Monday, February 26, 2018

Alcohol Marker Review: Crayola Signature Blending Markers

Every single convention I table, I talk to artistic kids, and their hopeful parents, about art supplies.  Almost every kid over the age of five wants Copic markers, because that's what the artists they admire on Youtube use.  And every time, I have to recommend against that- Copics are expensive and require a bit of a learning curb, but waterbased markers require some experience with art supplies to achieve the desired effects.

For years people have asked me if Crayola makes alcohol markers.  For years, I've said no.  For years, I've requested Crayola consider it- there's a huge army of preteen and teenagers interested in creating manga influenced marker art using alcohol markers like Copics, who just can't afford the price tag.  I am so pleased to announce that Crayola has finally heard my pleas (or just figured it out for themselves) and have released their foray into the alcohol marker world- the Crayola Signature Blending Markers.  These Crayola Blending markers may be just the stepping stone young artists need to develop marker and illustration skills early, and might be good enough for crafters and convention going artists to use rather than hauling around more expensive markers.

Over on the channel, I've already released a review of the Crayola Signature Brush and Detail Markers, and I've recorded reviews for the Blend and Shade and Artist Oil Core Color Pencils (spoiler:  same product, rebranded) that are waiting to be edited.  And over the years, I've talked about Crayola a few times- first in my Affordable Art Supply series, and then again on the Channel when talking about watercolors.   Every year, I release a series of short tutorials aimed at using Crayola supplies to their best effect, so I think its safe to say I carry a fondness for Crayola.  After all, it was my first marker, my first crayon, my first watercolor, my first color pencil.  Crayola is a first for so many artists, and sometimes the brunt of our jokes.

Crayola, Crayola Signature, Crayola Markers, Crayola Signature markers, Crayola Signature Blending Markers

Although there is NOTHING on the package that mentions that these are alcohol markers, the smell when you uncap any of the 12 colors or 2 blenders is unmistakable.  Even the Crayola site fails to mention that these are alcohol based markers (at the time of writing).

The Blending markers are part of their Signature line, a line that seems to be aimed at adults and frequently features brush lettering examples on the back.  You'd be forgiven for assuming this is just another marker for Crayoligraphy- faux brush calligraphy done with Crayola markers.  And I suppose you can use these markers for that.  But I feel Crayola may be missing their market- these are a perfect alcohol marker for beginners- crafters, stampers, and my own bias, the aspiring comic artist or  mangaka.

Y'all can't possibly know how excited I am about this development.

More about Crayola Signature

It's incredibly difficult to find official information about Crayola Signature online, so I decided to contact them through their webform on the site.
Hi there!  I'm writing a review about the Crayola Signature Blending markers (already purchased) for Nattosoup Studio Art and Process Blog (, and I'm interested in more information about the Signature line of products.  If you could answer, it would be much appreciated!
When was this line launched?
Who is the intended customer?
Where can we find information about the artists who have contributed their art to the boxes?
What future products are planned for the Signature line?
Thank you so much for your time and help!  I'm looking forward to your response!
Becca Hillburn 

The Response:

Dear Becca,

Thank you for reaching out to us! We appreciate you purchasing Crayola(R) Signature Blending Markers.The markers were made for people like you; your picture is amazing!

Certain Signature products came out in September of 2017; however, there are newer Signature products that  just came out last month, such as the Blending Markers, or the Acrylic Paint Tin which was just introduced a few weeks ago. We had adult colorers in mind when creating this line with no age cap, and certainly some younger Crayola fans might like to get their hands on some of our Signature products as well.

I'm sorry that we don't have information available to share on what else might be on the horizon for the Signature line new product wise. I have reached out to our product team with regard to your question about the artist(s)' work displayed on our tins, and will reach back out to you this week.

Thank you for choosing Crayola.  We are here to help if you need additional assistance.  Please call us at 800-272-9652 weekdays between 9 AM and 4 PM Eastern Time or email by visiting

Best wishes for a colorful day, Becca!

Colorfully yours,

Consumer Affairs Representative

At time of writing, there is no MSDS available on the site for the Blending markers.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term, MSDS go over manufacturing details that may affect consumers, such as toxicity.  There are SDS's available for many other Crayola marker products, so I assume this is due to the recent release of the Blending markers.

