Outside the studio, using efficient tools is one of the keys to effective sketching. Bridget Marzo reveals her favourite brush pens

Illustrator friends who’ve liked my ‘people sketches’ have asked how I manage to sketch in watercolour, direct from life–human life–with such detail and variety of colour. The answer is watercolour brush pens.

There are several brands of watercolour brush pens including Windsor & Newton and Ecoline. Brushed-shaped tips can be deceptive though – and most are rather stiff, more like markers. However Kuretake’s 'Zig Clean Color' brush pens have real brush tips (as you can see below left) which are as controllable, flexible and almost as supple as a good sable brush.

You can find them online at Cult Pens. They are perfect for small, detailed work. No good though for large washes even if you can use a water brush as shown to dilute and spread the colour out a bit. And they do run out faster than watercolour pens or tubes.

They live up to their name ‘Clean Color’ and you can select pens individually from a large if not always accurate range of swatches. A box of 8 colours might fit your purposes to start with – such as the interesting neutral colour collection or ‘landscape’ colours for sketches like this.

I like to take out a limited range with me wherever I go in an old Derwent pencil pouch, combining them at times with coloured pencils or a pen line.

So why not just take a travelling watercolour set? Answer – you can work faster - on the hop. No need to keep dipping and rinsing, plus you get a reliable intensity of pigment every time.

Just one thing that to slow you down a bit – putting the lids back on!


Bridget Strevens Marzo is a former International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI and current illustration volunteer in the British Isles. Her long string of successful picture books includes Tiz and Ott's Big Draw (archive:

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