I like the hand-made style of old time marker renderings. Okay, although today the first sketches often are done with markers, not with the old, nice smelling ones… But I know designers who use mainly computer programs for sketching. Here are some good examples of marker rendering back in the days… Two automotive renderings and an interior design for a gentlemen´s smoking room. The scans are from the book “Advanced Marker Techniques” by Dick Powell and Patricia Monahan (1987); pp. 54-57, 116-119 and page 135.
Automotive Rendering I: The Red Car
Automotive Rendering II: Off the Road
Interior Design – A Gentleman´s Smoking Room
Refreshing old or dried out markers is a good way to save money. Take layout markers for instance. In most cases, they are very expensive and even the refill ink, if there is any to get, is often damn expensive. So if you have a bunch of dried out markers or you´ve left a marker uncapped for a while, the following tips may help you. Make your old and/or dry markers easily work again.
If your markers are just empty and you don´t have a refill ink or there´s no refill ink available for that kind of markers you use, you can also just “refresh” them. In that case, that willl lighten the color compared to its original tone. If you got more than one marker of the same color, you can easily create nuances of the same color. I´ve made several experiences with refreshing markers and in most of the cases it worked. But I won´t guarantee 100% success since there are too much different brands, inks and so on.
First, make sure to get the adequate solvent fluid for the type of marker you want to refresh. Both layout markers and permanent markers are either based on a solvent like toluene and xylene (especially the old ones, like the old letraset pantone markers and some of the AD Chartpak markers) or alcohol. For markers with solvent-based ink you´ll need a solvent like toluene or xylene; for alcohol-based ink you´ll need alcohol. I started refreshing my old layout markers when I discovered that the original refill ink, or more correct the refill ink in its former solvent-based formula, wasn´t available any more. Since the early 1990s, harmful solvents based on toluene/xylene weren´t used any more for marker inks. The formula switched to alcohol based ink. Well, that’s nice, but I made the experience, that the “new” alcohol based ink doesn´t fit in most cases with the “old” solvent-based ink. Some brands offer a thinner for their marker inks and one my find special solvent-based marker ink thinner somewhere left over. So, first, make sure to get the adequate solvent. Ordinary paint thinner that is available in every hardware store contains in most cases toluene and xylene. However, often some paraffin derived additives like white spirit are in it and that may – that’s my experience – being incompatible with the marker ink in the marker. And don´t use turpentine or acetone, the latter make some inks agglutinate, turpentine may hamper the ink to dry completely (it´s a cleaning tool for paint brushes or a thinner for oil-painting, not for permanent marker inks or layout marker inks). And, never use water for refreshing solvent-based markers, that won´t work.
1.) Solvent-based markers
Try to get toluene or xylene in it´s pure form. In Germany, most pharmacies have these two substances. But be careful! Toluene and xylene are highly harmful! For that reason they may ask you for what do you need it. Whenever I explained them the purpose, they gave it away in small amounts for cheap, sometimes even for free. Ask them for a medicine dropper (it must be glass or a solvent resistant material). Well, if you got the stuff, do use it only – and I mean ONLY – in a well ventilated area. If you could unscrew the marker you like to refresh – fine. If not, you have to be a little bit more careful. Avoid contact with your skin since the solvent dries the skin. You may use rubber gloves (also to keep the ink off your hands) . And make sure to keep the solvent far away from children!
Okay, in the unscrewed marker, drop the solvent several times onto the wool-filling inside the marker. The ink color will immediately fade. Don´t overfill the marker! It´s better to repeat that step than to overfill the marker and risk a mess. It depends on the dimension of the marker how many solvent you´ll need, try two to three drops first. Screw and close the marker. Store the marker vertically with nib/cap up. Wait a while. Then store the marker upside down, also for a good while. It may take some time until the dried marker ink and the solvent mixes in a matter, that the color doesn’t look faded. If you store the marker upside down, it´s good to put them in a glass jar or on tissue for if you put too much solvent inside the marker, ink may flow out – so don´t overfill!) If you can´t unscrew the marker, remove the nip carefully, put it aside and drop the solvent through the opening into the barrel. Also, be careful not to overfill. Take care when replacing the nib, the ink/solvent may spurt out – replace it slowly. Follow the same steps as with an unscrewable marker.
2.) Alcohol-based markers
If your markers are alcohol based make sure to get pure alcohol like isopropyl alcohol. You may also use rubbing alcohol for cleaning, but it often contains a small amount of water. However, for refreshing the marker there won’t be a difference, but if you work on paper, the paper maybe will wave a little bit according to the water. The water may also cause the marker ink not to dry completely if applied on other materials than paper, like plastic or metal – so far my experience. Some brands like copic have a special thinner. It´s isopropyl and you may use that for all kinds of alcohol based ink. Follow the steps from 1.).
This works only with permanent and layout markers. I never was successful to refresh paint markers or gouache markers (markers with a water-based pigment ink, like the Artline Poster Markers). Once, the paint or gouache is dry, there isn´t much to do as far as I know.
A last advice: avoid mixing alcohol-based ink and solvent-based ink or filling alcohol into solvent-based markers and vice versa. This may lead to a chemical reaction that will cause aluminum barrels to corrode. In the below picture you can see what I mean… I refilled an old edding 500 solvent-based marker with the alcohol-based edding refill ink of today, and some weeks later, it started to corrode…