The Stats:

  • 12 Colors available, 2 blender markers
  • Alcohol based
  • Single tip
  • Fiber Brush
  • Not Refillable
  • Not available openstock (yet)

Get them from:


The Unbox and Swatch:

The Packaging:

The Box: 
Crayola Blending Markers offer 14 rich, saturated colors for superior blending.  Featuring two colorless markers that lighten shades or remove areas of color altogether.  Use them to achieve the exact shade you need or create textures and spot effects.

Crayola Signature Blending Markers work best on Blending Marker paper.  Try our Crayola Signature Blend and Shade Inspiration pad!

Safety Information:
ACMI AP: Conforms to ASTM D 4236
All Crayola art materials are nontoxic. 
Washing and Care Information:Stain Advisement: Crayola Signature Blending Markers are permanent when dry and may bleed through paper.  Protect clothing during use and cover work surfaces to avoid staining.

I really love the packaging used for the Crayola Signature line.  The tin boxes are quite attractive, the branding minimal, and the art is beautiful dye sublimation printing, which really lets the colors shine.  These are a classy step up for Crayola, and helps set the Signature line apart from their regular Crayola for Kids lineup.  Unfortunately I can't find artist credit on the box, on the belly band, or online.  

Inside the box are two thin, flimsy plastic trays.  They can be kept to keep your markers organized, or you can ditch them- after all, with only 12 colors, you're not likely to get too confused any time soon.

The Markers:

The Colors Inside:

Sea Green
Bubble Gum

Marker Comparison
Left to right:
Blick Studio Brush Marker
Shin Han Twin Touch
Copic Ciao
Copic Sketch
Crayola Signature Blending Marker

Crayola Signature Blendingmarkers are single tipped brush markers that utilize a compressed fiber brush.  These brushes tend to fray and get mushy with use and abuse.  The bodies are unique among alcohol markers- fairly narrow with a grip section and a vented cap.  The color name is screened on the body in three languages, as is the Crayola branding, but there are no color families.  In the current Blending lineup, there are two of every color- one light tone and one darker tone, and two blender markers.

The Brushes:

Two colorlss blenders- Crayola Signature Blending colorless blender and Copic Ciao colorless blender

The Swatches:

The box recommends:
Crayola Signature Blending Markers work best on blending marker paper.  Try our Crayola Signature Blend and Shade Inspiration Pad.

For this review, I've swatched the Crayola Signature Blending Markers on papers I would generally use with any alcohol marker.

Copic Marker Paper:

Canson XL Mixed Media Paper:

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Artist Tiles:

The Field Test:

Marker illustration completed on Strathmore 300 series Bristol Artist Tile

The Field Test

Background wash of Blue is applied to image.

Rubbing alcohol is dripped from bottle onto image.

Rubbing alcohol is spritzed onto image.

Applying a layer of Sea Green to translucent tail and fins.  Applying Cornflower to eyes, blending out.

Applying Green to tail.
Applying second layer of Green.

Applying first layer of skintone using Peach, the only skintone in this set.

Blending out Peach, Peach gets slightly fluorescent and orange, like a highlighter.  Not a realistic blend.

Second layer of Peach.

First layer of Bubblegum to eyes.

First layer of Canary to hair.

First Layer of Bubblegum to hair.

Wisteria added to eyes for depth, second layer of Bubblegum. Green fin veins added.  Highlight scales were added with colorless blender, shadow scales added with Blue and Green.

White highlights added using a Recollections Opaque white marker and white Signo gel pen.

The Verdict:

These are the real deal, a true unicorn- alcohol markers from Crayola.  Although its part of their Signature brand, which seems to be aimed at older teens and adults, I'm sure many young artists will be excited about this development once they find out.

How the markers handle:

The grip on the handle makes it easier to remove the caps quickly, and caps can be posted on the back of the marker.

The fiber tip markers are slightly mushy after swatching, and just get mushier with use.  This makes them a bit difficult to control, and they're prone to putting down a LOT of ink.  The colorless blender also causes the ink to react uncontrollably, which leads to some muddy blending (noticeable in the tail).

If you're fine with your teenager using alcohol markers (the only real issue I have are the fumes, and I trust Crayola wouldn't mark it Non-Toxic if it weren't), these are a great starter set that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  If your child enjoys these markers, they can be replaced with affordable but nicer alternatives as the colors run out.  You can scope out this blog for further recommendations, but a great next step would be the Blick Studio Brush Markers.

