Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Art Marker Showdown: Bic Mark It Permanent Markers

This is technically not part of my Walmart review series, as I didn't buy these Bic Mark Its at Walmart.  I discovered Bic Mark Its, and the fact that many artists do use them as a supplement to their alcohol based markers, while researching artist grade waterbased markers.  Bic Mark Its are not waterbased, and are probably not artist grade, but many artists use them as an affordable alcohol based marker option.

When I'd asked around on Twitter, @JadineRhine mentioned that she'd used them with her Copics, and volunteered a few examples to show what can be done.  While the Bic Mark Its aren't used to entirely replace Copics, they can be a great way to augment a beginning collection.

Bic Mark Its are available in Fine and Ultrafine, and are sold individually, and in sets from 6 pens up to 36.  I ordered the largest set from Amazon for $16.05 using Subscribe and Save.  You can buy it without Subscribe and Save on Amazon for $18.88, or on the Walmart website.  I'm also sure you can find them at your own Walmart, although maybe not the 36 pack.  You can also purchase any individual color you wish for $1.00 on the Bic site.  If you'd like to purchase a set for yourself, and want to help support this blog, clicking on my Amazon Affiliate link below serves both purposes.  Right now my my affiliate payment is set to gift cards, and you can rest easy in the knowledge that most of those will probably be spent on buying more supplies to review.



Colors That Come in the 36 Piece Set

Polynesian Purple
Petal Pink
Pink Flamingo
Peach Parfait
Summer Melon
Tiki Hut Tan
Lemon Bliss
Margarita Green
Lime Sorbet
Tranquil Teal
Oceanview Blue
Cloud Nine Grey
Prairie Berry
Plumtastic Purple
Desert Rose
Harvest Orange
Honey Brown
Adobe Orange
Moonstone Yellow
Meadow Green
For-Ever Green
Midnight Navy
Misty Blue
Stone Grey
Fandango Pink
Key Lime
Blue Skies Blue
Playful Purple
Yellow Blaze
Sunset Orange
Tuxedo Black
Rambunctious Red
Hot Aqua
Forest Green
Deep Sea Blue
Woodsy Brown

The Packaging-


alcohol based markers, Bic Mark It, marker review
I ordered a package of the Fine tipped Bic Mark It markers.  Ultrafine is also available.  36 is the largest set you can order, and includes all of the currently available colors.




The case takes a little finagling to get all the way open, but the plastic is fairly sturdy, and holds the markers very securely, so they should stay put for travel.  There's a little compartment that can hold your pencils, inking pens, and erasers if you decide to take your set on the go. 

Bic Mark It, using Bic Mark Its like Copics, Copics vs Bic Mark Its
Unfolded, Bic Mark Its take up a lot of space, but all the colors are neatly displayed.

My Bic Mark Its came in reusable plastic packaging designed to keep the markers organized and in place. The individual markers are organized by color families- pastels, bolds, and primaries.  The plastic easel package is meant to be reusable, but with three tiers of markers, it's a bit confusing to navigate.  Smells a lot like other alcohol based markers- Copics, Blick Studio, Shin Han Twin Touch, rather than like permanent markers such as Sharpie, which surprised me.


The Pens


Every Bic Mark It comes with a silver body that has the marker logo, as well as the marker's color name, screened on the body in the ink color.  For some markers, this is almost impossible to read.  Every marker also comes with a color coordinated cap and rubber grip.

The tip is a little reminiscent of the Crayola Supertip markers I reviewed earlier. It's stiff, and while it looks like it might be a brush nib, it is not.





All pens in this set feature a silver body with a color coordinated rubber rip, cap, and body printing.  The body has Bic Mark It printed on the barrel, as well as the individual color names (FINALLY) and an AP certification that these pens are non toxic.  Unlike many of the alcohol based markers I've tested over the years, these are single sided.  Given my past experiences, the caps are fairly color accurate to the ink within.  The rubber grips are fairly soft, and make these pens comfortable to hold, but also serve to keep the caps airtight.  The nib on these markers is non-flexible, so applying pressure will ruin your nib.

Bic Mark Its are not refillable, and you cannot replace the nibs.

