What are markers and how do they work?
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    What are markers and how do they work?

    I'm having a really satisfying experience of rediscovering real media and it's making me realise how much I've missed out on and how much I can still learn.

    One thing I'm still confused about is markers. I really became interested in them after coming across this oldish thread.

    http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=175488

    It's about Mr Mccaig who I'm a huge fan of. It mentions prismacolor markers.
    Now, we don't actually have bad art stores here at all, but I popped into the little one closest to me and they had no idea what I was on about. Before I think of spending some cash on these, I'd really like to learn more about them, I did google a bit, but I'd like to hear from artists. Especially artists on this board about their experiences with markers.

    I mean for example, do they blend? Sorry, it's completely dumb question. But I figure, if I don't ask, I won't know. I literally know nothing. I have never even seen one in real life

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    Google is your friend.

    That said, markers are just tubes stuffed with sponge with felt tips, filled with dye-based ink. The differences begin when you consider the quality of the tip, the composition of the ink, available colors and of course the price.

    Be aware that all markers are dye-based, and so are fugitive. They should not be used for jobs where the original must survive for a long time or constitutes the primary value.

    But they are *fast*. Markers are like poor man's watercolor: harder to blend, limited colors, but faster to apply, extremely quick-drying and you can pick from a large pre-mixed palette. So they are good for concept sketching or illustrating for print.

    They are unlike watercolor in that you can layer them only to a degree. They will dissolve the dried ink if re-applied. So layering too much can produce a muddy effect. You'll also want to work very quickly and overlap your previous strokes before they are dry, to avoid streaking.

    Cheap markers can be solvent-based which will affect your health. Art-grade markers are typically alcohol-based or even water-based; make your pick.

    Art-grade markers will work best on special marker paper. Regular paper will simply drink the inks up quickly and produce dulled colors. Marker paper is thin like tissue and has a coating which prevents the ink from penetrating, so the markers are not drained and the colors stay bright and can be blended with solvent. (Markers with pure solvent are sold as "colorless blender", most brands will have them.) I use marker paper made by Bienfang.

    And yes, art-grade markers are expensive. If you want just a test, you can get just a few shades of gray and experiment; that way you won't end up with a big set you'll never use. Then if you decide you want them, you can buy a starter set or piecemeal markers. (Trust me, there will be colors in any set which you'd hardly ever use, and there will be missing ones you'll want to add to it. Try to go to a store and try out the actual colors to select your set.)

    The best brand for prolonged use is probably Copic. They are bright, they have a great range of colors, there are custom felt tips and an airbrush attachment available, and best of all they are rechargeable. You can buy all inks in bottles that will refill a marker 5-6 times, so effectively it's like 6-7 markers of each color for $10 over one marker's lifetime. That's much cheaper than single-use art markers, but only if you plan to work in markers a lot.

    Hope that helps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    Google is your friend.
    Oh it sure is! Sorry if I came across as lazy, just figured who better to ask than artists that I could interact with? Thanks for the detailed reply.

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    If I thought you were just lazy, I'd not have bothered to reply.

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    Haha you rock arenhaus!

    EDIT: Just a question, does/can anything be applied to the surface to help with layering?

    Last edited by Star Eater; March 28th, 2011 at 07:03 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Star Eater View Post
    Haha you rock arenhaus!

    EDIT: Just a question, does/can anything be applied to the surface to help with layering?
    Not really. You don't want to layer much anyway, markers are expensive and you want to make good colour choices to save on the ink. They're good if you want fairly pure, clean colours. If you want something more subtle or complex, watercolours are a better bet.

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    Thanks Vineris, while I learnt a lot about markers today from you guys, I think I'm going to play with watercolours more before I try them out. If anyone else has opinions or tips to share about markers though, I'd be glad to read them.

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    Hey Star Eater - I love markers myself - they give a fairly specific look which is fast and has energy. They are used extensively in Industrial Design, in part because they are so fast and effective and also because industrial design tends to deal with objects and hard edged solid forms - as opposed to environments and costuming for example (though they are also used extensively in the fashion industry as well).

