Tips on Using Winsor and Newton Promarkers

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The sketching community on Instagram is going crazy for Winsor and Newton's Promarkers, and right so, in my opinion. But if you're not used to using these alcohol-based marker pens, or if it's your first time opening up the box then here are some tips for you...

Beware the bleed
The one thing you hear about Promarkers is that they're lovely and easy to use - but they bleed through onto the paper underneath. You can buy a pad of Winsor and Newton's special bleedproof paper which comes in A4 and A3 sizes, has a special coating to prevent bleed-through and it's not very costly (about £4-odd for an A4). The paper is very thin though, at 75g/m but despite this I've found it gives great results. I sketch in landscape, two sketches to a page. You can use other sketchbooks - try them out first as not all papers will work the same - but if you do, put a thicker sheet of paper underneath your sketch to protect the paper underneath. 

Caversham Gazebo, 17th century. (c) Jo Romero

Colour well inside the lines - at first
Some of my pens tend to billow out a little bit from the nib. This isn't true of all the pens, but I feel like some of them are over-full and the ink is running out of the tip and spilling onto the page a bit too quickly. In case this happens to you, start colouring away from the line to see what happens. It'll give your ink a chance to spread if it's going to, rather than go over your line. 

Rub out all your pencil lines before you start
Not everyone draws their guidelines in pencil, but I sometimes do. And the first time I used Promarkers I left some of the pencil on the page and started colouring. The markers tend to seal anything that's on the page before you apply the ink (you can't rub them out later like you can with watercolours) and so it's a good idea once you've gone over your pencil lines in fineliner to rub out the marks afterwards before you start with the markers.
Start light
I've tried this both ways, and I get the best results when I colour in lighter shades and then fill in the shadows and darker areas - like accents on tiles or brickwork - later. You can build up colour and contrast using the same marker, just let the first layer dry first and the second layer will be a slight shade darker - or experiment with darker shades of pen. 

16th century The George Hotel, Reading. (c) Jo Romero

Use both tips
The Promarkers have a chisel tip (great for filling in larger areas like sky or paving) and a bullet-style nib for details. The edge of the chisel tips makes a very fine line, finer than the pointed nib. Experiment using both - and a wide variety of marks - on your sketches. 

Make a colour chart
When I started sketching with Promarkers I was unsure what the actual colour would look like on my drawing, so I scribbled a little of each pen onto a separate sheet of paper until I found the right shade for my sketch. I soon figured out that this was quite wasteful - in ink and paper - and so made a colour chart by colouring in a square for each pen and writing the code number underneath. Now I can choose the colour I want to use at a single glance and I don't waste any more ink (or paper!). I've taped this into the front of my sketchbook so it's always with me. You can make up your own chart on a piece of paper or download a chart from the internet that you can fill in with your colours. 

Work quickly
One of the great things about Promarkers is that you can achieve large, clean swathes of uniform colour. Sometimes the coloured in areas look almost digital because you can't see any contrasting overlaps like you can with coloured pencils or water-based felt-tip pens. To achieve this though, you need to work quickly. Colour in the area you want to be uniformly coloured and bring your marker up to start the next part while the first application is still wet. It will blend into one. If you leave it until it's dry - a few seconds - you'll see an overlap line where your layers meet. 

Reading Minster. With thanks to @fluffy_ela on Instagram for letting me sketch her photo
Sketch (c) Jo Romero 
Try not to use the black tone - too much
I settled down to draw a timber-framed building and inked in the beams in black, just like they were in real life. I instantly regretted it. The black in the Promarker box is a really dark shade of black, and now I tend to avoid using it because it just flattens and diminishes all the rest of the work you put into building shadow and contrast using different colours elsewhere in your piece. If I use it, I use it for the darkest windows of a building or the drainpipes - just to add 'pops' of contrast here and there rather than add it all over my sketch. 

Promarkers are a really fun way to sketch loosely and quickly and they definitely have their benefits. You can read my balanced review of them here. I hope these tips have been helpful, and if you have any other questions, please ask in the comments below or find me on Instagram @sketcherjoey.