The Ultimate Guide on Best Waterproof Pens and Inks for Watercolor

This is an article submitted to me by KT Mehra for inclusion with my Newsflash email sent Oct/Nov 2020.


Pen & Ink with Watercolor image
Working on a new art project requires you to embrace creativity and consider experimenting with unique approaches. Combining watercolor and ink is one of the ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone.


Watercolor and ink have been used by artists such as Van Gogh on ‘Boats on The Beach’ all the way to contemporary artists of the 21st century.  Its uses are endless, but it has found its grounding in the modern day in styles such as comic art, mixed media, and contemporary street art. A quick search of ‘pen and ink with watercolor techniques’ will show you lots of possibilities and you will also see the term ‘line and wash’ used to describe some of them.

There are several styles that rely on ink to use with watercolor.  Styles and mediums include: washing your paper with watercolor and using that as a backdrop for an ink drawing, outlining your watercolor painting to make it pop, adding final touches to a painting by using subtle touches of ink and ink outlines to make the piece stronger, and even using watercolor as coloring and shading to an existing ink drawing.  There are more techniques and styles than I can mention here, and artists are always finding creative ways to combine ink and watercolor!

However, working with a combination of these two mediums may not be easy especially if you haven’t done it before. The risks of ruining your art piece and producing something muddy and unattractive are real. This is why you need to do your research to determine the best supplies to use and how to use them. Here are a few things you should remember.

What to Consider When Choosing the Right Ink

With the variety of inks available in the market, it might get confusing. To make it easier for you, different manufacturers include labels that can easily guide your choices. These labels feature different terms that describe the ink’s function. Some of these terms include:


This is one of the best inks to use especially when working with watercolor. Its characteristics ensure that the ink doesn’t lift off the page, get muted, or bleed when watercolor is introduced. Waterproof inks and pens will give you the freedom to experiment without being too cautious.


When you get ink with such a label, you should keep in mind that it’s not the same as a waterproof ink. This is because it is only water-resistant after it dries which means that you’ll have to give it time to settle. Once it is dry, you can be sure of the fact that it won’t run, or bleed.


It is important to consider how well your ink will hold up over time. This is where the lightfast feature in your ink comes in handy. It describes the resistance of your ink to fading, discoloration, and shade change when exposed to light. If you want to be safe, target ink with high lightfastness. This will ensure that your painting is in good condition even if exposed to direct sunlight or artificial lighting.


If you want to work on an art piece that features runny and messy details, this is the best ink to use. It is mostly water-based which means when watercolor is introduced, the ink will run and bleed. If you want to produce a smooth and clean art piece, you should stay clear of inks and pens with the ‘water-soluble’ label. To be on the safe side, if the pen is not labelled as waterproof, you should assume that it is water-soluble.


Pigmented ink can also be considered as waterproof or water-resistant ink. This is because the pigments found in such inks are not soluble in water. On adding watercolor, you can be sure that the ink will result in a smooth, clean piece.


Inks with this label come with a combination of different characteristics. They feature water resistance, light fastness, UV-resistance, and are acid-free. With this ink, you can be sure that your art piece will last longer and stay in perfect condition. There’ll be no fading or apparent damage to the paper you use. This makes them the perfect ink when you’re looking for different aspects in one ink.

Drying Time

Most ink and pen descriptions will indicate how long the ink takes to dry up. This is what will guide you on when to add the watercolor. However, if you want to be safe, you can choose to let the ink sit for 12 to 24 hours before adding watercolor.

When to Use Watercolor

Watercolor gives you the flexibility to choose how you’ll use it on your art piece. You have the option of adding it in after using your ink or using it before the ink. Both ways work perfectly well and produce a variety of effects on both fronts. It all depends on your creativity and what you envision for your piece. It is however important to note that both ways present different advantages when used. Using watercolor before the ink comes in handy when you have no access to waterproof ink. You will want to let your piece dry completely and then draw over the watercolor painting with your ink.  This results in stronger and clearer lines that pop on your art piece. On the other hand, when using ink before the watercolor, you need to make sure that your ink is waterproof.  This will allow you to work on your outline first and guide where the watercolor will be used. This makes it much easier to stay in control of how precise your piece will be. Allow yourself to experiment with both methods and have a feel of what works for you and how different the pieces turn out.