    Arenhaus laid it all out quite well (though in my experience the "pro" markers were solvent/Toluene based - they last longer on the shelf and yes...are really, really bad for you). Just to reinforce what everyone else said:

    They don't really blend well - they tend to come in "value steps" sort of like pastels
    You will definitley use the hell out of a few favorites - usually the lighter values - I use lighter values sometimes to act as a blender
    Some sets do have blenders available - just the solvent, no dye
    They are extrememly fugitive and should be kept out of the light
    They are great to use with Prismacolor pencils and pastel
    A set of grays is a great place to start - usually there is a warm set and cool set

    My favorite brand is/was Design2 because every color came in 5 tones/value steps - numbered accordingly. Admarker from Chartpak were the industry standard way back when - they are the Toluene based kind. Tria are good and I don't have any but I believe Copic are very popular. Prismacolor are decent as well.

    In the ancient times one could easily find beautiful, richly illuminated tomes revealing the magic of marker rendering...this wisdom is now only kept by a few "elders"...if you seek the knowledge you may find it in one of these forgotten manuscripts:
    "Design Rendering Techniques" Dick Powell
    "Rendering in Mixed Media" Joseph Ungar
    "Quick and Easy Solutions to Marker Techniques" Yoshiharu Shimizu

    I use them for all kinds of things...

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    Here's a few more "pro" examples from industrial design (I posted these in another nightmare thread but didn't want to link it):

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    I always seem to be so late to the party...

    Since markers don't layer as well as some other media, it can be advantageous to use them in conjunction with, let's say, colored pencil.

    The markers can be used in an almost painterly way, allowing for chunks of shapes, values, and forms. Then colored pencils can be applied over the top to find the details and build to more specific values, if need be. Plus, combining the two helps to extend the life of both media, seeing as filling in with a pencil can be mind numbingly tedious, and planning and executing an image in marker's relatively unforgiving shape can be an exercise in frustration. With pencils you can pick out highlights, enhance darks, reinforce passages with hatching and texture and so forth. However, if you're going for the clean, marker only look, the best way is to simply 'get good,' as it were.

    This goes without saying, but that's just my two cents.

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    I highly recommend Copic markers. Each marker has two tips, one traditional and one brush tip. The brush tip is wonderful for adding really subtle layers or very thin lines. They also blend well together (as well as markers can blend, which isn't too well). The downside: they're pretty expensive. A 72 set can be up to 300 dollars or you can by them as singles for as high as 6.00 per marker. Maybe pick one up and see how you like it.

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    Another brand to check out is Kurecolor. They're slightly less costly than Copics but the grayscale markers can be refilled easily, and the markers have both broad and thin tips.

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    You guys have given me so much to think about. Thank you for your input!

    JeffX99: Thanks for the info! Those samples were great, the Isuzu designs were amazing. If that's what markers alone are capable of, I'm really impressed. I will look up those books as well.

    That Fat Kid: The parties just starting. Rather think of it as being fashionably late. Coloured pencils are something I am also -very- interested in really experimenting with.Yeah, I don't want to be a jack of all trades and master of none, I'm just really excited about trying out real media, finding one I love to work with and then sticking it out. I guess the fact that you can use pencils with the markers is another similarity it shares with watercolour.

    M_Oreilly: The double tip does sound great and yeah I have been pricing them since yesterday. I would have to disagree with what friend arenhaus said about them being a 'poor mans watercolour' but I think I get the context in what he meant.

    crossmirage: Fantastic! Thanks for the tip CM, I will look those up as well.

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    when looking for paper try
    'canson marker pro layout'

    it keeps the ink wet

    some people recommend bienfang 360
    but i think it absorbs the ink too much.
    it also has a right and wrong side to use.

    prisma color is the best for its price and doesn't smell terrible.
    copic is nicer but more expensive.

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    Thanks for that Ferrando. You've reminded me that I will need the right combo of papers and artmakers. I've been checking out Prisma as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    ...Be aware that all markers are dye-based, and so are fugitive...
    Several markers use dye-based inks but not all of them. There are a few brands that use pigmented inks that are lightfast. All the large wide-tipped markers I've seen are dye-based, but there are many cone-chaped markers, like the ZIG Millenium, that use pigmented inks, and many fine point markers also, such as the Sakura Micron or Faber-Castel PITT that use India ink.

