Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Here is a quick review of some markers I own & use in my artworks. These are not the same as the whiteboard/permanent markers you get for a dollar each or the magic pens children use.

These markers are alcohol-based so you can layer them and the strokes blend easily, making your work look professional without streaking. That means it is possible for you to use one colour beneath another to get another colour, although it may not work out nicely all the time.

The prices are much more expensive than magic markers or permanent markers like Sharpies. My cheapest AD Chartspak cost about S$3.85 per pen, and the Copics cost about $5 - $6.00 each. Yes we have to spend quite an amount to own a decent set of hues to work with. Refills for Copics (around S$11) saves me money for the long run as I can use them to refill the markers several times over.

Thinking about that, artworks do cost a significant bit to complete in that case. Anyhow the thing about markers are since colours are prepared already, all you need to do it spend time looking for the right colours. I find mixing paints tedious so markers are wonderful, clean and convenient. I wish they come cheaper but I will not complain too much as the Copics available in Singapore are sometimes half the price compared to other countries.

The negative aspect to these professional alcohol markers is they dry very quickly so you get little to no chance of saving your work if you make mistakes. Wrong colour choices and bleeding are usually hard to rectify. Minor bleeding can be 'pushed back' over the lines with a blender. Many times I have ruined work by leaving my marker nib on paper on too long, bleeding over lines, picking the wrong colour or finding out the colours don't match.

It may take a while for you to get used to colouring quickly because delay too long and slight streaking may occur. The colours are transparent so obviously they don't come in white like dry media. To have white you either leave out colouring the paper, or use opaque white (gouache, acrylic, colour pencils, white pen). Correction fluid works too but it turns yellow over time so I don't recommend it at all.

Copics are the godfather of alcohol markers and one of the best, if not the best. They are refillable and made in Japan, so they are the priciest of the lot. Their nibs also can be replaced. I believe the pricing goes into packaging where the colour labels are the plastic caps instead of using stickers. The thing about alcohol-based markers is they melt your lineart if your lines are also alcohol based/ not compatible so I usually test out on my lines or be extra careful. Colours are consistent and quite translucent, you can go over a few times to get different intensity. Their broad nibs are stiffer than other brand markers.

A. Copic Marker
This has a square body and nibs are exchangeable/ replaceable. The default marker you get is a broad nib & a fine nib suitable for details. It is available in 214 colours. The caps also tell you what colour you are currently using.

B. Copic Ciao
This one is smaller to hold (round body) and I like the brush nib & medium broad nib which is suitable for my miniature artworks. It comes in 144 colours. However it is not as good as the normal copic marker if you want to colour large spans of background as it holds less ink, but it is cheaper.

C. Copic Sketch
Sketch has an oval flat body and the caps tell you the colour. It has a medium broad nib and a brush nib, similar to the Ciao. It comes in 322 colours and costs the same as the normal Copic, sometimes I choose Ciao over Sketch so I can get more colours. But I feel that the Sketch brush nib seems to spoil less often, maybe because it doesn't run out as quickly and end up with crystalised dried nibs like my Ciaos, so if I had the extra money, I would get more of this. The brush nib is very useful for making fluid strokes when doing shadows, therefore many artists like using Sketch best.

Prismacolor markers are medium priced and made in USA. They revamped their packaging. 2 nibs: one broad and one pen nib. The broad nib is 2 times fatter than Copics and 2 times softer so it gets a nice flow of ink. The pen nib however is the kinds of skinny plastic tips, so it can get damaged if you press too hard. Sometimes ink don't flow out right and it squeaks or leaves pressure marks especially when you've just started reusing it after a long time. I am probably not storing it properly as you have to lay it flat, but mine is all standing so I guess that affects the flow of ink.

However the pen nib is useful for writing or filling in tiny areas. They have a wide range of grey tones, warm grey/cool grey & french grey. Not too useful for me but good for techincal drawings in design or shadow work.

The colour selections are not as vibrant as Chartpak or Copics in my opinion. Some colours like blond wood have a strange grey undertone. Some hues are too similar to each other or their names aren't too accurate. Light olive is not really light and lime peel is more pastel avocado-ish and rose pink isn't really flowery. The colours on the packaging are misleading, seldom do they appear as the actual tones, so I always have to test on a piece of paper to make sure. I did not buy my Prismas but received it as a gift from my boyfriend as he doesn't use it. They are not available in Singapore. I also have stopped using them unless I run out of Copic colours.

Chartpak markers comes in 1 broad nib, 130 colours and made in USA. They call it the tri-nib but really it just one fat nib you have to use at different angles so it takes time to master these markers and it doesn't help when they are very bleedy for a new pen. Their nibs are the biggest of all so you cannot do detail work but their juiciness works great for large areas of colour.
I love them for their vibrance, they have a pretty selection, with my faves being their yellows, pinks & beiges. These are almost half the price of Copics, the local art store does not stock them anymore unfortunately. The best thing about them is they do not melt my linearts even when I use an alcohol marker to do lineart.

The best time to use them is when they are half full (or should I say half empty?). All my early works are made with Chartpak. These are the first markers I ever used (in fashion school) so adapting to other markers are no problem.
Their packaging can be improved. For one, the colour printed on the labels are not accurate over time as they fade, and there are no names on the caps' sticker labels. Their caps are sometimes stuck from caked ink residue and as a result, horrendously hard to remove. To cover the marker, the caps just slip on, instead of screwing or snapping them in place, so they get stuck because you used too much force to cap it, or the cap falls out because you don't want your caps to get stuck. I've gotten blisters, used pliers and had dried out markers because of these problems. There are no refills available. Another thing is they bleed yellow 'shadows' onto other pieces of paper if you stack them together for a long time, maybe due to the intensity of the dyes, so always store them separately.

Maxon Comictwin markers are twin-nib, alcohol-based and made in Japan. One side is a brush, the other is a fine sturdy nib. Not too easy to find, it may be defunct now since it has been many years. Maxon is more well-known for screentones I think. Love these, but their colours are VERY limited, mostly pastels & pop colours. They are in the mid-range price. Because of their small size, they finish quickly.

Letraset Promarkers markers have one fine nib and one broad nib each, made in England. I don't have much to say because I only own one for testing, but liking it so far. The nibs are stiff and have a nice flow of ink. I cannot remember how much this cost but I believe it was cheaper or same price as Copics. Letraset also produces the Tria (3 nibs) Pantone markers.

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