A Brief overview on Bush Markers
Brush markers, refereed to in Japan as fude (foo-day, ふで, 筆), is a marker sporting a flexible, brush-shaped, fiber-based tip. Unlike an actual brush, the tips of a brush marker are one piece and not a couple hundred hairs. Which is great because you won’t see any split ends for a very long time. Also the brush marker is much stiffer than a brush, yet provides enough flexibility to create plenty of variation in your lines. Another big bonus is the lack of cleaning you’ll have to encounter, saving you lots of time. Like their liner brethren, brush markers sport permanent ink. The brush marker provides the best of all worlds.
I haven’t been a particularly big fan of markers. Not too long ago, I’d buy a black marker, and the resulting line art would fade and turn yellow. White-out would introduce another set of problems. The white-out would turn yellow or crack. Inking over white-out would sometimes result in marker ink shriveling up as quick as it was applied. That turned me towards India ink, dip pens, and sable brushes. India ink, even at that time, come in a variety of thicknesses and quality. Even though it’s a lot messier, India ink has been far superior and the tools used in conjunction offered a great deal more flexibility in use. (With cleaning as the big down-side.) That was over a decade ago. Since then, it can be argued that disposable marker manufactures have made huge leaps in quality, darkness, and reliability. As to whether or not marker ink can stand the test of time as compared to India ink (lightfastness), I’ll leave that to scientists to figure out. More importantly, we should ask if markers today can be reliably used for our work today.
Preface to my Review
We’ve all read product reviews before and easily take them for granted. Now I’m creating my own review of seven different brush markers, four of which I would consider for professional use. The more I think about my review, the more exhaustive it seems to get. I’ll also compare our marker brushes with the standard sable brush (considered the gold standard among inkers in the U.S. comic book business), Winsor & Newton Series 7 with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay Black India ink (my favorite ink). I want to give the reader reasonable comparisons between real and faux brushes. For the my first series of tests, I’ve decided to use standard generic copy paper. It’s pretty common and can withstand moderate use. I also used two special tests that simulate common issues that inkers run into: the 40 stroke test with a white eraser (using my Staedtler Mars plastic eraser), and ink application over BIC’s White-Out. (A note on BIC’s White-out pen: I’d chosen it for my first series of tests because it can be easily found in most stores. Plus I consider BIC’s White-out pen to be much in the same vein as any brush marker, connivence is its main selling point, not so much quality. A white-out pen is much less time consuming to use than white paint and a brush, which has to be cleaned.) I also created a set of samples on more professional, heavier, 3-ply paper. I also created another test using Deleter White No 2. (A medium weighted more towards professional use.) To bring the samples into the digital world, I scanned them without any adjustments.
Let’s start with a sample from each tool:
Winsor & Newton Series 7 w/ Bombay Black
Here’s a sample from a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush on both copy paper and thicker 3-ply paper. Not my best work, but it will give you a good comparison and a standard for the brush markers.
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Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Pointed Round Brushes from MisterArt.com while supplies last!
Sakura Pigma Brush
The Sakura Pigma Brush is one of the first marker brushes I’ve ever used, so it’s made the biggest impression on me. (I feel I’ll have more of a bias towards it.) So it’s set to tone for my experiences with the other marker brushes. Here are some of the main features of the Pigma Brush:
- Archival quality ink (it’s waterproof and fade resistant)
- Won’t smear, feather or bleed through most papers. (which I can attest to.)
- Ink is evenly delivered to all sides of the brush tip.
- Comes in 8 colors!
The very tip of the brush is rather sensitive, yet the bulk of the brush tip is very stiff. This paradox lends the Pigma’s tip to wear out after heavy use, making it great for dry brush techniques later on. It seems to lay down ink pretty evenly. Compared to the Bombay India Ink, the Pigma’s ink visually looks just as black on copy paper. Unlike the India ink, Sakura’s ink didn’t do as well after the 40 Stroke test. It also didn’t look too hot over the white-out. With a second or third application, you could make it work and look solid black over the white-out. The ink also smudged from my finger-tips after sitting on the white-out for 30+ minutes. That may be due to the humidity outside the house. This New Year’s Eve has been rainy with humidity at 93%. If you decide to use the Sakura Pigma as your only tool, I would recommend applying the inker’s rule on erasing your pencils before filling your blacks.
