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Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher

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Advice for using Sakura Micron pens on other surfaces

Sakura Micron PensRecently a TanglePatterns reader emailed asking for advice about using Sakura Micron pens on a painted surface.

Microns come in varying tip widths and have permanent ink that seems to invite experimentation on other surfaces. Obviously when you’re creating something special, you want to ensure the best results.

Having only used Microns on paper myself, I contacted Sakura of America for their guidelines and their response was very helpful.

Begin quotationMicron pens were made for paper. That being said, people have been using Microns successfully on all kinds of different surfaces. For example:

  • quilt labels ( not for washing )
  • tole painting ( wood )
  • tagua nuts
  • plastic ( must be primed )
  • on top of paints
  • etc.

We cannot guarantee results on the myriad of surfaces/varnishes/primers/sealers which is why we ALWAYS recommend TESTING! Especially with varnishes and sealers.

End of quotationWe would also recommend using primers/sealers beforehand like on wood. Wood is obviously a natural surface and there are many different kinds with some being harder/softer/drier/wetter than others. So, the performance of primers and sealers may differ from one wood to the next.

Following these tips will ensure “you all have the best experience possible with your art process, results and protect your creations.”

* * *

Tangler TipsIt’s always helpful to get advice from people who have first-hand experience working with other media.

What surfaces have you tangled on and how did you prepare them?

Can you share any suggestions or recommendations with us about working on surfaces other than paper, based on your experience? What works? What doesn’t?

Sakura Micron Pens on Amazon


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34 comments to Advice for using Sakura Micron pens on other surfaces

  • Jill Pike

    I have used Pigma Micron pens with great success over acrylic paints. They were used for outlining and details, etc., on tole projects. I met with much less success in finding a sealer/lacquer with which to preserve the pieces. Sprays were out, they dissolved the ink. Brush-on applications (usually Delta varnishes in various finishes) were iffy: sometimes they worked, sometimes not.

    But let me say that for zentangles, they are amazing, and I can’t get enough!

    Jill in AL

  • I have tangled on paper mache’ and they work well .. although I find my pens tips dry up fast on this… will try to seal them and see if this changes… I think they will not work on a sealer… not sure .. will let you know how it comes out….

  • Kim Wells

    When using my Microns on paper painted with acrylic paint or gesso my pens got dried out FAST and/or kind of gunked up and unusable. These pens are too expensive to lose them this way. I started coating the page or parts of the page I wanted to draw on with Mod Podge. This worked ok except the surface became slicker which made my pen move faster than I wanted to draw and when making a solid block of black color it looked streaky as you could see the pen strokes. Maybe I am using an inferior acrylic paint to start with?

  • Terry Paxton

    I have tangled wood items several times. One problem I had with the Sakura Micron pens was that they wore out extremely fast on painted surfaces. I solved that problem by using gesso on the wood first instead of paint. Also, you have to watch that the ink does smear and doesn’t dry fast like on paper. Your hands pick up the ink and then leave smudges behind. Only thing for that is watch your hands and keep them clean! Also, using a small brush and the gesso will cover any smudges. Another problem I’ve had is sealing the piece after it’s done. Use a spray finish like a clear acrylic and spray VERY lightly and don’t touch it till it’s totally dry. Using too much at once can make the ink run. I find it’s always best to test everything on a same piece since different surfaces act differently with the Sakura Micron pens. Painting on rocks works fine with just a coat of latex paint. Have fun! (I do have a couple pictures I can send but don’t know how to send to your web page)

  • Linda Farmer

    The original question prompting my correspondence with Sakura came from Vicki A, and she wrote again to let me know she also received advice from pen and ink artist Mary Owens. Mary advised to spray over the inking with Liberty Matte Spray and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Apparently it is a good replacement for varnish. Mary also said some of the glossier varnishes have an ammonia additive in them that will dissolve ink. “Always apply your [Liberty] matte finish and then, varnish if that is the way you want to go!”

  • Sharon Arnowitz

    Hi: Love this web site. Anyway, I have tangled on wafer thin, 3 1/2″ X 2″ wood pieces purchased at a craft store and then glued them on to a card. I have pictures but don’t know how to send them to you. They are beautiful and very unique. Thanks for the other ideas!

  • Becca

    I tangle on watercolour paper, both hot and cold press. More often than not, I do a wet on wet watercolour painting first then tangle on top using the colour as the string. I’ve had absolutely no problem with pens drying out faster or getting clogged but it’s important to use a very light hand (very little pressure) when using Sakura pens. When I teach kids to doodle over watercolour, I give them much less expensive fine point Sharpies.

