How to Choose the Best Art Marker for Sketching

This is a review of popular art markers that are commonly available at your local art store, craft store or online through various retailers such as Blick Art Materials.  As a digital illustrator, I use markers mainly as a sketch and design tool and not for detail work or rendering. Because of that I only use gray/gray tone markers, which will be the only “color” reviewed here.  Scroll down to see my personal choice for best marker and a buying guide.

COPIC

COPIC is a popular, dual-ended marker that features a replacable fine point nib and a flat wedge nib. The body is a rounded square construction. They are available in a wide range of colors and tones, and are refillable.

Pros: Beautiful, clean tone. Pigment is rich leaving really nice colors and tones. Marker dries quickly with little to no bleed. Wedge nib is extremely stiff and durable.

Cons: Right away I noticed that the fine point nib has already started to fray. The line is sharp, but not very thin. These tend to be the most expensive markers on the market so cost can be an issue, despite being refillable.

 

PRISMACOLOR

Prismacolor’s “Premier” line is double sided and features a broad wedge nib and fine point nib. The body is a fat, round construction.

Pros: Beautiful, clean tone. Pigment is rich leaving really nice colors and tones. Marker dries quickly with little to no bleed. Wedge nib is extremely stiff and durable.

Cons: They tend to not hold very much fluid so they do not last very long, which is unfortunate because they are very fun to draw and sketch with. Because they dry up relativley quickly and can not be refilled they will need to be replaced more often, so cost of replacement may be an issue.

 

CHARTPAK

Chartpak makes a single sided art marker that features a uniquely shaped chisel head. The construction is a fat, round plastic body.

Pros: The nib is incredibly durable and versatile. The wedge is very large, the largest of this group, and produces a nice, fat mark. The chisel of the wedge is not only sharp, but flexible and can easily produce crisp, lines of various widths.  I also enjoy the fat, round body. This is the fattest and heaviest marker of the group and feels great to hold.  Since I draw with a lot of pressure and tend to squeeze my drawing tool, this is a very comfortable marker for me and my sketching style.

This marker also holds an incredible amount of fluid and lasts a very long time. They outlast every marker I use. They also tend to cost less than the more recognizable brands such as Copic and Prismacolor so these markers are definitelty a great value.

Cons: The major drawback for Chartpak’s is the bleed. Because they have so much fluid, the mark tends to bleed quite a bit. Although the bleed can be minimized with practice and a softer touch, it can be a nuisance if you’re trying to do detail work.

 

TRIA


Tria is a unique, double ended marker that actually features 3 distinct nibs, a flat wedge, fine point and a stiff brush point. Fat, round body construction.  Comes in a variety of colors and tones and is refillable.

Pros: Obviously the 3 nibs is the unique feature of TRIA’s. The nibs themselves are very durable and stiff. The mark is sharp and clean with nice pigmentation and minimal bleed. Their overall versatility is the biggest plus for this brand.

Cons: From my experience they dry up very quickly. Even though it may be refillable, it’s a major drawback for me since they can be expensive and I often sketch on the road and dont want to carry additional bulk of a refill container. Individual markers are also relatively expensive so initial cost can be an issue.  Because this brand is not that popular or recognized, it can also be quite difficult to find at stores or online retailers.

 

** MY BEST ART MARKER PICS **

Best Overall: Prismacolor

If I had to choose only one marker brand, I would go with Prismacolor. The mark and pigment is very good. They last relatively long and are widely availalbe at most retailers.  Using them for years, they just ‘feel right’ and with practice, the wedge nib alone can deliver an exceptional variety of line and tone.

Best Value: Chartpak

For economy and cost savings, I would choose Chartpak. They last an unusually  long time for an art marker, and they tend to be less expensive than other brands which makes them a great value. Even though there is only one nib, the wedge is versatile enough for most sketching tasks.  This is also my favorite maker body, because it is really fat and heavy, which I really enjoy working with.

Best Quality of Mark: COPIC

For tighter, detail work, I would go with COPIC. The pigment is the best of the group and the marks dry quickly leaving a clean, consistant mark. This is probably why Copics are so popular among comic/manga artists who work traditionally.

