Smooth, consistent, quick-drying, and versatile. These are the things most people and I think about when somebody mentions something about markers. Markers are a relatively new type of medium since it only made their way to art and everyday life in the 1950s. Markers played a significant role in making comics, manga, and cartoons possible. And markers also fill a useful purpose in our lives as writing instruments.
What to Look for When Buying Best Art Markers
Types of Markers
The most important thing you have to consider when getting a new set of markers might be the type. There are mainly three types which are water-based, solvent-based, and alcohol-based markers.
Alcohol-based markers are the best recommendation for art. These will dry up quickly and evenly, and it will produce a consistent and permanent finish, which is ideal for comic and cartoon illustrations.
Water-based markers are also commonly used for art, but kids mainly use them since these are mostly non-toxic and washable. Water-based inks are also preferred to be used in calligraphy as they can make gradients that can make your work more appealing. Using these in the art will give off a similar finish with watercolors.
Lastly, solvent-based markers might be the least preferred markers for art, but it is the best for crafts and everyday use. Solvent-based markers commonly have acrylic or oil-based paint inside, making these suitable with any surface, whether rough or smooth, and bring a durable and lasting finish at the same time.
Different tips will bring different marks and patterns. Tips, also known as nibs, comes in different shapes and sizes. With shapes, there are bullets, chisel, and brush. Size ranges from extra-fine, fine, medium, and broad.
The Bullet tip is the most common marker tip, and it has a rounded tip allowing for smooth strokes. This is good for both coloring and writing. Bullet tips are available in extra fine, medium, and broad sizes.
The Chisel tip comes with a slanted and flat end, allowing you to draw both fine and broad lines. This tip is excellent for calligraphy, coloring, and highlighting. There are tons of chisel tip sizes from 4mm up to 50mm. Just keep in mind that broader tips will drain ink faster.
The Brush tip marker is the best marker for calligraphy and coloring. Brush pens leave fine to broad strokes depending on how hard you put pressure on the tip. And to help you get the control you prefer, brush tips can vary from soft to very firm.
There are a lot of tips to choose from, right? If you’re a bit confused and undecided on what tips to get, there are dual-tip markers such as the Bianco, Prismacolor, and Spectrum Noir markers we listed.
Range of colors
One of the most significant disadvantages of markers over other mediums is that it’s much more challenging to mix and blend different colors than other mediums. Mixing colors on alcohol and solvent-based markers can only be done with layering, and most markers, especially low-end ones, can’t do that well. Although water-based markers are a bit more forgiving to mix colors with, you only need to add water with a brush.
So, we strongly recommend getting as much color as possible, especially if you plan to get alcohol and solvent-based ones. And of course, getting more colors will cost more, so consider your art style and budget.
Like most mediums, the pigments on markers have a certain degree of lightfastness or ability to resist fading. Unfortunately, most alcohol and water-based markers are not lightfast at all, and that’s the reason why artists don’t commonly use markers for fine artworks. If you’re eager to find lightfast markers, you should look for solvent-based markers or high-end alcohol-based markers.
Size & Design
Size and design refer to the marker’s body, which might affect your comfort of drawing with markers. Markers come in thin and thick sizes, mainly depending on their tip size and shape. And some manufacturers dedicate extra time and thought to improve the ergonomics of markers, which is why some markers come with round, triangular, or hexagonal bodies. Some markers might even come with rubber grips.
We recommend getting the ones you’re most comfortable with, or otherwise stay with the round body markers as it can work with everyone.
Most art markers are more expensive, and several factors affect the price of markers. First of all, art markers commonly come in kits, and the price goes up as more colors are included. Second, some art markers have specially formulated inks that promote lightfastness and better pigmentation, making the price go up. If you’re a budget mindful beginner, it’s no harm to get lower quality and fewer colors for your first kit. Just be ready to spend more as your skills improve.
This term is specific for the Copic markers we mentioned on this list. ABS stands for the AirBrush System that Copic makes. The Copic ABS can be easily used by loading the Copic Sketch or Classic’s chisel tip. Attach the ABS to an Aircan or an air compressor, and you’re all set to airbrushing.
Best Art Markers Comparison: Table of the Top Brands
Markers may seem straightforward in everyday lives, but markers get a bit more complicated when used in art or calligraphy. So it’s always safe to know that many markers vary with their ink, tips, and design that will change their overall performance that will benefit performance or cost. In this article, we’re taking a look at five art markers bringing out the best performance in different categories.
Best for Professionals
|Copic Sketch Basic Set||
Best for Beginners
|Copic Ciao Basic Set||
Best Cheap Markers
|Bianyo Classic Series Dual Tip Art Markers||
Best for Coloring
Best for Drawing
|Illustrator Markers by Spectrum Noir||
1. Copic Markers Sketch Basic Set – Best for Professionals
Let’s start with Copic Markers, which most artists consider as the best markers for professionals. To give a bit of a background, Copic markers are made by a Japanese company called Too. From the beginning, Too aimed to make the Copic markers for fine arts and designers. With all that background, I’m having high expectations with this kit.
