Most of us know Tombow brush markers for the wonderful manner in which they work for hand or brush lettering. I mainly use my Tombows for that, but I enjoy using them for doodling flowers as well (I’ll show you how in an upcoming blog post – it’s super easy!). I have often heard they can be used for watercolor painting since they are water-based, but I never actually tried it, other than blending colors together for my brush lettering projects.
I created the project I’m sharing today 99% with Tombow brush markers. The only other product I used was Dr. Ph. Martin’s for the stars. I am happy to report that it was very easy to use my Tombows in order to create a complete painting & I happily share my process with you here. Please contact me with your creations & you may be featured on an upcoming blog post.
Materials Needed: art supplies are available in the Amazon links at the conclusion of this post
- Tombow dual-tipped brush markers in “galaxy” colors, if you follow along with my galaxy tutorial, or colors in the color scheme of your choice if you decide to paint something else
- Tombow Blending Palette (available in 2 sizes, I definitely recommend the larger 8 1/2 x 11″ size, especially for this project). If you do not have a blending palette you can easily make your own with a plastic baggie & a stiff sheet of WHITE paper or card stock. Cut it to size to fit in the baggie, seal it & viola! You now have a blending palette.
- Paper towels
- Watercolor paper of good quality (at least 140-lb & I recommend cold-pressed. I use Arches, Strathmore, & Canson brands)
- Watercolor brushes in sizes 4 or 6 Round, & size 0 Round for the trees & other fine details you may wish to add
- Painter’s tape or washi tape
- Protective paper or board for your table top
- Stars: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White OR Titanium White acrylic paint OR a white/gold/silver/bronze Sakura gel pen OR a white Posca paint pen
- A stiff toothbrush that is RESERVED for paint ONLY if you are using Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White or Titanium White acrylic paint.
To start off, you may wish to lightly sketch in a line to differentiate between the sky and earth. Later on the ink from the markers will cover it up, but sketch lightly anyway as that’s a good practice to develop for a watercolor artist.
Step 1: Use painter’s or washi tape to “frame” the paper & attach it to the protective surface you have placed on your table. Focus on having the edges as straight as possible because this will give your final painting a nice mat look. Painter’s tape can be difficult to see through in order to get it absolutely straight on the paper so you may want to use a ruler first & lightly draw in some guidelines to show you exactly where to place the edge of the tape. Washi tape is more transparent & usually you can see the paper below through its surface so it’s much easier to place than painter’s tape, but often will not adhere to the paper as well so paint can get in under the washi tape & ruin the white border, especially if you use a lot of water.
Step 2: Choose the Tombow markers you wish to use.
Step 3: Using the brush end of each marker apply a swatch of color to the blending palette. Keep your swatches no more than 1 1/2″ in diameter or you’ll run out of room on your blending palette. You can easily rinse off the palette as you paint by holding it under running cold water. Apply no more than 4 color swatches at a time because the marker can dry out on the palette if you don’t use it fast enough. You can always add more colors as you work on your painting. The swatches here have already had some water added to them, hence the droplets.
Step 4: Using a clean watercolor brush, or the Aquash Brush (aka Aqua Brush) by Pentel (I love them because they have a receptacle that holds their own water), place a wash of clean water to the paper where you will be painting the sky. Tilt the paper to be sure you can see the moisture on the surface of the paper. Using a good quality watercolor paper is crucial for this project because watercolor paper allows for water to sit on the surface of the paper instead of soaking into it. If your paper is absorbing the water, then it is not good enough for this project & you’ll need to switch to another brand.
Step 5: Start with the lightest colors first, & gradually work toward adding the darker colors. Be sure to clean your brush in between colors. Included below this post is a full list of every Tombow brush marker color I used for this project in case you’d like to duplicate it. For a galaxy painting try not to use more than 4 major colors for the sky, keeping in mind the darker blues & perhaps a black would be used more for blending out toward the edges of the paper. If you are going to include a nebula in your painting as I have limit yourself to 1 – 2 colors for the actual nebula & as you paint outward from the center of your nebula the next color you choose should be a darker color within the same color family so that it will blend easier into the darker blues, purples, and black you may use for the remainder of the sky. Here, I began with a pale pink followed by a dark pink for the nebula.
