Tips for using Markers for your artwork

An artist is always in need of a way to draw bold lines and fill large areas with color. Ink usually does the job best, and so it's not very surprising that several different means of working with ink have become popular over the years. One of the more popular options, especially in households with children, are markers. These have a fibrous tip that lets the ink stored inside them seep through when a little pressure is applied. In a way, they are similar to a foam brush than to a pen or pencil.

Unique types

Unlike most types of art supplies, markers are designed with different uses in mind. Some are made to color, others are made for certain surfaces and some are deliberately designed to be hard to erase. Overall, at least four common types of markers exist:
  • Fine-tip Markers
    These markers aren't much thicker than a pencil, and are much better than pencils when it comes to making fine, thin lines that stand out from the page. Some of the best black fine tip markers are actually made as office supplies; they were intended to be used on labels, but they are great for line art.
  • Wide-tip Markers
    Slightly more commonplace than the other types of markers, these are thick and have an easy time covering a large area in a solid color. Most wide-tip markers you'll see these days are also made so that their ink can be washed away with a little water.
  • Whiteboard Markers
    These unique markers are found in classrooms and offices, where they are used to draw on the plastic sheets used by an overhead projector or whiteboards. In both cases, they leave lines that are clear and easily seen from a distance. Their ink is easily erased on those slides and whiteboards, but when it gets on almost anything else it can quickly stain and is hard to wash out.
  • Permanent Marker
    Similar to wide-tip markers in size and shape, the ink these markers use is supposed to be difficult to erase. However, they are better known for the noxious fumes that they produce when you draw with them. Between the smell and the mess, it's probably best not to use them at all.

Availability

When it comes to buying markers, how easy it will be to find them is largely dependent on the colors you're after and the type of marker you want. If you're looking for quality black fine-tip markers, just look around your neighborhood office supply store. Most will be selling them in bulk packages for labeling.

Everyday grocery stores or convenience stores should have sets of fine tip and wide-tip markers with up to a dozen colors in stock most of the time, making the core 8 colors easy to get whenever you need them. Art supply stores usually carry more specialty colors, but be prepared to spend a pretty penny as they won't be cheap.

Strengths

Fine-tip markers excel at inking sketches. The thinner their tip, the better suited they are for tracing your pencil lines and making your piece pop. Wide-tip markers can also be used for inking, but their large size can get in the way. Instead, use wide-tip markers to color your piece.

Weaknesses

Markers have a limited lifespan, as the ink in them dries out over time. You can extend the lifespan of your markers by ensuring that the cap is on when you aren't using them, but eventually they will dry out on their own.

Another potential issue is that the ink from markers can easily smear. Ink is impossible to erase, so this can damage or destroy a project if the ink smears too much. Wide-tip markers can also deposit too much ink in an area if you use too much pressure or just draw there too much. When this happens, it will take longer to dry and may cause your project to wrinkle or become fragile in that area.

Tips

  • Press lightly when you use a marker. The amount of pressure you use determines how much ink is deposited, and putting too much pressure on the tip of a marker may cause too much ink to seep out of the tip.
  • Be careful how quickly you move when using markers. The longer the tip stays on the page, the more ink will soak in. Move too quickly and you won't get enough down, while you'll get too much ink on things if you move too slowly.
  • Keep the tips of your markers in good condition by being gentle with them. If your tip starts getting fuzzy, either replace the marker or trim it carefully with scissors. However, once the tip starts getting fuzzy, the marker is nearing the end of its useful life, so be ready to replace it.
  • Always cover the tip with the marker's lid once you're done with it. Dried out markers are useless, and despite what companies may tell you, they cannot be revived.
  • Only use permanent markers in a well ventilated area. The fumes they create can be harmful if you're breathing them for too long.
  • Use light colors first! Light colored markers (notoriously yellow ones) will pick up other inks and become permanently stained.