How to use Posca pens: 5 tips for beginners

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Posca pens are undoubtedly the best paint markers I’ve ever gotten my hands on.

Why? Because they meet all of my demands: superior performance, originality, and versatility. On the other hand, are they pricy? Yep. But are they worth it? Huge yep.

Below, I’ve listed my top tips for beginners on how to use Posca pens and make the best out of these unparallel paint markers from the get-go!

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How to use Posca pens

Like with any art supplies, you’ll naturally learn the ins and outs of Posca pens as you practice and incorporate them into different projects.

But you don’t need to figure it all out on your own; that’s why I’ve set up a brief list of beginner-friendly tips on how to use Posca pens before getting started.

Note that while Posca pens are compatible with lots of mediums, I’ve specifically used paper, cardstock, and canvas for this tutorial.

1. Removing packaging 

Packaging_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

How many people does it take to unwrap a Posca pen? I know it sounds a little over the top, but trust me, Posca pens feel like they’re sealed for life! 

While this ensures your pens are extra well preserved (especially during messy shipping scenarios), getting these unwrapped can be a pain. So before you get your Xcto knife and go crazy trying to set your pen free, do this instead:

Grab your pen with both hands and twist in opposite directions until the plastic wrapping splits in two. Know that this may take more than a twist or two since the plastic is wrapped so tightly.

Note that you may find sets that don’t contain individually wrapped markers.

2. Activating paint

Activating paint_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Knowing how to use Posca pens involves learning to activate your pens’ paint; a few steps are required to make this happen.

Firstly, note that brand-new Posca pens all feature white, neutral color tips, which tends to confuse a lot of people at first. If you remove the cap from your hot pink paint marker and find a blank tip staring at you, relax. It’s not damaged or dried up.

Like all Posca pens, your pen just needs a little shake-a-roo. Actually, a big shake-a-roo.

These paint markers feature a unique valve mechanism that not only preserves paint but also activates its release. When you shake your pen, you’ll hear a ball clicking within the barrel, indicating that the pigment is mixing and flowing to the tip.

While there may be variations in how each Posca pen type works, the process of getting paint distributed throughout pens is mostly the same across all models.

Dabbing Posca pen_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

For instance, for PC-5M bullet tip and chunky PC-17K pens, I like to press tips down on surfaces a couple of times before shaking. I’ll repeat this process until tips are primed and are no longer entirely white.

Also, don’t jam your tips onto your surfaces; dab them lightly and patiently. And keep caps on every time you shake!

Brush pen button_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

On the other hand, Posca brush pens are essentially paintbrushes in the form of a pen; therefore, you won’t have a hard nib to apply pressure on to activate paint flow.

Posca brush pens feature a button on the opposite end of the brush tip that needs to be pressed a few times after shaking to activate paint flow. Again: don’t forget to keep caps on when shaking.

While some crafters prefer to activate paint by repeatedly dabbing tips until primed, I prefer combining pressing tips and shaking. Personally, I find this much quicker and more effective, especially if you’re working with larger markers.

Another tip is to shake several pens at the same time if you’re thinking of blending colors. This will get them primed at the same time with similar consistencies.

3. Choosing the right pen type and nib

Posca pen tips_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Posca pens come in all kinds of sizes: 9 tips and 6 shapes, to be exact. If you’re entirely new to Posca pens, I advise sticking with the following three models to get started:

PC-5M

PC-5M_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Bullet tip Posca pens like the PC-5M pens are great for beginners. They can draw finer detailed lines as well as bold color blocks on a variety of surfaces. And although larger areas may take longer to fill in, you’ll rarely see any streaks or lines between strokes.

You can also dip tips in water to facilitate paint flow, making coverage quicker. If you want a thinner tip, I advise getting a set of PC-3M pens.

PC-17K

PC-17K_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

For more coverage in less time, I recommend the PC-17K Posca pen. It’s simple to use and ideal for creating thick lines for alternative lettering projects such as mural art or coloring in backgrounds with a flat texture.

A friend of mine has been using these for graffiti for years and says he’s still yet to find a worthy contender!

PCF-350

PCF-350_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Posca PCF-350 brush pens are the way to go for calligraphy and painting. They might be a little trickier to master at first, but if you’re familiar with painting, you’ll get this down quickly.

They’re an excellent way for starters to get into painting, minus the hassle of a traditional setup.

4. Effects

Effects feature_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Posca pens are water-soluble paint markers, making them incredibly versatile to achieve lots of different effects. I love how advanced your artwork can look with just a few simple techniques — and there are so many to try out!