  • Lennie Jo Barnes

    I’ve heard that Micron Pens were coming out with a refill pen. Do you know anything about that or is it not true?

    {SPOILER ALERT: long message to follow but I couldn’t help myself.) I can’t believe this string! I’ve just been having the same problems. #1. I sprayed A black plastic magazine holder with flat white paint to hold my Zentangle books and journals. Instead of printing the word ‘Zentangle’ on the spine, I wanted to simply tangle it. My Micron pens barely made much of a mark so I got out one of every black marking thing I have (I’m a pen piggy so I have a LOT of them). The one that worked the best for me was the small end of my Fabrico/Tsukineko Real Black #182 dual marker. You DO have to wait for it to dry completely before you do anything else. (Haven’t gotten to the sealing part yet.) I was also tangling a pair of white leather sneakers and found that the IDenti-pen worked great on them (BOTH ENDS). I first tried an ultra fine Sharpie but, when the ink dried, it looked purple…so I had to go over it with the IDenti-pen. To SHARON A: to make a copy of EXACTLY ONLY/JUST WHAT YOU SEE ON THE SCREEN, click ALT+PrtScn/SysRq key on the top right of the keyboard. This is called a “screenshot” (one word)…then you go to where you want to put what you just copied, right click, and “paste” it in an email or word document. When you do the ALT+PrtScn, you will not see ANY reaction on your screen (like a jump, hiccup, blink…nothing), this is the proverbial ‘leap of faith.’ I just recently learned to do this and, believe me, you will love this almost as much as we love tangles. (Did I forget to say…the screenshot is if you’re on a PC. I don’t have a clue about a Mac.) If you Google screenshot, you get a lot of superfluous info. Try what I wrote above first, and if that doesn’t work, then do the Google thingy. I love this community. Happy tangles to you all…S-

  • Barb

    I’ve had good success using the micron pens on painted wood, but after painting I spply 1 coat of Matte varnish
    let it dry overnite and then do my inking. Then use a matte spray finish to set the inking. I use Krylon and/or Liberty. Always use a matte spray, the crystal clear or gloss varnish/sprays will dissolve the ink. The matte sprays won’t.

  • Dorothy Roller

    I have a question for anyone that tangles in art journals with micron pens and then use colored pencils which of course are waxy. I did a page that I tangled first and then used Prismacolor Premier colored pencils and it made my lines dull. I tried to go back over my black micron lines and that ruined my micron pen. Anyone else have that problem and if so what other kind of pen or marker works with colored pencils? I did sketch book page, 8 x 11 and then one in a journal and colored with the colored pencils and it didn’t work on either.

  • Mary Diaz

    I have used the Sakura pens on wood and fabric. On wood I used gesso to seal the wood and then sanded. I didn’t have much of a problem. I used a light touch and when it looked like the pen was drying up I gently scribbled on paper and it came back. After I was done I did use a light spray of matt finish (sometimes more than one) and then if I wanted a shiney look sprayed again with a gloss coat. I use the pens to make my doll faces on both cotton and stretchy doll fabric. I like the .01 and .03 for a light delicate look and then add color with either watercolor pens or markers.

  • Carol

    I have used the Micron pens over acrylic paint on wood. I find I have much less problem with them getting gunked up if I wait at least 24 hours to allow the paint to dry well and cure a bit. My climate is fairly dry, so areas that have higher humidity may need to wait even longer.

  • If it helps, I handpaint furniture for my living, and I have found micron pens will smear
    when I put the polycrylic finish on the furniture. So I do not put details in ink or sign
    the piece until I have the polycrylic on and then apply the ink. I love micron pens but
    I use them almost always on paper projects. I find Sharpies work best on a finshed
    piece over the polycrylic.

  • I tangled my lampshade with Sakura Micron pens! They worked beautifully and it turned out great. How can I post a pic here?

  • Noreen

    I am an egg artist and love doing Zentangle on eggs, goose eggs mostly, but the Sakura pens smudge badly on an egg. Also, when dry, a pencil mark cannot be erased without bleeding out the ink. I’ve tried a number of different things, including sealing, but I don’t seem to find an answer. I want to do an ostrich egg bowl for the Zentangle eggs I’ve done, but do not want the frustration. I’m exhausted and broke trying to find pens that really are permanent and smudge proof…and fine.

  • molly z.

