Mastering the Art of Coloring with Alcohol Markers: A Comprehensive Guide

Artists around the world have been coloring with alcohol markers ever since their invention. The vibrant hues and blendable colors result in gorgeous, inspiring art enjoyed by many.

An axolotl warrior with his banner, shield, and sword, riding a green crocodile to battle, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll underline what alcohol markers are, some coloring tips and tricks, as well as dos and don’ts when caring for your alcohol markers.


Table of Contents

What Are Alcohol Markers?

Altenew's Artists Markers

A popular choice among artists and crafters, alcohol markers are special tools used for writing, drawing, and coloring in a variety of creative projects. Due to their high demand, there is a wide selection of color markers for artists on the market, available in various forms.

High-quality alcohol markers often have multiple sides, with one side featuring a brush tip and the other side featuring a fine or chisel tip.

A pink flower on blue background, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

Brush Tips

The brush tip is in high demand among art markers because it replicates the shape, texture, and abilities of a paintbrush, allowing for sophisticated coloring techniques and smooth calligraphy experiences. Many artists prefer markers with brush tips for their calligraphy work. 

Chisel Tips

Conversely, a chisel tip typically has a thicker and more distinct appearance. Chisel-tipped markers create distinct ink marks with sharp edges, similar to a highlighter. With a chisel tip artist marker, an artist can create straight lines of different thicknesses, which is useful for calligraphy, hand-lettering, and drawing. 

Fine Tips

A fine tip is similar to a traditional pen, with a thin, pointed tip that is ideal for certain styles of hand-lettering in lighter fonts. The exact thickness of a fine-tip marker may vary depending on the brand and style. While brush tips offer more flexibility and variety in strokes, fine tips provide a more consistent approach to drawing and coloring, with every line looking similar when drawn with a fine-tip pen.

The Benefits of Using Dual-Tipped Markers

A bunch of Altenew's Artists Markers held with two hands

Many artists choose dual-tipped alcohol markers for the following benefits:

  1. They are more versatile than single-tip markers.
  2. Dual-tipped markers are more cost-effective since you’re basically getting two markers in one.
  3. They take up less space in your shelves and inventory.
  4. Both tips come in the same color, so when you need to switch to a different tip, it saves you time from searching through your stash.
  5. Most multi-sided markers are low-maintenance and need little effort for continued use.
  6. They blend smoothly and dry quickly, so artists like you don’t have to wait long to see the fruits of your labor.

Now that we’ve learned what alcohol markers are, here are some tips and tricks to effectively color with them!

A birthday card with a gorgeous floral design, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

Discover Everything You Need to Know About Coloring!

8 Tips for Coloring With Alcohol Markers

1. Find alcohol markers that come in the same color families.

A scrumptious-looking stack of waffles with honey and banana, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

For beginners, the safest route would be to use the same color families when coloring with alcohol markers. It results in more harmonious artwork and more perfectly blended shades. Plus, it removes the headache of picking out which colors work best with each other.

Pro Tip: Learn about color theory. This is an essential skill for coloring enthusiasts especially when they’re just diving into coloring for the first time. Learn which colors complement each other, which combinations are harmonious, and how colors interact in an art piece. Check out this blog post about understanding color relationships and harmonies in your artwork to get yourself started! 

2. Decide where your light source is.

A surreal desert scene colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

This is especially useful when you have a subject in your art vs. when you’re creating abstract art. For example, if you’re coloring a character’s face, you might want to consider the angle of your lighting, where the light hits them, and where the shadows will fall. 

Pro Tip: Try applying a light boundary or shading where the shadowy, darker colors meet the lighter with a pencil.

3. Blend to a white background.

Blending from color to white is one of the easiest techniques to achieve glowing blends with alcohol markers. Allowing the white of the paper to show through creates a vibrant and striking effect in your artwork.

An overflowing bowl of ramen colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

4. Add darker colors to edges and corners.

You can make your artwork look more eye-catching by creating a sense of depth and dimension. How? By blending darker colors on the edges and corners of your work. This is a simple trick to make dynamic-looking art.

A drawing of a guy in a blue cap, blue hoodie, red sweater and shorts, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

5. Blend from light to dark. 

For beginners, blending from light to dark will let you have more control over how dark certain areas of your art will be. Even professionals use this technique to avoid starting off too dark on one section and then regretting it. If you want a darker shade in that area, you can simply add to it and assess the shade as you go.

Pro Tip: You might find it easier to blend from dark to light — and that’s totally fine! Both techniques can work; in the end, it all depends on your preferences. You can try experimenting with both techniques and see which one works best for you!

A caricature of a kid riding a pirate ship-themed ride, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

6. Try to color in similar areas in one go.

This is a handy trick to keep yourself from constantly switching markers. But remember: Alcohol markers blend better when the ink is still wet, so it's best not to color in too many areas simultaneously. If you work on too many sections at once, the ink may dry out, which can make blending more difficult.

A drawing of a stacked BLT and egg sandwich colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

7. Reuse the same color combinations as much as possible.

Try to use the same combinations and blends throughout the entire work. Granted, this may not work for some, but most of the time, consistent color combinations ensure a harmonious and consistent artwork.

8. Practice and experiment.

Finally, as the adage says, “Practice makes perfect”, so continue practicing and experimenting with various color combinations. It will help you understand color theory more, and you will eventually discover unique combinations, even across different color families. These “accidental discoveries” often result in more stunning artworks and colorful masterpieces!

A drawing of two astronauts in a surreal background, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

More Tips and Tricks to Coloring:

  • Creating color swatches or palettes is a handy tool in the creative process.
  • Choosing the appropriate paper for your alcohol markers is essential to achieve the best blending and vivid colors. It also guarantees the longevity of your artwork.

Pro Tip: It’s better to use smooth, heavyweight cardstock for alcohol markers, as other paper types may be thinner and more difficult to blend with, like watercolor paper.

  • Practice blending on a separate piece of paper before applying it to the main artwork.
  • Keep a Colorless Blender marker handy for fixing mistakes, adding texture, smoothing transitions, fading, and gradation.
  • As alcohol-based markers dry fast, work quickly in applying new colors and layers to achieve seamless color transitions and gradients.
A hyper-realistic depiction of an egg sandwich, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

Find the Best Alcohol Markers Here!

Dos and Don’ts of Alcohol Marker Care

To ensure the longevity of your alcohol markers, here are some dos and don’ts that you should note:

1. Do store your markers horizontally.

Alcohol markers should be stored horizontally. You can find specific organizers designed for alcohol markers to ensure they are kept in a straight and organized manner. Storing them horizontally helps prevent the ink from pooling on one tip and drying out the other. It also ensures that the tips remain saturated with the appropriate amount of ink, minimizing the risk of sudden bleeding when using the marker.

A bunch of Altenew's Artists Markers used to color in two cards displayed in the background

2. Do not store them in direct sunlight, humid environments, or near open flame.

Heat and temperature changes can cause reactions on alcohol markers. High temperatures, especially, cause the plastic barrel of the marker to crack, causing the alcohol to evaporate and dry out the marker. Plus, alcohol markers are flammable, so avoid storing them near open flames, like near fireplaces or the kitchen.

A peaceful drawing of a tree colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

3. Do use the right paper type.

As discussed above, we recommend using thick and smooth paper when coloring with alcohol markers. Thick paper helps prevent bleeding and tears caused by layering of the ink, while smooth paper ensures that the ink won't soak and allows for effective blending techniques. An 80lb smooth cardstock or smooth, coated paper can work wonders with alcohol markers!

A drawing of a red panda with a traditional farming hat on his back, standing amongst various leaves, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

4. Do not use rough, “toothed” paper.

Watercolor papers often have a rough surface that’s called the “toothed” side, and it helps watercolor find purchase better on the paper. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with alcohol markers. The toothed side of watercolor paper can ruin the nibs/tips of alcohol markers. Plus, certain watercolor paper types are too absorbent for alcohol markers to create the desired vibrant effect.

A warrior goddess with silvery-blue flowing hair amongst plants and vines, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

5. Do use alcohol markers according to their nibs.

Here are some techniques on how to use which alcohol marker tip:

  1. When using a brush tip, hold it at a diagonal angle and in line with the shape of the tip.
  2. For chisel tips, grip the narrow part of the nib to create thinner lines, and use the wider part to achieve thicker lines.
  3. On the other hand, use bullet/fine nibs for detailing and filling in smaller areas.

6. Do not put too much pressure on the marker. 

Avoid exerting excessive force or pressure on a brush nib to cover more area, and instead, use a chisel tip. Similarly, refrain from applying pressure to the marker tip to create shapes or lines that put strain on the nibs.

A stem of blossoming blue flowers, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

7. Do color in one direction.

When coloring with alcohol markers, try to color the section in one direction, following the outline of the artwork. Begin at the section edges and use quick, gentle strokes. Continue with short brush strokes until the entire area is colored smoothly.

A piece of cardstock with a colorful border design of flowers, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

8. Do not start in the middle of the section.

Unless your artwork’s “light source” is around the object, avoid coloring in the middle of the section of your art. Also, avoid coloring in random directions. This will make the coloring look patchy and uneven.

Embrace Your Creative Journey with Alcohol Markers

Altenew's Artists Markers alongside a floral-themed card with the sentiment "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy"

As you've learned, mastering the art of coloring with alcohol markers is not just about applying colors to paper—it's about understanding the nuances of blending, shading, and creating captivating artworks that speak to your unique style.

As you embark on your creative journey with alcohol markers, remember that practice is key. Every stroke, every blend, and every project is an opportunity to refine your skills and unleash your imagination. Don't be afraid to experiment with different techniques and color combinations. Embrace the journey of discovery and let your creativity soar.

A drawing of a bouquet of purple flowers, colored in with Altenew's Artists Markers

Whether you're a seasoned artist or a beginner taking your first steps into coloring with alcohol markers, remember that there are no limits to what you can achieve. Trust in your abilities, stay curious, and never stop exploring new possibilities.

So, gather your supplies, set aside some time for creativity, and let the vibrant colors of alcohol markers inspire you to create art that truly speaks to your soul. Your creative journey awaits—dive in and unleash the magic of alcohol markers! Happy coloring!

Use These Color Palette Inspo with Your Alcohol Markers!

Everything You Need to Know About Art

Click on each topic and subtopic to read more!