3 things to know about markers before using them

Markers are a great medium for illustrators and artist. I personally never used until last summer but when I did I fell in love immediately. However, like all mediums, there is all kind of tips and tricks for markers.

I thought I would include the basics for anyone who also wants to take a dip into markers.

Top things to learn about when you are first starting out with markers. This will make it so much easier to get the results you want!

I tried to include the real basics like the kind of markers there are and paper to use but I do have some links at the end for more advanced marker users who slept through the entire blog post.

Alcohol vs water

There are many different kinds of markers on this planet. But most of them belong to one of these two groups; water based or alcohol based.

This basically means that the ink/pigment is either a solution with water or with alcohol.

Tombow dual tip art markers

Both groups of markers are their own medium entirely. There are many techniques not possible with alcohol based markers which can be great with water based markers etc.

The main difference, however, is that water bases markers can not be layered as much as the alcohol based markers because water damages the paper.

Just to include a quick overview of waterbased markers and alcohol based markers.

Water based markers

Alcohol based markers

Tombow duo


Pitt artist pens fabercastell

Spectrum noir

Winsor & Newton watercolour markers

Prisma colour premiere

(If your marker is missing and you’re not sure, let me know in the comments and I will try to find out)

Faber castell pitt artist markers!

Bleeding out vs through

When I first bought my markers I also bought a block of marker paper that promised to be bleed proof. At the time, I believed that this meant that the ink would not go through the paper.

Little did I know that alcohol-based markers are virtually not bleed proof on any paper. At least not what when we are talking about bleeding through the paper to the other side.

However, bleed proof can mean that the ink doesn’t move trough the paper. With alcohol-based markers, the alcohol doesn’t damage the paper as much but it can move trough it. This can cause that the colour spreads further than you wanted it which can be irritating when for example colouring line art.

This is why you need bleed-proof paper.

Which paper to use

The kind of paper you use is very important when it comes to markers. Like I explained above markers can bleed two ways. While bleeding through paper can be irritating and impossible to work with them in sketchbooks. When buying paper, it is the bleeding outwards what is even more important.

Definitely, try to buy the bleed-proof paper.

The good news, however, is that this does not necessarily mean buy the most expensive marker paper you can find.

Another important point is that you the need the kind of paper  without tooth (so very smooth.) Most markers will have tips that don’t do well on rough surfaces. Using certain types of paper will damage the tips. If your tip frays, you will have more trouble getting straight smooth lines.

Use smooth paper to not damage the tip of you marker! read the full piece on sofiedoesart.com

Thirdly, if you want to layer a lot of different colours inks, you will have to have more heavy paper. While the paper doesn’t get damaged that easy with alcohol based markers, it can still get full.

Some markers like Copic have replaceable tips, so you can buy a new tip without replacing the entire marker.

Examples of paper and how marker works on it.

Some markers come with their own paper. For example, Copic has his own brand of paper. The new Winsor & Newton pigment markers do as well.

This paper is often great for using those markers but they can also be expensive. Here are some alternatives I have used until now.

Canson Bristol paper

This pad was 6,60 euros for 20 sheets. The paper is 224g/m^2 and A4 format. My favourite thing about this pad is how smooth the paper is while still feeling like paper. Alcohol-based ink will bleed through a little so make sure you take the sheet you are using from the pad itself. Overall, you can blend a lot on this paper because of it thick nature.

bunnies on different kind of paper

Agro silk

This paper has no manufacturer listed and I have no idea how heavy it is but this stuff is amazing. The alcohol based ink doesn’t bleed through at all even after several layers of blending. Instead, you get to push around ink and colour for quite some time until it dries.

I got this paper as a gift but I would highly recommend it to anyone so if you see your chance, buy this!

Very thin marker paper

This exists and it is great, but for me, it is too thin to ever use for work to sell. But this pad of 25 sheets was only 4 pounds The paper does bleed through so don’t draw on the pad itself. This pad is great for practising wit your new found markers.

These are the three main things I have learned when using markers. When you know these three things you are entirely set up for starting with markers.

Let me know if you ever used markers and what you would tell someone who just started out with them. 

One Response to “3 things to know about markers before using them

  • Sharon Adams
    4 years ago

    I have just signed up for your blog and am so happy that I did! I have been involved in art for many years, but only recently started exploring different mediums and styles. I love to do portraits using graphite. One day I thought I would like to explore color but had no idea where to start. So I’ve taken classes and am ok with what I’m learning but have trouble with how to get going at home. Your blog is just what I needed! I appreciate that you offer a basic understanding of, markers, water color, inks etc. You have enabled me to just get going and try different things. My sketch book is growing and I have you to thank for that.

    Be well and I will be checking back often!

    Sharon Adams

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