Tag Archives | Markers and Pens

Pen Comparison: Archival Ink

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I love pens.  Always have.  Probably always will.  And after buying hundreds of different kinds I know that some are (much) better than others.  Here is a quick comparison of just a few that I happened to have handy – I tried to narrow the selection down to dark colors with pigment ink.  First I’ll do a quick review of each pen, then describe a water test I conducted, and finish with summary of all the important facts.

Starting from the top of the picture:

Martha Stewart “Writing Pen” from EK Success

  • Acid-free and archival pigment ink
  • Available in 10 colors
  • 0.5 mm fine tip for writing and drawing
  • $1.99
  • Easy to hold, smooth writing, and color coded on both ends of the pen.  Have not had any problems with bleeding on different paper media.
  • Pigment ink that is waterproof and compatible with Copic markers
  • 4 nib sizes for colors and 7 nib sizes plus two brush sizes in black (0.05 black was tested)
  • Available in 6 colors
  • $2.95
  • This is like the Rolls Royce of pigment pens.  Compatible with every medium, writes smoothly and easily.  I plan to get more sizes and may look into buying the more expensive refillable version.
  • Pigment ink is acid free, archival, waterproof, and fade proof
  • 6 nib sizes (black 0.45 and 0.5 mm sizes were tested  – although my chart below has the wrong sizes listed)
  • 15 colors available
  • $2.79
  • This has been go-to pen for a long time.  I have even been using some of the same pens intermittently for 10+ years without any sign of drying out.  My biggest complaint is that the nib sizing numbers don’t correspond with the nib size – size 08 is actually a 0.5 mm nib.

Gelly Roll Pens from Sakura

  • Archival ink that is waterproof and fade resistant (not pigment ink)
  • The Classic Gelly Roll (solid cap) comes in two nib sizes and 11 colors
  • The five other varieties of Gelly Roll (clear and glitter caps) are avilable in 40+ colors with a variety of metallic and pearl finishes
  • $1.39 – $1.69
  • These are certainly the most affordable option in my comparison, and maybe even the easiest to find in stores.  But the roller ball gel ink does require steady pressure to get an even writing line.  And the Metallic Gelly Roll did not survive my water brush test (below).

Pigment Pro from American Crafts

  • Acid-free archival pigment ink
  • $1.99
  • This pen has been discontinued, but I wanted to include it because this was my first time using it.  I’m not sure if it had been sitting at the store for too long, or what the story was.  But I pulled it out to use it for the first time and it was all dried up!

Click the image below to enlarge see writing examples for each of the pens.

I figured it would be a good idea to test with a wet paintbrush to see which pens can be used with watercolors and markers.  Below is a writing sample for each pen on watercolor paper.

Then I used the water pen to get each line of writing thoroughly wet.  All of the pigment pens passed with flying colors.  But of the Gelly Roll pens, only the Classic version resisted the water – the other metallic varieties had a little to a lot of smearing from the paintbrush.

So what I discovered after this test, is that I really should stick to the pigment pens for my archival projects or anything that may get wet with watercolors, markers, etc.  I still like the Gelly Roll pens, but I will only use those for certain projects and everyday use.
Taking price and color/size availability into consideration, the Pigma Micron pens are the best option for me.  But if anyone wants to splurge and buy me a present, feel free to get me any combination of the Copic Multiliner sets.
What are your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite pigment pen that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let us know!

Vendor Spotlight: Letraset Aqua Markers

Reported by Cassandra Darwin

I was excited to test out a set of the Letraset Aqua Markers, because using markers makes me just as happy as it did when I was in grade school!    I looked up this line of twin-tip markers online and noticed that the sets came with a “blender” pen.  So I (incorrectly) assumed that they would function like my Copic markers – blending colors together but without the alcohol ink.  Turns out that these markers actually work just like a watercolor pencil, so you can blend them with a brush on watercolor paper.  A set of 12 Aqua Markers retails for just under $37.