On heavier 3-ply paper, single strokes made by the Pigma brush appear lighter as compare to the copy paper. Creating a multi-layer fill with a Pigma does come pretty close to the Bombay ink. I only had to use one layer of Bombay. With a sable brush I have better control over the amount of ink I’m applying to the square. The other benefit that the Bombay India ink has over the Sakura ink is that the Bombay ink is denser with pigment, creating a more solid, darker black. I had to use multiple layers with the Pigma brush otherwise the fill will look extremely uneven. The Sakura Pigma’s ink did much better over the Deleter White no 2 as compared to the White-out. The Deleter White has a consistency and feel similar to gouache. It produces less texture when applied to paper, allowing the ink to flow more evenly. This makes the Pigma ink look better and darker than on the paper itself. The Pigma did just as bad in the 40 Stroke test over 3-ply paper. (That was to be expected.)
Buy a Sakura Pigma Brush Pen from Amazon today!
Sakura Pigma Brush Pens are also available at MisterArt.com!
Copic Multiliner SP Brush
Copic has it’s reputation for being the brand of choice for mangaka. (That could be an urban ledge or good marketing.) But Copic is also one of those brands that I have high expectations for. Here are the big selling points for Multiliner SP markers:
- Pigment-based ink
- 10 replaceable nib sizes for black
- They’re refillable (which I like!)
- 12 different colors, plus black
The Multiliner’s tip offers a bit more flexibility than the Pigma’s tip. That said, it gushes more ink, making it more susceptible to bleeding on more porous papers. The ink is one of the darkest on plain paper. It’s also a bit spotty on the white-out. So there will be times where you’ll need a second stroke. The Copic Multiliner took the abuse of the 40 stroke test a lot better than the Pigma brush.
On 3-ply paper, the Multiliner did better than on copy paper. It certainly didn’t bleed as bad as it did on copy paper. But singles strokes created with the Copic marker did look noticeably lighter than the Sakura Pigma brush. When creating a fill, the Multiliner did require multiple layers to achieve a flat, smooth look. But that’s alright because the Multiliner’s fill on 3-ply paper looks smoother than the Bombay’s more noticeably darker fill. Across Deleter White, the Mulitliner did much better than across the White-out. On 3-ply paper, the Copic Multiliner did much better overall than on copy paper.
Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen
Faber-Castell’s website shows quite the range in their PITT Artist pens. Fortune Magazine loves them. (If that means anything to you.) Here are the selling points for the PITT pens:
- Combining modern brush nib design with traditional india ink
- Ink is odorless, permanent, waterproof, and lightfast
- durable nib
- 48 vibrant colors!
The first thing that jumps out at me during the sample, is that the very tip of the PITT’s brush has a real soft spongy feel. This makes real fine linework difficult to do without a quick hand. (This can be a moot point if you plan to have your work shrunken down.) When laying in areas of flat color on copy paper, you’ll notice the uneven nature of the ink. This even occurs after a few layers. The ink also doesn’t stand up very well to the 40 Stroke test. Over white-out, the PITT’s ink did the best of the professional brush markers.
On 3-ply paper, it was still pretty difficult to create fine lines with the PITT brush. The soft tip is still a hurdle to struggle with. The PITT did require multiple layers to get a flat look, similar to the Pigma brush. Over Deleter White, the PITT performed just as well as over White-out. The PITT takes advantage of its matte finish, making it look visually darker than the Bombay india ink, which has a glossy finish. The 40 Stoke test produced a similar result as on copy paper.
Buy a PITT Artist Pen Brush from Amazon now!
