Markers vs Colored Pencils: Which One Should I Use?

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

markers vs colored pencils

Being an artist is knowing your strong and weak points, which means you must figure out the tools and mediums that best bring out your artistic skills! Many people use combinations of multiple materials to execute their talents better and uniquely.

Maybe you are one of them! So, knowing the distinction between markers vs colored pencils may be the answer to your secret recipe for cooking up your masterpiece.

Although markers may differ from colored pencils, they may complement each other. Find out how to bring your imagination to reality by reading ahead!

What Are Markers and Colored Pencils?

About markers


The four types of marker ink determine the medium that should be used and the purpose of usage. In fact, markers can be water-, alcohol-, oil-, or pigment-based, working well on different surfaces.

We use water-based and pigmented-based markers for paper. They are great for adding consistently vibrant patches of colors to your artwork.

Meanwhile, you can use oil-based and alcohol-based markers for coloring surfaces like paper, plastic, wood, metal, and more.

Indeed, highlighter markers help emphasize essential words in your notebook, while dry-erase markers are for writing messages on a whiteboard.

These pens have many nib sizes and shapes, such as fine, broad, or bullet tips. Markers also come in permanent and erasable ink compositions, which will be discussed later!

About Colored pencils


Colored pencils are also known as pencil crayons, especially in Canada. These are art tools that are usually made of wooden shafts. These contain a narrow colored core that allows the user to shade a drawing with different colors.

The color dries entirely on the surface. The types of colored pencils differ in their core– some are made of wax, oil, or water-soluble material.

Colored pencils suit surfaces like watercolor paper, wood, printmaking paper, and others!

How to Use Markers and Colored Pencils?


Many artists have learned that some art tools complement each other in one medium. You can attain excellent realistic artwork when color pencil and marker techniques are done right.

Here’s a short tutorial on using them in a single artwork! Firstly, prepare these things:

  • Marker pad or paper
  • Graphite pencil
  • Alcohol markers
  • Wax-based colored pencils
  • Colorless blender

Step 1: Create an outline


Draw or sketch an illustration on your marker paper using a graphite pencil. Ensure that the sketch is lightly drawn so you won’t make a dent in the paper, and putting a layer of colors on it would be easier.

Step 2: Shade the big spaces


Choose a marker with a light color for this step to allow for layering and blending later.

Start shading the bigger spaces on your drawing with the selected color.

Step 3: Add layers and silhouettes


With a marker, create a silhouette and follow the previously drawn outline to emphasize it better. Use a dark-colored marker if you are making a silhouette on the colored parts of the drawing– like dark brown.

Add a layer and color with marker of another shade on some parts to add depth to the illustration.

Step 4: Use the wax-based colored pencils


Colored pencils of similar shades with your marker help emphasize the depth of your artwork. They create more defined outlines and brighten up the colors of your markers.

Step 5: Use a colorless blender


You may need to use a colorless blender to smoothen the blending of colors. This is especially critical of the colors that were added by colored pencils.

What Are the Different Types of Markers?

1. Permanent marker



Permanent markers do not easily smudge on the surface if you give ample time for the ink to cure. They are waterproof markers, great for outdoor signage, as they stick to the surface for a long time.

These markers are also appropriate for many porous and non-porous surfaces. They are not easily erased since permanent markers are alcohol-based.

2. Non-permanent marker


In contradiction, non-permanent markers are erasable when used on a suitable surface. The best choice will be non-porous surfaces if you plan on removing the ink after a while.

The water-based ink composition is what makes non-permanent markers erasable. When given enough time to cure on the surface, non-permanent markers do not easily smudge.

What Are the Different Types of Colored Pencils?

1. Oil-based colored pencil


Oil-based colored pencils are typically costly, and less than five brands offer this kind of colored pencil, including the Faber-Castell Polychromos.

This type of colored pencil has a firmer oil core, so it retains its sharp tip for longer. But oil-based colored pencils are still great for layering and blending with the help of solvents, like colorless blenders!

