Ah…. Choosing the right markers. I once counted how many I had and had over 200. I promise I have less now and didn’t pay for them all. I was obsessed for a while with markers in all their varieties. All brands are all different, but one thing is for sure – picking the right colors can be tough and sometimes downright intimidating.
Let’s start with a simple black and white scale. We’ll move on to color later on. . . (spectral purists need not read on) hehe. My Disclaimer – I am no expert on color theory, but I have tried out alot of markers and have learned a few tips in my tinkering.
This scale runs from a deep black 100% to a 10% gray to the right. Chances are your monitor may either pick up all the subtleties of the scale or not. Either way, think of this is as a scale of grays or values in 10% increments. Now, you really don’t need to go buy a set of 12 grays. Here’s why – When using markers, if you let them dry a little after applying them, then reapply some more marker, you can get a darker value with the same marker. Works on most papers but especially marker paper.
Really, all you need for a decent range of values is three markers, with each marker 20% away from each other. What I mean is for example, 10%, 30%, and 50% grays or 30% 50% and 70% gray markers. Why?
Well, take a look at this sketch or any decent sketch as a matter of fact. Now, squint your eyes and take a look at it. You should be able to see an area of highlight where the light is the most intense (in this case, the top of the box), a mid-tone (the left side of the cube) and a shadow tone (the dark right side of the cube).
The shadow could be considered an even deeper value, but in this case, I have used a 70% grey marker.
Ahhhhh that’s more like it. Pick 3 values from the grays – warm or cool depending on your preference (personally I prefer cool grays for most product sketches and warm grays for some special applications) Nice and simple right? Just follow the 20% apart scheme and you should be fine with picking the grays. The scale below represents a 70% gray, 50% gray, and a 30% gray value scale with each 20% away from the next in value.
With colors, you’ll need to stay within the same hue before messing with value. By hue, I mean REDS, ORANGES, or BLUES for example. You could also think of it as color temperature. (again, this may not be 100% correct, but it’s how I think it works)
Again, try to pick three markers that are each 20% apart in value and represent a highlight value, midtone value, and a shadow value.
So if you’re picking red markers for example, you may want to stay close to something as shown below.
Shadow, Midtone, and Highlight values. I have a deep red, a midtone red, and a lighter pink for the highlight color.3
Depending on the brand of marker you choose, these values may differ. I highly recommend testing the colors with markers in an art store for example before committing to buying them online. That way, you can find colors that are similar enough in hue and different enough in value that all work together.
Confused? Just remember, if you’re not sure what to do:
- Squint your eyes
- Check the values
- Make sure that the markers are within the same range in hue (For colors)
- Test test test before you buy them.
So, if you’re on a budget and not planning to amass a collection of 200+ markers like I have, stick to three for each color range and experiment. Find what works for you and use these tips to help simplify your choice in markers.
I’ve also posted this under essentials so if you need to check back later for updates, you can there. I’ll update this and talk more about brands at some point.
If you have any other tips or tricks on how you pick your markers, let us know by commenting below.