How to Render With Marker Pens

markers image by ivp from

Marker "renderings," or realistic drawings, were long the standard in fashion illustration, commercial illustration and concept art for the film, architecture and automotive industries.

Though digital illustration has largely replaced marker rendering, many designers still use markers -- particularly during preliminary, exploratory sketching. To render with marker pens, use professional art markers to shade and colour a line drawing.

Layer a few sheets of scratch paper on your drawing surface to protect it from ink bleeds.

Place a tester sheet of marker paper onto the scratch paper. Take a primary colour marker and begin sketching freely to test how the paper responds to ink. Notice how the ink flows across the page, how the paper takes colour and how quickly it dries. Keep testing until you have a feel for your paper, then put the tester sheet aside and lay down a new piece of marker paper.

Sketch your subject with a soft pencil on the new sheet of marker paper. Go over the final lines with the pigment pen and wait for the ink to dry. If you do not want pencil or pigment pen to show in your final drawing, place another blank sheet on top of your line drawing and tape both sheets to a light board. Draw with the markers on the blank top sheet, using the line drawing below as a guide.

Choose what colours you will use and put the rest of the markers aside. Quickly test out your markers on the tester sheet before you begin to render details on your line drawing.

Begin sketching with the lightest colour in the drawing. Fill the area by moving the pen in a continuous elliptical path, slowing pushing the leading edge of the nib outward toward the border where the next colour begins. Vary drawing pressure to change line width and ink flow. You may need to go back over some sections with more than one layer since marker ink is translucent. Continue until you have filled all highlights.

Fill in the mid-tone areas, sketching with the same elliptical technique.

Fill in the darkest colours and shadows.

Use a neutral or colourless blender marker (sometimes called a "white" marker) to blend edges and streaks. If your marker set doesn't include a blender, use a dried out marker dipped in paint thinner.