The Best Art Markers

ShinHan Touch Twin Marker Set

Our Top Pick for 2017: ShinHan Touch Twin Marker Set
Read our full review.

Whether you’re a professional or a talented hobbyist, choosing the right art markers from among the dozens of choices on the market today can seem overwhelming. With all of the different brands, models, and colors, how do you know which set will help get your artistic vision down on paper? We’ve compiled a list of the three best art markers, plus a budget-friendly choice that will get you coloring without breaking the bank.

#1. ShinHan Touch Twin Marker Set

ShinHan Touch Twin Marker Set Gold Pick

View it on Amazon: $134.78*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

If you’re looking to launch your marker collection with the very best pens, the ShinHan Touch Twin marker set is hard to beat! Featuring a great range of color options, super smooth color blending, and both a fine and broad tip on every pen, these ShinHan markers are great for hobbyists and professionals alike.

Each pen is double-ended, with a fine point nib on one end and a broad, chisel-shaped nib on the other. The dual-tip design provides great flexibility, allowing you to select just the right size tip for each application. The broader tip works wonderfully for covering large areas, especially if you alternate between horizontal and vertical strokes for complete coverage. While we’re featuring the dual chisel-point nibs in our review, there is also a ShinHan Touch Brush marker available that has a medium-wide chisel nib on one end, and a brush tip on the other.

If you want to try both chisel and brush tips, however, it’s extremely easy with these pens. ShinHan offers replacement nibs in four different sizes. Not only can you swap in a new nib when the old one wears out, thus extending the life of the pen and ensuring you always get the control you want, but you can also swap in different sizes of brush and chisel tips to suit your needs.

These versatile pens use an alcohol-based ink, which allows you to blend different colors together easily for silky-smooth shading and eye-catching gradients. And blending is what ShinHan pens do best – users everywhere rave about the even ink application, ease of blending, and brilliance of the final colors. The ink won’t dissolve most printer inks, making these pens perfect for applying color over a printed surface, including coloring books. While alcohol-based inks can have a strong smell, the ShinHan markers are surprisingly low-odor, a wonderful feature for anyone bothered by strong chemical scents.

Touch pens are also refillable, so you won’t have to keep re-purchasing pens in the colors you use the most often. Each bottle of refill ink can re-charge a pen about four times, and comes in each of the 204 pen colors available. You can even get refills for the clear blender pen – extremely useful if you plan on blending colors extensively in your art.

ShinHan Touch Twin markers feature a square-ish shape with rounded edges that’s comfortable in your hands, and they aren’t prone to rolling off the table once you put them down. Each end of the marker has a small image indicating which tip is at which end, so you can quickly pop open the side you want. This set of pens comes in a sturdy case with a latching top that works well both for travel and for keeping pens handy while you work.

The caps on both ends of the markers are color-coded for quick identification, and the color of the cap is a close match for the actual ink in most cases. The cap also displays the official color number. Although the reasoning behind the ShinHan color numbering system isn’t very clear, it does allow you to quickly check which color of ink needs to be refilled or to match colors in your art. Best of all, the sturdy caps snap onto the pen very securely, so they won’t pop open while being carried. The one downside? The pen caps do not ‘snap’ onto the opposite end, so make sure you set the cap in a safe place while you’re working.

These sophisticated pens come in at the top of our price list, but there’s a good reason – they’re competing with the very best professional brands. In fact, ShinHan Touch Twin markers are of a comparable quality to the top professional markers, but at a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, a number of counterfeit ShinHan markers have hit the market recently, so be sure you’re purchasing from a reputable retailer to ensure you get the quality you expect.

With their smooth ink, excellent control, and the ability to get the most out of your investment by replacing nibs and ink as needed, the ShinHan Touch Twin markers are a wonderful way to start your marker collection off right – or to expand your existing collection with something new!

#2. Chameleon Alcohol Color Tone Marker Set

Chameleon Alcohol Color Tone Marker Set

View it on Amazon: See Price*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

If you’re looking for fantastic color gradients, want to have some fun with your pens, and want a wide range of color without having to invest in a whole lot of markers, then our silver pick has the pens you’ve been looking for!

Chameleon Color Tone markers look extra-large, but that’s because they’re both a pen and a colorless blender in one. It’s an innovative system, with a blending marker in the cap of each pen, so you can mix the color you want to apply directly in the pen.

