Using Paint Pens On Canvas

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Using Paint Pens On Canvas

Friends, I’ve been dying to purchase a set of paint pens, specifically the POSCA ones, to try on my canvas paintings because there are so many times when I’m adding detailed work to my art that I wish I just had a paint pen in that color! I finally gave in and so far I love them.

What are the Uni POSCA Paint Pens?   

They are a highly rated, water based paint pen with a very opaque pigment. I’m not sure exactly what kind of ink is inside, however, given that it is opaque and water based, I’d say they are very close to acrylic. That means that, just like acrylics, they are permanent on porous surfaces and will stain. They will wash off of our hands.

In case you’re wondering, YES these are the pens that a lot of rock painting artists use. 

In my own testing of this product, they are AMAZING on canvas! They come in multiple points. The pack that I bought is the fine point 15 color set. 

Can you use paint pens on canvas?

Definitely! They are just like painting with acrylic paint on a fine brush only the paint is in the form of a pen. They are PERFECT for creating intricate tiny details in your paintings without having to use a “steady hand”. 

POSCAS are extremely opaque and consistent. By “consistent” I mean that you can create a long line that has has consistent pigment to it. The line does not “run dry” or change thickness. You don’t need to shake the pen in between lines either. 


Can paint pens paint over acrylic paint?

Yes! The black canvas you see in the picture below was a standard white gesso canvas that I painted over with black acrylic paint. These paint pens will paint over any color of acrylic paint. 


Why use paint pens?

If you’re like me sometimes you get a “shaky hand” when you’re supposed to have a “steady hand” when doing very detailed work. I’m talking about intricate designs, outlining, lettering, very fine detail patterns, etc. all with a round brush.

They make round brushes with all different fine points. I often use a “20/0” round, “10/0” and “0” for creating fine lines.

On the canvas above, I demonstrated three different brushes: a 10/0, 3/0 and a 0. You can kind of see the variation in thickness from creating the paint line. The top line was done with an POSCA paint pen in “purple”. 

The one downside to using the paint pen is that the line itself doesn’t look like a “paint stroke” but more like a consistent marker stroke. So if you are going for something more “expressive” and “artsy” you may want to stick with the brush. However, if you need something that has to be consistent (where you don’t have to re-load the brush constantly) then the pen is very helpful for that!

The Opaqueness Is AMAZING!

What really excites me about these paint pens is how opaque they are! You can see in the images below and above how bright and solid they show up over black.

I tested this out by making a large “Mars Black” coat of paint on the canvas. Then waited for the paint to dry and marked over it with different colors of POSCA markers. You can see how solid and consistent they are. 

They look AMAZING on black canvas! You can see how bright they look against the black. These would look great for doing a chalkboard design.


What about for kids painting & paint party use?

I know a lot of you follow these tutorials because you paint with your kids and/or you like to have personal paint parties! You may be wondering if they would be beneficial for that use and I think they are definitely worth it!

Sometimes children get frustrated when using the tiny round brush. Using the paint pen gives your child more control over the line because it’s just like using a marker. Less frustration is always beneficial! 

As for paint party use, these can be super fun! You can add fun quotes, lettering and simple design details to your paintings with these paint pens. And your beginner painter party participants won’t have to fret over using that tiny 10/0 round brush. 

Where can I get Acrylic Paint Pens?

I bought mine from Amazon. This was the exact set that I ordered and I ordered the “fine” point.

They come in multiple points (which was confusing to me). The medium seems to be a popular choice but I went for “fine” because I knew I would be using these only when I wanted a fine line on my painting. They also make an “extra fine” point. 

You can also get them at BLICK, JoAnn and it looks like Walmart sells them too! I’m unsure if you can get them in the store at any of these retailers or if they’re only available online. 


Highly rated paint pens for canvas painting:

I recommend finding water based paint pens because you are using them over acrylic water based paint. Water based paint pens are opaque and can also be painted over with acrylic paint.

Here are some top rated listings on Amazon for water based paint pens: 

Artiqo Paint Pens



Artistro Acrylic Paint Pen

JR White Acrylic Paint Pens


You can also use oil based paint pens over acrylic paintings (once they are completely dry). However, it may not be as easy to paint over the oil pen with acrylic paint. 

Sharpies can be used on canvas too!

Black sharpies are great for making bold, black outlining details and they are readily available so we don’t have to run out and buy a special pen for just one small step. 

I sometimes like to use metallic sharpies for fun lettering and designs (like on the mermaid tail in this painting).

Mermaid Painting Tutorial Using A Metallic Sharpie On Fin

The only downside is that sharpie is notorious for bleeding and they look extra shiny on the canvas. To avoid the “bleeding” possibility, I typically wait until the end to do detailed sharpie work. Also, make sure the surface you are painting over with sharpie is completely dry. 


Do you use paint pens in your paintings?

Comment on this post to share your experience! What’s your favorite brand of paint pen?



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22 thoughts on “Using Paint Pens On Canvas”

  1. Today I discovered your amazing site. How to paint Galaxy Falls is beautifully done. I have subscribed and I wonder how to make my Amazon purchases go towards your account.

    • Hi Peggy! Thank you! Galaxy Falls is one of my favorites ? If you click on any link on this website that leads to an amazon product it counts ? Most of my affiliate links are in the materials section of the tutorials.

  2. I was planning on using paint pens in my acrylic painting but I am not sure how they would react with varnish. Do you use varnish on the paintings where you have used paint pens? If yes, what kind of varnish are you using?

    • Hi Mar! I’ve never varnished a painting with paint pens but I imagine any varnish you use for acrylic painting will work fine if you used the water based paint pen. I recommend testing an area first to be safe.

  3. Is Artistro Acrylic Paint Markers good to use on canvas? Artistro and POSCA, which is better? My friend recommended me but I’m not sure about it. Because I have never used pens or markers for canvas

  4. i am so glad i found your review. my hands are not steady enough to paint very straight so i use straight edges and the brush work looks terrible. I am going to order some of those posca pens and work with those.

  5. Excellent post!
    One question: can I use these pens over oil paint? My art is based on oil painting and I want to try new things, and for that a pen would perfect. But I’m afraid that it would either ruin the painting or look weird in some way!
    Thanks in advance!

    • Great question! My guess is if you use a water based pen over oil, it might not work. You can always test this out on a small area of your canvas to see what happens. They do make oil based pens so you can try those out if the water based ones don’t work!

  6. Thank you for writing this post, Artistro acrylic paint pen work very nicely! The pigment is rich, the coverage is good and the tips are extra-fine so you can do detail work with these. I use them on paper, but they will come in handy for a number of projects! Pictured are swatches from the medium point set and the fine point set.


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