img_20170106_111227_348Back in October 2016 the lovely people at Insider Art put together a video of my brush pen lettering work, showcasing what I do with Artline Stix Brush Markers in particular. It was fair to say the internet lost it’s mind a little bit and everyone wanted to know more about these “ombrè markers” I was using.

Not only that, it also raised questions from people who already had the markers. Many were under the impression they had purchased wrong or defective pens. That’s not the case! This post will show you how easy it is to NOT achieve the ombrè effect, and of course how to actually achieve it.

With over 15 million views on Facebook to date (and a bunch more on Instagram), you can IMAGINE what happened to my inbox that week the Insider video went viral!

Off the back of the intense interest in the pens from the USA, I became an official stockist and have hand packed and sent 200+ orders since. I’ve sold out of stock twice and the interest is ALWAYS there!

But, when the parcels arrived people were having trouble. Despite the video demos, some people just weren’t able to achieve the ombrè effect. In fact, I’d even get VERY rude and blunt emails or Facebook comments about it. The good part for me is – it’s just how they were using the pen!

So let’s take a closer look…

The below photo shows you comparisons between a thin upstroke, and the variety of thicknesses you can achieve with a downstroke. REMEMBER: upstrokes should only ever be light and thin.


As you can see, I’ve been able to get a variety of thicknesses with my downstrokes, dependent on how much pressure I applied to the pen. People having trouble with these markers were drawing around the size of that middle thick stroke, and as you can see the colour is flat grey all the way through.

The thickest stroke to the far right however has a gradient. This is what we mean by “ombrè” (some people like to say that’s a hairstyle not a pen technique, but ombrè already caught on so TOO BAD YOU GUYS). The reason this stroke has a gradient of colour, dark to light, is because of the pressure exerted on the pen throughout the stroke.

During brush pen lettering, we need to apply heavy pressure to downstrokes and light pressure to upstrokes. It is during this transition, which usually occurs at the bottom of letters, that we see the change. The less pressure we apply, the less ink comes out, the lighter the colour.

It is simply a case of pressing harder! The word ‘press’ below had light pressure exerted the entire way through, whereas ‘harder’ had heavy pressure applied to the downstrokes and it has created a gradient.


But how much pressure should I apply? Will I damage the pen? I’m scared!

Good questions! The below video will demonstrate how hard you NEED to press to achieve the gradient. Note, this is the same video featured in the Insider Art video, but turn the sound on because you will hear what it should sound like, which will give a pretty good understanding of how hard I actually do press!

Inky goodness 😍 tap for sounds of pen squeals and household appliances. ✒ Artline Stix Brush Pen

A post shared by BLACK CHALK CO | Emma Witte ✍ (@blackchalkco) on

Crazy, huh?

It is important to note however that you need to hold the pen correctly when you exert pressure on it, or you run the risk of damaging the tip. The pen should be on it’s side, about 45 degrees so that the majority of the brush tip is able to touch the paper when you perform a downstroke. Unlike a regular pen that we hold more in front of us and more upright, better results can be achieved with a brush pen if it is held to the side.

Paper is also another important consideration when trying to achieve the ombrè effect. Printer paper has fibres and is very absorbent and will soak up the ink too quickly for it to have a gradient. Smooth paper like Rhodia as used in these photos is a great option as the ink won’t seep into the page. Other alternatives are tracing paper, bleedproof marker paper or vellum. Paper choice will also affect the longevity of your brush pens – rough paper will damage the fabric marker tips, so it’s always best to stick to smooth where possible.


Last thing: be careful which Artline Stix you buy! Artline make them in Brush Markers, Drawing Pens and Colouring Pens. You want the Artline Stix Brush Markers as pictured on the right above, with the pink on the box. You won’t be able to do brush lettering at all if you purchase the other two.

I hope this post has cleared up some things about ombrè lettering! If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to leave a comment on this post.