PITT Brush Markers are also on sale at MisterArt.com!
The Prismacolor brand has been mainly known for its high-quality color pencils. Along with pencils, Prismacolor has also produces a line of color markers (competing with Copic). To complement their color markers, Prismacolor offers it’s Premier line of illustration markers. Here are the points they want to sell you on:
- Ink that’s archival, lightfast, and resistant to smearing when dry. (On paper I’m assuming.)
- Comes in 3 different tips
- Comes in different colors
- And Prismacolor has an awesome looking website!
The brush tip comes at a very fine point, allowing for more control over your strokes. The tip seems to also have great resilience and isn’t too stiff. Laying in flats on copy paper was a disappointment. It looks pretty bad, even with a second layer. The ink doesn’t lay on too evenly. The Premier brush also didn’t do so well against the 40 Stroke test. When going over the white-out, the Premier did all right. In places where the white-out was a little rough, you can see the ink break up.
The resilient tip of the Prismacolor Premier brush marker made for a pretty good experience on heavier 3-ply paper. It was very easy to create fine strokes with the Premier’s tip. The stokes were noticeably lighter compared to the rest of the competition. (Just a tad lighter than the Sakura Pigma.) On 3-ply paper, creating fills was a better experience. The ink was able to blend more evenly than on copy paper. It did require multiple layers to get a solid, darker fill. But it did only slightly better than the Sakura Pigma and the PITT brush. The Prismacolor Premier did much better during the 40 Stroke test on the 3-ply paper. It was able to beat out both the Pigma and PITT markers after 40 strokes. I think it’s debatable whether it beaten the Copic Multiliner. (All on how you spin it.) The white eraser was able to accept the Premier’s ink in a more even fashion. Over Deleter White no 2, the Premier did a better job than over the White-out.
Buy a Prismacolor Premier Brush Tip Marker from Amazon now!
Sharpie Stained or (Stained by Sharpie)
I’ve always seen Sharpie products as cheap and for more common uses, not for serious artwork. In my experience, the ink wasn’t very permanent. Sharpies also bleed. They’ve always been a disappointment to use. Since the introduction of the Sharpie “no-bleed” pen, my opinion has moderated a bit. (They at least have one reliable product.) I picked up the Stained by Sharpie at a local Target out of curiosity. Both the Stained and the Sharpie Brush marker were aimed at school-age kids (K-12th grades). The Stained is actually a fabric marker. (Which makes me wonder what the hell it had to do with back-to-school? Whatever…) Here are the big selling points for Stained by Sharpie:
- Developed for use on most fabric surfaces
- Uses fabric ink
- Comes in 8 bold colors
- Resists fading in the washer
So far I consider this to be for play and not for anything serious. (Like staining your underwear.) But I though it’d be interesting to see how it’d stack against more professional brush markers.
The Stained brush did incredibly well in the tests, given it’s much larger tip, which comes to a nice point. The majority of the brush tip is very stiff. Only the point was relatively soft. I didn’t struggle too much to have control. Even though the ink was very black, flats weren’t particularly solid on copy paper. Over white-out, the Stained did slightly better than the Prismacolor Premier. The ink breaks up where there is a little texture or changes in surface. The Stained was spotty after the 40 Stroke test. Given the unevenness of the ink in the flat area, the thicker areas held up better than the thinner areas.
On 3-ply paper, the Stained marker brush excelled. My sample was a lot smaller, so maneuvering the Stained took a steady, light hand to get the type of lines I wanted. Single strokes were noticeably as dark as that Bombay ink. Fills took multiple layers, but it looks very smooth and was comparable to the fill created with brush and India ink. The 40 Stroke test gave us result similar to Prismacolor’s Premier brush marker. The White eraser picked up the ink more evenly after 40 strokes. Over Deleter White, the Stained did just as well as the other markers.
Buy your Stained by Sharpie Brush Tip Fabric Markers from Amazon now!
