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How to Letter with Life of Colour Watercolour Brush Pens

Karen Reynolds, lettering artist, will share with you a few tips on how to achieve great results when lettering with Life of Colour watercolour brush pens.

Life of Colour pens are very similar to using a paint brush. If you are used to using felt tip brush pens, they can take some practice to get used to. I still recommend using the water brush. It will give your letters a beautiful watercolour finish, create clean upstrokes and down strokes, and bring out the vibrant color of the watercolor pigment.


First of all, paper matters. If you want watercolor results, you need to choose the right paper. I cannot say this enough! I always use mixed media or watercolor paper, and I tend to gravitate towards Canson XL. Now that we’ve tackled the paper, let’s get started!


Plan it with Tombow

This is my favourite method, and if you’ve watched any of my videos, you’ll see me using this method most often. Tombow dual brush pens are water-based, so they will blend easily with the watercolor pens. I use the Tombow N95 brush pen (light gray) to plan out my lettering. Keep in mind that Tombows have a felt tip and will fray with time when used on mixed media and watercolor paper. I have one that I use solely for this purpose.


fill in with Life of Colour watercolour pens

Once I’ve written it out in light gray, I fill in the letters with Life of Colour pens. Then I use a water brush to go over the letters. This will blend the colors together while also giving you a chance to fix any spots in your lettering that you’re not happy with. The result is crisp, clean edges with really vibrant watercolour letters.


create an ombre effect

Apply pigment to part of the letter. Use the water brush to pull some of the pigment to the rest of the letter. This will give the letters an ombre effect.


Apply pigment to a plastic or ceramic surface (plastic bags work great!). Use the water brush to pick up the pigment and apply it to your paper. This is also a fantastic way to mix colors before putting them on your letters.


Avoid streaky letters by lettering slowly on your down strokes. Going over it with the water brush will make the colour uniform. You can also color over it with the watercolor pens several times to decrease the streaks and create a bolder color.

fill in the streaky letters

fill in the streaky letters


You can blend these pens even without the water brush, although I love the watercolor look and always have my water brush on hand. To blend without water, you always want to blend dark to light. Use a lighter color pen to pull pigment from a darker color into the lighter color.

using the water brush to blend letters


outline letters to make them pop

I like to finish the letters off with an outline and a shadow to really make the vibrant color stand out. Make sure your letters are dry before doing this step. Today, I’m using a Sakura micron pen 05 for the outline.

(TIP: This pen also works great with theLife of Colour stencils, because it has a small tip and is waterproof. I like to trace the stencil with my micron pen first. Then fill it in with the watercolor pens and blend with the water brush. It won’t smudge or bleed.)

Go back through with the light gray tombow for a shadow (remember to be consistent with your shadow – pick left or right, and pick top or bottom!) and finish it off with some white gel pen details. With a little bit of patience and practice, you can create gorgeous watercolour letters!add shadow with grey

If you’ve tried these tips and are still struggling with your Life of Colour watercolour pens, remember that they do take practice to use for lettering, and I’m just a message away. I’m always happy to help!

tips lettering tutorial



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