There’s something inspiring about keeping a collection of colored markers close at hand for special art projects or just day-to-day purposes. Even if you’re not an accomplished artist, colored markers are useful for many different activities.
Adults and children alike use colored markers for relaxing with a coloring book. They’re also ideal for color-coding journals, trackers, to-do lists, and class notes. Create flowing calligraphy on invitations or certificates with brush-tip markers. Use permanent markers to identify and label utilitarian items, such as camping gear and sports equipment. Whatever your purpose, this guide will help you wade through the variety of options and discover some of the best colored markers for all of your design and DIY projects.
- BEST OVERALL: Sharpie Color Burst Markers, Fine Point, 24 Count
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fineliner Color Pen Set
- BEST UPGRADE: ZSCM Coloring Art Markers Set, 60 Colors
- BEST WASHABLE: Crayola Ultra Clean Washable Broad Line Markers
- BEST WATER BASED: Paint Pens Water-Based Acrylic Markers Set (12 Color)
- BEST ALCOHOL-BASED: Caliart 40 Colors Dual Tip Art Markers Permanent
- BEST DUAL TIP: Coloring Markers Set for Adults Kids Dual Brush Pens
- BEST FINE LINE: iBayam Journal Planner Pens Colored Pens Fine Point
Types of Colored Markers
Colored markers are available in sets that include opulent arrays of vivid colors. Although these sets differ in the number and variety of color choices they offer, there are two basic types of colored markers: water-based and alcohol-based. Each type depends on your individual needs and the types of design and DIY projects that you envision. Read on to learn how each type of colored marker might be useful to you.
In water-based colored markers, the color pigment or dye is suspended in a solution of water and glycerin. After you mark on paper, the water evaporates, leaving the color pigment behind. Because the resulting color is water-soluble, you can add water from a watercolor brush to blend and create gradients of the color from your markers. This color-blending capability allows you to achieve unique, artistic effects with water-based colored markers.
Additionally, water-based colored markers tend to be more affordable than their alcohol-based counterparts. They are nontoxic and child-friendly as well. These markers work well on most kinds of paper, and they do not bleed through to leave ghost markings in your journal or coloring book.
Some artists avoid water-based colored markers because the water can seep into the fibers of the paper, causing deterioration. Artists may also find that water-based colored markers tend to deliver uneven color results, creating a streaking effect in their artwork.
Many artists prefer alcohol-based colored markers in which color pigments are suspended in alcohol. As the alcohol quickly evaporates, the color pigment is left behind to create permanent results. These permanent markings are not water-soluble but may be alcohol soluble.
The permanent color from alcohol-based colored markers can be applied to almost any surface, making them more versatile than water-based colored markers. One drawback to alcohol-based colored markers is that the ink bleeds through most types of paper, leaving ghost markings on adjoining pages. However, alcohol-based ink doesn’t destroy the paper fibers in the way that water-based ink does.
Although alcohol-based colored markers tend to be more expensive than their water-based counterparts, they are the go-to favorites for professional artists, illustrators, and designers. The color from alcohol-based markers produces better results when the artwork is scanned for digitizing. Additionally, alcohol-based, archival inks resist fading over time.
Features to Look for in the Best Colored Markers
With an abundance of available options on the market, it’s important to take the time to select colored markers with specific features that meet your needs. Some colored markers offer dual tips or an ergonomic design to ensure usability and comfort. Of course, you’ll want ample color options in vibrant variations, in addition to choosing the appropriately sized point or tip to deliver optimal results for your project. Consider these features as you shop for the best colored markers for your particular artistic goals.
Availability of Colors
Because colored markers are sold in sets, you can select your preferred number of color choices. For example, a set of 60 colors will provide more variety than a set of 12 colors for an in-depth design or DIY project.
However, the availability of color choices is not the only factor to consider. The richness of the colors may also be a determining factor. Color pigments left behind by alcohol-based markers tend to be more vibrant than the color from water-based markers.
Sets of colored markers vary in the color choices they offer, allowing you to choose specific colors for your art, design, and DIY projects. Some sets provide only primary colors, while others offer brilliant neons or soft pastels. Still, other sets include metallic markers in shades such as gold, silver, and bronze.
