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As I get more into the paper craft world, I’ve been investigating which marker system I want to invest in for both the near-term and the long term.  Markers are popular both for writing and drawing by hand, as well as coloring in stampings and printed digital stamps.

Alcohol-based Markers:

First and foremost, I needed to figure out what the big deal is about Copic markers.  They are everywhere!  Clearly they offer a huge range of colors, which can be really helpful for producing quick coloring.  This is why we’ve invested in a massive quantity of Reaper acrylic paints for painting our gaming figures – of course we can blend color, but when you want quick consistent results, having a large pre-packaged palate is incredibly helpful.

On the Nattosoup blog, illustrator Becca has done some extensive testing to compare all of the alcohol-based markers.  A craft discount retailer near me carries Spectrum Noir, and I have been curious about them, so I really appreciated her detailed comparison.  Copic Sketch vs. Spectrum Noir
She also compares Prismacolor, ShinHan, and several other popular Copic alternatives to the Copic gold standard.

The short summary is that Copic Sketch has a lot of advantages.  Blendable and refillable, with interchangeable nibs and a compatible airbrush system, Copic Sketch also carries the most hefty pricetag.  Which is why the alcohol-based alternatives are worth checking out.

But what about comparing the big apple to the big orange?

Watercolor Markers:

Tim Holtz’ Distress Markers are the big brand of watercolor markers that most paper-crafters talk about.  The color palette is no where near as large as Copic Sketch’s, but the colors can be faded and blended with water just as alcohol-ink markers can be faded and blended with a blender solution.  And of course, watercolor markers have a different possible range of techniques and effects that depend on the water reaction:  blooming, using wet paper, soft or hard edges, fading, washes, and transparency.

Since I have always wanted to invest more time into watercoloring, but never really had project ideas that would suit the media, incorporating watercolor markers into my paper crafting seemed like a great idea.  Plus, Distress markers are a fraction of the cost of Copics!  There are other brands of watercolor marker (here’s a review of Letraset’s Aquamarkers, for example).  But I already have (and love) several of the Distress ink pads, which use the same color palette as the Distress markers.  Ok, and admittedly,  I’m also somewhat sucked into the whole Ranger brand.  It started as a Tim Holtz designer-crush and it’s just spread to their stable of other amazingly talented signature designers.  Don’t let me gush, now!

Here is a great review and test of Distress markers that shows some of the techniques possible with Distress ink.

Maybe some day I’ll try out the alcohol inks, but for now, I’m all excited to use “aquamedia” (the cool term for water-based supplies ranging from water-reactive inks, to acrylic paint).

One big disadvantage of water-based media is that not all papers stand up well to the extra moisture.  Wrinkling, layers rubbing off, and even surface cracking if embossing is combined with wet media are all potential problems I’ve already encountered.  So far, I’ve had the best success with watercolor paper, but I hope to sit down and do some experimenting with wet media on different types of paper very soon.

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