The Life of a Marker

When I lived in NYC, nearly four years ago now, I had more access to art supplies and suppliers than most of my artist friends. But then when we discovered regional differences in supply trends, we set up a small group to trade up and out. I had little access to box stores like Hobby Lobby, Joann's and Michael's, and they had no access to New York Central, the garment district and 18th Street splendor.

Set of Galaxy Markers

One of the items occasionally traded was markers. From Texas, Sue sent me my first Galaxy markers. Later Paper Access started to carry them and for a couple of bucks I could replace them. And replace them was a must. It was the Creamy White I liked best, but it seemed to dry up more quickly than the other colours. After sitting in their tin case for eons, only my Venus Violet and Roswell Red are still writing like new.

Penstix, 3 marker set

Penstix, an Alvin product, comes in either regular or waterproof ink, and are available in .3mm, 5mm and .7mm. Most of these are drying out after prolonged storage. But when I first happened upon them in a Blick, I believe, they were a natural to buy--india ink in a comfortable to hold, disposable body, and at a very affordable price. A set of 3 waterproof pens cost about $6.99.
Dual sided Tombow Brush Marker

Tombow markers, like Chartpak markers, are generally a universally available marker at art stores. I think the few Tombows I have in my present stash are 'alf and 'alf--some quite aged and others picked up at Artisan in Taos two years ago. These markers come in 96-colours.

I'd say these markers are a good investment as they seem to have a good to excellent shelf-life, that is, if you store them in a cool, dry space, and horizontally except when in use. They come in sets, and individually. The average price appears to be just under $3.00.
Chartpak markers were once my staple. It appears I have none in my stash. I did use them regularly when I prepared for workshops or zillions of years ago when I studied design. They are solvent-based and have a strong smell. The blender toneless pens are often used for image transfers, but recommended for use only in a well ventilated space. The colours are terrific and that alone draws designers to the brand. At Utrecht they average about $2.50 per marker.

Sai Pigment Brush Marker

I also seem to have six (6) Akashiya Sai pigment ink brush markers. These have a rather floppy brush--like a very soft watercolour brush--and needs some practice to use. Jet Pens carries them for under $5.00 each. I have not seen them on line elsewhere. Until these tests, I don' t recall using them and half seem very usable and the other half appear to be nearly dried out.

Copic Sketch Pen

And then there are Copic markers, various sizes, shapes and applications. I have a good stash of these but like the Chartpak they are solvent based and have a strong smell. They come in more than 300 colours and are refillable. I've never done this, but might if it becomes necessary. At present, I'd rank these highly for long-lasting shelf-life. All the markers I bought 4-5 years ago write as new. Prices vary and sets seem to be the trend. Of the various types I'd say I prefer the narrower sketch than the original boxy version. Neither is uncomfortable but the sketch pens suit my hand.

Copic Multiliner (Photo Jet Pens)

I've not gotten as much mileage with the Copic multiliner and it like its almost twin Penstix seems to have a shorter shelf life.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (Photo Jet Pens)

In their place I bought a Pentel pocket pen and hope to find it more satisfying. It differs from the Penstix and Multiliner in several ways: it has a calligraphic nib, allows for various line widths and is refillable. The pen sells for about $12.00 and cartridge refills sell for around $5.00. Both are available at Jet Pens and Wetpaint, among others.

Many other markers, whether they are called brush markers, felt markers, calligraphy markers or technical pens, are on the market.

These, however, are the brands and types I recently tested.

They can be purchased at some of our favourite retailers, mentioned throughout this post: Jet Pens, Wetpaint, Blick, Utrecht, Frantic Stamper, and others. Because I no longer have the luxury of walking into a bricks and mortar shop I tend to wait for my "buy" list to grow large enough to offset shipping costs or take advantage of free shipping.


  1. Thanks so much for this list!! A lot of work and a lot of info!

  2. I really like the Akashiya Brush Pens. Though, I think I like putting the ink onto a palette and working with it from there, then adding darker areas with the pen itself. I really like Copic Markers too, but most of mine are used up and I need to invest in refills. I have been coming to like the Pentel Pocket Brush pen more, once I learned to control it to make very fine lines.

  3. I hope I take to the Pentel Pocket Brush--just added that to my huge stash of markers.

    I'm going to test all of them now that I took them out to play.