Markers 101: The Basics and Step-by-Step Sketching | Julia Henze | Skillshare

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Markers 101: The Basics and Step-by-Step Sketching

teacher avatar Julia Henze, Artist | Teacher | Urban Sketching Lover

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

7 Lessons (55m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Types and Characteristics

    • 3. How to Choose Markers

    • 4. Paper and Other Materials

    • 5. How to Use Markers

    • 6. Drawing with Markers

    • 7. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


Markers are rapidly gaining popularity nowadays. Their colors are bright, they are quite easy to use, and they’re just playing cool. I discovered marker sketching only a few years ago, and I quickly fell in love with them. Many people in my urban sketching group have asked me to show them the basics of markers. Some of them have already acquired some markers but had questions about the proper technique. These questions gave me the idea of creating this class. It’s been a great pleasure putting it together. This course is not so much about urban sketching, as it is about the medium of markers, about their properties, and techniques.

What you will learn:

• What types of alcohol-based markers are available and about their characteristics;
• How to choose markers by asking yourself three important questions;
• How to select paper, a colorless blender, fineliners, and white pens;
• The basic strokes, coloring techniques, texturing and shadowing.

I hope all your questions about markers will find answers in the videos but if you still have some questions or need help with your sketches, please, don't hesitate to contact me on the Community Page. I also welcome suggestions and feedback on the Community Page.

♥ I hope to see many of your amazing sketches in the Project Gallery! ♥

Enjoy the class!

For INSTAGRAM: tag me @julia_henze and use a hashtag #juliahenze_skillshare

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Henze

Artist | Teacher | Urban Sketching Lover

Top Teacher

Hello, creatives! My name is Julia Henze. I'm a freelance illustrator and urban sketcher living and working in a village with a name that nobody can pronounce, Bergschenhoek, in The Netherlands.

I love to share my passion for drawing and urban sketching with you, and show you how to make the drawing process easier and fun. All my Skillshare classes are very easy to follow and perfect for beginning artists. But also advanced students can find interesting tips and tricks.

Visit my Instagram for inspiration and drawing tutorials. Tag me (@julia_henze) when you post a sketch made with one of my classes and use a hashtag #JuliaHenze_Skillshare. I'll be very happy to see your artworks! 

