How to Shade With Markers in 5 Simple Steps

Written by Laura Walker / Fact checked by Leilani Carroll

how to shade with markers

Are you frustrated when you fail at shading as you are new to the technique? Or maybe, someone who has a strong desire to make art but doesn’t know where to start? This article will guide you no matter what stage you’re in!

We know what you’re thinking. Of course, you know how to shade with markers! But have you ever thought of exploring the possibilities and proper ways of shading with these fantastic pens?

Don’t worry too much, as you will be taught the fundamentals of shading. So, what are you waiting for? Crack your knuckles and follow closely!

Ways to Shade With Markers


Before anything else, prepare the following materials in advance:

  • Desk lamp
  • Rubik’s cube
  • Bristol boards
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • A set of markers (either Copic or Crayola markers)

Additional materials for Crayola markers:

  • Water
  • Small cup
  • Paintbrush
  • Tissue

Now, let’s get on to the steps!

Step #1: Set up the subject of your artwork.


You might have been confused about why you needed to prepare a Rubik’s cube. Here are three reasons why!

  • For the main subject of your artwork, a cubic object is best for starters, as it may be the easiest 3D shape to draw. Cubes are drawn with lines and do not have round corners that might frustrate you later.
  • Drawing or shading with three-dimensional or 3D references is easier for beginners as it gives the artist more control over the placement of the shadows.
  • It doesn’t require the artist to estimate the object’s size or shadow.

A Rubik’s cube may not be the only cubic object in your home, but it might be the most common cube that anyone is familiar with.

As a plus point, it has multiple colors, which allows the artist to use and explore the colors in the marker set. Also, it does not roll over while you’re working on it!

So, sit comfortably in an area where you can draw and set up your desired angle of the Rubik’s cube in front of you.

Step #2: Create an artificial shadow.


If you want to practice how to shade, you need shadows in your artwork. That’s why a desk lamp is required to create shadows that do not move.

Although sunlight works, it gives you limited time to work on the artwork for obvious reasons– the shadows move as the sun moves.

So, set your desk lamp in any area around your Rubik’s cube to create your preferred shadow.

Step #3: Choose your medium and create a color palette guide!


For your medium, it is essential to use Bristol boards with a smooth, semi-smooth, or vellum surface. This would prevent the markers from drying too fast and garner accuracy in rendering with markers and pencils.

Take a piece of scratch paper or a different Bristol board to create a color palette for your markers. Shade it with your markers and label their codes with a ballpen.

This is an essential tip before you shade with pen since it guides you on how the tones would look and prevents color mismatch in the outcome.

Step #4: Sketch the image with a pencil.

It can be said that it is easier to shade a drawing rather than shading with markers right away. So, observe the object in front of you and sketch it out on the board with a pencil.

Drawing with a pencil is better than if you sketch with markers since you can still erase your errors. Using a ruler will help you create straight lines to draw cubic shapes.

Apply enough pressure on the pencil to create a visible sketch of the cube and shadows, but ensure that it is not pressed too hard to avoid unwanted linear dents on your medium.

Step #5: Start shading with marker techniques!

Depending on the marker type, you can use different techniques in shading and blending.

  • Shading with Copic markers.

When shading with alcohol-based markers, it is recommended to start with the lightest shades as it is easier to blend colors by adding darker shades.

Do this process with alcohol markers until you have achieved the desired transition of shades on your drawing:

  1. Using the color palette guide, choose the lighter colors and start shading the intended areas.
  2. In the same color family, choose a medium tone slightly darker than the prior color and layer it on top.
  3. Use dark shades to define your subject and add shadows.
  • Shading with Crayola markers.

Water-based markers can be an alternative to watercolors. Since water is the main component of Crayola markers, you can add or reduce the darkness of the colors with water! Repeat the process until the expected outcome is achieved:

  1. Since most water-based markers do not come in many shades, you may choose from the color palette guide the intended primary color for the area you want to shade.
  2. Take a small cup and pour some water into it.
  3. Lighten some areas of the artwork by brushing them with water and a paintbrush.
  4. Dab a piece of tissue to soak the excess water.
Bonus tip

Make use of other art materials to enhance your art!

Coloring with Sharpies or Copic markers can render magnificent outcomes. But combining different materials like Crayola markers and colored pencils can bring your art to a different level.

You may even use these techniques as a fashion designer in garment industry. So, if you are hoping to make artwork like a pro, you may want to look into this!

Frequently Asked Questions


How to shade with Sharpies?

Since Sharpies are alcohol-based, shading with Sharpie is similar to shading with Copic markers. Therefore, the steps above can also be considered Sharpie tips and tricks!

How to shade with a pen?

Shading without lines would be intricate. So, you would rather define the figure with a pencil before using any marker pen!

How do you blend colors with markers?

When you blend with markers, ensure that you know the distinctions between alcohol-based and water-based markers to know the proper way of using them.

Indeed, there are certain rules you should follow:

  • Make sure you have every tool you need
  • Choose two or three colors suitable for blending
  • You can use a brush (either wet or dry) as a thinning when blending with markers
  • Also, make sure to blend quickly to prevent drying, making the result not as smooth.

What markers are best for shading?

Alcohol markers are great for layering and blending, which is why many artists prefer to use them for shading, as it renders art without streaks! Alcohol markers often have brush nibs that are also great for shading the letterings.

When making calligraphy art, you may shade with black markers the letterings of the art. After the black ink has dried out, you can add more color by shading calligraphy shadow behind the black lettering.


With the endless number and availability of marker types and brands, beginners in the art industry must know their preferences to develop a forte in shading and coloring with marker pens.

But knowing the techniques on how to shade with markers can be a great help in enhancing your artistic talents and capabilities.

Soon, with a bit of training, you will be on your way to becoming a professional artist and flourishing in the art industry in no time!

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