    I have tried Sakuras on the small pumpkins that were around at the end of Oct. I had to use the thickest one and prep the pumpkin quite thoroughly with an alcohol swab or two. (I also tried the fineline sharpie, which worked a bit better) I still have two left on the table outside my front door, although they have begun to shrivel (lasted 6 months, and I did take a few pics)

  • I successfully use my microns on acrylic gessoed surfaces all the time. I can even change the color of the gesso by putting a small amount of acrylic paint in the gesso first. The main thing is to make sure that the gesso dries for at least 24 hours first (more if thicker than usual). Then to let the micron marks dry for a day before putting some sort of sealer over it. Sometimes when applying the sealer on top, the lines do become fuzzy, but different sealers work better or worse. :-)

  • So fascinated by this post and these marvelous comments! Here’s is a link to my blog where I’ve posted pics of my tangled lampshade and mini pumpkin I did last fall.


  • Greetings,
    I use the Sakura Micron pens exclusively and just love them for tangling. I am usually using them on top of mixed media surfaces and on my gourds. Here’s what helps keep the pens in good shape and allows for a smooth flow of ink.

    Apply a thin layer of gel medium–I use Golden gel medium (matte), usually the soft variety. It is water soluble and goes on easily. It seals the surface and provides a surface that accepts pens of all types (and paints as well), without ruining the pen tips.

    Hope this helps! LunaLady

  • Peggie Schurch

    Hi Linda, Have tried unsuccessfully to tangle on some lovely white coffee mugs, the china variety, and without luck. Used many varieties of pens but no luck. Would be very, very grateful if someone could tell me what works, is washable and is still black when finished. Wanted to do a set for a special present…Also, here in Australia we don’t seem to have the variety available you have in the U.S.A. Hope there is a solution. Thanks in anticipation Peggie Schurch

  • Hi there,

    I used my Sakura Micron 08 on the smart cover (green) for my iPad…. it glides very smoothly, and dried fairly quickly. Looked amazing! It wasn’t until I started handling the iPad cover that I realized the flaw in my plan – the ink smudged and wore off so that heavily handled sections now tend to be faded and dull. I attempted to locate a good sealant for it, but was unsuccessful. I still love how the cover looks, but I’m a little disappointed that the ink smudged – the surface is softer, so I think the smudging has more to do with that than the pens. Nonetheless, it’s still cooler than it was before the tangling!

  • In reply to Peggie looking for pens to use on mugs, have you tried Pebeo Porcelaine pens? I’m not sure if they sell black on it’s own but they do have it in a pack of 9 colours. I haven’t used it for Zentangles (only been at them for a week) but have used them to draw on plates/mugs etc. and they’re great. You bake the mugs after they’re dry and that sets the ink. Hope this helps.

  • Joanne

    Can anyone recommend a pen that can be used on canvas for tangling?


  • Elizabeth

    Having played with many sizes and styles of pens for drawing, I wonder if the person drawing on canvas would benefit from trying the brush style of Micron or Copic pen.
    Looking forward to hearing about the results!

    • Joanne

      Thanks for the suggestion Elizabeth. I want to draw lines so not sure the copic brush pen would work. I will see if I can get a promarker in black and try the bullet tip maybe.

      thanks, Joanne

  • Nidhi

    Has anyone tried using them on ceramic or porcelain? Do we need to seal the work after tangling? If yes, with what?

  • Thelma New

    Why not try attaching the extra fine point to your promarker to give you a thinner line than the brush tip

  • Joe

    Is micron ink water based or alcohol based. This makes a difference in how it reacts with other products. If it is alcohol based, then anything with alcohol will make it smear and vice versa.

    • Jill

      Don’t know its formula, but I do know that Micron pens can be used for details over paint and then sealed with a MATTE sealer. Satin or Gloss sealers cause it to smear.

  • Joyce

    The CZT from whom I take Zentangle classes (Kerry Bowes, Northern Lower Michigan) told us in our class in
    April that she uses the Sharpie Fine point markers to draw on rocks–she showed us some, and she’s had terrific success–and then she said to seal our work with hairspray! I had asked what we could use, and she said that it works on paper drawings, which is great because I make all my own greeting cards. I haven’t tried it yet, being extremely allergic to hairspray, but perhaps if I wear gloves and do the projects outside…

  • Donna Lamoureux

    Does anyone know if the Micron pens work on foam? I purchased some foam visors and want to tangle on them. If you have had success with another type of pen on foam please let me know.

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