Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Walmart Art Supply Review: Waterbased Markers

While browsing Walmart looking at art supplies, I wondered if, used properly, waterbased markers could be used as a replacement for Copic and other alcohol based markers.  While there are some fundamental differences between waterbased and alcohol based markers, I hoped that although I would be sacrificing the colorless blender, I could still blend and layer these markers if I was careful about drytimes.

This wouldn't be the first time I played around with waterbased markers.  Many watercolor markers are basically waterbased markers- same binder (water), similar dyes, similar dispersion method, different tip options.  Most of us have used waterbased markers since we were wee little kids, and part of the reason Crayola touts supreme washability is that many kids, myself included, may have decked the halls of our home in Crayola scribbles, applied directly to wallpaper.

Once you leave childhood you may find it difficult to achieve desired affects with the waterbased markers you have easy access to.  Waterbased markers cause streaking, and paper pilling, and its rare to hear that waterbased markers such as Crayola or CraZArt markers are the marker of choice for any professional or serious hobbyist artist.  I hoped to find a place in the artist's arsenal for these maligned markers, as they're the first marker most young artists have any experience with, and often they're the first one they can afford.

I briefly explored the history of Crayola in my Crayola Washable Watercolors review, so I suppose I ought to explore CraZArt.  These markers are not mine- they're my mother's, but while I'm in Luling she's graciously allowed me to swatch them and give preliminary opinions.

Cra-Z-Art is a company that focuses on a variety of creativity boosting toys and activities, including superlooms, knitting kits, an ice cream maker, and lots of art supplies. They hold the license for the retro Snoopy shaved ice machine, the Crystal Surprise Pets, and Magrific, a magnetic building set.

Originally known as RoseArt, Cra-Z-Art boasts a history spanning back to the 1920's, and they appear to proudly do a little of everything.

If you're interested in either Crayola markers, Cra-Z-Art markers, or helping to financially support this blog so I may continue to do reviews, please considering purchasing your own set of markers through my affiliate links, or consider donating a tip to my Paypal, linked on the sidebar.

Crayola Affiliate Search Link
Cra-Z-Art Affiliate Search Link

Crayola Markers Versus CraZArt Markers

I had these Crayola markers as a teen, but I was never very good at using them.  I've seen some artists really put them to good use online, and while I HOPE I've improved, I seriously doubt I'll be as good as someone who'se continued to use these markers for years.


Crayola Markers, washable markers, waterbased mar4kers, art supply review, Nattosoup

The back of the box lists the names of the colors, but these are not printed on the bodies of the individual markers.  This makes it difficult to swatch colors, unless you intend to keep your markers in the same order you swatched.  The package, a plain cardboard box, is a little lackluster compared to the reusable plastic sleeves these markers used to come in.

Cra-Z-Art Packaging

CraZArt, waterbased markers, art supply review

As bad as the Crayola's cardboard box is, travel-wise, the Cra-Z-Art (a reincarnation of RoseArt?) markers come in even worse packaging.  The plastic box is flimsy and the corners are sharp, it woudln't be hard to give yourself an accidental plastic-cut if you mishandled or dropped the box.  The markers don't want to stay in place either, because they're held in place by very shallow trays.

Crayola Markers
Crayola markers, washable markers, waterbased markers

The bodies of the markers are plain white plastic, embossed with a silver Crayola SuperTips stamp.  They do not display color name or color information, which would've been useful.

Cra-Z-Art Markers

CraZArt Supertip Markers, washable markers, markers like Crayola, cheap markers

Even attempts to gently unbox these markers results in a disruption in the marker order.

The Cra-Z-Art markers feature bright body graphics and the marker's name, which makes swatching these markers much easier.

The Crayola markers look like the knockoffs by comparison- generic labeling on the body of the marker, markers don't have the name of the color on the body.


The Markers Side by Side

To the left: Cra-Z-Art, to the right, Crayola
Other than superficial body design differences, these markers are pretty much the same.  Same size, same generic marker body with a color cap and a color post, same 'Super Tip' that isn't so super compared to Japanese brush tipped markers.

To the left:  New Crayola SuperTips purchased for this review.  To the right, older Crayola Supertips in the older reusable plastic case.

I'm not sure why Crayola abandoned the plastic envelope case- it does a better job of keeping markers in place, holds up better to wear and tear, and you can better see the markers through it.  The older case shown in this review is also unique in that it offers a couple different variations of certain marker colors-one normal, and one unscented.  When I purchased a set like this in high school, it was the best of both- 50 entirely different markers, no scented variations, and the reusable plastic case.

Initial thoughts comparing the two brands:

Note:  Tests were made in the UCreate Sketchbook and the Art1st Marker Pad I bought at Walmart, so I am also collecting notes on how these products perform as well.

