POSCA Illustration: Drawing with Paint Pens | Christine Nishiyama | Skillshare

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POSCA Illustration: Drawing with Paint Pens

teacher avatar Christine Nishiyama, Artist at Might Could Studios

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      An Intro to POSCA (and this class)


    • 2.

      A Little About Posca


    • 3.

      Getting Started with Posca Illustration


    • 4.

      Posca Drawing Techniques


    • 5.

      Common Posca Problems


    • 6.

      Your Posca Project!


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About This Class

I have a confession: I am obsessed with Posca paint pens!

Posca paint pens have sparked my creativity and revitalized my sketchbooks. Drawing with Posca paint pens is like painting with acrylic, but with more control and less mess.

Basically, it's painting for illustrators!

Poscas come in bright, lovely colors and 8 different nib sizes. The paint is opaque enough to layer on top of each other and dries in just a couple of minutes. They also don't bleed through to the other side of the paper, making them wonderful sketchbook tools!

In this class, you'll learn how to get started drawing with Posca paint pens—everything from:

  • where to buy them
  • which ones to buy
  • what paper to draw on
  • and how to prime the pens

I'll also be showing you my favorite Posca drawing techniques, including how to:

  • draw smooth strokes
  • whether to push or pull the pen
  • fill in blocks of color
  • add linework
  • layer paint
  • add shading
  • how to clean your pens
  • and how to use Posca in mixed-media artwork

Lastly, I'll cover the most common issues artists have with Posca and how you can avoid them, like:

  • paint blobs
  • splattering
  • watery paint
  • paper piling and rippling
  • and dry nibs.

You'll also get a PDF download with my personal favorite Posca pen nibs and colors and my Top Posca Tips for quick reference as you start drawing.

By the end of this class, you'll have everything you need to start drawing with Posca pens and injecting fun into your own art with this amazing tool!

So c'mon, let's start drawing with Posca!


Trailer music credit: 

Porch Swing Days by Kevin MacLeod Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4233-porch-swing-days---faster License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/



Check out my other Skillshare classes here!

You can also see more about me and my work on my website: might-could.com.

And you can sign up for my email list for weekly essays on creativity and artmaking!

Thanks so much! <3

Meet Your Teacher

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Christine Nishiyama

Artist at Might Could Studios

Top Teacher

Hallo! I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist + founder of Might Could Studios.

I make books and comics, and I draw a whoooole lot. I teach aspiring and established artists, helping them explore their art, gain more confidence, and discover their unique artistic styles.

My core belief is that art is good and we should all make more of it. 

Instagram: Yeewhoo, I quit all social media! 

Books: Check out my books here, including a graphic novel series with Scholastic!

Subscribe to my Substack newsletter: Join over 10,000 artists and get my weekly essays on creativity and artmaking, weekly art prompts, and behind-the-scenes process work of my current picture book. Subscribe here!

