How to take care of your alcohol markers

Just like any other medium, alcohol markers too have a tip or two on how to store them properly, for longer life and how to care for them. Care is important because it's a refillable medium which means that ideally, you should keep a single marker for quite a while. They are also bulky and in order to work with them properly, you usually need a lot of them! So finding a way to store them safely and efficiently is important.


Horizontally or vertically?

I used to store them vertically for quite a while but I eventually changed that. Reading online several brand recommendations on the matter and consulting my regular art supply store, I realized I had to store them horizontally. There isn't a noticeable difference when a marker is new but rather when it's not full. The problem with storing them vertically is that the ink in the spongy interior of the marker isn't distributed evenly, so one side (the top one obviously) tends to dry out. So I would say store them flat or if for some reason you have to store them vertically then at least, have the side you use the most (for me is the larger tip) pointing down.



Numbers...numbers everywhere

The most annoying thing about them is looking for a specific colour and not remembering which one it is and having to try out several ones every time. Then after you think you chose the right one it kinda looks off and suddenly in the bulk of a few dozens of markers there it was, the one you where originally looking for but never noticed because the label colour doesn't match the actual colour.


I personally get easily annoyed with clutter, so in order for me to be calm when I work and undistracted I need all my stuff to be tidy. I've found that the best way to spend most of my time actually drawing instead of looking for a shade, is to first create colour swatches and then store the markers in colour families. This way I know which shade I want because I've checked out my swatches card and I know where to look first because they are grouped.


I know this may sound silly and a bit over the top organized, but at some point you may end up with a hundred markers. Trying out a marker every time you are looking for a specific shade is just time consuming, cause you won't be doing it once. So if you keep them on your desk I would suggest you get a little stationary organizer which you can place on the side instead of upwards. Also if you find one of those with the little drawers, maybe remove the drawers and have them placed horizontally, just like in a store.


Check out marker brands for their own storing cases. If you are into crafts, build one! That would be fun and also tailored to your exact needs. There's also bags for markers which are awesome for people who need to carry their supplies out of their studio. And while in your studio, just leave them in there. But be committed. When you're done colouring, just put them away in their colour families, instead of randomly... The point is to save more time towards creating than anything else related.


As for the colour swatches, make them on the alcohol marker paper you use the most. Separate them in colour groups and write the colour code on top of the shade. This way when you try to decide which shade to use just pull your card. Its also very helpful when you want to decide halfway when you have already colour on your artwork and want to decide which shade you want to match it with. Just pull the card on your artwork and choose the best match.



Out of ink!

So when an alcohol marker is out of ink, you don't simply throw it away, you refill it. Which is why even though markers are pricey, they are worth the cost since you can refill them many many times. Refills usually come in 25ml bottles. Some brands are ready to use but some need to be opened with a needle. Be careful as the ink will splash back for sure. After you open those, always store them vertically just in case.


In order to refill a marker simply drop a few drops on the larger tip. The amount of ink will vary depending on how dry the marker is. Sometimes you may need to drop a good 3ml in there. After you refill them leave them lying flat for a while before you start drawing, so that the ink distributes itself evenly throughout the marker.


What you can do (but be very carefully) is refill markers by removing the removable tip first and drop the ink directly inside. However you don't need to do that, it's just a faster way to get the ink in there and you also need to be careful not to try and pull a non-removable tip.




Replace them dirty tips!

Marker tips will eventually get dirty by colouring over water based inks for example, and even if they never get dirty at some point they will become softer and lose their shape. Depending on the brand there are different qualities of tips. I have the same tips on for a couple of years on some markers and the tips still look fine, but if I need to replace them here's how:

Go to the shop you bought the markers from or order them online. Most big brands offer tip replacements and even if the brand you have doesn't, try out from others, they may fit. Before you replace it go online at the brands website and double check whether the tip is really replaceable. If it is use a tissue and just pull it out. If you couldn't tell and it turned out it wasn't replaceable, congrats! You just ruined it. But now you know...(been there done that, no shame). Then simply push in the new tip and let it stand vertically with the new tip downwards. If the marker feels dry just add some ink from the refill.


For more info on how to go marker shopping, details on refills and tips click here and read my article dedicated on that.



Advice and suggestions

  • Needless to say, just like your fav snacks, keep your markers somewhere dry and away from heat and sun.

  • Every once in a while if there's ink around the tip in the part you are holding it or spilled in the cup, just clean it with alcohol.

  • Oh, and the same goes for your hands. If you get alcohol marker on your hands just use alcohol. I haven't had that much success on clothes though...

  • When I refill high pigmented shades like black I wear gloves because I somehow always manage to get it on me.



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