Alcohol markers like Copic can be used on wood, but their performance will differ from working on paper. The colors might look less vivid on wood, and the ink might bleed faster than you are used to. However, with the right preparation and some practice, you can make it work.
If you love your markers as much as I do, you probably have though once to yourself: I wonder on which other surfaces I can use these markers.
Normally, using Copic markers on anything that isn’t paper leads to pretty bad results.
However, wood is one of the exceptions. Although it doesn’t work as well as paper, it’s not terrible either.
Let’s take a look at how to use markers on wood.
Choosing the right wood for markers
Choosing which wood to use is very important.
If the surface is too rough it will be difficult to draw and you might harm the nibs of your markers.
So make sure to go with wood that is known to be pretty smooth such as pine, birch, or maple.
At the same time, you don’t want to go with wood that is very porous either.
Oak wood for example is very porous and absorbs the ink pretty fast, which will make it difficult to achieve consistent colors.
Preparing the wood
No matter what type of wood you are planning on using, I recommend to always prepare the wood before using your alcohol markers.
I do this by using the following three steps:
1. Sand the wood
As mentioned before, you want to make sure that the surface you are going to draw on is smooth.
This will make drawing a lot easier and will make it less likely that you damage your nibs.
If you are working with a pretty small piece of wood some sanding paper will be enough to do the job. But for bigger pieces you might want to use an electric sander.
2. Clean the surface
This sounds like an obvious step after sanding, but since it’s so crucial I’ll mention it anyway.
Any dust or wood chips left can seriously ruin your drawing.
So make sure that the surface is completely clean before you start drawing.
3. Apply a primer (optional)
If you have a type of wood that isn’t very easy to draw on directly, you can try to apply a primer.
There are lots of primers to choose from. But in general it will help smooth out the surface and it can change the porosity of the surface.
For example, if you have a slice of oak wood, you can add some primer to make sure the ink of the markers doesn’t get absorbed too fast.
You might have to apply several layers to get good results, so read the instructions of your primer carefully.
Alcohol markers on wood – what to expect
I’ll be honest with you.
Using Copic markers or other alcohol markers on wood isn’t easy.
It feels completely different from using them on paper.
And to be frank, there are probably better markers for drawing and writing on wood to choose from.
But if you are up for a challenge, here is what to expect:
Of course, the degree of bleeding depends a lot on which wood you are using and if you used any primer. So your experience might be a little different from mine.
Additionally, not every Copic color looks great on wood.
I noticed that more vibrant and dark colors look great, but some of the lighter shades aren’t as noticeable.
I guess this might be because most types of wood aren’t completely white and already have a faint color. So any marker that is lighter or similar to the wood doesn’t show up very well.
Finally, you can notice some streaks on the wood.
The ink doesn’t dry as smoothly as it does on paper, so it can leave some streaks behind. Even with several layers of ink, it’s difficult to get a completely smooth block of color.
Tips for using alcohol markers on wood
Here are five simple tips to keep in mind when drawing on wood with markers:
- Make sure to properly prepare the wood beforehand
- Practice your design/illustration on paper first
- Use a pencil to faintly sketch your design on the wood
- Limit the use of light shades
- Use empty space to your advantage
Alternative markers for wood
Using Copic markers on wood was a fun experience. And the Copics actually performed better than I was expecting.
However, Copic markers are not really designed for working on wood and there are better paint pens for wood out there.
If you already have Copic markers, drawing on wood can be a fun challenge.
But I wouldn’t recommend buying Copic markers if you are only planning on working on wood.
In that case, you might be better off with Uni Posca markers. These are water-based markers and feel very similar to acrylic paint.
For more information, you can read my article comparing Copic and Posca markers.
In short, alcohol markers work pretty well on wood.
Before you start, you want to sand down the wood and make sure the surface is completely smooth and clean.
You might also have some problems with the ink bleeding, the colors looking a little less vibrant, or with some visible streaks. But it’s definitely possible to decorate wood with Copic markers or other alcohol-based markers.
That being said, I do think that there are other markers that are cheaper and more suited for working on wood, such as the Uni Posca markers.