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How to Use Alcohol Based Markers

By Chameleon Art Products
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Art markers are used by artists, illustrators and designers in their work to create a different result than what you’d usually see from using paints, chalks and pencils. Alcohol based markers are only one of the different types that are available (the other two being water based and solvent based) and possess some unique benefits, which makes them a popular choice. Here’s a guide on how to use alcohol based markers and what makes them stand out from the other types.

So, what’s the best way to use alcohol markers?

The great thing about alcohol markers is that they’re highly versatile - so they can be used in many ways.

Here are some top tips on how to use alcohol based markers:

  • Use uncoated, smooth paper (without tooth) as marker tips don’t usually fare well on rough surfaces. They may fray the nibs and make it harder to draw smooth lines.

  • Always place the paper you’re working with on top of something porous - alcohol marker ink will come through to the other side. But this is normal as the ink needs to soak through the paper’s fibers in order to create smooth, vivid colors. If there’s no porous material underneath, the colors won’t absorb very well and begin to bleed. Placing paper underneath will pull the bleed downwards rather than outwards and it will also help protect your work surface.

  • Most people work from light to dark when creating realistic images and blend any harsh lines with the lightest color. You can work from dark to light if you want a different, abstract effect.

  • Ensure the area you’re trying to blend is damp with ink if you're looking to blend two inks together. This makes blending much more smooth and realistic.

Because they dry consistently and blend beautifully, alcohol markers can be used to create a variety of artwork.

Chameleon Pens and their revolutionary Mixing Chamber are especially good at creating:

  • Cartoon characters such as manga and superheroes
  • Masterpieces in coloring books
  • Freehand artwork (best used on high quality paper and card)
  • Shading, highlights and shadow work
  • Realistic skin tones, hair and fur
  • 3D shapes

Colorful doodle artwork drawn with Chameleon Markers

Drawing by Vexx

Watch the video below to see how artist Tyler Goodrum shaded Finding Nemo’s Dory using Chameleon Pens.


Now let’s discuss why it’s important to use your alcohol markers in this way.

How alcohol markers work

The ink in alcohol based markers is made up of a dye suspended in alcohol and they usually have a distinctive scent due to the chemicals used. Chameleon Pens don’t have as strong a scent as other alcohol markers.

Markers intended for professional use tend to be more expensive than the ones meant for schools or childhood coloring, especially in comparison to water based markers, ordinary felt tips and school grade pens. When used properly, professional markers can create some very impressive work. But how different are they from the other types of markers and pens?

They dry quickly and color is permanent

One of the biggest advantages of alcohol based markers in comparison to other types is that they dry quickly. This is because the dye is suspended in alcohol, which is a fast evaporating solvent.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to accidentally splash water over your finished masterpiece or to go back over a section only to lift your hand and realize that you smudged something. Alcohol markers dry quickly so there is less chance of smudging and producing faded, watery colors.

They're also permanent on most surfaces and you can easily layer them. As the inks are slightly opaque you can create color overlays to alter the shade of your work and create multi-toned highlights and blends. This means you can easily create multi-toned highlights and blends. 

The video below shows some overlay and tinting techniques you can create with Chameleon Pens.



Work on a variety of papers

Unlike water based markers, you’re much less likely to create tears in your work when you use alcohol based markers. This is because the inks are less likely to be absorbed by the paper so you can color over the same section more times than you could with a water-based pen without damaging the paper (provided it’s of high enough quality - cheap, thin copy paper you've stolen from the office Xerox machine might cause you some issues). 

Alternatively, you could wait for the water based inks to dry, but that can become time-consuming.

Best used with paper or card designed for alcohol markers

Alcohol markers dry quickly but they still tend to bleed. This is because although the alcohol base doesn’t damage the paper (as long as it’s high quality), it does move through it, carrying the ink along with it and spreading the color further than you may have intended. As a result, it’s important to take into account the kind of paper you use when working with alcohol markers.

Chameleon Pens work on any paper, but bleeding is annoying. When you’re buying paper, consider placing extra sheets underneath to control outwards bleeding. Invest in card or bleed-proof paper, which has been specially designed to prevent this.

Produces smooth, bold colors that are easy to blend

The problem with many non-alcohol markers is that they are difficult to blend. Unlike paints and pencils, it’s often difficult to blend two dissimilar colors together with water based markers - they tend to produce streaky coloring and you need multiple markers to create the desired blended effect. It’s even trickier trying to blend with mid-range felt tips.

However, with alcohol based markers, blending is very simple. You can use rubbing alcohol, a marker of a similar shade or special blending markers. The issue with most blending markers is that you often need multiple pens in varying shades of the same color if you want to create a realistic blending effect.

Chameleon Pens, however, feature a unique Mixing Chamber where colors can be diluted before you use them to produce beautiful blended effects. And this is just using one pen. Check out the video below to see just a few of the ways Chameleon Pens can be used to unlock a whole world of color options.




Ink is refillable and nibs are replaceable in Chameleon Pens

Isn’t it annoying when you’re in the middle of your work and you run out of a certain color? When you try to replace it, you realize that color is out of stock, discontinued or you have to buy a whole pack of pens just to get the color that you want. The great thing about Chameleon Pens is that you can simply refill the ink before you even run out. You don’t need to replace the whole pen.

The nibs are replaceable too. There’s a chance that your marker nibs become worn from heavy use over time or if they aren’t looked after properly, but they can easily be replaced. You’ll be back to precise, professional shading in no time!

Chameleon Pens have a color indicator at the end of the marker so you know exactly which color ink you need to get and we offer replaceable nibs. That way, you don’t need to unnecessarily stock up on whole pens.

At the end of the day, it ultimately depends on what sort of artwork you’re trying to create. If you’re looking to produce a watercolor masterpiece, then water based markers would be more suitable. If you’re after solid, block colors, felt tips would be more cost-effective. But on the whole, alcohol based markers are generally more versatile and allow you to produce high quality, professional art that’s bursting with vivid, blended colors and attention-grabbing detail.

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Want to discover new and innovative ways to use Chameleon Pens? You can check out our guide to pen and artistic techniques and push the medium to the maximum.Unlock Your Potential With Chameleon Pens Guide CTA

Feature image by Vexx.