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What is Zentangle?
Linda Farmer, Certified Zentangle Teacher


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White Ink

Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White

Gentle Reader, Cindi, asked about using white ink over black in Zentangle® drawings.”I’ve seen many tangle pics where a white pen or pencil has been used to accent on top of the black ink. It covers the black ink quite well. What do you use? I’ve tried a couple of ‘chalk pencils’ but am not thrilled with the results.”

The best product I know of is Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White and it’s used by professional calligraphers. It’s an opaque watercolor for covering over dye colors and markers. Note that you can not use it for mixing.

You can also use white ink on black or dark paper in your “reverse image” Zentangles and Zentangle-inspired art. Or the gel pens noted below.

Naturally you’ll want a calligraphy pen and a few nibs to go with the ink. I love my Speedball Pen but I’m no calligrapher, just an occasional dabbler (dipper?). And I have quite a collection of Speedball nibs. There’s always room for more art tools!

White Ink Gel Pens

It’s becoming very popular to use white gel pens on dark paper. Here are the pens subscribers are recommending in the comments:


24 comments to White Ink

  • Thanks for the suggestion, Linda. Can’t wait to hear what others use for white – this is such a great place to get information and ideas!

  • I use a pen that is wonderful, I’ve used up three or four of them. I’ve experimented with a lot of white pens and this is the only one I’ve found that is really opaque.
    Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen – White Ink

    The only place I’ve ever found it is at

    The Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White sounds great too, I’m going to find some to try.

    Has anyone experimented with Pitt’s sepia pens?

  • Suzanne

    After trying several brands of white gel pens I would second Amy’s recommendation of the Signo white pen. Another source for it is it’s so popular it’s often on back order but they are good about notifying you when it’s in.

    I’ve never worked with nibs and ink but may have to try the one featured here. Only question I have – what would anyone recommend for beginning nibs to use for Zentangle work?


    • Linda Farmer

      I haven’t tried tangling with these yet, Suzanne. But I’m thinking any of the smaller size Speedball B round nibs, eg. B-5, would work. You’ve just prompted me to get mine out and have a go!

  • I was given a journal made of handmade paper from Nepal (reminds me of the paper that’s used to cover the box that the basic Zentangle Kits comes in). The pages in this journal also has texture and came in a deep pink, light pink, golden yellow, teal green, medium blue, and red and the best pens to use on this paper was the India Ink or Dr Ph. Martins Black or White ink using a calligraph dip pen. The white Ph. Martin Ink will bleed through this paper if I’m not carefull with filling in larger areas.

    Both the micron pen and dip pen works great on this paper. I’m sure I can get away with using a Sharpie Marker or pen on this paper, but I haven’t tried.

    Another tip. If you draw on anything after it’s been painted with primer like gesso, do not use a sharpie marker nor a sakura pen to draw on. You will ruin these pens and they won’t write anymore. Using a sharpie Paint Pen or the Dip Pen with india or Dr Ph Martin Inks works on the primer surface.

    I saw a beautifully decorated clip board someone done for her niece and she used a dip pen and I believe a paint pen for the thicker lines. She didn’t mentioned using a sakura pen or a regular sharpie marker. I discovered this on the newsletter.

    Remember Surfaces painted with Gesso/Primer paint will ruin a Sharpie Marker or a Sakura Pen! Use a dip pen or paint pen for this type of surface!

  • I LOVE Zentangling on black paper. It is very cool and unique looking. I have tried many white markers and the clear winner is Gelly Roll, Medium Point in White.
    It lasts a long time and flawlessly draws line. Keep in mind these tips: It is permanent, draw lines a bit slower than you normally would to allow even ink flow and allow time to dry. Work one area then turn your work to another area to allow previous ink to dry. Once dry it’s truly beautiful!

  • Marguerite

    I’m with Suzy on this one too. I just got a Pentel, Sunburst white gel pen. Used on black bristol 100# paper and the results are stunning.

