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Experimenting With Watercolor Markers

by Jasmine Wu & Ann Zhang

A few weeks ago, my sister ordered a set of over 100 watercolor markers on Amazon for a little under $30. They arrived in 5-8 business days, and were eagerly organized and swatched eagerly. We had experience painting with acrylic and sketching, but had never tried watercolor, much less watercolor markers. I was looking forward to working with a new medium, and was slightly worried that the pigmentation of the markers would be diluted and translucent.

My first watercolor piece was of a black, iridescent Betta fish and some aquatic vegetation. Not my best work, but with more time and experience with the watercolor markers I was able to create better art that seemed more lively and free-flowing, a quality unique to watercolor. I’ve compiled a list of tips and insights that you can use if you want to buy your own set of watercolor markers.

My first watercolor piece – notice how dead the fish looks and how closely I stuck to the lines. Note how my drawing style changes over time. This piece took me two hours, and with practice, I could finish a card in around 20 minutes.

Watercolor pens are surprisingly pigmented! If you apply enough paint, it can almost look like acrylic (e.g. the plant in the picture above). However, be careful not to reapply paint to the same area too many times, or you’ll get bleeding as a result of too much water and a patchy color coverage.

Watercolor pens also come with a really handy blending brush, which is just like every other brush except it contains water, and you can refill it. It helps dissolve the paint on the paper and mix different colors together smoothly. This is a great tool for softening lines that can come out rough directly from the watercolor marker, but be careful to wipe away excess water before blending to prevent blending, especially when blending dark colors (they easily bleed and stain other areas).

Watercolor markers have so many beautiful colors, but it can be difficult to really bring paintings to life if you accidentally smear what were supposed to be white highlights with a different color, especially since there are no white, opaque watercolor markers. If you need to reapply a highlight, use white acrylic paint (you may need multiple layers).

Water is not predictable and very free-flowing, and your work should reflect that. Don’t try too hard to make it super realistic, and to stick to every line like I did in the beginning. If you let the paint flow and give it flexibility, your art will look much more natural and lifelike.

Have fun, and don’t forget to send us pictures of your creations!

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