

Watercolor paint works very well with glass pens because it’s a fluid, water-based paint medium and is easy to mix and clean up.

Here are several ways you can use your glass dip pen with watercolor:

  • Dip into liquid watercolor and use as ink
  • Mix your own watercolor ink and brush it onto the pen
  • Add details or line work to watercolor paintings
  • Use like a watercolor pen

Keep reading to learn how to do each of these!

How to use watercolor as glass pen ink

There are two ways to use watercolor as glass pen ink. The first – and easiest – is to use bottles of liquid watercolor.

Bottled liquid watercolor like Ecoline liquid watercolor or Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolor work perfectly with glass pens because they’re already at just the right consistency to use as ink.

dipping glass pen into liquid watercolor bottle

But what about those times when you want to use a custom-made ink or paint with your glass pen?

If you want to use a metallic watercolor, mix a custom color, or don’t have watercolor ink available, you can easily mix up your own watercolor ink using paint from pans or tubes.

Here’s how to mix your own watercolor paint to use as glass pen ink.

  1. Mix a fluid consistency of watercolor.

    This is the key to making sure the watercolor ink will actually flow from the pen tip. If you don’t add enough water to the mix, the pen won’t write.

    Use a palette to mix up a puddle of watercolor, and aim for a consistency like heavy cream or thinner. Try to keep the pigment to water ratio balanced so the ink color doesn’t end up too diluted.mixing up red watercolor paint

  2. Apply the paint with a brush.

    Use your paintbrush to brush the watercolor you just mixed onto the spiral grooves of the glass pen. Coat all sides and make sure the very tip has a little, too. Just don’t load it too full or it will drip!brushing watercolor paint onto the tip of a glass pen

  3. Test the pen.

    Make sure the ink is flowing by scribbling the pen on paper. If it’s not working well (or at all), rinse the pen clean and try again with a thinner paint mix.scribbling on paper with a glass pen

  4. Reapply paint whenever you need it.

    Whenever you run out of ink, brush more watercolor onto your glass pen. If the puddle you’ve mixed dries out a little, you may need to add more water. You may also want to rinse the pen in between if the paint dried on it.

  5. Clean with water.

    Once you’re finished, rinse the glass pen with water to clean it. Dried-on paint can be scrubbed off with a toothbrush if necessary.

If you need a large amount of ink, mix up a bigger portion in a palette well or small container. You could dip the pen directly into that if the container is deep enough.

This method works with gouache as well as watercolor. (You can follow these same steps to use gouache or watercolor as ink for a pointed metal dip pen, too!)

Adding details to a watercolor painting

Another way you can use glass pens is to add details or line work to your watercolor paintings (or mixed media art).

Of course, you’ll want to think about the type of ink you’re using and how it will react with the watercolor.

If you have a waterproof ink, you could draw with your pen first before painting with watercolor. But in most cases, you’ll want to wait until your watercolor painting is dry before adding details with a glass pen.

You could add line work, doodles, outlines, lettering, or whatever you want over your artwork!

One way I love to use my glass pen to add details to a painting is by using it to score lines into the paper while it’s wet. I got this idea from Jeannie Dickson Designs on Instagram.

drawing leaf veins on a watercolor leaf with glass pen

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get the paper wet and start painting.
  2. When you want to add line detail, use the pointed tip of a glass pen to draw lines firmly onto the wet paper. This will score lines into the paper.
  3. Wipe the glass pen tip clean when you’re finished.
  4. Keep adding watercolor to your painting or let it dry and enjoy the extra layer of detail!

This works best on high quality watercolor paper. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to scratch up paper bits with cheaper paper, so be a little careful with how hard you press.

This is the perfect technique for drawing leaf veins, because paint will gather in the scored lines and add more depth, but it’s still more subtle than painting the lines in. It’s great for adding lines to flower petals like cosmos, too.

I use this technique for just about every fall leaf painting that I do. (It’s much easier than painting leaf veins in.) Watch me do it on Instagram here.

Using it like a watercolor pen

Here’s another idea you could try – using a glass pen like a watercolor pen by adding watercolor marks to the paper and blending them out with water.

This is really fun to play with!

  1. Dip your glass pen into watercolor ink (or coat with a brush)
  2. Make marks on watercolor paper. For example, you could outline a shape.
  3. While the watercolor ink is still wet, use a damp or wet paintbrush to blend the watercolor and “pull” it outward.
  4. If you want, use the glass pen to add more color to the wet area.
adding pink watercolor to a painting with glass pen

You may notice that this is the same technique you can use with watercolor brush pens (here’s a guide I wrote about how to do that), so you’re essentially using a glass pen like a watercolor pen.

I tried this by drawing circle outlines and filling them in with a wet brush so the ink blends inward, as you can see in the picture above.

For another fun idea using this technique, watch this video by Carolicity Designs on Instagram where she draws and paints watercolor feathers.

Additional tips

Feeling inspired to use your glass pen with watercolor yet?

Here are some extra tips and ideas:

  • Be careful of overloading the pen with ink or you’ll get big, unwanted drops on your work! (If dipping into bottled ink, wipe any excess off onto the side.)
  • If you work fast enough so the watercolor stays wet, you can let the different ink colors you use blend together on paper (for example, colorful watercolor lettering).
  • Try a color-changing effect by putting two different colors of watercolor on your glass pen and writing/drawing continuously!
  • The paint may start drying on the pen as you work, so just re-dip it or rinse it in water to get it wet and flowing again.
  • Clean watercolor off a glass pen by rinsing in water.

I hope you’ll try some (or all) of these ideas and have fun!

how to use watercolor with a glass pen
3 ways to use watercolor with a glass pen

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