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