And find speed-drawing demonstration videos... See full profile

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1. Intro: Hi guys. I'm Julia Henze. An illustrator, an urban sketcher, and a Skillshare drawing teacher. Welcome to my introduction class on alcohol-based markers. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that markers are my favorite sketching tools. In this class, I want to share with you my love for this amazing sketching material. I want to introduce you the alcohol-based markers. To tell you what types of markers available without offering or if you have any particular brand. In this class we'll talk about what types of alcohol-based markers they are and what characteristics they have? How to choose markers? Asking yourself three important questions: how to choose paper, colorless blender, fineliners and white pens. We'll go for some basic strokes, coloring techniques, texturing, and shadowing. By the end of this class, you will have a fundamental knowledge of how to work with alcohol-based markers, and be able to make your own marker sketches. The project for this class will be to create a scene with markers, you could draw with me or choose your own objects for this. It's up to you. Are you ready? Let's get started. 2. Types and Characteristics: As I mentioned in the introduction video, I want to first of all, tell you something about the technical aspects of alcohol-based markers. Alcohol-based means just what it says, the ink in these markers has been mixed with alcohol. When shopping for new markers, most packaging will make it clear if the markers are alcohol -based. There are many brands available nowadays and it's impossible to mention all of them, but in this table, I have listed the most popular brands at this moment, so you can get an idea about the brands. Further, I'm going to tell you about some of them. What are some of the general considerations that you need to keep in mind when you buy your first markers? The color range, the nibs, shapes of barrel, the refill and replace capability, the ink quality and the cap design offered by different brands. First of all, the color range. The color range offered by different manufacturers varies greatly. For instance, twin marker, the least expensive brand, offers only 98 colors. Winsor & Newtons promarker offers 148, while Copic offers as many as 358 colors in one of it's lines. Having a very large color range might be important for certain artists, especially for those who want to make very realistic drawings with lots of blending tones. Second, the nibs forms vary greatly, but they can be divided into three groups. Brush nibs, these are soft and flexible, bullet nibs and chisel nibs. Almost in all cases, each marker has a different nib at the either end of the barrel. The most common combination is a brush or bullet nip on one end, with the chisel nip on the other. The brush nib is a normal round nib. You can use it to draw thin and thick lines, and it's also the best nib for blending. However, mastering the brush nib requires practice. The bullet nip is great for sketching with thin lines and for shading, and the chisel nib is perfect for coloring large areas. The third consideration is the form of the barrel. The shape and color of the barrel varies from brand to brand, and there are distinctive with each brand. I think the form of the marker's barrel is very important to the artists. An ergonomic barrel-shape provides a greater degree of control. Also, the material from which the marker is made can be important. For instance, some cheaper markers are made of slippery plastic that can slip in your hand and cause you make a bad line. Another thing that you might find annoying, is when a round barrel markers roll off your work surface. Some round barreled markers have a small fin to prevent this, but it doesn't always work so well. Fourth, you should know that some markers are refillable or have replaceable parts. This is a really great feature if you draw a lot. Even the most expensive markers, Copics, become quiet economical in the long run, because they are refillable and the nibs are replaceable. Fifth, the ink characteristics. First of all, one thing I personally love about alcohol-based markers, is their color intensity. They make my sketches bright and vivid. Second, alcohol-based markers have a good capability for subtle blending. Blending technique will be covered in the fourth part of this class. Sixth, two things are essential for caps. The ease with which they can be removed and replaced. This is especially important because you should work very rapidly with markers and the color of the cap should clearly indicate the color of the ink. 3. How to Choose Markers: What is essential in choosing markers? As I mentioned, the color pallet can be quite different depending on the brand. The brands were smaller color palettes often lack pestle colors, and also the bright colors from such manufacturers may appear unnatural. The good news, we can mix markers from different brands without any problems, because the ink has the same base. They're all alcohol based. We don't need to restrict our collection to one particular brand. Our potential colored palette is very large indeed. When you set out to buy your first marker's, think ahead about the colors you're likely to need. Markers cannot be mixed in the same way as watercolor. They only can be mixed to a limited extent. By that I mean, you can mix red and yellow to get a beautiful orange color or combined blue and yellow to get nice green. With markers, you have to take into account that is same as with color pencils. You need to have in your palate the exact colors you want for your drawing. When starting your collection, you have to answer a few questions. I would suggest making a list with their answers before you buy anything. Let's take a look at this questions. What are you going to draw? What color palette do prefer? What is your drawing style? First of all, you should decide what are going to draw with your markers. For instance, figure and portal drawing requires a whole different palate than buildings, nature or food drawings. There is however, a basic color that I think should not be missed and any pellet that's gray. I would suggest by Theo for gray shades. You can use gray for drawing buildings, for shading and so much more. Brands with abroad color range usually offer different types of gray, cold, warm, and neutral. Cold gray with blue purple hue, one gray