Review: Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers

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A group of Winsor and Newton Pigment markers

Pigment Markers have been the next big thing over at Winsor and Newton. They’ve receive as much hype, if not more so than their Watercolor Markers(Which I happen to be a huge fan of.) My personal reaction to Winsor and Newton’s Pigment Markers has been a bit more tepid.

My First Reactions

My first reactions to Winsor and Newton’s Pigment Markers were that they didn’t meet all of the hype. In fact, I felt pretty underwhelmed when first using them. I’ll break-down the details…

Unlike Winsor & Newton’s Watercolour Markers, which are manufactured in France, Pigment Markers are made in China. Winsor & Newton already manufactures, or sub-contracts, paints in China. (Which are to my knowledge only sold in China, Asia, and on Ebay.) I guess this was the next step for them. They also manufacture their recently released ProMarkers and Brush Markers in China.

I like the look and feel of their Pigment Markers. It feels pretty good in my the hand. If you’re concerned with markers rolling across your desk, these will likely drive you nuts. The caps on both ends come off pretty easily. I’ve never had anything wacky occur like a tip popping off. The chisel end possesses a cap that has a close proximity of its color and its number screen printed.

The Tips

A comparison of both the chisel and bullet ends of the Winsor & Newton Pigment marker

Speaking of tips, I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a brush tip instead of the standard chisel tip, which I’m not really fond of. It’s about half the width of what’s on a Prismacolor marker and just slightly bigger than the chisel tip you’ll find on a Copic marker. I end up using the chisel tip like a brush, especially while using one of the blenders. The chisel tip seems pretty sturdy. But after some use and abuse, the hard edges will start to soften and deform.

The bullet tip on a pigment marker is pretty small, and requires a light touch to create a fine stroke. It’s not as sturdy as the chisel tip. So too much pressure will cause it to deform. (As evident by my White Blending marker and Colorless Blender, which now has a flatten tip.) With a little practice, you can get some variability out of the bullet tip.

I think it’d be really nice if Winsor & Newton offered replaceable nibs. Even brush tips to replace the chisel tip. I realize that these are disposable, but I have a pretty heavy hand. Thus I’m in the habit of ruining nibs quickly. Plus it’d be convent for people who stain the nibs on their Colourless Blender markers.

Debating The Ink

I’m still mentally debating as to what type of ink the Winsor and Newton’s Pigment Markers use. The ink in the White Blender marker is closer towards a paint marker, while the colors have ink that’s about as thin as most alcohol-based markers. They do stay wetter longer than your average alcohol-based markers. This makes laying in flat areas of color almost impossible. As you scribble, the tip drags up color here and there, including in areas that have dried. This creates a streaky effect in flat areas of color.

It’ll be roughly 100 years before your colors fade. (A major selling-point.) This actually makes these markers lightfast. That means light won’t cause your colors to fade. When the ink dries, it dries to a matte, velvety finish.

Pigment Marker swatches

The colors themselves are pretty vibrant and pigmented. The only exception that I can make thus far is my Parchment (beige) marker. But I’m guessing it’s just defective since it marks as if it’s been dried out. There is a slight color shift while the ink dries. The ink is a bit darker while wet. Since the ink still dries pretty quickly, especially under a hot lamp, I doubt you’ll notice while working. On some colors, the bullet tip will seem to lay down a lighter color. This is due to the fact that the bullet tip doesn’t allow as much ink to flow as the chisel tip. Both tips feed off the same sponge. Hence the reason why you’ll need to store these markers horizontally.

Blenders & Blending

Blending for me is normally a pain when using markers. Winsor & Newton claims that blending is easier with their new pigment markers. But here’s the catch. You’ll need Winsor and Newton’s special paper in order to gain the full benefits of these markers. Since their pigment marker paper has as of yet to have been released, it’s tough to confirm this claim with their paper. On copier paper, forget about it. You’ll have more luck on specially formulated marker paper. I own a pad from Canson’s XL series, and it can be done with a little work.

The Colourless Blender

So how do you blend with Winsor and Newton’s Pigment Markers? There are a few ways to do so. One way is with a Colourless Blender. Most marker lines have one. I’ve noticed that the Clolourless Blender works by dragging pigment around, even when a color is dry. The one that I own oozes a little too much fluid. So it’s a little messy and took some time to adjust to. Yet it works perfectly well in the wet-on-wet environment that Winsor & Newton encourages you to work in. It’s nice for touching up small areas. On dry colors, the Colourless Blender will “rough up” colors, giving them a dry brush look.

An old trick used to mix colors in marker is to rub two or more colors on a non-porous, preferably plastic, surface and mix the two with a clear blending marker. This can be accomplished with the Colourless Blender, but the results tend to be more of a desaturated wash. That’s not the end of the world since you can turn this into a watercolor-style technique for creating softer colors. You can also reactive and mix dry colors on your plastic surface. For instance, let’s say you mixed a nice orange from a previous illustration and you still have some color left on your plastic palette. You can easily rub either tip of your Colourless Blender to reactivate your orange for use in your latest creation.

gradation of Carmine using Winsor & Newton Pigment Marker's Colourless Blender on marker paper

A sample gradation of Carmine using the Colourless Blender on marker paper. This was accomplished while the Carmine was still wet.