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Level: Beginner

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1. An Intro to POSCA (and this class): Hey, I'm Christine Nishiyama, artist and founder of Might Cloud Studios, and I, I'm obsessed with Posca. I'm also an artist and illustrator of many books, including a graphic novel series with Scholastic, but what I'm really here to talk about is drawing with Posca paint pens. Posca pens have sparked my creativity, revitalized my sketch books, and revolutionized my art. Am I slightly exaggerating? Probably. But when I talk about Posca , I get caught up in my excitement because they're just so fun to draw with. What's so great about Posca paint pens you say? They are pain pens. Using them is like creating art with acrylic paint, but with more control and less mess. They're bright. Poscas come in 55 brilliant colors and eight different nib sizes. They're opaque and dense. Posca paint is so solid, you can easily layer colors on top of each other or on top of different mediums. They're fast drying. It takes just a minute or two to dry, so you can keep drawing on top. They don't bleed through the page. When using the right paper, Posca paint doesn't bleed through to the other side so you can fill up your sketch book front-to-back and not waste any pages. They're versatile. Poscas work on paper, canvas, wood, plastic, fabric, glass, ceramic, metal, rocks, basically anything you'd want to draw on, and they're water-based. The paint is permanent on paper, but is not permanent on other surfaces like your hands, so it'll wash right off. In this class, you'll learn everything you need to start drawing with Posca paint pens, everything from; where to buy them, which ones to buy, what paper to draw on, and how to prime the pens. I'll also be showing you my favorite Posca drawing techniques including; how to draw smooth strokes, whether to push or pull the pen, how to fill in blocks of color, how to add line-work, how to layer paint, how to add shading, and how to use Posca and mixed media artwork. Lastly, I'll cover the most common issues artists have with Posca, and how you can avoid them. Like paint blobs, splattering, watery paint, how to clean the nibs, how to avoid paper rippling, and drying nibs. You'll also get a PDF download with my personal favorite Posca pen nibs and colors and my top Posca tips for quick reference as you start drawing. By the end of this class, you'll have everything you need to start drawing with Posca paint pens and injecting fun into your art work with this amazing new tool, so come on, let's get started. 2. A Little About Posca: Alrighty, let's get started with posca. Posca pens are made by a Japanese stationery brand called Mitsubishi Uni, known as Uni-ball in the US. This makes Poscas a bit harder to find than some art tools, but almost every art store I've been to in the past few years has started carrying them. You can also buy them online at Amazon, JetPens, or BLICK. Either way, you can choose between buying poscas in packs or individually. I recommend starting out with a pack, as it's more economical that way. You'll probably have more fun experimenting with a small range of colors. My first set of Poscas was a pack of 1Ms in the natural color. The pens range in price depending on what size you get. But to give you an idea, you can get the medium-size nib for about $3.5 each, or a set of eight for about 20 bucks. That may seem a bit expensive if you're not used to buying drawing pens, but these pens actually last quite a while. I draw with mine all the time and I still have a few from my original pack of six from four years ago. Plus they're amazing, so four bucks is worth it to me. What is 1M you say? Well, one cool thing about poscas is that they come in a range of tip sizes. F350, brush tip; 1M, extra-fine tip; 1MR, extra fine with the needlepoint tip; 3M, 5M, 8K, and 17K. You really don't need every nib size though. Personally, I only have Poscas in a few tip sizes, and that's plenty enough for me. I like to use the 1M bullet nib, 3M, and 5M. These three nibs give you enough range to do really small details or linework and fill in larger colored spaces. I also tend to draw mainly in sketchbooks and mainly on the smaller side so if you draw bigger, you may prefer the bigger tips. Some of these nibs are reversible and replaceable, but we'll get to that later on in the class. Poscas come in 55 different colors, which I find refreshing, as a lot of other art pens come in an overwhelming number of colors. Personally, I prefer to work with minimal color palettes when I draw, and I think that's what posca is best suited for. You can technically blend and mix the Posca paint. But in my opinion, you're better off using a different tool if that's what you're interested in doing. Poscas tend to be strongest when using flat colors or flat layering and shading. I'll show you more of that in the drawing techniques video. Just like you don't need eight nib sizes, you really don't need 55 colors either. If you're new to posca, I recommend getting a pack that will give you a small variety of colors to experiment with. From there, you can add more individual colors once you see how you like them and see what you think you're missing. For example, I love this dark blue 1M pen that I bought for drawing line work. In addition to all the classic colors, there are also metallic, glitter, and fluorescent color options. I have the red glitter and gold pens that are both really fun to draw with, especially as accents to other flat colors. I'll note here though, that the metallic and glitter paints are very hard to photograph because of the shine. That's not really a reason not to use them, and maybe it's positive in it's own way, your original work will always look better than the reproduction. My last note about color is that every color is not available in every nib size. That's not really a big issue, but it may be something to keep in mind if you're going to go all in on posca and buy a bunch. Luckily, posca made this handy-dandy chart to show you the color-nib availabilities, and I've included it in the class as a PDF download. Another awesome thing about posca is that you can draw with them on different surfaces. Poscas can be used on paper, canvas, wood, plastic, fabric, glass, ceramic, metal, rocks, and basically just about anything. This class is primarily focused on poscas for illustrators and artists, and we'll be mainly just drawing on paper. But I'll be showing the process and best practices for other surfaces in part two of this class. 