Marker Shading 101: How to Shade Drawings with Markers

As an artist, one of the most satisfying things is to see your drawings come to life with shading.

While pencils are often the go-to tool for shading, markers can be a great alternative. Not only can they provide vibrant colors, but they can also create unique textures and effects.

In this article, I will share my tips and techniques on how to shade drawings with markers.

Key Takeaways

  • Markers can be a great alternative to pencils for shading drawings.
  • Understanding the different types of markers and paper is important for achieving the desired effect.
  • Layering and blending colors is key to creating depth and dimension in marker shading.

My Drawing With Shade: Smiling Rose

I recently decided to draw the Smiling Rose from my Cute Rose Drawing Easy Ideas post using water-based markers that my sister-in-law lent me. Her favorite brand is Clean Color because their markers have vibrant colors and good blending capabilities.

In my drawing, I used grey and red markers on top of pink to create depth and dimension.

First, for the petals and leaves, I used the flat shading technique. This technique involves using the side of the marker to create a smooth, even layer of color.

To add depth and dimension to my drawing, I also used the blending technique. This involved using a lighter color marker to blend the darker shades together. By layering the colors and blending them together, I was able to create a shading effect that brought my rose to life.

Overall, I am very happy with how my smiling rose turned out. The shading adds a beautiful touch to the drawing and makes it look more interesting.

I would recommend using water-based markers and the flat shading and blending techniques to anyone looking to add shading to their drawings.

Next time, I’ll bring a brush and some water to give my rose a spa treatment for those color touch-ups. These water-based markers work similar to watercolor, so I can totally use them to do their magic to make the colors look uniform on my artwork.

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Understanding Markers and Paper Types

When it comes to shading with markers, understanding the types of markers and paper can help you achieve the desired results.

In this section, I will discuss the different types of markers and paper and how to choose the right ones for your project.

Types of Markers

There are three main types of markers:

  • alcohol-based marker,
  • water-based markers,
  • solvent-based markers.

Alcohol-based markers are the most popular among artists because they blend well and produce vibrant colors. They are also permanent and dry quickly but they easily bleed through paper. Examples of alcohol-based markers include Copic markers and Prismacolor markers.

Water-based markers, on the other hand, are non-toxic and produce a watercolor-like effect. They are great for blending and layering colors, but they can bleed through paper easily. Though they are not as bad as alcohol-based markers. Examples of water-based markers include Tombow Dual Brush pens and Crayola markers.

Solvent-based markers are less common and are not recommended for beginners. They contain harsh chemicals and require proper ventilation when in use. Examples of solvent-based markers include Chartpak AD markers and Winsor & Newton ProMarkers.

Choosing the Right Paper

Choosing the right paper is just as important as choosing the right markers. The type of paper you use can affect the way the markers blend and the overall quality of your artwork.

Here are some common types of paper used for marker shading:

  • Bristol paper: This type of paper is smooth and durable, making it ideal for detailed drawings and illustrations.
  • Cardstock: Cardstock is thicker than regular paper and can handle heavy ink saturation. It is great for creating cards and other paper crafts. It is also perfect for alcohol-based markers.
  • Watercolor paper: Watercolor paper is thick and textured, which allows for a watercolor-like effect when used with water-based markers. It is also good for alcohol-based markers.
  • Vellum: Vellum is translucent and produces a unique effect when used with markers. It is great for layering and adding depth to your artwork.
  • Construction paper: Construction paper is affordable and comes in a variety of colors, making it great for kids’ projects. However, it is not recommended for professional artwork.

When choosing paper, consider the weight, texture, and absorbency of the paper. Heavier paper is better for blending and layering, while smoother paper is better for fine details. Absorbent paper allows for better blending and prevents bleeding through the paper.

Basic Marker Shading Techniques

In this section, I will cover some basic marker shading techniques that you can use to improve your drawings.

Flat Shading

Flat shading is a technique where you fill in an area with a solid color. This technique is great for creating a clean, graphic look in your artwork.

To achieve flat shading with markers, simply color in the area with your marker using a consistent pressure and stroke. You can use different colors to create contrast and depth in your drawing.

