All of My Markers & Pens (Episode II of The Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide)

by Michelle M. Johnson

Welcome to the continuation of my Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide Trilogy: Episode II, Markers & Pens!

Let me start off by saying that up until about a year ago, I wholeheartedly was NOT a markers and pens kind of colorist. When I colored, I engaged in colored pencils, and that was that (for more on the difference between being a colored pencil person or a markers & pens person, check out this post I wrote early last year)! But, so many of the folks that I lead through coloring and creativity workshops really enjoyed the deep saturation of colors and the speed of markers and pens that I decided to take a little bit of my own advice and start exploring that which puts me out of my comfort zone in my own personal coloring. This collection of coloring tools and my thoughts on them is the fruit of that deep dive down my very own rabbit hole, a dive that has, I'm happy to say (but my wallet isn't!), made me quite a bit more excited about coloring and creating with markers and pens:)

Oh, and just to reiterate from Episode I: the links that I attach to my blog posts are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that should you decide to purchase an item based on clicking the link from here in this post, I earn a small (really small, but every penny counts!) amount of money per purchase. I'm not suggesting that you do anything with this post besides read it and hopefully gain some useful information from it. But, should you decide to purchase something while reading this post or after reading this post, it would be lovely if you used the links found here in this post. Thank you:)

Episode II: Markers & Pens

Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers 96 Count Set

As an independent artist and coloring book creator, I spend quite a bit of time on social media talking about my work, my workshops, coloring, creativity, etc. as I do not have a PR team or a marketing department behind me to let the world know all about what I am doing, my books, my ideas. It is a lot of work to take on, but because I do it all myself, I have had the opportunity to make really wonderful relationships with colorists and creatives around the world. It is through these international relationships that I learn about coloring tools that are not easy to find on the shelves of major arts and crafts stores in the United States. One such relationship is with the lovely Tabby May, a Dutch colorist and creative living in Spain. It is through Tabby and her exploration of my coloring book, Doodled Blooms, that I came to be familiar with the awesomeness of Tombow Dual Brush Pens. In her review of my coloring book, I discovered that Tombows are no ordinary marker: these lovelies are a watercolor marker, something I had not heard of until I met Tabby. What that means is that the ink used in this marker is water based and, therefore, incredibly blendable. You can blend the ink of Tombows in one of four different ways: 1. With the colorless blending marker that comes with each set the company sells 2. By using a water brush just as you would with watercolor pencils or actual watercolor paints 3. Through touching the nibs of these pens to each other, allowing ink to transfer back and forth, creating new shades and 4. By using a rigid piece of plastic (I like to use transparency sheets) as a paint palette, mixing new colors on the plastic and dipping either the colorless blender, paint brush or a different colored Tombow into the spots of "paint" and then adding the color to your page. Tombows are self-healing markers, so when colors mix up on a brush tip, all you need to do to clean the marker is scribble on a clean sheet of paper to return the marker tip to its original state. These pens also have 2 tips: a flexible brush tip and a "fine point" rigid fiber tip. Personally, the "fine point" fiber tip isn't nearly fine enough to get into the tiny spaces adult coloring books are known to have, but that doesn't matter to me as I love the flexible brush tip end of these pens so very much. I believe these markers have been my "gate way" marker, if you will, because after getting to use these babies and discovering I could have as much control over color, shading and blending with a marker as I did with a pencil, I became all the more curious to tap into the world of marker and pens. These pens are easy to hold, long lasting, come in a great selection of colors, are washable, and useful for far more than coloring in coloring books. I have used these pens in card making, stamping, lettering, and I have seen others use them in bullet journaling, fine arts and illustration. However, while I did say that they are washable, these pens have tips that will not respond well to being used by immature hands or extreme pressure. These are an artist's tool not an elementary school tool. But, if you have an artful child in mind for these pens, one who understands how to care for art supplies, these are a great and much less expensive alternative to Copic Alcohol Markers. I have introduced many creative folks to these watercolor markers at the Seguin Public Library's monthly Adult Coloring Club, and it is telling how many of the library's patrons decide to buy themselves their very own set of Tombow Dual Brush Pens to use at home - these markers are that awesome:)

Bic Marking Permanent Markers Fine Point 36 Count Set and Ultra Fine Point 36 Count Set


