Friday, December 04, 2015

Alcohol Based Marker Review: Artist's Loft

There's something really intriguing to me about stores that offer their own brand of alcohol based markers.  I've tested Blick's Studio Brush markers, Blick's original Studio markers, Utrecht's DesignMarkers, Hobby Lobby's Art Markers, and today I'm going to show you guy Michael's Artist Loft alcohol based markers.  I think part of the appeal is I'm always hoping to find a diamond in the rough, a hidden affordable gem that I can recommend to people who would like to start using alcohol based markers.

I did not buy these Artist Loft markers at Michael's- I've never even seen them at my Nashville area Michaels stores, and the only time I saw them in the wild was when visiting Illinois.  I ordered mine off Amazon, and I thought I'd overpaid for the privilege, but these have a fairly high mark up even in stores.  It was only when Michael's offered them for 50% off as part of a Back to School promotion that I thought they were reasonable.

Michael's carries many Artist Loft art materials- and I've been forewarned that their quality is often dubious, even for student standards.  You have a few options when purchasing Artist Loft alcohol based markers from the online Michaels storefront.  You can buy a two pack of just black markers, you can buy them in sets of 12 (basic, Natural, and Cool) or you can buy the entire set, including a case.  You do not have the option of buying them open stock, buying replacement nibs, or purchasing replacement ink.  At $44.99 for 12 markers, you're paying $3.75 per marker, if you don't have a coupon.

The Stats:


  • 12 colors
  • Nature/Pastel set
  • Twin tipped
  • Alcohol based
  • Non refillable
  • Non replaceable nibs
  • Not available open stock
  • Approx $3.75 per marker
  • Subject to availability in store, but you can order online
  • I could not find a chart of all the colors available online.  If you have the full set, and wouldn't mind making and scanning a chart, I would greatly appreciate it.  



The Packaging



Artist's Loft alcohol markers, alcohol based markers, Artist's Loft, Michael's markers, Markers from Michaels, art markers, illustration markers



The packaging opens up to display all 12 markers in two sets of 6.  The markers fit very snugly in this case, and are a bit difficult to remove if all markers are in place, so I used a mechanical pencil to wedge pencils out by their caps.



The Artist Loft alcohol based markers come in a reusable plastic clamshell case.  While these cases aren't as sturdy as nylon marker cases you can buy seperately, they do keep your markers organized and together, and you don't have to pay anything additional.   This may not seem like a dealbreaker for some of you, but when you've tested as many alcohol based markers as I have, included storage is always a nice perk, and beats the heck out of blister packaging that just gets tossed.

The Markers


These markers are twin tipped with a long bullet nib at one end, and a chisel nib at the other.  Neither nib is flexible.

Artist's Loft alcohol based markers, artist's loft illustration markers


The colors don't exactly match those on the caps, but given how small Artist's Loft's range of alcohol based markers are, it's probably close enough.  There seems to be a color numbering scheme for these markers 500's are Greens, 100s are Yellows, 400's are Oranges, 200's are Pink, 300's are Blues, 600's are Purples, and 700's are Browns.

From top to bottom:  Artist's Loft, 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's Loft

From left to right:  Copic Ciao, Copic Sketch, Bic Mark It, Shin Han Twin Touch, Artist's Loft


The Artist's Loft alcohol based markers look A LOT like the Kuretake Kurecolor Twin S markers I reviewed a couple years ago.  They have a fairly stiff bullet nib on one end, and a rather roughly hewn chisel nib on the other.

The Swatch Test on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper



It seems like none of the stickers actually match the ink inside the marker.  Often the ink dries a very different color from how it originally goes down, which had me holding my breath for awhile, especially with Kara's skin.

The Field Test on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper


As this set doesn't come with it's own Colorless Blender, I'm using a Copic Ciao.