Best Waterproof Pens to Consider For Watercolor

Now that you know that waterproof pens are the best when working with watercolor, here are a few recommendations for you to consider.

Staedtler Pigment Liner

These pens are perfect for sketching and drawing over watercolor. They come six in a pack and feature long-lasting nibs ranging from 0.05 to 0.8. The Staedtler uses pigmented ink that is waterproof and lightfast. This makes it perfect for use with watercolor. It draws smooth lines and glides with ease on paper. It also has a consistent flow of ink which assures there are no breaks when drawing.

You can get these at Staedtler.

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen

The Faber-Castell pen has a great grip that makes it perfect for long drawing sessions. It is pigmented and a good option for combining with watercolor.  The company behind this amazing waterproof pen has been around since the 18th century.  You can be assured you are getting high quality craftsmanship with a historic brand like Faber-Castell. When using this pen, you can be sure of smooth and consistent lines with a great flow of ink. It has a high resistance to light and is acid-free which means it won’t have any degrading effects on your paper.

You can get these at Faber-Castell USA.

Pentel Technica Pens

I love these little gel pens.  They are waterproof and offer so much versatility for only $2.99.  This is a nice gel pen that draws very well and is a great writer too!  It lines smoothly and is great for sketches and outlines for watercolor work.

You can get these at Pentel.

The Uni Pin Fine Line

This waterproof pen comes with a neat nib that allows for precise and clean lines when drawing. This makes it a good option for using watercolor on your pieces. It is however important to note that the ink fades when erased. This means that you should refrain from sketching before using the ink.

You can get these at Jackson’s Art.

Parker Fountain Pens

Investing in a fountain pen is a good idea for the convenience of refilling the ink yourself once it runs out. The Parker Pens fountain pen is a quality option. It features an ergonomic grip that makes it easier to use when drawing, even for beginners. It is relatively cheap compared to the quality and convenience it offers.

You can get Parker pens at Goldspot.

Fudenosuke Brush Pen

For those art pieces that require a variation in line thickness, this is the pen for you. It features a brush that can be artfully manipulated to achieve different lines using the same pen. With this pen, you need to be very composed to gain the right control to avoid any mishaps. This way, you can achieve smooth consistent lines in whichever thickness.

You can get these at Tombow USA.

Copic Multiliner Pens

Copic has come out with a serious contender for best waterproof pen.  This set of fineliner pens create amazing straight and thin lines that work great as an outline or sketch that you can apply before or after with watercolor.  We seriously recommend you check these pens out as a possible option for your artist personality!

You can get these from Meininger.

Best Inks for Watercolor:

Finding waterproof ink for your fountain pens is very important especially after considering the significant costs it cuts. Here are a few quality inks available in the market:

Winsor and Newton India Ink

This is a waterproof ink that features a pronounced black color that translates well to paper when drawing. It is archival and holds up well when erased. This means that you can sketch with a pencil first then use your ink to draw over the lines. It is however important to note that it takes a while to dry so you’ll need to give it time. This will help avoid any smudging when using watercolor.

Platinum Carbon Ink

This ink is a great waterproof option that comes in a beautiful glass bottle. This ink does not smudge, bleed, or run after using watercolor. It is black in color and has a clear appearance even after using watercolor. When using it, you should give it one to 2 hours for it to dry before adding it in your watercolor. Given that it is a quality waterproof ink, it is more expensive compared to other options.

Speedball Super Black India Ink

This is the best option for achieving more pronounced and rich in color lines on your art piece. It has a smooth application and can be used with both dip pens and fountain pens. If you happen to use it in your fountain pen, be sure to clean it out. Considering that the ink is quite thick, regular cleaning of your pen will prevent clogging.

De Atramentis Archive Ink

When you’re looking for an ink that takes the shortest time to dry, the De Atramentis should be your first choice. It takes a few minutes for it to dry and has no evidence of smudging or bleeding when used with watercolor.


As an artist, embracing your creativity and willingness to experiment will open up different avenues of exploration. Take your time to find art supplies that work for you and create some magical pieces. Always remember that what works for someone else may not work for you. So allow yourself time for trial and error and you’ll eventually get your perfect fit!

Thank you!

KT Mehra of Goldspot – seller of fine pens, inks, pencils, paper, refills and accessories. You can find us here:

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