So my final plea is this:

Crayola, please acknowledge the preteens and teens who use your supplies to create comic and manga art.  Please release a Multicultural pack of Blending markers so young, talented artists can create beautiful figurative illustrations.  Please consider releasing themed booster packs (maybe 6 markers each?) with color families.  Please help foster a love of art, and art supplies, in these young artists, and continue to show support by releasing products designed for intermediate artists.  As someone who used your Supertips for her comic art almost into her 20's, I speak from the heart.

Releasing booster sets of markers:

  • Allows kids and adults to buy the colors they'll use
  • Helps keep the price down
  • Allows kids to grow a collection as needed
  • Colors can be sold in themes- Skintones, Spring (pastels) Bold, Jewel Tones, similar to how existing alcohol marker companies distribute affordable sets of markers
  • Could even opt to only sell these sets through Amazon or Crayola store, if shelf space is the limiting factor.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Watercolor Markers: Watercolor Basics

Watercolor markers can be a fun addition to your art supply arsenal, but there are so many to choose from!  Today we're going to talk about a few favorites, and cover the basics- hopefully you'll feel confident in trying watercolor markers after reading this post.

Two basic types:
Pigment Based
Dye Based

Pigment Based:
Only Winsor and Newton watercolor markers fall into this category.  Use pigments for color, the same way tube and pan watercolors use pigments.  Pigment based watercolors tend to be more archival and lightfast than dye based watercolors.  These are intermixable with other Winsor and Newton Watercolors, and utilize the same color names for easy matching.

Dye Based:
The majority of watercolor markers, from the Crayola paintbrushes to Ecoline watercolor markers are dye based.  Dye based markers tend to be highly water reactive (unless additives are used for slight resistance, such as glycerin), and feature brilliant, blendable color.  Dye based markers tend to use fanciful, non descriptive names, so watching is recommended for color matching.  Can be used on top of regular watercolors as a glaze, but would not recommending using as an underpainting.

Most markers are dye based- from waterbased intended for children (Crayola) to alcohol based markers like Copic and Prismacolor markers.

Two Main Brush Types:

Individual Nylon Bristles
Solid Brush

Watercolor Marker Overview:

winsor and newton, winsor and newton watercolor, watercolor markers, pigment markers, marker art
Winsor and Newton watercolor markers on Winsor and Newton Watercolor Marker Paper 

Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers:
Review (written)
Tutorial (written)
Tutorial (video)
Winsor and Newton Marker Overview (video)

Spectrum Aqua, Aqua by Spectrum Noir, Spectrum Noir, watercolor marker
Spectrum Aqua watercolor markers on Fluid watercolor paper 

Spectrum Aqua
Review (video)
Review (written)

distress markers, ranger markers, marker illustration
Ranger Distress markers on Fabriano watercolor paper 

Ranger Distress Markers

Sakura Koi, Sakura Koi markers, watercolor markers
Sakura Koi markers on Fabriano watercolor paper 

Sakura Koi Markers:
Swatch Test (video)
Wet Application (video)
Dry Application (video)

Kuretake, Kuretake Zig, Zig, Zig Clean Color Real Brush Marker
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers on Fabriano Watercolor Paper 

Zig Clean Color Markers:
Review (blog)
Tutorial: Succulent with Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers (video)
Tutorial: Monochromatic Magic with Colored Leads and Clean Color Real Brush (video)
Tutorial: Axolotl Illustration Tutorial with Zig Clean Color Markers (video)
Tutorial: Colored Leads and Clean Color Markers Tutorial (video)
Tutorial: Draw with Me- Winter Satsumas in Clean Color Real Brush (video)

Neopiko, Neopiko 4
Neopiko 4 markers on Fabriano Watercolor Paper 

Neopiko 4:

Akashiya Sai:

Pentel Brushpens:
Review, tutorial, and more to come soon

Bienfang Watercolor Markers:
Unbox and Swatch Coming Soon
Review Coming Soon

Elmer Paintastics

Paint Brush Pens:
Unbox and Swatch coming soon
Review Coming Soon

Tutorial Crayola Faux Watercolor Marker

Other Watercolor Marker Reviews:

watercolor  markers, watercolor brushpens,
DoCrafts Artiste Watercolor Markers on Fabriano watercolor paper 

DoCrafts Artiste Watercolor Markers

Tombow ABT

Marvy LePlume II on Fabriano watercolor paper 

Marvy LePlume II

Zig Art and Graphic Twin on Watercolor Paper 

Zig Art and Graphic Twin
Review (written)
Demonstration (video)
Ecoline markers, Ecoline, Ecoline liquid watercolors, liquid watercolors
Ecoline liquid watercolor and watercolor marker on Fluid watercolor paper 

