Tips for Using Alcohol Markers in Coloring Books

Reader question:

I enjoy using alcohol markers to color in your coloring books, but I'm having problems with the markers bleeding, especially when trying to color in tight spaces like corners. Also sometimes the paper starts to "pill" when I use certain markers. I love using alcohol markers so I want to continue using them in your books. Do you have any tips or suggestions to help with pilling and bleeding?

My response

When using alcohol markers in my coloring books, I suggest using a feather-light touch, because the ink does spread quickly on the paper. If you press hard, or even let the nib of the marker rest a tad too long on the paper, then there's a good chance that the ink will probably spread more than you intended. This is why a light touch can really help. It can be tricky to adjust your coloring style but with practice you can get used to it.

Coloring with Copic Markers

To avoid the ink from the alcohol markers spreading beyond the black lines of the coloring page, I suggest coloring close to the black lines (rather than right up to the black lines) and letting the ink spread to reach the black lines. This can also take practice, but if you try it you should be able to notice a difference. When coloring in tight corners, I try to remember to just do quick, light dabs with the brush marker tip, because a little ink can go a long way to spread out and fill in the spaces.

With regards to pilling when using certain markers, a light touch can also help. Going back and forth over the same area can cause pilling so you could try using less applications of the marker. 

Note that I almost always use the brush tip of alcohol markers (like in the image below), rather than the chisel tip or bullet tip, so this advice is geared towards using the brush tips. My guess is that the chisel tips and bullets tips may be more likely to cause pilling than the brush tips, because the brush tips are softer and more flexible.

Copic Marker Brush Tip

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Another option you can consider is to scan and print the coloring pages onto cardstock or marker paper. On the inside front cover of my coloring books, on the lower left, there is a paragraph about "Copy Permission" that explains that reproduction is permitted for the personal use of the reader. I like to print onto Neenah Exact Index Bright White 110lb Cardstock, but any cardstock that's at least 110lb should be great to use with alcohol markers. 

Ohuhu Marker Sketchbooks

You can also try printing onto marker paper, which is even better than cardstock for use with alcohol markers. Lately I've been tearing sheets of marker paper out of these Ohuhu Marker Sketchbooks and running it through my printer. You can also get convenient marker pads that can be used in a similar fashion.

If your printer can handle cardstock then it can probably handle marker paper. The only downside of this is that marker paper isn't specially-coated to be run through printers, so you may experience some of the black lines rubbing off as you color. I don't know if this happens with inkjet printers, but I've noticed it with my laser printer. Overall this hasn't been a big problem for me - I just use a black pen to fill in any noticeable spots that may have rubbed off, but sometimes I don't even bother to do that because whatever black rubbed off usually isn't that noticeable. All in all I love using alcohol markers on marker paper because it accepts the ink perfectly and allows for easier blending. 

Ink from alcohol markers does have a tendency to bleed through to the other side of the paper, which usually isn't a problem with my coloring books because they are single-sided, but if you have a heavy hand then some of the ink might seep onto the page underneath. To avoid this potential problem, I use an X-acto knife to carefully remove the coloring page from my books along the page's perforated edge. I then color the page on top of a smooth hardboard, which are inexpensive, so I own quite a few. If you prefer to leave the pages inside the book as you color, I'd suggest placing a few sheets of clean paper underneath the coloring page to absorb any excess ink that may leak through the page.

If you'd like more tips from people who color in my books, you can consider joining my coloring group and asking other colorists for advice. There are a lot of people in my coloring group who use alcohol markers in my books, so they may be able to share some additional tips.

Hope this helps!! Happy coloring!!