Opaque Marker Comparison

How about a warm welcome to Lisa Fulmer!

Lisa refers to herself as “an ardent artist and a chronic crafter.” By day, she is the Marketing Manager for C&T Publishing. By night, she runs her small side business, Lisa Liza Lou Designs, and feeds her addiction to the outpouring of inspiration and support that exists online amongst creative types. Lisa is totally and blissfully immersed in the art and craft industry 24/7…singing the praises of handmade every single chance she gets. Find her at her blog: lisa liza lou

Reported by Lisa Fulmer
I’m all about features and benefits… tell me what it does, but then tell me why I need it. In order to helpyou decide between the opaque markers on the market, I’ll run four different opaque markers each through four tests of features that can make or break my artwork.

1. The sniff test: Yes, I actually sniffed
Permapaque – no odor
Copic – faint alcohol smell
Elmer’s Painters – medium alcohol smell
Sharpie – instant headache

I would say that the key benefit of no odor is to be able to work in a small space for a long time without having to keep a bottle of Advil next to your Crop-o-dile.

2. The bleed test: On textured, absorbent watercolor paper, I drew a line with each marker, then held the tip firmly to the paper for a count of 10 to see how much the ink bleeds. Permapaque (black) – no bleed, the line and dot stayed pretty crisp
Copic (blue) – the most bleed
Elmer’s Painters (green) – no bleed, but it’s very wet…which makes the line uneven and a shade darker at the bottom where the moisture settles
Sharpie (burgundy) – a fair bit of bleed

The benefit of no bleeding is getting crisp lines and images, with color that stays exactly where you put it. I like to color the edges of my papers, cards, and board books to give them a more finished look, so any bleed at all is a dealbreaker for me with those projects.

3. The ebb and flow test: How smooth and consistent is the ink in larger image areas? Can it cover in one pass, does it leave lines? On smooth uncoated cardstock, I shaded a square and spiraled a circle.
Permapaque – good flow on first pass, still shows some lines with second pass
Copic – very nice flow on first pass, lines are well-hidden with second pass
Elmers – uneven flow in both directions, and excess moisture feathered the paper
Sharpie – very nice flow with minimal lines on both passes

Note that the markers with the most bleed also fill in the best. That bleeding comes in handy for covering larger areas without seeing line strokes. The benefit of good flow is that your larger areas of color are solid and smooth; they look more like paint and less like pens.

4. The wallet test: Bottom line—do I have to sell my car in order to afford a complete set? Sharpie – $1.50 each x 39 colors
Permapaque – $3.00 each x 20 colors
Elmer’s – $3.50 each x 19 colors
Copic – $7.00 each x 334 colors

Here are some ways I used Permapaques:

Thin purple edge on my greeting card:

Heavy black edge on my painted canvas book:

Rosebud drawing on an ATC (oil pastel background), with a thin red edge:

You can find these markers (and more!) at
Elmers Painters

What are your favorite opaque markers, and how do you use them? Leave us a comment and let us know!


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8 Responses to Opaque Marker Comparison

  1. Avatar
    Helen April 13, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    I noticed that the bleed test is done on watercolor paper. Copic markers should not be used on watercolor paper. It absorbs too much ink from the pen. There are many fine papers to use with Copic markers, watercolor papers are just not one of them. There was no test for the blending of colors. This is one place where Copic markers really shine. They are very blendable. I have never seen a comparison with other markers that said the other martker was more blendable than the Copic.

  2. Avatar
    Susan April 13, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    I suppose it all comes down to the projects you are using the markers on. I am a cardmaker and scrapbooker – so Copics work wonderfully for me. I would never use a Sharpie or Elmer’s pen on my cards or books. I’ve never tried permapaque. I do use a brand of paint pen for outlining edges on books and projects.

  3. Avatar
    IamSusie April 13, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Great comparisons! Thanks, Lisa!

  4. Avatar
    Michelle Hessler April 13, 2010 at 10:37 am #

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  5. Avatar
    Michelle Hessler April 13, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Copics are not ideal on watercolor paper….so I don’t now that this was a fair test if it’s to consider what markers to invest in. As it would really depend on what canvas or paper mediums you use. Copics are great on low fiber papers, perfect for stampers, card makers, and many other artist mediums. It also works wonderfully on fabrics, ribbons, buttons, plastics, etc etc for color matching items on a scrapbook project.

    Also, you can find copics for as low as $4.50 each, they are also refillable and their pen tips are replaceable, meaning you don’t ever have to “rebuy” the marker again. So over time, your cost goes down considerably.

    Copics also do excellent in blending and layering of colors, and you can create new colors by using the dark and light color in a color family/shade and create the medium color by simply blending the colors or holding them tip to tip. So there is no need to purchase all 344 colors…as you can easily create shades and variations of colors from those you have on hand. Though…I am in the process of purchasing the rest of the colors in the color chart…as I love them so much, I find I want all the colors!

  6. Avatar
    lisa fulmer April 13, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Great comments, thanks for the feedback!

  7. Avatar
    Rachel April 13, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    Thank you for this; it really got me thinking. But Copic markers aren’t opaque, so I got a bit confused. could you tell me which you think is the most opaque pen is? That would be so good to know without the expense of testing them all myself!

  8. Avatar
    lisa fulmer April 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Rachel – the Permapaques and Elmer’s Painters are both opaque and cover nicely. I actually enjoy all these markers for all kinds of different uses. I like the Copics for painting, I like the Permapaques for edging cards with solid color in one smooth pass, I like the Elmers for rough surfaces, and I like Sharpies for line art and writing. Can you tell I have a huge marker supply! LOL