Ecoline Markers and Liquid Watercolors
Review (blog)
Unbox and Swatch (video)
Tutorial: Succulents Step by Step with Ecoline (video)

dye markers, waterbased markers, brushpen markers, watercolor markers, Jane Davenport, Mermaid Markers
Mermaid Markers on Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper 

Mermaid Markers:
Review (blog)
Unbox and Swatch (video)
Field Test (video)

Other Waterbased Marker Comparisons: 

Comparing Brush Markers for Brush Lettering
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers Vs Ichi Ban Kan

Outside Resources:
Winsor and Newton: Watercolor Markers Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers 

This post was brought to you thanks to the generosity of my Artnerds on Patreon!  If you enjoy art supply reviews, tutorials, and overviews, please consider joining the community!  Pledges start at just $1 a month, and Artnerds get early access to videos, as well as free art resources and access to my mini comic library!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mermaid Markers: Watercolor Basics

Illustration using Mermaid Markers

Mermaid Marker's are Jane Davenport's foray into the world of dyebased watercolor markers.  The concept isn't a new one- dye based watercolor markers like Spectrum Aqua (by Spectrum Noir) have been around for awhile.  These markers utilize water reactive dye to achieve blending effects- effects you can get from most waterbased markers, including Crayola.  What tends to make them special are specialty brush tips that facilitate this blending.

There are two main camps when it comes to these brushes- fiber brush nibs like Spectrum Aqua and Distress Markers, individual nylon bristles like Kuretake Clean Color, Pentel Pocketbrush, and Neopiko 4.  The outlier is Ecoline, which features springy foam rubber nibs on their watercolor markers.

I've reviewed many watercolor, waterbased markers on this blog.  There's been the bad- Marvy LePlume II, the great- Winsor Newton Watercolor markers (pigment, not dye based, and the only pigment based watercolor markers I've ever seen), and a whole lot in between.  There have been markers that take awhile to get used to- Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush, and markers that I never managed to wrangle- Akashiya Sai.  There have even been markers I can't afford to review, like the Molotow Aqua, that are forever on my 'someday' list.  The Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers are an interesting mix of old ideas repackaged, great ideas rebranded, and frustrating problems that deserve addressing, and I look forward to sharing these with you guys today!

This review of the Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers is part of my Watercolor Basis series, a series of art supply reviews and tutorials designed to get you painting!

Reviews such as this one are made possible thanks to the generosity of my Artnerds on Patreon!

The Stats: 

  • Available in the original 12 colors, plus sets of 6 (Sunbleached, Shipwrecked) and 4 (Shimmering Sky, Celestial Sky)
  • $2.91-$3.96 per marker)
  • Not available openstock
  • Commercial refills not available, but could be refilled with liquid watercolors, or dye based ink once waterbrush has been fully cleaned out
  • 32 total colors (full set only seems to be available through Jane Davenport, which tends to be on the pricey side:
  • Markers are repurposed waterbrushes filled with dye based ink
  • Dye based
  • High water reactive
  • Given the nature of dye paints, probably light fugitive
  • Nylon bristle nibs
  • Repurposed waterbrushes

Available Through:
Amazon: ($34.98)
Michaels:  ($41.99 for 12)

Original Colors

Full set: 


Scanned Swatches- Original 12 and Sunbleached (6)

Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers, watercolor markers

Mermaid Markers Unbox and Swatch:

Every Mermaid Marker has a protective ring that prevents the brush nib from accessing the sealed ink inside the belly of the waterbrush.  While it takes awhile to get your Mermaid Markers ready for first use, I think the ring (which is commonly included in other dye based waterbrushes such as the Pentel Pocketbrush pens) was a wise inclusion.

Each brush has been prepared for transit with the application of sizing to the bristles.  I recommend washing this sizing out at the sink before assembling your markers.

Original 12 Bodies Compared to New Sets: 

Left to right:  Celestial Skies, Original 12, Sunbleached

Top:  Siren (original 12)
Lagoon (Sunbleached)

Not too much difference- on the original 12 markers, name and branding is applied with a sticker, and the caps have a color coordinated post.  On the newer markers, that info is screened onto the body of the brushpen.

Compared to Similar Markers:

Everything in this demonstration EXCEPT FOR the Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers are dye based.  Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers are pigment based, and more archival  and lightfast.