 

WHERE TO BUY

If you’re interested in trying some of these markers, or need to replace your current ones, I’ve included links below to various online retailers:

Prismacolor @ Amazon

Set of 12, Cool Greys
Set of 24, Multi-colored
Set of 48, Mulit-colored

Prismacolor @ Blick.com

Primary/Secondary Colors, Set of 12
Primary/Secondary Colors, Set of 12

 

COPIC @ Amazon

Set of 6 “Sketching Grays”
Set of 12, Mulit-colors
Set of 36, Multi-colors

COPIC @ Blick.com

Copic Sketch Marker Sets
Copic Sketch Marker Sets

 

Chartpak @ Amazon

Set of 25, Warm & Cool Grays
Set of 25, Warm & Cool Grays

Chartpak @ Blick.com

Chartpak Ad Marker Sets
Chartpak Ad Marker Sets

 

Tria @ Amazon

Set of 12 Gray Tones

Set of 24, ‘Illustration Set’

Set of 24, ‘Architecture Set’

(Visited 57,154 times, 34 visits today)

22 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Art Marker for Sketching”

  1. Wow. GREAT summary.
    I personally agree with you that the Prisma’s are the best overall, but they can get pretty pricey if you’re doing a ton of sketching. I do find the Chartpaks to be the best overall value if you’re staying away from detail work. If you’re in the Orange County area, Art Supply Warehouse has their own markers labeled “Quickdraw Marker Pro”, which is literally just a Chartpak reskinned with their own label. They come in about a dollar cheaper than a standard Chartpak.

    http://www.artsupplywarehouse.com/prodDetail.php?id=53570

  2. I have been using pitt big brush markers recently and I love them. They have packs grey – a cool grey pack and a warm grey pack that are perfect for doing these value studies. I have also been using rendr sketchbooks by crescent for these exercises. Fun stuff! Thank you for the tutorials. I had started doing this on my own thinking that I just needed some work in this area so was so thrilled when I came across your blog and videos on youtube. Really helpful! Thank you!

  3. Copics are the best quality, overall, but Primacolors are better if you have a tighter budget. I buy Copics in small quantities, and my collection has gone to over 270. ^-^

  4. Great review, this is precisely why a lot of artist uses a combination or copics/prisma’s and so forth depending upon the need of the project, but to have a marker that dominates the whole market is achievable but the drawback will be price.

  5. thank you for this review, very helpful. I’m a newbie at using marker and so far love it! I like to use marker then a colored pencil for refinement.

  6. this an overall great review! Have you heard about letraset promarkers? you should review those too! learnt refining my designs using these markers.

  7. Thanks! Yes, I’ve never used them but I know a lot of students who really enjoy them. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I bought a good quantity of charpak ad markers with both the tri nibs and the conical detail nibs because I am a beginning caricature artist, and one of the pros said he used them at fairs for doing caricature work. I had been practicing with Copic and Tombow brush pens, but needed to order markers for live events where I would go through many, many markers. Also, as great as Copics are for many reasons, the caps seem to me to be tough to close and open sometimes. I noticed that when under heavy use, the caps tend to gum up, making them tough to deal with. Although you can clean them with the colorless blender, who has the time at a live gig? This can really slow down a caricature artist who is working a live gig and must draw 20 people an hour with people standing in line. I can see why fair
    artists use chartpaks because of the versatility of the nib under a time constraint as well as the generous long lasting ink they contain.

  9. Hi Chris,

    I saw you recommend ‘Colour and Light’ by James Gurney and J.C Leyendecker. Do you have any other art books that you personally refer to – advanced tutorial books or other art books?

  10. I’m not a big book guy anymore. I do enjoy Russian academic books. I recently got Zhaoming Wu’s art book it’s sweet.

  11. I’m searching for some art markers or any drawing tools for my brother. He’s currently studying design comunnication and visual. What do you recommend?

  12. Glad to see the Copics are good quality. I don’t know anything about them except that they are expensive and my daughter drools over them in the art supply store. I now feel like I got a great deal today – A guy who’s son decided he wasn’t interested in art… after the dad bought several sets of them sold them me 240 of them for $380.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *