Review – Copic Ciao Markers

Copic Markers are a professional artist’s staple and set quite a high bar in terms of how a marker performs. I personally don’t have the skill to utilize them effectively, but I have seen the wondrous products of many who swear by them. Getting to that level takes practice, and while one can learn with other markers, it’s never too soon to get attuned to the markers you intend to be using for a long time. That’s where the high price-point of Copic markers really starts to become a problem. To build up a library of the markers would cost hundreds of dollars, and when starting out one doesn’t know what tints and shades they need or prefer (the markers are refillable, thankfully, but that doesn’t change the upfront cost, just the upkeep). There is a budget option, the Copic Ciao, which at $4 are a dollar and change less expensive than their bigger brothers, but that price is still up there. Are they worth it?

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The markers are roughly cylindrical with a ⅜” diameter. There is the smallest of bulges in the center for the purposes (I assume) of aiding grip and disincentivising rolling. On either end there is an inch-and-a-quarter long color-coded cap with a quarter-inch step down on the end that allows either cap to be posted on the other. Near the base of each of these caps there is a small nub that makes it easier to remove and also helps prevent the marker from rolling. Each tip has a butte-esque taper leading from the body to the felt “brush”. The chisel tip is molded in the same plastic as the body, while the brush tip (the one you’ll most often be using) is a darker plastic that extends to an easily visible band underneath the cap. Which ends are which, what color the ink is (both descriptive and in code), and every other needed piece of information is nicely printed on the sides, and it appears underneath a shiny finish to prevent wearing with use (after all, these markers can be refilled).

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I’m not an expert when it comes to actually using these (or any) markers, but a quick search online of what people are able to create speaks for itself. What I can say is that the tips are well-made and hard-wearing (and they’re also replaceable, decreasing future expense). The chisel is sturdy and unyielding while the brush easily bends to create lines ranging from 1/32 to ¼ inch. The ink is alcohol-based and goes right through absorbent papers, feathering and drying quite quickly. It’ll still bleed through fairly heavy and high quality papers, but it doesn’t dry as quickly, allowing it to be blended more easily either with other colors or the colorless blender (which, as far as I can tell, just contains alcohol). Once down, the ink is essentially impervious to water and alcohol-based attacks, but they are sensitive to sunlight (as per their website) and, being solvent-based, aren’t the most “archival quality” things in the world.

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In my opinion, even forgoing the financial difference, the size and shape of these smaller Ciao markers is just more comfortable and easier to use. And they allow an artist to build up a collection of various colors in a much more consolidated space if they are willing to lose the color labels on the end. But they’re still expensive, and getting them won’t make you a better artist or a blending magician (as I can attest to). If you’re unsure if you want them or can utilize them I’d recommend starting out with only a few (greys would work best in this scenario) and getting more as you need them or improve your skills (the sets are quite expensive, especially if you end up not using them). But the bodies will last forever and the refills/replacement(s) (felt tips) are fairly easily available and extend the life of the marker significantly. This is a fine (and for some superior) version of a marker that is trusted by professional illustrators around the world.

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Review – Sharpie Mean Streak White

I have a pretty liberal definition of what an art supply is. Not quite as liberal as those who say everything is an art supply because (almost) everything you do is art of some kind. But I do think more qualifies as art supplies than the average person does. For instance I would say that everything meant to make a mark is an art supply. And that assumption will be tested here where I take a look at the Sharpie Mean Streak “permanent marking stick”, and see if it has any real art applications.

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The body is quite large, being about half an inch in diameter. It’s got a good amount of information on the side, but it gets a bit cluttered-looking. The back is a twist knob, like a glue stick. The cap has a slight taper with several ridges for grip. Inside is a pointy cone that can shape or dent the “marking stick” if you put it in slightly wrong. Inside around the “marking stick” (grease, wax, or whatever it is) is a sizable ridge that is quite uncommon on writing implements. There is also no grip section area.

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There are two ways I can describe this, either as a permanent (wetter) crayon, or a more slick grease pencil. Neither of those descriptions really tell you exactly what these things are. The inside substance comes in a pointy cone that is pretty useless. It’s very putty- or grease-like and when used the point becomes very flat very fast. It writes similarly to a crayon, in that it isn’t easy to control or sharpen. When the tip is flattened beyond a certain point, the base can be twisted to extend the point, but it can’t be retracted, so remember to not twist it too far out (that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re an impatient reviewer like I am). The feeling it has is very slippery, and quite a bit of material comes off for not a lot of writing, but there seems to be quite a bit of it in the barrel, so running out should not be a major problem.