Dip your wet brush into the first color, blend it into the brush a bit & then add the color to the paper wherever you desire. For a galaxy sky you do need to work quickly before the colors have a chance to dry on the paper. Applying wet colors next to each other will allow them to slightly blend into one another giving your galaxy a more natural look like a nebula.
Don’t attempt to control the process. The more “free-flowing” you allow the paint to be, the more natural your galaxy sky will look once the ink has dried.
When I great galaxy paintings I start with the lightest color in the center and work my way outward with the darker colors, but the choice is yours.
Step 6: OOPS! SNAP! You painted some color where you didn’t want it or it just bled into an area. What to do?
The paper towel is your BEST friend! Before the ink dries, dab at it with the paper towel. This will pick up any loose color. Some of the ink will have adhered to the paper already, but don’t worry.
Next, use a clean brush (if you’re using the Aquash Brush be sure you have cleaned it on a clean paper towel before you try this) & add a bit of water to the area of renegade ink color. Immediately use the paper towel to dab at it until the paper is dry. Sometimes that will pick up & remove the excess color, sometimes it won’t. It depends on the ingredients used to make that color. Some are easy to remove while others will stain the paper no matter what you do. Should the paper be stained you can add a darker color over it. Remember, you’re painting outer space & there isn’t really any rhyme or reason to it. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to create a galaxy painting. You just go with the flow.
Step 7: After you have completed the sky you may wish to use a heat gun or hair dryer to dry your painting.
Step 8: Once the sky is completely dry paint the earthly portion of your painting; such as, hills, mountains, or whatever elements you’re using for the earthly portion of your painting. Be sure the ink for the sky is DRY. If it is not, then the ink for the earth will blend with the sky color. Focus on just adding areas of color for hills, mountains, lakes, etc. At this stage we are not adding any elements like trees or bushes. That comes last. For a night scene be sure to use a dark green for the grass or dark brown for dirt/sand or mountains simply because things look darker at night, including colors of the grass, trees, and so on. I used # ___ & over that, while it was still wet, I used # ___to add a bit of a darker color to the grass.
Step 9: when your painting is completely dry you are ready to add the stars.
NOTE: you can add the stars prior to painting any earthly elements of your painting, but keep in mind if you use something like BPW (Bleed Proof White) that the Tombow markers, which are water-based, may not completely cover it should you flick any of the paint onto the lower area of your painting onto which you will later paint the hills, etc. I added the hills prior to the stars in my example here. I recommend you test your materials on scratch paper first to be sure if you flick paint for the stars prior to painting the hills and so on that the markers will cover any paint that lands within the lower register of your painting.
First, before you flick any paint for the stars you need to protect the “land” portion of your painting. You do this by simply covering the grassy area with a paper towel, as I have done here. If you’d like to be exact in your coverage, hold the painting up to a window (or a light box if you own one) & then hold the paper towel up against the painting & trace the line demarcating the horizon line onto the paper towel. Cut along that line and you will then have a protective cover that will exactly cover the earth portion of your painting.
Adding the stars can be done in one of several ways. I prefer to use Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White, but this is not cheap. Less expensive alternatives are Titanium White acrylic paint or a white gel pen. Sakura makes excellent white gel pens & they also make silver, gold, & copper so you are not limited to only the color white for your stars. If you are using gel pens or a paint pen (Posca makes an excellent fine line white paint pen) be sure you’re placing the dots seemingly randomly on the paper for the stars. All products mentioned are in links below. You can even look up photos of constellations & place a particular constellation in your painting, like the constellation after which your zodiac sign is named, for one example.
Gel & paint pens can be use to place the stars exactly where you’d like them to be. You can also control the size of your stars. If you are doing this by hand with gel or paint pens you don’t really need to cover the hills/grass area of your painting with a paper towel, but I would still recommend that you do just in case of any accidental spots of stray ink or paint.
