Beginner's Guide to Art Markers

This guide was written to accompany the Youtube video I've created, and this guide is for beginners who are thinking of getting markers. I'll cover the different types of markers, the pros and cons of using them.

There was a time when I had a lot of Copic markers. Each time I visit the art store, I would be tempted to buy even more colours. Looking at the colours I've collected always give me a sense of satisfaction. Over the years, my love for markers faded as I switched to using watercolour, a medium that's a bit more inconvenient to use but has limitless colour mixing potential. I still use markers occasionally, but mostly for work that's not that serious.

These are the Copic markers that I'm left with. They are mostly grays, warm and cool grays. I've given the colours away and kept the grays.

The most common type of markers out there is probably the alcohol-based markers. Copic and ShinHan Touch markers are examples of such markers. They usually have a smell to them, although not as strong compared to some other brands.

Alcohol-based markers dry fast and is permanent when dried. They are usually not light-fast unless otherwise mentioned.

The downside to using markers is, each marker is only one colour. And good markers aren't cheap. To build up a collection would mean spending a lot of money. Because each marker only has one colour, if you need a different hue, a lighter or darker shade, you will have to get more markers.

You can overlay markers to mix colours but colour mixing is still quite limited.

For example, the colour the shadow side of the jeans, I could use more layers of the same marker, or draw over with a darker shade marker. If you overlay, there's still a limit to the value/darkness of the colour.

To cut down on cost, it's best to get markers that are refillable. For example, Copic markers can be refilled by their Various Inks bottles.

Alcohol markers also have a tendency to bleed through pages. Even if you use thick 300gsm paper, sometimes the alcohol ink may still bleed through. Hence it's good to just draw on one page when using markers, and protect the next page by laying a piece of paper between. The other solution is to get paper that's so called marker-proof. Those paper are treated to handle marker ink and will resist bleeding through the paper, but sometimes juicy markers will still bleed through.

Markers are markers when they use felt tips. These tips come in various shapes. The most common shapes are the chisel edge, fine point and brush tip. Chisel edge provide thick lines that look like blocks. They are great for covering large areas quickly.

Fine point is used for writing, or covering smaller areas. Brush tips are great for colouring details, and creating strokes with varying thickness.

Other than alcohol-based markers, there are water-based markers. Sometimes this water-based markers will use dye inks, and sometimes they will use pigment inks. Ecoline brush pens, a type of marker, uses dye inks. These inks are not lightfast and can fade in the future.

These inks are not very different from fountain pen inks.

If you want to, you can get empty markers and create your own marker. Shown above is the Daler Rowney FW Mixed Media marker. It's actually made for acrylic but you can definitely use inks in it. The downside to making your own markers is it is difficult to tell the actual colour of the ink inside. With brand markers, the colours are usually labeled very prominently on the body or cap.

Water-based markers do not bleed through pages. These are usually not lightfast unless otherwise mentioned.

These marker inks usually will dissolve in water. You can dissolve the inks for some special effects.

Not all water-based inks are not lightfast though. Shown above are Spectrum Noir Metallic markers. These are interesting markers. I usually associate metallic markers with acrylic inks, or markers that have those ball bearings in it where you have to shake. Spectrum Noir Metallic markers are interesting because these are water-based markers that feature archival ink.

Not only that, these inks are extremely opaque, making them very suitable for mixed media work, especially when you want to cover over other medium.

These Winsor & Newton Watercolour markers are also water-based. They feature pigment inks and are supposed to be archival as well.

And these are Winsor and Newton pigment markers. They are pigment based and so should be archival. These markers behave very similarly to alcohol based markers to. You can layer and blend with them.


I still love the convenience of markers. They are so easy to use, so portable and easy to keep. There was a time I would bring these markers to colour my sketches that were drawn on the train.

Over the years, as I started using watercolour, I felt that markers were quite limited in functionality because each marker is just one colour. However, that cannot be further from the truth. There are countless artists who create amazing artworks with markers. And coloured pencils, pastels are also single colour per stick. So the limitation is a self-imposed one for me. One thing that cannot be denied is it is expensive to keep buying colours.

Last thing to note is to always test your markers before using them on actual artworks. Don't spray fixative over marker ink unless you're sure the colours will not break.

So that's all for this quick guide and introduction. If you love markers or use markers, let me know in the comments section on why you're using them. And how well are they working out for you.

If you want to check out some marker reviews, see this comparison review of pros and cons of various markers at…

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