A little Australian Architecture in watercolour markers

August 8, 2022 | 4 Comments

In the past week I’ve been having lots of fun getting to know two different types of water-soluble markers from the Faber Castell range (The Gold Faber Aqua Markers and the Albrecht Durer Watercolour Markers) and exploring ways of combining them with either coloured pencils (Polychromos) or watercolour pencils (Albrecht Durer Pencils). If you missed it, I’m working with Faber Castell Australia as part of their annual Colour4LIfe competition and I’m representing the architecture category (see more here).

So these pages record my explorations of these new (to me) tools, sketching a few buildings that I’ve visited on my local road trips over the past 18 months.

Normally when I use water-soluble pens I don’t try to use them as a substitute for watercolour and end up doing a lot of monochrome sketches. See here and here. But in the past few weeks, I’ve found myself using them in a similar way as I use watercolour paint even though in some respects they behave very differently. I’ve been really pleased with the results so far and I’m absolutely loving exploring new ways to combine materials and colours!

Before I share these sketches I have a few general comments about using markers:

  • Watercolour markers will never replace watercolour paint (no pigment parties!) but they are an interesting option for occasions when getting out paint and water would be difficult. I’m also thinking that these would be a good alternative to watercolour for beginners – particularly when it comes to urban sketching. I’m finding that these markers are much more forgiving than watercolour.
  • The Albrecht Durer Markers are a bit bulky so the challenge is to reduce the selection to a workable collection. A big part of creating a minimal marker kit will be to pair them with a select number of pencils to increase the range of colours that can be achieved. Although I’m currently mainly using them with coloured pencils I intend to revisit watercolour pencils more seriously as I think they will provide the best options. More about this in future articles.
  • Whenever possible I prefer using refillable tools – I’ve been using fountain pens for writing and drawing since I was 15 years old! So I would be much happier if these markers were in some way refillable (similar to the Copic markers I used a lot last year.) and hope that this can be developed in the future. When a single-use pen runs out I recycle it thanks to the ‘Pens and Marker’ recycling bin at my nearest Officeworks store. So there is absolutely no need for a plastic pen to end up in landfill!
  •  The GoldFaber Aqua markers body and cap are made from 100% recycled plastic and you can find out more about the sustainability of Faber Castell’s products here.

I started off using the Gold Faber AquaMarkers as I initially found them easier to use. I filled a shape with the marker and then move the colour around a little.

As the AD Markers are more intense and heavily pigmented I’ve been simply putting down a few strokes and then filling the shape with the waterbrush picking up the pigment from the initial stroke/s.

The main challenge with using markers is dealing with the brightness/intensity of the colour so with both markers I have been reducing the saturation when I applied the water and picking up some of the pigment with my brush.

On this page I was comparing the GoldFaber Markers with the AD ones and I enjoyed using both equally. In all four sketches, I drew first in ink and then added a little coloured pencil or watercolour pencil (WCP) before applying the markers and water.

Using GoldFaber markers with CP on the building (and in the sky) and WCP (Cad Yellow and Indigo) to the shrub. I really like the cauliflower effect in the grey foreground.

Another combination of CP/WCPs and the GoldFaber Markers

Once I discovered that the GoldFaber Markers are not available quite yet in Australia I decided to focus solely on the AD Markers. So this is the last GoldFaber that I’ve done.

First sketch using the AD Markers and I applied a lot less marker to the page. This is my first attempt at a blue AD marker sky. I used a series of vertical strokes as I had used in GoldFaber versions but it resulted in some unwanted backrun effects…

…so in the next sketch I tried a slightly different technique which worked better.

I love the experimentation process when using new materials!

Another page with a few small architecture sketches from photos of buildings I visited during last year’s road trip.

I started with a JimmyB building – Bathurst Gaol – and the photo on the left shows how many marker strokes I put down after a little bit of coloured pencil. The colour was intense so I ended up lifting off quite a lot of pigment with my brush.

Even though the overall colour of this building is heavier than I had intended, I was happy with the result and I particularly like some of the textures achieved.

Following the same technique of drawing in ink, adding some coloured pencils (Polychromos)  for texture before adding a few marker strokes. A little water was then applied with a waterbrush.

And another simple little building sketch with some more sky experimentation.

On the third spread I decided to start with marker and not use any coloured pencils…

Here is a photo of my initial layer of marker and then fude ink lines over the top.

I ended up doing a fair bit of layering in the shadow areas to see what the result would be and although it is a dark shadow there is some nice colour variation within it. I still haven’t worked out the best way to get lively shadow areas but I’m loving some of the textures!

I’m also experimenting with using Pitt Pens for shadow areas… but I’ll share more about that in a future article.

And just a reminder to my Australian readers – there are some great prizes for the Colour4Life competition and I would love to see some urban sketching entries! 🙂 Find out more here.


  • Jamie C says:

    Lovely! Such a great variety of techniques are possible with markers! I’d no idea!’

  • Annette Huppatz says:

    Kind of looking forward to when the goldfaber markers arrive in Australia. The Pitt are a bit expensive for something I may or may not use a lot. I used some goldfaber pencils when I first started using coloured pencils and they were excellent. So the goldfaber marker may be worth a play.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Annette – I really love the sampe set FC gave me to test and can’t wait to have the full range available.

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