Monday, January 28, 2013

Art Marker Showdown: Letraset Tria Pantone Vs. Copic Sketch

In the world of alcohol based markers, not all brands are created equal.  Recently, I've pitted Spectrum Noir and Prismacolor Premier against good old Copic Sketch markers in a showdown to determine which was the better contender.  Both times, Copic has trumped the competition in terms of marker quality and long term value.  This week, I'm pitting Letraset Tria Pantone markers against Copic Sketches, all in an effort to help you, the art enthusiast consumer, determine which art marker is right for you.

Art Supply Review Disclaimer


In the past, I've purchased the art markers used in these art supply reviews, but this time, Heidi Black was kind enough to allow me to borrow two of her Letraset Tria Pantone markers and a Letraset Pro Marker to review.  She selected these markers specifically because she uses these colors as a blending family, and the differences in the Pantone Tria markers and the Pro Marker are negligible, as they are both alcohol based markers made by Letraset.  These markers are fairly old and have received a fair amount of use, and Letraset does not make Pantone color family Tria markers anymore, although Letraset Tria alcohol markers are still commonly available in art supply stores.  Your results with Letraset Tria markers may vary.

As always, these art supply reviews are based on my own experiences and tastes, and may not be directly relevant to your needs and techniques.  When investing in a product as expensive and potentially long lasting as alcohol based markers, it's wise to take into consideration a variety of sources, and to do your research.

Background on Letraset


Letraset makes a wide variety of markers, many of which I have not yet tested, so I admit, my experience is limited only to these Letraset Tria Pantone and ProMarker  alcohol markers.  Letraset has been around for a long time, and makes a lot of products including Promarkers, Illustration markers, fineliners and AquaMarkers.   Letraset began as a company that produced transferable letters used by graphic artists, which they still produce, as well as art markers and some illustration software. I've had to do a little Googling and fact checking in order to write this review, and if I don't have my facts straight, feel free to correct me, and I'll post the edit.

Pantone's Letraset Trias have been around since the 1970's (http://justsomemarkers.wordpress.com/pantone/) and has undergone a few changes since then.  The gist of the Pantone color system is

...to allow designers to "color match" specific colors when a design enters production stage, regardless of the equipment used to produce the color.

Because Pantone is such a popular system for color identification, Pantone Tria markers would have been very useful for illustrators, graphic designers, and layout artists who wanted to sure color accuracy in the reproduction of their work.  They generally come with at least two tips- a chisel tip and a bullet nib, but I've also seen a fine nib add on available online, though not in person.  These markers were based on the Pantone system of color identification.   The markers Heidi lent me did not come with the fine nib, so I haven't had an opportunity to review it yet.


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Varieties of Letraset Markers

Tria Illustrator is made with a water based ink, and while it wont blend with other alcohol based markers, it also won't smudge existing linework or color.  Flex Marker has a flexable tip, but is only available in 72 colors, does not have interchangeable nibs, but is refillable.  Promarkers are alcohol based just like Trias and Flex Markers, but are only available in 148 colors and have three nibs- a bullet nib, a chisel nib, and an optional ultra fine nib.  Pro Markers are compatible with the Letraset airbrushing system.  AquaMarkers use water based pigments which can be reactivated when dry, come in 42 colors, and claim watercolor like abilities.  Below is a chart comparing the varities of Letraset markers.

Letraset Pantone Vs. Copic Sketch Stats

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Letraset Markers

  • Price per marker: $6.39 (Amazon)
  • Price per comparable marker (Original): $5.24 (Blick.com)



For the record, this is what Copic Originals look like:



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  • Letraset: 300 colors
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  • Pantone based color families
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  •  Catagorized by an HSL Scale: 
Hue
A Green with a low Hue value will be more yellow. If the Hue value is higher, that Green will contain more Blue.
Saturation
A level 2 Orange will appear dull whilst a level 6 will be more intense.
Luminosity
For Luminosity, the higher the value, the lighter the colour will appear.
  • Color family on broad nib's cap
  • Pointed cap to denote brush nib
  • 3 Nibs per marker
  • Refillable, refills come in all 300 colors
  • Blender marker available
  • Available in sets

Copic Sketch Markers

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  •  Refillable
  • Replacable Nibs
  • Comfortable in hand
  • 358 available number of colors
  • Blend-able
  • Color Name and Family on Cap
  • Color Coded cap
  • Super Brush
  • Can mix own colors, blank markers available
  • Price Per Marker: $7.29 (Amazon)
  • Availability: limited availability at Michaels, many art supply stores, Dick Blick, Jerry's Artarama, Jetpens, Amazon
  • Available in individual and color themed sets
  • Alcohol based
  • React to rubbing alcohol and 'blender' fluid
  • Can be blended

The Comparison

Note:  One of these is a Letraset Promarker, but there are few significant differences between the Tria and the Promarker.  Both are double sided alcohol markers intended for fine art, graphic art, and illustration. 

 As you can see, Trias and Promarkers look very similar save for the label.  Capped, both are about the same length as a Copic Sketch, and feel similar in the hand to a Prismacolor Premier.  As you can see, eventually the label will rub off eventually, making future color identification difficult.  The Copic Sketch cap has a plastic color coordination designation and embossed lettering that doesn't rub off.

 A comparison of the tips of both Copic Sketch and ProMarker.  Both feature nylon nibs.


 And here's a color accuracy comparison.  While trying to find comparable Copic Sketches, I had to make a lot of swatches.  Out of my fairly extensive collection, I couldn't really find a match.

 The Test Results

This test is  my standard for all alcohol based marker comparison tests, and you've already seen it with my Spectrum Noir and Prismacolor Premier test.  I test the marker's compatibility with a variety of technical pens (Sakura Micron, Copic Multiliner, Pitt Pen, the waterbased ink found in Akashiya brush pens, the gel ink in Hi Tec C rollerball pens), as well as it's ability to blend and layer (shown on the sphere) and it's ability to mix with the other marker (show in the boxed area).  New to this test is the compatibility with Copic's Blender. Letraset also has a blender marker available in Tria and ProMarkers, but I don't have one to test for this supply review.


 Sorry this is a bit blown out, my scanner isn't kind on color work.  Even with the blown out color, you can see that I had a difficult time matching Copic alcohol inks with Letraset alcohol inks.  This means that a collection that utilizes both art marker brands would have a wider range of colors to choose from, but that the colors are not interchangeable.

With the nibs I had available for the Letraset Tria markers, I had some trouble getting nice blends, but this is pretty typical for bullet nibs.  Letraset Trias didn't play very nicely with the Sakura Micron or the Akashiya ink.  I always have trouble with Akashiya ink and alcohol based markers, so this is nothing new, but the smearing of Micron ink was.  If you marker over a freshly inked image on a coated paper, you'll have a similar result, so perhaps if I had waited, this would not have happened.  However, I consciously decided not to wait when doing these tests for just this reason as many artists work under time constraints that don't allow for much downtime.

The Verdict


My verdict is inconclusive, but I'll say this much:  Although Letraset Tria markers are available in most art stores, are refillable, and have replaceable nibs, they cost more than Copic Original and Copic Sketch markers (and certainly more than Copic Caio), have a smaller range of colors, and I've never seen the refill ink sold in a brick and mortar store.  Until I've done more testing (which I've already made arrangements for), I hesitate to remark whether or not Letraset Tria markers are worth the additional cost, but I will say that I don't foresee myself adding them to my permanent collection of alcohol markers in the near future.

 

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