  • Marilyn Buel

    My art class recently completed a project where we used silver ink pen on black card stock. We used scraps of the black paper to practice on and I make quite a few bookmarks with tangles of all sorts. The pens I used are Pentel Sunburst Metallic Gel with medium points. The silver ink is quite striking.

  • Amanda

    Searching for the perfect white opaque pen for drawing on black paper has been like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. My latest attempt with a Sharpie oil based extra fine point Paint pen was disastrous as it leaked huge globs of paint. It may just have been a defective pen or dare I say, operator error. However, the paint that wasn’t all globby was truly opaque, dried a little glossy, which looked nice. I will certainly give it another try. I felt that the Sharpie nib for me was still a bit large for doing tiny crisp detail work even in extra fine. I love the site, they give lots of info on many pens including white ink, pens, nib sizes etc. The Signo white gel ink pen seems to be the commenter’s favorite opaque white gel ink pen, so far. I plan on ordering it and a few others and I’ll let you know how it goes. My gut says that a good dip pen is gonna wind up being the way I go for extremely fine work. My white Gellyroll, medium tipped pen is just not as opaque as I would like, but it works ok for some highlights and my Ranger, Inkssentials white opaque pen works fairly well and has a nice bright white ink that covers black well, but again I need a smaller nib, or to start working larger, lol! Yes, I’m picky and I do love my pens. 😉

  • Marianne Schmitt

    There is a youtube video, where the woman is testing and rating White pen/gel units…she demonstrates and rates each one. I found it very useful. The site can be found here:

    Hope this is helpful to you!

  • Jean Heaton

    I love to tangle and now I have tried the art with black paper and white gel pens.
    MY questions is about the black paper.
    I have used black cardstock paper ….I am hoping you can tell me the BEST black paper to buy that is smooth and non porous…or at least smooth.
    I have read 100% black cotton paper is the best.I cannot find that type.
    I want a pad of black paper and not tiles.
    Please advise how to remedied my challenge.:o)
    Thanks so very much…
    PS I love you website and I learn something every time I browse.

    • Linda Farmer

      Hi Jean, thanks so much for your compliments, most appreciated. Naturally, I am biased – the black Zentangle tiles are the best paper. For my personal taste, card stock is too smooth and slippery to take ink like the tiles do and you have to be extra careful of smudging while the ink dries. The texture of the black Zentangle tiles is part of the beauty of the white on black art. Any GOOD art supplies store (and I don’t mean Michaels etc.) will carry watercolor and other papers by the sheet. I’m sure Arches make a black one. Calligraphy suppliers usually carry a variety of paper colors and textures. You could also stop by a local letterpress print shop and check out their paper stock. That’s my 2 cents.

      Anyone else have suggestions for Jean?

  • Judy

    Hey, all.
    I have a couple of faves that I like for dark paper.
    Sakura Glaze pen in white — raised and shiny, good crisp white.
    Pentel white gel pen — nice and crisp. Shows up extremely well on black paper. It’s a medium tip ball point. Good for most work, won’t get the tiny details.
    And from the scrapbook world… Permapaque white and the Galaxy Marker in white. Both are opaque markers (far less messy than a paint pen) and you can get them in a smaller medium tip. Nice coverage on both. These would be good for larger tangles, or for filling in larger areas.
    I also use a couple of white pencils from my colored pencil box, and even white chalk pencils work pretty well.

    I’m still looking for a white pen that can handle tiny work.
    I’m thinking perhaps a crow quill nib from my Speedball collection, but I haven’t really had much luck using it in calligraphy, so I don’t know how well it would work for tangles.
    Any suggestions? Maybe Rotring makes something I haven’t heard about yet?

  • Nixiness

    I find for bigger work the finest white posca pen (PC 1M) gives a nice bright line on black. I’ve also had a good time shading with a white chinagraph pencil.

  • Judy

    Argh!!!!! I just bought a bottle of the Bleed proof white. Tried using it with my crowquills and it was AWFUL!!! This stuff is thick and gloppy and will not flow off of the pen. I basically had to make strokes by turning the pen over and wiping it onto my colored paper. Yech! Reading reviews, I am finding that the bleedproof white is basically White-out for watercolorists.

