Sunday, March 13, 2016

Waterbased Marker Review: Zig Brushables WIP

I'm always interested in finding artist quality waterbased markers.  I know some of my readers are highly sensitive to strong smells, so alcohol markers may not be an option for them, and waterbased markers are a cheaper alternative that has low if any odor.  Unfortunately, most of the waterbased markers I've tested on this blog, when used as waterbased markers, have a tendency to tear up the paper.  So far, the only exception to this has been Up and Up's Supertip waterbased markers, which are increasingly hard to find in stores.

Some of the more promising waterbased markers I've tested have only been tested on their ability to perform as watercolor markers (Tombow ABT, Zig Art and Graphic Twin), and I need to revisit those markers to see how they perform as dry waterbased markers.  Other markers like Zig Clean Color and Sakura Koi Coloring Brush markers were tested as both watercolor markers and waterbased markers, but didn't impress me enough to adopt them into my regular work.  Some of these markers may prove to perform better on coated marker papers (which I don't usually test for), and may end up with a higher recommendation than they initially started with.

To me, however, the most promising waterbased markers of all are Zig's Brushables.  I've reviewed many, MANY Kuretake Zig products over the years (just check out my Review Section), and I'm generally very happy with the quality of their products.  If you happen to be happy with the quality of my reviews, you should let Kuretake Zig know on my behalf by contacting them!  Your good word and support goes such a long way!

The Brushables markers are one of the waterbased marker types I've been most excited to review- you basically get two colors in one brush marker.  One side has a tint, and the other a hue, which should make blending much easier.  My first introduction to Brushables was with an ArtSnacks from last year.  For awhile, I had just that one marker and when I decided to give Brushables a firm review, I ordered a few more online.  Those sat for awhile as my marker review standards changed drastically, and in order to properly review Brushables by current standards, I needed some skintones and hairtones.  A trip to Pla-Za introduced me to brick and mortar Brushables openstock, so depending on your local art stores, you may be able to purchase or request Brushables and try them out in person.

If you're interested in buying your own Brushables and would like to help support this blog, please consider buying your Brushables through my affiliate links

Zig Memory System Marker Set, Assorted Colors- $89,99 via Amazon
Brushables, mixed listings, via Amazon

The Stats

  • One end is a popular color from the Zig Memory system, the other is a 50% tint.   This makes these markers easy to color match with other Zig Memory system products.
  • Available in sets from Marker Supply ($11.91 for 4 in a color family), Amazon (prices vary)
  • Available openstock from ($2.89), Paper and Ink Arts ($2.77), Amazon (prices vary)
  • Lightfast
  • Acid free
  • Waterproof when dry
  • Can be blended with other brush tip markers from the Zig Memory System (can be used with Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers, for example)
  • Recommended for lettering
  • 24 markers, 48 colors
  • Non-refillable
  • Available in sets of 4 (color families) or 24 (all available markers), also available in large Zig Memory System Sets with other Zig Memory System markers- Zig Memory System Set, Assorted colorsZig Memory System Scroll and Brush 48 Color Set

Digital Color Chart

Image Source

The Markers

I purchased all of my Zig Brushable markers openstock, so I can't comment on the packaging. It probably would have been smarter for me to save a little money and buy a couple sets, but my Pla-Za only had them available openstock, no sets, and I'd already committed to ordering a few colors online.

  Zig Brushables currently have two body designs in production- the older, whiter body and the newer, cream colored body. 

Other than minor external differences, the two markers are pretty much the same.

The nibs on both sides are the same size, and both have color coordinated collars and caps.  Each marker has only one name that's used to capture both the hue and the tint.

