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Getting Started With The Acrylograph Pens: Tips, Advice & Troubleshooting For Paint Pens

by Design Team 09 Feb 2022 0 Comments

Hey friends, it’s Sarah from @essjay_florals and I’m so excited to share these tips for getting started with Acrylographs. I love playing with Acrylographs as there are so many colours available and they are so versatile, because they are paint markers you can use them on a wide variety of surfaces. However, they can be a little tricky sometimes and I thought it would be helpful compiling these tips and tricks for using and maintaining your Acrylographs.


Remember you can use my affiliate code SARAH10 to get a discount on your Acrylographs, Notebooks or any other Archer and Olive products! For a quick overview to get started with Acrylographs and how to activate them, check out this video:


Activating & Re-activating

When you first open your new pens it is totally normal that the nibs are white, the ink has not yet been activated to be used, to activate the pens:

  1. Shake with the cap firmly on, make sure to vigorously shake the pen up and down.
  2. Press down the nib firmly on the blending palette or a scrap piece of paper until ink begins to flow filling the nib.
  3. If the ink is still not flowing properly you may need to continue the above steps a few more times ensuring you go between shaking and then pressing the nib down.

Between uses, and sometimes during use, the pen will need reactivating to get the ink to flow smoothly again. To do this, follow the steps for activation, with particular focus on shaking to ensure the ink is fully remixed.

Now to see all the other tips for using and cleaning your acrylographs watch the whole video over here:


nib sizes and swatches

Nib Sizes

Acrylographs come in 2 sizes, these are:

  1. 0.7mm (these are plastic nibs) and are great for precise drawing and lettering
  2. 3mm (these are felt nibs) and are great for covering a larger area.



After using your acrylographs make sure to wipe the nib down with a damp cloth. It is then recommended to store the Acrylograph pens horizonatally. The reason for doing this is because between uses the ink will settle and it is easier to reactivate this way.


Mediums They Work On

I know I say this a lot guys, but acrylographs are really incredible because of the versatility that they offer, there are so many surfaces they work on, not just paper! Here’s a list of surfaces I have tested them on: card, glass, wood, primed canvas, linen (including A&O notebooks), faux leather, chalkboards, ceramic, rocks, laminated plastic, matte photo paper, some glossy papers, even egg shells! You can see examples and even get tips for using them on other surfaces in this blog I wrote, 15+ Fun Ways to Use Acrylographs (AKA Acrylographs in the Wild)


nib cleaning

Clogging / Cleaning

If you want a quick fix before cleaning your nib, try gently rolling the nib against the paper and this will help to break up any paint that may be clogged in the nib (make sure if you use this technique to do it very carefully so you don’t damage your nib)

After each use make sure to use a damp cloth or rag to wipe the nib to prevent build-up of paint and ensure the paint will flow well for next use. However, if the nib is clogged or you’ve used your pen to blend colours it’s time to do a deep clean.

How to clean them – The best way to do this is to hold the pen upright and gently remove the nib with your fingers or tweezers. The easiest way to clean the nib is to put it into a small plastic bag or cup and let it soak in warm water and soap, it's best to avoid simply running the nib under the tap as it is easy to lose them down the plug. After soaking make sure all the ink has been removed, you can use a small sponge or toothbrush if required. If there is ink stuck inside the 0.7mm nibs you can even use floss to break up any ink.


stained nib

Sometimes, inks can stain the nibs, so to check the nib is in fact fully clean give it a wipe with a paper towel or rag and if it comes away clean it's ready to go! (in the above photo you can see a brand new nib vs a cleaned one that has been stained; but is clean and ready to put back in your pen)

layering photo


Colouring Large Areas

When colouring larger areas, it is important to be like the tortoise and go slow and steady. Make sure the ink is flowing well when you start and take it slow with a steady pressure to keep it flowing. The 3mm nibs are preferable for a good coverage. With larger areas I generally go with at least 2 layers (even more with lighter colours). As mentioned before, it can be important to keep reactivating the pen.



Another thing I have mentioned a few times (ok maybe a lot of times) before is that acrylographs layer incredibly well because they are so opaque. When you layer, make sure each layer is dry before adding the next layer otherwise the colours will start to mix (or be lifted), this can be beneficial if you are wanting to blend colours, not so much if you want it as another solid layer though.




If the ink is leaking, there may be air in the barrel. To let the air out, hold the pen vertical with the tip pointing up, and press the nib down. Some more ink may come out with the air, but should clear after a few presses.



As the ink inside the Acrylographs is paint, the nibs are made of plastic and fibre to allow the paint to flow through. Therefore, you get a different experience compared to a brush pen or fineliner. So the nibs may feel more 'rough', but they shouldn't feel scratchy. Here are some things you can do to get a smoother experience:

  • Move around which part of the nib is touching the paper. This is especially true for the 0.7mm nib. Certain angles and pressures feel more smooth.
  • Make sure the ink is flowing steadily. If it is, you only have to press very gently on the paper.
  • Make sure the nibs aren't clogged. If you see dry ink on the nibs, try wiping it off with a paper towel/rag. If this doesn't help you can fully clean the nibs.
  • If you think you may have damaged the nib, this can make it scratchy. You can replace it with a spare nib provided.


Streaky / Watery / Not Opaque

If the ink is not fully opaque or seems watery or streaky, the paint inside the pen may not be mixed properly. Therefore, follow the reactivation advice. Another tip to make it easier when activating/reactivating you can pick up all the colours you want to use and shake them all together.


Cold Temperatures

In cold temperatures it can freeze (not something I personally have had to deal with living in sunny Perth) however you can fix this by putting the pen in a cup of warm water, nib side up for a few minutes, then give it a really good shake and try reactivating it. Another option is to try rolling them in your hands to warm them up before shaking and reactivating.


Tips To Prevent Future Clogging

To prevent your nibs from clogging again make sure you do the following:

  • Do not leave the pens open for a long period of time. If you are going away from your desk or switching to another pen, place the lid back on the pen.
  • Ensure the lid is on correctly. When capping the pen, there will be a bit of resistance and you may think it's on. However, you want to keep pushing until there is a small click.
  • Only layer colours when the ink is completely dry on the paper. If you try to layer over drying ink, you can pick the ink back up and clog the nibs.
  • It is not necessary to fully clean the nibs between uses, but wiping off any excess ink on the nibs with a paper towel or rag before capping can prevent potential clogging.


If you want a quick fact sheet to keep handy for using your Acrylographs, download the free printable to help with keeping your Acrylographs in top working condition.


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