Gradients and Blending

Gradients and blending are techniques that allow you to create smooth transitions between colors.

To create a gradient, start with a light color and gradually darken the color as you move across the area you are shading. To blend colors, overlap two or more colors and use a colorless blender marker to blend the colors together.

This technique is great for creating realistic skin tones and other complex textures.

Creating Texture with Strokes

Creating texture with strokes is a technique where you use different marks to create the illusion of texture in your artwork.

Hatching and stippling are two common stroke techniques that artists use to create texture:

  • Hatching involves making parallel lines to create the illusion of shade and texture.
  • Stippling involves making small dots to create a textured effect.

You can also experiment with different stroke lengths and angles to create a variety of textures in your artwork.

Advanced Shading Methods

When it comes to shading with markers, there are several advanced techniques that can help you achieve a more professional and polished look in your drawings.

Here are some of my favorite methods:

Layering Colors

Start by selecting two or more markers that are similar in hue but differ in saturation or brightness.

Apply the lighter color first, using a light touch and overlapping strokes to create a smooth transition.

Then, add the darker color on top, focusing on the areas that need the most shadow. Use a slightly heavier hand and shorter strokes to build up the intensity gradually.

Using a Colorless Blender

Another useful tool for shading with markers is a colorless blender. This is a special marker that contains no pigment but can be used to blend and soften the colors already on the paper.

Simply apply the blender over the areas you want to smooth out, using a circular or back-and-forth motion. This will help to eliminate any harsh lines or streaks and create a more natural-looking gradient.

Combining Markers with Other Mediums

For even more versatility and creativity in your shading, try combining markers with other mediums like colored pencils, chalk markers, acrylic markers, or even watercolors.

Each medium has its own unique properties and can be used to achieve different effects.

For example, colored pencils can add fine details and texture, while chalk markers can create a soft, matte finish.

Tips for Precision and Detail

When it comes to shading with markers, precision and detail are key to creating a realistic and visually appealing artwork.

Here are some tips to help you achieve precision and detail in your marker shading:

Working with Fine Nibs

Fine nibs allow you to create fine lines and details, making it easier to add texture and depth to your artwork.

When working with fine nibs, make sure to hold the marker at a consistent angle and apply even pressure to achieve a consistent line width.

Using a Blending Stump

To use a blending stump, simply apply the marker ink to the paper and then use the blending stump to blend the ink together.

This will create a smooth transition from one shade to the next, allowing you to achieve a more realistic and natural-looking shading effect.

Control and Pressure Techniques

Controlling the pressure of your marker is key to achieving precision and detail in your artwork.

When shading with markers, start with a light touch and gradually increase the pressure as needed to achieve the desired shade. This will allow you to achieve a smooth and consistent shading effect without over-saturating the paper.

Creating New Tones By Mixing

When it comes to shading with markers, choosing the right colors and creating a color palette is crucial. In this section, I will cover how to mix and create new tones.

Markers often come in a set of colors, but you can create new tones by mixing colors together. Most markers have mixing chambers, which allow you to blend colors together.

Start by adding a small amount of one color to the mixing chamber and then add another color. Experiment with different combinations until you find the right tone.

Another way to create new tones is to use grayscale markers.

Grayscale markers come in different shades of gray, from light to dark. By layering different shades of gray over your colored artwork, you can create new tones and add depth and dimension to your artwork.

When mixing colors, consider the intensity and volume of each color.

Intensity refers to the brightness or dullness of a color, while volume refers to the amount of color used. By adjusting the intensity and volume of each color, you can create a wide range of tones and shades.


Through my artistic journey, I have found that experimenting with different techniques and styles has helped me to develop my own unique approach to shading.

One helpful tip is to use a photo reference as a guide when shading with markers. This can help you to better understand the effects of light and shadow on your subject and create a more realistic and dynamic drawing.

When working with markers, it’s important to choose the right tools for the job. Some markers are better suited for blending and shading, while others are better for creating bold lines and textures. Be sure to experiment with different types of markers to find the ones that work best for your style.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative with your marker drawings. With practice and experimentation, you can develop your own unique style and create stunning works of art.


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