Mermaid Markers, Spectrum Aqua Markers, Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers, Ranger Distress Markers, Pentel Brushpens, Ecoline watercolor markers
From Left to Right: Mermaid Markers, Spectrum Aqua Markers, Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers, Ranger Distress Markers, Pentel Brushpens, Ecoline watercolor markers

Dye based brushpens

Brushpens Vs Single Unit Nibs
Brushpens: Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers, Pentel Pocketbrush
Markers/Single Unit Nibs: Ecoline Watercolor Markers, Spectrum Aqua watercolor markers, Ranger Distress Markers, Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers

 Brushpens denote brushes that utilize multiple nylon bristles to make up the brush, rather than a single unit of compressed fiber or foam rubber.

Single Tip Vs Dual Tip
Single Tip: Mermaid Markers, Pentel Brushpens, Ecoline Markers, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Markers
Dual Tip: Spectrum Aqua, Ranger Distress Markers, Winsor and Newton watercolor markers

Refillable Vs Non Refillable
Refillable: Mermaid Markers, Pentel Brushpens, Ecoline Markers
Non Refillable: Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush, Spectrum Aqua, Distress Markers, Winsor and Newton Watercolor markers

Mark Making: 


Pressure was applied to achieve heaviest lineweight possible.  For the single unit nibs, pressure was applied to the tip, then side to achieve heaviest lineweights.

Blending and Blends

Types of blends:
Water (waterbrush)
Ecoline Blender (glycerin+water)
Color to Color within Brand

Top: Mermaid Marker Blended out with water
Mermaid Marker blended out with Ecoline Colorless Blender
Mermaid Marker blended with another Mermaid Marker

Basic blending chart
  This test was repeated for every marker show in the above photos.  Markers and materials are labeled.

Markers used:  
Pentel Brushpens
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush
Spectrum Aqua
Ecoline Watercolor Markers
Distress Watercolor Markers
Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers

The Field Test:

Mermaid Markers Field Test

Materials Used for this Demonstration:

Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Paper
Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers (Original 12)
Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist
Sailor Mitsuo Aida Brushpens (for inking)
Blue Painter's Tape
Inkssentials Craft Mat (as palette)

Anything waterbased dripped, sprayed, or applied to Mermaid Markers will reactive the inks.  This can be used to your advantage, or very frustrating to control.

More Mermaid Marker Art: 

Stream Announcement and Mermaid Markers Timelapse:

The Verdict:

Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers feature a generous inkflow thanks to the waterbrush design, and a large ink reservoir to keep up with that flow.  Although the concept of filling waterbrushes with dyes, inks, or paint isn't a novel concept, Mermaid Markers are the first watercolor markers that utilize this concept, and marketed it at the craft market.  Predating Mermaid Markers, Pentel's brushpens are available in a wide range of dye based colors, but are not commonly available in the US, and are not marketed as watercolor markers.

These juicy dye based paintbrush markers are also HIGHLY water reactive, which can be fun or frustrating, depending on your playstyle.

One of my original 12 Mermaid Markers, Reef, dried out in brush, although the ink inside was still viable.  Taking the pen apart and cleaning the clog helped revive it.

If you're interested in watercolor markers for bright, vibrant floral illustrations or handlettering, these are a wonderful addition to your collection.  If you're interested in watercolor markers that will add another layer of dimension to your watercolor works, and can be used mixed media, I recommend skipping these as they're so water reactive they can be difficult to use.

Get Your Own:

Outside Resources and Second Opinions:

Jane - Mermaid Markers
Jane Mermaid Marker Color Chart
Jane Swatch Grid
Jane Mermaid Ink Magic: Marbled Backgrounds- with Ali
Jane Colour Play
Jane Cauldron of Color
Jane Davenport MERMAID MARKERS-Swatch Sesh- James Burke
NEW Mermaid Markers by Jane Davenport Mixed Media Review and Demo- thefrugalcrafter
Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers: My Review and Ways to Use Them: CreativelyFree2Bme
5 Techniques to Use with Jane Davenport's Mermaid Markers
Mermaid Markers from Jane Davenport- Craft Test Dummies
Zig Markers Vs Mermaid Markers
Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers| First Impressions- Cindy Guentert Baldo
Mermaid Markers: Keep Calm and Craft On
Jane Davenport Mixed Media- Mermaid Markers- Jane Davenport