There’s much more to magic markers than just being used for labeling things or highlighting a book passage. Using them effectively can be a beautiful form of art. As an illustrator, I use them frequently in projects, because of their bold colors that stand out and get noticed. Here is some information on using them to produce work you’ll be proud to show others.
Not all markers are created equally
There are two kinds of markers, water-based and alcohol-based. Usually, the cheaper kind are water-based. Just add a drop of water to a line drawn on paper, to see if it bleeds. If it does, then it is water-based. Professional artists’ markers are generally alcohol-based. They can be diluted with rubbing alcohol. Keep in mind the kinds of markers you’re using, to know how to clean any stray marks later. Most of the time, I use one type of marker on a project (alcohol-based), only using water-based ones for details or textures now and then. Experiment to see which you like best. Every day, new marker types are being invented. Crayola puts out a few very interesting kinds for kids. Try them all.
Use the correct paper when working with markers
If you use too soft a paper, it will weaken quickly when it gets wet. Especially if you work the same area on the paper over and over. When weakened, weaker paper will start to erode, which makes the paper’s surface "pit." Many papers will weaken eventually, but some are more tolerant to marker use than others. My favorite kinds of papers to use are Strathmore Bond paper, watercolor paper or illustration board (cold-press.) If you want control of the ink, choose whatever paper holds it without bleeding. If you want to make homemade wrapping paper, take a marker and draw something on tissue paper (a few sheets of it stacked on top of one another.) If the marker is well-embibed with ink, it will bleed its image down onto the other layers below, giving you multiple sheets of wrapping paper.
Some types of markers
One of the best markers around are Sharpie markers. Eveyone has them in their offices or school supplies. They have a good, rich black ink and are waterproof. Nowadays, they come in a bunch of pretty colors, too. I use the colored ones for accents in my work. Prismacolor, Tria or Copic markers are bought at art supply stores, and come in hundreds of gorgeous colors. They are used by artists, architects, graphic designers, cartoonists and illustrators, mainly. Buy a basic set and add to it when you want a bigger palette to work with later. Buy a colorless blender marker, too, for blending colors together.
The cheaper markers that you find in the drug store or just about anywhere are good for accents at times but many aren’t very colorfast so they may bleach out eventually. All markers can bleach to some degree if exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. When I do a drawing, I keep the original in my portfolio (nice, dark place), and make color copies (much more colorfast) for sale. Or, if the customer wants the original artwork, I have them frame it with light protecting glass (blocks the ultraviolet rays.) Experiment with different markers by making marks with different kinds, then labeling them. Then, leave them outside for a month, and look at them later. See if any of them have faded, and if so, how much? I have drawings that are over 20 years old, and still looking good. It’s all in how you take care of the drawing.
Try different techniques
Color an area with one marker, then go over the same area with another color. For example, take a medium hue blue and medium hue yellow. The space you colored will turn green. What shade of green depends upon the colors you used. If one color is much darker than the other, it will dominate. Marker inks are generally transleucent (they can be seen through, but not completely.) This is good for layering colors to create new ones. Try putting lines or textures on paper, layering colors, and see what results you get. It is fun to see the results of different color combinations. If one of my marker colors runs out, I just make the same color using other colors together. Pour a little rubbing alcohol on the markered area and see what happens.
Try different marker types together, too. Art isn’t an exact science. It is meant to be explored and tested. You have the creative license to do whatever you want, there is no right or wrong in art. See what markers, papers and techniques work best for you. Have fun and allow yourself to make mistakes. That’s what learning is all about. In time, like with anything else, practise will make it easier.