Now, since these high-end kits can get pretty expensive, we’re considering what most people needs. That’s why we recommend the 36 color kit best. If you’re on a budget, there’s a six-piece kit available. And if you need more, five 72-piece kits are labeled as A, B, C, D, and E.
You can get all five kits to complete all 358 colors in your collection. And there’s also the Copic Sketch Comic Set, which comes with 24 colors selected for comic illustrations. Again, you can buy blank Copic markers, which can be beneficial to some since you can blend the inks yourself before filling the markers with ink.
Now, the 36 color kit comes in a rigid plastic shell packaging, which I like very much, and you can either reuse this or have a durable stand for your marker’s lifetime. And each marker is labeled with its color code on the caps, and there is a grid separator to keep your markers stable and snug when you store them.
Artists don’t hail Copic markers as the best for nothing. With the Copic Sketch kit, you’ll get dual-tip markers. The Copic Sketch comes with one tip as the Medium Broad Chisel tip, while the other end has the Super Brush tip as the standard. You can swap out the nibs for a medium round or a super fine nib if you wish to. The body shape on the Copic Sketch markers is a bit unusual. These have an oblong shape, which some people find uncomfortable to use for more extended periods.
On paper, any of the tips perform great, and you’ll get a consistent finish and a smooth drawing experience. But accuracy for other artists might be compromised with the unusual oblong body. But setting the ergonomics aside, this marker can put down exact details with either the super brush tip or the chisel tip’s edge. The super brush tips have a unique feel to them that brings more predictable handling and control.
The Copic Ink brings vibrant colors and dries quickly, yet you can rehydrate the ink after a long time. The ink is a bit lightfast, to the degree that the color doesn’t change much after thoroughly drying. The alcohol-based ink is also refillable making it reusable for years to come.
Pros and Cons
It’s no surprise that Copic’s markers have been deemed as the best in the market. The best thing I liked about the Copic ink is its gentle touch, even with light papers, which makes layering significantly more comfortable to do. I highly recommend this for everyone to at least experience. If this is too expensive for you, you can get the six-piece kit, or perhaps the next marker on this list might be a better choice.
2. Copic Ciao Basic Set – Best for Beginners
This is the more affordable line of Copic markers, although the drawback, as I heard, is that this kit loses some of the features offered in the Copic Sketch. But losing unnecessary features and only having the essentials together with the low price are the reasons why the Copic Ciao is the one that’s best for beginners.
Like the Copic Sketch, the Copic Ciao comes packaged in a solid transparent plastic case, and this also has the plastic grid to keep the markers propped up. Unlike the Copic Sketch, the marker’s caps don’t have the color codes are written, which might be a problem if you have all the colors, but in this case, I don’t think you’ll be fine.
This kit comes in 24 colors, which is fair enough if you’re a beginner. One drawback I saw so far is the fewer colors that the Ciao is available in, which is only 180 colors. And you can get all 180 colors by collecting five 36 color kits marked with A, B, C, D, and E. And like other Copic Markers, you can find blank kits where you can fill the markers with inks you mixed.
Since the Copic Sketch and Copic Ciao are very similar, here’s a comparison table to better understand the differences.
|Copic Sketch||Copic Ciao|
|Color Range||358 colors||180 colors|
|Available tips||Chisel, brush, bullet||Chisel and brush|
Like the Copic Sketch, the Ciao comes as dual-tip markers, and you’ll get the medium broad chisel tip and the super brush tip on each marker. And while you can replace the tips and the inks anytime, you are limited to only two nib types for the Ciao, the Medium Broad Chisel tips, and the Super Brush tips. Unlike the four tip options with the Copic Sketch. However, the Copic Ciao might be more comfortable with its round body allowing artists to draw longer with less fatigue.
Since the same alcohol-based ink is used across all Copic Markers, I think it’s safe to say that the Copic Ciao performs the same as other Copic Markers. Unfortunately, the Copic Ciao markers aren’t supported by the Airbrush System, which might be the biggest letdown, especially for some artists. Take this with a grain of salt, but I think some third-party manufacturers make airbrush systems for Copic Ciao.
Pros and Cons
This is an excellent alternative to the pricier Copic Sketch, it costs way less, but since this has the same ink that other Copic markers use, it’ll deliver the same performance as the other Copic markers. And even if the Ciao is available in fewer colors and doesn’t support the Copic ABS, I think this is still the best art marker kit that a beginner can get.
3. Bianyo Classic Series Dual Tip Markers – Best Cheap Markers
Let’s face it. We mention expensive marker kits like Prismacolor and Copic because it’s hard to find an affordable marker kit that performs well. This Bianyo Classic is very promising, it includes 71 colors, and it doesn’t even cost more than $50. But, let’s judge the performance for later.
This comes in a canvas bag that has a total of 72 markers inside. Yes, we mentioned that this kit only includes 71 colors, and that’s right. There’s just one colorless blender that you can use to remove streaking and get better blends between layers.
These markers come as dual-tips. It’ll include a broad 7mm chisel tip and a fine 0.7mm tip. I think the tips will give the artist a lot of control but not a lot of versatility that a brush tip can provide. The body shape on these markers is similar to the Copic Sketch’s body shape, which is a bit of a rounded rectangle. Again, I think that these body shapes are a bit more straining to hold for longer times.
