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Alcohol-based markers have great ink, vibrant colors, and blend easily. Or do they really? How good are you at blending colors and creating smooth gradients? Have you been struggling with getting your colors to blend nicely? If you have, please know that I've been there too. I feel your pain (and your joy)!

So let me give you a few tips to make your lives a bit easier and your gradients a bit smoother.

Before we start, here is a super important tip: DON'T EXPECT YOUR GRADIENT TO BE PERFECT! Markers are great for blending, but your sketch doesn't need to be flawless. You want to actually see the difference between the tones in your gradient; that's part of the attraction!

Now that we got perfection out of the way, let's review the basics:

To create a gradient with markers, you need to blend two or more tones of the same color. The idea of blending is to use the lighter color first, then apply the darker color over it and mix them.

So, these will be the steps for two tones of the same color:⠀⠀⠀

  1. Start with a lighter color;⠀⠀

  2. Apply the darker color while the first color is still wet;⠀⠀⠀

  3. Go back to the first color and blend.

Depending on your color range, you may have to do these steps several times, going back and forth between markers, to make the gradient smoother.

TIPS: ⠀⠀⠀

  1. Use colors that are very close to each other on the color chart. You can use my charts and my W&N Promarker combos here:

  2. Using more tones of the same color means smoother blending. I prefer to use 3-4 tones of every color;

  3. Use the brush nib of your marker. It really makes things smoother!

  4. Use paper specially made for markers or at least paper with a smooth surface;

  5. Work quickly! Colors blend easily as long as they are wet. However, you can re-wet it when the ink dries by adding a new layer.


In a nutshell, the secret of a smooth gradient is using very close tones and just following the simple steps above.

If you are new to alcohol-based markers, I have a course that helps you master the essential techniques for a smooth start with markers. If you already have some experience, this course will help you build a solid foundation and become a confident marker sketcher.

This course is available inside Brave Brushes Studio, my club for artists and urban sketchers. Sign up now to get immediate access to this marker course and my entire archive of classes.

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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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