3. Getting Started with Posca Illustration: Now, onto drawing on paper. I often hear from frustrated POSCA newbies that their paper gets torn up when they drop. This could happen for one of three reasons. Either your paper is too thin or too textured, your pen needs to be reprimed, or you're drawing in a POSCA-unfriendly way. We'll adjust the repriming issue in just a minute, and the POSCA-unfriendly drawing later on. But first we need to make sure you're using the right kind of paper. POSCAs have fiber nibs, like a brush if all the strands were glued together, and then on top of that, POSCAs use thick paint instead of lightweight ink, like some other pens do. Those two things in tandem require a specific kind of paper. You need something that's thick enough to hold onto the paint and not buckle and something that's smooth enough to not catch on the nib fibers. The other thing to note is that POSCAs were not really designed to be used on paper. They were originally made more as a craft tool for drawing on wood, metal, rocks, and stuff like that. But in recent years, maybe thanks to my campaigning, they've been gaining popularity with illustrators and are being used on paper and then sketchbooks more and more. Because of this history you just have to realize that sometimes they're going to peel up the paper. As you experiment with this new tool, you're going to get some extra texture, and that's okay. It's manageable for sure, but you also just have to accept that the texture is part of the medium and the process and it's actually cool. It's like how watercolor paper adds texture to a watercolor painting. It's just part of the whole kit. Anyways, the point is you need a smooth, heavy paper. My go-to recommendation is mixed media paper. My two favorite sketchbooks for POSCA, which can also be bought in individual paper sheets are Strathmore Mixed Media, either 75 or 90-pound, and Canson Mix Media, 98-pound. Both of these sketchbooks list that they're applicable for acrylic and watercolor paint, which is basically what's important here. They're going to be able to withstand the wetness and heaviness of the paint without buckling or rippling, and this paper is smooth enough so it's not going to catch the fibers of the nib, allowing for smooth paint application. Now that you've got your pens and your paper, it's time to get started. There's actually one last step before we start drawing. First, we have to prime the pen. There are a bunch of different names for this, but basically your brand new pen has a bunch of ink in the barrel that you need to release down into the empty nib, otherwise nothing's going to come out when you draw. Most instructions I've seen for this say to just shake like crazy and push like crazy. But in my experience, that gives you a big old blob of paint on the paper and waste a lot of paint. Instead here's how I like to do it. For this process, you'll need a brand new POSCA pen and a blank sheet of paper. Twist the top to get the plastic to come off, shake the pen vigorously with the cap on. Take the cap off and gently press your nib twice onto the sheet of tester paper. Note, you want to always do this on a separate sheet of paper, not on your artwork or your sketchbook; accidents definitely happen. Plus you'll get a really cool sheet of all your colors that you've been using after doing this over and over on the same piece of paper. Now look at the tip of your pen. If you don't see any paint at all, press the tip down again. Once you see just a little paint coming down the back of the nib, put the lid back on, and shake again. When you take the lid back off, it will probably be all the way down the nib now and you're ready to draw. If not, just press the nib down again. Note, the bigger your pen size, the more shaking and pumping you'll have to do to get the paint down into the tip. To prime a POSCA brush pen is the exact same process, except instead of pushing down your tip on the paper, there's a little button at the end of the pen. Just take the protection cap off from the button and then push the button up and down just like you would if you're tapping the tip on a paper. After the pen is primed, be sure to add the protection cap back on so the button doesn't accidentally get pushed again later. Sometimes no matter what you do, you're going to get a blob of paint; it just happens. But with the steps above, I've gotten a lot fewer blobs than I used to and saved a lot of paint. Technically, you only have to prime a POSCA pen once to get the paint down to the nib. However, after a while, you may find that you need to reprime your pen. If any of these things are happening to you, your paint comes out watery or transparent when you draw. Your strokes don't seem to lay down thick or smooth, or your pens have been sitting around being unused for weeks or months, meaning that the paint has settled, then it's time for you to read your pen. The process is pretty much the same as the initial priming, just shake and pump the tip. The only difference is that you will probably need to shake the pen longer than you did initially; like a lot longer. You're more likely to get a blob when repriming so don't forget to use your tester sheet. If your paint issues continue even after re-priming, you may have a problem with your nib. I'll be addressing fixes for that in the common problems video. Before that though, let's get to some actual drawing. 