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What Paint Markers Can Be Used With Oil Paintings

Paint markers have multiple uses.
Set of markers. A close up. Isolated on a white background. image by Andrey Khritin from Fotolia.com

Paint markers are just what the name would suggest--paint in marker form--and make painting lines without brushes or palette a possibility. Available in many sizes, colors and levels of permanence, paint markers may be a suitable artistic option for creating or complementing existing paintings.


Paint markers are available at most office supply or art stores in either oil-based or water-based form. Both varieties offer different tip diameters and shapes, ranging from extra-fine to extra-bold in either a pointed or blunt style. Available in 12 to 20 colors, medium and fine tips come in a wider selection of hues than extra-fine or bold tips. Many brands offer metallic colors as well.

Water-Based Markers

Water-based paint markers are non-toxic, clean up easily without paint thinners and are suitable for use alone or as a supplement to most non-oil-based mediums. They are acrylic, opaque and can write on surfaces that are not oily or greasy, such as leather, wood, paper, canvas and glass, and dry quickly. They are not recommended for use on oil paintings, however.

Oil-Based Markers

Oil-based markers are permanent and create more durable, archival results that won't fade in sunlight or wear away easily, though they can be removed with paint thinners. Completely opaque, oil-based paint markers can be used on dark or light surfaces of metal, wood, glass, plastic, stone, rubber, canvas and paper, or in conjunction with most 2-D media, including oil-based paints. Like the water-based markers, they dry quickly and are best for linear effects and writing.

Potential Dangers

Proceed with caution when using permanent oil-based paint markers. Most varieties contain toxic ingredients such as xylene or toluene, and should be used in well-ventilated areas. Also, because of their permanence and difficulty in clean-up, oil-based paint markers are generally considered unsuitable for use by children.


A third alternative, closely related to the paint marker, is the solidified paint pen. It's actually another form of marker, but instead of the paint being moved through a nib, the pen is filled with solidified oil paint that can be twisted up as needed and painted with directly. Because the paint is oil-based, solidified paint pens are also permanent and can be used in conjunction with oil paints or on most other surfaces, even wet or oily ones. Waterproof and smudge resistant, they leave a mark that looks more like chalk than paint.

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