The Last “Paint Marker” You’ll Ever Need

My Favorite Refillable Fineline Applicator

I’ve been using variations of this fineline applicator since January of 2017 and it is what I get asked about most often. My work has always been very illustrative, so finding a paint marker that didn’t run out half way through a painting or finding a tip that actually made clean fine lines was a struggle for years. Years, I tell you! I can’t fully express just how much I love this applicator.

I wrote another blog post a while ago that contains a variety of bottles I have used. You can read it here, but this new post will just highlight the one I use most often.

The Product I Use:

(The links provided in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. These commissions help fund the creation of more content like this at no additional cost to you. So thank you for supporting this site! Buy all the things 😉 )

The Blick option is technically cheaper if you buy enough to get free shipping on your order. Either way, getting 3 bottles for $10-$14 is so worth it. I’ve been using the same three 1oz bottles for over 18 months. How many paint markers do you go through in 18 months?

Why you may love this applicator as much as I do:
  • You can fill it with any color you want.
  • It’s refillable so you never have to worry about replacing paint markers ever again.
  • You can control the flow and consistency of the paint.
  • You can get super fine and opaque lines that very few paint markers can achieve.
  • You can disassemble the tip and soak in water to clean it out.
Things that may frustrate you initially:
  • It takes a little practice to get used to the metal tip and feel of the bottle.
  • The tip can clog if you don’t use it enough or let the paint dry out (but you can clean it out by soaking it in hot soapy water and then shoving a thin wire through the tip.)
  • You’ll need to fill the bottle with your own paint and it can be a little tricky to get the consistency right at first.

The Basics for Filling The Applicator:

I fill my bottles about half full with acrylic paint, and then add avlittle bit of water. I place my thumb over the top and shake the crap out of it. Then, I put the tip on and test the applicator on scratch paper/canvas to make sure it has a good consistency. The paint should flow easily, but not run all over the place. Keep adding water or paint and shaking until you get there.

Using a soft bodied acrylic paint makes it easier to mix and reduce clumps. I personally use Brea Reese Titanium White for my applicator. It’s super smooth. You can use any kind of paint you want, but you’ll just have to play around with how much water you may need to mix it to the right consistency.

Use Tip #1

I have heard from my followers that the newer bottles may have a longer metal tip that can be a little awkward to draw with. I haven’t tried this solution yet, but if you were to slid a thin wire into the tip (to prevent the tip from collapsing) and then cut the applicator tip to your desired length with a wire cutter, this could solve the problem.

Use Tip #2

If you are drawing on canvas, you may find the metal tip will “catch” on the texture of the canvas and cause uneven lines. This can be solved with practice by holding the tip further from the surface and using the edge of your hand to stabilize your movements.

Use Tip #3

If you watch some of my videos and wonder how on earth I get such long and smooth lines, you will find you can do this too by changing how you use your body when drawing. The trick is to keep your wrist rigid and use your whole arm/shoulder/torso to move the pen. I often will use my entire forearm against the canvas to stabilize the movement and then move my torso back to create the line. It feels weird at first, but if you’re working big it will help tremendously.

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If you enjoyed this little product overview and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine (See details below!) Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

Mini Tutorial: Rainbow Coral Reef

How It’s Made

I’ve had rainbows stuck in my head for the last couple of weeks. This piece is vibrant and oh so adorable! You’ll love playing with the materials I used.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES I USE:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks!

General Directions:

First, you’ll want to cut your watercolor paper to your desired size. I like working around 4″x4″. Using any cylindrical object you can find or a protractor, create a circle in the middle of your paper with pencil.

For the background, you’re going to slowly work your way around the circle and blend each color as you go. Starting with yellow, and ending with yellow.

THE BACKGROUND:

  1. Using the size 10 watercolor brush, wet the entire surface of the circle.
  2. Using the size 4 watercolor brush, deposit Cadmium Yellow ink on the paper. Start from the middle and work upwards.
  3. Move to Lake Blue and start applying left of the center and upwards. Blend the blue with the yellow to create green, and then deposit more blue and work from the left down.
  4. Apply Ultramarine Blue to the bottom left and work into the Lake Blue.
  5. Add Violet on the bottom, blend with the blue. Rinse your brush.
  6. Add Medium Magenta, blend with violet. Rinse your brush.
  7. Now, apply more yellow on the edge of Magenta to create orange. Work upwards and blend with the plain yellow in the center.
  8. Rinse your brush and allow the ink to dry completely.

