Visual Journalling tips: Pens and Paints

I received a question yesterday about what kinds of pens write well over acrylic paints.  That’s actually a big topic!

In general, the “best pen ever” is the Scarlet Lime pen put out by the scrapbooker Christy Tomlinson in her shop.  But it’s sold out, and has been replaced by the Uni-Ball Signo 207, medium tip.  The Signo 207 can also be gotten online from Wal-Mart (easiest way to procure it).  It claims to be waterproof, but I’ve found that it smears when wet; perhaps I haven’t let it dry sufficiently.

I also have good luck with gel pens, but only the “name brand” ones by Sakura.  They will sometimes skip, and the ink doesn’t hold out forever, but singly they aren’t expensive, so I use them a lot when I want colored ink.

Also, the “InkJoy” pens by PaperMate will often work well.  They look like ball points.  The colors don’t show up over many colors of paint, though.

And the type of acrylic paint matters, too.  In general, Heavy Body paints (in the tube) are very difficult to write over.  In that case, just write over them with more acrylic using a very thin brush.  Liquid acrylics are much easier to write over, because there is little texture.

Interestingly, for journalling, I recommend the cheap acrylic craft paints.  At Michael’s, the CraftSmart brand is about a dollar a bottle.  They are much easier to write over than the more expensive Golden brand.  The colors of the craft paint are not as beautifully transparent as the Golden, but being so inexpensive, I can experiment to my heart’s content without worrying about “wasting” paint.

For painting on canvas, however, I use almost exclusively the Golden brand paints.  Mmmmmmm!

Another note:  Using watercolors solves all these challenges.  I often paint a background in watercolor, then when I come to use the page will write over the top of the color with just about any pen or pencil.  It’s easy enough to add acrylic then to add more details or a different “feel” or texture.

I don’t tend to use gesso very much in my journal.  It seems like an extra step that does not add a whole lot, and for me isn’t worth the time it takes to apply and dry when I’m doing my daily journalling.  Gesso is really good, though, to apply over a very slick surface.  Then it adds enough texture that your pen or paint will be caught by its “tooth”.   I do have three types of gesso, though:  white, black and clear.  I like to use the black on pages where I want to start with a very dark background.  I use the clear as a final top coat when I have collage or other embellishments.

Enjoy playing with your supplies!  It need not be expensive or complicated to add visual journalling to your life.  While I’ve journalled for more than 43 years, it’s only been in the past two years that I’ve added color and images.  I LOVE looking on my shelf and seeing the volumes brimming over with color!

A reminder:  go for what feels good, not perfection.

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