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When I first began testing alcohol based professional grade markers, I'd had a simple goal in mind- find a cheap, easily accessible alternative to Copics for beginning illustrators. My goal wasn't to replace Copics (I use them all the time, and love them, particularly the Sketch), but to supply high school and early college level artists with some cheaper alternatives, so that they could begin experimenting and learning the ropes. I was also interested in finding a way to augment my own collection with cheap but compatible markers in colors that I very rarely use, but occasionally need, knowing that other marker illustrators share this desire. I believe that a basic collection of markers used on the regular should be the highest quality you can afford, but I realize that there's no need for an entire collection to be made up of very expensive markers that rarely get used.
So far, I've tested 7 different brands that produce alcohol or solvent based markers, from Chartpak to Spectrum Noir, and while I've found a few that are suitable for beginners or supplements (Shin Han Twin Touch, Marvy LePlume), none have all of the features that I'm looking for in a marker that would recieve heavy use.
This week, I tested TriArt Mini Markers, a diminutive version of the TriArt marker. Both are alcohol based, but the full sized TriArt is basically an extended tip attachment on a TriArt Mini. TriArt Mini and TriArt markers are alcohol based markers from Japan available in a fair range of colors.
EDIT (December 8, 2013): If you're interested in trying regular TriArt markers, CarpeDiem has them, their replacement nibs, blank markers, AND refill inks available.
|TriArt with and without pen nib (the without is basically a TriArt Mini). Source|
Art Supply Review DisclaimerAs 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 InformationTriArt is a Japanese company that makes a variety of art supplies, from erasers to markers and accessories. TriArt should not be confused with Tri-Art, which is a Canadian company focusing on painting supplies. There isn't much information available online about TriArt (as opposed to Tri-Art) as a company. I ordered mine online from The Carpe Diem Store, as these markers seem to be a little difficult to find.
TriArt Mini Vs. Copic SketchTriArt Mini Markers
- Individual Cost: 1.97 (at Architects Corner Store)
- Available in sets and individually
- Replaceable nibs (need specialized tweezers like Copics, but could probably use a Copic Nib Tweezer) (Nibs and tweezers available through a) (http://www.architectscornerstore.com/Products/SSTPCKR/)
- 150 Available colors
- Empty markers available for creating custom colors
- Mini form of the TriArt Marker
- Made in Japan
- Somewhat blend-able
- Color Name and Family on Cap
- Flex-able Brush Nib
- Availability: Online, through Carpe Diem and Scrap Mart Available in individual and color sets
- Alcohol based
- Can be blended using the blender (although it does not react very strongly)
Copic Sketch Markers
Price Per Marker: $7.29
- Replacable Nibs
- Comfortable in hand
- 358 available number of colors
- Color Name and Family on Cap
- Color Coded cap
- Super Brush
- Can mix own colors, blank markers available
- 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
|Unlike Copic markers, the TriArt's caps allow for (loose) posting. They are oblong, and feature a stripe of grey on the end with the chisel tip, the opposite of Copic.|
|Without it's cap, the TriArt Mini is pretty small. I have little hands, and even I found it awkward. More secure cap posting would add length to the diminutive barrel.|
|The TriArt Mini is a fair bit smaller than the Copic Sketch, although the brush tips and chisel nibs are close to the same size and shape.|
The ComparisonThis test is my standard for all alcohol based marker comparison tests, and you've already seen it with my Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premiers, ShinHan Twin Touch, FlexMarkers, and Pantone Letraset Tria tests. 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 Pentel Technica 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). I also test blender compatibility with the Copic Colorless Blender.
The TriArt Mini markers ran fairly dry for brand-new, never been used markers, possibly because these markers just don't hold very much ink. The nib was also somewhat gummy, but I've determined that's par for the course with non-Copic alcohol based markers, and it tends to happen when the ink is low. My Copics get this way when they are VERY dry, but usually return to their former glide as soon as they're refilled.
The TriArt blender works better with the Copic alcohol based ink than it does with the TriArt alcohol based ink, and TriArt markers don't blend easily, possibly because the markers are so dry.
Having not tested the regular TriArt marker with the attachable fine bullet nib, I have nothing to say about it's quality.
The ResultsThe TriArt Mini marker is relatively hard to find offline, and if you don't know what you're looking for exactly, does not show up readily in search results (i.e. not usually a result when "Alcohol based marker" is Googled. I haven't much luck in getting them to behave like Copics, so if you're looking for a blendable alcohol based, professional grade marker, the TriArt may not be a good fit. The short barrel and smaller ink reservoir makes this marker seem more like a children's birthday party prize than a serious contender in the alcohol based marker market. The cheap price, flexible nib, refillable ink, and fact that it does behave like alcohol based ink after some working means that the TriArt Mini isn't a bad choice for a beginner willing to accept it's flaws.
Below is a video comparing TriArt markers to Copic markers by FireCrackerDesigns on Youtube.