How to use Pens and Markers

Lots of colourists use pens and markers as their materials of choice when colouring. We’re bringing you some tutorials and a guide on how to get the most from your pens and markers when colouring!

Alcohol based markers

Using slow even strokes when colouring with markers is important to ensure you get a smooth even finish. If you use use jagged, quick movements the ink will be patchy and uneven.

A big part of working with markers is making sure you are working wet on wet. This is where a colourless marker can come in really handy, so you can wet the paper with your colourless marker before you begin applying colour. This is especially important when it comes to applying different colours on top of one another, you’ll need to be working wet on wet to be able to blend.

This video covers the basics of alcohol markers:

This tutorial covers choosing your colours with alcohol markers:


When using this rule to pick your colours, it should be a relatively easy process. Start with your lightest colour and gradually get darker. Using circular motions is a good way to get a smooth result, but don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfectly smooth after your first attempt. You can go back in again with your lightest colour to smooth it all out.

Another technique is called feathering whereby you use a flicking motion rather than a circular one. One thing to note about the flicking method is that you may well need to go over the same area multiple times for a smooth result.

This video talks you through blending techniques with alcohol Markers:

This video from Colour with Claire is a real time colour-along tutorial for how to blend alcohol markers:

Find out how to get seamless blending with alcohol markers here:


When you feel like you’re in the swing of blending you can move onto shading. Some of the principles from blending also apply when it comes to shading. Firstly you need to apply your base layer and wet the paper with your lightest shade. Next, using a mid-tone pen, use a flicking motion from light to dark to the areas you want to shade. Now use your darkest colour to the same area, only this time using smaller flicks. You can smooth the shading either with a colourless blending pen or your lightest pen. One thing to bear in mind is that most colours will appear darker whilst wet and when they dry will lighten.

Colourless Blenders

A colourless blender is just a pen with transparent ink. You can either use it to rewet any ink that has dried on your paper, or to blend together two colours. Another handy use, is that it can be used to correct small mistakes.

This video has some top tips on using a colourless blender:

This video shows you how to blend colours using water-based markers:

Water-based pens and markers

There are two main ways you can colour with water-based markers. However you colour, be cautious with how much ink you use as too much can damage your paper.

Firstly, you can use water-based markers almost like watercolour paint. Take a plastic blending palette and drawing some ink on there. Using a paintbrush apply a small amount of water to the ink, mixing it like you would watercolour paint. Then use your brush to apply the ink to your paper, adding more water for a paler colour, or more ink for a more intense colour. When trying to blend, work wet on wet so that you are able to get a seamless blend.

You can also blend your water-based markers using a blending pen. When working with water-based markers you will need to work very quickly or else your markers won’t blend properly. Start by applying your lightest colour and then immediately blend out the edges with your blending marker. Next go in with your darker shade and apply it on top, wherever you want to create shadow. Immediately go back in with your blending marker to smooth out the edge and create a seamless gradient between the colours. Take off the caps of all of the markers you want to use in that section before you start so that you don’t have to take up time uncapping and recapping markers between applications.

These videos outlines how to blend with water-based markers:


Fineliners are great for designs with lots of small areas and adding detail to larger designs, or using a pointillism style. Beware of colouring large areas with fineliners as they can bleed through the paper and cause it to curl.

This tutorial shows you how to work with fineliners:

Enjoyed this guide to using pens and markers? You’ll love our other how to colour guides.

Coloured a beautiful page and want to share it with your friends and family? Take a look at this article about how to photograph colouring pages.

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