Alcohol Markers Review
I’m popping in today with something a bit different than a card blog. This is a long post so please bear with me.
Last year Copic announced that it would be changing the look of its refill inks in 2020 which are just now hitting store shelves. The new ink refills are round and will contain less ink than the previous refills at about the same price point or slightly more as they were before. Here’s a picture of the new refills.
As crafters, many of us know how expensive it is to have a small collection of Copic marker much less the full set. Plus, for the individual marker sales they seem to sell out quickly so it can be frustrating trying to obtain the colors you need. While I do have a full set of Copic markers, it took me 3 years to get them and I probably had to order or purchase in-store from a half dozen different retailers as I was trying to get the best price. I have a very limited set of the refills, mostly just skin tones.
As such, I thought it might be a good idea to see what other options there are out there for alcohol markers and do a comparison of a couple that are most similar to everyone’s beloved Copic markers.
Today, I’ll be sharing my results using the Art-n-Fly Alcohol Markers and the Croma Flagship Alcohol Markers.
I’ll start with the similarities. Both have the brush nib and a chisel nib. I would say that the brush nib on both Art-n-Fly and Croma is a super brush nib. They are very flexible which makes it easy to do the blending flicks and to get into the image to color details with them. I didn’t experience any fraying with my brush nibs when I colored the images I’m sharing today.
The chisel end is pretty standard. I honestly only use that end when I’m coloring large areas of an image.
One of the things that I really liked about both the Art-n-Fly markers and the Croma is the shape. Art-n-Fly markers are hexagon shaped through the barrel and cap so there’s no danger of the roll-away marker or cap while you’re coloring. Croma has almost an oval shaped barrel with an ergonomic cap. I found that this ergonomic cap allows you to easily remove the caps if you’re holding multiple markers. For the Croma’s most of the marker caps came off easily but some were a little more difficult to remove than others and I found that putting the caps back on the sticky ones was difficult. I actually pinched my finger trying to put a cap back on one of the markers. Ouch!
The length of both the Art-n-Fly and Croma is very comparable to Copics. The Art-n-Fly is just a smidge longer than Copic and the Croma is the same length. Actual measurements from capped marker end to end are:
Copics 5 7/8 inches
Art-n-Fly 6 inches
Croma 6 inches
There were a couple of notable differences. While all of the markers have the marker number on the end of the caps, only Copic and Croma actually have a color name on the cap.
The Art-n-Fly markers have a number and letter combination. So you won’t have a name to associate but rather a 9 RP for red pink or 225 BG for blue green I assume. There is no information on their website about the number letter combination. I didn’t feel hindered by the lack of color name or the number letter combination as it was easy enough to figure out what they were.
Another difference that I wouldn’t have thought would bother me but did was the fact that Copic is the only brand of the three that also puts the marker number on the barrel of the marker. The other two don’t have that. I think that sometimes comes in handy when you have a ton of markers laying on your desk you can easily see which one you need by the number on the barrel rather than having to pick them up to look at the number on the cap. Not a deal breaker by any means but certainly a nice feature of Copics.
All three of these marker brands have pictures of the brush or chisel nib on the barrel of the marker so that you can visually determine which end is which. Copic goes a step further by having a grey band around the end that has the brush nib. Art-n-Fly has it identified, but not by a different color. The brush end has a white extra band around the brush end. The white blends easily with the barrel of the marker so it’s easy to miss. I know I regularly uncapped the wrong end while coloring. The Croma markers do not have a visual line to tell which end of the marker is the brush nib, but rather there is a very subtle indentation right where the picture of the brush nib is. Let’s just say it’s so subtle that I did not even notice that until I started inspecting the markers very closely for this post. You can feel it when you run your fingers along the barrel, but I’m not sure that most people would notice it when they needed to discern which end was the brush without looking. Again, while coloring I uncapped the wrong end several times unless I looked at the barrel to see the picture.
The most pronounced difference I noticed was when I was holding the marker was the weight and feel of them in my hands. Art-n-Fly’s markers feel heavier and maybe a little awkward with the octagonal design. While I didn’t have a problem coloring with them, they don’t necessarily feel comfortable in the hand and may take some getting used to. This could potentially be an issue if you have arthritis. The Croma markers feel very light and very comfortable to color with. They have a very similar feel to Copics. I got curious and weighed each of the markers to see what the weight was. The scale I used is one I used to measure my Copic markers after I refill them; here are the pictures of the weight for each one.
These are nearly full so I feel that these weights are pretty accurate. As you can see the Art-n-Fly markers are the heaviest of the three.
Let’s talk about range of colors and prices. Copic currently has 358 markers which include a colorless blender (0 Marker) and every color in between. Current prices for the individual Sketch markers range from $5.85 (Oozak.com and dickblick.com) to $8.99 (Simonsaysstamp.com). There have been some clearance sales recently at Hobby Lobby and Michaels so if you’re interested in Copics check around for the best price. You can also purchase sets as small as 3 that are blending trios and up to as large as 72 (sets A-E). Refills for Copics are roughly $4.58 to $6.59 for the discontinued style refills. Pretty much everyone is sold out of these currently. The new refills are around $5.25 (www.violeta-ink.com).
Art-N-Fly markers currently have 96 colors which include a colorless blender (0 marker) with plans to add more to the collection. They have several sets that are reasonably priced starting with limited color sets of 6 at $14.97 (as of the date of this post), 12 set and a 24 set which are currently priced the same at $24.97 (the 12 pastel set is on sale) and a full set of 48 for $79.97 which is also on sale for $20 off as of this post. Refills are currently listed at $4.99. Their web site states that 1 refill bottle will refill a marker about 13 times. That’s a pretty good value for your money.
