Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alcohol Based Markers Mini Review- Concept and Fab

So while going through my archive and comparing it to my swatchbooks and the markers I have in my stash, I've found a few brands I purchased, tested, but never reviewed.  In my Blick Studio Marker review, I covered the original Blick Alcohol Markers, Blick's new Studio Markers, and Utrecht's now defunct Design Markers, but there are a couple other brands I purchased and tested, but never reviewed.

I can see how this happened.  With cheap alcohol based markers, there isn't much to differentiate between brands, especially when brands use the same bodies.  It can be difficult to write post after post about marker brands that basically perform the same- same bad tips, same smelly inks, same poor blending, same body save for the printing. This is the case for Concept Markers, which I purchased in person at Jerry's Artarama a couple years ago, and Fab markers, which are made by Fabscraps, and were purchased a couple years ago off Overstock.  Jerry's still sells Concept markers in addition to Copics, Charpaks, and Prismacolors, so unlike the Utrecht Design Markers, Concept may still be relevant to you.  Fab markers, however, are harder to find as Overstock no longer sells them, but I found a set on Ebay  (which will probably be long gone by the time you see this post).  The set I found on eBay is the same set of 7 colors that I purchased on Overstock, which leads me to wonder if Fab made any other colors.

No one has ever written in to ask about Fabscraps or Concept markers, and I could have skipped them without anyone complaining.  Chalk this up to me being a completionist when it comes to art supplies (gotta catch em all) and the fact that I'm buying these supplies out of pocket, so it feels like a waste for them to sit in my closet, forgotten.

Concept markers

  • Bullet and chisel nibs
  • Currently on sale for $1.29  openstock on Jerry's Artarama website, sets are less 
  • New marker bodies look to be a bit different from the ones I have
  • Promises 4 different linestyles in 1 body
  • Easy to hold barrel
  • Nylon nibs
  • 72 Different Colors
These markers make a lot of promises that I'm not sure they can keep.  According to the Jerry's ArtaRama website

Concept Markers were designed with the discerning artist in mind. All Concept Markers offer a distinguished, high-quality, permanent ink, that evenly and effortlessly streams through both tips, at any angle. The construction is notably impeccable. Beginning with their barrel, it has an ergonomic shape, making it easy to hold and less likely to roll off of a table. Each end of a Concept Marker features a different tip. One end has a flexible fine tip, for applying details or thin outlines to artwork. The other end contains a chisel-shaped tip, that can draw up to three different line widths depending on the angle it is held. Both tips are made of nylon and are created to withstand frequent use and a range of pressures. 
The color and style combinations available with Concept Dual-Tip Markers far exceeds other competing brands. With a line of 72 colors currently available, as well as a blender marker included in every set or available by itself , mixing colors has never been easier with markers, whether you're looking for fine detail or a broad wash.
Concept Alcohol based markers have a lot of stiff competition from Copic, Prismacolor, Letraset, and even Blick.  All of these companies are currently making vibrant alcohol based markers that work well together, are easy to blend, and are well built.  Given that Fab markers use the same bodies and seemingly nibs as the Concept markers, one can assume that many of these claims should extend to the Fab markers as well.

The Packaging

For the purposes of accurate testing (and probably because they weren't available openstock at the time) I purchased a set of 12 basic colors.   My set of 12 came in a clear plastic box, which is pretty common for generic alcohol based markers. 

Colors in set:

#15 Red
#24 Orange
#45 Yellow
#59 Green
#55 Green
#65 Blue Green
#76 Blue
#72 Blue
#85 Purple
#98 Brown

Text reads:

Each of these high-quality markers feature 2 nylon tips that are packed with vibrant ink!  One end is a brush tip, for soft line detail.  The other end contains a chisel tip, which can draw 3 different controlled line widths.  The ergonomic barrel of Concept markers is comfortable to hold and will not roll off of the table.

Side by side comparison of Concept and MEXPY marker boxes.  Same box, except the MEXPY box has handy dividers at the bottom to help hold markers in place.  The Concept box lacks these dividers.

In between when I purchased my Concept markers, and when I actually managed to get around to writing this review, a new color palette was introduced for the body of Concept markers, so the markers you see in stores will differ visually from the ones I'm reviewing here.  