To blend colors, snap the tip of the pen you want to use onto the charging chamber. Invert the pen so the blending solution drips down onto the marker’s tip, diluting the color. The longer you leave the pen inverted, the lighter the color will be, and the more gradual the resulting gradient. When you start coloring, the tone will begin very light, then fade to the vivid, full-strength color of the pure pen ink as you work. The blending fluid gradually works out of the pen as you color, so you get an even fade from pale to dark, allowing you to add highlights and shadows in a single pass with your pen. The longer you leave the blending chamber on, the lighter the result will be, and the longer the light color will last. To help you get used to the timing, ShinHan offers worksheets that you can print out and swatch with. The worksheets are broken out into sections so you can see what each pens looks like if you leave the blender on for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc. You can then refer back to the worksheet in future to get exactly the color blend you want for each project.

Chameleon markers are double-ended, with a soft brush on one end, and a “bullet” nib (a fine, rounded tip) on the other. The brush tip is excellent at applying smooth color to larger areas, while the bullet tip is especially great at textures like animal fur or fabric. The pens are round and comfortable in the hand, but pens, charging chambers, and caps are all prone to rolling off the table. Unfortunately, the caps do not click on to the other end of the pen. When the entire pen is assembled, they’re quite large, but when the charging chamber is removed the actual pen portion of the unit is a bit small.

More:  The Best Watercolor Pencils

Pen tips are replaceable, and replacements are both affordable and easy to find. Ink is also refillable, and refills come with both the bottle of ink and a syringe for injecting it into the pen. Each refill will recharge your pen 8-10 times. Refills can be purchased separately or in groups by color family. Refill ink is also available for the clear blender, so you won’t have to worry about the charging chamber running out on the pens you use most often. The ink is also low-odor (although many users report some degree of alcohol-marker scent) and non-toxic.

This set includes a clever storage box, which can be folded over to hold your pens out for easy access. It also comes with two useful specialty pens, the colorless blender and the detail pen. The blender comes with a fine round tip on one end and a brush tip on the other, and allows you to blend together two different tones, lighten the colors you’ve already applied to the page, and can even help “erase” ink that’s been over-applied by pushing it back within the lines to eliminate mistakes. The black detail pen is also double-ended, with two different fine line nibs (0.6mm and 0.4mm). This pen includes a different, dye-based ink that will not smear in combination with regular Chameleon alcohol ink, allowing you to draw outlines or add details without unwanted blurring or blending. You’ll definitely want both of these specialty pens to make the most of your collection!

Experienced colorists who have already invested in a collection of alcohol markers may not benefit as much from the Chameleon’s clever blending abilities. Their unusually large size means that they’re unlikely to fit in with your existing marker storage solutions, and using them takes a different approach than experienced users may be used to. When coloring large areas, the blender may run out too quickly, forcing the user to return the pen to the blending chamber over and over, slowing things down. What’s more, there is a certain amount of guesswork in getting the right color tone. The inaccuracy and uncertainty involved in charging the pen repeatedly may not work for professional illustrators, who need to know exactly which shade each pen will give. However, since the Chameleon’s ink can be blended with other alcohol-based inks, these pens could be a great addition if you want to incorporate their smooth color fades with the pure tones of your existing collection.

If you’re getting started with markers and want a set that will let you get the maximum flexibility out of the fewest pens, Chameleon Color Tone pens could be the perfect solution. You won’t have to purchase dozens of pens to get every color you want, since you can get a huge range of color tones from each pen, along with the wonderful blending abilities of quality alcohol markers. The fine tips also offer excellent control for coloring book enthusiasts, allowing you to work fine textures and small areas without excessive bleeding.

#3. Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

View it on Amazon: $69.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

If you’re looking for markers in a huge range of colors at a reasonable price, our Bronze pick has you covered. Prismacolor pens have long been the go-to choice for artists and crafters looking for durable all-purpose markers.

Prismacolor markers offer a fine, pointed tip on one end, and a broad chisel tip on the other. Both tips are fed from a single ink reservoir in the middle of the pen, so you can be certain that you’ll get precisely the same tone no matter what tip you’re using. The ink is alcohol-based, providing good color blending and an acceptably smooth flow. If you’re sensitive to scents, however, Prismacolor markers may be a bit too strong-smelling for your tastes. The ink is non-toxic, and the scent doesn’t linger once the ink is dry, however – just leave your paper out overnight, and the scent will dissipate.

