When you think of highlighters, it’s probably in the context of studying for a test, annotating a document, or marking a section of a book. While highlighters are usually linked to school or work, they’re really just markers—albeit in fun, bright colors.

So, why aren’t they used to create art more often like their regular marker counterparts? There isn’t an exact answer to that question, but here’s how to create your own highlighter art

What is Highlighter Art?

Highlighter art is just that: art created with highlighter markers. But what makes highlighter art different from other easy marker drawings are the bright, fluorescent colors. When you think of a pack of highlighters, neon yellow comes to mind, and then probably pink, blue, and orange. And now there are even green and purple highlighters, so you have almost a full rainbow of colors at your fingertips. 

Any marker drawings that benefit from bright colors are a perfect candidate for highlighters. While you could easily recreate any easy marker drawing with highlighters, consider what subjects would look good with fluorescent colors. Rainbows, birds, flowers, and abstract art are all great highlighter art ideas, however, think outside of the box, too. Clothing, landscapes, and interiors could also all be done with highlighters to make the colors really pop.

Examples of Highlighter Art

As with most types of art, anything goes with highlighter art. You can draw with them as they were intended, or create paint with them to control the color saturation. 

highlighter lines
Skillshare instructor Adam Palmeter shows how to put the finishing touches on a rainbow highlighter art drawing. 
flower drawing
Skillshare instructor Emma Lucek completes her rose she created using highlighter paint.

How to Create Highlighter Art

Before you start to create, consider: What is your subject, and what is your medium? If this is your first time creating highlighter art, stick to something you know how to draw. This could be an abstract pattern or a more realistic drawing. Then once you’ve decided on your subject, choose your colors, and get started!

Step 1: Gather Materials

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Highlighters 
  • Pen or pencil (optional)
highlighters
Skillshare instructor Adam Palmeter prefers Sharpie highlighters.

Highlighter art really only requires two things: paper and highlighters. However, consider the type of paper you want and both the style and color of highlighters. Watercolor paper is thicker and soaks up the ink nicely. And to really make the neon colors pop, stick with white paper. 

Like other markers, highlighters come in different styles. Palmeter loves the Sharpie chiseled tip highlighters for their angled tips and the vibrancy of the colors. 

So, as you’re preparing your materials, choose slanted or regular tip and large or fine tip highlighters depending on how wide you want your strokes to be on the paper. Then pick the colors you need to bring your highlighter art ideas to life. 

Step 2: Decide on Your Subject

Now that the materials are sorted, it’s time to get creative in your subject matter—your options are nearly endless. 

First, choose between abstract or realistic art. Abstract art uses lines, shapes, and patterns with various colors to create cool, eye-catching pieces. With highlighters, rainbow designs are an obvious choice, but don’t let that stop you from creating your own work of art. 

Realistic art poses a second question: what do you want to draw? It could be a favorite scenic place or something in your house. 

Step 3: Start to Sketch

highlighter lines
Skillshare instructor Adam Palmeter starts to create his pattern.

Once your subject is decided on, sketch it out. If it’s a pattern, practice the stroke technique so when you’re using the highlighter, you have the motion down. If it’s a realistic image, you’ll want to have a pencil sketch to work off of. 

Step 4: Draw!

highlighter lines
Skillshare instructor Adam Palmeter balancing the colors of his drawing.

You’re finally ready to begin drawing!

Once you’ve completed your drawing, take a step back and look at it. Then, make any final tweaks such as balancing out the composition, filling in any missing colors, and ensuring you’re happy with the pattern.

How to Paint With Highlighters

While “typical” highlighter art uses the markers as they’re intended, it’s possible to use them as paints, too. Here’s how:

Step 1: Gather Materials

Just like with drawings, you only need a few things to paint with highlighters. 

You’ll need:

  • Paper
  • Highlighters 
  • Paintbrush
  • Water cup
  • Ceramic plate
  • Pen or pencil 

Step 2: Create Your Palette

highlighter color swatches
Skillshare instructor Emma Lucek draws swatches of color to create her highlighter paint.

On the ceramic plate, or another surface that doesn’t soak up color, draw with your highlighter until you have roughly a square inch of ink on the plate. Repeat with as many colors as you’d like to use.

Step 3: Sketch Your Drawing

drawn flower
Skillshare instructor Emma Lucek sketches an outline to paint in.

Outline the image you’d like to create in pen or pencil. You will use this to paint your image later.

Step 4: Paint!

highlighter flower
Skillshare instructor Emma Lucek uses highlighters to paint.

Dip your paintbrush in the water cup and, depending on how saturated you want the color, blot any excess water off. Then swipe your brush through the color you want to start with and paint over your sketch! The more intense the color, the less water you want to use, and vice versa.

What to Do With Highlighter Art

Once you’ve created your piece of art, it’s time to decide what to do with it. You could just leave it as is, a drawing. Or you could create a large-scale patterned background by duplicating your drawing. Even still, you could laminate them as placemats or bookmarks, or digitize them and place them on mugs, bags, and anything else you can think of.

Create Your Own Highlighter Art!

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