Sunday, November 01, 2015

Alcohol Marker Review: Blick Studio Markers

So it has come to my attention (through my searching my blog for the post) that I've never written about Blick's Alcohol based markers.  Which is a little weird, as I'd bought some a long time ago, and tested them, and I'd mentally made a note that they were reviewed on this blog.

I'd misplaced the one original Blick marker I'd kept for comparison (I'd given the others away to another blogger who tests art supplies), and while digging around for my original Blick alcohol based markers, I found some Utrecht Design Markers that I've never tested or reviewed.  I'd hoped they were the same as the Blick marker I can't find, but these actually have nice brush nibs, so it looks like I owe you guys a few back-dated reviews.

So this is a three part post- Blick's Original alcohol based markers, which they still sell, Blick's brand new Studio Markers, and Utrecht's now defunct (replaced by the Studio Markers) Design Markers.  First I am going to share photos of all the markers compared to one another, and then I'll dive into each marker brand individually.

Since these products are from Blick, there are no affiliate links in this post to help provide a little revenue and reward me for my time and effort.  If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends via social media, writing to Blick and telling them how much you enjoy my reviews, or even sending me a tip via the Paypal link in the sidebar.  Your donations help me fund future reviews, keep the lights on, and keep my cat (and myself!) fed.  These posts take a lot of time and energy to put together and while I love sharing my knowledge and experience with you guys, self sufficiency through my art is my ultimate goal, and this blog is a part of that.  This blog is not sponsored by any company, I don't draw a paycheck for posts written, and content is not hidden behind a paywall.

Copic, Copic sketch, blick studio marker, letraset flex, designmarker
From top to bottom:  Blick Studio Marker, Copic Sketch, Blick's original Studio Marker, Utrecht's design marker, Letraset's Flex Marker

Blick Original Alcohol Based Markers



  • Available in store or online through Dick Blick
  • Available openstock or in sets up of up to 48 markers
  • 95 available colors + colorless blender
  • $2.99 per marker
  • Bullet nib and chisel tip
  • Designed to look and function like the original Prismacolor marker
  • Not refillable
  • Cannot replace nibs





From Left to Right:  Prismacolor Marker, Blick's original Studio Marker, Blick's new Studio Marker

From left to right:  Blick's new studio marker, Copic Sketch, Prismacolor Premier, Utrecht's DesignMarker


From left to right:  Spectrum Noir (old style), Prismacolor Premier, Copic Sketch, Shin Han Twin Touch, Letraset, Blick Studio, Chartpack
From right to left:  Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premier, Copic Sketch, Shin Han Twin Touch, Letraset, Blick Studio, Chartpak
The Field Test





Blick's original Studio Markers have a chisel nib and a bullet nib, which is pretty standard for cheaper brands of alcohol based markers, and was a common sight at the time I purchased these markers way back in 2013, from the Blick located in Savannah, GA.  I purchased my three openstock, somewhat on a whim after I wrote the Spectrum Noir review, went home and did the test, and then forgot to write a post about it.

The bullet nib and chisel feel very cheap, are not very juicy, and are somewhat roughly cut compared to other chisel nibs.  These nibs make coloring very scratchy, and it's annoying to use these markers to color large areas.

You can use Copic's colorless blender with the original Blick Studio markers and vice versa, and Blick and Copic markers can be used together.  Blick's blender tends to work a little bit better with the Blick markers than the Copic Blender, but it could also just be the difference between application with a hard bullet nib or application with a soft super brush.



Blick New Studio Brush Markers (Also Alcohol Based)

I saw the display for these markers with a big coming soon sign when I was in San Francisco for ALA way back in July, and I was incredibly excited to give them a shot.  Although I couldn't buy any at the time, and I don't have a Blick within reasonable driving distance, I checked the site often, and excitedly ordered a handful as soon as I could.


  • Sold in Dick Blick stores and online
  • $2.99 per marker, cheaper if bought in a set 
  • Sold openstock and in sets as large as 96 markers(I purchased mine openstock)
  • 95 colors plus colorless blender
  • Not refillable
  • Nibs are not replaceable
  • Caps do not post
  • Hexagonal shape helps prevent rolling
  • Color name and number listed on cap

The Markers


How my markers arrived.


