Alcohol markers are pen-shaped markers filled with a barrel filled with a colorant suspended in an alcohol-based fluid. All alcohol markers will bleed through paper. However, to minimize bleed-through, picking the best alcohol marker and pairing it with the best paper created FOR alcohol markers will reduce or eliminate the likelihood!
Factors to watch out for
A small or very fine nib will vastly reduce the amount of bleed-through on all paper types. As you can imagine, a large nib will allow a large amount of the colorant/alcohol suspension to flow through and completely saturate the paper you are working on.
If you really want to use a wide nib, then combine that with a paper that shows very little bleed-through. In my test samples, the Bianyo Bleed Proof Marker Pad had the very least bleed-through with alcohol markers. But watch it! It came with several less attractive features. Please read my in-depth review here.
Try pairing this paper with this wide-nib set.
I quite like my Ohuhu Alcohol Markers. The combination of a wide chisel and a brush tip nib means that this set has a lot of flexibility and usefulness. I like the number of pastel colors in this set. Most alcohol markers have a ton of super bright and dark colors, which makes blending more challenging. An added benefit of using Ohuhu is that their nibs are replaceable, which as long as the barrels still have colorant, you can extend the life of each pen.
Big varieties of nibs for alcohol markers
The best thing about super fine nibs is that they allow the smallest amount of colorant/suspension through at the same time, which will result in minimal bleed-through. Fine nibs will wear out fast though, and are prone to drying out or plugging up. Still, if fine lines are your main priority, this is a great set of alcohol markers to own.
Staedtler Lumocolor Universal Pen, Super Fine Alcohol Pens
This set has a special stay-dry tip that won’t dry out even if you leave the cap off for a few days! The ink is permanent like all alcohol pens, and they are even refillable with Staedtler 487 different inks! Unlike all other alcohol markers, these pens are lightfast and won’t fade or change color over time.
When using superfine alcohol markers, you will enjoy more options for a great paper with very little bleed-through. Here are two of my favorite papers for alcohol markers.
Bee Marker Paper Pad
Bee Marker Paper consistently gives a great performance. I like the clarity of color you can get with it, the relatively smooth tooth the thickness of the paper means that the paper is relatively strong.
And the Ohuhu Marker Pad is spiral bound and comes with a non-absorbent protection sheet. This one is my go-to for travel.
Quality of Pigment
Oddly enough, the quality of the colorant (pigment and alcohol) in the barrels of each pen are relatively unimportant because they are all pretty much equal.
Alcohol markers will be:
- Swift drying
- Permanent – in the sense that they will not be able to be rewetted and liquified
- NOT lightfast
- Fast flowing and will stream out of the barrel at the same rate
How Alcohol Markers Differ
Not all alcohol markers are created equal. Some are very inexpensive and designed to be disposable once used up. The most expensive markers will be refillable, have replaceable nibs, and be labeled with a useful numerical system. The comfort of the barrel is also distinctive. Some are thin and slippery, some are beefy fat and round and some are triangular, oval or rectangular in shape. It is a completely personal preference, but I love the oval barrels of Copic Markers. They won’t roll around the table and fit my hand the best.
You can read about my favorite alcohol markers with my in-depth reviews in this article.
As I mentioned before, using paper made just for markers is crucial for no bleed-through. When I first started using alcohol markers, I was using Bristol paper, which I thought would be thick enough to prevent bleed-through. Boy, was I wrong!
Marker paper is created specifically for alcohol markers and is coated with a chemical barrier on the back of each sheet to stop bleed-through. BUT, no bleed-through merely means that the markers will have a minimal chance of soaking through to the NEXT sheet of paper below it. You are going to see the pigments seep through to the back with every marker and every marker paper.
The real definition of no bleed-through actually means no saturation or damage the next sheet behind it. I’ve found that every single marker and every single brand of marker paper had some degree of seepage. Some were minimal, some were a lot!
For example, here’s a sample of a sketch I did on Ohuhu marker paper. This is the front side.
and this is the backside of that paper:
As you can see, the colorant easily soaked through to the backside, but very little of the color seeped onto the protective sheet. This makes it nearly impossible to use alcohol markers on coloring books with images on each side of the paper, unless you don’t mind sacrificing the image on the opposite side of the page.
I highly recommend using a protective sheet behind your work to protect your table surface or the pristine surface of the next sheet. My favorite protection is to use something non-absorbent like a Teflon coated craft sheet .
Other artists use a blank sheet of paper under their work, but this will act like a tissue and actually encourage the colorant to pull down through the paper even more.
Using alcohol markers means that the longer you hold the marker to the paper, the more the colorant will flow out onto the paper. It behooves the user to use as swift a stroke as possible! Especially if you use a brush or wide chisel end, the strokes will work best if you move fast. As soon as you pause or slow down, more colorant will flow out and soak deeply into the paper.
Check out my blending tutorial article where I demonstrate multiple ways to in-depth reviews in this article.
Order of Color Application
My preferred way to work is from lightest light to darkest darks. Because there is very little way to get an alcohol marker to lighten sufficiently, I can get the most control from preserving my lights by using the palest color possible and adding darker colors last.
So, to recap the main points, minimizing the bleedthrough can be helped by using the proper paper, using as thin a nib as possible, using a light, less heavy-handed application method, and minimizing the amount of colorant you use for blending, using as light saturation as possbile.