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5 Markers Challenge! How to draw an illustrative character using only 5 markers?

5 Markers Challenge! How to draw an illustrative character using only 5 markers?

When I first got the 48 Ohuhu marker set, I told myself I would stick to that one set. But here we are, a year later. I’ve traded the 48 set for the 120 set, added the Pastel set and the Skin Tone set too. You can never have too many markers, right? But to be honest: although I LOVE my marker collection, just a few markers will already take you so far! Thanks to the layering possibilities of alcohol based markers, you already have so many color values available with a handful of markers.

In this blog I will show you how I draw an illustrative character from sketch to color, using only 5 markers (from 216 set) ! Will you draw along with me?

Sketch lightly

I always start with a light pencil sketch. Be loose and light with your lines, so you can easily adjust or erase lines if necessary. A few handy guidelines when drawing people:

  • Draw a cross in the middle of the face to position the facial features. The eyes are on the horizontal guidelines. The nose ends in the middle between the eyes and chin, the mouth is situated between the nose and chin. The ears start at the level of the eyes and end at the bottom of the nose.
  • An average person is 7 to 8 times their own head length. The chest is at the bottom of the second length, the waist at the third, just like the elbows. The hips are at the fourth, as are the wrists. Hands end about halfway of the upper legs and the knees are at the middle of the legs.

Quite handy tricks, right?

Be patient when inking your lines

You can choose to first color your illustration and ink the lines afterward. But to prevent pencil lines showing through light colors (or losing your sketch underneath dark colors), I always ink my sketches first with fineliner.

After inking, I’ll erase the pencil lines. Be careful and patient though! Fineliner needs some time to dry, so give it some time. Select your Ohuhu colors in the meantime 🙂 Another trick is to use a putty eraser and roll it over your sketch. This way you don¡¯t smudge your lines, but still, erase most of your pencil sketch.

Tips for choosing your color palette

To make your illustration more interesting, make sure you have different color values in your selection. The more contrast there is (so the more difference between your lightest and darkest colors), the better! It’s also nice to choose contrasting colors. Does your character has a blue outfit for example? Choose orange or yellow for the background!

I like adding the color palette next to my illustration. That way I can easily look back on which colors I used when flipping through my marker pad.

A little art hack: I added little cardboard cards in between my Ohuhu markers, they’re about postcard size. This way the markers in my bag stay organized per row. I created a matching swatch card (my favorite thing to do :), making it so easy to locate the color I’m looking for!

The best part: add color!

The trick with alcohol markers? As long as the ink is still wet, layers will blend into each other, while layering over dry ink will create sharp edges. And the more layers you put down (especially when you let the ink dry in between), the darker your color gets.

Knowing this, there are two ways to go about coloring your illustrations. You can color the shaded areas first and then go over them with a second or third layer. Or you can color the entire area first and add shading afterward. I don’t really have a preferred method, I mix ’em up whatever I feel like doing first.

The more colors, the more lifelike you can make your portrait. But I like the illustrative approach with just a few colors. Also, I’m actually way too impatient for endless blending to be honest ;-).

Another tip for coloring with the Ohuhu markers: if you want a smooth result, color in the same direction as much as possible. Most of the time two layers are enough for a smooth finish. I usually work from top to bottom, and – since I’m right handed – from left to right. Do you want to create structure (for instance in curly hair)? Make small circulair and scribbly motions with small hints of whitespace in between.

Keep on going until you’re satisfied with your result. Don’t be too careful: adding more layers and shading really brings your illustration to life!

Make it pop

I love adding a background to my characters to really make pop off the page! You can do this in whatever shape or form you like: a rectangle, circle, gradient, or how about a cool pattern? I use the bullet nib for the outline, and the chisel or brush nip to color in that background. I often leave a little white border between my background and the illustration to make the character stand out. Don’t worry if you color outside the lines. You can use a white gel pen or a small acrylic marker to clean up your edges.

Finishing touches make all the difference

Although I absolutely love the smooth finish and vibrant colors of alcohol based markers, sometimes I feel it’s missing a little something. That’s why I love combining my markers with colored pencils for an extra touch. Markers are actually the perfect base for colored pencils. With colored pencils, I deepen the shadows, add highlights, smooth transitions or add structure to the illustration. It’s subtle, but for me, it makes all the difference!

Show me your character

I hope this tutorial blog was helpful for you. I can’t wait to see what you will illustrate with your Ohuhu markers! If you share your illustrative character on Instagram, I’d love to see it. Be sure to tag me (my Instagram is @nienkevletter), so I can check it out.

Enjoy drawing!

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