The Colourless Blender is pretty easy to stain, especially after prolonged use. It isn’t as bad as my Prismacolor Clear/Colorless Blender markers. You can get most of the color off by rubbing your Colourless Blender on some scrap paper. In my experience, doing so leads me to using more pressure than I otherwise should. As mentioned earlier in this review, too much pressure results in deformed tips.The bullet tip on my own Colourless Blender now has a flat, red tip.

Blending Using Other Colors

A gradation from Royal Blue to Brilliant Yellow using only those two pigment markers

A gradation from Royal Blue to Brilliant Yellow using only the Brilliant Yellow Pigment Marker to blend the two colors on marker paper.

I have found that you can use lighter colors to blend in a similar fashion as the Colourless Blender. For example, you can use a Brilliant Yellow pigment marker to make a relatively smooth transition from an area of Carmine (red) that you just laid down. This technique works best when the darker color is still wet. I recommend using a lighter color to do the blending because darker colors from this line of markers tend to be much stronger and easily overwhelms lighter colors.

You’ll have the same issues cleaning lighter colors. Just remember to clean them by rubbing them across scrap paper to keep them relatively clean. This is especially important after mixing colors using a lighter color marker.

The White Blender

An illustration of a dog done using the white blender marker, includes zoomed in detail

This illustration was created using only a White Blender and a Sepia marker. Also provided is a close-up of the painterly effects that can be achieved using the White Blender. Illustration © 2015 Chris Hilbig

The much hyped White Blender marker makes for some interesting possibilities. It doesn’t “blend” as much as it drags pigment from other colors. Since it uses white ink, you can use it to create a range of tints. You can mix wet colors while working on marker paper, or you can mix it in a plastic palette. Blending on the paper requires a very light touch, and often times it just doesn’t happen if the other colors dry too quickly. That doesn’t mean that you can’t still drag pigment from the dried color around, it’s just a bit more difficult to do any smooth blending.

A gradation created using the colors Sepia and the White Blender on marker paper.

A gradation created using the colors Sepia and the White Blender on marker paper.

The White Blender does clean a lot easier as compared to other blending markers. After some use, this feature does begin to fade. I’ve put my White Blender through its paces and pigment has started to collect in both tips where they’re the most worn.

If you decide to commit to this line of markers, you should invest in two or more White Blenders at a time. Constant use quickly uses up the white ink. It’s been around two months (as of writing) since I’ve purchased my White Blender, and I already need a replacement.

Layering Colors

This is a trick I just stumbled across. If you happen to have any experience with watercolors or acrylics, you’ll likely either have seen or glazed one transparent color on top of another. To pull this off using Pigment Markers you’ll need to lay down one color. Let it dry. Then color on top with another color. For example, I don’t own a black from this marker line. I own a number of black markers from other brands, but I wanted to use only pigment markers if possible, I tried mixing a pretty good black on a plastic pallet, but applying it with a Colourless Blender resulted in light washes. That’s okay, but not the result that I was looking for. Just for giggles I scribbled a layer of Carmine Red. When that dried, I layered Royal Blue. It made for a nice, deep violet. I colored some Sepia on top, and it resulted in a rich black. It worked out great when I applied what I learn to my cartoon raccoon.

I color both of the raccoon's pupils in with Carmine (Red) marker.

Step 1: I color both pupils in with Carmine (Red).

Step 2: I layer Royal Blue on top of the Carmin red to create a deep purple in my raccoon's pupils.

Step 2: I allow the Carmine (Red) to dry. Then I color Royal Blue directly on top of the Carmine to create a dark purple.

After the Royal Blue dries, I create my final black by layering Sepia on top of the pupils.

Step 3: After the Royal Blue dries, I create my final black by layering Sepia on top of the pupils.

Should You Buy?

That’s a great question. When you buy into Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers, you are sort of buying into a new medium. Pigment Markers have unique quirks that make them much different than your average marker. For example, you’ll never be able to lay in flat, even areas of color. The ink’s capacity to stay wet longer with the combination of the more opaque White Blender, you’ll be able to achieve a more painterly quality in your work. The inks are lightfast, which is considerable advantage over Copic, Prismacolor, and other dye-based markers.

Until Winsor & Newton finally releases its special Pigment Marker paper, you’ll likely never or rarely receive the full benefits of using these markers. My best recommendation, or the one that’s currently working for me, is to also purchase a pad of marker paper. That’s likely the closest you’ll find to Pigment Marker paper until it’s finally on the market or receives greater distribution.

Unlike Copics and Shin Han markers, Pigment Markers are non-refillable. If you go through markers pretty quickly, you’ll find Pigment Markers are not very cost effective. If you buy these markers as open-stock at a Michael’s, you’ll spend $8.00 USD without any discount. If you purchase them from Dick Blick, they’ll currently run you $5.19 USD per marker. (This excludes shipping and handling.) If you happen to be on a budget, you may want to reconsider buying in or purchase a 6-pack online to save a little money. Or you could do what I’ve done, start with a White Blender and a color you commonly use. I started out with a White Blender and a Sepia and was able to pull off a really nice illustration of the dog posted above.

If you’re willing to take a leap of faith, you’ll easily find Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers at any Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores, Dick Blick, or you can purchase them directly from Amazon. I think you’ll find yourself well rewarded for your trouble.

Notes:

Feb 12, 2016 – Amazon Canada still doesn’t carry Pigment Marker paper. Amazon links have been fixed for Canadian readers.