Markers as a base for colored pencils

I am torn between using markers or pencils for coloring. Markers covers an area faster and the colors are vibrant but they are streaky. It is pretty hard to get a nice even color, blending is possible but is more tedious and does not give us as much control as colored pencils.  Pencils can achieve almost all the desired special coloring effects but might need many many layers to achieve that rich tone, hence takes a lot more time. I am thinking coloring with colored pencils alone might someday give me my wrist carpo-tunnel. I read that some artists blend colored pencils on top of markers. What a great idea! This way you take advantage of the strengths of each. A match made in heaven! The idea is that the marker color establishes a base color for your color pencils e.g. when your marker color is yellow,  and you highlight with orange colored pencils, any area your pencils did not cover will be yellow rather than white. This reduces the number of layers of pencils you have to use to entirely cover the white underneath. Gives your pencils a longer life span too.

For this project, I used Tombow dual brush pens and Prisma Premier colored pencils, I would think any brand works as long as you make sure the markers are bleed-proof if you care about the back of the coloring page. A few tips:

  • Keep in mind that even if a marker is water-based like Tombow brush pens, if you over-saturate an area, it will bleed through.
  • Try to do a single layer and not overlap the strokes. Overlapping will result in darker colors where the overlap occurs, hence more streaks.
  • If you need to add more color e.g. you want it to be darker, wait till the first layer is dry.
  • You should also wait till the marker layer is dry before adding colored pencils.

Techniques of laying down the Tombow dual brush pens as a base

I used one of the three techniques described below to lay down my base with the Tombow dual bursh pens.  Other types of marker pens might have different characteristics. Experiment to get to know your markers.

  1. Flat – This is simply one solid color. Try to color is a light layer, do not rub the pens repeatedly over one area as this might thin your paper and caused bleeding. Just lightly apply the color and a back and forth motion and try not to overlap to avoid uneven color.An example of single flat color technique using Tombow dual brush pens
  2. Blending – a more interesting color effects if you blend two colors and create a gradation effect. If you need a more detailed description of how to do this. Visit my previous blog on this topic here. In this example, I blend light blue and green in the leaves and highlight with purple colored pencil. The pink leaves are a blend of pink and blue.Example of blending using Towbow dual brush pens
  3. Flicking – this is what I called the technique of pressing down your pen and quickly brush and lift sharply off the paper in either up or down stroke depending on the direction you are going. The key here is quick and decisive action. The result is a more loose, free feel. If you look closely at the big yellow leaf in the example below, there are some green flicks over the yellow base. The “fan” shape leaves also have flicking applied to them. You can flick as many different colors are you like but until you get the hang of it, try to stay with colors that are not too strong of a contrast. The stroke should look like it trails off rather than a solid hard line.An example of flicking technique using Tombow dual brush pens


Black is your friend

One of my favorite colored pencil tips is that “black is your friend”! You might notice in my video that no matter what colored pencils I used for the subject, I always finish with black as the ultimate highlight. Nothing portrays depth and shadow better than black. You might noticed that I pressed quite hard with the black wherever I want to emphasize a dark corner or shadow and gradually fade out.

White background is Cool!

I observed recently that the bar is raised very high these days in adult coloring. Social media is a wonderful thing and allows artists everywhere to share their work. There are a lot of talented colorists who share their work. We learn from each other and it’s all very fun. However, somewhere along the line, colorist of all levels are increasingly stressed to come up with the most magical background or embellishments to the original drawing. I have my ooo’s and ahhh’s from some of these very talented work. I confessed that I have spent my share of time contemplating about what to do with my backgrounds. It’s almost to the point that the background is more important than the foreground. If you enjoy that process, it’s a nice challenge but I also want to tell those who think their work is not good because they don’t know how to draw or they can’t do a bokeh effect or a fluffy cloud to stop fretting about backgrounds. It is perfectly fine to leave your background white. After all one of the reasons for coloring is for stress relief. Sometimes less is more. In ancient Chinese ink drawings, you probably never see a sky or background drawn explicitly. Something is implied and leave for the audiences’ imagination. There are times when drawing / coloring a background truly enhances the piece, I believe that there should be a balance. For this piece that I am showing here from the book Tropical World, Millie Marotta has done an excellent job of creating an interesting page. I honestly cannot think of any background color that won’t take away the striking colors of the main drawing. So I am leaving it white.

Video Demonstration

I have recorded a video below to demonstrate the three techniques I used with the Tombow dual brush pens. A reminder that other types of marker pens might have different characteristics so you need to experiment. In this video, I first did a quick demo of the three techniques and then showed in details how I used colored pencils to highlight the butterfly. Enjoy!

Happy coloring

If you have read every word up to here, I truly appreciate it. I apologize for being so long-winded but I want to make up for not having written as often as I would have liked. I hope you find this useful and give markers and colored pencils combination a try in your next project.

Visit to learn how to use Tombow dual brush pens as a base layer for colored pencils

8 comments on “Markers as a base for colored pencils

  1. This was sooo helpful! I really enjoyed the techniques in your video. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing the techniques! So helpful!! 🙂

  3. I wish I could find where to get the image you used. Is it from a coloring book

    • Hi Linda, the coloring page is from Tropical World by Millie Marotta. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. This is fantastic! I’m not quite sure how I got directed here but I am now a subscriber. Thank you!

  5. Faridah McAtamney

    July 7, 2018 at 7:42 am Reply

    What a clever idea. Simply gorgeous!. I always wonder how to make my coloring pops up and now I know. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *