Adventures in Colour 

Step by Step Guide

Join US-based artist, Carrah Aldridge to find out how to blend and mix colours using alcohol markers. 

This step-by-step guide will guide you through the process of layering colours and using tip-to-tip blending techniques to add colour to her original Galaxy and Sun Girls illustration. 

Here’s Carrah to tell you more.


So, before we get started the very first thing I do before coloring is to lay out and visualize all of the marker colors I’ll be using on a separate sheet of paper. 

On the sheet of paper, I experiment with different techniques. I layer the colors to see what new colors can be made, I try tip-to-tip blending techniques (where you hold one marker vertically over the other), and I practice with blending colors. 

It’s a good way to warm up to the materials before making any permanent coloring decisions on a piece. [image 1a] 

When it comes to coloring an image, I prefer to tackle the skin first. A person’s eye is naturally drawn to objects that look like a face. So, I feel that’s the most important part of a drawing or illustration to color first and to spend the most time on.

Step 1.

When I’ve started coloring the first thing I do is pick a light source. I usually imagine this in my head. However, if you need to, you can draw a little arrow or sun lightly with pencil where you want your light to be coming from.

In this case I can my Sun Girl character to be the light source – she is the sun after all!

Step 2.

Once I’ve determined my light source, I begin laying out the shadows. For this piece, I’m going to start by coloring my Galaxy Girl.

Because I want this character to have a light complexion, I’m laying out my shadows using a TN1 marker. I’m also keeping in mind that her hair will cast a shadow and there will also be shadows on the furthest parts away from the Sun Girl character. This includes the far sides of her arms and legs.

Step 3.

Next, I deepen the shadows with GB7, making sure to make these blocks of color far smaller/condensed to the edges than the TN1 I laid down first. This darker color allows more depth.

Step 4.

Once that’s all done, you can go back in with TN1 and lightly blend the edges of GB7 by using circular motions. If GB7 gets a little light in some areas, you can always deepen your shadows again. That’s the beauty of alcohol-based markers! You can layer as much as you’d like until you get the desired result.

Step 5.

You can also use the colorless blender maker to make colors even lighter. Since I want her skin tone to be extra light (to contrast with the sun character, later), I use the tip-to-tip blending technique. 

I hold my TN1 marker on top and the blender marker on the bottom, allowing the ink from TN1 to bleed into the blender. I typically hold the markers there for 10-30 seconds, but it may vary depending on how long you want the blend to go for. 

I recommend doing tests on a separate sheet of paper. 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, just to see how different time intervals can affect the blend. For this technique, I’ve found it works best with the bullet tip of the marker.

Step 6.

Once the ink has seeped into the blender marker, use it to start coloring slowly in tiny circular motions towards where you want the lightest areas to be. Using circular motions allows for a smoother blend without any streaks. 

You can use back and forth motions, but if you do this, you need to work slowly to avoid streaks. You can also use this tip-to-tip blending technique to add blush to her cheeks and shoulders.

Step 7.

Next, I move on to my sun character, who will be a bit easier to color since there is no need for the colorless blender. For her, I start off with a base color of TN1. I color the skin entirely with this, leaving no white areas because she has a darker complexion. Once that’s done, there are two methods to go about shading...

Step 8.

Option 1: I work light to dark. For this method, I lay out where I want the shadows to go using the GB7 marker. In this case, I match the shadows with that of my Galaxy Girl character – all to the left side. 

This allows the piece to look better as a whole since they both have the same shading style. Once I lay GB7 down in all the areas I want it to be, I go back in with TN1 and blend the edges out with circular motions. 

You can get a smoother blend by using a flicking motion with GB7, when you place it down for the shadows. This is done with the brush tip. This flicking motion makes it so the ink lays on a bit lighter than if you keep the same pressure secluded all in one space. I flick towards the lighter areas, making sure majority of the concentrated ink is in the darkest spots.

Once GB7 is blended out into TN1, I deepen my shadows using TN8, putting this into smaller sections within the GB7 shadows. 

Sometimes, I do not blend this out to keep things looking more crisp (such as under the chin/neck area). I tend to blend it out on the arms and legs using GB7. You can go back in with TN1 to adjust the blending into the lighter areas if needed.

Step 9.

Option 2 involves working dark to light, which is a bit faster. With this method, I go in with TN8 first, laying out my darkest areas, then immediately move on to blending that out with GB7 and lastly, blending GB7 out with TN1. 

If you use this method, you may have to go back in with TN8 to adjust your deepest shadows. For her lips, I used TN8. You can also layer that with MG2 if you want them to be a bit lighter/pinker in color.

Step 10.

Moving on to the clothing! I started with my Sun Girl since I was already focused on her. I wanted to make her dress yellow and fade it down into an orange color. I started off by coloring the top of her dress entirely with CT2.

Step 11.

For a blended effect from yellow to orange, at the bottom part of her dress, I used the tip to tip blending technique yet again. For this, I held the MG2 marker vertically above the CT2 marker. I used the bullet tips for this. The longer you hold the markers in that position, the longer the blend. I let the pink ink flow into the yellow. 

Step 12.

Using this marker, I started from the bottom point of the girl’s dress and  slowly colored, in circular motions, working my way up. Slowly, the ink went from pink to orange to yellow.

Step 13.

Once that was complete, I allowed the ink to dry, which is important in order for the colors to layer better. Next, I layered CT2 over the pure MG2 that was at the base of the dress. 

This allowed the pink to become a beautiful orange color and create that orange to yellow blend, I was looking for. I used this same layering technique to color her shoes orange.

Step 14.

For shading, on the dress and the socks, I used the same technique I used for her skin. Using GB7 as my darkest shadow color I blended it with TN1 and then blended TN1 with CT2. The straps of the dress and soles of the shoes were colored with TN8.

Step 15.

To create a blended effect on her shorts, I once again used the tip-to-tip blending method. TN8 was held vertically above MG2 and I used circular motions blending the TN8 into MG2.

Once that dried, I layered GB7 over top of the MG2 to make it more red in color rather than a bright pink.

Step 16.

Moving on to the clothing on my Galaxy Girl. I knew I wanted her skirt to be iridescent. For this, the blender comes in handy because I wanted the colors to be light. I used the blender, MG2, CT2 and TB2 to create light stripes of color, following the ruffles of the skirt.

Step 17.

In order to create light colors, I used the tip-to-tip method again. But since I didn’t want the stripes of light colors to be absolutely perfect or even, I touched the bullet tip of the colored marker to the brush tip of the colorless blender.

Using this technique, I layered the light CT2, light MG2 and light TB2 over each other in a few areas of the skirt to get some orange, green and purple subtly in there. 

I made sure to leave space to fill the shorts in with TB2, MG2 then another layer of TB2.

Step 18.

On the upper part of the body suit, beneath the skirt, I layered TB2, MG2 then another layer of TB2 for the base, matching what I did in the skirt, but I shaded it darker using LV2. This allowed that part of the outfit to appear darker, so the iridescent effect was more convincing.

Step 19.

To coordinate the shoes with her outfit, I layered TB2, MG2 then TB2 and shaded, again, with LV2.

The thigh high socks and white parts of the shoes were shaded with the tip-to-tip blending effect where I held BG2 vertically over the blender. 

I started shading at the left side of her stockings/shoes and slowly worked my way to the right. Because the stockings are long and straight, I slowly went up and down with the marker, moving to the right. I later went in and solidified the darker shadows by going straight in with BG2.

Step 20.

For the Sun Girl’s hair, I went in with CT2 and left places for shine where I desired. I had the shine where I wanted it to be, so feel free to do what you feel is right!  

 For shadows in the hair, I used TN1 blended in to CT2 then used GB7 for the absolute darkest areas. When I color the darkest areas, I typically go in behind the neck and towards the roots of the hair.

The sun can be colored however you want. I used CT2 for the center and MG2 with CT2 layered over it for the points. 

Step 21.

For the galaxy effect, in the Galaxy Girl’s hair, I first colored random blobs throughout all of the hair using LV2. Be random with this to have a more natural galactic look!  

Once that was done, I surrounded LV2 with TB2 throughout all of the hair. I blended some areas of LV2 with TB2 while leaving others sharper.

I felt that the LV2 was not dark enough, for my liking, so I decided to go for a more pink/purple galaxy theme rather than blue and purple. To darken it up, I took TN8 and added random spots within the purple LV2 I put down at first.  

I made sure to keep the LV2 ink visible. Once that was done, I filled the hair in entirely using MG2. This includes coloring over the ink I had already placed down. 

Step 22.

For the planets, use your imagination! For mine, I decided to color and layer the colors based on planets in the Milky Way. Try playing with some different color combinations and just have fun!  

I also added extra texture using the Spectrum Noir Artliner. You can stipple the moons to make it appear that there are craters, for example!

Step 23.

Making the piece look cohesive.  When I get done coloring and shading, I find it fun to include highlights, that are all the same color, throughout my character(s). 

In this case, I decided to use CT2 as my highlight color to mimic the light coming off the sun character! I used the tip-to-tip blending technique yet again, so the yellow would not be too intense.

I highlighted, with CT2, along all the edges that are closest to the sun girl including the galaxy girl’s clothes, body and the planets. I did NOT do this along the edges of the Galaxy Girl’s hair because there’s nothing to reflect in an endless void like the galaxy.

Top Tips: 

Fixing Mistakes: 

Did you accidentally color outside the lines or did some of those cute little stars get covered up while coloring the galaxy hair? Don’t sweat! That’s what the colorless blender is for. 

With the colorless blender, you can lift away link or push ink back inside the lines. I find that the bullet tip works best for this because the ink is juicier and more condensed in that part of the marker. 

Work slowly and color over the ink you want to be white again. The colored ink will slowly start to grow lighter in color. You may want to allow the ink to dry then lift the color again if you’re having difficulty getting the page pure white.

Extra Details:

You can use a white pen or acrylic paint to add stars or highlights. I also enjoy using the clear Spectrum Noir Sparkle pens to give Galaxy Girl a glittery appearance to her hair! 

You can also use the ArtLiner for more details in other areas of the piece. For example: You could use a cross hatch technique in the clothing to make it look woven. Just note that this will cause the colors to be darker.