Lettering with a brush is very forgiving. I’m currently editing a book by Jen Wagner titled Happy Hand Lettering (due out this summer). I love her use of watercolor for lettering and I felt inspired to give it a try—albeit with a twist—using a water brush. Water-based markers such as Tombow dual tip brush pens are a perfect and playful companion to water brushes.
Tombow Dual Brush Pens have a fine-tip end and a brush end.
Water brushes come with synthetic bristles and are available from a variety of manufacturers—sometimes sold in sets. This set is made by Trasfit and I found it on Amazon. (This is also what the brushes look like prior to using them!)
For my lettering exploration, I stuck to these three brushes.
Technique 1: Loopy Lettering
This first technique simply requires writing in cursive with large loops to make widening lines easier. Going back over the marker with a small amount of water from a water brush gives the lettering a lovely painterly look.
Using the fine-tip end of a Tombow dual tip pen (or a similar water-based pen), letter a word, keeping things “loopy” when you can.
A water brush with a fine point is best for adding a small amount of water to the marker lines. You just want to activate the color, not have it bleed too far out.
Using small strokes, color in portions of the letters by activating the color on the inside of the line. I find this process soothing and delightful at the same time.
This is cool. See where the upstroke of my Ls crosses over the downstroke? When you activate the color with a water brush, the line disappears nearly completely.
Admire your finished word and set it aside to dry completely.
You may like your word as is, but if you would like to add some color, here’s an easy method.
Using either end of your chosen color marker (I used the fine tip end), closely outline your word. Go over the color with a fine- or medium-point water brush.
Technique 2: Brush Pen Script Lettering
For this second technique, try lettering with the brush tip end, then adding water.
Take advantage of the broad surface of the brush pen and exaggerate your fine and wide strokes. A small flat water brush creates even painterly strokes over the marker and as the color is activated, you can smooth out any areas as needed.
Applying color over black yields a subtle result.
Simply repeat the previous process: Use your color of choice and the brush end to go over the lettering. Then use the flat water brush to activate the color. Subtle, but still a nice painterly effect.
Technique 3: Hand-Drawn Letterforms
I’ve recently been inspired by the work of Joanne Sharpe, whose hand-drawn letters I love. You can have a lot of fun by drawing whimsical (or less whimsical) letters from your imagination. And each letter can be different!
Keep it simple or go a little wild. Using the fine point end of your marker, draw letters that have space to be colored in.
Just as you did for the first technique, use a fine point water brush to activate the lines and give the interior of your letters some shading.
Adding Color to Letterforms
Use the fine tip end of your favorite color and make dots in limited areas of your letterforms. Activate the color with a water brush and blend the concentration of color as you desire. You could have fun with more than one color, too.
Adding Color Outside of Letterforms
Be brave; try something new! Add similar dots of color but on the outside of the letterforms.
Bonus Technique: Water Brush Border
Once you’ve found your favorite way of lettering, it’s fun to create painterly quotes. Here is how I made some borders for the quotes.
Create a border with a pencil. I used a ruler and made this border nice and tidy.
Use a water-based marker to create the pattern. Again, here I used the fine tip on a Tombow dual tip pen.
“Scribble” with a water brush around the pen lines. This need not be perfect; keep it loose and enjoy the meditative process.
Your frame is now ready for your quote! In this example, I used all of the techniques shared here.
If you don’t enjoy using a lot of precision, you can doodle a border, as well.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas for using your water brush in new ways!
Since I touched on pattern play by adding frames to your quotes, if you love doodling patterns or are looking for more ideas to create frames, take a look at the video below.