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Paint Pen Care: How to clean a dry, clogged or dirty paint pen

We've been getting this question a lot, and the answer is quite simple - but you know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video demo is even better! If you have any other questions, visit our troubleshooting post.

The common culprits for dry paint pens are usually the following three:

  1. The pens were stored vertically for quite some time.
  2. The pens have been overpumped
  3. The nib is just gooey and stuck

Watch the video to see a detailed how to guide to unclog your Life of Colour Paint pen. And read this in depth blog for some very important upkeeping and troubleshooting tips to make your paint pens stay vibrant and ready to use for much longer!

1) Store your pens horizontally

While vertical pen holders or cute pots look perfect in your desk, we do not recommend them as a long term storage solution. You can use it while you paint for a few hours, and then your paint pens should go back to being horizontal.

If your pens are vertical right now, take a few minutes and go move them! We'll wait!

What’s the best storage solution for my pens?

There are plenty of storage solutions available for your paint pens. You could get creative using cardboard rolls, repurpose a shoebox or pencil case. If that’s not your style you may want to look at a craft box , tackle box (hubby won’t mind) or a specifically designed paint pen case available online or in your local art and craft store.

Whatever your choice may be we do suggest a few essential points;

  • Away from direct sunlight
  • Always make sure you hear the click in the cap
  • Around room temperature (do not want them in hot or cold conditions)
  • Lay them flat

2) Stop over-pumping your paint pens

First of all, what is pumping? Pumping a paint pen means you are clicking the nib to (hopefully) release more paint

The more you pump, more paint gets out of the barrel, through the pump and stuck in the chamber below the nib waiting to come out. 

This can get messy for two reasons, it can overflow and make a mess on your beautiful artwork or it can dry up in there and make the entire mechanism stop working.

So, when should I pump?

  • Shake the pen before using and pump once or twice.
  • Pump once or twice again if you have been using the colour a lot
  • If paint doesn't come out, no more pumping - do a troubleshooting run and see where the problem is

3) Clean your nibs or replace them if they break

Your nib is looking dirty and dry, no colour is coming out or the paints flows through the sides of the nib making a mess. That was the case of the orange paint pen in the video.

If you can't get new nibs right away, or you are sure the paint pen is too new to need a change of nib, follow the steps in the video to clean and recondition your paint pens nibs.

For long time friends, it's best to get yourself a set of replacement tips from our shop and start fresh (but please do follow the rest of the clean up steps in the video to make sure the rest of the mechanism isn't clogged and is ready to receive the new nib).

Let's learn to clean our paint pens

You'll need a glass of water and a clean cloth or paper towel. Watch this short video for the step by step process and troubleshooting guide for Life of Colour paint pens!

Clean the nib

Start by dipping the pen in the glass of water and swirling it around as if it was a brush. You just need to dip the nib. Swirl it around until clogged paint starts to come out (you'll see the water getting dirtier). 

Help the pen by pumping it on the paper towel or cloth a few times.

Test the paint flow

While you clean the nib, you should also be testing the paint flow on a piece of paper.

At first it will be very watery because the chamber below the nib is full of the water from the cleaning process.

Repeat these two steps a few times. On a new pen, this is usually all it takes before paint flow is restored. On an older pen that has been heavily used (or one that has withstand the hands of tiny users...) move over to the next step for a deep clean!

How to deep clean your paint pens

Let's do a deep clean and make sure all the gunk is out, you can see the entire process in the video below but just in case we also wrote the steps.

1) Gently remove the nib with your fingers or a pair of tweezers and soak it in the glass of water. No need to change water just yet, this is just to keep loosening up the paint. Soak it there for a few minutes.

2) Unscrew the coloured cap next. You might need a pair of blunt tweezers to twist it open. You'll see all the paint that has been pumped and unused, clogging the mechanism. Damp the paper towel or cloth and clean the paint.

On a very old and toddler-used pen, the pump was so glued to the coloured cap that the entire thing came of when unscrewing the cap. Don't be afraid, just wash the pump too and be careful to leave the barrel of the pen vertically.

3) Soak the coloured cap in water too, it contains a tiny sponge inside, make sure not to lose it. Remember to leave the barrel of the pen vertically on a glass or pen holder so no paint overflows.

4) Rinse the nib and cap under tap water.Cold works fine, warmer works best! Use a strainer to secure all the pieces.

5) Put your pen back together and prime it.Screw the coloured cap (the tiny sponge goes inside it) and then place the nib.

Your nib won't look brand new but you need to follow the priming steps in the side of the pen: shake, take air off by clicking the nib and then doodle on paper until the flow is steady and the paint comes out even.

For further troubleshooting help, visit this handy article and learn all the best practices to keep your paint pens in top shape for a very long time!


5 Responses



December 06, 2022

Thank you very much, I thought my pens were goners when I used them on paint, but I saved both of them!!! <3

Angela Peebles

Angela Peebles

June 21, 2022

Thank you so much for this article! I love my paint pens but I’m constantly having trouble with them and I know they still have paint in them. Now I have 5 white pens that work lol. Thanks again- I’m one happy artist😊😊😊🦋

Rebecca Saunders

Rebecca Saunders

April 02, 2022

You helped me save a picture that was important to me! Thanks.

Rebecca Saunders

Rebecca Saunders

April 02, 2022

First of all, thank you so much for not clogging your webpage with advertisements. It was a pleasure to read this page without images jumping out at me all the time!
Second, your method works! I’m going to subscribe to this website as long as you can keep the ads off…

Rebecca Saunders

Kory Misun

Kory Misun

April 02, 2022

I have a set of 28 acrylic paint markers from Amazon, that might have frozen before reaching my house. (Alaska had a two-week period of -20 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures where I live.)
The paint inside is completely solid, with a little near the tip and the bulk of the paint seems paralyzed at the end of the marker. Shaking does nothing, and the internet has no tips. All I have to go on is that rubbing alcohol can revive acrylic without dissolving the paint binders, but I don’t want to pour it inside my markers if it’s not going to be helpful. I don’t want to toss all 28 markers, so please let me know what you think I should do.

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