with gray brown hue and as you can guess, the neutral gray is neutral. It's just a matter of taste which you choose. But if you are not sure, you're advised to choose nature grays. As for other colors, it's important to know what you intend to draw. As you probably know, my favorite drawing theme is urban sketching, but I also like to draw food. I would put the following colors on my starters list. Red for bricks, flags, flowers, fruits, vegetables. Orange for rooftops, bricks, vegetables. Yellow for flowers, walls, and light sources. Green for leaves, foliage and salad. Blue for the sky, glass and berries. Purple for doors and berries. Brown for wood, leather, and bread. I always can add other colors to my pellet later, like pink, blue- violet or blue-green. But basically, these color range is enough to draw pretty much everything inside my themes. A tip. Try to limit your themes to just one or two at the beginning. That way, you don't need to buy 100 markers all at once. You can just start out with a small set. Second, you should decide what color type you prefer. Bright like me or pestle, which can also be very beautiful. It just depends on your personal preference and your drawing style. I personally prefer bright colors regardless of the medium. Markers, water color or colored pencils. I have some pestle colors, but I use them very seldom, and I think it's a waste of money to buy both pestle and bright colors at the beginning. Third you need to know what your drawing style is. If you draw with urbanistic manner, then you need many more markers to achieve smooth gradients. If you prefer to make very quick sketches and don't color every detail, then you will need fewer markers. There are three coloring techniques we need to discuss. Single tone, light and shadow, and full color. If you choose to draw in a single tone, it could be single color forever object or one color for the entire illustration. You need to decide what you want to express in your drawing. Choosing one color doesn't mean you must choose blue for sky and water or green for forage for instance, be creative. You can make the sky yellower or use purple for shadows, and unusual color choice will make a sketch march more special. For light and shadow drawings, you can experiment with complimentary or analogous colors. When you make for color drawings with light, mid tone, and shadow, you need a minimum three shades of one color. The primary colorful mid tone parts, alighted tint for light parts, and a darker shade for dark parts. This is all for this part. I hope after answering these questions, you'll have a better idea how to start your first marker collection. But before we jump into the next part of this class, I want to give you two tips. First, use a color chart and the color system of your marker brand. Especially Copic, has a very clear color system that can help you get the most from your marker collection and avoid buying wrong colors. Each marker has an unique code that gives you information about the markers qualities. The second tip is, don't buy marker sets. Take time to put your own collection together instead. While buying a set may seem cheaper, it may turn out to be wasteful. Some of the colors in the set you will may never use and additionally, you may have to buy other colors that are not included in the set. 4. Paper and Other Materials: Like any art material, alcohol-based markers work well on some papers and not so well on others. You definitely should try out different papers to see which works best for you. It depends again on your drawing style. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve? A very smooth blending, for instance, requires a different paper than a quick rough sketch. In this part, I am going to introduce you to the types of marker papers so that you can choose one that suits your needs. Then I'm going to give you some information about the colorless blender, about fineliners, and about white pens. The paper types can be divided into two groups, regular uncoated paper, and special coated marker paper. Of course, special marker paper is generally better than regular paper. Nevertheless, the regular paper can sometimes be used to good effect, even though marker ink tends to bleed through uncoated paper. You need to protect it by placing another sheet of paper underneath your drawing. Some things that you really should try to avoid with regular paper. First, too thin paper. For instance, printer paper. The ink observes too quickly, blease for the paper and feathers like this. Second, too smooth paper. For instance, glossy paper. This paper doesn't absorb the ink, colors don't blend well, and as a result, the whole drawing looks striped and messy. Third, the opposite. Too soft paper absorbs too much ink. That means that not only your markers will run out of ink very quickly, but also the colors won't blend well. There are plenty of special marker papers on the market nowadays. Some of them are better than others and more suitable for one or another type of artwork. Special marker paper is available in two types. One-sided, bleed-proof marker pads. This paper is light in weight. Double-sided, bleed-proof marker pads. This type of market paper is always heavy in weight. Both types have special waterproof coating that prevents the ink from bleeding through, reduced ink consumption, which is great because you may get more use out of your markers, and both are good for blending and layering. I use both types depending on my needs. I use the thin, one-sided paper, whether I know I'm only going to make a scan of my sketch. In this case, it works perfectly. But I never use it, if I think there is a chance to drawing what we framed. I don't think thin paper looks good when framed. Those were the considerations when selecting the paper. Let's move to some additional materials you may need. These are colorless blender, a fineliner, and a white pen or marker. A colorless blender is really a misnomer, because it's not meant to blend two colors together. The ink in this markers is the same as in all other alcohol-based markers, but without any pigment. But what it does is just a dissolve color. I personally sell the years it in these sketches, but it might be very helpful in some situations. You can use the colorless blender for fading light colors to white, for any highlights to an existing illustration, adding textures and patterns, and for repairing mistakes and cleaning of edges. A few words of caution about the