Beginners Alcohol Marker project in 3 easy steps.

It is not always easy to know what to draw.  You may have all the supplies but then when it comes to what you want to draw, your mind goes blank.  I have been there and done that.  Here is what I do to help me.

I have three steps I go through to get to that end result, my finished project.  Even when I do have a specific subject to draw, as was the case with this example I am about to share with you.

I was asked to participate in a YouTube collaboration hosted by Faith of Abstract possiblities, along with 11 other artists.  We each chose a peanuts character from “A Charlie Browns Thanksgiving” and created our own projects of choice.

Feel free to watch my video below.  If you prefer not to watch the video or would like read the extra content not contained in the video, then scroll down for the rest of the post.

Even though I knew I was going to draw Franklin and I was going to use my alcohol markers, I still go through these three steps:

  • Step 1 planning
  • Step 2 sketch/drawing
  • step 3 adding colour (color if you are in the USA)

Step 1 Planning 

I spent some time gathering some inspiration.  I searched online to familiarise myself with Franklin and to help kick start my own ideas on what pose and scene I was going to draw Franklin in. (Important Do Not Copy from photos or other artists without permission) My character is drawn from memory and my background is completely from my imagination.

As the theme of this collaboration was thanksgiving, I decided to have a scene where my character is playing football.  I live in Scotland in the UK and we do not celebrate thanks giving but we do have American television programs shown here.  I am sure they all mention either playing or watching football on Thanks giving.  So it made sense to me to include that in my scene.

Step 2 Sketching/Drawing

I start of sketching in my Daler Rowney Graduate Sketch book.  The paper is 109 lbs and 8.3 by 11.7 inches (A4)

Franklin sketch

As you can see from the sketch he is very close to the bottom of the page.  This sketch will be traced and transferred to a separate piece of special marker paper.  This means I can lay the image onto the page exactly where I want it.  Which is another bonus to sketching out first.  It allows you to experiment with the layouts and where you want the image to go in the final piece. My initial sketch shows a straight horizon line, however, later I change this to add some balance and interest. I changed my idea later rather than now simply because I changed my mind about what I thought would look good.  Now is the best time to draw in and test the elements you wish to add into the background if you are not confident in picture composition.

I would like to add an extra element to this post, especially for you readers.  It was not mentioned in the video.  I would like to tell you about the rule of thirds.


You can see in the picture above I have divided the picture into nine squares, that gives us the 3 sections horizontally and 3 vertically.  Depending on where you place items within these sections will determine perspective.

So for example you can see I have circled the football.  This was to bring your attention to where it is.  It is slightly higher than the intersection of the top and middle third of the page(up and down the page) and also the first and middle section (going across the page).  This placement alone does not give the illusion of it being in the air.

If the horizon line was drawn in directly on the top third line the ball would look like it was on the ground. The ball would then also be far too big as the horizon that high up would indicate a far away distance.  The horizon line therefore was drawn in under the ball. So the ball looks like it is in the air. The size of the ball next to the my Character (Franklin) indicates it is not too far away from him and his stance looks like he is about to try to catch it.  He is also looking at the ball.  All elements of still objects (ie a drawing not an animation) giving the illusion of movement.

Franklin is the main focal point of this picture.  You can see this by the fact he is taking up 6 of the sectioned boxes.  This helps him be the focal point and indicates that he is zoomed in on, that the “viewer” is close to the action, much like when a photographer zooms in on a subject of interest in a photograph.  The distance the football is away from Franklin helps to give balance to this layout and indicates as said earlier he is about to catch it.

This is a complicated subject and not easy to explain in words.  It is something I have found needs to be experimented about with to get a better understanding of how it works.  But if you do have any questions leave a comment below and I will answer as best as I can.

I move on to transferring the image, using transfer paper, which is essentially tracing paper. Once the image has been transferred and all the elements added to the new paper, it is time to outline my character with pen.  I used a micron pen black 5mm, so that when I used my alcohol markers and I accidentally touch the outline it does not drag the black into the colour and make a horrible mess.

Step 3 Adding colour

I like to do some colour practice, you do not have to do this extra step but for me it helps to remove that fear of “getting it wrong” if I know already what colours I am going to use and how I am going to use them.  For me there is nothing worse than putting in a lot of hard work to get to a stage I love the work then use a colour I think will go and it doesn’t so ruins the work 🙁 believe me I have done this a few times, when I have skipped this part, not always with complete disaster but still frustrating all the same.

When working with markers begin with the lightest shade of the colour you want to use and add either the next shade up for shadows or you can go over the shadow area with the same pen which makes it darker.

Remember alcohol markers are not always the easiest thing to use as a beginner so do not be too hard on yourself if you do not get it right first time.

It was at this stage I decided to change my horizon line to add in a hill. This was my personal choice to help with perspective.  It is designed give a reason for there being a pile of leaves where there are some caught by the wind into the air along side Franklins head.  Being totally truthful between me and you, this was to cover a mistake where my pen slipped out of my hand and marked the paper right beside his head.  I had to think of something to cover up my error.  As it is autumn theme (fall in USA) leaves flying in the wind made sense.

From a perspective point of view the leaves would not be too far away from him so placing them on the bottom third line made sense.  This means they are on the ground and are not too far away from him to see the leaves next to his head.  The leaves are not too big as they are not that close to him.

This picture would still work without the hill, I just chose to add a little bit more interest by adding a hill.

Thank you for reading, I hope this has been helpful.  If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and I will get back to you.