30 May Great Art Blog May 2015-Professional Acrylic Markers by LIquitex and Amsterdam
Hello and welcome to this month’s GreatArt materials blog!
This month: Professional Acrylic Markers by Royal Talens-Amsterdam and Liquitex
This month I’m taking a look at a couple of ranges of professional quality Acrylic markers. These are a fairly new idea and feature acrylic paint in a convenient and easy to use marker with a variety of nib options. Both the Amsterdam and Liquitex ranges are compatible with acrylic paints and inks (and spray paints) of all kinds and each other, but the colours also coordinate exactly with acrylic paints by the same manufacturer. I think they are a really exciting innovation with loads of possibilities!
- Both ranges contain high quality, highly pigmented acrylics in a wide colour range.
- They are water based, so odour free and they dry really quickly which is great when you want to work freely and quickly.
- Liquitex are available in two nib sizes; 2mm chisel nib and 15 mm nib, and Amsterdam in small, medium and large nib sizes.
- The acrylics are lightfast and permanent when dry, and they work on pretty much all surfaces, including glass, wood, metal, plastic, fabric,and terracotta as well as more normal papers and card.
- The markers are terrific for mixed media, being compatible with all acrylics and can be worked on top of with pastel, pencil, inks etc…the possibilities are endless!
I tried out a range of colours and nib sizes in both ranges to get a feel for how they worked…you can see the swatches I made (above), to give me a quick colour record. You can see that in both cases the colours are vibrant and clear….the Amsterdam range comes in both translucent and opaque variations.
In the picture above you can see that the Liquitex markers (left side) have a 15mm wide nib and a 2mm chisel nib, whereas the Amsterdam markers come in small, medium and large…the small and medium nibs are rounded points and the large is similar to the Liquitex nib.
Both variations work well, but my personal preference is for the Liquitex nibs-this really is a matter of what suits you best, so it would be worth buying a few of each and trying them out. I prefer the Liquitex variation as I like the flexibility of the chisel nib, which makes it easy to get a very fine line as well as wider ones, and just feels slightly more responsive in the hand.
How to use Acrylic markers-getting started:
- In both cases, the markers need a really good shake before use, not only the first time you open them, but each time you use them. The Amsterdam markers contain ‘mixing balls’ which can be clearly heard when you’ve shaken the markers well, which is a useful sign that you can get going.
- After shaking you need to prime the nibs by pumping the acrylic. Have some scrap paper to hand and press down on the nib until it is fully covered with colour, then you are ready to get started. I found that you need to repeat this process quite regularly to maintain the flow of the acrylics-i.e a quick shake and pump lightly on scrap paper. Don’t be tempted to do this with the nib on your work in case you get a blob of colour where you don’t want it!
- To store the markers, ideally store them horizontally once you have used them, or if you have to store them vertically keep them with the nib upwards. Storing with the nib down causes a concentration of colour to collect which can cause clogging and difficulty in mixing the colour with binder etc when next you want to use them.
A quick note about cleaning up:
- When you’ve finished, check that there isn’t an accumulation of acrylic on the nib, which will become caked and clogged as it dries ,(Typically with the wide nib markers)-simply wipe the nib on some scrap paper or paper towel, before replacing the cap and storing. Obviously do make sure that the caps are on firmly after each session to avoid any potential problem of the acrylic drying out.
- Any mess can be cleaned up with water and a little washing up liquid whilst still wet, BUT it becomes very permanent when dry so clean up any spills immediately and protect work surfaces to avoid damage.
- Any brushes should be cleaned as for working with acrylics, i.e washed in warm soapy water, rinsed and left to dry.
Surfaces-what to work on?
- If you intend to work on paper, for best results use specialist acrylic paper. Watercolour papers also work well although I would avoid the heavily textured ones, as I found that the markers did not work fluently on very textured surfaces. *All my samples are on acrylic paper unless otherwise stated.
- Acrylic markers, like acrylic paints, work on almost all surfaces including: wood,,metal, plastic, degreased leather, fabric including cotton and silk, terracotta and glass.
- Acrylic markers, paints and inks do not work on greasy surfaces.
- They can be used outside in combination with paints and spray paints, and are very durable and long lasting.
Experiments with Liquitex markers
From left to right:
- Top: Cobalt and Cadmium Yellow markers blended with a little water, with Titanium White detail on top.
- Mid: Black marker base with Antique Gold worked over, and incised detail made with scratching tool.