Croma Flagship currently has 216 markers in a full set. They have sets as small as 12 for $37.40, $24 for $74.80 and there are also sets of 36, 48, 72 (3 sets), 108 (2 sets) and 1 complete set of 216 markers. The 48 marker sets and larger all come in an acrylic box with a carrying handle which is a nice addition for storage. As of the date of my post, they do not have individual markers or the refills available yet but they are working to bring those to the market soon.
So how do they color you ask? I’ve colored up some cute mermaid images from the recent Greeting Farm pre-order release called Mermaids Galore. For each marker set I’ve colored two of the mermaid images and 1 animal. Below are the pictures. I’ve listed the markers used and their numbers in the photo description box. Images were stamped with Simon Says Intense Black Ink on 100lb Amazon Accent Opaque Digital cover weight paper (which works great with alcohol markers).
As far as limitations, I would say that since Art-n-Fly has a limited range of colors it was difficult to get the blends I was looking for particularly on the teal blue and purple mermaid. I ended up using the Colorless blender and some tip to tip coloring blending to get it where I was happy with it. You can see that I had a bit of a bleed because I had to use so many colors to get it to blend.
I also felt like the two mermaids for Art-n-Fly didn’t color as well as I would have liked. This could just be because I need more practice with these markers or possibly getting used to the shape and feel of the marker. I felt a little shaky coloring with them and I think it shows. I like the orange-red mermaid below much better. It was a much easier blend to achieve on the body.
I included a picture of the Hex Chart that’s available from Art-n-Fly. This is my chart that I’ve filled in with the colors I have currently. You’ll notice that there are several colors that are nearly identical on the chart. I’m not sure if that’s because of the paper I printed the chart on or if there are overlaps in the colors. Hopefully as Art-n-Fly’s alcohol marker collection grows they will eliminate some of these duplicates and fill in some of the gaps in the color ranges. The gaps make it hard to get nice blends from dark to light and from different colors. I was also challenged with the color naming as it relates to how dark or light the marker color will be. The cap color on the marker doesn’t always match the ink color. That’s where the swatch chart is a huge help.
By far, I feel that the two mermaids that I colored with the Croma Flagship markers look better. I have to say, the markers were great to color with and they felt light an airy in my hand which I think made it easier to blend and mix colors. The colors are very vibrant and rich and I love that about them. I especially enjoyed the color mix I was able to get with their hair.
Croma does not currently have a blank swatch chart to print and fill in for these markers. They do come with a swatch chart but it was on really thin paper so I didn’t want to use it. I’ll create a swatch chart eventually so I have a good reference for coloring in the future. I swatched on a scratch piece of paper as I colored these images so I could get an idea of blending.
The Croma markers seem to have some traditional blending trios in their color ranges so you can get a nice even blend from dark to light without having to work too hard. This makes them very similar to Copics.
Overall, I like both sets of markers for their affordability vs. Copics. Price breakdown per marker is as follows:
Copic $5.85 – assuming you can actually get them in stock at this price or cheaper
Art-n-Fly $1.76 – based on sets at current sales prices
If I were to recommend either the Art-n-Fly or the Croma set, I would go with the Croma set for the range of colors and vibrancy. The price is middle of the road between Copics and the Art-n-Fly. However, the main downside is that they don’t yet have individual markers or ink refills and no
ETA on that as of yet.
Art-n-Fly is a good starter set for someone who’s maybe just getting started with alcohol markers. The price is really good and refills are available. I will say that I’ve had several interactions with their Customer Service team and they are very prompt to respond and very nice to deal with. The Art-n-Fly website also has lots of videos that you can watch with artists using their markers to create some amazing artwork.
Alcohol markers are an investment on any level and you have to consider the pros and cons of each before making the investment in your crafting. I feel that the best investment is always going to be a brand of markers that can be refilled and have the marker nibs changed. If you take care of them and do regular maintenance on your markers they will last a very long time.
If you’re not committed to the investment and the time to maintain the markers there are several brands of alcohol markers that are a bit cheaper and don’t have refills. I would suggest checking out any of the following marker brands and an alternative to what I’ve reviewed today:
Altenew Artist Markers (these are refillable)
Shinhan Touch Brush Markers (NOTE: the white box sets have the brush nibs)
Croma Lite – the non-refillable line of Croma markers
Ohuhu These have some nice, rich jewel toned colors
If you have any questions about Copics, Art-n-Fly, Croma Flagship or any of the non-refillable brands I’ve listed above you can drop me a message in the comments below.
I hope this review has been helpful to you if you’re considering making the investment in alcohol markers.
I hope to be sharing my finished cards that I’ll be making with the images I colored for this review later this week so check back for that.
Thanks for stopping by!
Awesome comparison – I know that was a lot of work! I personally have had a difficult time finding alcohol markers that last. Thanks for sharing! And I love the images you chose… and your coloring is amazing!
Thank you! It was a bit of work, but I think it’s good to give people an idea of options as Copics are no longer the only option for refillable markers.
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Thank you. This has been a big help. I was struggling on the next level of markers. Since I have the spectrum noir and the Ohuhu sets. I bought from Croma Kitil nice but…. so maybe it is time for a bigger investment. I bought a couple of samples of Copic Sketch. The range of colors was impressive. They are really nice.. lots to think about…thanks again for your insight.
You’re welcome! I’m glad that my review was helpful. Some other things to keep in mind with any marker brand you choose, there will likely be some duplicates across some of the colors. So don’t feel that you have to have the full-set of any brand. You can do lots of neat tricks with blending, glazing and even tip to tip blending of markers can produce great results. I highly recommend Sandy Allnock’s Art-Classes.com she has some great Alcohol marker basic classes that teach you those things and she has a great “base list” of Copic markers that are perfect for any kind of coloring you’d want to do.