What separates an expensive marker from a cheaper one? If you’re just beginning your marker journey you may be curious why someone would buy “investment” markers when you can buy a whole set of markers at the dollar store. And hey, we aren’t hating on the budget markers! We started out with them and they certainly have their place, but today we want to tell you what makes an investment set “better”: ink, nibs, ingredients, and refillability.
1. Type of ink
Water-based ink can be used beautifully in its own way and has the added benefit of being washable for kids. However, alcohol-based ink stays wet longer which gives you the ability to blend and work with it longer. You also have significantly less streaking with alcohol ink. With the right paper, you can add layer upon layer without consequence.
High end alcohol marker inks are rich and beautiful and often come in a variety of shades. They are permanent and can write on just about any surface (we’ve had customers use ours to fill in faded upholstery!).
Top-grade alcohol marker nibs come in two varieties: firm and brush. The firm nibs are made of molded fibers, and are very durable. Under normal conditions, these nibs are very hardy and won’t fray unlike a cheaper marker nib, which can be made of materials such as porous plastic or lower-quality felt.
Brush nibs are considered the crème de la crème of marker tips and are usually made of two layers of felt. They can be damaged more easily than the firm nibs but allow versatility of technique such as feathering and getting into tiny areas due to their flexibility. Unlike the stiffer nibs, they can create a variety of thicknesses depending on the pressure applied (we’ll talk more about nibs in another email!).
Usually the best markers come with two ends so it’s like you get two markers for one price.
Have you ever had to stop in the middle of an art project because the smell of your supplies overpowered you? Cheaper supplies mean cheaper ingredients and that can sometimes mean ingredients with unpleasant smells! Of course alcohol markers aren’t completely free of scent, but it’s a light and some say even pleasant smell that you can work with for hours on end (although we agree with what your mother always told you…don’t sniff your markers directly!).
Top-end markers are considered an investment and like any investment, they can last a lifetime if you take care of them. Whereas cheaper markers are disposable, the ink in the highest end markers can be refilled indefinitely and the nibs can be replaced when worn out. In time they can pay for themselves for a serious marker artist (as compared to sets that need to be replaced entirely) because the ink is many times cheaper than the markers.
Want to see what can be done with alcohol markers? Check out this article with 7 pieces of inspiring marker art!