- Bottom: Cadmium Red base with Cadmium Yellow and Titanium White mark making over the top.
- Top: Titanium White base with Emerald Green and Brilliant Blue mark making worked over and lightly blended with brush and water.
- Middle:Yellow and green markers applied thickly in blocks and layered.
- Bottom: Brilliant Blue, Titanium White and Raw Sienna worked on black paper-this is a great test of pigment and demonstrates the quality of these markers which show up well on the dark base.
3rd column: This row of samples are all done on acetate which demonstrates the ability of the medium to work on plastic and also transparent surfaces. If I’m going to do some work on a glass panel, I use a sheet of cheaper acetate for experimenting, testing colours and ideas etc. When working on glass or acetate it’s a good idea to work double sided-in other words to have a base colour, texture or design, which works best if it is fairly opaque on the reverse and build the details or anything you want to stand out, on the top side of the material.
- Top: Reverse is covered with solid layer of Cadmium Red/ Front has Cadmium Yellow and Brilliant Blue design- NB the Cadmium Red is a particularly good pigment in the Liquitex range; really strong and clear, with great coverage.
- Middle: Reverse is covered with solid white/ Front has red and black line work and blocks of white.
- Lower Mid: Brilliant Blue worked on the reverse (this isn’t as strong as the Cadmium Red above and shows the difference that happens within a range,
- Bottom: green base layer on reverse/ Front has dabs of blue and white.
- Top: Test sample with markers worked on silk, using a base of matching Liquitex inks and blue and white markers over the top to create a wave design. Note when working on fabric I use a slightly padded surface, in this case an old cork mat with some clean kitchen paper underneath to absorb excess paint which goes through the fabric. For this sample I held the silk in place with a couple of strips of masking tape. For a finished piece I would masking tape all the way around the fabric to prevent movement or distortion.
*I was extremely impressed with the way both the Liquitex markers, and the inks worked on silk, and intend to test this further.
- Bottom: Brilliant blue marker plus white and antique gold worked on white cotton fabric-again the markers worked well, although the colours looked
slightly flatter than on the silk.
The sketchbook page above shows an African mask inspired sketch worked in gouache with some Liquitex marker detailing added on top.
The photo above shows a sketchbook page with experiments using the Liquitex markers once more, but this time worked on a base layer of acrylic paint. I used a variety of different brands to check for compatibility, and had no problems with any of them.
Working onto a painted acrylic base gave loads of flexibility, and I found that it was possible to work onto a damp layer of paint to create a softer effect, or a fully dry one for crisp lines and edges.
Personally this is my preferred way of working with the markers-in other words to cover large areas using paint and brush, and use the markers for layering on top with a range of mark making and textural effects. This is also a practical approach as the markers do run out fairly quickly, so it makes sense to work large areas with paint or indeed spray paint, and use the characteristics of the markers to add lovely mark making and detail on top.
Experiments with Amsterdam markers
- top: Multiple cross hatched layers of Brilliant Blue with Titanium White and Yellow Green on top.
- mid: Sky Blue Light base with multiple layers of Brilliant Blue, Ultramarine Violet and Quinacidrone Rose, worked whilst base was damp.
- bottom: Quinacidrone rose base, softened with wash of water with blue, white and Quinacidrone Rose on top.
- top: Solid silver base with white, grey and Brilliant Blue overlaid.
- mid: Brown ridged paper with Titanium White and Neutral Grey on top.
- bottom: Black paper with neutral grey and titanium white on top- Amsterdam markers were equally good worked on a dark background.
- top: Acetate experiment with Sky Blue Light on the reverse and Brilliant Blue and Ultramarine Violet on the front.
- mid: Silver on reverse and Quinacidrone Rose, Brilliant Blue and Ultramarine Violet on the front.
- bottom: Second test on black paper with rose, violet, and grey markers plus touches of Light Gold.
- top: Layered directional strokes in multicolours-the Amsterdam markers were particularly
good for this sort of linear mark making.
- bottom: Sample worked on cotton-using Sky Blue Light, violet, blue, Primary Yellow, rose and
white, with some blending whilst the paint was damp…Amsterdam markers work very well on
a cotton base.
- top: Markers worked in layers on silk.
- mid: sample worked on base layer of acrylic with Brilliant Blue, Yellow Green and white layers of marker on top.
- bottom: This time a dry-brushed acrylic base with white and Brilliant Blue over….both marker ranges work best on a smooth ground, so as here, the
slight texture of dry brushing was less easy to work onto.