    Anybody know of a decent white ink that will work with crowquills and calligraphy nibs?

  • Judy

    From the review on Art Supply Warehouse…
    “The Bleedproof White from Dr. Ph. Martin’s is an opaque watercolor ink that is designed for covering dye colors, markers, and designer colors. It is not intended for mixing. It is recommended to {u}use with a brush{/u]” when working with Bleedproof White.”

  • Cindy Peterson

    I want to add my endorsement of the Uniball Signo White UM153.There is also a uniball signo with a smaller tip, but I don’t remember the number. I have never been disappointed by it. I order from and have never had problems getting as many as I want. I have ordered both sizes from them. I use it for highlighting my tangles, doodles and many of my drawings and art journal pages.
    I find the Galaxy marker doesn’t make an opaque line, but when I need to just soften a color, it works fine. Mostly use it for card making and stamping.
    My sakura souffle white pen does great on most colors, but picks up some from reds, turning it pink. So if you are doing any colors except red, the souffle pen does a great job, adding some texture as well as a white color. It is not quite as opaque as the Signo.

  • Shelly Nowik

    I have been tangling on darkly painted gourds using the White Uniball. The white is very bright but a word of caution. I drop a little water on my design and it bled like crazy. On the plus side a Q-tip made clean-up easy. I sprayed my gourd with Krylon Workable Fixative before continuing on with my design and I found that the pen flowed even better on the gourd. Of course I set my design with a final coat of Fixative.

  • Antoinette Hamilton

    I found that FW white acrylic ink worked well. I used in on Daler-Rowney black paper, 90 pounds. I did a tangle with my offset pointed pen–made up some patterns and used some that I use in making letters, although made no actual letters. The ink has to be well stirred before using, and the pen well cleaned after use. Because I am a calligrapher, it was fun for me to make my pen dance in a different way than with words.

  • Judy

    Just had to post this. Found a Marvy Reminisce gel pen in white for 2 bucks and change at Joann’s yesterday.
    Works spectacularly well on black Strathmore artist tiles.
    Also tested it over black ink. Wow! My Pentel pen worked great on black paper, but always turned grey when used over black ink. The Marvy pen stayed a brilliant white!
    Really recommend adding this one to your arsenal.

  • Judy

    I have an update to my comments. The Michael’s in my area has just started carrying Uniball Signo pens in white, gold and silver. These pens are beautiful, and I recommend them for anyone wanting to add some shimmer to their work. Michael’s also has the Sakura Calligrapher pens in black, gold, and silver. Very nice for adding text and calligraphic strokes. You can also use the edge of the nib to create a fine line, but that’s harder than just using the micron.

  • Jane Ellen

    Hi Judy,
    Thanks for the heads up on the pens. I have tried just about everything WHITE, pens, pencils, gel and otherwise but have yet to find a reliable writing/drawing instrument. I will see if my Michaels has the Uniball Signo in stock and give it a try.
    Happy tangling!
    Jane Ellen

  • Jean Heaton

    I want others to know that I too, have searched and tried several white pens. For me, I found two kinds.

    The RecollectionsSignature Especial Opaque markerSnow ( with a broad tip) is very nice.

    The other is Galaxy marker -archival permanent opaque acid free 6212 white – states :paint-like ink for dark and light pear made by American Crafts. I found both at Texas Arts supply.

    When one uses any white ink, pressing hard will drag or absorb to fast. I lightly touch the paper with a longer stroke to avoid skips. I usually let it dry and then if needed, I go over it again.

    After the project is completely dry -I spray it with Krylon Fixatif ( protects pencil, pastel and chalk drawings) It does feel chalky when working with it and after it dries.

    Hope that helps for all of the one that love or want to try white ink !

    • Linda Farmer, CZT

      Thanks Jean, from what I’ve read these markers are labeled for crafts so if your project is fine art you would want to be quite sure these will perform as desired. As others have recommended, always test first. Appreciate your input!

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