Performance is a bit disappointing. The white color doesn’t cover very well at all, meaning use in art as either correction or even to mix with other colors is very limited or would require re-application. It can be used as a covering to make things “hazy” but the coating is quite unpredictable. It likes to clump up in certain areas and barely cover others at all, meaning detail work also shouldn’t be done with it. As far a permanence goes, it is, but not wholly. I did testing (not just normal use) on metal and paper. Both were reasonably water-proof, on metal flame did nothing to it and on paper it did resist the flame but once the paper burned it did too (not that anything else would have happened). Then on the metal piece it stood up to WD-40, which has a knack for removing regular Sharpie, but was easily wiped away by isopropyl alcohol. I also suspect it could fairly easily be scraped off or crack easily on pliable surfaces. It does go on whether the surface is wet or dry as advertised and does dry in a fairly short amount of time for how tacky it is to begin with.

I would still consider this an art supply, and it can work well in mixed media, but really it is much more at home in the garage or the toolbox. The tip and lack of sharpening or controlling method means it works quite a bit better when marking large surfaces. It is “permanent” in that it’s hard to purposefully get off, but it doesn’t penetrate and won’t wear terribly well. It’s an interesting item, but certainly not a general use-one.

Review – Sharpie Mini

I really like Sharpies, and I have talked about them a few times before. There’s a reason they’re so popular, and as they continue to become more used they are diversifying their product range. One such product that came out a while ago is the Sharpie Mini, which is, as the name would imply, much shorter than the average Sharpie.

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It has the same starting and ending diameters as the regular sized Sharpie, with an extra part on the tip that snaps on with a lanyard “ring” (triangle). Both the cap and body have been reduced in size, but proportionally the cap is larger. The clip is very similar, but shorter, and works well enough but not fantastically. The necessary information is still printed on the side.

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The size is quite small, at 3 and 11/16ths inches capped, down from a standard Sharpie’s 5 and ½ inches. Most people would find the uncapped marker uncomfortable to hold without posting, and it’s still only tolerable when it is. The odd shape of the cap and grip make it strange to hold. The rest of the writing is all the same as a regular Sharpie, with a cool black line, very permanent but not perfect (archival) qualities, a nice tip, fast drying, and the ability to smoothly put down a ton of ink.

There’s not much more to say than that they’re smaller Sharpies. And if you like Sharpies but want a more portable option, here it is. The only downsides are they are somewhat awkward to hold, and have less ink. I personally didn’t like the lanyard ring, but that just pops right on and off, so it’s no problem. I have Sharpies around with me a lot because they’re so versatile, and this is a great little thing to decrease their needed carrying size with.

Review – Sharpie Colors Part 1 Neutrals – Black, Brown, Slate Gray

I’ve taken a look at several of Sharpie’s products in the past, from their regular markers to pens and liquid pencil. But their main product comes in a large variety of colors I have not yet covered. I received a gift of a set of 24 Sharpie pens some time ago, but haven’t looked at them until now due to the fact that I didn’t know what the colors actually were. Sharpie and several other well-known pen brands are notorious for not having their colors easy to identify, so this series took more research than usual. I will say that I might not have identified all of the colors correctly, so if you see something that seems like it has been misidentified here, please leave a comment and I will reevaluate it.

With that said, let’s get to the pens.

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The first set I’m going to look at is the neutrals. There are only a few, which makes sense. But these are some of the most useful: they show on many surfaces, are not an eyesore in general, and are workplace appropriate.

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Black – Black is the gold standard Sharpie color (except for the actual gold ones) and it is very good. It is quite dark and professional. It does have a tendency to shade as most dark inks do, but if gone over a second time there are no problems. It’s pretty waterproof (they all are so I won’t mention that again), has almost no spreading or feathering, and is tied for the least show/bleed-through with navy. It’s a great, well writing color, but it can be a bit dry.

Brown – Next is brown, a color that doesn’t seem that popular (but I’ve ended up with a few, take that as you will). It is a very dark brown, distinct from black in even poor lighting, but it looks more like a gray in that case. It is also fairly dry, and thus feather- and bleed-resistant, though not as much as the black. It’s good for sorting, but not for art, really.

Slate Gray – I don’t know where the trend of having “slate gray” be standard gray started, but it continues here. This is a “just over the dark line” gray. It’s not a very natural color, and isn’t even something you’d really see in a city. It is very wet and really does feather and bleed, meaning it’s not the greatest for use on thinner paper. It is almost the same on both sides in that case, and it even goes through card stock a bit. I’d say it holds the title as wettest, and is just a boring color.

