Arts and Crafts Paint Marker Techniques: A Beginner’s Guide

There are tons of creative ideas for using paint markers or paint pens in your arts and crafts – but before you dive in, it’s good to be prepared with the basics. Knowing some key paint marker art techniques will help you avoid some common mistakes and take your projects to the next level.

We’ve put together a quick guide filled with everything you need to know before you start crafting your first piece. If you’ve already attempted some arts and crafts projects, you might still find these tips helpful!

General Paint Marker Art Tips

Let’s start by going over some basic ideas that are common to all arts or crafts pieces involving paint markers. Keep in mind that paint markers are also referred to by many other names, including paint pens, permanent paint markers, acrylic markers, and industrial paint pens. All these names describe essentially the same product: a pen or marker that delivers acrylic paint to a variety of surfaces.

Knowing Your Canvas

Before you even break out the paint markers (or paint pens, etc.), you’re going to need to choose a canvas. This could be a standard art canvas or even a sheet of paper. If you’re doing more of a craft-type project, you could be painting anything from wine glasses to skateboards to running shoes.

There are two main things you need to consider when it comes to applying paint to your canvas.

  • Colour of the surface
  • Surface material

If your canvas is light colored, like a typical piece of paper, it won’t show as much through your paint. If it’s dark however, you might need to apply a few layers to ensure that the surface doesn’t show through. This is where a paint marker with good opacity will really shine.

If your surface material is a bit porous, like a standard painting canvas, you’re going to need to take that into account when you start your piece. In this case, the canvas will absorb a bit of the paint you apply, which might not be what you’re after.

To deal with porous surfaces like paper, you can treat them with a primer, which will essentially create a layer of dry paint for you to apply your design to. Hard, non-porous surfaces like plastic, glass or varnished wood won’t generally need any primer – your paint won’t be absorbed as much on those materials.

Controlling the Amount of Paint

One of the most important – and difficult to master – techniques when you’re using paint markers is applying just the right amount of paint to your surface. Valve-activated paint markers (also called pump action paint markers or pens) allow you to control the amount of paint applied to the nib by pushing down on it. The longer you push it down for, the more paint will flow onto the nib.

Too much paint on your nib isn’t a good thing if you’re trying to be precise. However, not having enough paint applied during your stroke might result in streaking, or a transparent line. In this case, you’d have to apply another layer of paint to increase the opacity of your line.

It’s always easier to apply more paint than to take it off, so err on the side of caution!

Paint Marker Nib Sizes

In case you were wondering, the nib is the tip of the paint marker or pen. They come in different sizes, so you can draw lines of various thicknesses on your surface.

Carmel multi surface valve-activated paint markers come in three sizes:

Fine line paint markers. These have a 3/32” (2.38 mm) nib and are used for thin lines and precise detailing. Also called fine line paint pens.

Standard paint markers. These have a 3/16” (5 mm) nib and are used for fine or bold line marking. These are the most common type and are also referred to by a variety of names, such as valve-activated paint markers, industrial paint markers, acrylic paint markers, and so on.

Jumbo paint markers. These large markers have a 1/8” x 1/4" (3 x 6 mm) nob and are used for bold line marking.

Dealing with Paint Marker Strokes

Whether you’re working with paint brushes or paint markers, you’re going to be dealing with the appearance of marker strokes, or tiny lines that will criss-cross your canvas as you apply the paint. In some cases, you might want to work with those effects, in others, you might want to eliminate them.

Here are some quick tips on controlling your paint marker strokes.

  • Don’t press too hard on the marker
  • You want to apply a thin coat, but don’t stretch the paint on the marker. Reload often.
  • Paint in one direction for a given line – don’t go back and mix directions on your strokes
  • If you can work a bit faster, paint in shorter strokes for best coverage
  • Lock your wrist and pull the stroke with your arm to apply an even line

 

Finding a Good Work Speed

To get the best result, especially if you’re dealing with multiple layers and colours of paint, you’re going to need to find a good speed to work at. Depending on the effect you’re looking for, you need to figure out how and when to apply paint layers to your canvas.

Acrylic paint will dry relatively quickly. That can be a good thing. Painting over dry paint will result in maximum opacity, and a minimum of colour mixing. However, if you want to achieve an even coat of a solid colour or mix colours, it’s best to paint quickly before it gets a chance to dry.

In general, you should work faster to complete each individual element or step of your design. You can take a break in between each step to let the paint dry. This will minimize paint mixing and create a sharper design.

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Painting with Paint Markers

Here’s a quick and easy way to lay out the steps involved in creating a multi-coloured art piece using paint markers or paint pens.

Initial Sketch and Outlines

Once you’ve prepped your canvas, start by sketching your design with a pencil. Then, trace over your sketch with a white marker. This will create the basic outline of your design. Remember, painting darker colours over (dried) lighter ones will hide the lighter ones. That’s why we want to use white for our first outline.

Filling in Your Image

Once you’ve created your basic outline, it’s time to fill in the space. Here you’ll have to make some decisions. If you want to create sharp and opaque designs, let your outline paint dry before filling in space or applying different colours.

Blending and Gradients

If you want to create a more gradual transition between your colours, you can create gradients by blending the different paints before they dry. You can also create lighter or darker shading if you’re mixing colours with white or black paint markers.

Black Outlines: Covering and Profile lines

Once you’ve got your basic image or design outlined and filled in, it’s time to start defining it and giving it some depth. That’s where black paint markers will come in handy. Use black paint to create negative space, covering lighter colours and shaping your design. Outlining your image with black lines or varying thickness, also called profile lines, will cause it to “pop” and create interesting perspective.

Highlights and Details

The final step of your painting should involve touching up your design with highlights and adding any small detailing you see fit. White paint markers are great for creating reflective light effects and contrast. Use fine-tipped paint markers for maximum control when you’re adding detail to your piece.

Special Effects

Remember, your work doesn’t necessarily have to be sharp and well-defined. You can create interesting effects with paint markers that go beyond simply drawing on your canvas.

For example, you could create a spatter effect by applying some paint to your marker nib and sharply blowing on it. Or, you could add water to your canvas after applying a bit of paint and create a watercolour effect with a paintbrush or even your finger. Your imagination is the limit!

Finishing Touches

Depending on your canvas surface and the intended use of your creation, you might need another step to finalize your piece.

For example, if you painted something on wood that will experience wear and tear like a skateboard or guitar, you would want to apply an acrylic aerosol spray after your design is complete and dry. Don’t apply anything heavy like varnish, and don’t use a brush! This can ruin your paint.

If you’re dealing with ceramics, you will need to finish off your piece in an oven.

Generally speaking, things like glasses, household items or apparel won’t need any kind of final sealant coating. The better-quality paint markers you use, the longer your design will last!