Drawing Techniques Using Markers

by Nicole Whitney

Markers come in many types, including highlighter, permanent, and art or sketching markers. You can trace pencil lines and add color in many ways with markers. You can even draw with them without using a pencil first. They are not erasable like pencil, and drawing with them requires different techniques to compensate for the fact that you cannot remove any errors.

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One way to create works of art with markers is to do your original sketch with pencil, then trace the picture with markers. This is sometimes called "inking," especially in reference to comic books. It is often done with pens or ink and brushes, but you can use fine-point markers. This technique allows you to draw the picture and erase mistakes, then take your time to transfer the finished design onto another piece of paper with the markers. Tracing paper can be used to trace images because it is thin and translucent. However, the paper does not take marker well. Markers often dry slowly and smudge easily. Avoid this by using heavier papers. One way to trace a design onto better quality paper is to use a light table. Place the original picture on the light table, place the clean paper on top of that, and turn on the light. This illuminates the image and makes it easier to trace.


It is possible to skip the pencil drawing altogether. Remember that you cannot erase marker, though, and any mistakes will need to be incorporated into the drawing somehow. Using shorter lines allows you to keep control of the drawing to prevent major errors. Markers also bleed if you leave them sitting in one spot too long, and this leaves spots on any paper or surface below. Protect any good paper underneath from bleed-through by putting a scrap page under your drawing paper. Draw lines lightly and quickly to prevent bleeding.

Adding Depth

There are ways to add depth to a marker drawing without switching to another color or medium. Before you add any shading to a marker drawing, decide where the light source is. This is where the light shines on the subject of the drawing. Brightness in marker drawings is depicted by leaving the area blank so the paper shows through. The opposite side is where shadows will fall, where you can color or add other depictions of dark areas. One method of adding depth is stippling, where you put dots or other small marks on the paper to represent the shadows. A thick concentration of dots will make the area appear darker, while a looser array of marks makes the area seem more medium-tone. Another method is hatching, which is created with lines. Lines can go in one direction, or in multiple directions, and can cross over each other, thus called crosshatching. They can be created with a ruler or guide for perfectly straight, evenly-spaced lines, or can be done by hand for an uneven, natural look. Thicker lines and crossed lines create darker shadows than thin, uncrossed lines.

Adding Color

Markers come in many colors that you can use in drawings. Start with the lightest color you are using, and add depth with the other colors until you reach the darkest. This allows you to cover any mistakes in the pale colors with the darker ones. Many markers become darker if you color over the same spot, which enables you to achieve the illusion of many colors with just a few markers. Drawing over an area with different color markers will create even more colors, although adding too many can make it look murky.

About the Author

Nicole Whitney began writing professionally in 2008. She has authored in-house training documentation for quality assurance in insurance applications. With many credits coming from a stint in classics, Whitney holds a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies from Assumption College.

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