I received “Set 1” colors and am very happy with the variety and packaging.  The plastic case opens flat so you can see every color while you’re working.  And there was a small insert with a few tips, including this important one – you really should be using watercolor paper with these markers.  I didn’t have any, so my first few tests are using cardstock (more pictures in a bit).

 The back of the Hints & Tips insert has a color chart for each set, and I found the colors on this chart to be much more true than the colors on the barrels of the markers themselves.  You can also see the illustration of the twin tips below: fine nib for detail and broader brushlike tip for big surfaces.

For my first test, I did three strokes of a variety of colors on three different types of cardstock.  Top is an Avery manila shipping tag, then 80 lb. Neenah cardstock, and at the bottom 100 lb. Bristol paper.

I set the markers aside and used the “blender pen” to try to create a wash between the different colors.  It didn’t work so well and I started to get some pilling on each of the tests.  I also noticed that some colors were easier to blend than others, most notably the orange (Gold Ochre) seemed to have more pigment.

 Then right below then Blender pen wash, I used a watercolor brush and water to try to create a wash between the different colors.  Got even worse results – perhaps the ink had dried too long (about 3 or 4 minutes).  You can click on the photo to zoom in.

Attempted a close up of the pilling on the paper after using the Aqua Markers and then the Blender Pen.

I did one more test on regular cardstock, to see which inks would work best when stamping with these markers.  The top is a stamped image with black Versafine pigment ink and it stayed very true even after blending the markers with a brush and water.  Keep in mind that pigment ink takes a while to dry – I left this overnight before going back to it with markers and water.  The black Memento dye ink (bottom) got a bit washed out after blending with water.  The end result is more grey than black.

At this point I dragged myself to the store to get some watercolor paper to test the makers in their best environment.  I also looked up a few more tips on the Letraset website (see more links at the end of the review) and learned that you can use these markers directly on stamps.

I used the broad nib of the markers directly on the rubber stamp and ended up with this image on the watercolor paper.

To give it more of a watercolor “effect” I used my wet paintbrush to blend the leaves a bit.  I was also able to go over the tree trunk and even out the color quite a bit.  I can already tell that the watercolor paper makes all the difference for blending.
For my final test I wanted to make a few snail embellishments for future projects.  I used the black Versafine pigment ink to stamp the image on watercolor paper.  Let it dry for a few hours then came back and outlined with the markers and blended with a wet brush right away.  By far my most successful use of the markers.

 Even though this set of markers was not what I expected, they turned out to be really fun and different than what I was used to.  It was nice to use a brush for the watercolor effect.  I would absolutely recommend using the online resources that Letraset has on their website, and there are a couple videos on You Tube of crafters giving their own tips and tricks with these markers.

Resources on the Letraset website:

  • A different type of marker, can be used alone or blended with a brush for a watercolor effect
  • Well-packaged set includes storage, good variety of colors, and a blender pen
  • Twin-tip is very nice for this type of marker
  • Price is pretty reasonable when compared to fine watercolor sets or other crafting marker sets
  • I never really figured out how to use the blender pen, and there was a learning curve for blending with a brush
  • Had to buy watercolor paper to use these markers
  • I could not find any other Letraset markers in my local art and craft stores
  • Would be really helpful to have a video how-to on the Letraset website
What do you think?  Have you tried the Letraset Aqua Markers?  Any tips to share?

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY!: American Crafts Stamping Markers

Reported by Susan Reidy

I’ve amassed quite a large acrylic stamp collection in the last few years. While I’ve found stamp pads that work well, I had yet to find markers that could handle clear stamps without terrible pooling and smearing.

When the chance to review American Crafts Stamp Markers came available, I was more than eager to give them a try. The markers come in 25 colors and are available individually or in sets.
American Crafts sent me the brights pack which includes grape, cricket, aqua, mustard and taffy. They also sent me some paper goodies including Thickers, two clear stamp sets (Sing Along and Courtyard) and patterned paper from some of their newest lines including Margarita, Confetti, Campy Trails, and Peachy Keen.