colorless blender. You must be very careful in its use. Don't think it's an eraser, it dissolves the color ink by making it really wet and the result may be very unpredictable. You even run a risk of completely ruining your drawing. I recommend that you test the colorless blender on the draft first. The next drawing do I want to discuss is a fineliner. With fineliners especially black, it's important to recognize that your lines may not be as permanent as you expect. You may be surprised to find that they deplete into the marker color and create. There are basically, at least two ways to draw with fineliners. The first is to draw with fineliner, and then apply the marker over it. The second, the opposite, to apply the fineliner over the marker drawing. If you use the first method, that's the permanence of the fineliner beforehand to check if it's marker-proof. If you use the second method, the permanence of the fineliner is not so important. Here are some of my favorite fineliners, all of these are of a good quality, are marker-proof, and have dark black ink. Last but not least, is white pen or white marker. I use it for adding textures and patterns, adding highlights, and fixing mistakes and cleaning of edges. Unfortunately, finding a good white pen or marker can be a challenge. Many of them don't have a consistent line, and tend to dry up very quickly and become useless. The one I like the best is posca marker with an extra fine point. But you should try out several to discover your own personal favorite. That's all for materials. In the next two videos, I'll be demonstrating how to use alcohol-based markers to create your own beautiful artwork. 5. How to Use Markers: In this part, we're going to take a look at the basics of using of alcohol-based markers. I'll be showing you some basic strokes, how to do coloring the best coloring techniques, and how to create textures. Let's take a look at basic strokes. As I showed you earlier, the basic strokes depend on the nib form. The most first stroke is the brush nib, because of its flexibility. Its easy to vary the line thickness from a very thin though quite wide. This is helpful when you want to color large areas and especially when you have to deal with sharp corners. This is my favorite and I use it the most of the time. The chisel nib is inflexible. But you also can use this one to vary the thickness of your line by rotating the marker. It works for large areas and sometimes for texturing as well. Another inflexible nib is the bullet. It's great for texturing, but unsuitable for coloring and blending of large areas. Coloring, attaining great looking colored sketches is a matter of learning to color using parallel lines. Break this with different forms to get used to this. In this example, when I draw the shapes a square, a cylinder, and a sphere, I color them in different directions, depending on what is most suitable for the particular shape, but still always using parallel lines. What you absolutely shouldn't do is to color in the chaotic way in different directions and with different line lengths. It makes your sketch look clumsy. Coloring with short lines is also not a good idea. I recommend you color large areas with long lines, and leave the short lines for texturing and small details. Here there are the textures. Texturing is actually a very large topic. Here, I just want to show you a few simple examples of textures I often use in my sketches. Like creating the magic atmosphere by putting some points of different colors and sizes around objects. Drawing a lovely tree by shadowing with points or short lines instead of coloring. Suggesting an intercept brick wall or road without drawing out every stone. But also for flowers, water, and holy scenes. It actually makes it more dynamic, and as the wall factor. We have already discussed how to do coloring in a single color, now I want to teach you about gradients. To create a gradient means to mix our colors or to blend them in the world of Mark artist, the smoother the gradient the better sketch. Although I personally never strive to have a perfect blending my sketches, because first, I like how it looks when you see where one thing ends and another begins. Second the absolutely perfect gradient is quite impossible to obtain, especially with dull colors. But we'll keep trying. Let's take a look at how to achieve a smoother blending as possible. As I mentioned before I prefer to blend with the brush nib because it provides a smoother gradient. But, if you don't have a brush nib, you can try to use the chisel of the pull it nib and set. Before we start, here are some tips that will help you achieve a better blending. Use three or more tones of one color to produce a smooth gradient. The colors close to each other. The closer the colors are to each other, the easier it is to blend them, and the smoother the gradient. For instance, it makes no sense to use just very light blue and dark blue, you'll never achieve a good result. Don't let your ink dry. To create a good gradient, you need to work very accurately and keep the ink wet until you're satisfied with the gradient. It is possible to contain your blending after ink is dried, but then you need to create a new red layer which will take more ink. Long strokes are better. The longer the strokes, the smoother the gradient, but don't exaggerate it of course. Color in steps from light to dark. Let me show what I mean. I'm going to use three markers to show you how to blend. The main idea of blending is to create a smooth gradient by applying the lighter and the darker color and then mixing them with the lightest. Let's take a look. I'm going to give numbers to my colors. The lightest color will be number 1, a mid-color will be two, and the darkest color will be three. The order I will apply this colors is 1, 2, 1, 3, 2. Let's take a look how it works in practice using a different color, but still the same idea. I start with the lightest color, number 1. Then I blended with a mid-tone number 2 while the first color is still wet. Then I'm going back to the previous color number 1 again. Then I apply the darkest color number 3, and go back to the mid-tone number 2 again. Finally we can polish with number 1 if we want to. Here we are, if you have more tones of the same color, just go on alternating in the same fashion. The last thing I want to show in this part, is not really about the drawing with markers, but more with bar drawing in general. I try to teach in all