Using paint for the stars: this holds true for Dr. Ph. Martin’s & acrylic paint only. For Bleed Proof White & acrylic paint you need very little paint. For example, when using BPW (Bleed Proof White) it is very thick & requires stirring prior to use. I use a toothpick. As I am done stirring I hold the wet toothpick over a piece of foil and allow the paint that is on the toothpick to drip onto the foil. I then carefully rub the sides of the toothpick onto the foil in order to transfer more paint onto the foil. For anything from a 4 x 6″ to a 9 x 12″ where the entire paper surface is a galaxy, this is really all the paint or BPW you will need. Add 1 – 2 drops of water, but no more than that or the paint will be too runny.
Next, run your stiff old toothbrush through the BPW or paint. Then with your finger, run it along the brush with the brush bristles facing the paper in order to flick the paint onto the paper. If you have never done anything like this before I really recommend you practice on a piece of foil or dark paper first so you can get the feel for it, then you’ll be able to create stars easily.
Flick as much or as little paint onto your galaxy as you like. This is a matter of personal taste. Wait for the paint to dry and then you can complete your painting with the last step.
Step 10: add landscape elements such as trees & bushes. I recommend using a very dark gray for this, but if you have used very dark colors for the grass/dirt/sand, you can use black. I recommend adding a bit of your underlying color to a piece of scratch paper & then trying out the darker grays & black on top of it. You may find black to be too jarring & decide to go with a darker gray instead.
Extra Information: painting fir trees.
It’s very easy to paint fir trees.
First, use the fine-tip end of your Tombow dual brush pen & draw vertical lines where you want the fir trees to appear. Draw the lines in a seeming random pattern as I have done here & be sure that shorter lines appear in the distance while longer lines that will be taller trees appear closer to the base of your painting as these trees will be in front of the other trees that will become the background.
Color in the distance is LIGHTER than color closer to the viewer’s eye, so you may want to go with a slightly lighter gray brush marker for trees right along the horizon line. This will give your painting a more realistic look.
Color toward the base of your painting is closer to the eye of the viewer so color here will naturally appear darker. As you move down the length of your painting toward the base be sure the application of color for the trees is becoming a bit darker. This will add depth to your overall painting.
To start painting the trees, create a swatch of color on your blending palette. Dip your brush into fresh water and run it through the ink on your blending palette.
Beginning with the trees in the distance (those closer to your galaxy sky) start at the TOP of the tree & allow the brush (ideally, a 0 size works great for this) to be a bit shaky in your hand & kind of “scribble” a tiny branch from the vertical line you drew outward a very tiny bit. At this point you’re merely pulling a tiny bit of paint outward from the vertical line you drew. Branches at the top of the fir tree will be shorter than branches at the base. Alternate painting branches extending from each side of the vertical line you drew & be sure to allow them to be staggered. Don’t draw the branch straight across both sides of the vertical line. Google pictures of fir trees. Branches alternate so be sure your branches also alternate.
As you move closer to the base of your painting & the trees become larger you can begin to add a bit more detail to the branches.
Starting at the top of the vertical line with your brush add a very tiny “v.” Next, add the top 2 branches, one to either side of the line with one branch being ever so slightly higher than the other. Create other branches with each lower branch extending further to the left or the right than the branch above it.
When painting the branches allow your hand to shake a tiny bit up and down as you draw the line of paint outward from the vertical line. This will create tiny scribbles that will make it look like fir tree branches. If you’ve ever looked closely at a fir tree they are kind of “scribbly” looking due to the pine needles growing out from the branch in all directions. As you paint your tiny scribbly lines for branches you’ll achieve a very similar look.
If you have any questions about this topic please feel free to contact me. If you try the painting do send me a picture of your creation & I may feature it on a future blog post.
Try to create something every day & enjoy!
The code number of all Tombow dual-tipped markers used & product Amazon links are below.
Tombow Dual-Tipped Brush Pens used in this project:
Nebula: 703, 725
Sky: 676, 636, 452, 443, 555, 565, N25
Grass: 228, 249
Shading for grass: N45
Canson 9 x 12″ watercolor paper pad (I prefer this size as I can always trim it down)
Sakura white gel pen, 2 PK