Compared with Other Markers

From Left to Right:  Crayola Washable Marker, Copic Sketch, Sharpie permanent marker, Bic Mark It.



When compared against alcohol based markers, I think these pens are pretty cute with their colorful caps and rubber grips.  Many alcohol based markers look confusingly similar- this is by design, not by accident.  Bic Mark Its are sold as permanent markers, and while they look it, they don't look overly industrial, and they would certainly stand out in a collection of alcohol based markers.

From Top to Bottom:  Artist Loft Alcohol Based Marker (Michaels), Shin Han Twin Touch, Bic Mark It, Copic Sketch, Copic Ciao

From Left to Right:  Copic Ciao, Copic Sketch, Bic Mark It, Shin Han Twin Touch, Artist Loft Alcohol Based Marker

From Left to Right:  Copic Ciao, Copic Sketch, Bic Mark It, Shin Han Twin Touch, Artist Loft Alcohol Based Marker


Blending Bic Mark Its

I didn't buy a big set of Bic Mark Its just to label CD's and write on plastic bottles, I purchased them to test as art markers!  A casual online search reveals a plethora of information about using Bic Mark Its as alcohol based markers, including videos on Bic's official website.

Bic Mark It Blending Tips and Tricks from Bic Mark It



According to the video, you can blend on a variety of materials with a variety of tools, but I'll be using Pacon Marker paper and Strathmore Multimedia paper, and I'll be blending with a Copic Caio Colorless Blender, as these are the materials I'm familiar with.

For those who feel more comfortable watching an artist use these markers for rendering, this video may be more useful.

 Bic Mark-it Review+Tutorial: Alcohol Markers?! from Angieonline



For rendering figures, which is what we're concerned with on this blog.

Cheap Copic Marker Alternative- Bic Mark It by Zyra Banez 



Supposedly you can augment your Bic Mark It collection cheaply with colored Sharpies, as they come in different colors, but as of this review, I have no experience with using Sharpies as a replacement for alcohol based markers.  I was first introduced to this concept by watching this video from TheFrugalCrafter

Fancy Coloring with BICS and Sharpies Final by TheFrugalCrafter





So let's dive in and see how Bic Mark It Permanent Markers work as alcohol based markers!

Swatching- Marker Paper

Note: Make sure your colorless blender is full of juice, as it will do a far better job dispersing the ink than a dry colorless blender will.  Colors were much more willing to blend out when there was a liberal application of colorless blender.

Regular Swatches



 Bic Mark Its are much drier than other alcohol based marker brands, but despite the nibs being fairly dry and very stiff, streaking is not too bad on Pacon's marker paper.




Although the pack of 36 markers has plenty of pastels, none are quite right for applying skin tones.



These seem a little drier than your standard alcohol based marker, although not as dry as the Crayola Supertips and Crayola Ultra Clean Washable markers were.  The conical nib isn't as nice as a super brush, but its a long sight better than a chisel nib or a bullet nib.

Although none of these pens are outright dry, some of them are dry enough that they case a bit of streaking, which makes me wonder how well they'll do.  Out of the box, none of these are ideal for base skintones, but I've heard they work with Copic's colorless blender, so maybe they can be blended and blended out into something better.

Blended Out Swatches

I have a Colorless Blender Copic Ciao that's dedicated for these marker tests.  The superbrush is getting a little beaten up, so it may be time for a nib replacement, but it gets the job done.



The Mark Its react with the colorless blender, which is a good sign- it means Mark Its use an alcohol solution to suspend the ink, and may mean that Mark Its play well with other alcohol based markers.


Blending Techniques tested with Bic Mark It Permanent Markers


Of course, the most important thing is whether or not markers within a brand blend well with one another.  I selected three Bic Mark Its that I thought would blend decently well, and proceeded to put them through their paces.  The top two tests are just Bic Mark Its- the first has minimal blending between the colors, to see if the alcohol would cause the markers to naturally blend together, the second I've gone over areas of color repeatedly to try and make an even blend.  Neither example demonstrate much blending.

