Learning How to Color With Acrylic Markers: A Guide

Acrylic markers are fast becoming one of the go-to coloring options for artists. In this guide, let’s explore what acrylic markers are, how they work, plus techniques, tips, and tricks to master acrylic marker coloring.

Altenew Acrylic Marker 24 Color Set scattered on a crafting table
  1. Understanding Acrylic Markers
  2. Choosing the Right Surface and Supplies
  3. Basic Coloring Techniques
    1. Solid Coloring
    2. Layering Colors
    3. Stippling and Cross-Hatching
  4. More Tips to Explore with Acrylic Markers
  5. FAQs for Acrylic Marker Coloring
  6. Conclusion
Altenew's Paint-by-Numbers Sheets and 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set scattered on a crafting table

Understanding Acrylic Markers

So what are acrylic markers? They are versatile and vibrant tools used by artists, crafters, and hobbyists for various creative projects. They are similar to traditional markers but, instead of ink, they contain acrylic paint in their barrel, which flows through a nib or tip.

Altenew Acrylic Marker 24 Color Set inside a mason jar

Acrylic markers come in various types, including water-based, oil-based, and solvent-based formulations:

  • Water-based acrylic markers are popular for their quick drying time, ease of cleanup with water, and compatibility with a wide range of surfaces. 
  • Oil-based markers, on the other hand, offer a longer drying time, which allows for smoother blending and layering of colors. 
  • Solvent-based markers provide intense color saturation and are often used for outdoor or industrial applications.

These markers are available in a wide array of colors and tip sizes, allowing artists to create detailed artwork or cover large areas with ease. They can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood, metal, and plastic, making them a versatile choice for different art projects.

Altenew's 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Altenew's 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

A notable characteristic of acrylic markers is their high level of opacity. They can easily cover even the darkest surfaces with rich, vibrant colors. The capability to layer colors provides a wide range of creative possibilities, making them perfect for intricate projects. Additionally, they have a relatively quick drying time, allowing you to maintain creative momentum without the need to wait.

Different color swatches on a dark background, created from the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Acrylic markers are a best-of-both-worlds kind of coloring tool because they offer artists the convenience of a marker, with the vibrant colors and versatility of acrylic paint. This makes them a popular choice for both beginners and experienced artists.

A lovely floral greeting card created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

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Choosing the Right Surface and Supplies

Acrylic markers are surface versatile. However, most artists and crafters would often use cardstock, especially when they’re just starting with it

An "I think you are amazing" card with a colorful background, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

To get the most out of your acrylic marker, heavyweight and smooth papers are the most ideal. This is so that you can prevent bleeding and provide a stable surface for intricate details. Here, some of the most recommended paper types include:

  • CardstockAcrylic markers work well on cardstock but, ideally, you’d want to choose the thicker ones (110 lbs and above, or 300-400 GSM). The heavier, the better.
  • Mixed Media Paper – Heavyweight mixed media paper is versatile and can handle both wet and dry media, making it suitable for acrylic marker techniques.
  • Bristol Board – Smooth and durable, a Bristol board offers a sturdy surface that resists warping and allows for precise line work.
  • Marker Paper – There are paper products specifically designed for markers, and they provide a smooth surface that prevents bleeding and feathering, ideal for vibrant and precise color application.
  • Watercolor Paper – Textured watercolor paper adds an interesting dimension to acrylic marker artwork and can handle multiple layers of paint without pilling or tearing.
An artistic rendering of a mountain scenery over a lake, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Other surfaces where you can use acrylic markers include:

  1. Canvas: Primed canvas or canvas boards offer a textured surface that adds depth and interest to acrylic marker artworks. Plus, most canvases are thick enough that acrylic paints won’t bleed or be absorbed and diffused into the threads of the canvas.
  2. Wood: Smooth or lightly sanded wood surfaces provide a unique backdrop for acrylic marker projects, offering a rustic or natural aesthetic.
  3. Metal: Primed metal surfaces provide a durable base for acrylic markers, most suitable for indoor applications.
  4. Ceramics: Acrylic markers can also be used to decorate pots, mugs, and other ceramic surfaces.
  5. Plastic: Vibrant and durable artwork can be made on smooth plastic surfaces, such as acrylic sheets or PVC boards.

Important Note: Water-based acrylic markers do tend to wash off some of these surfaces, particularly the non-porous ones like metal and plastic, and regularly used items like ceramics.

Different color swatches on a white background, created from the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Basic Coloring Techniques with Acrylic Markers

In this section, let’s discuss some of the basic coloring techniques that you can use to create amazing art with acrylic markers.

