7 Tips for Working with Alcohol Markers - Art-n-Fly

What’s not to love about drawing with alcohol markers? They require no prep work, they’re portable, and they dry almost instantly. The colors are vibrant and versatile so you can create anything from hand lettering to anime. However, they can also be an intimidating medium for artists because alcohol ink is permanent, so once you’ve drawn something, there’s no going back!

 We put together our 7 favorite tips below to get you started in the best way possible.

  1. Choose your paper carefully

The positive side of alcohol markers is that they dry very quickly, so there’s not a huge risk of tearing your paper even if you use multiple layers. The risk lies in the fact that if you use the wrong paper, it can soak up a lot more ink than you want it to and it can bleed through to the other side! That means you’ll go through the ink in your precious markers a lot more quickly than you intended and possibly more paper, too! We recommend using a paper made specifically for marker work. These papers tend to be thin and smooth (for minimal ink absorption) and coated on the opposite side. An added bonus is the colors of the markers will be truer and it will be easier to practice skills like blending!

Look for a paper that explicitly states it’s for use with markers/ink for the best results, but you can also try Bristol board and illustration board. 

  1. Avoid streaks

For even coverage, move slowly! Moving too quickly will give a streaky look to your drawings, which is more pronounced with lighter colors. Try using different types of stroke throughout your drawing to add texture. 

Stroke speed

Image source: www.vanillaarts.com

  1. Know your nibs

As they say, different strokes for different strokes. Japanese brush nibs are the most expensive because they are flexible like a paintbrush and lend themselves to creating beautiful soft lines. They feel great in your hand and are easy to use as they’re more forgiving.

However, you can still get good results and satisfaction from the stiffer, less expensive bullet nib. They’re a little more difficult to practice things like blending with, but they’re great for small areas and detail work.

The chisel nib on the opposite end of the marker is great to fill in large areas. 

  1. Swatch

Know your colors so there are no surprises! If you didn’t follow rule #1 (maybe you’re using marker for a small addition to a watercolor piece, for example) you may end up with colors that look completely different than you expected. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through your drawing on toned paper to find out that it makes your blues look green! It’s always good practice to create swatches and familiarize yourself with the colors in person. If you’re using our markers, we have a free hex chart which will help you see the relationship between the colors you have.

hex chart

Another thing to note is that colors are lighter when dry. Testing out the colors in advance will give you reassurance so you don’t panic when a color you thought was muted is vibrant when wet!

  1. Learn to layer

We have a great video to teach you how to blend here. We recommend you start with the lightest tones (possibly lighter than you need) and gradually add richer ones as you go along as you can always add pigment but with markers, you can’t take any away. You can leave white spaces to create highlights or add them later with white gel pen.

You can then use a colorless blender to soften edges and blend colors together. We have another tutorial on how to shade with markers and blend with colored pencils here

  1. Start with an outline

Fine line inking pens can create your initial drawing to take off the pressure of getting the edges right. Use permanent ink for edges that don’t budge, or if you want softer edges you could use one that’s water soluble.

  1. Combine media

In addition to fine line pens, markers combine well with a variety of media. Colored pencils and marker go together like peanut butter and jelly, but markers also work well with watercolor (start with markers, and add the watercolor as they dry) and watercolor pens as well as gel pens on top for highlights. 

colorful hair

It’s typically best to use permanent media first and build on it with water-soluble or erasable media, but there’s no reason why you can’t experiment with effects created by using marker on top of water-soluble media!

What’s your favorite tip for working with markers?

5 Responses

Andy White
Andy White

February 24, 2022

Found this very interesting I do a lot of shaden I absolutely love your black fine and brush pen are you still doing this pen ,,,,,

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pencil sketch

October 06, 2021

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March 01, 2021


kikki felton
kikki felton

October 01, 2020

Thank you for the tips. it would be nice if you had a blank hexagon chart where we could fill it out on our own. I am enjoying these markers and the smell is much better than the spectrum noir markers i started with. they smell much better as well.

Joyce a. Vaughn
Joyce a. Vaughn

July 09, 2019

I have a small set of the bullet and chisel tip their good I would’ve rather have the brush tip I order the brush one but your people said I order the bullet tip one I really would love have the full set unfortunately I can’t afford on my monthly income oh before forget I have the colored pencils I order the tube they send them in the box I wasn’t happy about my over all order but I really love your products I use them all the time the odor don’t bother me like other markers do I get headaches from them Hopefully I will get some bday money I also want to try your fine liners and white pen thank you keep up the work I talk about your products to friends all the time

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