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How to Revive a Dried Out Brush Pen

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You pull out your brush pens, ready for a great session of lettering or drawing, only to find that your brush pens are all dried up. What gives? Brush pens are amazing tools, but sometimes they can be a bit fragile. You leave them alone for a bit and they simply shrivel up. Luckily, there’s a way to revive dried out brush pens.

To revive a dried out brush pen, like a Tombow, soak the tip in water for a few hours. Another option is to put a few drops of an Ink Refresher product into the pen’s reservoir and let the solution sink into the tip of the pen.

Reviving a brush pen is definitely doable, but there are times when your pens are ready to be put to rest. Try out the tips below for reviving your pens first. If they don’t work, read on and we’ll talk about the life span of brush pens and what you can expect from their use.

Revive a Brush Pen with Water

The first method for reviving a brush pen is soaking the tip in water for a few hours. If you have two pen tips on each pen, like with Tombow’s dual brush pens, choose the larger one. 

Be careful to suspend your pen tip in the water. Don’t let it rest on the bottom of the glass.

If you let your pen rest in a weird position, you could end up with a squashed brush tip that, while revived and moisturized, now can’t be used because the tip is pointing in some wonky direction. Not good.

This means you’ll have to get creative with tape, rubber bands, binder clips, or whatever else you can find to suspend your pens in the glass. A fun one that works well is placing two chopsticks on top of your glass and putting your pen between them. You can either tape your pen to the chopsticks or criss cross a rubber band around the pen and the chopsticks to hold everything in place.

It’s also important that you soak your pen tips one at a time. If you need to soak a few together, make sure they are in the same color family. 

blue brush pen in water

You’ll notice that some ink will leak out from your brush tip into the water. You don’t want a black brush tip and a yellow brush tip crossing paths. Even if you drive your family crazy by lining your kitchen with glasses of water, do it. It’ll be in the best interest of your pens. 

If you’re going to all of the effort to revive your brush pens, you might as well do it right.

Why does water revive brush pens?

Brush pens are water-based, which means that water will help revive them. Not all pens are water-based though. Some pens, like permanent markers, are alcohol-based. This means that you’ll need to take a different approach to reviving them. Instead of using water, with alcohol-based markers, dip the tips in a small glass of rubbing alcohol.

wet canvas painting technique
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If you aren’t interested in lining your kitchen with cups of brush-pen filled water glasses, here’s another quick and easy way to revive your brush pens.

Revive a Brush Pen with Ink Refresher

Another great way to revive your brush pens is with ink refresher. This product does just what the name implies…it refreshes ink. It is designed for use with water-based ink pads and markers, so don’t try it with your alcohol-based pens. 

To use Ink Refresher, simply make one spray onto your pen tip.

A little bit goes a long way when it comes to Ink Refresher, so start off with 1 spray and then add additional sprays from there, if needed.

Once you’ve sprayed your brush pen tip, put the cap back on and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. If you don’t, the Ink Refresher won’t have a chance to settle in and could either leave you with a pen stroke of only Ink Refresher, or not have the maximum effect you’re looking for.

If you want a quick and easy way to get Ink Refresher, check out Amazon’s option. Remember that a little will go a long way, so you won’t need to restock very often. 

On the other hand, if you’re a DIY type of person, you can make your own Ink Refresher at home.

ink refresher

Check out Ink Refresher here on Amazon! 

How to Make Ink Refresher

To make your own Ink Refresher, add a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to 4 ounces of water. I’d suggest buying a small spray bottle as well to make application easier. Vegetable glycerin comes in large quantities – much more than you’ll need for a dose of Ink Refresher, so this one bottle will no doubt last you for your entire artistic career.

If you’re finding yourself constantly reviving your brush pens, you could either have an issue with the way you’re storing them, or they may be beyond repair. First, let’s talk about the proper way to store Tombow’s dual brush pens.

vegetable glycerin

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How do you store Tombow dual brush pens?

Store your Tombow dual brush pens horizontally. This will make sure that the ink stays evenly spread between both pen tips. If you store them vertically, gravity will force the ink to pool at the bottom of the pen, which will only hydrate one of the tips, leaving the other tip more vulnerable to drying out.

If you’re using a brush marker other than the Tombow dual tip variety that only has one tip, store them vertically with the tip down.

Yes, this means you’ll need different storage boxes and carriers for your different types of pens. It can be a hassle, but it’s more of a hassle to have your pens die out on you all of the time. I wrote a post about the best ways to store your art supplies. There’s one for on-the-go art storage and one for at-home art storage.

best ways to store art supplies
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Once you get your art storage systems figured out, you’ll be able to properly maintain your art supplies without the annoyance of figuring out where to put them.

Now that we’ve talked about reviving your brush pens, let’s talk about putting them to rest. Does there come a point where attempts to bring your pens back to life will simply do no good? Even if you’ve done a good job of maintaining them this whole time?

How long do Tombow dual brush pens last?

Tombow dual brush pens have enough ink to last for 10 full 8.5×11” pages. Tombow dual brush pens are not refillable, so once you’ve used up 10 pages worth of ink, you’ll need to replace the entire pen.

I choose Tombow dual brush pens to investigate because they are one of the most popular brush pen manufacturers. Also, there’s a fun reason why we know the specific lifespan of Tombows. Halallea Art did a fun experiment on her YouTube channel where she used a new Tombow dual brush marker from brand new to empty. 

It’s a fun video to watch if you want to see how the marker holds up as each page gets filled with ink.

At the end of the day, brush pens will need to be replaced at some point. They aren’t something that can be passed along to our grandkids. Aside from mechanical pencils and pens with refillable cartridges, most of our art supplies will need to be put to rest after a long life of use. 

Even though reviving your brush pens is possible, if they’re old and nearing the end of their lives, just replace them. You don’t want to end up with inconsistent and streaky art just because you’re trying to squeeze the last little bit of life out of your brush pens. 

It’s a fun excuse to buy yourself some shiny new brush pens.

A great strategy is to buy new brush pens before you need them. Use your new brush pens for your final artworks, while saving your older brush pens for draft or practice work. This will increase the longevity of your brush pens by making sure that you always have a set that’s in top condition and not heavily used.

If you use brush markers, it’s likely that you’ve used, or at least heard of, Tombow’s great dual tip brush markers. If you haven’t tried them out, I HIGHLY suggest it. There’s a good reason why they’re so popular. These pens create beautiful art and can be used in so many different ways from coloring and drawing, to lettering and quote art. 

I’m in love with how vibrant the colors are with Tombow’s brush pens and how many colors they have to offer. And, if you don’t have the color you need, these pens can so beautifully blend with each other to create any number of new colors. 

Check out all of the fun color variety packs available on Dick Blick and give yourself an excuse to splurge on some fun new art supplies. Go forth and create great art!

dual brush pens

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