Gel Wash How-To #Jetpens #artTutorial #zentangle

 The Jetpens giveaway is now closed.
Winner will be chosen, and prize delivered by Jetpens.  I'll let you know who it is as soon as I know!
For more information on these pens, please read my review of Hi-Tec-C Maica.

Since Jetpens did all the work for the giveaway, I thought I'd share a 'how-to' for the occasion. I've been getting some questions about how I get my Gel wash watercolor-look, so I thought this would be a good time to share the technique.

First: Not all Gel pens work for this method.  The Hi-Tec-C Maica isn't the only gel pen that will.  If not using the Hi-Tec-C Maica, you'll need to test before using a gel pen on something you want to keep.

Second: The key to success is lots of water.  Even with the Hi-Tec-C Maica a gentle swipe with a wet brush won't produce the wash.  This technique isn't difficult, but you do need more water than you do with water-soluble colored pencils or crayons.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I've used a waterbrush, because I can get drops that are easier to photograph.  I actually prefer a round brush that holds lots of water, finding it easier to control the flow.

Step 1: Squirkle some color around the area.

For best results, you need at least a dime-sized area with at least 75% coverage of ink.  The more ink, the more intense the color, and the farther you can spread it.

Move to the next step as soon as possible.  If the ink dries completely, you will get less movement of the color.

How far you can spread the color will vary by the paper and amount of water.  Rule of thumb: plan for about an inch of coverage.

Note: Squirkling is a sort of deliberate scribbling.  See how the lines are circular?  Straight lines will also work, but aren't as pretty.

Step 2:  If using a water-brush, squeeze out drops of water at regular intervals.  If using a regular brush, gently lay down enough water so it creates a thin puddle.

Let the water sit for at least a count of 5.

The length of time the water needs to sit will vary according to paper and pen.  Test before trying on something you want to keep.

Step 3:  Start spreading the water where you want it to go.  Push the water--you don't really have to touch the paper at all.

TIPS:  This wash occurs because the water is now dyed and carries the color.  If your color isn't as intense as you'd like, and you used lots of ink, try letting the water sit longer.

That's it really.  My cautions and explanations make it sound harder than it is, but I'm trying to answer questions that have come up and anticipate any possible problems.  Most of you will sit down, and 1,2,3, have a beautiful wash.

Answers to other questions:

Pilling:  See those little red dots?
Whenever you work with wet media, you have the possibility of tearing up bits of the fiber.  This is called pilling.

You can cause it by scrubbing wet paper too long or too hard.  Some papers are worse than others.  Good papers to avoid it are watercolor paper, mixed-media papers or fountain pen friendly papers.   I used Stillman & Birn's Zeta paper and had to scrub hard to get the little bit of pilling you see in this photo.

With this gel wash method, you shouldn't have too much pilling if you push the water instead of scrubbing the ink.  If you want more intense color, let the paper dry, draw more lines with the pen and wash again.  Don't add more ink to the wet paper, because that will increase chances of pilling and even tearing.

If your washes are ending up too light, then you need to start with more ink to begin with.  Fill in your colors more solidly, or cover a larger area so you don't spread the color as far.

Lines: I've noticed that with the Hi-Tec-C Maica gel ink pens that with some of the colors the pen lines dissolve almost completely (the Oranges) and that some colors leave more distinct lines (the Blues are most distinct).

Color:  Since you are actually coloring some of the page with dyed water, colors change to tints, so you won't get a wash of one solid color, but rather a gentle blend of dark to light.  Red goes pink, Orange goes yellow, Black goes gray.  Blue and Green go from dark to light.  Great for ombre effects.

Control:  As with any watercolor wet-into-wet technique, you want to do a wash in one section, and then let it dry before doing another wash right next to it.  As long as an area is wet, the color will run over into other wet areas.  Rule of thumb: always let a wash dry before doing anything else with it or next to it.

Your brush can make a difference.  Although I used a waterbrush that leaves drops of water for my tutorial, those large drops can spill over where you don't want them.  I find it easier to use a regular brush that covers the entire inked area with a thin puddle of standing water.

Because of the amount of water used, it will be difficult to color small detailed areas with this method.  You might consider masking small detail areas and inking in afterwards by picking up color from a wet area elsewhere (even use a palette where you watered down some ink).

Sealing:  I haven't played with this yet, so I'm not sure of the best method for sealing.  I suspect anything that would seal a dry gel pen work would seal a wash.  If you get a finished work wet, it will run, but less I think than a dry gel piece because you've already thin out the ink.

Feel free to ask any questions I haven't answered or to clarify anything I've written here.


Jetpens generously offered to giveway a 6-color set of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica Gel Ink Pens--Sorry, but the giveaway is now closed ).

To Enter:  You must be signed up for the Jetpens newsletter.

  1. Jet on over the giveaway page, sign up for their newsletter, and enter your email (if you already get their newsletter, you are still eligible to win).
Comments on this page are nice, but will not enter you into the giveaway.

Starts: October 13, 2013 at 10:00 AM PDT
Ends:  October 20, 2013 at 12:00 Noon PDT

Jetpens will choose the winner and send out the prize package.  You can only enter from the link above!

Good luck to all of you, and THANK YOU to Jetpens!