I know many a colorist that loves to color with permanent markers, specifically Sharpies. I, however, have never been a fan: the ink was always too heavy, too irregular and way too smelly! But, then my friend and fellow co-host of the New Braunfels Public Library's Coloring Therapy program, Toni Davenport, introduced me to Bic Marking (sometimes labelled as Bic Markit) permanent markers...and I absolutely love these markers! They come in a fine tip (a tip very similar to a basic Sharpie point) and an ultra fine tip (exactly the same as the ultra fine tip from Sharpie) and in 36 unique colors. What puts them above any other permanent marker in my estimation is that they: 1. Do Not Smell 2. Have a lovely flow of ink which saturates nicely, leaving behind very few, if any, streak marks 3. They blend beautifully with a variety of techniques 4. The pens come with color names on them making it easy to remember which color you used and 5. The ink from pen to pen is consistent in color, depth, shade and tone (something that is wildly inconsistent with Sharpie permanent makers - every yellow Sharpie is a brand new shade of yellow, despite the caps all being identical). Because of all of this flexibility, I am finding myself using these markers more and more frequently, even though they are an alcohol based ink. These markers are also excellent for folks who have grip issues or very dry hands as each pen has a rubber hand grip making holding the marker quite effortless. Now, while I love these pens and they are not going to break anyone's creative cash budget, these still are PERMANENT MARKERS. I do not recommend these pens for young children as whatever these pens mark up, the ink will stay on that item. Additionally, they will not respond well to being banged up or left uncapped. These are markers for mature colorists.

Staedtler Triplus Fiber Tip Markers 20 Count Set


If you are familiar with the world of coloring, than you have probably heard of coloring book creator, Johanna Basford. It is through my discovery of Ms. Basford's books back in 2013 that I stumbled upon Staedtler Triplus Fiber Tip Markers. There is really nothing terribly remarkable about these markers: they are permanent, they come in a limited yet vibrant selection of colors, they are long-lasting (I have had mine 5 years and they still perform), the ink doesn't smell, and they are easy to travel with (I have flown with these markers quite a few times, and they haven't leaked ink or exploded). I include these in my Nerd Coloring Supplies Guide even though I personally have grown beyond these markers because they are ubiquitous ever since Johanna Basford endorsed them. They are a decent marker, but compared to the Bic Marking permanent makers, they simply do not cover as well or as enjoyably. Additionally, Staedtler is quite a bit more expensive than other comparable markers without having anything extraordinary about them (besides the artist's name that they are attached to) to warrant their expense. If you find these markers for under $15 dollars, go for it; it isn't money badly spent. But, if you already have a nice collection of permanent markers, the Staedtler Triplus Fiber Tips do not offer greater quality or color selection.


Staedtler Triplus Fineliners Markers 36 Count Set


I hold the same opinion about the Staedtler Triplus Fineline Markers  as I do about the Staedtler Tripulus Fiber Tip Markers. For the price of them, they do not offer much in addition to what you will receive from any other permanent marker. While these markers have a .3mm tip, a much finer tip than what you will find on a Sharpie or Bic permanent marker, Staedtler tends to run dry, meaning the ink flow of these markers is rather slow, requiring quite a few passes of the tip to get coverage of a particular section of a coloring page. Having a slow flow of ink is a plus for folks who are concerned about ink bleeding and causing colors to flow "outside the lines," but, if you are coloring anything but the tiniest of space on your coloring page, the likelihood of the paper of your book tearing because of the number of passes you have to make to get complete coverage is high. For the tiniest of spaces, I no longer pick up my Staedtler Fineliners but instead reach for a gel pen or use my Bic Marking Permanent Markers with a very fine, almost paint-brush-like touch to achieve the look I am going for. That being said, if I am traveling, I take these markers with me as they are hearty, do not leak ink, and if something should happen to them, it will not break my heart. Back when I purchased these in 2013, Staedtler Fineliners were an exciting addition to my coloring tools collection. Since then, though, the market has expanded immensely and creatively, and there are quite a few other tools that perform equally if not better than these markers do. But, as always, if you find this set for under $15, it is still money well spent, especially if the coloring pages you enjoy have microscopic sections to color.

Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens


Gel pens are all the rage in coloring right now, and Sakura Gelly Roll Gel Pens are the gold standard of all the many different brands of gel pens available for purchase online, in grocery stores, in art supply stores, in bookstores, in airports (you get the idea: gel pens are hot right now). And, they are a great little coloring tool that is actually higher in quality than the rest of the lot. But, they are expensive, come in trendy color packs that go in and out of availability rapidly, can be unwieldy for novice colorists (the ink takes quite a long time to dry, so smudges happen easily and ink gets on hands) and do not travel well (I read up on my coloring supplies before I take them through changes in altitude, and Sakura's pens have been known to respond poorly to air travel). Despite all that, I have had my eye on Sakura's largest set of Gelly Rolls, the 74 set, now for some time. Why? Well, due to their slower drying ink, these pens respond really well to dry brush blending and intentional smudging, things that are really fun to experiment with in both my coloring and my drawing. Additionally, Gelly Rolls layer over permanent marker and colored pencil really well, making creating of depth, shading, and patterns incredibly easy. As well, their roller ball system is unbelievably smooth, an added bonus when you are working with thin or over saturated paper; Gelly Rolls do not pull or tear at the tooth of paper. If you are looking to try something new with your coloring or looking to give an artistic friend or family member a cool new tool, Gelly Rolls are a good investment.

Color Technik Glitter Gel Pens 50 Count Set


As I said before, gel pens are all the rage, so in an effort to keep my coloring tools up to date for my workshops, I went on the pursuit of a less expensive alternative to Gelly Rolls. My research into all pens sparkly and gel-ly this summer lead me to Color Technik's Glitter Gel Pens, which have been wildly popular with the folks who've had the opportunity to color with them in my workshops. These pens have a fabulous selection of colors, have a decent ink flow, and come in a nice carrying case to keep them organized. Glitter pens are great fun in coloring, adding interesting shine and glitz to coloring pages, especially intensely patterned coloring books. I was very happy with the purchase of this set of 50 unique glittery shades of gel pens, and half of that happiness was that the set cost less than $20 this past August. However, in doing my research for the links for this blog post, I am sad to say that the price on this Color Technik set has jumped to $50! This particular set of gel pens was going to be my cost-effective alternative suggestion to Gelly Roll gel pens for y'all, but at $49.99 it is no longer a huge savings as this product does not perform nearly as well. Like I said before, gel pens (and especially GLITTER gel pens) are incredibly popular and like any popular good, the principle of supply and demand can greatly affect the price we are going to have to pay for an item. This appears to be the case with the Color Technik Glitter Gel Pens. I am glad I bought them at the price I did because I enjoy them, but I do not recommend them at a price that is over $20.

Pentel Arts Sign Pen Fude Brush Tip Marker 12 Count Set


The Pentel Arts Sign Brush Flexible Point Markers share a few similar qualities with the Tombow Dual Brush Pens: they both are brush pens and have water-based, blendable ink. Where these pens differ is in the intensity of the ink (Pentel Sign Brush Pens have very vibrant, deep colors that lay down ink similarly to an alcohol-based marker) and the size and flexibility of the brush tip (Pentel Sign Brush Pens have a much smaller and more stiff brush tip than Tombow Dual Brush Pens). The 12 count set is the largest selection of colors in Pentel brush tip pens, but I still find myself really enjoying these throwback pens (the last time I had a Pentel set of markers was when I was in junior high!). Because the flexible tip is very tight, I find coloring with the point of the brush tip of these pens very easy. I bought these pens to begin my studies of brush lettering (an art form I plan to explore in 2018), but I have enjoyed using this simple set in bits and pieces of my coloring, card making and stamping. The set is also a great size to take outside when I feel moved to color and/or create out of doors. And, I am definitely glad I purchased them for my future brush lettering studies as having a smaller stiff brush feels like it will be easier for me to control as I am learning than a larger more flexible brush tip like the Tombows have.

For someone who a year ago wasn't really all that interested in expressing themselves with markers and/or pens, I have rather quickly amassed a diverse and dense collection of said coloring tools. I believe my embracing of markers and pens this year has had a lot to do with the busy-ness of my schedule (markers and pens really do allow you to finish a coloring page faster) and to my watching the participants of my coloring and creativity workshops enjoy experimenting with them so much (I taught folks about these tools, but I didn't really used them, which felt inauthentic at best and unprepared at worst). What I didn't expect to discover in my pursuit of a deeper knowledge of pens and markers was that I was going to come to love creating with them so much; in the past 5 months I have colored almost exclusively with markers and pens, and I have really enjoyed pushing myself to try new techniques with them. Markers and pens are so much more than broad-stroke-making art supplies!

That's not to say that I have left my precious colored pencils behind for good, not in the least! In fact, stay tuned for Episode III of my Coloring Nerd Supplies Guide where we will be returning to the world of colored pencils to discover the differences between watercolor and water soluble pencils. It will be absolutely gripping, I promise;) Duh, duh, duuuuuh!

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