- top: A textured acrylic base with silver and violet work on top.
- lower top: Acrylic base applied in blocks with cross hatching over the top.
- mid: Smooth streaked acrylic base with brilliant blue, primary yellow and neutral grey created
a strong effect with lovely vibrant colour….see right.
- bottom: Smoothly blended acrylic base with multicoloured dot and line work over
- top: Light gold on acrylic paper only to show effect on its own, plus streaked ground with blue
gold and white detail.
- mid: solid opaque acrylic base with linear detail in cross hatched lines.
- bottom: Diagonal hatching over a dry brushed base.
- top: Sample on acetate with Ultramarine acrylic on the reverse and markers on the front side. This works really
well as it builds a great deal of depth, due to the opaque acrylic layer on the reverse. This double sided approach
combining acrylics and markers would be very successful on glass also.
- bottom: Linear marks in Ultramarine Violet, Brilliant Blue and white over a glazed acrylic base coat.
The sample above shows really clearly how well you can use both of these marker ranges to build up layers in a picture or design. You can clearly see the under painted areas which add texture and depth to a piece.
The photo also shows the freshness you can achieve with lively fluid marks and an immediate style.
I wanted to try out the markers as a quick tool for making outdoor sketches, ready for development back in the studio. They come into their own for convenience in these circumstances as you only need an acrylic pad, and perhaps a board for rigidity and the markers themselves…great for reducing the stuff you have to carry around!
The study above really was very quick as the weather here has still been very cold and bleak. I only had a very limited colour range, but found that by building up in many layers, I could make a useful study for colour and texture. I concentrated on working really fast with rapid loose marks, and overlaid one colour on top of another until I got close to the colours I needed. Now I have experimented with both ranges, I will treat myself to some more colours to fill in the gaps!
Because the marker colours coordinate so well with colours in the acrylic paint ranges, sketches like these, which are visual notes really, can be adapted easily for full scale work with brush and knife…although I certainly will also be trying out some linear mark making on top of my painting using matched colour markers.
Loose Experimental mark making with acrylic inks and markers from both ranges
I also experimented with some free mark making, which was largely abstract but incorporates some objects from my studio. The idea was to build up in many layers and to combine both ranges of marker with some acrylic inks-in this case Liquitex. I particularly enjoyed using the markers to build up base layers and then working on top with the ink drawn directly with the dropper.
Manipulating the marker paint with a soft brush allows you to create interesting blends and dragged marks,
but speed is essential as the paint dries very quickly.
The photo shows the range of textures that can be achieved both by layering and also by applying
the marker paint in different thicknesses. In the right hand picture, you can see further layers being
added using the broad tip marker. Building up textures and marks in multiple layers adds a lot of visual
interest and also depth to a piece. You could also add collaged elements, and printed sections using
the marker pens to help blend all the elements together to create a unified piece.
A Silk Tie…just for fun!
As I found that the Liquitex inks combined with both ranges of markers worked really well on silk, I decided to work on a simple tie design. The dyes and markers are designed to be permanent on fabric when thoroughly dry and apparently do not need any conventional fixing…the only thing is that the fabric should not be washed for about 4 days after completion to allow the paints to ‘cure’ thoroughly on the fabric.
I haven’t tried this before so this is by way of an experiment…I will let you know at the end of a future blog, how well the tie washes and wears!
I worked on a white silk tie blank, protecting the table with a layer of clean paper. I then painted the whole of the underside of the tie with Liquitex inks, creating some soft blends and colour variations by diluting slightly with water.
*It’s always worth doing the underside first as you tend to get a small amount of ‘bleed’ onto the front of the tie which you can then correct, by working into your design.
I created a softly mottled blue base for the front of the tie in the same way, and then added swirling wave-like marks with a range of blue and white markers to create a fairly subtle effect.
I allowed the tie to dry thoroughly and ironed it lightly, protecting the tie with a clean sheet of paper. I was pleased with the look of the tie and the paints had given it a little more body, but a pleasant feel; not too stiff. I suspect this will soften more with washing, but will let you know!
Liquitex or Amsterdam…or both?
I found that I enjoyed working with both ranges of markers, and will now buy some more in colours that I use a lot, probably with some from each range according to specific shades I’m after. Both have advantages and disadvantages, for instance in the markers I tried, the Liquitex flowed a little more freely and needed less constant shaking and priming. However, this was marginal and all markers, including traditional graphic markers in professional ranges, do have this problem, especially if you are going to be working in mixed media and layering as the nibs do tend to clog a little. Neither range work particularly well on heavily textured surfaces.
