How To Get The Most Out Of Your Markers

By Alex Whisman

We all have our favorite coloring media.  There are pencil people, marker people and gel pen people.  Some of us favor one media but use all of them.  While I prefer pencils most the time, I like coloring with marker pens.

Markers are good for when I don’t feel well or just want to do some less-complicated and quicker coloring.  They are great for people who can’t hold pencils well, press hard, or color for long periods.  Coloring with markers are a good way to get bright colors without having to layer them.  You can get markers with tips that are thick for coloring broad swaths of background or tips that are thin so you can get into intricate parts of a picture.  You can now get fancy pens that will vary the amount of color they put down so you can do shaded and light areas or that will blend colors.  There are expensive markers and there are cheap ones.  What you use depends on your budget and preferences.

Coloring Inside The Lines

Many of us color with our markers like we have since we were kids: by putting down a solid set of lines to completely cover our picture.  This is a great way to color, and there isn’t anything wrong with it, but what if you want a different look?  You can use the following techniques to give your pictures more depth and variety.  A word of caution: take note of the paper you are coloring on.  Some books have thinner paper that isn’t as well-suited for markers.  Using the below techniques may cause bleed through to the back and another page on thinner paper.  If you have a book with double sided images and thin paper it is better to not use these techniques.  If you have a book with single-sided images it is best to put at least a few pieces of blank paper under the page to prevent color from bleeding to an underlying picture.

Just because we have always colored everything inside the lines when we were little doesn’t mean we have to always do it that way.  You can color just the edges of a design.  This is a way of showing highlights or to use white as part of your color palette, without using a white pen.   It is a nice way to give a picture a softer, more toned-down look.  In this picture I used this technique to make the frosting look lighter, to use white as a color in the flower on the cup and to create the ‘shine’ that would normally be on the grey cupcake wrapper.

Coloring With Dots And Dashes

Pointillism is a technique that you may have seen before.  This is coloring by making dots.  The closer your dots are together, the more shaded an area looks and the further your dots are apart, the more light it looks.  You can use more than 1 color of dots to create different effects like the variations in a leaf, in waves in water or wind currents.  In the following picture I used pointillism to do the inside of the butterflies’ wings.  By putting some of the dots close together I got the effect of veins in the wings.  This technique does take a while to do so you may want to consider using it as highlights in a picture instead of doing a whole picture this way!

A technique similar to pointillism is to use your marker tip to color broken lines.  This works better with medium to fine tip markers.  Instead of whole, long and unbroken lines that completely color in a section, you color in short, broken lines by lifting the pen slightly off the paper.  The closer your lines are together, the more shaded an area looks.  You can make all the lines in one direction or do crosshatching (where your stroke marks go in 2 or more different directions).   I used this technique to create black fur for the dog in this picture.

You can also do a variation of this technique to put one color down and after it has dried (give it at least 30 minutes or longer to be safe) go over the top of it with a lighter or darker color.  This is a nice way to do veins in leaves or details in feathers for birds or scales on fish and dragons.  You will want to be sure to let the ink dry completely to prevent your paper surface from breaking down and the colors bleeding.  I used this technique to create the top of the cupcake by using a base of yellow with brown dots to create the texture a cupcake would have.

Adding Shading And Details

To do shading with markers you can go over an area with the same color after the first layer has dried.  You want to let the first layer dry completely so the paper isn’t torn, and want to be sure if you are coloring in a book that it is one-sided and you have two to three pieces of paper under the picture to prevent bleed-through.  In the following picture I used a light brown for most of the dog, but wanted two of the legs to be shaded.  After the first lighter brown layer had dried I went back over it with the same color, after leaving  plenty of time to dry.

You can use other media with your markers to enhance them.  Adding color pencils over where you have used markers will give you shading and detail work, adding gel pens over the markers will give you highlights and contrasts.  I have found a white gel pen is great for not only adding highlights on metallic items and glass, but also to help me separate when I am coloring 2 different areas the same color.  In the cupcake picture I use white gel pen to make an eyebrow on the dog and to outline the eye.  If I hadn’t outlined the eye in white gel it would not have been easy to see.  I used my white gel to highlight the other dog’s nose and in his eye.

I also used color pencil over the tea pot to give it some shading in the below picture.

You can replicate the blending you get with some of the high-quality specialised markers by holding two markers straight up and down, with the tips touching for a short time, usually a few seconds.  If you are feeling experimental you can look up tip to tip blending techniques on Youtube.  The color from the top tip is transferred to the bottom tip.  You color with the blended color (in the bottom pen) until it runs back to the original ink color.  I have not used this technique but have seen some beautiful pictures where people have used it.  I recommend you watch some tutorials and play with it if you want to give it a try.

 These are many ways to get more out of your marker pens & to create artistic pictures.   Try to use any of these techniques, or even all of them, in your next picture.  Experiment to see what works best for you.  Happy Coloring!

Picture drawn by Mary Kay, from the August 2016 Color On mag

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