The ink holds fast to a variety of different materials. Try using a pen directly on a rubber stamp, then spritz on some rubbing alcohol before stamping your image for a watercolor effect!

Like other alcohol markers, using Prismacolor pens over other inks on the page will often smear or feather the other ink. Make sure you’re using waterproof inks if you want to layer solid colors underneath your Prismacolor work. These pens are also prone to bleeding through the page, so insert a sheet of thick paper or cardstock between pages when working with multiple sheets or in a coloring book. Be careful about exposing your art to sunlight, too, as many colors can fade noticeably after extended periods in direct sunlight.

Unfortunately, neither the ink nor the tips are replaceable in Prismacolor markers, so the entire pen will need to be replaced if any part wears out. Luckily, these pens are relatively affordable and are extremely easy to find, so you can grab replacements for any colors you use up.

These markers feature a round construction and are fairly thick, making them comfortable to hold, but they are prone to rolling around on the table when not in use. The caps will snap onto the other end of the pen for safekeeping, a handy feature if you’re switching between several pens at a time and don’t want to get the caps mixed up. It’s easy to tell at a glance which end of the marker has which tip, as the barrel of the marker features a thin line of the marker’s color at the fine-tipped side, and a broader line on the wide chisel end.

This 24-pen set includes a wonderful range of colors, providing everything you need to get started. It comes in a sturdy travel case that folds over to provide a vertical stand for your pens, so you can quickly switch between colors while you work. Prismacolor pens have a number of brighter, more vivid hues than other brands, so it’s quite easy to find the bright colors you’re looking for when you’re ready to expand your collection.

#4. Masterclass Premium Dual Tip Brush Markers

Masterclass Premium Dual Tip Brush Markers

View it on Amazon: $19.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

Ready to give markers a try, but not sure you want to invest in a large set? Our budget pick offers all the basics to get you started.

This set of twelve pens features mainly bold, primary colors. A few in-between tones for shading and highlighting are included, and you can blend and layer the colors to get the tone you’re looking for. When used singly, these pens provide a vivid, saturated color.
Like all of our top picks, the Masterclass Premium pens are dual-tipped, with a soft brush on one end and a fine tip on the other for detail and outlining. The caps are color-coded, and while they’re not an exact match for the resulting pen color, their simple and clear design makes them easy to keep track of.

Note that these pens are not refillable and the tips are not replaceable, so you’ll need to get new pens when they wear out. Unlike Prismacolor markers which can be purchased one at a time, Masterclass markers are currently only available as a set, so these are best for folks who expect to use a wide range of colors fairly equally.

More:  The Best Watercolor Brushes

When it comes to adult coloring books, these pens offer a fabulous and affordable way to get started. The precision tips make coloring in small spaces easy, and the rich colors shine in complex designs. If possible, stick with single-sided coloring books, since the saturated colors are very likely to bleed through and may show on the next page. Be sure to put down a scrap piece of paper or cardstock between your work and the next page of the book or the table. Note that these bright colors also last a while if you get any on your skin, too!

Unlike the other pens in our lineup, these markers are water-based rather than alcohol-based. Water-based pens are a great choice if you’re sensitive to scents, as they’re almost completely odorless. Water-based ink also takes longer to dry, and you can use that extended drying time to create some wonderful, watercolor-like affects. Try applying a dark color of ink to your palette, then use the brush tip of a lighter color pen to pick that dark color up off your palette. As you start to color, the darker ink will start strong and then fade, leaving you with more and more of the original, lighter color as you go. If you want pure colors, be sure to let each area dry out before layering more color next to it. Note that, since you’re adding water to the paper each time, repeatedly layering color over a single area before it dries may cause the paper to start to break down and tear.

Pre-purchase considerations

Does it Blend?

Which markers you choose will directly determine the types of effects you can achieve in your art. For the very smoothest blending and color layering, you just can’t beat our gold pick, the ShinHan Touch Twin markers. The alcohol-based ink in these sophisticated pens gets top marks when it comes to silky-smooth blending, and there’s almost no limit to the number of color effects and gradients you can produce with these pens.