And that’s the neutral colors. They’re good for office use, and for sorting things by color, but for art applications they are limited. Next time I’ll take a look at a few of the blues Sharpie offers.

Review – Expo Ultra Fine Red, Green, and Blue

Last week I looked at the Ultra-Fine Expo markers as a whole, and the black color specifically. This week I’ll look at the more common colors in most dry-erase ranges in this size and brand, and see how they work.

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Red- The color red is a problem with many pens, and dry-erase markers are no exception. The red goes on smoothly enough, and is one of the thinner “sticking” inks. The lines it makes are solid, but the shading and their thin-ness is more pronounced. The color is also quite washed out and pink, which I’m not really a fan of, but seems to be a theme in reds.

Green- The green is one of the thicker and smoother colors. The lines are bold and solid. But the color, while pleasant, is also washed out. While it is definitely in the green spectrum, it’s more of a sea-green or something similar.

Blue- And finally the blue. In writing characteristics, it’s more of a mixture between the other two. The lines aren’t as bold or thick, and it’s not quite as smooth as green, but more so than red. The color is the most true and least shading of the bunch. It goes well with the black, and is easy to read even from far away, though it isn’t too dark.

The first set of colors is standard, and while lackluster, they get the job done. I can’t really complain as they weren’t created with art in mind, but rather for ease of use and low odor, which they have. Next week I’ll take a look at some of the less-standard colors available in the lineup.

Review – Expo Ultra-Fine Point Dry-Erase Markers

When it comes to dry erase markers, Expo is almost the only brand people recognize out there. Their chisel-tip markers are almost ubiquitous in any place that requires a white board, and are generally what people replace the cheap in-package markers from home magnetic boards with. And while I like the markers and always have, I do have a problem with their tip size. Even the fine point markers are large enough to be hard to use for people who like to write fine lines, like I do. Fortunately, there are slightly-less-popular, but still easily available Expo markers with an “ultra-fine” tip. Are they much better?

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The body design is almost identical to the fine tip versions, with a slight taper from the middle to the ends. There is a step-down on the rear to allow for easy posting. There is also a step-down from where the cap is removed to the section. The cap and all of the writing on the pen is loosely in the color of the ink. The section can be a bit slippery, but it’s never a problem. It ends in a small cone with the point that is indeed very fine for a dry-erase marker. The information presented on the side is standard and useful enough.

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The tip is very fine when compared to a regular fine marker. It gets down to a medium/broad on a regular ball or fountain pen. The ink flows smoothly and erases easily, as one would expect from the Expo brand. The black is the standard Expo black, and does the job. It doesn’t start to wash out at this size and is perfectly readable.

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For anyone who needs to mark something with a bit of a finer point (like on a map), wants to write regularly on a dry-erase board, or for those who are artistically inclined and were frustrated when they couldn’t get the various line sizes they needed out of the more standard Expo markers, these work very well. They are of the same quality as the other markers in the line (which is to say as good or better than competitors) and offer a much smaller and more manageable line.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Orange, Lime, Magenta, Marigold, and Pink

Now it’s time for part two of my look at the 20 colors of the Papermate Flair. This section of five is the “Warm” colors section. Mostly some normal colors here, but a few out-liars. Nothing too crazy.

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Orange – The orange is a deep, red-ish orange that is surprisingly natural looking. It’s very subdued, but noticeable, good for organization, but not for documents. It’s dark enough that it can be read at a glance. It fades significantly, but doesn’t really smear when wet.

Lime – The lime likely has the most variance in color, when written with fast it is a surprisingly standard bright lime color, but when taken slowly it is rather dark and subdued. It wouldn’t make a great office color but it is less harsh than a normal lime green, and the variances in tone make it good for art. Another plus is water hardly affects it.

Magenta – I find magenta colors had to classify, this one is pretty, nice to look at, and readable. It wouldn’t suit the office well but it does look like I could see it out my window. Heavy bleeding and smearing when wet with this one.

Marigold – At first glance this pen looks like another yellow, which it is, but much less harsh and more readable. It has a tinge of orange that is very pleasant and flower-like. There’s a lot of smearing, but almost no fading when exposed to water. Perhaps it could be used as an alternative to red to use when marking something important. Just as noticeable, but less aggressive.

Pink – I don’t like this color, it’s a hot-ish pink, not blinding, but not pleasant. It’s standard all things considered, it barely moves when wet and is inappropriate for anything but personal organizing. I’m not judging you if you like it, but I won’t be using if for anything.

And that’s part two. I like the warm colors, but I struggle to find uses for them. Next time I’ll take a look at five more, but this time “Cool” colors.