Shinhan Twin Touch, Shin Han Twin Touch, Blick Studio Marker, Copic Sketch
From left to right:  Blick Studio Marker, Blick Studio Brush Marker, Shinhan Twin Touch, Copic Sketch

Although Blick has thankfully added a brush option, the chisel nib is still pretty disappointing.

My three favorite brush tipped alcohol based markers.  Sadly, Blick Studio Brush markers are NOT refillable, but they're a good way to start a collection off.

Unlike many other twin tipped alcohol based markers, the Blick Studio Brush markers do not have a stripe to indicate which end is the brush end, but like many brands, they do have a small diagram to help indicate which end is which.  


The new Blick Studio Brush Markers body reminded me of the Spectrum Aquas waiting patiently in my 'to review' box, so I went ahead and pulled one out for comparison.  Spectrum Aquas are the new watercolor marker by Crafter's Companion, who produce Spectrum Noir alcohol based markers, and while the body is very similar to the new Blick Studio Brush markers, it's a little bit bigger.

Spectrum Aqua, Blick Studio Brush marker
The Spectrum Aqua has very little body printing, but it does have a gray band to indicate which end is the brush nib, unlike the Blick Studio Brush markers.

You can see that the Spectrum Aquas are a bit bulkier than the Blick Studio Brush markers, but they both have a hexagonal shape to help reduce rolling.  The Spectrum Aqua caps look like they post, unlike the Blick Studio Brush markers.





While handling the Blick Studio Brush markers, I noticed that they feel light in comparison to Copic sketch markers.  The caps have a unique divot that make them easy to grab and pull off, without making the cap any less snug or airtight.  When I placed my first order, I made the mistake of not ordering divergent enough skintones.


The Field Test



As with so many of my other field tests, this was inked with the Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen, which is both Copic and waterproof, and thus ideal for this sort of application.  I'm using Strathmore's Mixed Media sketchbook.  Below the Kara doodle are swatches of all the markers I purchased for this test.





These markers respond well to the Blick Studio Brush marker colorless blender.




The Blick Studio Brush markers blend well- if you allow the alcohol to dry completely, subsequent lines will be stronger and have a defined edge.  If you apply color while the alcohol is still wet, the inks will naturally blend.














The only real issue I encountered was selecting a color for the body of the sweater- I wanted to test as many colors as I possibly could, but I had limited myself by my color choices at time of purchase.  This isn't an issue with the markers entirely, but moreso that the colors displayed online aren't an accurate depiction of the colors you receive- a common problem when ordering markers online.





There isn't a whole lot of bleed through either.


Colors used in this field test:

0
003
006
079
045
087
086
091
089
075

These markers handle a lot like Copics, the brush is juicy and flexible without becoming raggedy like Letraset Flex markers.  These markes blend well with one another, although unfortunately the colors do not exactly match the cap, so I recommend making a swatch sheet for your reference.  I did not use the chisel nib at all (I pretty much never use it), but I found the brush nib very capable of what I wanted.

The Verdict


These markers are fantastic, and since coloring the above image, I've ordered several more to help fill holes in my Copic Sketch Collection.  While the brush nibs aren't quite as good as the brush nibs on Copic markers, they're very passable, and are an affordable way to get your collection off to a great start.




Mini Review!  Utrecht Alcohol Based Markers


There isn't a lot of information online about these markers anymore.  I'd purchased these on impulse in person from the Utrecht in Atlanta (I believe it's now a Blick), shortly after Blick purchased all of the Utrechts, but before many had been converted into Blick stores.  I wanted to see how these differed from Blick's original alcohol based markers, but I never got around to writing the comparison post.   Now the site has all but cleared them out, but I did snag three of the 24 marker easel cases for my Winsor & Newton watercolor markers and miscellaneous alcohol based markers that float around my studio. If you're in the market for a very cheap marker case, this might be a great solution for you, especially if you like round barrel markers like Prismacolors, Letrasets, or Blick's original studio markers.

