Acrylic Markers vs Alcohol Markers: Which Gives the Best Results?

Last Updated: February 29, 2024

A "You inspire me" card created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set

Whether you're a seasoned crafter or just dipping your toes into the vibrant world of crafting, at some point you've likely faced the dilemma of choosing acrylic markers vs. alcohol markers.

The struggle is real, crafty friends! Both have their own set of pros and cons, making the decision a head-scratcher for many. But fear not, for today we're diving into the colorful universe of markers to help you make an informed decision!

Two greeting cards with floral focal points created with Altenew's Artist Alcohol Markers

Acrylic Markers: The Jack-of-All-Trades

A "hugs" card created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set by Jennifer McGuire

Let's start with acrylic markers. The beauty of acrylic markers lies in their compatibility with a variety of surfaces. Whether you're working on canvas, wood, paper, or even fabric, acrylic markers are up for the challenge.

An "I think you are amazing" card colored in with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set

One of the standout features of acrylic markers is their opacity. The rich, vibrant colors can cover even the darkest of surfaces with ease. The ability to layer colors allows for a wide spectrum of creativity, making them ideal for detailed projects. Plus, the drying time is relatively quick, meaning you can keep the creative momentum flowing without having to wait around.

However, like any superhero, acrylic markers have their kryptonite. While they may be adept at most surfaces, their performance on smoother materials might leave you wanting more. And even though acrylic markers don’t blend like alcohol ones, they have a lot of texture to them. For beginners who want to practice the basics of coloring, these markers are a great start!

A "friend" card created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set by Jennifer McGuire

Alcohol Markers: The Smooth Operators

A birthday card with red and blue flowers as focal points created with Altenew's Artist Alcohol Markers

Enter alcohol markers, versatile tools that have been a staple in crafting arsenals for a long time. These markers, commonly associated with brands like Copic and Artistry by Altenew, are renowned for their smooth application and ability to blend seamlessly. If you're into illustration, Japanese manga (comic books), or any style that demands smooth gradients, alcohol markers might just be your new best friends.

An "I love you so much" card with a floral focal point created with Altenew's Firewood Garden Artist Alcohol Markers

The magic of alcohol markers lies in their alcohol-based ink, which allows for a flawless, streak-free finish. The translucent nature of the ink makes blending colors a breeze, offering a level of subtlety that acrylic markers may struggle to achieve. The results are often more polished, with a professional touch that's hard to ignore.

Pro tip: When working with alcohol markers, be sure to either have a protective barrier if you're working on a delicate project or use a thicker, sturdier paper like cardstock — the ink in alcohol markers may bleed through thinner paper.

A "wishing you a beautiful day" card with a floral focal point created with Altenew's Artist Alcohol Markers

Here’s a comparative table that sums up all the differences between alcohol vs acrylic markers:

Acrylic Markers

Alcohol Markers



Works on a variety of surfaces - paper, canvas, wood, fabric, and more.

Tends to bleed through paper

Has a high opacity that works on even the darkest surfaces

Translucent ink brings subtlety and makes blending easier

Great for layering, ombre

Great for blending

Quick drying time

Slower drying time

Doesn't work much on smoother materials

Smooth application and blends seamlessly

Texture is a bit of a challenge to control

Creates smooth gradients and has a streak-free finish, great for illustrations and highlights

Acrylic Markers vs Alcohol Markers: Best Use Cases

The cool thing is, that both acrylic and alcohol markers are perfect for various craft projects, including DIY home decor, handmade cards, scrapbooking, and more. They can be used to add color, texture, and detail to a range of materials, including paper, cardboard, wood, and plastic, making them both multi-purpose tools for crafters of all skill levels.

A greeting card created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set by Jennifer McGuire

Still, one can outshine the other, depending on what project you’re doing. So, here are some tips on which coloring tool suits which projects best.

What Are Acrylic Markers Best Used For?

