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While 50 shades might seem like an exaggeration, it really isn't that far from the truth. When buying grey alcohol-based markers, you have a choice of over 20 different shades. Winsor & Newton (my favorite!) have 24 shades in their grey range. How many grey markers do you need? How do you decide which alcohol-based markers to buy? What is the difference between cool and warm greys? Can you just buy a set of 6 or 12 alcohol-based grey markers? Read the post to find out!


It may come as a surprise to you, but grey markers are, in fact, very popular. There are three main uses for them:

  1. Drawing grey details in your urban sketches. If you look around, you'll notice that there are many things you can draw with grey: the pavement, the water, the sky, and some metal details.

  2. Drawing with just the grey range. You can create powerful sketches without using any other colors at all. This is especially great for 'tech' things: cars and motorcycles, robots, and gadgets, but you can also create an all-grey sketch of Northern Europe in winter.

  3. My favorite: use the lightest grey marker instead of a pencil to make the sketch before you color it. This is the technique that I use in my classes and tutorials in alcohol-based markers.

This class teaches you a quick and easy technique of sketching houses with alcohol-based markers, using the grey marker for the preliminary sketch: available in Brave Brushes Studio and on Skillshare.

You can also do my beginner-friendly tutorial on How to Draw a Colorful House Front with Markers.


Just like with any other color, there are three color tones within 'grey': warm, neutral, and cool.

Winsor & Newton have made it very confusing for us by not following the traditional naming of colors. When you look at the color codes of the grey alcohol-based markers, you'll notice they start with two letters:

WG stands for warm greys, that's easy.

CG stands for cool greys, but in fact, this is Winsor & Newton's neutral range! Don't let the 'cool' part of the name confuse you.

IG stands for ice grey, which is a cool tone.

Unless you are an experienced artist with a great understanding of colors, stick to this rule: Do not mix different grey tones in one sketch!

When you use the lightest grey instead of pencil, as I do (check out this tutorial to see what I mean: Beginner-friendly tutorial: how to draw a colorful house front with markers), some of its lines will still be visible in the finished sketch. So, it's important to use the right tone so that your sketch looks harmonious.

If the other colors in your sketch are mostly warm, use warm grey, too:

When using predominantly cool colors, stick to cool shade of grey (ice grey in Winsor & Newton's marker collection):

If the color scheme is mostly neutral or there is a mix of different tones, use neutral grey (again, Winsor & Newton call it 'cool grey').


Winsor & Newton have sets of 6 and 12 markers:

6 marker set on Amazon

12 marker set on Amazon

These sets include warm and neutral colors. Ice Grey does not come in sets yet.

When buying markers separately, use my color charts to see which tones you like best and what combinations work well together.

When building your grey collection, choose one tone (warm, neutral, cool) and buy markers of this one tone. You do not need to buy all the markers of the same tone; you can start with 1, 3, 5, 7 or 0, 2, 4, 6.

Here are some other resources on alcohol-based markers on this blog:

Interested in learning more about markers? Join Brave Brushes Studio to get access to my Marker Resources: 5-lesson Marker Adventure, three Skillshare marker classes, plus a lesson on drawing greenery with markers.

  • Learn how to blend markers to create smooth transitions.

  • Choose color combinations that will work great for tour sketch.

  • Learn how to draw shadows with markers.

  • Learn how to use fineliners together with markers for expressive urban sketches.

  • Create amazing sketches using a limited color palette.

  • Learn how to make the most of the marker set that you have.

  • Get feedback, ask questions and find the courage to show your work to the world!

Disclaimer: some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission when you buy something (at no additional cost to you). I appreciate every sale because this is a way for me to continue creating free content for you!



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Hello, I'm Julia Henze.



Art is my passion. Urban Sketching is my love.

My work (and this site) is devoted to sharing ideas, tools, and resources that will help you to find your way in the world of art.

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  • Resource library (classes and tutorials)

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