When it comes to drawing on paper, alcohol-based markers are considered to be the best.
So it’s not very surprising that some people assume that they are also the best option for drawing on other surfaces.
For example, recently someone asked me if you can use Copic and other alcohol markers on canvas.
Yes, you can use alcohol markers on canvas. It doesn’t damage your markers and you can color the canvas with them.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Everything that makes working with alcohol markers great on paper such as smooth lines and easy blending are impossible on canvas.
Maybe that surprised you.
In case you want to know more, let’s take a closer look why using alcohol markers on canvas is so different from using them on paper.
Do alcohol markers work on canvas?
It’s important to realize that not every canvas is the same. And I’m not just talking about the different canvas sizes you can choose from.
For example, the canvas fabric itself can be woven from different materials such as cotton, linen, synthetic fibers, or a blend of those.
Moreover, most stretched canvases that are for sale nowadays are already primed. Priming is the process of applying a thin coating over the canvas.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to prime your canvas. But that is maybe a good topic for another time.
What’s important for now is that there are lots of different primers to choose from, even more different technique that you can use to apply the primer, and you can apply any amount of layers you feel like.
What I’m trying to say here is that two canvases can be very different even if they look the same.
And as a result, if you try to use alcohol marker on canvas, the results might be a bit different from mine.
But my results were so bad, that I’m pretty confident in saying that no matter which canvas you use, you won’t have a very good time.
Copic markers on canvas
For this article, I tried using Copic markers on canvas, since they are often considered to be the best alcohol markers out there.
The first thing you will notice when using your Copic markers on canvas is that it’s pretty much impossible to make straight lines.
Since canvas is a woven fabric, it’s always going to be very rough at the surface and makes it difficult to make smooth lines.
When comparing different types of paper for Copic markers I also talked about the roughness or the “tooth” of the paper. But even the roughest paper I have tried feels smooth compared to canvas.
Priming the canvas is supposed to smooth out the canvas a little bit.
But keep in mind that most stretched canvases are primed for acrylic or oil painting, in which case a little roughness isn’t a big problem.
But this isn’t the case for Copic markers.
Because of the rough surface, you will also quickly notice that the color coverage is very bad.
This is because the marker nib has difficulty reaching the strings deeper in the weave. As a result you will only color the strings that are close to the surface and your line will be interrupted by many white spaces.
Basically, your lines will look like a primary school kid that just learned how to draw made them.
If you don’t want the white canvas to show through, you will have to apply many layers of ink.
Finally, I had a very hard time blending colors together.
I guess this is because the Copic ink really sinks into the canvas, whereas it normally stays pretty close to the surface for marker paper.
Regardless of the reason, not being able to blend with my Copics is a huge red flag for me.
It pretty much felt like whatever I drew with my Copic markers on canvas, I could have drawn with any cheap kids’ marker as well.
Best paint marker for canvas
The main reason why alcohol markers don’t work well on canvas is because of their alcohol-based ink.
However, not every art marker uses alcohol-based inks. And indeed, some markers actually work very well on canvas.
I personally would use Uni Posca markers for drawing on canvas. (You can find my detailed Posca marker review here.)
These Posca markers are water-based and behave very similar to acrylic paint.
That’s why they work better than the Copic markers that behave more similar to watercolor paint.
You might have seen one of your favorite art YouTubers use Uni Posca markers before, since they are one of the best markers when it comes to customization.
Best surface for Copic markers
Although they might not be the best for canvas, I still do love Copic markers… but only when used on paper!
If you are having a hard time getting the results you want, it might be because you are using the wrong paper.
Similar to have not every canvas is the same (despite the way they look), not every paper is the same either.
For example, you probably don’t want to use Copic markers on watercolor paper or printer paper.
So if you aren’t sure if you are using the right paper, you can read my article on the best paper for Copic markers.
Yes, you can use Copic markers on canvas but the results aren’t very good.
You will have difficulty drawing straight lines, the coverage isn’t very good, the white canvas might show through your drawing, and blending is very difficult.
Copic markers are best used on marker paper. If you want to draw on canvas, I recommend using other art markers, such as the Uni Posca markers.