How to Use Paint Markers

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Paint marker on bark

Paint markers are one of the greatest inventions, even better than sliced bread. The versatile and colorful devices take the dramatic art of painting into an easy-to-maneuver tool. No more little brushes here.


Step 1

Select and prepare your canvas. With paint markers, your canvas doesn’t have to be canvas at all, although a thick canvas is a good choice. Other great things to draw on include rocks, glass, porcelain, concrete, smooth wood, fiberglass, metal, PVC pipe, plastic or just about anything that is non-porous and smooth. You can use regular old paper, but know that the paint is very thick and will seep through. Place newspapers beneath it. Whatever you choose, rinse or brush off any dirt, grime and stuff that will get in the way of your artwork.


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Step 2

Shake it up. Leave the lid on the marker and shake vigorously up and down for a minute or two.

Step 3

Prime the paint. Uncap the marker and press the pen’s nib on a piece of folded up newspaper until the paint starts to flow.


Step 4

Draw. Use smooth, even strokes to draw your outline, designs, lines or lettering. Press only hard enough to leave some paint on the object, not to depress the nib. Use small circles to fill in color. Press the nib on the material for a series of small polka dots.

Step 5

Re-prime as necessary. If your paint ebbs instead of flows, depress the nib again on the newspaper until the paint flows free.


Step 6

Wait between coats or different colors. If you want to add a second coat or another color, go ahead. But wait until the paint from the first coat is fully dry. Otherwise the coats will just run together, glob or start to pull off whatever you are painting on.

Step 7

Take special heed. Left-handed folks need to be extra careful using paint markers, as the hand likes to smear the paint. Also beware of touching any paint before it’s fully dry.


If you are working on lettering, you may want to write out the letters with a regular marker and go over them with a paint marker backwards, so they are less inclined to smear. This is a good trick for lefties. For shiny material, such as glass or metal, you will definitely want to apply more than one coat as the paint thins out on the sheen. Spray your finished product with a sealer, such as polyurethane, to preserve and add a gloss. Store your paint markers flat or with the tips standing up.


Don’t use paint makers on an airplane. The altitude thins the paint and makes it come streaming out of the pen in a runny mess. Don’t leave paint markers out in the heat or sun. Again, the heat will thin the paint and make them runny.


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