How-To: Upcycle Dried-Up Markers

We’re getting really psyched for our upcoming pinata workshop this Saturday, and one of our preparations is making watercolor paint from old, unusable markers. Because I’m always asking myself, “How can this not be thrown away?,” my friend Jess led me to this blog where a very ingenious teacher simply soaked marker tips in water, and, presto, watercolor paint for days. I decided to test it out myself, and it’s too easy and awesome to not share.

Oh, you know, we just had this lying around.

1. Clean out your drawers. We happen to have whole cooler’s worth (literally, it’s a very vintage Miller High Life cooler, probably from the 60’s. Alas, tis not for sale.) of markers, but you may have to do some digging. You’ll need a good amount. I always think of that Friends episode where Monica is throwing a party, has the goers use her markers, and then instructs them to “make sure the cap clicks when you put it back on.” Oh, Monica, you would lose it if you saw this cooler. Anyhoot, if you got a bunch of markers lying around, you’re good to go.

2. Sort and bundle them by pigment. You don’t have to use the same brand of markers, just make sure they all belong to the same color family. By the way, water-based markers are key here, don’t include permanent ones. The important thing about this project is the dilution/saturation of color depends on 1) the actual color, 2) how much water you use, and 3) the number of markers per color you use. For instance, I needed a BUNCH of yellow markers with very little water to get a really bright, saturated yellow, compared to the amount of markers/water I needed to get a nice blue (fewer markers but a lot of water). Your best bet is to start off with a small amount of water, say just submerging the tips of the markers, and then add water as you go. It’s easier to dilute something with water, instead of adding ink (keep this in mind if you don’t have many markers to work with). You want to aim for an opaqueness of liquid. After all, this is really watercolor paint we’re working with, so it actually won’t paint opaque.

Use clear containers for maximum visibility.

3. Let ’em soak. This could be a matter of minutes or a matter of days, your choice. I even soaked the same bundle of markers twice.

4. Goooo crazy! I put the paint in spritzer bottles I found at the Dollar Store (ok, not totally reusing here, but I was in a pinch). The possibilities seem endless now. I took some plain white paper and gingerly spritzed it with different colors. Had I thought all this in time for Valentine’s Day, I could have made cards with my own dyed paper! You can also go more traditional routes and just use the paint with paintbrushes, or use a finger as a paint brush, whatever. Keep in mind it’s still water-based, so it should clean up easily. I’m sure there are ways this can be used that haven’t occurred to me yet. If you got ideas, please share them!

That's orange and green on the left; blue and pink on the right.

And speaking of sharing ideas, what should be done with all the marker carcasses? Again, we’re trying not to throw things away. This pile of caps looks cool, surely, something can be done. If we come up with something, we’ll let you know. If YOU come up with it, let us know! Who knows…maybe there’ll be a bubble keg in it for you. Til next time, happy reusing everyone!

I see a MacGyver challenge in here somewhere...

This entry was posted in Creative Reuse, How-to, Materials, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How-To: Upcycle Dried-Up Markers

  1. Cynth says:

    We design board games in the art classroom and use the marker caps for game pieces..

  2. Sally says:

    Thanks, Cynth! What a great idea!

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