Sunday, June 25, 2017

Inking for alcohol markers: bleeding or not bleeding...

As shown in previous posts, I'm currently playing with alcohol markers. One of the questions I'm asking myself is about the order of the steps to produce a fully colored drawing: can I ink before coloring with alcohol markers, or do I have to ink once coloring is finished?

I want to avoid the black ink to bleed through the color layers that I'm applying with the alcohol markers, something that happened when I was doing random experiments. I don't want that to happen when working on a nice project. Yet, I find it convenient to be able to ink before coloring, for building up a clear view of the final visual result.

Answering this question starts getting a bit complex when you realize that it depends on the combination of 3 parameters:

  • the type of alcohol marker,
  • the type of inking material,
  • the type of paper.

I've been looking for information on the web, but they are not always satisfactory: sometimes they are contradictory, sometimes they are based on material that you don't have and/or that you won't buy (not available around, not the brand you're working with, expensive,...) or sometimes they are simply unclear. So I decided to give it a try and make a systematic, representative experiment explained below.


I'm testing two brands of alcohol markers: Stylefile markers, and Winsor & Newton Promarkers. I will post a review of these later on, when I get a bit more experience with them.

1) I've selected different layout papers, claimed to be made for alcohol markers:
  • Canson Marker (layout, 70g/m²)
  • Winsor & Newton Marker (layout,75g/m²)
  • Stylefile MarkerPad Premium (layout, 75g/m²)

2) I've selected several inking markers that either were recommended in tutorials or on forums for not bleeding with alcohol markers, and I've added to them a couple other inking markers, black markers, sketching and inking material I had (including pencils). The full list is given in the results pictures below.

3) On each paper, I've repeated the same pattern with each inking marker. It is made of 5 lines (or more for very thing markers); the first and last lines of each set are repeated over 5 times to deposit a lot of pigments. Then I let it dry for 24 hours, to make sure the cause of a potential bleeding is not due to a non-dry line...

4) I lay color over the patterns, and check for bleeding. I follow this process:
  • lay the color back and forth a couple of times: this leaves more time for the alcohol marker solvent to potentially "attack" the black ink and make it bleed, and is more representative of the actual coloring of a large element with shades, etc.
  • clean the tip of the marker between each pattern by laying color on a piece of draft paper. You don't want to create false positives by carrying the black pigments from the previous pattern to the next one, and risk keeping your marker tip dirty for your next works.

And here are the results. I have chosen a shade of yellow that allows seeing easily any bleeding (it makes the color look "dirty"). Bleeding is ranked from 'severe' to 'none'. I have tested the 2 brands of markers I have invested in: Stylefile and Promarkers.

Note: black indian ink (Winsor & Newton) induces severe bleeding (not shown)


Almost all inking methods have exhibited bleeding, unfortunately. Promarkers seem a little bit more aggressive as they induce slightly more bleeding than Styefile. It's quite a pity, because I particularly liked the availability of very light colors in the Promarkers range that is lacking currently with Stylefile. The best results I've had were the following:

  • Molotow Fineliner 0.4mm : bleeding is unnoticeable, if any. Just be careful that I'm speaking here of the liner sold by the unit, with only (currently) 1 size available (0.4mm) and in 3 colors (black, blue, red). The black liners sold in different bundles are not the same product, and they do induce some bleeding.
  • A good old hard pencil (2H here) leaves almost no bleeding, because it makes only a very light line. In fact, alcohol markers tend to push around the graphite that is not well fixed on the paper, so a soft pencil will make a lot of dirt, and a hard one will almost make none. The results with a mechanical pencil (with a medium hardness HB) are what you would expect then. I've also found out that if you wipe you pencil lines (with your finger or something more appropriate) to remove the loose graphite before coloring, it decreases the "dirty" effect even more. Note that it is not possible to erase pencil under a layer of alcohol marker (without damaging everything, that is...).


With what I have available, I should rather stick to inking after coloring. I might try and find a method to optimize coloring when doing lines of variable thickness, but only if I feel I really need it.

Not tested:
  •  Copic markers, mainly because of their cost and the fact that I'm only a beginner with alcohol markers. On the web, some claim that copic liners do not bleed when used with copic markers; some claim to have experienced bleeding... For the brush pens, results are bad in all cases. For the Multi SP 0.03, the results are good enough with Stylefile markers, and some bleeding appears with Promarkers. I should try with a thicker nib (something around 0.5mm) for a more reliable result.
  • "Non-layout" papers. My feeling is that they would probably fix the black ink better in many cases, but I don't plan to use them with alcohol markers, so it was not relevant for me.

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