Comparison Shots

Since I've reviewed so many waterbased brush markers in the past year, I pulled a few of the most similar out for some comparisons shots.  Below are the Zig Art and Graphic Twin (part of the Zig Memory System, and compatible with Brushables), Tombow ABT markers, Marvy LePlume II markers, Distress watercolor markers, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush markers, and Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers.
From top to bottom:  Marvy LePlume II, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Tombow ABT, Distress watercolor marker, Zig Brushable, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush, Zig Clean Color Real Brush

From top to bottom:  Marvy LePlume II, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Tombow ABT, Distress watercolor marker, Zig Brushable, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush, Zig Clean Color Real Brush

From top to bottom:  Marvy LePlume II, Zig Art and Graphic Twin, Tombow ABT, Distress watercolor marker, Zig Brushable, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush, Zig Clean Color Real Brush

The Swatch Test- Completed on Hot Press Watercolor Paper (smooth surface, no coating)

Left is original hue, right is tint
On watercolor paper, Brushables go down fairly smoothly and streak free.

Blending Tests- On Hot Press Watercolor Paper

I selected this paper for its smooth surface, but lack of surface coating.  This paper is durable and should be able to withstand a bit of scrubbing while still wet.

Blending back and forth caused some surface pilling on the hot press paper, as the brushes scrubbed against the damp surface.

Blending marker into marker for continuous gradation

I've purchased all of my Brushables openstock, but I assume that if you purchased a color family 4 pack, you would be able to blend all four of the markers (8 colors total) into a fairly even gradient.  I did have two consecutive colors in the Violet/Purple family- Lunar Lavender and English Lavender, so I decided to put this theory to the test.

It's not a perfect blend (the darkest lavender is a little too dark) but it's a fairly decent blend that would be useful for shading.

Blending out with a Blender Marker (Tombow ABT)

On hot press watercolor paper, Zig Brushables cannot be blended with a Tombow ABT waterbased colorless blender.

Blending with Water while Ink is Wet

These markers are permanent once dry (india ink maybe?) so if you want to blend them, you need to do so while the ink is still wet.  On absorbent papers like hot press watercolor paper, this is a little difficult to accomplish, so you need to work fast.  On papers like this, you CAN use water as a blending tool, although it will not be a perfect blend- you'll still have a fairly harsh line where your marker went down.

The Dry Test (on Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker Paper)

My first full size Brushables test was on Winsor and Newton's Pigment Marker paper.  This marker paper has a coating on the surface that allows artists to blend the Pigment Markers a little more easily, and I figured this coating might prevent the Brushables from soaking in immediately, and allow me to blend and layer without the paper pilling.

This piece was penciled and then inked with my trusty Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen.  This pen is, generally, waterproof and Copic proof, and it's my defacto inking utensil for many of my watercolor tests.

Unfortunately the Mitsuo Aida ink reactivated with zealous application of Brushable (this is due to the paper, not the pen or the markers), so although the paper takes Brushables well, and allows for blending, it's not an idea paper if you enjoy inking your pieces beforehand.

Since the Brushables worked fairly well on this paper, and my color selection is a bit limited, I broke out my Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers, which are also part of the Zig Memory System.  The Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers are also waterbased, although they are not permanent once dry, and can be used as watercolor markers.

The Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers were pretty juicy on this paper, and took awhile to dry, leaving puddles of ink on the paper surface as they did so.

If you're interested in how Zig Brushables and Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers handle on this paper, please watch the video below.  As always, if you enjoyed that video, please consider leaving a like and subscribing to my channel for more content like it.

Insert Video Field Test Here

The Dry Test (on cold press watercolor paper)

In this test, I used the Zib Brushables (and only Zig Brushables this time) like watercolor markers for Kara's face, using a side palette of wax paper to apply color carefully with a brush.  In more saturated areas, I utilized a direct application and attempted to blend out with a waterbrush while the Brushable ink was still wet.  These markers do not perform nearly as well as the Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers as watercolor markers, and as dry markers on cold press watercolor paper, these waterbased markers are prone to streaking.  Working areas that are still wet causes pilling.

If you're interested in a step by step process of this piece, as well as my thoughts while using these markers, please watch the video below.  If you enjoyed the video, please consider liking and subscribing to my channel.

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The Dry Test (on hot press watercolor paper)

I thought a sturdy, smooth surface paper like hot press watercolor paper might fare a little better, so I pulled out my gummed pad of Fluid Hot Press.