1. Solid Coloring

  • Start by selecting a base color for the area you want to color.
  • Apply the acrylic marker directly to the surface in smooth, even strokes, ensuring full coverage.
  • For larger areas, work in sections to prevent the paint from drying too quickly.
  • Allow each layer to dry completely before adding additional layers or details.
A fun, colorful, geometric bookmark with flower accents, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

2. Layering Colors

  • Begin with a base layer of color, then gradually build up additional layers to create depth and dimension.
  • Use lighter colors to highlight areas and darker colors to add shadows and depth.
  • Allow each layer to dry before adding subsequent layers to prevent smudging or mixing of colors.
A "You are the best" card with a colorful background made of acrylic paint dots, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

3. Stippling and Cross-Hatching

Stippling involves creating texture and shading by applying small dots of paint to the surface. On the other hand, cross-hatching creates shading and texture by layering lines in different directions.

  • For stippling, use the tip of the acrylic marker to dot the paint onto the surface.
  • Vary the density and size of the dots to create different effects.
  • For cross hatching, use the side of the marker tip to create parallel lines. 
  • After that, layer additional lines in the opposite direction to build up shading and depth.
  • Experiment with the spacing and angle of the lines to achieve different textures and effects.
Seashell outlines, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

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More Tips to Explore with Acrylic Markers

  1. Consider adding mixed media elements, such as collages or found objects, to add dimension and tactile interest to your artwork.
  2. Study light and shadow to understand how they affect the form and composition of your subject.
  3. Test out and combine acrylic markers with other mediums, such as acrylic paint, watercolor, ink, or colored pencils, to create mixed media artwork with added depth and complexity.
  4. Experiment with different artistic styles, such as realism, abstract, impressionism, or surrealism, to find your unique voice as an artist.
  5. Study the work of other artists and explore different techniques and approaches to coloring with acrylic markers.
  6. Lastly, don't be afraid to make mistakes or take risks in your artistic exploration, as experimentation is essential for growth and development as an artist.
A drawing of a bouquet of white daisies on dark background, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

FAQs for Acrylic Marker Coloring

Designs drawn with acrylic markers will usually stay vibrant for an extended period, particularly if you apply it to decorative items like painted rocks and wood. However, as with any paint, it may develop cracks, lose its color over time, or (in the case of water-based markers) eventually wash off when applied to regularly used items like mugs, bags, coasters, or pencil cases.


Most of the time, no. Coloring with acrylic markers can be as simple as opening the cap and just coloring away! However, for certain projects, you might want to have some of these materials on hand: 

  • Brushes – While not necessary for acrylic markers, brushes can be used to apply additional mediums or to create unique effects.
  • Sealant or Varnish – Applying a sealant or varnish over a finished acrylic marker artwork helps protect the surface and enhance colors.
  • Masking Tape or Stencils – Masking tape or stencils can be used to create clean edges or to mask off areas for precise detailing.



Typically, they are, especially with water-based acrylic markers. They are primarily made up of pigment, a binder (usually an acrylic polymer), and a solvent (in this case, water). This makes them a great option for young and budding artists.


Acrylic markers, like permanent markers, are quick-drying and resistant to water. Both can be used on a range of surfaces and are suitable for labeling, drawing, calligraphy, and various projects. However, permanent markers dry almost immediately, leaving no room for error correction.


A purple floral card created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set


Acrylic markers offer a versatile and vibrant medium for artists to explore their creativity and express themselves.

Choosing the right surface and supplies is essential for achieving the desired results in acrylic marker coloring. Mastering basic coloring techniques such as solid coloring, layering colors, and stippling lays the foundation for more advanced techniques. Adding texture, creating highlights and shadows, incorporating mixed media, and exploring different artistic styles allow artists to push the boundaries of their creativity.

A sympathy card with a floral focal point on dark background, created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Endless possibilities for artistic expression and experimentation await you. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced artist, acrylic markers provide a user-friendly and versatile medium to bring your creative visions to life. Don't be afraid to explore, experiment, and make mistakes along the way—each artwork is an opportunity for growth and learning.

As you embark on your journey with acrylic markers, remember to enjoy the process and embrace the unexpected. Share your creations with others, whether it's through social media, art communities, or exhibitions, to inspire and connect with fellow artists.

A collection of artworks created and colored in with the 24-Color Acrylic Marker Set

Keep exploring, learning, and honing your skills with acrylic markers—it's a rewarding and fulfilling artistic endeavor that has the potential to unleash your creativity in exciting new ways. Happy coloring!

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