For the test at the bottom, I thought that perhaps the paper and pens were too dry for much blending, so I pre saturated the paper with Colorless Blender before applying the Bic Mark It.  You can see that the three yellows blend a little better when Colorless Blender is applied first, but it's still not a seamless gradation.


For this example, I not only applied Colorless Blender first, but I attempted some layering of the same color, to see if I could smoothly build up areas of color intensity.

Preliminary tests on marker paper shows that the Bic Mark Its can be blended with Copic Colorless Blender.  For reference, a Colorless Blender hardly budges a Sharpie permanent marker.   Keep in mind that using a Colorless Blender will push color onto the pages behind the one you're coloring, so it is recommended that you put down extra pages or scrap paper before you start coloring.

Not All Permanent Markers are Created Equal

Some of the videos I've linked above mention that you can augment your 36 piece Bic Mark It collection with colorful Sharpies, so I grabbed a black Sharpie (which is what I have), to find out.  Attempts to blend a black Sharpie using Colorless Blender were pretty unimpressive..



The Colorless Blender was used immediately after the Sharpie was applied, and even though the Sharpie was still fairly fresh, it hardly budged.

Swatching- Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

I use the same Strathmore Mixed Media sketchbooks for all my marker tests- this is my second book.  I prefer to work on heavier paper when I use markers- Plate Bristol, Mixed Media paper, and Cardstock, so for me, this is where the real test begins.



I find that the Bic Mark Its blended out a little more impressively on the thicker paper, as the alcohol did not immediately evaporate.  I also found that the Bic Mark Its were far less streaky on this paper than they were on the Pacon marker paper.  I was impressed enough with initial blended swatches that I decided to try some tests.



Since my main concern is finding a workable skintone, I decided to use Tiki Hut Tan for these tests.  The top test I applied Bic Mark It over still wet Copic Colorless Blender, to see if the ink would feather out.  For the second test, I applied colorless blender before (outside of the box, at the midway hashmark) and after (inside the box) to see how that affected blending.  It takes A LOT of Copic Colorless Blender to get the ink in the Bic Mark Its to blend out.


I apologize for this test being upside down.    For this test, I started with light grey, and blended darker using a combination of two other markers and going over areas of applied color.   Afterwards, I streaked some Colorless Blender across to see how it would affect the color.



Markers still go down pretty much streak free, and while it doesn't blend out as well as Copic, Prismacolor, or Shin Han Twin Touch alcohol based markers blend out, it does blend somewhat.  Some colors blend with colorless blender a little better than others.

If you pre saturate the paper with colorless blender, apply the Bic Mark It, and then apply more blender, the color is more willing to blend out.

My biggest concern is always skintones, and that's no exception with the Bic Mark Its.  As it is, none of the colors in my 36 marker set are really useful to me as skintones- I like to blend my skintones progressively darker, and even the pastels aren't light enough to suit that need.  Summer Melon is ALMOST light enough to serve as a skintone, but it's stubborn enough that I'm too nervous to use it.  These markers don't blend cleanly enough or evenly enough for me to risk it with skin.

The Field Test: On Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

For this test, I'm cheating, and I won't be using a Bic Mark It as a skintone, as intial tests indicated that there are no markers in the Bic Mark It color family that work for Kara's skin. I'll be using Copics for Kara's skin, but other than the Colorless Blender that I'm using on the entire piece, Kara's skin will be the only place I use Copic.

There are two ways you can handle blending using Colorless Blender solution and Bic Mark It permanent markers.  You can apply the blender first, and then apply the marker, or you can apply the marker first and then blend it out using the colorless blender solution.  Tip to tip blending doesn't work with Bic Mark It permanent markers.  You can also soften the transitions between colors by layering.  For example, I rendered the green of Kara's skirt first, then applied some Midnight Blue shadows, and then applied green on top

Unlike waterbased markers, you can apply layers of color almost immediately, because the solution dries just about instantly.  The nibs of Bic Mark Its are like a cross between bullet nibs and Crayola Super Tips- they're triangular and very stiff.

When applying color, you have to be really deliberate about your color choice, placement, and when you put it down, because it takes A LOT of colorless blender to get these markers to blend, and they're a bit unpredictable.  It will probably take you longer to use these as markers than it would be to use actual alcohol based markers, because you may spend a lot of your time trying to blend colors lighter.