The Crayolas feel cheaper than they did when I was a teen, but $7 for 50 markers doesn't exactly bode well for professional art quality.  Although both packages really tout that supertip, it's not the Japanese super brush I've come to expect with alcohol based markers.  The Crayola's body is plain white with gold lettering, while the Cray Z Art markers have decorated bodies that match the marker color and the cap, and this makes the Crayolas look like the knockoff.  These markers are basically built along the same lines, and may use the same source for the plastic body.

Crayolas 50 Markers- Swatching on Sketchbook Paper

Pens body colors that differ greatly from their swatches

The packaging has changed over the years, from a reusable plastic sleeve to a box that has plastic inserts to hold the markers in place.  I miss the plastic sleeve- it's what I had growing up, and holds up better than the box does with repeated use.  The color names aren't marked on the individual markers, but listed on the back of the box, but the markers are staggered, so there isn't a direct correlation between back of box listing and the actual marker lineup.  I swatch all my materials (and I recommend you do too!), but even so, this discrepancy is confusing.  For your reference and mine, I swatched the entire first row first, then the entire second row.

There are some MAJOR discrepencies between cap and color, let alone marker color and shown color on the back of the box.  The difference isn't so bad with the true reds and oranges, but the difference is HUGE with the purples and pinks. 

According to my mom, who's helping me with some of these tests, and has used the Crayolas for years, some markers vary in actual color between sets.  The variation is slight, but if color consistency is important, you should be very careful with these markers, and make sure you swatch every batch.  This color consistency between sets is an issue should your marker run out mid-way through coloring something, and you switch to a fresh one that has an entire different shade within the barrel, despite the cap and post being the same color as the original.

Swatching on Pacon Marker Paper


Swatch a little better on the Pacon paper- less absorbent, so the markers seem juicier and more vibrant.  May be able to blend on this paper.

Blending still not possible, even on marker paper, which starts to pill if I try.  Would I be able to blend if I used a Tombow ABT or Kuretake Blender?  These are also waterbased markers.

Attempts to Blend on Marker Paper

There's no flex to the nib, which SHOULDN'T be surprising, but dang it, I'm spoiled now.  They are indeed capable of both fine and fat lineweights.

CraZArt Markers- 64 Markers- Swatching

Swatching on Sketchbook Paper

And finally, we hit the inevitable dry marker in a set of brand new markers.

I'm testing these with the generosity of my mom, who bought the pack for herself to see if she liked them, and agreed to let me include them in this test.   These are not included in the price breakdown shown in my introduction post.

The box these came in are awful- they were mixed up at time of purchase, and refuse to stay organized.  This is because the plastic holder insider the box is very shallow, so the markers tend to fall out of it.  You can't remove colors without them getting out of line.  Holy smokes, testing these will drive me absolutely nuts.

Although these were tested the day they were purchased, they already feel dry and muddy.  In fact, one of these markers was totally dry.  The markers, in general, feel fairly scratchy when applying color to paper.  If you've purchased markers that turned out to be dry, you can reconstitute them fairly easily by following this tutorial.

The color listed on the barrel does not match the color of the actual marker, nor does the barrel or cap reflect the hue inside.  There are also not enough differences between colors in some markers, especially in the browns.

Wider variety of grays in this set- four grays: a light blue gray, a dark blue gray, a greenish (when dry) gray, and black gray, which is very similar to the black marker included.

Swatching on Pacon Marker Paper

Also seem juicier on the marker paper, since it isn't immediately absorbed.  The dry marker is still dry though, and leaves a mark that reflects this.  The flaws in the marker packaging makes these really annoying to swatch.

I realize that most people won't be using these markers to make serious illustrations, but knowing how many teenagers have limited funds, I wanted to see how these markers could be used for more than coloring pages.   Below are a couple Field Tests for the Crayola Supertip markers.  This is no means a definitive list of ways they can be used, it's simply meant to give you a starting point and some inspiration.

The Field Test (Crayola)

So CAN waterbased markers be used like watercolor markers?  Can Crayola waterbased markers be used as a decent replacement for watercolor markers?  I'm going to use some Langston Prestige watercolor paper to find out.

Faux Watercolor Marker Swatch Test

I used a natural hair brush (a Blick Master sable, I believe) with a cup of clean water for these swatch tests.

watercolor markers, Crayola markers, Crayola Supertip markers

These markers blend decently on watercolor paper. Blended with a Tombow ABT colorless blender

These markers perform surprisingly well as watercolor brushes, comparable to brands that sell their markers at $1 a pop, rather than 50 for $7.  The only colors that seperated out are the purples and one brown, so these already perform better than the Akashiya Sai watercolor brush pens.

Ink Compatibility Test

Practical Test- As Watercolor Markers

This test was inked on Fabriano watercolor paper with a waterproof Mitsuo Aida, and the ink was allowed to dry overnight before progress continued.

I'm going to use the Royal Langnickel brush set from Walmart to paint this test.

