Brush markers are a great way to add color and personality to your journal pages.
You can use brush markers to write out your thoughts or to add embellishments to your pages. You can also use them to divide pages or to highlight important quotes or passages.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned journaler, brush markers are a fun and easy way to express yourself creatively.
The basics of brush markers
How to choose the right brush marker for your project
The variances in brush markers are usually about size and the “floppiness” of the brush which varies by brand. (We have some tips on brands below.)
You will probably favor larger brush markers like Tombow Dual for journals that are A5 (8.5” x 5.5”) and larger. Smaller brush markers like Marvy’s LePen Flex work well for A6 and pocket size.
If you’ve never used brush markers, you can get a basic set that falls in the middle like Arteza Brush Markers to play with.
(We have some other tips on brands toward the end of the article to help you choose.)
Tips for creating consistent lines and shapes with brush markers
With brush markers, the pressure on the brush creates the width of the line. Light pressure creates thin lines and heavy pressure creates heavy lines.
So, you have to experiment a bit to get the feel of it. (Luckily, it’s quick to get the hang of it.)
How can you practice with brush markers? Just pull out some scrap paper and try things.
- Draw straight lines with different pressure.
- Vary a line by starting with light pressure then gradually increase as you move across the page.
- Draw loops and curly q’s.
- Draw commas and quote marks.
Feel unsure about committing? Draw with a pencil first
You can always start with a pencil first to create a guide. This is especially helpful if you want to create a big header and don’t want the last three letters all squished together.
Pencils are also helpful when drawing block letters. Once you’ve drawn the lines, you can then fill in the spaces between the lines with the marker.
Note that some brush marker inks will blur pencil lead, so draw lightly, and use care when filling in with transparent colors like yellow, pale pink, etc.
The thickness of the paper in your journal matters
Brush markers dry quickly—which is a plus—but they can still bleed through paper. “Ghosting” where you see artifacts on the other side of a page can drive journalers crazy.
If ghosting bothers you, use your brush markers in a journal made for sketching. Both Moleskine and Leuchturm make journals with paper over 120lb weight. They usually call them Art or Sketchbooks. Archer and Olive is another popular brand with thicker pages.
There are watercolor journals with really thick paper, but it usually has a texture to it which isn’t ideal for markers unless you happen to like the look of the texture.
Pick a custom pallet for yourself
You can create a custom look for your journal by limiting the colors that you use. Most basic sets come with primary colors, but you can often purchase individual colors of brush markers in art and craft stores.
Where to get inspiration for your signature color collection?
Well, you can stop by your local paint store and look at the chip charts, but you can also just look at your own decor. Have a pillow that you love? A piece of art? Pick a handful of markers that match. You can also use an online tool like ColorLisa.com that gives you the color pallets of famous artists, or look through Canva Color Palettes.
Not into figuring it out? Tombow sells sets of 6 or 10 of their Dual Brush Markers in pre-selected collections in a broader array than primary colors. (No, we aren’t on their payroll. We just really like their markers for journaling!)
Brush marker techniques to try in your journal
Use a brush marker to create beautiful cursive letters
Instagram is full of the most amazing lettering created with brush markers. While there are lots of great techniques for this, our favorite is one we learned from Little Coffee Fox.
It’s simple and easy to get the hang of. Just apply heavy pressure on the downstroke and light pressure on the upstroke of your letters. Seriously, practice it. It’s mind blowing!
Create dimensional letters
Did you ever have to draw block letters on a poster in school? If so, you know they can take forever to draw, but they also create the coolest looks.
Try outlining with a darker color and fill in with a lighter blending them together. Tombow has a blending tool to help with this. You can also stipple different colors together. Or fill letters with lines and squiggles. Have fun with this. After all, if you are going to take the time to draw a block letter, you should enjoy the process of coloring it in.
You can use a white Prismacolor pencil to create highlights to add even more dimension.
Make a drop cap
A drop cap is a large letter that takes up the first three lines of a paragraph with text flowing to the right of it.
Back when manuscripts were lettered by hand, there was liberal use of drop caps to help readers navigate a page. Using them in journaling is a great way to add embellishment and you can go for either an old world or modern feel.
Create flowers with a flick of the wrist
One of our favorite things to do with brush markers is make florals. With simple hand gestures you can make pretty botanicals like petals and leaves.
Edge your pages
Adding a hint of color to the edge of a page creates added visual interest. Super easy to pull off with a brush marker.
Add dimension to a doodle
We always carry a gray brush marker with us. It’s the quickest way we know to add dimension to a doodle.
Pair a black and gray brush marker for monochromatic style
Some sketchnote artists only use black and gray in their journals. The technique produces a great style, while still having dimension.
Bubble an idea
It’s like brush markers were made to do this. Write an idea and just draw a cloud around it. Want to take it next level? Use a black (or gray) brush marker to add dimension to the bottom of the cloud.
Our favorite brands of brush markers for journaling
There are some great brush markers out there at lots of different price points. We wanted to highlight the features so you can find the brand that is right for you.
Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers
The Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers are sincerely fun to play with, and our personal favorite for performance and affordability. They are blendable, able to create sweeping strokes, and transform normal journaling pages into works of art. (Note: YouTube videos for ideas on how to use Tombow Dual Brush Pens are addictive. You’ve been warned.)
Choose from a wide variety of Tombow Dual Brush Pen sets on Amazon.
Copic Marker Sets
Experienced journalers can be as partial to brands as people are to Mac vs PC or Coke vs Pepsi. While we happen to be #teamTombow, Copic markers have a loyal following. Be aware, though: Copic are top of the line and pricey. A 12-piece set is around $50 dollars and more comprehensive sets land closer to $300.
Marvy LePen Flex Brush Pens
The LePen Flex set features a rubberized tip that is smaller than the Tombows and Copics which make them perfect if you are working in a passport size journal or smaller. They are also ideal for people who simply like to make smaller embellishments on any size journal.
Truth be told, we might have both these and the Tombow Dual Markers. Allegedly.
Shop 6 or 10 packs in primary and pastel on Amazon.
Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens — Shades of Gray
Want to go monochromatic? Having a set of gray pens allows you to add dimension to your journal. The simplest of doodles given a quick gray shadow ups the game, and using gray lines for page separators, underlining, or callout boxes can really make the black ink on the page pop.
Shop Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens — Shades of Gray on Amazon.
Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens, Multicolor
For our team, the black set of Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Pens are essentials. They also produce a 12-color multipack of brush pens.
Find Faber-Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pens on Amazon.
Metallic Calligraphy Brush Marker Pens – Set of 10 Colors
Do you like your journal to have a little sparkle? Consider purchasing a set with metallic ink. It’s nice to have the option to make a journal blingy.
Purchase metallic calligraphy brush marker pens on Amazon.
Kuretake Zeg Clean Color Dot Markers
These pens break the form because rather than the brush part of the pen being shaped like a paintbrush, it features a squishy dot. However, that squishy dot responds to pressure the same way brush markers do which is why they are in our list. This is a cool set to add to your collection.
Get Kuretake Zeg Clean Color Dot Markers in primary or pastel on Amazon.
Ready to get started with your brush markers?
Now that you know what to do, it’s time to let your creative self overflow onto your journal pages.
The best part? Brush markers are fun, easy, and require very little practice. (Almost as easy as using washi tape.)
So what are you waiting for? Pull out your journal and play! .
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