Paint-by-number sheets colored in with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set

Acrylic markers are incredibly versatile tools, and here are some of the best applications for acrylic markers:

Acrylic markers excel in mixed media projects, where artists combine different materials and techniques to create unique pieces. They work well on surfaces like canvas, wood, paper, fabric, and even metal, allowing artists to incorporate vibrant colors and intricate details into their creations.

  • Canvas Painting

Acrylic markers are perfect for canvas painting, offering a convenient alternative to traditional acrylic paints and brushes. They provide excellent coverage and can be used to create bold lines, intricate designs, and fine details with ease. Artists can layer colors, blend shades, and experiment with various techniques to achieve stunning results on canvas.

  • Illustration and Sketching

Acrylic markers are a favorite among illustrators and sketch artists due to their versatility and quick-drying nature. They are great for creating bold outlines, adding pops of color, and adding details to illustrations and sketches. The opaque nature of acrylic markers allows for easy correction and layering, making them ideal for both rough sketches and finished artworks.

  • Customization and Personalization

Acrylic markers are excellent for customizing and personalizing a wide range of items, including clothing, accessories, home decor, and more. Artists can use them to add designs, patterns, lettering, and embellishments to personalize gifts, decorate surfaces, and express their creativity in unique ways.

A "have a great day" card with yellow flowers as background created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set

What Are Alcohol Markers Best Used For?

In the same vein, alcohol markers have their own kind of versatility, too. Here are some projects that would benefit most from alcohol markers:

An appreciation card with a floral focal point created with Altenew's Artist Alcohol Markers
  • Illustration and Japanese Manga

Alcohol markers are widely used in illustration, particularly for creating vibrant and dynamic artworks, including manga and comic book illustrations. The ability to blend colors seamlessly and achieve smooth gradients makes alcohol markers ideal for bringing characters, scenes, and stories to life with depth and dimension.

  • Fashion Design and Sketching

Fashion designers often rely on alcohol markers to sketch clothing designs and create fashion illustrations. The markers' rich pigments and ability to layer and blend colors allow designers to experiment with different fabrics, textures, and color combinations, helping them visualize and communicate their ideas effectively.

  • Drafting and Architectural Design

Designers and architects use alcohol markers to draft architectural drawings, product designs, and other visualizations. The markers' consistent ink flow and translucent properties make them perfect for adding shading, highlighting, and depth to drawings and design drafts, creating realistic and professional-looking representations of concepts.

  • Fine Art and Portraiture

Alcohol markers are popular among fine artists for creating detailed and realistic artworks, including portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. The markers' smooth application and ability to layer colors enable artists to achieve subtle variations in tone and texture, capturing intricate details and nuances with precision and accuracy.

A lovely card with a floral focal point created with Altenew's Woodland Garden Artist Alcohol Markers Set

The Verdict: It Depends on Your Crafty Quest!

A "sending hugs" card with a floral focal point created with Altenew's Artist Alcohol Markers

So, which marker is the true crafting champion? Well, it depends on your artistic mission. If you crave versatility and enjoy experimenting on various surfaces, acrylic markers might be your go-to pals. On the flip side, if you're a precision seeker who values smooth blends and a polished finish, alcohol markers might be the artistic soulmates you've been searching for.

Also, whether you’re using acrylic or alcohol markers, there are a lot of resources online that can help you make the best out of each one and add value to your crafting — free color swatches, project ideas, video tutorials, and more.

In the end, the best results depend on your personal preferences, the type of projects you tackle, and the surfaces you love to adorn with color. Why not dabble in both worlds and discover the dynamic duo that suits your crafting style?

A greeting card with a blue 3D embossed cardstock  background and a floral focal point created with Altenew's Acrylic Markers Vol.1 set

Happy crafting, friends! May your colors be vibrant, your blends seamless, and your creativity boundless. And, if you ever find yourself lacking inspiration and ideas, don’t hesitate to visit us In the Craft Room!

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