Over the past six months, I’ve been experimenting with expensive art markers. This started, more or less, as an accident: I became curious about the medium after finding a set of Distress Markers on a sale from Massdrop.com. After playing around with them and drawing a few small pieces, I found myself dissatisfied with their color selection, relative lack of portability (TSA was unkind to the storage tubes), and streaking texture, so I started to branch out to see what else was available.
What follows are my condensed findings. I tried Distress Markers, Tombows, KAISERfusions, and Copics, and after learning how to handle them, eventually settled with the Copic sketch 25th Anniversary collection and some add-ins.
Pros: Very strong ink flow, inexpensive, water soluble, and very kind to paper. These blend nicely and are very unlikely to bleed through the page they’re used upon. Color selection is a set of colors not normally found in other sets.
Cons: Terrible as an introductory marker kit. Since Distress emphasizes faded and less common colors, these leave much to be desired in terms of vibrancy. As with all water-soluble markers I’ve tried, these also streak heavily, even when blended, leaving muddy textures on the page if you’re not careful. Storage is also an issue: the tube larger sets come with doesn’t travel terribly well.
Pros: Very similar texture and saturation to Distress, making them very compatible with the aforementioned kit. Common colors are found in this line, and colors are on average substantially more vibrant than Distress markers.
Cons: Like Distress, these streak the page and can create muddy, oversaturated blotches if you’re not careful. Varying paper weight can help this: thinner papers with a folded paper towel for bleed-throughs can substantially reduce the streaking and likelihood of problems, but this limits the media you can tolerably work with with this kit.
Pros: Since these are alcohol-based markers, they blend very well and have a much lower propensity to cause streaks and blotches on the page. Much less expensive than Copic markers. Relatively odorless versus Prismacolors and other alcohol-based markers.
Cons: These bleed through pages like nothing else. They also show shoddy toner quality, which causes small streaks and imperfections in the colors. Color selection is also confusing, poorly matched with the labels, and often not what you expect. Blending with Copics or brush pens like Sakura leads to black muddy patches that ruin drawings. Non-refillable. No brush tips on the set I tried.
Copic sketch (regular and 25th Anniversary):
Pros: Some of the best art markers on the market. These bleed through pages less than KAISERfusions (I still use a paper towel, though), have very little odor, and blend beautifully. These are the markers I use most heavily, and find to be an absolute joy. Blend beautifully. Vivid color palette. Refillable.
Cons: Expensive: $186 for a 36 pack, $8 per marker at many retailers. Most larger kits are deeply confusing and do not have a good color palette (follow this advice when buying). Missing colors are expensive and hard to find if one lacks a local retailer.
I hope this post will be helpful to someone wishing to buy new art markers for themselves. I’ll be making separate posts with my art, so you can see just what I’ve put together with these.