2. Wax-based colored pencil


Wax-based colored pencils have a smooth finish, best for layering and blending multiple colors to create gradients and depth.

These pencils have the softest core among the three types of colored pencils. Unlike oil-based colored pencils, they rub up quite effortlessly.

This prevents colorless spots in the paper. However, it would be best to sharpen the tips frequently since the cores break down quickly.

3. Watercolor pencil


Watercolor pencils are not extremely great at layering and blending. But when mixed with water, watercolor pencils can achieve translucent layers of color. Kind of like a watercolor painting!

They are excellent for serving as a color guide for drawing. People apply watercolor pencils to create a light layer of color and visualize the final look of the art better.

Pros and cons of markers and colored pencils!

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using markers or colored pencils!

1. Markers

  • You can make colorful drawings with markers, as they give vibrant colors.
  • Shades faster than colored pencils, as they can cover big areas with bigger nibs.
  • Some have detachable nibs to change and replace them once they have worn down.
  • Have multiple choices of marker nibs.
  • When blending, you can use the layering technique, adding layers of colors from lightest to darkest.
  • Some are refillable, making markers last long.
  • Do not require sharpening.
  • Controlling them can be difficult due to the ink spreading through the paper.
  • Require cure time for the ink to prevent making the paper too wet and easily torn.
  • Contains chemicals that emit certain smells.

2. Colored pencils

  • Do not require cure time.
  • Do not bleed through papers.
  • Controlling colored pencils is easier than markers, allowing for more precise and intended outcomes.
  • Generally less costly than markers.
  • When you need lighter shades, colored pencils are best since you can control the pressure you put on the drawing.
  • Require sharpening when the tips are worn down.
  • They are non-refillable.
  • The result can fade after a long time.

How Much Do They Cost?

Colored pencils are typically priced at $3 per set, while markers cost up to $10. So, generally, most markers cost higher than colored pencils.

However, prices may vary depending on the brand and number of markers or pencils in a set.

Tips for Coloring With Colored Pencils or Markers!


  • You can use different brands when combining colored pencils and markers! Say you want to use Copic alcohol markers. You may use Faber-Castell colored pencils with them since there are no Copic colored pencils available in the market.
  • Use a colorless binder when using colored pencils to achieve a smoother texture!
  • Place an absorbent surface under your medium when using markers to avoid ink seeping through the paper!

Which One is Better?


Maybe the real question you should ask is, which one will you need?

Sometimes, you can’t switch markers for colored pencils because they produce different results!

Suppose you believe that your drawing for adult coloring books calls for the colored pencils’ ability to emphasize outlines and the blending ability of markers. In that case, you’re going to need both of them!

Based on the pros and cons of colored pencils vs markers, there is a distinct variation between the two. That’s why it depends on your preference in weighing which of the two is the best for your project!

Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right One for You!

1. Quality


Colored pencils have artist-grade and student-grade qualities that differ in vibrancy. The former produces more pigments, while the latter fewer pigments.

Artist-grade brands are Prismacolor Premier, Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Derwent Coloursoft. Student-grade brands are Crayola, Sargent, and Prang!

For markers, some of the best in the market are Copic markers for alcohol-based markers, Uni-Posca for water-based markers, and Artistro for oil-based markers!

2. Safety


Colored pencils have sharp tips and can be dangerous for kids, while alcohol markers contain chemicals that may be harmful when kids decide to taste or smell them.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can I use markers and colored pencils together in a single artwork?

Of course! Colored pencils and coloring pens complement each other and can create realistic illustrations. However, they can also work independently.

How can I make my markers and colored pencils last longer?

You can store markers vertically and secure the marker cap when not in use. You may also refill the ink once it has dried out. For colored pencils, keep them away from direct sunlight.


Who would have thought that colored pencils and markers work hand in hand? Maybe because the two art tools have the same goal of putting magnificent colors on your art project!

Although they complement each other, it is still up to you to choose which one suits your project and strong points in coloring!

This article on markers vs colored pencils lets you understand that there is a significant distinction on how it works and the technique to follow. Until then!

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