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The Magic of a White Gel Pen

Drawing with a white gel pen
I often use a gel pen to add black details and outlines to my watercolors, but every so often I change things up and add white outlines onto a dark painting or paper using a white Gelly Roll gel pen. It’s a different effect.

This was a watercolor wash I painted last week. Every time I walked by it, I thought about how vibrant the blue was and how good white outlines would look on it. I grabbed a few shells for reference and used my white Gelly Roll gel pen. The white really pops!

 

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Flowers – Inktober Day 19-20

Roses with white gel pen #inktober
Day 20 – Roses. I decided to change things up and pulled out my white gel pen for these sketches. I should use it more. I like the look of it on a darker paper.

Zinnia by Eileen McKenna
Day 19 – Zinnia. I started this with a watercolor background – working from a photo I found in the U.K. Country Living magazine. Then I added the ink details and a more color.
Watercolor

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Having the time to experiment

Adding details with a white gel pen
Almost a month focusing on one theme has given me time to try new techniques and tools, including:

  • Using a white gel pen to add the foam of the ocean
  • Mixing different color combinations for the ocean and sand
  • Adding white gouache to my skin tone mixture for a creamier look
  • Using painter’s tape to achieve a straight horizon line

Straight horizon with painter's tape

Some of these ideas I get from others like the painter’s tape tip and the white gel pen. It has become part of my style to add details with a black gel pen. But when I paint an ocean landscape the black ink seems to dark. It just doesn’t work. A few months ago I saw a post – I wish I could track down this source! – of an artist using a white gel pen when painting the ocean. Wow, that might be the answer to my dilemma! I didn’t hesitate and ordered the pen. It sat relatively unused until today.

I find the foam a bit of challenge and the gel pen is a unique way of handling it. I was hesitant to use it, preferring to leave areas white for the foam. But this particular painting wasn’t going so well and I thought, “What do I have to lose?”

I really like how I could scribble away and create the look of the foam. One book I read recommends using masking fluid to keep the foam areas white. Personally I’m not that much of a planner or that meticulous. I like to wing it a bit. That’s probably why I love painting in watercolor so much. It’s not so permanent. You can add in one area, and take away in another, and continue to work at a painting – that may not be going well – and possibly turn it into something beautiful.

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