If you are just starting out with alcohol-based markers, you will find answers to all your questions in this article: alcohol-based vs. water-based markers, storage, famous brands, marker paper, and first steps with markers.
When I launched my "Drawing with Markers: Learn How to Sketch Expressive Fruits & Berries" class on Skillshare last month, I started getting a lot of questions about alcohol-based markers. I am delighted that so many of you have shown interest! In this blog post, I will answer the most common questions.
What's the difference between alcohol-based and water-based markers?
The difference is the solvent: the dye in markers can be mixed with either water or alcohol. This affects your markers' properties: functionality, drying times, blending ability, and price.
Alcohol makes the color vibrant and smooth. It dries quickly, which makes it perfect for blending and layering. It does not ruin paper (because it evaporates instantly). The dye in the marker is dissolved evenly at all times, so you don't need to worry about storing them horizontally. Alcohol-based markers come in a mind-blowing range of colors.
As for water-based markers, their two main advantages are their low price and safety for kids. They don't blend very well, especially on regular paper, but they can give you a nice blending effect on watercolor paper. Also, the water in them might cause your paper to swell, and the colors might get streaky. However, water-based markers give you lots of control, and they don't bleed through the paper as much.
Why are alcohol-based markers more expensive than water-based ones?
The first part of the answer is fairly obvious: alcohol is more expensive than water. Another significant factor is the production costs: the use of alcohol makes the whole process more complex and thus expensive. But! Using alcohol as the solvent gives the markers their unique qualities. So the investment really pays off! The most popular brands are Copic, Winsor & Newton, Ohuhu, Twinmarkers, Touch markers, Prismacolor, etc. They may vary in price and color range, but don't get stuck if you are just starting with markers! Just buy what is available and start drawing!
How should I store my alcohol-based markers?
You'll read on a lot of artists' blogs that you must store markers horizontally. Alcohol-based markers are dual-tipped, so you want the ink to be distributed evenly and not on just one end of the marker. Or so it seems… However, this is a myth! You can store your markers any way you like! It's a matter of personal preference and convenience. And (just like everywhere these days), there's also quite a bit of marketing involved! So why sell just markers when you can sell all kinds of fancy stands for horizontal storage. In fact, you don't need a special kind of horizontal stand (unless it's something that you really want!). You can store them vertically in a cup! If you've seen my videos on Instagram, you know I store them vertically.
One thing that you should be careful with, though, is keeping your markers away from heat and direct sunlight. Alcohol is flammable, so you should obviously keep your markers away from open fire, but it's also important to know that heat from the radiators and the sun can destroy the plastic barrel of the marker. The marker will no longer be airtight and will dry out quickly because of the tiny cracks in the barrel.
Are alcohol-based markers lightfast?
When a medium is described as lightfast, this means it doesn't fade over time. Sketches made with alcohol-based markers are not as lightfast as we'd like them to be. If you take a photo of your sketch and then another one a year later, you will definitely see the difference. Marker sketches fade slowly but surely. So it's not a very good idea to hang them in a well-lit room. The best option is to keep them in a folder or in your sketchbook, not subjecting them to light at all.
Do I need special paper for alcohol-based markers?
Ideally, yes. There is paper designed specifically for alcohol-based markers. When choosing paper, look out for its thickness: it is indicated as g/m2 (grams per square meter).
75g/m2 is thin paper. It is smooth and pleasant to draw on, but the colors will definitely bleed through. So make sure you put an extra piece of paper underneath.
160g/m2 is thick paper. It is a bit rougher and doesn't bleed through as much.
Personally, I've been an artist so long that I've drawn on all kinds of paper! I do have a favorite, and I don't always use marker paper with markers. Drawing with Markers: Learn How to Sketch Expressive Fruits & Berries class was drawn on non-marker paper. It is one of the secret ingredients which makes the sketches so colorful.
Can you give me some general tips on drawing with markers?
Happily! For your sketches to be smooth and without any streaks, you can:
work quickly (the ink dries very fast)
draw using a circular motion
choose high-quality drawing paper.
read this article for blending techniques: HOW TO BLEND ALCOHOL-BASED MARKERS (STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTION & TIPS)
What classes do you offer?
I have 3 marker classes on Skillshare:
Markers 101: The Basics and Step-by-Step Sketching is an excellent starting place if you've never drawn with markers before. I go through the most popular marker brands, the functionality and the main features of alcohol-based markers. You will learn the basic techniques and create your first marker sketch in this class!
Urban Sketching with Markers in this beginners class, you will learn a quick and easy technique and develop the skills to be able to create loose and bright urban sketches with alcohol-based markers.
Drawing with Markers: Learn How to Sketch Expressive Fruits & Berries is a class for those who already have some experience with markers. This class is a step-by-step tutorial for drawing five colorful fruits and berries with alcohol-based markers.
You can also do this WORKSHOP on blending - "Pistachio Icecream". It is in Dutch, but you can just draw along with mem have some fun (and learn some Dutch along the way)
Do you have any questions left? Leave a comment below! ♥