An introduction to Alcohol Markers

The smooth coverage and blendability of alcohol markers makes them a fantastic versatile choice for artists, illustrators and colourists.

Spectrum Noir offers a choice of dual-tipped markers, depending on your chosen style or the effect you want to achieve. Classique is the perfect all-rounder with its classic broad and fine nib combination for colouring and design. Whilst for a more expressive artistic result, the Illustrator marker’s premium brush is ideal.

The Nibs

All Spectrum Noir markers are fitted with premium Japanese-made tips for the ultimate in durability and performance.
They are also replaceable and can be easily renewed when needed.

The Inks

The inks are an alcohol based dye, which means the colours will apply incredibly smoothly. They are also slightly translucent
which makes them perfect for layering and blending. Refill bottles are available separately and can be used to recharge your markers whenever they run low.

Before you Get Started

1. Choose the Right Paper

On thin paper, alcohol-based ink will tend to bleed. This can make your colours go over
the lines or appear dull. Or even penetrate right through to the surface beneath. Always
choose a heavyweight, smooth uncoated paper, ideally one that is intended specifically for alcohol markers. This will minimise bleed and keep your colours bold, punchy and easy to blend. It’s also worth putting a spare sheet under your work for added protection.

2. Organise your Markers

If you’re lucky enough to own a large collection of markers, then purpose-made storage is a big help. Either a desktop rack or a wallet or bag if portability is important. Take the time to arrange your colours sensibly by family and consider following the order of the colour wheel.

3. Find a Good Fine-Liner

Most pieces start with a pencil sketch before applying colour, then typically a fine-line pen is used to define and outline your work. You’ll want your line-work to appear clean and sharp, so a water- based pigment ink is ideal. This will prevent your lines from blurring or merging with the alcohol-based marker ink. A good fine-liner will dry immediately and give you a smooth, consistent line that stays crisp even when immediately over-coloured with marker ink.

4. Plan your Colours

Planning your scheme in advance will bring better results and you’ll appreciate having the colours you need immediately on hand. It’s a really good idea to swatch your colours onto the same paper type you’ll be working on. This is a chance to see how they appear on that paper, and how they react when blended and overlaid.

Learn how to Shade & Blend

Basic Shading

Alcohol marker colour has a translucent quality so it gets darker with every stroke. This is great for shading because you can add depth simply by layering the same colour over itself.

Enhanced Shading

For deeper shadows and enhanced dimension, you can use a selection of darker shades in the same colour. These can be gradually layered and blended to form natural, realistic gradations. All Spectrum Noir alcohol markers are grouped and graded light to dark make this easy when just starting out.

Shading Tips

Alcohol inks blend best when wet so apply liberally and try to work quickly for a smooth
transition from one shade to the next. Layering wet ink on dry will give a more pronounced
step-change that can also be effective, depending on the look you want.

Light Colour Blending 

Did you know you can also overlay a darker colour to lighten it? Every colour formulation
contains some clear solvent and this is especially true for lighter colours. This higher solvent level means lighter colours can effectively be used to soften and lighten darker
colours in a very similar way to clear Blender. But because they are not completely clear, the effects are more versatile.

Learn how to Mix New Colours

Colour Theory

When working with any colour medium it’s well worth knowing some basic colour theory and markers are no exception. The primary colours yellow, red and blue are your building blocks. From these you can make the secondary colours orange, green and purple. Once you know your colour wheel and understand about colour temperature and bias, a whole world of hues, shades and tones will start to unlock!

Layering Colours

With practice, alcohol markers can be very effectively overlaid to make new colours. The translucency of the ink means when one colour is applied on top of another you will see a combined new colour. This technique does not rely on the ink blending together as such, it works by allowing the base ink to show through. So for a clean, pure result it’s best to let your base colour dry first.

Also keep in mind the top colour will always tend to dominate. This gives even more flexibility, you can achieve a vast range of hues just by varying the order in which colours are overlaid.

Colour Gradients

The natural show-through of alcohol markers also allows you to experiment with colour gradients, where you can overlap and transition seamlessly between two colours. Choosing adjacent colours on the colour-wheel such as green into blue-green will give you a natural transition, while further apart colours will combine to form new colours.