New Body

Image from the Jerry's ArtaRama site.  Although the colors of the barrel have changed over the years, the features are identical.
Image from Jerry's ArtaRama Site

Image from Jerry's ArtaRama site
Without owning any of the new Concept markers, and just going by the photos from Jerry's, it doesn't look like much has really changed about the Concept markers, especially not the nylon nibs.

Edit (9/21): I went to Jerry's Artarama today in Nashville, TN, and they have the old body Concept markers for sale in their openstock display, with the newer ones being sold in sets.

Old Body (Kind I have)

The caps feature the color number (for color families, I presume) and the color name, which is handyl, as the body of the marker includes neither of these things.

Nowhere to be seen is the soft brush nib promised on the side of my Concept box.  No, that's a hard as rock bullet nib.

The plastic color chips at the top of each cap don't really do a good job indicating the color of the ink within.

The 'soft touch grip' is more sticky than cushy, and I've never had a problem with my hands becoming sore from using markers, so this solves a problem I don't think anyone's ever really had.

The Field Test

The Concept alcohol markers I received were reasonably juicy- several of the caps had ink in them, perhaps due to the fact that my markers may have been overfilled?  They were pretty comparable in terms of ink smearing to the almost empty Copic sketches I used in this review (dry markers, especially dry brush markers, are prone to smearing ink, no matter how well cured the ink is), but laid down ink smoothly (even if it was a pain in the butt to apply with the chisel and bullet brush nibs).  Concept markers react well to the included blender marker, and slightly less well to the Copic colorless blender.

The color chips on the top of the caps don't accurately reflect the color of the ink inside, so if you're going to use these markers, rely more on your swatches for accuracy, and the chips for just general color selection.

More About Concept Markers

Nine Reasons Concept Markers Will Change the Way You Draw
Product Spotlight: Concept Dual Tip Markers from Jerry's Artarama

Concept VS Fab

One of the problems I encountered repeatedly while writing this review was that I would put Concept photos in the Fab section and vice versa.  These markers are almost completely identical in terms of body and nibs.

Top: Concept
Bottom: Fab

Top: Concept
Bottom: Fab

Pretty boring, right?  There's so little to differentiate between the two brands, I can't help but wonder if Fabscraps just purchased a right to distribute the Concept markers under their own label.

Fab Markers by Fabscraps

The Packaging

This is not my photo, I tossed the packaging awhile back.  This photo is probably one of the official ones, and it was used for the Fab Markers eBay listing.
I'd thrown away my packaging for the Fab markers a long time ago, but the package hasn't changed from the above image.  My Fab markers came in a plastic box with a blender, two metallic markers, a blender, two browns, a gray, and a black.

The Markers

Compared to the Copic Sketch's Superbrush, the 'brush' on the Fab marker is really small and unimpressive, just like the Concept marker, and nothing at all like the nibs we were promised.  The Fab box makes it look like a fude nib, or even a Pitt Pen medium brush nib, not this hard little bullet nib.  The Chisel nib is boxy and sharp, fairly similar to Copic's chisel nib, and nowhere near as nice as Prismacolors Chisel nib.  I used this nib to color the circle in my field test.

The Field Test

These markers aren't as juicy as the Concept markers, and the hard nib caused some smearing of the cured ink.  The metallics are really unimpressive (but then, good metallic markers can be hard to find, especially non-pump action metallics), with the bullet nibs being very stingy with ink dispersion.   I can't find other Fab marker colors, and I wonder if these are all that Fab made/licensed.  If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the tip!

The Verdict

While neither of these brands are the absolute worst thing ever, they were pretty difficult to work with, even for a limited field test such as this.  Both brands are uninspiring to test, and I didn't feel like putting them through more vigorous paces- why bother when there are other brands that handle so much better.  The most disappointing were the Fab markers, with the promise of metallics that never panned out.  The Concept markers, with their ridiculously low price point, could be a decent contender if their brush tip wasn't flat out awful.  Jerry's, take a hint from Blick, and please introduce a super brush to your Concept markers, and I'd be happy to revisit the line.

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