Color Smart: Marker Recipes Hurt your Coloring

Marker recipes are not helpful! |

I've got a great recipe to share with you today!

Amy's Amazing Lemon Meringue Pie

  • Baking Powder
  • Butter
  • Cornstarch
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Lemons
  • Salt
  • Shortening
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Vinegar
  • Water


Print this out and make a great pie today!

wait, what's wrong with my fabulous recipe?

What? You say you can't possibly make a pie based on that list?

But I gave you all the ingredients!

Okay, okay. I'll admit that my recipe might be missing a few details, but you're used to that, right? You're completely capable of filling in the gaps!

What? Wait, you're not?

Then why do you have a Pinterest board that looks like this?

This is useless |

So let me get this straight:

  • You have no psychic powers
  • You spend long hours searching Pinterest for marker recipes
  • Some of you have so many recipes that you've subdivided the collection into boards titled "Hair", "Skin", "Animals", "Seasonal"
  • You make major purchasing decisions with the intention to duplicate the featured stamp
  • You mentally beat yourself up when a recipe doesn't work, because after all- the recipe is good so it must be you that stinks
  • When one recipe doesn't work for you, you go pin shopping again for one that does work

Why are you doing this to yourself?


Just stop.

You are wasting your time; you are pinning the wrong thing.

You are riding a merry-go-round in the third circle of hell. No good will come of this, you're just circling round and round and round and round.

It isn't you. It isn't your coloring  skills. It's the recipe that sucks.

Proportions, application order, stroke quality, and paper saturation are far more important than ink color

Please go back and read that one more time.

No, really go back and read it again. I'll wait.

Good. Now let me explain.

You and I could be handed the same 5 markers and the same image stamped on the same paper and we would each produce two completely different looking projects. Heck, I could run this experiment all by myself and I'd produce a totally different image today than I did last Tuesday.

So clearly, there's more to great coloring than finding the most magical blending combination.

Don't believe me?

I just searched Pinterest with the following search terms: "Copic", "Blonde", and "Hair".

The resulting photo wall was 8 wide and 45 pins deep with a "see more pins" box at the bottom.

So that's at least 360 different recipes for blonde hair using alcohol markers. Okay, 338 if you eliminate the pictures of Jennifer Aniston that were oddly prevalent amongst the results.

The point is that none of the results were ugly or bad coloring. They all looked fridge-worthy, even frame-worthy. Now assuming some recipe overlap, we can honestly say that there are about 300 ways to beautifully color blonde hair (with or without Jennifer Aniston's help).

So it's not the ink colors.

Say it with me: It is not the ink colors.

And that's really the only information your marker recipe collection gives you. "I used YR27, YR23, E55, and BV01."

(Don't use that recipe, I just made it up a second ago. But yeah, I think I could make it work.)

What information is missing?

  • Did they work light to dark or dark to light?
  • Which marker(s) were used to blend?
  • How often were colors blended? When?
  • How many applications of each color were used?
  • What was the dry time between colors?
  • How long were the strokes?
  • Were all strokes the same or did one color receive a specialty treatment?
  • How full or fresh was the marker they used (yes, this makes a gigantic difference!)
  • What paper did they work on?
  • How saturated was the paper upon completion?
  • Does the photo display  true color or has it been edited?
  • Did the author deliberately or accidentally omit a color?

Any one of these missing factors can drastically alter the final appearance.

And yet when your project doesn't look like Happy Marker Madam's project looks, you beat yourself up for being inadequate and talentless?

That's ridiculous but yet every day, someone tries to color something as they saw it on Pinterest, fails, and gets just a little more discouraged.

I met a woman last week at Hobby Lobby

She had 3 pinned recipes in her notebook and was trying to purchase the markers listed. She asked me (looking at erasers, not markers) if I knew about substituting colors for the markers which Hobby Lobby didn't carry.

She was prepared to plunk down good money on about 30 markers based on Pinterest recipes and the advice of an eraser-buying stranger.

I helped her but I know she's beating herself up right now... because she needed more than a recipe to reproduce those pins.

Here's one difference between artists and crafters

Crafters are obsessed with supplies.

Now don't get me wrong, you talk to any artist and they'll tell you about how they have way too many #6 brushes or maybe they have three tubes of every paint Old Holland ever produced.

But what really excites an artist is using the product- physically getting in, getting their hands dirty, experimenting with the product. Artists are all about the process, not specific colors.

I've yet to see a product shrine in any artist studio and yet almost every crafter has a favorite product line proudly displayed (or has dreams of building a shrine someday).

Product Shrines- You don't generally find these in artist studios.

Product Shrines- You don't generally find these in artist studios.

Crafters sometimes get it backwards

Note that a quick search of "Watercolor", "Paint", and "Tree" gave me a longer list of pins than my Copic/Jennifer Aniston search. Not a single pin tells me what color paints the artist used.

Instead, it's all about technique.

Same for "acrylic", "still lIfe", "pears"

Nobody is swapping watercolor recipes on Pinterest because anyone who has worked with watercolor for more than a few months knows that it's not WHAT you use but HOW you use it.

Copic collectors haven't quite made that connection yet. Maybe they will over the next few years, but for right now, most people are still overly obsessed with the markers and not the technique.

You could own all 3,580,000 Copic colors and still not produce good results.

You need to know how to use them.

you are only going to get the good stuff in a class

I don't care if it's a live class or online, it could be free on YouTube or a pay-to-download PDF packet. What they all have in common is that you are shown visually and accurately what to do with your marker.

The golden egg lies in the technique, not the ink.

I'm not saying you should never pin a recipe. Pins can inspire you to use different markers than you might normally choose.

But they're no substitute for a good lesson. You are cheating yourself if you think you can get an education by spending 20 minutes a day on Pinterest.

Find a class, find a talented instructor, find a video channel, haunt the blogs and websites of good artists who talk about their process. That's a far better use of your time than pinning hundreds of blonde hair recipes and beating yourself upside the head when you inevitably fail.

this is why I don't feature a weekly marker recipe.

I've had several requests recently. I could but I won't.

I don't want to propagate the madness.