The Anatomy of a Marker

If you’ve never tried alcohol markers before, you’ll soon see why they’re the tool of choice for hand-sketching. They’re easy to pick up and grab, and no other medium is quite so good at putting down smooth, perfectly even colour.

Alcohol marker inks are dye-based and translucent, so they can be overlaid and will blend together effortlessly. And because the solvent is alcohol, they dry super-fast making them ideal for quick sketches and tight deadlines (as well as any spontaneous bursts of creativity you might have).

However, they can be challenging at first. The ink is permanent, so once it’s applied it’s there to stay. And if you hesitate or use the wrong paper it will bleed. You’ll need to work forthrightly and with confidence.

The first step though, is to know your way around your markers’ various moving parts. After all, you’re going to spend a lot of time working with them. So here we present ‘The Anatomy of a Marker’…



Most markers used for commercial art and design are double-ended, with two integral nibs built in. The particular choice of nib might be subjective, some users just prefer the softer feel of a brush versus the more defined strokes of a broad chisel shape.

But more often it will depend on the application or style of work. For example, the ‘classic’ broad chisel and fine bullet combination is well suited to the clean edges and gradations of product and automotive design. Whilst a fashion illustrator might opt for the more natural, fluid lines of a brush nib.


It’s well recognised that (for most people at least) the fingers naturally form a triangle when gripping a pen. For this reason, ergonomically speaking, any pen shape supporting this grip style will be comfortable to use and provide a good degree of control. In the case of Spectrum Noir’s Graphic and Illustrator markers, a ‘flattened hexagon’ offers flexibility, in that it can be held at its widest or narrowest point for a freer or looser feel. Whilst always maintaining that ergonomic, triangular grip shape.


The ink inside most art and design markers is a formulation of alcohol and dye. In terms of colour laydown and coverage, dyes provide a far smoother and more even result than the bulkier pigments found in artist’s paints and some markers. They also allow the subtle translucencies that are needed when layering colour to create depth. Combined with the permanent, quick drying properties of an alcohol solvent, good quality dye-based colour can’t be beaten for flexibility and speed of finish.