Vibrancy of Colors
Colored markers contain inks composed of pigments or dyes that are suspended in either water or alcohol. The color pigment is then left behind on a surface when the water or alcohol evaporates. Alcohol-based colored markers tend to produce more vibrant results than water-based colored markers.
Some sets of markers offer more brilliant color choices than others. For example, one set could feature especially bright, neon colors, while another set offers gentle pastels or muted hues. Your choice may be dictated by the nature of the art, design, and DIY projects that you plan to complete.
Consistency and Durability
As you select colored markers for your projects, consider both the evenness of color results along with the long-lasting quality of the color left behind. The color pigment from alcohol-based markers is permanent and resists fading. Conversely, the color left behind by water-based markers is water-soluble and, therefore, not permanent. Additionally, alcohol-based colored markers produce more even, non-streaking color results than water-based markers.
Water-based colored markers are preferable for children to use in school or at home because they do not leave permanent markings. You can wash the color left behind by water-based markers from most surfaces.
On the other hand, you may want the permanent and durable color from alcohol-based markers to retain the look of your or your children’s projects: rock painting, identifying tools and equipment, and creating unique artwork are three possible examples.
Colored markers differ in their design with regard to the thickness of the writing tips. Some markers offer tips that are similar to pointed watercolor brushes, tapering from approximately 6 millimeters to 1 millimeter. Other markers feature firm tips that resemble the point of a writing pen. These tips vary in size and thickness. For example, an ultrafine tip might measure 0.38 millimeters, while a fine tip could be 0.7 millimeters wide.
Many manufacturers offer sets of markers with dual tips, one at each end of the marker barrel. These markers offer the ability to draw both thin and thick lines. Fine tips are preferable for writing and drawing precise details, while brush-like tips are useful for calligraphy, drawing thick lines, and filling in an area with color.
Our Top Picks
Our top picks feature water-based and alcohol-based colored markers with varying degrees of fine and thick tips and in a plethora of color choices. We’ve also located marker sets that include attractive carrying cases for optimal organization. Read on to find some of the best colored markers on the market for your design and DIY projects.
Forget about dull, boring colors with this set of 24 markers in bold, vivid hues. These markers leave vibrant, permanent colors that stand out on wood, glass, metal, and plastic as well as paper and cardboard. The permanent ink dries quickly to a finish that is impervious to water and fading.
The brilliant colors from the popular Sharpie-brand markers will spark your imagination for artwork, journaling, and coloring books. Alternatively, you can use these markers for identifying and color-coding school and office supplies, storage bins, and sports and camping equipment. The versatile, medium-fine points are useful for writing, drawing, and color filling.
This set of colored markers from Platinum Art Supplies delivers a broad array of vivid colors, including neons, pastels, and primary colors. The set arrives in a durable, metal case that houses 60 total markers—2 each of 30 vibrant colors. Two removable trays hold the markers and make it easy for you to keep them organized for storage and use. These colored markers are optimal for coloring books, sketching, and drawing.
The archival-quality, permanent ink from these markers is nontoxic, acid-free, and long lasting. In case you accidentally leave off a cap, the ink is resistant to drying up. Additionally, the point enclosures are made of a high-end metal alloy to facilitate drawing straight lines or accomplishing precision work with templates and stencils. Use the sturdy case to take your art projects with you anywhere. At an economical price point, this set delivers multiple options for art, design, and DIY projects.
With an array of 60 color choices, you’ll enjoy extensive flexibility in your art and DIY projects with this set of art markers from ZSCM. Each of the 60 markers features a brush pen tip on one end and an ultrafine tip on the other end. Use the 0.4-millimeter fine tip for writing and drawing fine lines, then draw thick lines or fill with color using the brush tip that tapers from 4 millimeters to 1 millimeter.
Each marker contains safe, water-based dye ink that is nontoxic and acid-free to achieve a variety of artistic effects, such as blending and color washing. Simply apply color from a marker to your paper, and add clear water from a watercolor brush to create color gradients and wash-like results. This set includes replacement nibs with instructions about replacing the worn-out nibs when necessary. Additionally, a canvas carrying case keeps all 60 markers clean, organized, and portable.