The Sharpie Brush was another magical find at my local Target store. Like the Stained, it sports a much bigger tip as compared to the more professional marker brushes. Before I go into the review, here are the selling points for the Brush:
- Create both thick and thin lines just the pressure of your hand (You’ll find out why I cringed at this)
- Permanent on almost any surface
- Fade and water-resistant ink
- Quick-drying ink.
- AP certified nontoxic formula (So I guess it’s okay to stick it in your mouth)
- 12 colors!
It does come to a fine point, but with the slightest of pressure, it gushes and bleeds ink into the paper. I can safely label this as “the play marker”. It was so bad, I didn’t even want to finish inking over the mouse head. Flats turned out to be a lot more even than the pro markers, but gives off a purplish ting in lighter areas. Astonishingly, the Brush held up amazingly well against the 40 Stroke test. The difference is barely noticeable. Over white-out, the Sharpie had faded into a dark indigo color.
Just like on the copy paper, the Sharpie Brush gushed ink onto the 3-ply paper. Inking on 3-ply paper was just as difficult. The flat was extremely smooth, almost as solid as the Bombay India ink, but with a purplish tinge. The brush also stood up well against the 40 Stroke test with little noticeable change if any.
Buy your Sharpie Brush Tip Marker from Amazon now!
You can also purchase Sharpie Brush Tip Markers at MisterArt.com today
This marker is considered the standard among mangaka in and out of Japan. Like Prismacolor’s line of color markers, it sport two tips. On the Copic Sketch, one end is a soft brush tip, and the other end is a chiseled tip. Here are the big selling points for the Sketch marker:
- Replaceable nibs
- Refillable ink
- 358 colors
Unfortunately I won’t be making a fair comparison (here’s come the excuse) because I’m not using an equivalent black ink marker. (It’s Neutral Grey No. 2) But I’m using it in this review more or less because I have one, it has a brush tip, and I wanted to see how it’d stack against the other marker brushes.
The brush end on the Copic Sketch is extremely soft and gushes ink even with a gentle touch. Also like the Sharpie Sketch, it was a pain to ink the mouse head. The Sketch doesn’t lay in flats evenly on copy either. Although it made through the 40 Strokes test with no noticeable change. Over white-out it did horribly. The ink just fade over the white-out. Like I said, this isn’t a particularly fair comparison. Maybe the black version would fair a little better, although I have my doubts.
On 3-ply paper, the Copic Sketch also gushes as much ink. The experience wasn’t much better than the Sharpie Brush. The Sketch did create a smooth flat. The grey ink did a lot better over Deleter White than over White-out, which you can hardly see the pigment on. The sketch also survived the 40 Stroke test.
Buy your Copic Sketch Markers from Amazon today!
Copic Sketch Markers can also be purchased at MisterArt.com
The clear over-all winner among brush markers seems to be the Stained by Sharpie. This makes me somewhat sad because the markers that were more expensive, and supposed to be of higher quality failed in one aspect or another on the copy paper. Even going back over the results, to find a clear winner is extremely difficult. That bugged me enough to create a second round of tests on 3-ply paper, which produced better results. Every brush marker has some annoying quirk to overcome. But the good news is that the Stained by Sharpie is cheap and can be purchased in virtually any department store. Plus you can stain your clothes with abandon.
As for myself, I’ll stick with good ol’ fashion sable brush and India ink for professional jobs. (Unless I’m working in Corel Painter.) In the meantime, I’ll continue to play and experiment with my markers. I think they’re great for use while on the road.
If you do choose to use them in any professional capacity, may I recommend working out your fine line art first. Erase with a kneaded eraser. (It’s the least abrasive to marker ink.) Then do your fills with a large marker or India ink and brush. For me this seems to be the best, most efficient plan of action when inking with markers of any type. As far as reproduction goes, a good computer and PhotoShop can patch-up most flaws and can flatten out your blacks.
© 2012-2013 CHRIS HILBIG