The Line Work:

Once the ink is completely dry, erase any visible pencil marks around the edges, then assemble your sketch pen. I prefer the larger nibs, but you can choose any of them. I recommend taking scratch pieces of paper and practicing with the pen and ink before moving to your finished background.

Using the Pen White Ink, I apply ink with the dropper on both sides of the nib (you could dip into the bottle instead, but I don’t like to have the ink exposed to air for too long to prevent it from drying out).

To create the designs, you’re going to start from the bottom and work your way up to the middle of the circle. The designs don’t have to be perfect and this is meant to be an organic layering of rounded shapes. Watch the video above a couple of times to see how I move through the designs and then try your hand at it. It doesn’t need to match mine. Let your natural style come through.

The ink takes a little time to dry, so work in one area and allow it to dry before moving your hand over it to prevent smudging.

At the end, add a sprinkling of stars/bubbles to the upper area of the circle and voila! Finished!

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If you enjoyed this little tutorial and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

Mini Tutorial: Fluid Flowers

HOW IT’S MADE

Making flowers with an air compressor is one of my favorite fluid techniques. I discovered this technique on accident in 2017. I was working on a canvas that wasn’t going the way I hoped and I started to mess around with my air compressor. One of the movements I made looked like a petal, and so I kept at it. Little burst of air after burst of air and I suddenly had a bouquet in front of me. I was hooked from that moment.

Learning this technique and working with new supplies takes a little practice (maybe a lot of practice!) so do yourself a favor and get some test canvases and don’t expect things to be perfect right away.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES I USE:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks!

  • Air Compressor and Accessories (Read more about the exact products I use here.)
    • 2 Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor (Amazon)
    • Hose
    • Handgun and thread seal tape (I’m not the biggest fan of this handgun, but it gets the job done and the kit at least supplies all the connectors needed. I’ll let you know what model I upgrade to when I get around to it.)
  • OR! Use a can of compressed air. (Amazon)
  • Fluid Paint Mixtures
    • Colors: Light Magenta/Pink, Turquoise/Teal, Medium Magenta, Black, and White
    • Flood Floetrol (Amazon or local home improvement/paint store)
    • My Recipe: Mix 1/2 soft bodied acrylic paint, 1/2 Floetrol, then add water and mix to desired consistency. Your paint should evenly run off your stir stick when lifted from the cup, but still be viscous. (By the end, about 1/3 of the total mixture or less is water.)
    • Store in squeeze bottles.
      • 4 Oz for white and colors (Amazon) and 1 oz for black (Amazon)
  • Other Supplies
    • 20 Gauge Fineline Applicators (Amazon or Blick)
    • Black and White Acrylic Paint (I use Brea Reese (Amazon), but Liquitex Basics (Amazon) will work too.)
    • Metallic Gold Acrylic Paint (Amazon)
    • 10″x10″ Stretched Canvas (Blick Brand)
    • Test Canvases (Optional from Blick)
    • Cake Spatula (Amazon)
    • Liquitex High Gloss Varnish (Amazon or Blick) and a cheap foam brush
    • Gloves, protective covering, cups for mixing and propping.
    • Paper towels, or paint rags

General Directions:

First, assemble your compressor and make sure you know how to use it. YouTube can help. I borrowed a compressor from a family member before I invested in one. Fill your compressor and turn off the switch so it doesn’t startle you when it kicks on to fill. I use the black rubber tip or the needle tips in the kit most often. Or, you could use a can of compressed air and save yourself all that trouble. (But, if you are going to use this technique a lot or on huge canvases, get a compressor.)

Second, mix your fluid paints. With fluid painting, you never really do just one piece. They are addictive. You may as well mix up a batch of paint that you can use for multiple pieces. But, for this tutorial on a 10″x10″ canvas, if you can get a 4oz bottle full of each light magenta, medium magenta, teal, and white, that will give you enough for this project with paint to spare. You’ll only need a small amount of the black mixture, so I store this in a little 1 oz bottle. You can also use those 1oz quilling bottles I linked for your fine lining.

