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When the phrase 'art marker' is bandied about, most people think of Copic markers, the holy grail to the Ameritaku set, the esteemed pinnacle of artistic perfection to the aspiring mangaka, and a pretty darn good marker in the eyes of most comic artists, layout artists, and illustrators. For years, the Copic has been hailed as the end all be all alcohol based marker- it blends well, comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and has a range of options from unattainable to just barely out of allowance's grasp. Praised on sites like DeviantArt for being the one marker to rule them all (and in the emptiness of my wallet, bind me), Copic markers tend to be out of the grasp of most aspiring illustrators.
Of course, there are plenty of cheaper double-ended marker alternatives looking to fill the class gap between the Copic elite and the Crayola wielding, but can they really do the job that a Copic can? I've decided to enter the trenches of alcohol based art marker testing (for as long as my wallet can bear) and give you guys the skinny on which brands can hack it with the big boys of art markers.
Art Marker Test Numero Uno: Spectrum Noir vs. Copic Sketch
Hey! There's way more exciting alcohol based marker action right below the cut!
Yesterday, I took advantage of a Savannah-wide discount on Copic markers at my local Blick store. While stocking up on Various Ink and adding to my already oversized collection of Copic Sketch markers, I noticed a new kid in town, the Spectrum Noir, hanging on a nearby display. Like many other alcohol based Copic-alikes, the Spectrum Noir markers are double sided with a color coded cap, but unlike real Copics, Spectrum Noir markers are sold in sets of 6, afford-ably priced under $10. Being a realist, I purchased the Spectrum Noir markers not because I expect them to perform comparably to Copics, but as a subject for my first marker review. That's right, I entered this review with a bias. What can I say, when you pay less than $10 for six markers, you know you're settling.
According to the back of the Spectrum Noir package,
"Spectrum Noir is the new alcohol ink based marker pen designed specifically for crafters. Each pen is double ended, with a broad chisel nib for large area fills and a fine bullet tip for detailed work.
These markers are made in China, and distributed in the US by Darice, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence on my part.
Here's a video about them from the source:
Creepily similar to Copic's system, isn't it? I have no real issue with the fact that they've basically used Copic's schtic, it's just amusing that Crafter's Companion treats it like it's a new thing. Also, those bottles of refill ink look a lot like my bottles of concentrated liquid watercolor.
Basic Facts about these bad alcohol based boys:
The Pedal Meets the Metal: Copic Sketch Art Markers Versus Spectrum Noir Art Markers
The Test PaperThe parameters of this comparison were pretty straightforward. There were two categories- Copic Sketch and Spectrum Noir. I made marks with several inking technical and brush pens and labeled the makers, one set for each category. I did a spectrum of available tones, as well as a sphere to demonstrate blend-ability. In between the two tests, I did a compatibility test- Copic into Spectrum Noir and Spectrum Noir into Copic.
My scanner made the lighter shades of the Copic Sketch warm greys much cooler than they actually are. This is an issue with my scanner, not the markers. The Copic Sketch warm greys are actually very consistent markers.
Results of this Showdown:
All in all, the Spectrum Noir aren't the worst double sided Copic-clone I've ever used. Their spectrum of 'Warm Greys' doesn't match up to the spectrum shown on the packaging, which is a redder series of greys similar to copic's warm greys. Instead, Spectrum Noir's warm greys are more purple, more in line with Copic's Blue Violet spectrum. Also, I don't think Spectrum Noir is really comparable to Copic Sketch, nor is it trying to be, they are more like original Copics with a square body, a small nib, and a broad chiselled nib. If you're a big fan of the Copic Super Brush like I am, Spectrum Noir doesn't really offer the nib option you're looking for.
Being that Copics and Spectrum Noir are both alcohol based markers that dye the fibers of the paper, their performance was pretty similiar, although the Spectrum Noir nibs didn't have the give that Copic nibs do and seem to be made of a cheaper felt.
Copics in all forms (Copic Sketch, Copic Original, Copic Caio, and even Copic Wide) are all sold both in sets and individually, and the ink is easily available. I have yet to see Spectrum Noir markers sold individually and I have no idea if the nibs are replaceable like Copics are. Supposedly Spectrum Noir markers are refillable, although I haven't seen the ink offered with the markers. Compared to Copics, they look and feel a bit shoddy, but at $10 for six markers, they may be a more affordable introduction to the world of alcohol based markers
But hey, I'm not the only person who's reviewed these markers! Let's watch some other reviews.