My tools for this test were pretty straightforward:  A piece of waxed scrap paper for a palette, a waterbrush full of clean water, hot press watercolor paper, and my Zig Brushables.

As with many other tests, this test was inked with my trusty Sailor Mitsuo Aida double sided fude pen, and allowed to 'cure' for 24 hours before applying color.

Since Fawn can be a little dark for Kara's skin, and I wanted the ability to build up shadow, I applied the tint of Fawn to my wax paper palette, and brushed that on with the waterbrush.

I filled in Kara's hair using the tint of Rootbeer.  Since I wanted the ability to build up color, I used the same watercolor application technique that I had used for Kara's skin.

Both of these applications went down smoothly and fairly streak free.

For Kara's dress, I knew it was time to dive in, and see how the Brushables handled on hot press watercolor paper for a dry application.  My initial layer of Kara's dress was carefully applied, but it was very difficult to avoid streaks on large areas.

The shadows on Kara's skin were applied directly.  I thought the contrast was a bit harsh, so I tried to blend it out with water.

Unfortunately, the hot press paper is too absorbant, and the ink wasn't wet enough to allow for blending.

I also tried to apply shading to Kara's dress.  Blendable ink builds up saturation quickly, so it was darker than I had wanted.

If you want to utilize watercolor techniques for initial color applications, I highly recommend you let the area dry fully before attempting any direct marker applications- damp paper is prone to pilling.  I didn't have that issue with this test, as I gave my paper adequate drying times.

The brush part of Zig Brushables is much smaller and stiffer than those on the Zig Art and Graphic Twin, and it's capable of some very fine details and sharp lines.

The final layer of shadow on Kara's dress was applied using the darker shade of Splash, and it seemed too dark compared to the much lighter hue of Splash, which was darker than the cap indicated.

It took awhile to render with these markers, as I had to be patient and wait for the ink to fully dry before I could apply another layer.

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The Verdict

These  markers are chimerical- I enjoyed how they handled on the Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker paper, which has a coating, but I wasn't happy that on that paper, they reactivated the Sailor Mitsuo Aida ink I had used for inking the lineart.  Of course, what DOESN'T reactivate Sailor Mitsuo Aida ink on that paper?

I was much less excited about how these markers swatched as watercolor markers- it's fine for delicate colors like Fawn, but darker colors don't handle water very well, and I found that waterbased blender markers like my go-to Tombow ABT don't blend these markers as well as I had hoped.  In terms of blendability, these markers handle worse than Up and Up's supertip markers (which blended very nicely on watercolor paper), but do blend decently well into each other.  The fact these markers include a tint AND the hue really helps- it extends the use of each individual marker, and makes selecting colors for blending so much easier.

Still, I think on the right paper (possibly a coated marker paper, or a vellum) I think these markers have the potential to handle really well, and maybe even serve for some artists as an alternative for alcohol markers.  I definitely plan on revisiting these, Tombow ABT waterbased markers, and Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers to see how they handle on a few marker papers.

In general, these markers are very affordable, and they're becoming increasingly available open stock in brick and mortar stores.  I recommend checking there first before ordering from Amazon, as the prices tend to be much more reasonable in store.  For some colors, Amazon wants $10+ per marker, which is ridiculous.  If you're part of a cardmaking or stamping group, your group may be able to put in a group order with Kuretake for further savings.

EDITORS NOTE:  I am currently undergoing a MASSIVE marker and paper compatibility test, and I'm Zig Brushables, so if you're intrigued by these brush tipped, waterbased markers, please keep checking the blog (and the Youtube!) for updates.

More about Zig Brushables, including tutorials

Brushables- KuretakeUK

Zig Brushables; Introduction & Techniques- Billie's Craft Room

#95 Elizabeth Crafts Peel Stickers, Glitter & Zig Brushables Markers by Scrapbooking Made Simple-ScrapMadeSimple

Lettering with Music- Martha Lever