But for now, let’s stick to these four for complete beginners:

Gradient

Gradient_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

To achieve this watercolor-like effect using Posca pens, you’ll require a paintbrush and water. Due to the fast-drying nature of Posca pen paint, you have to apply wet brushstrokes onto wet paint to dilute it almost immediately.

PC 17K Gradient_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Be aware that not all paint markers will respond the same. For example, PC-17K pens (see above) are especially matte; the paint is permanent, and lines are formed quicker, giving you little time to water down.

PC-5M gradient_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

My top recommendations for this effect are PC-3M and PC-5M pens. These are the better option to play with opacity. Another tool you can use instead of a paintbrush is a waterbrush pen!

Mixing colors

Color combination1
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Mixing colors is a great way to create new hues and textures for accents and detail. You can blend colors with your pens or with a paintbrush directly on your surface as long as the paint is wet.

Color combination2 posca
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

However, while easy to achieve as a beginner, you’ll have to practice a little before applying this technique.

Posca pens are extremely opaque; some tones appear more pigmented than others. For example, the dark blue PC-5M marker is heavily pigmented and tends to overpower other hues.

Also, your surface will impact outcomes.

Color combination_3
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

I suggest working with similar tones (light blue-dark blue, red-pink, light green-yellow) to achieve a more organic blend of colors. Your mistakes will also be less noticeable.

A great way to make your color combinations more seamless is to use your finger vs. your paintbrush or marker tip for a more organic “smudge” effect.

Splatter technique

splatter_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If you like the street art aesthetic, this is a fun technique to replicate a spray paint effect. Some prefer the blowing technique, where you freshly prime your pen tip, add water, and then blow directly onto surfaces to create “a splatter.”

But this isn’t as simple as it sounds for beginners.

Splattering_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

An easy alternative to achieving this effect is dipping nibs into water for a more liquid consistency. Then, shake your pen over surfaces, letting paint droplets fall freely.

Sure, the effect won’t be as delicate as the blowing technique, but you can create daintier dots/splatters by distancing yourself from your surface.

Note: This will be messy!

Brush pen splattering_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Another easy-to-do splatter technique can be done with Posca brush pens. Get pens primed and flick bristles with your fingers! If you’re a painter, you’re likely to be familiar with this technique.

I especially like doing this with metallic colors (see image).

Layering

Layering_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Posca paint is incredibly opaque and rich — perfect for layering colors. I love doing this, whether applying more minimal black-on-white or neon colors on dark backgrounds.

Layering example1_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

To apply this technique properly, ensure your first layer is completely dry. Although Posca pen paint dries pretty quickly, it’s always best to let things dry as much as possible before applying a new layer.

Besides smudging, this avoids stained tips, especially if you add light-colored layers on dark tones.

Smudge example layering_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

Above is an example of what will happen if you add paint to surfaces that aren’t completely dry or if you’re layering with extra watery paint.

This is always a pain (although acrylic paint can always be painted over), but more challenging to fix if you’re working on small-scale designs.

Layering2_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If your pen releases a lot of watered-down paint, clean/dab it gently on a paper towel to remove the excess liquid (much like you would do with a traditional paintbrush).

Once cleaned, prime your pen again, one shake at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.

I suggest doodling a few lines between shakes before putting your pen down on your final work again.

5. Cleaning and preserving your Posca pens

Cleaning feature image_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

One of the highlights of Posca pens is that, unlike many art pens, they’re resistant to just about anything — and completely washable. When I started using Posca pens for the first time, I was hesitant to use them more freely for fear of damaging or staining tips.

But then I realized there is almost nothing these pens can’t endure! Here are my top tips to keep your pens in good shape during and after use.

Cleaning1_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

If your pens become stained, you can quickly restore their original color by re-priming them with a good ole’ shake. Fresh paint will flow to the tip and override the stain as if it were brand new.

When re-priming isn’t enough, you can clean your pen tips by running them under water for a few minutes (see image).

Cleaning 2_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

To clean tips more thoroughly, I advise removing tips from the pen body and letting them soak in a glass of water overnight.

There’s no need to keep them soaking for too many hours, though.

Posca pens storage_how to use Posca pens
Photo via Stephanie Bento (Tiny Workshops)

You can store Posca pens in any position, but I prefer laying them horizontally. Doing this ensures that the paint is distributed more evenly while stored, making it easier to blend when shaken again for use.

Important: Never store your Posca pens with caps facing down, as this can cause clogging and crusty tips.

Lastly, while Posca paint markers are nearly perfect, they aren’t flawless. If your tips get damaged (this may happen if you work on more rugged surfaces), the good news is that you can find replacements!

If you’re looking for convenience and good value, you can find options on Amazon like this.


And that’s it for my top tips for first-time Posca pen artists! Let us know if you have more handy ideas on how to use Posca pens in the comments below!

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