art / Drawing

Markers Are Not Just For Kids

Making a self portrait is easy. The sun isn’t going to suddenly set while trying to paint a landscape, the butterfly isn’t going to fly away in the middle of your sketch…You aren’t going anywhere. All you need is mirror! I’ve been drawing/painting self portraits for years, mostly because it allows me to see myself in different ways. Senior year in High School I did an oil painting, showing all my imperfections (braces, zits, redness, even that weird bump on my forehead). Then I continued with pointillism, disregarding the imperfections and focusing more on the shadows of my face. You can use any medium: pencil, pen &ink, paint, pastels, markers, crayons – use what your comfortable with.

Today, I decided to do a cartoon version of myself (although its more of a anime cartoon style).

What you will need:

  • mirror
  • pencil
  • fine point black pen (.05) or any roller ink pen
  • markers (I am using Roseart Markers that I got at the dollar store – I would go with any cheap pack with atleast 24 colors)
  • paper (any paper will do, I am using regular sketching paper)
  • a piece of scrap paper


Start Drawing!

  1. Grab a mirror and stare at yourself for a few minutes. Observe the shape of your face, the space between your eyes, the length of your nose.
  2. Set up your lighting. This is not going to be all technical, it is as simple as just sitting next to a lamp.
  3. Start to draw with a pencil. I usually begin with my eyes because I like my eyes. They also help me position the rest of my face
  4. Continue with the nose and mouth, but the measurements don’t have to be perfect!
  5. When you are done with your major features, draw the shape of your face and add a basic outline of your hair.
  6. After everything is done, go over the pencil with a very fine black pen (Some people like this to be the last step, do what makes you feel comfortable). The risk of using the pen first is that when you start using the marker, the black ink might mix with the color

This is your basic ink outline

Now that the outline is done, lets go out those markers!

  1. Once again, I like to start with the eyes. Remember this is a cartoon version of yourself so you don’t need a perfectly matching color. I have grey blue eyes, but I went with a sky blue color.
  2. I moved on to coloring in my glasses, but I went over with a “second coat” where shadows would appear. With markers, you create layers, the more you go over it, the darker it gets so have a extra piece of paper handy to test how dark you want the color.

    Example of layers done with Prismacolor markers (the gods of markers)

  3. Next were the lips. I went over with one layer of red, then did a second layer where the shadows would appear. I also grabbed a darker red from the pack and used that as well.
  4. The hair is the funnest part! Pick your color and drag the marker in a curve like motion to follow the natural curl of your hair (or go straight if that is how your hair is). You will notice that as you overlap the lines of marker, the small pieces that go over each other will darken. Wah La! Shading with no effort.
  5. I grabbed a darker brown and in a whisp like motion, created darker sections of hair.

After the color is added

Now, some might prefer to leave the skin white. I personally like that style because I think it makes everything else pop – in this case, my glasses and lips really draw attention. But if you want to add skin color, go ahead.

  1. Choose a color and try not to over lap the lines as you color in. When you color the skin, don’t think like a two year old and scribble back forth. Purposefully pull the marker to the shape of your face. For example, when coloring the forehead, your forehead isn’t flat so you want curve the marker to the shape of your forehead.
  2. When you have one layer down, go over it again if you want it darker.
  3. IF YOU HAVE GLASSES – I suggest not coloring the inside of them in. I used the skin color in lightly inside, trying to create a reflection like effect. I just did a few quick lines around the bottom and sides of my eyes.
  4. Now time to shadow! Using the same marker, just go over places that need a bit of shadowing to give the face a less flat look. Generally shadows will appear under the eyes,nose, mouth, and parts of the brow. It all depends on how the light is hitting your face.

The end result with skin color

Does is have to be perfect? NO! Yes some of my ink bled into the marker, I overlapped in some places I shouldn’t have, and my pen lines weren’t as straight as they can be but nothing is perfect. In this cartoon version of myself, I made my face slimmer and my nose alittle longer. I also included my piercings, which I don’t normally do.

But really…no matter if you are an artist or not…when was the last time you drew a cartoon version of yourself with cheap markers mostly found in kindergarten classes?

Try it and send me a link in the comment box, I would love to see your marker drawings. Gold stars for anyone who tries!


3 thoughts on “Markers Are Not Just For Kids

  1. Hi, Kathleen Casey! I’m writing a post about art markers, and found your blog and this post – awesome work, very inspiring and encouraging. Thanks for share and keep working! Also, I would like to use your picture “Example of layers done with Prismacolor markers (the gods of markers)” to illustrate my work – obviously with credits and linking to your post/blog. Can I? 😀

    Greetings from Brasil!

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