You can help children to develop creative thinking skills by encouraging their art activities. With these washable colored markers from Crayola, you can let kids of all ages express their artistic creativity without worrying about making a mess. The markings from these broad line markers are washable from skin, most washable clothing, and most painted walls. They are suitable for classroom art activities as well as rainy-day projects at home.
Of course, the water-based ink from these markers is safe and nontoxic. Crayola recommends their use with children ages 3 and up. Conical-shaped tips provide versatility for drawing thin or thick lines and filling in areas with saturated color; however, the color won’t bleed through paper or leave smudges. With 40 colors in this set, it provides an ideal vehicle for encouraging children’s creativity.
Use these water-based colored markers from Asani to write, doodle, or draw on multiple surfaces, including wood, glass, fabric, rock, ceramic, porcelain, and more. Each of the 12 markers in the set is filled with 3 milliliters of premium Italian, water-based ink that dries to a permanent, water-resistant and fade-resistant finish.
This rainbow-like set of 12 markers includes black, white, yellow, blue, green, red, pink, gold, silver, brown, orange, and violet color options. The 0.7-millimeter nylon tips are extra fine, making them suitable for sketching, drawing, and calligraphy. You can also feel safe using these colored markers, as the ink is odorless and nontoxic. They conform to the D-4236 standards from the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) for safety in art materials.
Serious artists tend to prefer alcohol-based inks in their colored markers. These markers from Caliart produce highly-pigmented, permanent, smudge-proof, and waterproof color results. An ergonomic barrel design allows you to work with these markers comfortably for extended periods of time.
Each of the 40 markers offers two tips: one end features a 0.7-millimeter fine tip, while a broad, chisel-shaped tip tapers from 7 millimeters to 1 millimeter at the other end. The dual tips provide versatility for art projects as you draw thin or thick lines for precision detailing or color filling. A portable and zippered canvas case keeps your markers clean and ready for on-the-go sketching and drawing. Additionally, the color-coded caps allow you to quickly identify colors and facilitate the organization of your art supplies.
For endlessly creative possibilities in your design and DIY projects, use the 36 colors from this set of water-based markers by MoneleN. Each marker features two tips. On one end, you’ll find a brush tip that tapers from 6 millimeters to 1 millimeter. On the other end, an extra-fine tip measures 0.4 millimeters.
With each of the 36 markers, you have options to produce thin or thick lines. Use the dual tips for activities from calligraphy, writing, and precision details to drawing and color filling. The water-based ink in these markers contains rich pigments to produce vivid colors. The ink is also fast drying, nontoxic, blendable, odorless, and acid-free. It is certified safe for use by children, according to a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
Color-coding your journal entries, notes, or to-do list just became a lot easier and more fun. The 18 intense colors in this set of extra-fine, fiber-tip markers from iBayam offer versatile options to dress up your writing, drawing, calligraphy, and artwork projects. Each marker features a 0.38-millimeter fine point to produce colorful labels, interesting illustrations, or color-coded notes on planners, calendars, and agendas. A dull day at work or school becomes more interesting when you can count on these brilliantly colored markers to dress up your otherwise mundane documents.
The water-based ink in these colored markers does not result in bleed through, except on exceptionally thin paper. Use the included vinyl case to keep your markers clean and organized. With its fold-over, snap closure, you can easily toss this set of markers into your bookbag or backpack.
FAQs About Your New Colored Markers
Amass a collection of vibrant colored markers, and you may open up a new world of creativity. Doodle, draw, sketch, or simply color-code your notes from history class. The possibilities are endless for the enjoyment you can experience with colored markers. Interested in learning even more? Check out the answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about colored markers.
Are alcohol-based markers better than water-based ones?
Alcohol-based markers produce permanent results with highly pigmented color. Artists, illustrators, and designers often prefer using alcohol-based markers. Although alcohol-based markers tend to bleed through paper and leave ghost markings, they are preferred for layering and blending colors.
How long do colored markers last?
To avoid drying out, be sure the cap of every marker is tightly attached before you store it. Additionally, store dual-tip markers horizontally and single-tip markers vertically with the nib end pointing down.
How do I care for and clean colored markers?
As mentioned above, be sure to store dual-tip markers flat (not standing up), so the ink will not flow to one end. Clean the cap and body of a marker with isopropyl alcohol on a Q-tip or cotton ball, but never clean the actual tip with alcohol.