Marking With Markers

Here is my second YouTube video, in which I sketch with Copic Sketch Markers. I’ve been dabbling with markers for architectural presentations for years now, but for the last few years I’ve been using them more often, especially on location. I know how intimidating these are, so I want to share some of the things I’ve learned. 

1. Never use the fine tip. Some markers come with two tips, usually a chisel tip and a fine tip. You can achieve many strokes with the chisel tip, so the fine tip is unnecessary. Trying to fill in a color block with the fine tip yields terrible results. 

2. Do not buy a basic set. Basic sets come with only six to twelve colors, so it is very difficult to achieve something that looks good with such palettes. Unless you are a product designer who uses color simply as a highlight, a basic set is not worth it. A few values of greys provide more versatility and are way less expensive. If you fall in love with markers after using grayscales for a while, then go ahead and get a color set. 

3. Copic is king. I’ve used a lot of marker brands, but my favorite is Copic. These markers cost about twice as other markers (such as Prismacolor) but they are refillable and have replaceable nibs. A bottle of ink will cost about the same amount of a new marker, but will refill them about 13 times. No-brainer. 

4. Jump one or two. You don’t need all the greyscale values. You can jump either one or two values within the same family. For example, I use Neutral Grays, N0, N2, N,4, N6, N8. You could also use N0, N3 and N6 but gradations are not as smooth. To achieve the missing values you do a second layer after they dry. I also sometimes just use a black marker, pulling or pushing values to create a high contrast image rather than a line drawing. 

5. Streaks or not. I like juicy markers, but I prefer to see the strokes rather than an even color. Sketches get a wonderful character if your strokes are confident. On the contrary, if you prefer even blocks of color, you need to keep the area wet by continuously going over with the marker. It’s something similar to wet-and-wet watercolors, so edges will be a little blurred. It takes a lot of time and patience. 

Also here are some sketches I’ve done on location with markers: 

Changing Skyline

Quick sketch of the new Comcast building in Philadelphia, currently under construction. This is the view from our conference room across the street. 


Lately I haven’t sketched outside much and I had been feeling getting tighter; I can’t afford to lose the spontaneity in my sketches. A few days ago I decided to do a quick Virtual Paintout, as they were during the month of November in Iceland. I grabbed a few random markers from my box and loosely did this, always with the broad tip. I need to get back on markers more often, as I enjoy them too much.

Sketching at Abracadabra

I have sketched a few times while having a beer at one of my favorite spots in San Juan, “Abracadabra”. This time I was in a bit of a rush, but liked the looseness and sense of informality of the sketch. I did it with felt tip pen, markers and watercolors, 8.5″x5.5″.


Sketching on both sides

Today one student told me another professor had taught him that he should never use the left side of his sketchbook. It is the second time, in two different universities that a student tells me the same thing. I would’ve thought this would be true with markers or Sharpies, because of the bleed-through, but actually both students were using pencil..

I am really enjoying finally being able to use both sides of the sketchbook, even with a heavy application of Copic markers. The Crescent RendR sketchbook is the best I’ve tried so far.

Here are some sketches I did this past weekend at an event called Pecharrette, held at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico.




Campechada 2012

This past weekend I went out sketching to La Campechada 2012, an artistic event in Old San Juan. It was an excellent atmosphere, with dozens of participants doing their art on the streets and hundreds of visitors stopping by.

I did some watercolor and coffee sketches, but I really enjoyed experimenting with markers, a Sharpie and a pen brush. I was fast and loose, even on the small format I was working in, 6″x 4″. I also did some in my letter sized sketchbook while having a beer at a local bar.






Pushing and pulling values

Value sketch with a Chartpak marker while waiting at Fine Arts Cinema. Practicing an exercise in which you take mid values and decide to either push it to black or pull it to white. I still have to work on my decisions, but it was interesting. 20121007-162558.jpg

Crescent RendR Sketchbook: Review

Today I received an 8.5″x11″ Crescent RendR sketchbook I had ordered, and took it for a quick test ride while having breakfast this morning. I had seen a couple videos and read a few reviews, but still had my doubts.

Until now, the best sketchbook I had tried was a custom made one with Arches 140lb hot pressed watercolor paper, although I wasn’t that much into markers by then. I hated having the markers and Sharpies bleed to the other side and sometimes the next couple of sheets. The last few weeks I’ve been sketching everyday with markers on regular bond or heavyweight bond paper sketchbooks, so I had to deal with a piece of scrap paper underneath the sheet I was sketching and struggle with the wind and even run behind a rogue scrap paper. I had to try if the Crescent RendR would deliver what they promised.

Well, this is the closest thing to the perfect sketchbook I’ve always been looking for. As you may now, I like to sketch on location with different media, markers (Copic, Prismacolor, Letraset, Chartpak), Sharpies, pencil, charcoal, watercolors, depending on whatever the subject calls for. I only have used the RendR with markers so far, but for now I think it is absolutely wonderful.

My first impression wasn’t that thrilling. On the outside, it looks and feels pretty good, well constructed with a nice matte, weighty hard-bound cover. But when you open it, the first thing you notice is that it has a funky, “un-natural” smell, similar to a pesticide. To the touch, the pages felt smoother than I’d expected. I thought for sure that I would promptly give away the sketchbook to my 9yo son. However, as soon as I put a marker to the page I fell in love.

The paper behaves like you would expect when using markers on regular bond paper rather than marker paper. It takes the marker very nicely, with a little tooth and a little blotting, just as I like paper.

Still had to see what about the other side of the page… Pristine. Unbelievable.

I’m not sure what will happen if I try watercolors on it, but I’m extremely happy I found this sketchbook, will use it almost exclusively from now on.

If you’re into sketching with Sharpies or art markers you’ll presumably fall in love with it as well. Please let me know what you think when you try one.