How to Know if a Marker is Waterbased/Waterproof

I often check my Google search results to see how people find this blog.  One of the recent hits was a query about how to tell if a marker is waterproof or waterbased.  Although I think I've covered this topic before, I had a little more to add to the subject.

How to Know if a Marker is Waterbased/Waterproof

The short answer is: Make a test swatch and scrub it with a brush full of water/submerge it in water. If it runs, it wasn't waterproof. Waterbased markers tend not to be waterproof, as the pigments were held in solution using water. Alcohol based markers are waterproof.

But sometimes you need an answer that's a little more nuanced than that. Sometimes you need to know which markers can be used with which fineliner markers, or technical pens. Sometimes you need to know if your waterbased markers will play well with alcohol based markers.

So here are some rules of thumb:

When using alcohol based markers, don't ever marker straight over pencils. That ruins the marker nib. You can use pencil with water based markers or even watercolor markers, although there may still be some pick up of the graphite.

If you want to do alcohol based marker sketches, you can sketch using Sakura Microns, Hi-Tec C pens, or Copic Multiliners, as they all have Copic-safe ink. I've done a lot of Copic sketches using Hi-Tec C pens.

Not all pens are waterbased marker safe either. Pentel's Art pens (which are similar to Hi-Tec C pens) are not waterproof, and bleed and smear something awful.

If you want to mix waterbased markers with alcohol based markers, I recommend applying the alcohol based markers first and then using your water based markers/watercolors/watercolor markers. The addition of the water will make the paper ripple, and while you CAN use Copic markers on watercolor paper, it may be more difficult to get the effect you want. In addition, you probably want to preserve the nibs on your more expensive markers (which are usually alcohol based). I recommend working most expensive to least expensive.

When preparing to use a new media, a quick Google search often provides me with plenty of useful information. I also do several sketchy drawings in order to get a decent handle on the media, and I try to keep my expectations for those low.

Basic Info:

Copic currently does not make any water based markers, and the majority of it's inking products work well with Copic markers.

Most inks in brushpens (including fude pens) are neither Copic nor water safe.

India ink is watersafe when dry.

Letraset makes a variety of markers, both waterbased and alcohol based. Promarker, Flex Marker, and Tria are alcohol based. AquaMarker is a watercolor-esque marker.

Most inks that work with alcohol based markers can be used for watercolor and water based markers.

Most school-grade markers are waterbased (save for things like Dry Erase markers and sharpies).


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