4. Posca Drawing Techniques: So depending on how you naturally draw, you may need to draw just a little bit differently with Posca, every tool has its own preferred way of being handled just like a needle point tip wants to be held upright. A brush pen once light upstrokes and heavy down strokes. A Posca pen has its own preferences. You, as the artist can always choose to break the rules and go against appends desires to create your own thing. But sometimes a happy pen makes happy art. Here's what I've learned, makes posca pens happy. Few slow strokes. If you go to your page fast with tons of tiny strokes with the Posca pen, you're going to probably rip up your paper and splatter your paint. To avoid that, try drawing with as few strokes as possible. You don't want to scribble back and forth like you're sketching. You went to lay down slow continuous strokes. This takes practice and maybe some confidence, but you'll get better at it the more you do it. A good way to practice is by filling in spaces of color. Remember, don't wrap back and forth like you might with a crayon or a colored pencil. We're working with paint that goes on thick from the get-go. So you don't have to work to get it saturated. When you color in a space makes strokes that fill in spaces and then leave them be, don't keep rubbing back over the same spot or your overwork the paper. Too much rubbing equals paper pilling and too much paint. Paper rippling. Your best bet is to draw a relatively slowly in as few strokes as possible. Pushing and pulling. As I've said before, the tip of a Posca pen is made of fibers like tiny little hairs. These fibers are not flexible like a brush pen, but they're fibers nonetheless. And just like a brush pen, it doesn't like to be used against the grain. The benefit of a tool like a ballpoint pen is that you can draw with it at basically any angle and any direction, and it will behave the same way. But a Posca pen, like a brush pen, wants to be pushed and pulled with its fibers. If you push against the fibers, you're going to splatter and get a scratchy noise and cringy feeling. It's a bit hard to explain this without feeling that yourself. So right now grab one of your posts because the bigger the better for this, as you can feel the fibers more with the bigger tips. Take your posca and draw a line with it against the fibers, meaning pushing in the direction of the tip like this. Listen to the noise it makes. How does it feel? A little scratchy? Now draw another line, this time pulling it in the direction of the tip, like this. How the noise different? How does it feel? It should feel smoother and more pleasant. You can apply this idea to dry and lines and line work as we just did. But it also applies to coloring in areas. Crm lain down lines to fill this space with color. Making my strokes up and down. With up, down strokes. I'm always on the right side of the tip. So I'm pulling with the fibers. If I were to make right-left drugs like this, I would be pulling with and then pushing against the fibers. And that's what a postcode does not like. A Posca pen works fine pushing and pulling. And you can see from the lines we drew that you can't tell much of a difference between the two lines. But in my opinion, posca pens are happier when you draw along with the fibers. And I don't say that to be woo-woo, you're much less likely to get paint splatters this way. Your tip will take less damage, meaning it will last longer. Linework and color. Some tools work best if you color first, then add linework. And some other tools work best if you line work first and then color. I've found that Postgres can be used both ways, but that the process is just a tad different. Option, one, color first, then linework. Draw out your idea in blocks of color. Fill in the box with up-down structs. Let your first layer dry before you draw any other colors. Then draw your line work. Option to linework first, then color. Drop out your idea and lines. Fill in the space between the lines with color. I like to leave some whitespace between the color and the line work, but you could go all the way up against your line work if that's what you prefer, just remember that the paint is opaque so you'll cover up your line work. If you get two clips, you can always go back and fix any linework spots you don't like. Option 3. No line work. Because of its opaque paint and bright colors. It's also fun to draw with Posca using just black, so solid color to imply the lines and cut shapes. Experimental with all three of these options and see what feels best to you. Layering the paint in a Posca pen is quite thick and opaque, making it ideal for layering. Even light colors like white or pale pink will layer on top of dark ones pretty well. The paint also dries very quickly, usually just a minute or two depending on how thick you painted. So you don't even have to wait very long for your next layer. Here's how to get started layering your postcard. Draw your first layer, allow the layer to dry about one to three minutes. You can tell if it's dry by looking at it at eye level. If it's shiny, it's still wet. If it's not, it's debt. Or you can be impatient like me and tap it with your fingers to find out. Draw your second layer on top. Some layers naturally layer more opaque than others. The Posca brand says, any color can layer, but I've also had some trouble with the yellows and oranges. But if you're getting inconsistent results within one color, it's probably because you need to read prime your pen. You can also double up on the layers to get them more solid. Shading. Supposedly, you can blend posca pens as you draw with them to mix colors and create gradients. But I'm sticking with my gut here again, I think your paint brush and paint tubes are much more adept at that kind of thing. While you're posca pens preferred to stay nice and clean. Instead of wishing you have more posca colors or wanting to mix and blend for variety. I think one of the gifts of posca is the challenge to work with a minimal color palette. What can you do with only flat colors? How can you create depth? How can you draw shading? Embrace the Posca pen for what it does best instead of trying to make it do something that it really doesn't wanna do. That's a life lesson