    As for being fugitive, I've made my own lightfast tests (over a year in a south-facing window) of a few of these including some dye-based inks and they've held up very well without any sign of fading.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbclemons View Post
    Several markers use dye-based inks but not all of them. There are a few brands that use pigmented inks that are lightfast.
    That is technically true, but the pigment-ink brands I've seen have very limited color selection. Not very useful for illustration. (I don't claim to have seen every brand there is, of course.)

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    The best markers are of course Copics but i use few Touch what are quite nice. I often see people using Prismacolours and Promarkers.
    I was searching for quite long time for this, especially for you: http://red-priest-usada.deviantart.c...%20marker&qo=0
    hope it explains everything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    That is technically true, but the pigment-ink brands I've seen have very limited color selection. Not very useful for illustration. (I don't claim to have seen every brand there is, of course.)
    Three brands of pigmented markers I'd recommend that have a range of colors would be:
    Faber-Castell Big Brush PITT markers
    Marvy Le Plume
    Letraset Aqua ProMarkers

    One issue for some people may be their cone-shaped tips instead of chisel points. As for being useful, that depends more on the artist than the pen.

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    dbclemons: Thanks for your input and those links in your latest post! there really is a big variety.

    arenhaus Thanks for the follow up, always respect your input.

    Hu-ha That link was fantastic! Thanks!

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    Markers were an absolute staple, back in the day. I particularly liked the gray set (0-10 warm gray, 0-10 cool gray plus a clear blender). Expensive, but indispensable.

    If you work on regular tracing paper, the pigment just sits on top and can be pushed around until you like what you see. Also (duh) you can lay it over a pencil sketch and trace.

    My favorite medium for preliminary work, I think. But get a good scan of it for final.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    Thanks Stoat, another dumb question here, but I'm wondering why do a lot of artists like they gray range so much in markers? If that makes sense.

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    The grays are great for quick value sketches is all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    The grays are great for quick value sketches is all.
    I really should have known that.

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    I know.

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    Just remembered that if you want to get fancy, you can use some markers as an airbrush with a special attachment - you stick a marker in the rig, and spray its ink. Copic certainly make one for their markers. It's not exactly a first-order necessity, but I have seen some concept artists make use of it for gradients.

    Also, markers can be combined with other media, most commonly with white gouache to make highlights.

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    Yep - I'm sure that is how those Isuzu gradients were laid in. Which is a pretty cool advantage if you can actually buy the refill dye/inks - then just run them through an actual airbrush - you'd only need a few of the colors I would think (Edit: for airbrushing - like black, a light gray and maybe a couple sky colors - typical reflection colors).

    Last edited by JeffX99; March 30th, 2011 at 01:35 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbclemons View Post
    Three brands of pigmented markers I'd recommend that have a range of colors would be:
    Faber-Castell Big Brush PITT markers
    Marvy Le Plume
    Letraset Aqua ProMarkers
    48 colors, 31 colors and 12 colors. Only the first brand has 3 shades of gray. Copics, for example, come in over 300 colors, including 10 cool and 10 warm gray shades, and even the basic set (barely adequate) is 72.

    As for being useful, that depends more on the artist than the pen.
    Given the limited layering/blending they allow, for markers a limited color range is an issue. You'll be forced to do tricks.

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    i love markers, such a great medium with great versatility, from concept sketches and value studies to photorealistic renders, i took a class just about markers, so if anyone is near los angeles i greatly recommend taking the sketching for design class with albert yu (grey markers) and the rendering class with stan kong (realistic rendering for concepts and illustrations-color markers) at PCC, you won't regret it.

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    I've found that the PITT markers streak like a sonofabitch. Fun to sketch with but that's about as far as they go.

    I own a set of the old Trias. Beware the new Trias as they changed the cap design and the new caps were designed poorly, popping off at the slightest provocation. It's not fun to buy a $7 marker and discover that it's dried out 2 weeks later. They supposedly fixed the design flaw but there are still plenty of the flawed kind floating around.

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