Sunday, May 12, 2013

Art Marker Showdown: Poison Grafitti Markers vs. Copic Sketch Markers

In my quest to broaden my marker horizons, two frontiers remained- the foreign marker market and markers for grafitti artists.  With the exception of markers made for full size graffiti pieces, most graffiti markers are just alcohol based markers marketed at a different crowd.

I must admit, I don't know very much about graffiti art, nor graffiti artists, but from what I've read, it seems that there's quite a few graffiti artists who practice their craft in black, hard bound sketchbooks, called blackbooks.  For these artists, it's important to find a paper-safe material capable of emulating traditional graffiti techniques like blending and fading.  Alcohol based markers may serve this purpose well.

A blackbook graffiti artist may have different artistic needs than the average illustrator.  As an illustrator, I like Copic's Super Brush, and I rely on the ability to mimic watercolor affects, something a graffiti artist may not find desirable in an alcohol based marker.  Conversely, when I'm trying to cover a large area on paper (like when I'm putting down a color wash), I pull out my Copic wide markers, whereas a graffiti artist may use the chisel end and lay down a careful series of strokes.

Because I test for specific qualities when testing markers, I'll reiterate what I do test for.  Please keep in mind that my tests are skewed to determine whether markers have these qualities, so my tests are by no means conclusive.  I recommend searching markers before you purchase.

The qualities I test for are:

1. Flexible nib that can mimic the flex of a watercolor brush.
2. Refill-ability
3. Blend-ability with other markers

For many of the markers I test, there is no flexible nib, but a stiff bullet nib.  This may cause me to discount a marker, but I realize that many of you are not looking for a flexible nib.  Many less experienced artists may be willing to trade refill ability for a lower cost option, or easy availability for cost.

Background Information on Poison Alcohol Based Graffiti Markers:

"POISON Markers are hand-made, and use the highest quality alcohol/water based inks/paints that have been developed by street writers. The pump system of the markers, has the ability to cover almost any flat surface and can produce nice and controlled drips if required. Their enhanced ergonomic design allows better handling of the marker for total control. We use only the highest quality of ingredients to make sure our markers will last and provide you with a trustworthy tagging tool."

Back in the day, graffiti was underground and getting your hands on good quality ink for tagging was almost impossible. Many were using paper-quality ink that could not withstand the weather conditions. A true black ink that can resist fading or chemical buffing was almost impossible to make.

Then, along came a simple but effective idea: the addition of bitumen to an oil based black ink, thick enough to create a long-lasting effect, but easy to flow through squeezers and create the most impressive drips. What was born from this idea and actual street testing was the original ‘Black Poison’ – the first generation of the famous bitumenous ink. ‘Silver Poison’ followed right after the huge success, using the same principal of the addition of bitumen.

In general, Poison specializes in graffiti tools- spray paints, inks, markers, but I was mainly interested in their alcohol based markers.

Art Supply Review Disclaimer

As 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.

Poison Alcohol Based Markers Vs. Copic Sketch Markers

Individual Marker: 1.47 euros ($1.92)

  • 60 available colors (incl. colorless blender)
  • Fine Liner (bullet) and broad chisel tips
  • Sold individually and in sets of 20 (basic colors, intense colors, soft colors, 27.99 euros ($36.61))
  • On the Poison website, a tryout set of 6 is 7.99 euros.
  • Available through the Poison website, eBay (where I got mine)
  • Same body as MEPXY markers, but feel cheaper.  One arrived with the color end broken off and missing
  • Unsure if refillable or replaceable nibs- if they're a reskin of MEPXY markers, one can probably replace the nibs
  • Color name and code on cap, not really sure how the families work

Copic Sketch Markers
Price per Copic Sketch $7.29 (Amazon)
Price per Copic Ciao $3.59 (Amazon)
Price per Refill $10.99 (Amazon Prime) (I've seen it for around $8 at the Dick Blick in Savannah, though)
  •  Refillable
  •  Replaceable Nibs
  •  Comfortable in hand
  •  358 available number of colors
  •  Blend-able
  •  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

Poison's manufacturer did a good job making sure the caps match the ink color

Noticing how similar Poison markers were to MEXPY markers, so I pulled out my MEXPY brush tips and a Spectrum Noir for comparison.  From the left:  MEXPY, Poison, Spectrum Noir.

Comparison of the Chisel nibs.  From the left: MEXPY, Spectrum Noir, Poison.

As you can see, the Poison marker is much larger than the Copic Sketch, both in diameter and in length.

A note I found interesting:  I recently found out that MEPXY alcohol based markers are produced by Montana, a company that also produces supplies for graffiti artists including spray paint.  MEXPY has recently begun offering a flexible brush tip option in addition to their bullet nib option, making MEXPY more attractive to illustrators.  The similarities between the two companies are a little strong to be coincidence.

The Comparison

The Test Results

This test is my standard for all alcohol based marker comparison tests, and you've already seen it with my Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premiers, 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 Hi Tec C 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). New to this test is the compatibility with Copic's Colorless Blender. ShinHan also has a colorless blender marker available, but I don't have one to test for this supply review.

I found that the Poison markers I purchased didn't play very nicely with the Copic Sketch markers I used for this test.  It's always difficult to blend markers with a bullet nib, they tend to leave scratchy lines.  I think my choice to compare Poison alcohol based markers with Copic Sketch markers may have been poor- a better test would have been Poison markers against MEXPY markers, as they seem to be direct competitors.

At this time, I would not recommend Poison markers if you're looking for a Copic substitute.  Although they are relatively inexpensive, they're fairly hard to find, and if you're outside the UK, they're expensive to ship.  Your color choice is limited, and they don't seem to play well with Copics, although I haven't tested compatibility with other brands.