Third, cover your work area and surrounding surfaces with protective covering like construction paper or plastic.

You’re ready.

THE BACKGROUND:

  1. Place your canvas on a couple of cups to raise it off your work surface.
  2. Take your medium magenta fluid mixture and cover the canvas. Use the cake spatula to spread the mixture. You just need enough to cover the canvas so the threading or white barely shows through. Don’t make it too thick.
  3. Take your light magenta and teal and drizzle a couple of lines around the surface. I like doing lines running vertically, making them heavier at the bottom.
  4. Using your white mixture, run a generous line/blob across the bottom of the canvas.
  5. Use your (clean!) spatula and gently slide it from the bottom of the canvas up to the top. You’ll want to barely touch the white so that your motion pulls the white layer up and over the color layer. With a small canvas like a 10″x10″ you should be able to do this in two even swipes after some practice.
  6. The goal is to have the colors hiding under the white layer as much as possible. If your colors are too bright, add another line of white paint at the bottom and swipe up again.
  7. Lift the canvas off of the cups and gently tilt the top and bottom to spread the paint more evenly and to allow the excess to run off. Again, you don’t want the paint to be too thick so it’s okay to let a good amount of paint run off the top and bottom edges. If your canvas threading starts to show through, then the paint is too thin.

The Flowers:

Learning how to make the flowers is a hands-on process. You have to get the feel for the distance you should be away from the canvas and the right air pressure to use. To practice, on a piece of cardboard or the canvas boards I linked, lay down a thin layer of white or colored paint similar to the thickness on your canvas. Put a drop of black fluid paint mixture in the middle. Then take your air compressor hand gun and slowly let out a bit of air at the base of the black dot and move upwards in the direction you want the petal to go. Return to the base of the black dot and repeat two or three more times in different directions.

The hand gun kit I linked can sometimes build up pressure and let out a blast of air blowing paint everywhere if you push too hard on the trigger or aren’t used to the pressure which is why I encourage practice and protective covering on everything around you. Or find a better gun attachment 😉

You can do big flowers with large bursts of air and more black paint, or you can do small flowers with a thin air stream and just a little black paint. It’s all in how you’re feeling!

Once you’re confident, jump in and work on your canvas. I usually start on on the left, up 2/3 from the bottom. I work my way down and to the right, one flower at a time until the piece feels balanced. I let some flowers overlap and some stand alone.

Once you are finished with your flowers, leave the canvas to dry for 24 hours, or speed up the process with a fan (this might lead to cracking so make sure your paint isn’t too thick.) I use a fan every time because I’m impatient.

Fine Lining:

Once your canvas is completely dry, you can see your flowers may have lost a little bit of shape. Also, when you use cheaper paints/paints with less pigment in the mixture, the colors will get darker once they dry. You can always invest in higher quality paints and use actual pouring medium to keep the colors consistent from wet to dry. (Follow @indigoimpressions for wonderful advice on paint and fluid techniques.)

I use the fineline applicators filled with acrylic paint and a little bit of water to redefine my flowers and make them pop. I fill my bottles about half full with acrylic paint, and then add just a tiny bit of water. I place my thumb over the top and shake the crap out of it. Then, I put the tip on and test the applicator on scratch paper to make sure it has a good consistency. The paint should flow easily, but not run all over the place. Keep adding water and shaking until you get there. The gold craft paint might not even need water so test that as is first.

(These applicators take some getting used to. Try drawing on a blank canvas to get a feel for how you should hold the applicator without it catching and skipping on the canvas texture.)

  1. Once your bottles are filled and ready, start with black. Go around all of the flowers in the areas you want to accentuate, and also add stems. I outline everything, because I love a more illustrative look. Let it dry.
  2. Add your gold next. Hug the black lines. Let dry.
  3. And white around the gold. Let dry.
  4. Sign your piece. (Which I always forget to do…)
  5. Varnish with a foam brush and you’re done!

Or you can just buy one that I’ve already made here 😉

I hope that gives you a good idea of how to get started on your own flower pieces. If you have questions, please leave them below while commenting is open!

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If you enjoyed this little tutorial and want to learn more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine (See details below!) Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading: