Alcohol markers are one of the easiest tools you can use for a smooth application and effortless blend, but there is still a specific method you should follow for best practice.
To blend alcohol markers you need to:
- Choosing the right materials for alcohol marker blending
- Decide the number of tones or colors you are blending
- Use the correct blending technique
- Touch up the blend with a lighter color or colorless blender
Read on to learn how to employ these simple steps to achieve better blends with your alcohol markers.
The Best Materials for Blending Alcohol Markers
Starting with the correct nib type is essential for a proper blend. Each nib has its niche, and using the wrong one can make your job more difficult or even impossible.
Pairing this with a colorless blender and paper specialized for alcohol markers gives you the best start. While these are not necessarily essential to blending, they give you more control over the blend and limit issues arising from layering methods common with alcohol markers.
Different Nib Types
There are three basic types of nibs you find on alcohol markers:
Fine nibs (also known as bullet nibs) have the smallest point. These are best for adding minute details to a piece or working in smaller areas.
Chisel tips are some of the most common. These have an angled tip with a slanted edge that gives you plenty of different ways to use them. The full edge is great for fuller coverage and bold lines, and the tip of the chisel works well for details. You can also use them for lines with differing thicknesses.
Brush-tipped alcohol markers have a nib that resembles a paintbrush. This nib is more flexible, and it can cover a larger area than other tips. These are great for art that is less strict in its borders or for adding layers.
Depending on what you will be blending, a colorless blender designed for use with alcohol markers will provide plenty of assistance. Because these markers have no pigment and only include the alcohol solvent you can blend out darker colors and adjust blends without adding more pigment to the page.
There are plenty of cost-free options for colorless blenders as well. Using rubbing alcohol with cotton balls or cotton swabs can help you blend without investing in a blending marker. These are not one-for-one swaps, but they accomplish the same goal.
Choosing the Right Paper for Alcohol Markers
Paper does not always matter with alcohol markers, especially if you are only putting down one layer, but when it comes to blending you want to use paper that can hold up to plenty of movement and wet layers.
While you can use cardstock, paper that is designed specifically for use with alcohol markers tends to hold up better with blending. These papers are thick enough to prevent bleeding but also feature a smooth surface to slow down absorption and allow you to manipulate the pigments.
Because alcohol markers dry quickly even a few extra seconds on the page can make blending a much easier process.
Why Tone and/or Color Variety Matters When Blending
Before you start blending you should have a good idea of what colors and tones you will be blending. The number of tones and colors you use will influence the blending technique that you employ.
Make sure you are swatching your markers before you assume how they will appear on the page and how they will blend. The easiest mistake you can make when blending alcohol markers is assuming their behavior.
Not every marker appears on the page as it does on the lid, especially with some cheaper brands. You can easily go in with a color and find out it is much darker when applied.
Understanding the tone and color variety you need to use is essential to planning your alcohol marker blend.
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Alcohol Marker Blending Techniques
Before you get started with each technique you need to understand how to apply a single layer smoothly first. Alcohol markers are designed to do this easily, and using the correct paper will help.
Keep the ink wet until the blend is complete. You need to learn how to work quickly to get a good blend with alcohol markers, but they blend so easily that you should be able to get things done in a short period.
Practice beforehand to make sure you can handle blending of any type, including:
- Single color blends
- Dark to light
- Light to dark
- Textured blends
- Tip to tip blending
- Blending different colors without a gradient
Luckily, blending alcohol markers is fairly intuitive and involves less effort than most assume.
Single Color Blends
You can create a gradient using a single color to add more depth to an area without adjusting the hue.
Start by applying a single layer of the color you are using in the entire area. Once you have created a base layer add another, this time avoiding the spots you want to be the lightest.
Continue doing this to create more depth, leaving out areas as they get as dark as you want them. When you reach the darkest area you can add as many layers as you need to get it as dark as you need.
While this limits you to single color blends, this method is useful for monochromatic art or sections of your piece.
Blending Dark to Light
To blend dark to light using multiple alcohol markers of different values, start with your darkest tone. When you add the next value down make sure you overlap slightly so the two blend.
Continue to add colors, ranging from dark to light, and overlapping as needed. You should be confident in which area each color needs to cover so that you are not losing time to make that decision.
When you finish adding all the colors you can repeat the process, focusing on lighter tones to aid in blending.
Blending Light to Dark
When you blend light to dark you have less of a focus on overlapping. Start by applying a full layer of the lightest color, and then add in the next darkest color. Repeat until you reach the darkest tone, and do not worry about transitions while doing this.
When you have finished adding the darkest layer, go over the piece again with the lightest to darkest colors, softening the blend.
Light to dark is not as easy to achieve because you cannot truly blend the edges until you get the darkest color on the page, but this method is useful for limiting your use of darker colors.
If you need to create and blend a textured area with your alcohol markers you should use fine or brush-tipped nibs. These already provide a textured look to pieces, and they are the easiest way to add texture when blending.
The most common texture blend you will use is feathering. This process starts with the lightest color at the edge of the blend, flicking inward to the next color. Use the next darkest tone in the same way, overlapping with the feathered edge of the first color.
Repeat, increasing in darkness until you reach the darkest tone. With this one, you start on the opposite side and flick into the rest of the blend.
Experiment with varying pressure. You can even switch from flicks to dots, dashes, or other hatching methods to test different textures.
When utilizing tip-to-tip blending you start by touching the tip of the lighter alcohol marker to the darker one. This will transfer some of the darker ink to the tip of the lighter marker so you can color with it.
Start on the darker side of the blend, and focus on the darker areas first. You will reach a point where you use up the darker ink, and the lighter ink will slowly come back.
Because you are not explicitly adding layers with this method you have more flexibility in the paper that you use, but using coated paper will prevent the paper from absorbing ink before you can adjust it.
Blending Different Colors with No Gradient
If you are blending different colors without graduating in tone then you need to pay better attention to your transition areas. These blends are less forgiving.
Start by covering the first area with color, then overlap the second color in its specific area. To blend the two you add another layer of the first color, repeating the process as needed to blend the two.
This particular blend benefits from the use of a colorless blender. You can take your time as you orchestrate the blend, but doing so will not always pay off. Practicing this blend beforehand gives you the confidence to move forward.
Touching Up Your Blend
You need to let your blend dry before you can decide whether you are satisfied with it or not. Blends look different wet than they do dry.
If the alcohol marker blend is not satisfactory then take the time to decide what needs to be adjusted. Is it too dark or too light? Is the blend in the right area? Are the colors melded as much as you want them to be?
Add the values you need, and follow up with a colorless blender as needed to complete the piece. It will be more difficult at this point, but you can still adjust values and blends.
Can you use water to blend alcohol markers?
You can use water to blend alcohol markers, but this is not a great method for blending. Because alcohol markers use a different solvent then you are more likely to end up with a patchy, uneven blend and can even have suspended pigment on the page.
Because alcohol markers are specifically designed for smooth layering and blending, it is best to stick with the same solvent for blending. If you want to save some money then you can use rubbing alcohol.
Do all alcohol markers blend the same way?
All alcohol markers, regardless of their brand, blend similarly. The techniques you learn can apply to every alcohol marker you use.
Keep in mind that different brands have different levels of quality, so they will respond to these techniques in different ways. You should be familiar with how your particular brand works with different blending techniques.
Do alcohol markers bleed?
Alcohol markers can bleed, both through the paper and outward. This is why it is essential to use paper that is compatible with wetter markers. It lets you work with more layers of pigment without ruining the page, and it prevents accidental bleeding.
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