You can find more information, and opinions on Utrecht's Design Markers by checking out the links below:

The Value of Value Studies
Hellcat: Marker Drawing Process
Utrecht Vs Markette



These markers are not refillable, and the nibs are not replacable.

The Markers


To the left: Letraset's Flex marker.  To the right, Utrecht's DesignMarker.  These two pens share the same body and cap designs.
 Utrecht's Design Markers are pretty much identical to Letraset's Flex markers, other than the exterior sticker.
Top:  Letraset Flex.  Bottom: Utrecht DesignMarker
 This Letraset Flex has seen less use than you'd think, given the condition of that brush nib.  The Letraset brush is more conical than the Utrecht DesignMarker's brush.



Top:  Utrecht DesignMarker
Bottom: Blick's original Studio Marker
 The DesignMarker seems like a knockoff of the Letraset Flex, while the original Blick Studio marker is a knockoff of the original Prismacolor marker.   The one color that remains available (on deep clearance) is now $1.05, and the MSRP is listed at $7.99, which I find a bit hard to believe.  Considering how casually I bought these, I probably paid around $3.00 per marker at the time of purchase.



Both the DesignMarker and the Blick's Studio marker have equally awful chisel nibs.  Seriously, companies, if you're going to produce chisel nibs that are this awful, consider focusing on a single tip marker, and make that tip WORK.




The Mini Field Test




When I purchased these markers, I purchased two blues that I thought would blend well, and a colorless blender.  They seem to work moderately well with Copics, and it's easier to cover larger areas of paper with a brush (even a dry one) than it is with a bullet nib.

Because the inkflow is poor, it caused some smearing of ink that had already cured- a common issue with dry Copics, and a sign that it's time to toss a non-refillable marker, but these Utrecht DesignMarkers were new to me (albeit open stock).


Sadly, ya snooze, ya lose, as Utrecht no longer sells these Letraset Flex-Alikes.  Instead, they're selling Blick's Studio Marker.  However, there is some consolation, as my notes say these markers were stingy with ink, and that the tip bent out of shape quickly.  Comparing it to my Letraset Flex (one I received in an Artsnacks after my initial Letraset Flex review), it seems like the brush nibs on both markers are disappointing, as my hardly-used Flex already showed fraying.

Common Issues

All of the markers covered today had a problem with the chisel nib.  Not only were all three chisel nibs of lackluster construction, but many of my markers arrived with their chisel nib half out.  The latter is an easy fix- slight pressure against scrap paper eases it into place, and it makes me wonder if you COULD refill these if you really wanted to, and if you COULD replace the nibs if you so desired.  Perhaps some day I'll feel brave (probably when one of my Blick Studio Brush markers runs out) and I'll find out and let you guys know.

Both the original Blick Studio markers and the Utrecht DesignMarkers had other nib issues- the Blick Studio marker's bullet nibs are unimpressive, and a pain to color with.  The Utrecht DesignMarker's brush feels flimsy and stiff, and quickly blends out of shape.  Despite being a brush, it's stingy with inkflow, even when it was new (which was when the fieldtest was conducted).

The Overall Verdict

I am so glad Blick introduced the Studio Brush Marker.  Yes, you can buy Prismacolor Premier markers  with a super brush tip and a bullet tip openstock for $3.49 from Blick, but now you have access to a great alcohol based marker with a great brush nib for under $3, and less than that if you buy a set.  If you want to render people, I suggest skipping the box sets and putting together your own  set (Blick offers bulk discounts, but I'm not sure where 'bulk' starts) with a focus on skintones.

These aren't really a replacement for Copics- I have no idea how the color families work, they aren't refillable, nibs aren't replacable, and if you're constantly replacing certain colors, you're better off buying that color in Copic with a bottle of the ink.  But if you'd like to use alcohol based markers for illustration, if you'd like a set you could take to cons, or if you'd like to give the gift of the almighty Copic without spending Copic bucks, I highly recommend Blick's new Studio Brush markers.

Additional Viewing

3 Cheap Copic Alternatives- Nattosoup


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