Nib wise as previously mentioned I found the flexibility of the Liquitex chisel nib, suits my way of working better, but there really is nothing to choose between the two ranges in terms of the wide nibs which work equally well. The Liquitex chisel nibs are great for fluid and expressive drawing, but I found the round nib of the Amsterdam markers better for complex mark making; like hatching and cross hatching in multiple layers.
I found I particularly liked working with the wide nibs as they were really expressive in both ranges and in both cases flow more fluently than the smaller nibs. The colours were vibrant and overlaid well in both Amsterdam and Liquitex. The technical blurb on both suggests that you can manipulate the colour well whilst it’s wet, and you can do this with a brush or even a cotton bud, however the main thing to note here is that you have to work really fast as the drying speeds are so quick. Working with a little water on your brush definitely helps, and if you build this up you can make washes, but be careful as colours can become muddy if you overdo it. I also found that I preferred some colours in one range and some in another; for instance the Sky Blue Light in Amsterdam is a great colour for overlaying, and the Unbleached Titanium from Liquitex is a wonderful soft neutral for colour blends and landscapes.
I also think the metallics are a useful addition, as they can add a pop of brilliance and sheen to a piece of work, and here I tried a gold in both ranges and a silver in Amsterdam. If you prefer the subtle ‘old gold’ look then the Liquitex version is for you, whereas the Amsterdam Light Gold and Silver, were both very true and had a great sheen and brilliance.
I will go on to try the markers on even more surfaces-terracotta for instance. On glass or acetate I found Liquitex marginally better, although the Amsterdam markers performed really well when an opaque layer of acrylic paint was first applied to the reverse of the transparent material. The Liquitex markers were fantastic on silk especially when combined with Liquitex acrylic inks which I happened to have in the studio, but the Amsterdam markers were better on cotton.
My Materials List:-
Introductory set of Amsterdam Acrylic markers (set of 6) code: 2-3364
Amsterdam Pyrole Red-Fine code: 33660315
Amsterdam Light Gold -Fine code: 33660802
Amsterdam Azo Yellow deep- Fine code: 33660270
Amsterdam Titanium White- Medium code: 33662105
Amsterdam Yellow Ochre- Medium code: 33661227
Amsterdam Neutral Grey- Medium code: 33661710
Amsterdam Primary Cyan- Broad code: 33662572
Amsterdam Silver- Broad code: 33662800
Amsterdam Sky Blue Light-Broad code: 33662551
Liquitex Introductory set (set of 6 Broad) code: 32806
Liquitex Introductory set (set of 6 chisel) code: 32807
Liquitex Broad Unbleached Titanium code: 32804434
Liquitex Broad Yellow Oxide code: 32804416
Liquitex Broad Raw Sienna code: 32804330
Liquitex Fine Quinacidrone Crimson code: 32805110
Liquitex Fine Antique Gold code: 32805237
Liquitex Fine Cobalt Blue code: 32805381
Galeria Acrylic Paper Pad code: 18860
Silk Tie (Pongee 10) code: 40363
Liquitex Professional Essential Acrylic Inks- set code: 39017
*All available from Great Art UK on the link below
I also used:-
Paper towel or kitchen roll for cleaning up, plus washing up liquid.
Soft brushes suitable for acrylics for instance System 3.
Acetate sheets eg Rhodoid Acetate Sheets code: 24298
White cotton sheeting- sold by the metre and widely available in local shops and markets
Keep a wad of scrap paper by you all the time as you will need to pump prime the markers every now and then. This is also useful for testing colours and colour blends and for cleaning nibs. Marker nibs, especially in light colours do get dirty and working them for a short time on a completely clean piece of paper, usually does the trick. *You can get replacement nibs for both these ranges of markers, but for normal indoor use on not overly textured surfaces, the nibs should last as long as the contents.
Look after your markers and prolong their life, by removing any excess paint before replacing the cap, making sure caps are on firmly and storing horizontally.
For best results combine with acrylic inks and paints, or even spray paints, and use these for large areas, adding marker on top to build detail, colour variation and depth, and texture too.
Try a few from both ranges-the introductory sets are ideal for this- to decide which sizes and types of nibs you prefer….like me you might find that you prefer specific colours from each range, which is absolutely fine as they work so well together!