The peach included in the Natural set is a very UNnatural peach- very bright, and almost fluorescent when blended out.  I used the Copic Ciao colorless blender, as this set did not come with a blender of it's own.  Considering Artist's Loft is a Michael's brand, and Michael's sells sets of Prismacolors, and openstock Copic markers, it's not a stretch to imagine picking up a Prisma or Copic blender to go with your Artist's Loft alcohol based markers.


There also isn't really a good light blue option for shading whites.  My options were 302 or 531, and both seemed too dark.



I did the best I could, and blended out as much as I could with the Copic Colorless Blender, but it's still a fairly harsh contrast, and I couldn't achieve even coverage.



So rather than trying to force colors to blend into pastels, I just went with it, and used them at full strength for the rest of this test.  Like Copics, Prismacolors, or Shin Han Twin Touches, these markers layer decently well, and if you're careful in application and apply your strokes either in little scrubby circles or in slow deliberate strokes, you can achieve uniform  coverage.




Since this pack doesn't come with a colorless blender, I'll be augmenting the set with my Copic Ciao Colorless Blender.  The peach, 420, is almost blindingly bright, and it was hard to blend it out enough to not be garish on Kara's face.  There is only one brown in this set 732, which I used to color Kara's Hair, boots, and belt.  Layering does not make this brown dark enough for it to really substitute for darker browns.  The lightest blue, 302, served as the shadow on Kara's 'white' dress, but I couldn't blend it out enough for it to really be believable as a shadow.  These colors are easier to lay down sans streaking than the waterbased markers I've been reviewng recently, but it's frustrating to color with the weird bullet nib.

There is nothing to make the Artist Loft alcohol based markers stand out amongst better known brands such as Prismacolor or Copic, both of which are sold at Michaels, some of which are even sold open stock.

The Back To School Sale:


If you see these in the wild, and you're careful with your coupons, or time it for a sale, you can get a set of 12 Artist's Loft alcohol markers for around $22.50, or less than $2 per marker, which is pretty cheap.  Granted, I've only seen Artist's Loft markers in the wild once (the above example, which was a back to school sale), and when they AREN'T on sale, they're a little over $3 per marker.

The Verdict:

These markers are overpriced, and under perform.  The peach included in the natural color set I ordered from Amazon is almost fluorescent, and definitely not a color found in nature.  Honestly, all of the colors in this set are too different from one another to really use for rendering florals, let alone people, and make smooth blends difficult unless I cheat and pull out my Copics.  I just don't have enough similar colors to achieve the effects I want.  These markers aren't available open stock, and aren't available at every Michaels, so your ability to even amass a collection is lower than sticking with a known property like Prismacolor markers.

Working with markers like these the Bic Mark Its, takes me twice as long to color a field test as it would with Copics, Prismacolors, or Blick Studio Markers, due to the limitations of the bullet nib.  In addition, I feel like the the pieces for Artist's Loft and Bic Mark Its look so much more amateur than the Blick Studio markers piece- the blending is far less subtle and much more forced, transitions are harsher, and I'm able to achieve less subtle detail due to the size of the nibs.  To an extent, the artist makes thematerials, not the other way around, but I feel like these tests really show that sub par materials can really make the difference in how the finished piece looks, and how much time you spend beating materials into submission as opposed to learning.

So that's another alcohol based marker review under my belt.  If you found this review helpful, please consider using the handy Social buttons at the top of the post to share it with your friends, family, and readers.   You can also help support this blog by writing an email to companies like Michael's, Copic, or Sanford on my behalf, and letting them know how much you enjoy my reviews.  Thirdly, you can show your appreciation through financial support- by donating using the sidebar Paypal link, by commissioning me, or by purchasing something from the Nattoshop.  This blog is currently not-for-profit, so your donations go towards buying more supplies for reviews, improving the equipment I use for creating post and video content, and reimbursing me (ever so slightly) for the many hours I put into this.  I purchase the vast majority of these products out of pocket, so if you're interested in taking them of my hands, email me, and we can discuss payment.

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