Watercolor Brush Pen Review: Lyra Aqua Brush duo

When I ordered the docrafts watercolor marker set from Amazon, I did a bad, bad thing and ALSO tossed a 24 pack of Lyra Aqua Brush duo watercolor markers into my cart.  For some reason, cheap art supplies drive me bonkers- I need to find out just how bad they are, I suppose, or maybe I'm looking for an affordable alternative that can also serve as a fallback for forgotten art supplies.  I think I'm also an art supply pusher deep down- if I can convert/coerce/convince someone to the dark side of art toy obsession, and then begin pushing my supply hoard off onto them, I will.  I'd had high hopes of converting my mom, who enjoys coloring pages and would probably be into Zentangles, but she has so far thwarted me (although I roped her into helping me review my upcoming Walmart Art Supply haul, mostly through uncredited observations).  I have, I think, found a convert with my college best bud, Ashley, and I'll be sending her a care package of supplies, so hopefully I'll be able to add some second opinions to some of my initial reviews.

Like the docrafts watercolor markers, I didn't have high hopes for the Lyra Aqua Brush duo's performance.  I've casually purchased Lyra products in the past (from Office Depot, I think), and I hadn't been impressed with them.  Lyra is a German art supply company (complete with a German website!), and while I can't find an English site for Lyra, I can find American stores that sell Lyra products, including Blick.  They make all sorts of goodies like graphite sticks, crayons, pencils, pastels, and of course, watercolors, although I have to admit that the sight of their pan watercolors doesn't fill me with delight.  Lyra appears to be a student grade brand- good enough for doodling, but not intended for professional use.

You can buy your own set of Lyra Aqua Brush duo watercolor markers from Amazon for  $23.98 and in the process, help financially support this blog with your purchase by clicking the affiliate link below!  As with most of my reviews, I purchased this product for review purposes out of my own funds, but your purchase from Amazon (or your donation to my Paypal, or your kindly written letter to my favorite manufacturers on my behalf) would really mean the world to me, and would enable me to continue writing this blog. 

The Package

I ordered the 24 pack of Lyra Aqua Brush duo watercolor markers (brush pens?) off Amazon for under $28 using my Prime membership, but you can get a pack for as little as $12 for 12, if you dont want to commit to a big pack.   You can also get them through Blick for slightly more, plush even more slightly more for shipping.  My set came in a cardboard box with two flimsy plastic trays to hold the pens, which is sort of a let down after docraft's fantastic easel.

The Pens

The cap looks almost identical from both the capping end and the posting end.

The trend for dual tipped brush pens seems to be to make the bullet nib have a colored tip, rather than a colored cap, and Lyra follows that trend. 

The caps on the Lyra Aqua Brush duo pens don't actually clip, but they do prevent the very round, smooth pens from just rolling off your desk if they're capped or posted.  The cap is very snug, and often difficult to remove by pulling, I suggest twisting to loosen it a bit.  It also looks almost identical from both ends, so if you're not careful, you may end up just jamming your brush into the closed end of the cap, ruining it. The brush on these pens is conical, and fairly juicy and flexible.  The bullet nib is a bullet nib, not really worth commenting on very much, I'm afraid.  The pens don't have color names or numbers, so you may find it beneficial to keep your box to keep your pens organized, for easy color reference.

It seems like most watercolor dual tipped markers follow the same recipe when it comes to pen design

Strangely, this 24 piece set does not include a purple, violet, or mauve, but a surprising number of browns- which makes this set a little more flexible in terms of skin colors.

The Field Test

The Swatches

While wet

After drying


Markers were blended so that the yellow and the orange were just barely touching.  These markers self blend quite easily without the need for water or a blending marker.

And these were blended into each other a little bit, and then I used the yellow to blend into the red.  Beneath that is me cleaning the brush, demonstrating yet another blending technique.

The brown swatch was allowed to fully dry for ten minutes.

Although it's harder to blend out the marker after it has been allowed to dry, it still releases a fair amount of pigment with very little effort.

These pens are so slick, it's a little hard to get them uncapped quickly, so if you're trying to do a time sensitive technique, keep that in mind.  The conical brush reminds me of the Letraset Flexmarker and Aqua marker, and while it isn't as flexible as I'd like, so far it performs decently well, and is fairly juicy.  The colors require very little scrubbing to activate them (except for the blues), and the amount of color released is fairly generous.  The color from the bullet and brush ends is consistent, unlike many of Winsor & Newton's Watercolor markers.

Practical Test

This is what my basic testing setup looks like.  I sit on an antifatigue mat so my hips don't take as much pressure as they used to, I have my swatchbook in front of me for color reference, a cup of clean water, masking tape, and the inked test piece.  The test piece was inked with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida from Jetpens, and allowed to dry fully overnight before I even erased the pencil lines.

The color dispersion is fairly generous, even when applied to my impromptu masking tape palette.

I'm not sure if it's me, or the color I'm using, or the brush I've got for the test, but I'm having a hard time laying down skincolor.  These colors can be blended out when dry, unlike some (Neopiko 4) which refuse to budge as soon as the paper has dried.
Because there are no violets, purples, or mauves, I opted to use a burgundy for Kara's skin shadows, which really didn't work out that well.  You could mix a purple on your side palette, but its still frustrating that not even one premixed purple is included in such a large set.  Mixing on the page itself with an indigo yielded unsatisfactory results, and rewetting preexisting layers leads to some pick up.

Many of the watercolor markers I review poorly started their downward descent when it came to skintones, or applying color to skintones.  For what I do (watercolor comics) skintones and shading are a big part of what makes something work or not, and having difficultly getting the control and effect I want from a product can really affect my opinion of a product's quality.  The longer I noodle with it trying to get what I want, the worse it looks, so these are definitely not the sort of thing you play around with until you get what you want.

The Verdict

If you could buy additional colors openstock, I could give these markers a much better review.  As it is, the lack of an in-set purple is a huge failing in my opinion, and makes these colors harder for me to use.  The 24 piece set also doesn't come with a pre mixed skintone, which is fine, but I found the yellow ochre I used to be a bit TOO tan for Kara.  I could've mixed a little pink or red in on my side palette, but it would've been hard to get consistent skintones, as I would have had to constantly remix.

This is a very affordable set, and if you can't get a docrafts Artiste watercolor marker set, the Lyra Aqua Brush duo set isn't a bad introduction to watercolor markers.  Depending on what you'd like to use them for, they perform more consistently than many other watercolor markers on the market, including Winsor and Newton's watercolor markers.


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