my classes that light and shadow are very important to comprehend, and it's especially important when sketching with markers. Without shadowing, your sketches will be flat and boring. The best way to understand how light and shadow work, is to study the most basic three-dimensional shapes. The cube, the cylinder, and the sphere. If you are an advanced artist and you already know how to draw the shapes, you may be skip this part of the class. But practice with them is especially important for beginners and also for people who want to refresh their skills. Let's take a look. Maybe the most challenging of these three shapes is the sphere because without the light and shadow work, the sphere is just a flat circle. If I want to make it look three dimensional we need to add some volume to the circle. The first thing we have to do is to decide where the light comes from. Let's say that the light source is in the upper left corner. That means that the part of the sphere closest to the light source will be lighter and the part furthest away will be darker. A spot on the top of the sphere that receives the most light, will be white or very close to white. We'll call it the highlight. On the other side of the sphere, by having an area that is also lit because of the light that has reflected from a surrounding surface, we'll call it reflected or ambient light. I know a lot of artists don't pay much attention to ambient light, but I think it's a very available addition to your art work. We've got a light and the dark side of the sphere. We've got the highlight on the reflected light, but it still doesn't look really round. This is because we haven't provided the gradient that makes the illusion of volume. The final thing we need to add to produce the illusion of three dimensions is the cast shadow. The shadow that the sphere makes on the imagined tabletop. Drawing the cube and the cylinder is quite the same story. Look at the next pictures and pause the videos as I demonstrate how I draw these shapes. That's it for the theory the core part of this class. Especially if you're a beginner or artist, don't make the practice reshapes before you move on to making real sketches. Believe me, this preparatory work will make sketching process way easier. 6. Drawing with Markers: With the theoretical part behind us, let's move on to some fun and create a real illustration with our markers. I've broken this sketching process in four steps. First, we are going to make a pencil sketch. Second, we're going to refine with a fine liner. Third, we will color it with our markers. In this step, we'll rely on what we've learned by practicing the three-dimensional shapes: The kid, the cylinder, and the sphere. In the final step, I will be showing you how to correct small mistakes and how to actually do illustration. But before we jump into the real sketching process, let's make a quick thumbnail. I always recommend to take time to make one or more thumbnail sketches to nail down the composition, determine the main colors, and locate the main shadows. Making a thumbnail also looses up your hand and gets you drawing freely. You don't need to follow your thumbnail exactly. Just see, there's a guideline. Notice, that all the objects here are composed of our simple three-dimensional shapes. The box is a cube, the mug is a cylinder, and the crimp layers are squeezed spheres, and the cherry is also a sphere. We are going to color these objects in the same way as we colored the three-dimensional shapes in the earlier part of this class. Then we'll go over to drawing in the actual sketch. We'll be doing exactly the same thing, but much more accurately than in our simple thumbnail. Now, we have a general idea of the colors we're going to use. As I mentioned before, working with markers requires speed. You should prepare some marker sets beforehand. Three or four tones of each color should be enough. Here's my selection, but you don't need to choose the same colors. I'd love to see your creativity in the color choice. We've finished our thumbnail, we gathered our marker sets, now, let's start to draw. Step one, a pencil sketch. Try to draw it was seen as precisely as you can. We're not pressing down so hard as to damage the paper. Step 2, refining with a fineliner. This is I think the easiest part of the drawing process. We don't need to think a lot, we just need to refine our sketch a bit using a fineliner. Step 3, coloring with markers. This is the most challenging, but also the most fun part of the sketching process. Now, we're going to apply everything we've learned in the previous part, except the texturing, which we'll get into the next step. We'll be trying to color the strokes parallel as much as possible. We'll be using that blending technique I showed you and we'll be applying shadows as we did when coloring our three-dimensional shapes. Let's start. Step 4, correcting mistakes and adding textures. When I say correcting mistakes, I don't mean you can correct all of them. Some mistakes are very difficult, if not impossible to repair, especially if you used the wrong color or you accidentally made a large stray mark, a blob of ink on your sketch. But some small mistakes can be easily corrected with a white pen or marker. Then we can use the same white panel marker to create some texture. Finally, we finish our sketch creating even more texture and magic atmosphere with markers. Voila, the sketch is done. 7. Final Thoughts: Here's my sketch. I can't wait to see yours in the project gallery. If you're on Instagram, I'd be very pleased to see you there also. Don't forget to use a hashtag. JULIAHENZE, underscore SKILLSHARE. But before you go, here is a quick summary of the main points we have covered. In part 1, we talked about the types of alcohol-based markers and about their characteristics. Part 2, we discussed how to choose markers, asking yourself three crucial questions. In part 3, I talked about paper types, colorless blender, white liners, and white pens. In part 4, we'lllcover some basic markers, strokes, coloring techniques, and texturing. I showed you how the color some simple three-dimensional shapes, the cube, the cylinder, and the sphere. Finally, I demonstrated how to create a real sketch using what you've learned. If you have any questions about this class, please ask them on a community page under the videos. If you like this class, please leave me a thumb up. Good luck with your sketching and hope to see in my other classes. Bye-bye.