Painting with Paint Markers on Canvas

The most traditional way of painting is with the stroke of a brush. However, innovation in the last few decades has provided us with modern ways of painting. From sponges to spray paint cans, modern art forms allow people to get creative on how to put their art on canvas.

One of the latest types of paint types are paint markers, and they’re exactly what you think. Instead of the ink in everyday permanent markers, paint markers contain liquid paint dispensed through a regular marker tip. The result is painting strokes more similar to marker strokes that you can’t easily achieve through the traditional brush.

So, if you’re planning on drawing an artwork exclusively with paint markers, here’s how to do it.

What Are Paint Markers?

Paint markers work well on canvas, but it can also be used on other surfaces like paper, metal, stone, rubber, glass, and more. You’ve probably seen paint marker art on shop windows or signboards where someone good with lettering uses them to write announcements, sales, or welcome signs.

These markers leave a permanent mark on the surface, though, so be careful where you use it. Like permanent markers, they come in different finishes, including metallic, glittery, glossy, matte, and more. However, it can still be removed through solvents like acetone and high-pressured cleaning.

Unlike spray paint art where it uses the chemistry of air pressure and propellants, paint markers simply have tubes filled with paint that keep the tips wet and ready to draw on any surface. However, because paint markers use oil-based paint, you’ll need to shake it a few times for it to work.

The unique effect of paint markers is its ability to produce lines similar to permanent markers that regular brushes or other methods of painting cannot replicate. Paint marker ink is opaque and does not fade when exposed to light.

Are Paint Markers Safe?

Like spray paint, paint markers contain compounds that are dangerous when inhaled for a long time. If you’ve ever tried smelling regular permanent markers, that scent you can smell may contain toxic compounds like xylene. So, it’s not advised that you should inhale the tips of paint markers as they have similar substances.

While paint markers don’t spray flammable propellants in the air, using paint markers in an enclosed space will lead to prolonged exposure to the scent. So, as much as possible, use it in a well-ventilated room or a room with many windows. If you’re working on a large piece of art, use a face mask and goggles to avoid eye, nose, and mouth irritation.

Types of Paint Markers

Earlier, I said that paint markers provide various finishes similar to the way permanent markers do. However, there are also different types of paint pens depending on the artist’s preference and the manufacturer’s product.

Solid Paint Pen

A paint pen is a type of paint marker that looks more like a twistable crayon than a permanent marker. The cylinder inside the pen contains soft, solid oil paint that doesn’t lead to an absorbent tip but leads the paint outside of the cylinder. As you use the pen, the point wears down and you have to twist the other end to get more of the paint out.

Instead of a marker-like finish, the paint resembles crayon or chalk. It’s rarely used as a layer of its own and is used over wet or oily media like other paints.

Alcohol-Based Markers on Canvas

Some manufacturers produce alcohol-based paint markers sold in arts and crafts stores. However, unless you’re using it as a layer to enhance colors already on your canvas, but not as a layer on its own unless you’re looking for a translucent layer that leaves a little bit of streaking and beads of ink that cannot be absorbed.

Because alcohol-based markers use dyes for colorants, the color isn’t as durable as oil-based markers that are highly pigmented and have longer longevity than average dyes. While some pens have better-staying power than others, exposing it to direct sunlight can decrease its longevity. It may be protected under a layer of glass when framed properly, but not by a lot.

When used on primed canvas with a layer of gesso, it cannot be totally absorbed by the canvas and will produce a streaky and faint layer. When used in a raw canvas, it won’t be totally absorbed by the canvas (it’s only on a superficial level).

How to Draw on Canvas

To draw with paint markers on canvas, I recommend using stretch canvasses as I find it much easier to draw on these taut surfaces rather than on unstretched canvas. You’ll also need to find paint markers of your choice. Unless you’re going for multiple colors, textures, and finishes, I recommend using one brand of paint markers for a uniform look.

Start by priming your canvas with a layer or two of gesso. You can do this a day before painting with your markers so that you get enough time to dry out your gesso layer. Once it’s fully dried out, lightly sketch your design onto your canvas with a pencil. Do it lightly because you’ll want to erase all the excess lines that might still appear after applying paint markers on it.

Activate your paint markers. This may involve shaking your pens a few times before use and running the tips through paper or any surface you don’t mind getting paint on to get the paint onto the tips. To start painting, I recommend starting with the lightest color and then making your way down to the darker colors. However, if this is impossible or impractical to do because of the design, you can use your markers however you see fit.

Just make sure that if you’re using two colors adjacent to each other, allow the first color to dry completely on the canvas before applying the next color. This prevents the edge where the two colors meet to blend colors.

Do not press the tips down too hard or else they’ll leak even more paint than necessary and either drip or leak down the canvas. In case the paint stains the canvas in a place meant for a different color, dab a cotton ball or cotton bud on the mistake while it’s still wet. Let it dry before adding the color you want over it.

When you’re through painting, allow your work to dry completely. The color tones of your paint may look different once it dries, so make adjustments before having it framed or displayed. If done correctly, the result will look more vibrant than average paint but still allowing full control over every stroke.

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