Know Your Art Surfaces

All colour media need the right art surface to perform properly, and this is certainly the case with alcohol markers.

Alcohol ink is extremely versatile in that it is ‘permanent’. This doesn’t mean it will last forever, but it does mean it can be applied to quite a wide range of materials (such as glass, plastic, wood, fabric, etc.).

In most cases you will probably be using your markers on paper, and here it’s important to make very sure that your paper is suitable.

Alcohol ink has a tendency to bleed, meaning that on thin or untreated paper it will soak through to the reverse and then onto the surface beneath. On the wrong paper, it will also likely bleed outwards across the page, losing definition and generally making a mess of your work.

This might all sound quite high maintenance. But it’s worth remembering that on the right paper type, nothing else gives you the pin-sharp lines, and tightly controlled tones that can be achieved with an alcohol-based marker!

In commercial design, it’s common to use specially treated layout and ‘bleed-proof’ pads for marker sketching. At up to 70gsm these papers are typically quite thin. But a special coating on the reverse prevents against bleed-through, resulting in clean, punchy colour laydown and fine separation of tone.

Then for more finished drawings and illustration work, many artists will prefer a heavier weight paper or board. Whilst thicker papers will naturally resist marker bleed-through, the downside is they tend to be more absorbent and can suck away the vibrancy of your colours. For this reason, smooth, coated papers are best. Bristol Board is a popular (if slightly more expensive) choice, providing a robust, smooth surface that works perfectly with markers.