Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alcohol Marker Review: Finecolour Sketch Alcohol Markers

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A couple years ago, I reviewed Finecolour markers as part of my long running Alcohol Marker Showdown.  As my regulars can imagine, that post is pretty popular on this blog, so when Magical Emi told me about Shin Han Touch knockoffs on Ali Express and Ebay, I decided to check them out.  I discovered that Finecolour had a few other marker options available, including a fineliner and the Finecolour Sketch alcohol markers, which are meant to compete with Copic's Ciao markers.

The Stats

  • 72 Piece set
  • fashion colors
  • double ended- bullet nib and chisel nib
  • available through AliExpress  You can  find a similar set here
  • marker bag included
  • Alcohol based
  • Non-refillable
  • Supposedly a blender is available, but I did not receive one in my 72 piece set, and I haven't seen them offered.
  • Approximately $110 right now, but I believe I paid around $80 a few months ago
  • Second generation of Finecolour markers
  • Rounded body

NOTE:  Listings may say 'chalky' or 'oily' but these are alcohol based markers.

Copic Comparison

72 piece Copic Ciao set A (refillable, replaceable nibs) on DickBlick- $241.42

Note:  Copic Ciao markers are available openstock both online and in several brick and mortar stores.

The Packaging

Since these markers shipped from China (and they ship relatively fast- around two weeks depending on where your live and how well your post office works) they arrived in a rather beaten up cardboard box.  Under the cardboard were several layers of bubble wrap, and once you've gotten through the bubble wrap, you reach the nylon Finecolour marker case, with your markers within.

alcohol markers, finecolour sketch, finecolour markers, Copic knockoff, cheap alcohol markeres

The case is lined with a finer weave nylon, and zippers open at the top.  There's a handle for carrying.  This case stores your markers vertically, so if you plan on using these markers for your work, you should store them horizontally when not in use, so the ink can reach both nibs.  The interior of the case has no dividers, and markers have a tendency to shift a lot inside the case.

The Supplemental Material and Markers

Product Information and Color Charts

Finecolour is apparently sold in stores (see the store display there in the middle), and in bulk (the image at the top), as well as in sets.

These color charts were really useful when swatching my markers, as it enabled me to identify color families, and determine which markers should be in my 72 piece set.  My older Finecolour set did not come with a case or with this information.  This set did not come with a blender marker.

The Markers

Top:  Finecolour Sketch
Bottom: Copic Ciao

Left: Copic Ciao
Right: Fineclour Sketch

Comparison of nibs on Copic Ciao (left) and Finecolour Sketch (right)

Comparison of brush and bullet nibs.  Brush (Copic Ciao, left), Bullet nib (Finecolour Sketch, right).

Physically, they are very similar- the only difference is that Finecolours have a bullet nib and a chisel nib, while the Copic Caio markers feature Copic's Super Brush.  The bullet nib is not flexible at all.

Video Overview:  Finecolour Markers, Finecolour Sketch, and Shang Hai Touch (upcoming review)

The Swatch Test

Markers have a color name and color family number on each cap.  Bullet nib is indicated by a gray band, similar to how Copic indicates the Super Brush.  Plastic chips do not entirely accurately reflect color inside, so swatching (and referencing your swatches) is important!

While swatching, I organized my markers based roughly on the color families outlined in the little guide that was included my set.  I rubber banded each color family, for easy use later.  I cross referenced against the color chart provided with my 72 piece set.

Finecolor Field Test

Since these markers don't come with a colorless blender, I'll use a Copic Ciao, which is fitting, because the Finecolour Sketch markers are designed to look like Copic Ciao Markers.

The Finecolour Sketch markers are an improvement over the original Finecolour markers, or perhaps I just recieved a good set.  So far, my markers are fairly juicy, and while coloring with a bullet nib takes forever, the nibs aren't yet scratching up the paper.  The markers start off very stiff, and break in as you use them, which may mean prolongued use makes them mushy.  When they start off, they're a bit more unpleasant to use, but become more enjoyable and less scratchy as they break in.

The alcohol smell is a bit overwhelming if you work too close- these are really not appropriate for kids.

Keep in mind that Colorless blender does not actually blend, but rather bleaches the color it's applied to.

Colors can be layered and blended, but the bullet nibs make it difficult to render large areas without streaking, and coloring takes longer than it would with a Super Brush.

Since my skintone selection is a little limited, I left the lightest parts of Kara's face white, and blended with a colorless blender to smooth the transition.

You can layer Finecolour Sketch markers for darker saturation, which extends the use of your set.  Some marker brands don't layer nearly this well due to excess alcohol in the dye solution.

And I was able to add some shadows to the skin using a light blue violet.  Again, this layers just fine- rather than displacing prior layers of ink, it sits on top, which is the desired result.

I wasn't able to blend out the light blue shadows on the dress as much as I would like.

For me, hair is where I REALLY miss a nice brush tip.  It's difficult to render hair well without being able to flick a brush- your highlights and transitions end up looking very blobby and sloppy, no matter how careful you are in your application.

Finecolour Sketch, Finecolour markers, alcohol markers

Colors do layer for increased saturation and depth, but there isn't as much difference as there is with Copics.

The Verdict

If you're unfamiliar with alcohol based markers, especially those that come with a brush rather than a bullet nib or a chisel nib, you may judge that alcohol based markers just aren't worth the effort if you only used Finecolour markers.  Other art supply reviewers recommend that you give these as a gift to a young person who admires your Copics, but isn't yet ready for an adult set of markers.  I actually recommend that these be given to someone who has used some alcohol based markers in the past, and know how they should behave, but doesn't have the money to really amass the collection necessary to start doing art.  As they have money to purchase nicer markers or as the Finecolours run out of ink, they can replace or add to their collection.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of giving young, aspiring artists subpar materials to play with, just because they're cheaper.  I don't like kiddie (or honestly, crafter) versions of existing artist grade supplies, unless there's an excellent reason for the change (say, a move towards non-toxicity for little hands that put markers in mouths).  I think it's much better to give them a few GOOD things, rather than materials that perform poorly, and may turn them off of art due to poor results.   That's not to say I don't think there are cheap or affordable art supplies that give very satisfactory results (have you read my Walmart or Target series yet?)

To successfully bend Finecolour and Finecolour Sketch markers to your will, you need to be familiar with alcohol based markers, and how they work.  You need to be old enough and interested enough to do some research on your own, because these markers do require you to make accomodations for their shortcomings, something a junior artist would not realize.

Professional artists and illustrators have a tendency to make things look easy, and sometimes we forget that something that's easy for us is difficult for someone starting out.  Years of all sorts of illustration have given me a feel for where shadows fall on the face, and how to simulate that with even a tiny collection of markers.  A younger artist might not know that, and might be very disappointed with the results of subpar markers.  Years of using alcohol based markers has given me an arsenal of techniques that work for the way I like to render- small circles to avoid streaking with bullet nibs, saturating the paper to prevent streaking, multiple layers of color, work on thick absorbant paper.  Years of working with subpar alcohol based markers has taught me to swatch and label everything, and to REswatch per project, to make sure colors work together, but that's definitely not something I knew from the start.

If you are looking for markers that behave similarly to alcohol based markers that are kid safe, I recommend Up and Up's waterbased markers .  If you have a teenager or adult in your life with a few Copics or Prismacolors already who's looking for a fast expansion in color choice at the cheapest price, I recommend Finecolour Sketch markers for price, and Blick Studio Brush markers for performance.