Alot of people have been asking for this, so i finally decided to do it . . . but this time in step-by-step style without the video. Go easy on me. If something isn’t terribly clear, feel free to email us or comment and we’ll update this post to make it water tight.
First off, markers are a wonderful tool. They are very versatile in how you apply them and the effects you can get using them. There are many a trick to mastering the marker, but first off, you need to repeat in your mind this phrase – this is not a coloring book. I know . . . it sounds harsh, but alot of people pick up a marker and then assume that every little element of the drawing needs to be filled with color. This is not so. Why? Well I think there are 2 reasons….
Firstly, Light never hits a surface evenly, even a flat one. There are always inconsistencies and deviations in how a surface is lit. Secondly, filing in every bit of white space is nigh unto painting the object and less like a quicker sketch render. Leaving some white while having quick and confident strokes with a marker lends itself to having an exciting and interesting sketch render. A cube, though simple in form, can have excitement added to it with some wonderful marker application.
- 3 markers – highlight, midtone, shadow (20%, 40%, 60% greys should work)
- Prismacolor pencil
- Felt Pen
Take this cube for example . . .
I did this rough sketch on some marker paper. I’m using Bienfang 360 marker paper, though any marker paper should work. Unlike tracing paper, marker paper has a protective coating on one side that stops or defers bleeding from one side to the other. I like the Bienfang because I had some lying around and it has some tooth to it. If you don’t have marker paper and are following along with this, a smoother bond paper should work just fine, though the results will differ.
When sketching for a marker rendering or sketch, I recommend using a pen or tool that does not bleed. I used a Pilot Razorpoint in this example, but Pilot hitec’s work as well as does sketching with a pencil or some rare ballpoint pens.
By sketching before you apply the marker, I am giving myself a guide on how and where I want to shade. I’ve drawn through the form and indicated where my shadow will fall. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out the video on shadows and shading in our archives. Sketching the shadow first helps me decide where my light source is and it reminds me a I am applying the marker to the sketch where the light is coming from. By doing so, it helps me be consistent with my shading and logical with value placement as I go.
So . . . Quick tip before I begin . . . It’s simple: Be quick with your strokes. I’ve included this image as an example of what I mean…
The shading on the left is decent but it’s coloring every part of the box. It’s static and lifeless. The shading on the right is done by applying the marker to the object line by line using the widest part of the chisel tip of the marker. Your markers typically have two tips – a chisel and a bullet tip. The chisel tip is the business end of the marker we’ll be using (it’s the fat end of the marker) It’s good to use when shading because you can cover a larger area more quickly without being too fussy. If we were to use the bullet tip to shade a object, the drawing would quickly become busy and confusing to the viewer. Remember, we are trying to communicate to and captivate the viewer when we sketch.
I begin my taking the lightest of my 3-value set of markers (in my case, a copic marker I found) and outlining the shape of the form I am about to color. I do this again to help with bleed of the marker. it isn’t necessary, but I find that it helps me out when I am shading something in. As always, DRAW WITH YOUR SHOULDER. You’ll find that if you do this, your lines will br crisper and more decisive. It’s especially important here as the marker application will be done all by hand with the exception of a few ruled in pencil lines.
After applying the marker to the edges of the box, take a moment to evaluate… the shadow is on the right side of the box which means my lightsource is on the top left side of the drawing. What does this mean? Well it means that the surfaces facing away from the light source will be the darkest. I take my darkest marker, in this case a prismacolor periwinkle blue marker and proceed to shade in the side of the cube.
Notice that the edge of the chisel tip of the marker is in line with that front edge of the cube. Doing so helps be minimize overrunning as I apply my strokes. Finding the correct angle when applying your strokes is key to having a cleaner drawing.
I’ve now aplied marker to the two faces that face away from the main light source. Notice that not everything is shaded in. Light never hits or covers the face of an object evenly and there perhaps is some reflected or ambient light in the scene as well.
Next, apply marker to the sides that are still in shadow, but less so than the ones directly away from my light source (the side on the left).
It’s important to understand one principle as you do this. The only way you’ll be able to achieve some good depth and contrast in your sketch is by putting your lightest lights against your darkest darks… what this means is that already you can see some good contrast from top of the box to the site. This contrast tells our brains that there’s something different here, and that coupled with the correct perspective is enough for the viewer to read this drawing as a box.
Once I’ve applied the marker to the sides of the box, I can begin pumping my contrast a bit more and filling in some shadows. As you can see, based on the direction of the light and projection of the shadows, the inside of the box would also be in shadow. I’ve indicated where this shadow would be in the side by drawing in a line on the inner right face of the cube and then shading that area. As for how yo calculate this, look at the direction of the light or shadow that is cast and extrapolate from that where the inner shadow would be.
Once I’m satisfied with the contrast on the side of the cube, I begin outlining the shadow with a super dark marker (like an 80% grey). The shadow that is cast on the ground will be the darkest value in the marker sketch.
Notice again that the tip of the marker is parallel to the edge or line that I am coloring against. This helps with bleed. This particular marker brand, Chartpak or AD, tends to bleed alot and you’ll have to be even quicker with your stroke than you would with a prismacolor marker.
Once the shadow is shaded in, I tighten up the outside edges of the cube with a ruler. No, this is not cheating. Adding sharper crisper lines to your sketch render will help feel it less sloppy. Be careful however as adding too many defined lines can suck the life out of the sketch render.
Al always, be sure to have a sharpener at hand and some pencils that you keep sharp and crisp. if you find they keep breaking too, just nuke em 😉
Right edge is crisp. Movin on to other edges. . .
Okay, once we’re to this point, you can squint your eyes and look at the drawing to double check. I’m satisfied with the contrast on from top to bottom and side to side, so I can now focus on the background of the sketch render. I’ve chosen a Copic sketch marker in crimson red. The Red will help the cube pop even more off the page.
As always, I’m outlining the shape of the background first, then using the broadest part of the marker to then fill in the background. I am making an exception to the role here about filling in. Why? By filling in the background with a solid color, it not only contrasts with the cube in color but contrasts in style as well giving the sketch even more contrast.
Remember to keep the tp of your marker parallel against the edges you are coloring to and from. This will help minimize bleeding as you shade in and render.
And voila! Simple marker cube completed. That wasn’t so bad eh? I’ve included a final image of the step by step. Hopefully this answers alot of your questions about how to apply marker. These are just principles, but they can be applied to more complex and interesting forms. This is meant to be BASIC. Feel free to download and use any of the images here, just give us a shout out and props if you do.