Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marker portrait tutorial

I don't think of myself as an expert on any particular medium, but I always get a lot of feedback and questions about my marker drawings. People often think they're watercolor paintings, and they ask how I get that effect. Honestly, I came upon my marker method by accident, just by experimenting. No one ever instructed me on how to use markers, so I just messed with them until I got results I liked. And now, after years of working with them in my own way, I have my marker method down to a science that I can share in tutorial form.


Markers-I've tried most of the different brands of professional grade markers out there, and I've found various pros and cons with each of them:
-Copic makes a wonderful range of different colors with different sized tips, but they're the most expensive brand I've found and they don't last long enough for the cost, in my opinion.
-Chartpak markers are affordable, last a really long time, and make some awesome effects, but they have xylene in them, which I'm pretty sure causes brain damage. I keep a few around still for when I want the particular bleedy effect they make, but if you value your health, I don't suggest using them for whole drawings.
-Letraset makes a line of very affordable double-tipped markers that will get you all the effects of the other markers on this list, but they dry out very quickly, and the color choices are limited.
-Prismacolor markers are my marker of choice. They're middle-of-the-line as far as price, their color selection is great, their tips are designed to provide 5 different widths by angling the marker various ways, and they last fairly long if treated well.

All of these brands can be used together, as well as with water and pigment-based markers, paint markers, or even colored pencils. For the purposes of this tutorial, I am using mostly prismacolor markers.

Paper- There are many kinds of paper designed specifically for markers, but you don't necessarily have to use marker paper. I like to use lighter weight paper that allows for a little bit of marker bleed, which helps the markers blend and often creates "happy accidents". The main rule of thumb is to look for paper that isn't overly fibrous or textured, because they often tear and will leave little fibers on your markers, causing them to dry out too quickly.

Remember, markers bleed through paper. Keep a couple of pages of scrap paper under your drawing while you're working on it.

OK, let's get drawing!

1. I do my sketch in a very faint marker. Do not use pencil. I know most of us were taught to pencil-sketch everything we do, but markers and pencils do not play well together. Don't be shy with the marker. Light colors will be layered over and the sketch can be adjusted with every layer.

Since this is a portrait of a Caucasian, I used pale peach. Cream or eggshell also work well, and any 10% gray is good for other subjects.

2. Next I refine the sketch with some other light, warm colors. Here I used deco pink, brick beige and eggshell.

3.Now I move on to more warm colors that are slightly darker than the previous colors. Here I added blush pink, driftwood and oatmeal. When blending larger areas, like the neck shown here, start by laying down the darker color and then overlap with the lighter color, working outward toward the lighter area. This works best when the ink is freshly applied, but I've found that with a heavy hand and an extra layer or two, even dry ink will blend.

4. Now I introduce some medium, cooler colors into the darker, shadowed areas. Here I used cloud blue and lilac.

5. Next I use all the previously used colors, layering over built-up areas to blend, working into the larger areas of the cheeks, chin, forehead and hair to flesh them out.

6. Now if introduce some bright colors. I used light peach, deco peach and ballet pink, and I blended them in with previously used colors.

7. Next I do another layer of brights and blend with some medium neutral colors; wheat and greyed lavender.

8.Revisit previous colors. Blend, blend, blend.

9.Now I bring in some more saturated colors into the eyes, mouth and hair (pink, true green and violet mist) and some dark colors into the darkest areas (cool grey 70% and sepia)

10. Now I finish up by doing one last layer of previously used colors to blend everything together, and adding cool grey 20% and light cerulean blue into the shadowed areas.

For portraits with a larger range of colors you can continue adding darker shades and blending with previously used colors, but I call this portrait DONE.

Enjoy your marker experiments! Here are some more marker drawings I've used this method for. Click for full view.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for coming by,when i usually press "next blog" its always someone typing about boats or something lol
    Love how you have shown the process of the painting,ive not painted or sketched in a very long time.
    I like the softness to your work, looks lovely.

    I was tested for a metal allergy as well but im ok there i know how annoying and time consuming allergies can be.Hope its all working out for you.


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