As these markers aren't labelled with a name or identification number, it's important to keep your swatches nearby for reference.

For a watercolor application, the included peach works fine as a skintone, if heavily diluted.

Direct application with the marker is fine, but make sure the paper is fully dry before you add more layers, as the stiff Supertip can cause damage to wet watercolor paper fibers.

For the most part, I relied on the palette I made out of masking tape for color application.  As with my watercolor marker reviews, such as Tombow ABT, Zig Graphic and Art Twin, or Marvy LePlume II, one applies the ink to the palette, and mixes in water using a clean brush.

Crayola Supertips, waterbased markers, watercolor markers, cheap watercolor markers

Can be blended with water on a masking tape palette, or can be directly applied to the paper and blended out with water. These actually blend better than A LOT of the watercolor markers/brushpens I've tested, like the Tombow ABT's or the Akashiya Sai.  These also handle layering impressively well.

As stated, you can apply directly to the paper and blend out, but be careful, as the nib can abrade wet paper fibers.

As Waterbased Markers on Pacon Paper- As though They Were Copics

The peach that's included with the Crayola Supertip 50 pack is awful- it's too dark and flourescent to be useful as a skintone.  I can't find the Multicultural pack in Supertip, so if I revisit Crayola markers, it will be with a jumbo pack of Multicultural markers in tow.  I'm happy that more companies are introducing better options for skintones, I just wish those options weren't add ons.  As a kid, the majority of what I drew were figures, so it makes sense that a variety of good skintones would be important to include with any pack.  Given how close some of the colors in the 50 color pack are, I can easily see just leaving those duplicates out and including the skintones instead.

Crayolas are not really meant to be used on marker paper, it seems.  Streaking is really bad, and the old technique of small, scribbled circles that works so well for streak free coloring with alcohol based markers is completely useless here.  Saturating the paper to avoid streaking is also not a great option, as the paper is already showing stress from a single application.  Your layering with Crayolas (probably most waterbased markers) is pretty limited, and should be planned ahead of time.

Given how dark the skintone is already, adding blush is pretty impossible.  Retrospectively, I think I probably could have used this very light shell pink as a skintone, I think it would've worked out better than the included peach.

If you're coloring a large space that includes a lot of small details, you may find it difficult to use the Crayola Supertip markers if you're used to larger alcohol based markers.  The issues are twofold- the nib is small, the widest mark you can make is still very small compared to the marks you could make with a Japanese brush nib, and the barrel of the marker is smaller than the barrels of most alcohol based markers.  This small barrel caused even my little hand to cramp from clenching to marker for too long.

Coloring Kara's hair was probably the easiest part, as streaking isn't an issue if you color with the grain of the hair, and leaving a highlight was very easy to do.

Crayola supertips, waterbased markers, marker paper, marker illustration

The hot peach skin isn't so noticable if you're using dark colors for everything else, but it still bothers me.  Crayola Supertips are fine for flat color, and you can occasionally add an additional layer of color, but if you would prefer delicate, very rendered pieces with lots of layers, I recommend the watercolor marker technique outlined earlier in the post.

The peach is awful for a skintone- it's much too intense and fluorescent, Crayola could consider introducing an off white peach as a Caucasion skintone (I know how ridiculous it is to whine about Crayola not including Caucasion skintones, I apologize).  Maybe I'll have to buy the skintone set and see if it's any better, but I'm pretty sure that's only available in the jumbo markers.   After watching this fantastic video by edalineeilynd on using Crayolas to color in a manga style, I can't wait to get my hands on some skintone markers and try  out her techniques!

Crayolas are NOT alcohol based markers, and can't really be used the way you would use alcohol based markers.  Alcohol based markers have a binder(alcohol) that immediately evaporates, so they can be layered immediately.  Crayola WATERbased markers use water as a binder, and that takes awhile to dry.  If you try to apply another layer too soon, the paper will start to pill. 

If you're interested in cheap alcohol based markers, check out my review section in the tabs above.  In the upcoming weeks, I plan to test out Bic's Mark It's that I've ordered from Amazon (they arrive Sept 1st, so it's going to take awhile) as I've been informed by numerous reputable sources that they can be used as an alcohol based marker replacement/supplement.  While these aren't part of the Walmart Art Supply Review series, as I didn't buy them at my Luling Walmart, these markers are easy to find.

The Verdict

I have so much respect for people who can actually bend Crayola markers to their will.  You guys are true masters of art and making it work.  If any of you art supply-benders are in my audience, please drop me a line, so I can show off yall's hard work at the bottom of this piece. 

Regardless of brand, I ALWAYS think there could be a wider variety in skintones.
These markers are all so different from their cap colors that I highly recommend you take some sticker paper labels, make a dot of the color on the label, cut it out, and apply it to your marker, so you know what the true color looks like.

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