Once you use these, the first thing that you’ll notice is that each marker has a code on the cap similar to what Copic would do, which I like. It helps when organizing these markers together. These markers will glide smoothly on paper, but I noticed that it’s very easy to saturate the surface you’re drawing on, which might cause a darker shade than what you might expect.
With this marker, blending by layering is also very hard to do. It’ll likely destroy the surface before getting a good layer. Despite that, I think you can get better results if you utilize the colorless blender and if you’re a fast drawer. I want to say you get what you pay for, but I know many similarly priced markers that perform worse than this.
Pros and Cons
As you might expect with an affordable kit, there are some drawbacks, mainly the oversaturation problem. You can easily adjust to that problem by either using the blender or using a lighter shade than you wanted. I think it’s still a great performer for its price.
4. Prismacolor Premier Markers – Best for Coloring
Prismacolor Premier markers are also famous among the art community. These markers are best known for their superior performance at blending and coloring in general. Now the kit we recommend is the 24 color pack, if you need less, you can get as few as six colors in a pack, and you can also get individual markers. On the other hand, you can get up to 200 colors with these if you’re willing to splurge for your collection.
This kit comes packed in a zippered canvas bag, and each marker fits snugly inside rubberized sleeves to keep them organized. It’s also worth noting that the canvas bag folds up nicely, and it’s great to bring this kit on the go.
Like every marker we mentioned so far, this is also dual-tipped. One of the tips is a fine point, while the other is a brush tip. I quickly found out that the fine tip is very smooth to work with, making details very easy to do. The brush tip is also high quality, but I think Copic’s super brush tips are still better.
Unfortunately, the body doesn’t support ink refills and hip replacements, which is also why these markers hold a lot of ink, which might also be a reason why this has a thicker round body. For how much this kit cost, I would’ve loved to have a refillable ink to make it last as long as Copic markers.
To make things up, this marker performs well on shading, layering, and producing a more pleasing blend between different colors. Although it’s also a bit easy to saturate with just a few passes, still, the great blending alcohol-based ink will try its best to prevent undesirable streaking and blotching.
For last, I like to mention a small problem with these, which are the caps. It’s so bad that some people have to resort to using a hammer or a plier. Prismacolor already stated that these shouldn’t be hard to remove, but I think that’s a performance gamble you have to bet on when getting one of these.
Pros and Cons
The Prismacolor Premier markers did a great job by sheer performance, especially with their remarkable ability to blend and layer. However, you might have to live with overtightened caps, resulting from a manufacturing inconsistency. And you’ll also have to consider that the tips and inks are not replaceable. Either way, these are still great markers.
5.Illustrator Markers by Spectrum Noir – Best for Drawing
It’s reasonably difficult to find markers that are great for drawing and illustrating very detailed artworks. Sure there are tons of extra-fine felt tip markers, but most of them are available in limited colors. The Illustrator markers are dual-tipped markers with a super-fine tip for very detailed illustrations and a brush tip to cover shading and other details.
Unlike any other marker kit that we mentioned on this list, this is the only one that doesn’t have a free container or bag. This comes in a small box that you’d most likely throw away as soon as you got it. The one we’re taking a look at and highly recommend is the Sketching set, which includes 12 colors that cover most of the primary colors you need.
There are also three other variants of the 12 color pack. There’s a Figure pack that mostly includes skin tones and is best for making realistic portraits. There’s a Seascape pack that contains tons of blues and earth tones. And lastly, there’s a Landscape pack which includes earthy greens, browns, and grey. And if you’re on a budget, there are also six color packs available: the Basic, Essentials, and Portrait.
Most markers with fine tips tend to bleed easily and produce inconsistent line strokes. That’s why we’re surprised to see that the super-fine tips on these markers glide smoothly across drawing surfaces, and it also leaves consistent amounts of ink.
On the other side, the large Japanese-style brush tip leaves the perfect amount of ink, and it won’t soak paper too quickly. These markers have a hexagonal body, which also has sharp corners that might fatigue some artists faster.
The great thing about the inks these markers have is their ability to stick well, even on glossy surfaces. And it also dries up quickly, allowing for a very consistent and smooth finish. It’s also worth mentioning that the inks are incredible at blending, layering, and preventing streaking.
These marker’s ink and tips aren’t replaceable, but I would only find for replaceable inks and tips on more expensive kits, and these Illustrator markers are by far the most affordable ones on this list. Lastly, I like to mention that these markers have a problem with drying up too quickly if you left the cap open.
Pros and Cons
These markers are a bit of a surprise to work with, they provide fantastic blending capabilities, and the super-fine felt tips are great for putting down lines and small details. Although I think there are only two types of artists that can work well with this. First are beginners due to the affordable price. And second, the specific color packs are great for pros who can take advantage.
There you have it, and this has been the best art marker for different purposes. If you’re interested, you can check them out using the links above. And remember to always consider your skill level, art style, and budget first before getting your art markers. Markers might be a relatively new medium to work with, but they’re a lot of fun to work with. Get creative and stay safe!