My tools:  Strathmore Mixed Media Paper, Copic Colorless Blender, Bic Mark It permanent markers.



I've found that it's easiest to handle background coloring before foreground, and I'd wanted to add a hint of color beneath the Bic in the background, so I generously applied colorless blender first, and applied Bic on top of it.  The lightest blue is still too dark for what I wanted, so I tried to blend it out with Colorless Blender.


Even if you're careful about where you put your color, the amount of Colorless Blender needed to get the Bic Mark It ink to move is so great that it will push color into unintended areas.  You can push the color back out the same way you would with alcohol markers- applying Colorless Blender until the area is clean again.



For the sweater, I decided to try applying the Mark It directly to the image, and use the Colorless Blender to pull in highlights.  The Bic Mark It is a little dry (as you can see from the streaking in Kara's sweater), so if you want a really light grey, you're pretty much out of luck.


I didn't want to risk over rendering Kara's hair and making a mess, so I kept it to strictly dry applications of Bic Mark It with no blender used.


Unlike the grey of the sweater, the brown doesn't layer much darker, so you can't see any shading in Kara's hair.











So up until this point, I've held off doing the skin, because I planned on laying down the base skin tone in Copics, which act predictably, rather than in Bic Mark Its.  I am only using two skintone Copics, as I feel that's a reasonable expectation even for an artist on a tight budget.

NOTE:  SKINTONE IS COPIC E00 AND E51- APPLYING SKINTONES WITH BIC MARK ITS IS NOT RECOMMENDED.
 I applied blush and lip color with Bic Mark Its, however.  Blending this pink out to something less intense resulted in clown lips for Kara.





I also used a Mark It to apply Kara's freckles, but the stiff, bold nib on the Mark It Fine markers gives big blobby dots for freckles.


I like to apply contrasting shadows for skin, so a blue violet is usually what I go for.  Bic Mark Its don't come blue or light enough to make it easy to add skin shadows, so I had to make due.  The contrast was too stark, so I tried to blend it out with a Copic skintone, but that created a muddy mess.


colored with Bic Mark It markers


Bic Mark Its can be used along with Copic or other alcohol based markers, but care should be exercised because Bic Mark Its blend out further than Copics, and are less predictable. Kara's lips were carefully applied using Peach Parfait over E00, and then blended lighter with the EOO, and the color dispersion of Peach Parfait was much larger than intended- like clown lips.  I applied freckle with Adobe Orange.  The tip size made it hard to vary the size of freckles, regardless of how light a hand I use.  I also tried to apply a few skin shadows using Polynesian Purple, but using E51 to blend it out didn't make it work better.

Colors Used For This Field Test:

Copic Colorless Blender
Copic E00- Skin White
Copic E51- Milky White
Honey Brown
Cloud Nine Grey
Oceanview Blue
Lime Sorbet
For-Ever Green
Midnight Navy
Peach Parfait
Polynesian Purple
Misty Blue
Stone Grey

The Verdict:

This set can be used to augment a starter alcohol based marker collection, but isn't a full replacement.  Some colors are easier to blend than others.  The largest set does not include any colors that can really replicate skin tones, so if you plan on using Bic Mark Its for illustration, I recommend, you first invest in some good alcohol based marker skintones.  You will also need to supply your own alcohol based marker colorless blender- if you wish to take the cheapest route, Prismacolor Premier's brush tipped colorless blender is fairly commonly available, although Copic Ciao is almost as cheap, and is refillable.  However, these are not Copics, nor are they Prismacolors, or Shin Han Twin Touches, and will not perform as well as real alcohol based markers.  However, if you don't mind buying a handful of skintones and a Colorless Blender, Bic Mark Its are a great way to become familiar with alcohol based markers without investing a lot of money into a set.

Looking for Another Point of View?

Craft Test Dummies reviewed the Bic Mark Its too, but as a permanent marker! Inkstains with Roni also tested the Bic Mark Its, but with a waterbrush full of colorless blender!

Got a hot link I missed?  Do you use Mark Its for your own art?  Shoot me an email and let me know!

Thanks for reading. Check out these products.