for us all, I guess now, isn't it? You can take what we learned from layering and apply it to shading. Draw out your color block. Let it dry. Then add a new layer of color on top to give the illusion of depth. You can also, you can try playing with shadows, with colors in the same families like this, or get more experimental with totally different colors in the shadows like this. And you can get extra fancy and layer again with lighter colors for highlights. Posca and other mediums. So I know maybe I've made post glaucoma off as a self-righteous loner who's stuck in its ways. But they actually play quite nicely with other mediums. If that's your jam. You can draw with colored pencil on top of postcode to add texture, shading, or color. You can draw with Posca on top of an acrylic painting to easily draw highlights. You can draw with Posca on top of watercolor painting. But remember that posca is water-based. So you can't work it too much on top of a watercolor painting, or it'll start to blend and mess up your original watercolor. And you can also draw with other pens and paints on top of Postgres. 5. Common Posca Problems: Common posca problems. Paint pieces left behind. Sometimes after you're done with the posca drawing, you may notice some little pieces or chunks on the page like this. I usually just leave mine on there because I like the extra texture and see it as just part of the posca process. But sometimes they're too big or too distracting and you just don't want those pieces there. In that case, all you have to do is wait for it to dry and then gently rub the spot with your finger. Most times, the little spot will pop right off. It usually looks fine at this point. But if I remove some of the paint below and you can see the paper coming through, you can just touch up that spot again with your posca pen. Paint splattering. Posca nibs like to move in the direction of the fibers. If you draw against that direction, it may splatter. If this happens while you're drying, your best option is to just accept it as a happy little mistake or let it dry and then draw over it again. The white pen can be especially helpful for fixing things like this. But in the future, if you want to avoid your pen splattering again, try to draw in the same direction as the nib fibers. For more on how to do that, refer back to the pushing and pulling section of the posca drawing techniques video. Paint blobs. The occasional paint blob is again just part of the process of drawing with poscas. However, if you're getting a lot of paint blobs, like every time you draw, then something is wrong. The issue might be when you're priming your pins, you're pushing them too often or too fast. Try following my steps on how to prime and reprime posca section of the getting started with posca pens video. When you do get a blob though, you can try to make the most out of it and dip your pen back in the blob as you draw, using that as a paint palette so that the paint isn't wasted. If you get too much paint on your nib and it's too messy, just dab it off on a paper towel to clean it off. Streaky or dried-out paint. If you get a lot of blobs or you're not cleaning off the top of your pen, you may come back to your pen later and find that it's all gunked up or dried out. This also happens when the pen sit around for a while not being used. This will be a [inaudible] either by looking at the nib and seeing a bunch of dried paint on it or when you start drawing and no paint comes out or the paint comes out splotchy and streaky. Don't worry and don't throw that pen away. You didn't ruin your posca. These tips are super durable, much more so than a brush pen. I've been using a few of these pens for almost three years now and they're still going strong. Posca does sell replacement tips, but I've never had to replace a tip. I think that's bogus or I don't know. Maybe people out there are not following my happy pen, happy life philosophy, making their pens do the stuff they don't want to do. Anyways, while I haven't replaced a nib, I do advise cleaning them every now and then, especially if you noticed they've become dried out or gunked up. First, try a simple clean. Open your pen and gently tug on the nib. It'll pop right out. Hold the nib between your fingers under running water until the water runs clear. If there's a big chunk of paint stuck on the nib, you can gently rub it with your finger, but try not to mess with it too much as you may dislodge the fibers. Roll the nib on a paper towel or a rag to dry it off, then pop the nib back in your pen. Prime the pen as if it were new and you're good to go. If you've done that simple clean and your pen is still acting funky, you can try to give it a deep clean. Follow the same instructions as before, but instead of holding the nib under running water, you will submerge it in a glass of clean water and let it soak overnight. Roll the nib on a paper towel or rag to dry it off, pop it back in your pen, prime the pen, and you're good to go. Bleeding. If you find your paints are bleeding together like this, you just need to wait longer between your layers to allow the paint to dry. Test it with your finger next time before drawing on top to make sure it's all the way dry. It usually just takes a minute or two. 6. Your Posca Project!: That's the end of this Posca illustration class. I really hope you enjoyed it and that you start exploring and experimenting with this fun tool in your own art. It's really made a huge difference in developing my style and loosening up with my drawing. For your class project, you can choose to draw your own piece of art with Posca using any of the techniques from the class. If you're not sure where to start, try copying my three little bears from the line-work section of this class. That way you can play around with the different ways of drawing with Posca. I'll post my own project in the projects and resources section, as well as the PDF download with my Posca top tips and personal color palette. Thanks so much for watching this class, and I can't wait to see what you create with Posca.