Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?

A couple very excellent questions popped up in The Paintbox recently:



How Do You Research Markers?

How Do You Know So Much About Markers?


Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background
Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami paper background

There's a few things yall should know about me, to understand how I pursue reviews.

I am impulsive as heck, especially when it comes to alcohol markers and watercolor.  I've had to actively work to slow myself down from buying things over the years, and to work through my backlog.  I've purchased A LOT of markers, and tend to personally go for things that are interesting and innovative (Chameleon Color Tones, Spectrum Noir Tri Blend), but my most requested reviews are for really cheap markers like those sold on Wish, Amazon, or even Walmart.  I try to satisfy both needs, but at this point, refuse to pay to review bullet tipped markers (I know I hate them, I'm biased) unless there's something really unusual.

These days, to slow myself down but still offer the option of reviews, I sometimes crowdfund art supply reviews on my Ko-Fi, allowing viewers to decide with their dollars which products they're interested in seeing reviewed.  This has helped me set boundaries, allowed me to save some money, and has slowed me down (in a good way) a lot!

When I do review a product, I do a lot of research between the Unbox and Swatch and the Fieldtest videos.  For the Unbox and Swatch, I want to go in as a fresh slate and form my own opinions, for the Fieldtest, I want to be knowledgeable about the product and able to answer possible questions.  I also use the Fieldtest as an opportunity to help those who own the product learn how to use it.

Knowledge builds on knowledge.  What I learn in other marker reviews can often be applied to newer reviews.

Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor
Copic marker on Fluid EZ block paper, watercolor


So how do I know so much about markers?


Years of use, years of teaching.  I teach marker classes with Nashville's Plaza art- to teach markers, I have to have a lot of experience, but I also had to do a lot of testing.  I make my own materials for class use, including demos.  At one point, I wanted Copic certification, and studied a lot about alcohol markers, but Copic never came to Nashville with their cert classes.

Internet searches and digging
  • Company's product page and what they say about the product
  • Reviews, particularly reviews on the product page
  • Videos put out by the company on manufacturing/usage
  • Digging up info about the parent company/acquisitions
  • Watch other artists' reviews like Frugal Crafter
  • Watch CHA yearly videos that introduce new products
  • Subscribed so several brands Youtube pages/Twitters/Instagram accounts to help me keep up with releases

Comparison to other markers I've reviewed in the past
  • Body type
  • Brush Type
  • Is this a new make of an old marker (like Spectrum Noir)
  • Is this a rebrand of another marker (like ColorIt, Milo, Shuttle Art)
  • Marker solvent's smell
  • Reactivity to popular/common marker solvents
  • Knowledge gathered from reviewing other types of markers, such as Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers/waterbased markers/watercolor markers

Frequently browse sites like:
  • Amazon
  • Ali Express
  • Wish
  • Marker Universe (formerly Copic's distributor)
  • Marker Supply
  • Blick
looking for new products

Frequently browse stores like:
  • Plaza
  • Jerry's Artarama
  • Michaels


Pay attention to trends:
  • Body types
  • Nib types
  • if the marker is popular, will they offer:
  • Refills
  • Replacement nibs
  • Who is this marketed to? (Spectrum Noir focuses heavily on the crafter market, for example, and may lean towards products that I personally would not find useful)
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board
Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush markers on sketchbook paper, chiyogami, mounted to sign board


Went to Japan, twice, on the hunt for interesting art supplies.  Went to San Francisco four times for the same.  Basically, any time I'm in a new area, I hit their art stores- regional and local.  If something is really interesting to me, I have no problem using Google Translate in the store to figure out if it's useful.

Revisit old reviews, particularly written ones, for important information I may have forgotten.  This blog contains five years- literally dozens- of marker reviews in the Alcohol Marker subsection.   The channel has at least a dozen more, with important info in the video descriptions.  I've gathered a lot of hands-on experience over the years that I can put to use when reviewing new markers.

Most of my friends are artists, and some of them are just as nerdy about art supplies as I am.  Kabocha introduced me to MSDS- info documents that share some, but not all, information about the makeup of the products, including known toxicity issues and carcinogens and some chemical information like the solvent.  Blick has MSDS information for most of their products.  Alli and Heidi have allowed me to borrow their art supplies to review and compare for the channel, and Kabocha has sent me interesting art supplies to try out over the years.  My group of friends rehomes art supplies frequently, and we used to frequently send one another samples, which allows us to cheaply expand our knowledge base.  When I know a friend has more knowledge than I do, I'm happy to turn to them for help.

Attend events centered around art supply manufacturing and new products. Tried to join NAMTA a few years ago as an artist, because I'm genuinely interested in how art supplies are made.  This is an ongoing goal- right now they don't offer an artist rate that's affordable, and have difficulty understanding why artists might be interested in how the sausage is made.  Attend Hands on Creativity yearly at Plaza and talk directly to art supply reps and manufacturers, attend the free workshops where they talk about how their products are made.  I'd love to attend Art of the Carolinas at some point.

I also contact art supply companies like Prismacolor and Winsor & Newton via email, contact form, and Twitter- my results from this are very hit or miss, many of the big companies are awful at responding or their reps don't know the product.  I would love it if companies were more reliable about answering artist questions- if they could be a trusted source for information.  Winsor and Newton has gotten better about this, but huge companies like Newell-Rubbermade (who own Prismacolor) don't seem interested in responding to customer questions.

Recent Marker Fieldtests: 
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Master's Touch Markers in Master's Touch Mixed Media sketchbook
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol
Arrtx Markers on Strathmore Plate Bristol

Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol
Sharpie markers on Strathmore Zentangle Bristol

Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Art Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Milo Pro Markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
Shuttle Art markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
ColorIt markers on Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
Spectrum Noir TriBlend- Coral Blend Marker in Master's Touch Mixed Media Sketchbook
As yall can imagine, handling so many different types of markers gives me a lot of hands-on experience and a large base for comparison.

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