≡ Menu

Copic Marker Underwater Textured Background Tutorial

This post may include affiliate links, which means I may make a commission on purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. 

I’ve been doodling and coloring a lot this year and really enjoying the handful of Copic markers I acquired a little bit ago. They’re a lot of fun use and produce beautiful results, especially once you understand how they work. I do not, however, like just coloring with them to fill an entire background, and prefer to create a more textured appearance to frame the drawing’s focal point. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to create funky, textured backgrounds using Copic markers and gel hand sanitizer. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true – check it out!

Copic Marker Underwater Textured Background Tutorial

I guess it doesn’t have to be strictly ‘underwater’ – you could make this look like clouds or just bubbles – but I happen to think it goes quite well with aquatic pictures. The technique works best with a cardboard tube, such an an empty toilet paper or paper towel tube. It may work with markers other than Copics – I honestly don’t know. I have a small set of Le Plum markers, which are pigmented brush-tip markers, but this technique doesn’t really work with them. I’d guess you could use this method with other blending-friendly markers, like Prismacolor markers or Spectrum Noir markers. If you have either of those types of markers and give this a try, could you please let me know how it works out?

Materials for the underwater textured background

  • Paper – I recommend high-quality marker, mixed media, or watercolor paper. Printer paper will just fall apart!
  • Gel hand santizier
  • A cardboard tube
  • Your markers
  • A shallow plate
  • A couple paper towels

supplies for Copic marker textured background

Textured Copic marker background tutorial

1. Pump some hand sanitizer on to your plate.

prepare a little hand santizier

2. Protect your work surface with a couple paper towers and then position your paper on top of them. This technique can cause some bleeding on the back and if you don’t use paper towels, you may end up with permanently rainbow countertops!

protect your work surface

3. Color a few square inches of space with your preferred marker. I’ve found this technique works best on fresher ink, so I advise working in chunks instead of trying to color the entire background at once. You can go ahead and use your blender, if you want, but it works just as well after creating your designs and using a blender at this point doesn’t seem to improve the hand sanitizer effect.

color with your Copic

4. Dip the tube’s end in the hand sanitizer.

put your cardboard tube in the hand sanitzer

5. Use the sanitizer-coated tube like a stamp to create rings on your colored area.

stamping with the tube

6. Watch in amazement as the hand sanitizer pushes the color away from the coated area.

circle designs drying

7. Repeat steps 3-6 as many times as you’d like.

additional background textures

8. Wait for the hand santizier to dry and then draw away!


How easy is that? Because all marker colors react differently to the hand sanitizer, I recommend trying a sample sheet before having at your carefully crafted work of art. Even colors in the same family behave differently from one another, so it’s always worth experimenting with any new markers. Here are a few swatches to give you an idea of how differently pigments can react:

color samples of Copics and hand santizer

You obviously don’t have to use just the cardboard tube as-is. You can create cool shapes by folding the tube, or just use the closed end of another marker to make solid dots. Stamps, unfortunately, don’t really work – this technique is not good at communicating detail. It is, however, totally perfect for rings, dots, and even lines.

What’s your favorite way to fill in the background on drawings or paintings?


{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Laura Hix February 14, 2014, 22:48

    I am trying so hard to find a follow button or subscribe link on your blog and cannot find it. Can you help?

    • Natashalh February 15, 2014, 06:26

      The usual spread of icons is under the little bio and you can follow via Twitter, G+, etc. there. A little further down, below the categories and above the search box and most popular posts is a “Follow by Bloglovin” button. I hope that helps!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.