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How to use alcohol markers – a beginner’s guide

Crafter's Companion – 10/01/23

Alcohol markers are a versatile tool for so many creative applications. They can be blended, layered and combined to create stunning depth, smooth gradients and realistic dimension. Learning how to use them is a great skill for any crafter or colourist and will give your projects a professional finish.

If you’re not sure where to start with alcohol markers, we’re here to help with a this simple beginner’s guide to using Spectrum Noir Alcohol Markers. Once you get to grips with simple blending and layering techniques, putting pen to paper will be a pleasure. And you’ll be able to give your stamped designs stunning, depth and realism.

An introduction to alcohol markers

Alcohol markers are filled with alcohol-based dye ink. This means the colours will apply incredibly smoothly. The ink is also slightly translucent which makes it perfect for layering and blending.

We’ll be focussing on Spectrum Noir Alcohol Markers which offer a choice of dual-tipped pens depending on your style and the effect you want to achieve.

  • Classique: This is the perfect all-rounder with a classic broad and fine nib combination that’s perfect for colouring and design.
  • Illustrator: Choose between a fine nib for detailed work and a brush tip to create more expressive, artistic effects with sweeps of beautiful colour.
  • TriBlend 3-in1 – Each marker includes three complementary shades so you can create a seamless and easy-to-achieve blend.

Shading & Blending

Basic Shading

  • Alcohol marker ink has a translucent quality so with every stroke you make the shade darker.
  • Add depth by layering the same colour over itself.

Enhanced Shading

  • For deeper shadows and enhanced dimension use a selection of darker shades in the same colour.
  • Gradually layer and blend your shades to form natural, realistic graduations. All Spectrum Noir alcohol markers are grouped and graded from light to dark to make this easy when you’re just starting out.

Blending

  • You can also overlap and blend between different shades from the same colour family (eg. reds). Here’s how!
    1. Start by applying the lightest colour
    2. Apply the darker colour, partially overlap onto the lighter colour
    3. Add the lighter colour over the boundary between the two until you’re satisfied with the result.
  • Alcohol inks blend best when the ink is still wet, so apply liberally to the page and try to work quickly for a smooth transition from one shade to the next.
  • Layering wet ink on dry will give a more pronounced step-change in shade that can also be effective depending on the look you want.

Light Colour Blending

  • Layering a lighter marker colour over a darker one will reduce the shade.
  • The lighter marker acts to ‘wash out’ some of the darker ink because light coloured markers have a higher content of alcohol in the ink.
  • The more ink you apply the more colour is washed out and the lighter your finished effect will be. If you layer your colours when the ink is wet the effect is stronger. 

Mixing colours

Layering

  • Alcohol markers can be overlaid to make new colours. The translucency of the ink means when one colour is applied on top of another you will see a combined new colour.
  • This technique works by allowing the base ink to show through. So for a clean result it’s best to let your base colour dry first.
  • Also keep in mind the top colour will always tend to dominate. So you can create a vast range of hues just by changing the order you layer the different colours.

Gradients

  • The natural show-through of alcohol markers also allows you to overlap and transition seamlessly between two colours to create a seamless gradient. Here’s how:
    1. Begin by applying the lightest of the two colours
    2. Next, apply the darker colour, partially overlapping the lighter colour
    3. Apply the lighter colour over the boundary between the two until you’re happy with the blend
  • Choosing adjacent colours on the colour-wheel such as green into blue-green will give you a natural transition, while further apart colours will combine to form new colours.

Top tools

  • Paper: Alcohol-based ink will bleed through thin paper so make sure you use a heavyweight, smooth and uncoated paper to keep your colours bold, punchy and easy to blend! Spectrum Noir’s Premium Marker Paper Pad has been designed to work perfectly with Alcohol Markers
  • ArtLiners: When adding colour to a sketch or drawing, you’ll want your line work to appear clean and sharp, which is where the fine liner comes into its own. The water-based pigment ink in Spectrum Noir Artliner Pens is ideal to prevent your lines from blurring or merging with the alcohol-based marker ink

Spectrum Noir alcohol markers are available in just about every colour under the sun – why not browse through the full range and get thinking about your next creation?

If this post has encouraged you to try blending and shading with Spectrum Noir Alcohol Markers  we’d love to see your finished projects on social media. Share your photos with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram using the hashtag #crafterscompanion.