If you’d like to produce smooth gradients of a single color, the clever ‘charging chamber’ of the Chameleon markers is a fun way to highlight and shade your artwork effortlessly. These pens also blend well from color to color, and the set we’ve selected here does include a separate blending pen so you can mix every color together.

Prismacolor markers also blend well, and come in a wonderful range of colors, including some ultra-vivid tones not found in other brands. The water-based Masterclass pens, our budget pick, don’t have the same blending properties that alcohol-based markers do. Their lengthier drying time means that you can still produce some great shading effects, however, as well as some wonderful watercolor-like looks.

Refill and Replacement

Eventually, even the best pens run out of ink. If you’ll be using your art markers again and again, it makes a lot of sense to choose a refillable pen, like the ShinHan Twin Touch or the Chameleon. It’s certainly more eco-friendly to reuse the pens you already have, and since each jar of ink will refill a pen several times, it’s very cost-effective.

Prismacolor markers are not refillable, but they are available “open stock”, so you can purchase the individual colors you’ve run out of. The Masterclass Premium Dual Tip markers are currently only offered as a set, something to keep in mind if you expect you’ll be using some colors more than others. You’ll end up having to purchase a whole new set if your favorite color runs out.
If you’d like to expand your marker collection in the future, the ShinHan, Chameleon, and Prismacolor markers can all be purchased in small sets or as single pens, so you can keep adding colors as needed.

If you want flexibility in your collection but don’t want to have to purchase every tone of color available, consider the Chameleon markers. Their charging chamber design means that you can get multiple color tones out of each pen, so you can purchase just those base colors you use the most, and vary the pen saturation as needed.

Choice of Tip

All of our picks are double-ended markers, and there’s a good reason for that. A single tip simply can’t perform all of the varied coloring tasks you’re likely to need, and having the right tip for your artwork can make all the difference in your finished piece.

If you expect to be coloring small areas with fine details or adding detailed textures, look for a pen with a small, firm tip, such as the Chameleon or ShinHan Touch Twin. While a thin brush tip can work into small areas, it’s a lot harder to control evenly. A fine-point nib gives you much better control when doing detailed work.

A fine tip is a liability when it comes to covering a large area, however. It will not only take longer to cover the page with a tiny nib, but it’s likely to leave the area looking streaky. To get a smooth flow when coloring larger areas of artwork, look for a broad chisel nib such as that on the ShinHan Touch or Prismacolor pens, or a flexible brush tip like that of the Masterclass Premium markers.

If your artwork is more varied, look for a pen that offers the greatest flexibility. Pens with replaceable tips like the ShinHan Touch and Chameleon markers allow you to ensure that you’ve always got the right tool for the job. Being able to replace tips also extends the life of each pen, saving money and protecting your pen investment.

Travel

Do you expect to be traveling with your markers? If so, the ShinHan Touch markers are likely to be your best bet. The set includes a wonderfully wide range of colors, and comes in its own sturdy carrying case with a latching top. With their extra-secure caps, you won’t have to worry about the tops popping off and the pens drying out (or marking up your other belongings) even if you toss them into a separate bag. Since these pens are also refillable and the tips replaceable, you can carry extra supplies so you won’t be caught with a dry pen when you’re away from home.

The Prismacolor pens also come in a wonderful carrying case, which can be folded over to prop the pens up. Unfortunately, these pens aren’t refillable, so you won’t be able to carry spare ink or tips. On the positive side, the caps can be snapped onto the opposite end of the pen while you’re working, so you’re much less likely to misplace one while traveling.

Scent

Depending on your personal preference, this might or might not make a difference to you. Alcohol-based markers all have at least a little scent, and sensitive individuals might be more comfortable with our water-based budget choice, the Masterclass Premium markers.

Among the alcohol-based pens, the Prismacolor markers are generally noted to be the strongest-scented, while the ShinHan Touch Twin pens have an extremely light scent and are the least likely to be bothersome.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Whether you’re already a professional artist, getting started in the art world, or just coloring for pleasure, take the time to think about how you’ll be using your markers, and which features are important to you. Choosing high-quality markers with the right tips, a range of colors, and the ability to blend and mix will go a long way in bringing your artistic visions to life.