Each marker has two tips — a brush tip, ideal for covering larger areas, and a medium point for finer details. They are made for coloring directly on stamps, which is a great technique when you want multiple colors on one image. You can also use them to color in images once you’ve stamped them.

Here’s a close up of the brush tip.

And here’s the width of line it can make, with a little pressure. It has a nice give, so you can do some typical brush techniques with it, like starting with a thin line and growing to a thicker line, or dotting it on its side to create flower pedals.

Here’s the medium point, a nice sharp point for detail stamps or for writing.

And here’s the width of line it can make.

One little thing I noticed — it’s easy to tell if the cap isn’t on all the way. If it’s not fully closed, a bit of black shows through, like below. I found this quite handy; I like the visual cue.

Here’s the marker fully closed, no black exposed.

I was eager to try these out on clear stamps, so I opened up one of the American Crafts sets, Sing Along. I love this bike image. Before coloring the stamp with the marker, I used an eraser on the stamp to remove any residues.

The color went on very nicely, as you can see below. There was some pooling of the ink, but it wasn’t too bad. I do recommend coloring one nice even layer. The more you color, the more the ink will pool in certain areas.

Here’s a nice little row of bikes I stamped in different colors. It was super easy to clean off the marker in between colors with a baby wipe. The images aren’t perfect, but clear stamps don’t give super crisp images, no matter what kind of marker/ink you use.

In comparison, I decided to ink up the same stamp using a Stampin’ Up marker. Wow, it totally didn’t work. The ink pooled and beaded on the stamp, as you can see below, no matter how many times I colored over it.

And here’s how that looked when stamped. Totally not acceptable.

I did notice that after coloring in a few stamps, my American Crafts marker started to pill, with little stands of the tip coming off. I simply removed those with my finger. It didn’t seem to effect the marker’s ability to color, but I don’t know what would happen over the long haul if pieces kept coming off the tip.

The markers did equally well stamped on vellum as they did stamped on cardstock. I did allow for some extra drying time.

Here’s my completed layout with some of the yummy American Crafts paper and Thickers. I scraplifted this layout design from Nichol Magouirk at One bonus of the American Crafts markers is that they coordinate so well with all of the other American Crafts products. I love how my stamped bikes pick up all the colors in the Margarita paper.

Next, I wanted to try the markers on some rubber stamps, specifically solid images. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the marker’s blending ability. Below I added my first color to this Stampin’ Up ice cream stamp.

I then added my second color, overlapping slightly so the colors would blend, just like they would on a real ice cream cone. Color did transfer to the tip of my second marker, but I just wrote with it on scrap paper until the true color was restored.

I was very pleased with my blending results, and how the markers performed on rubber stamps. I did notice that the ink stayed wet, even when applying two colors, that I didn’t need to “huff” before stamping.

For the cone, I used the mustard American Crafts marker for the base, and then added a Stampin’ Up brown marker to highlight the lines (I didn’t have an American Crafts brown). The markers still blended well, even though they’re from two different companies.

Another benefit of using markers for stamping is the ability to selectively add color to a stamp. Here was the sentiment stamp that came with this stamp set. For this image, I just wanted to use the word “sweet.”

So I just used an American Crafts marker to ink up the “sweet,” leaving the rest of the stamp uninked.

I stamped it next to my cone.

I was having so much fun making ice cream cones, I couldn’t stop. Here’s three in a row. This time, I used two different marker colors on my sentiment to highlight the sweet. So easy, but such a nice touch for a card.

I used some more American Crafts patterned paper on this card, which matched perfectly with the taffy marker. Yummy!

Next, I wanted to try the markers on a more solid clear stamp. I love the little bird from the Courtyard set. It was tricky to add the marker without getting streaks, but the coverage was much better than other markers I’ve tried on clear stamps. Plus, I think it kind of looks like feathers.

I realize these are probably quail, but the stamp plus the vibrant marker colors immediately had me thinking of the intro to a certain 70s sitcom…”Hello world here’s a song that we’re singing, Come on get happy. A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringing, We’ll make you happy.”

Maybe I should send this card to David Cassidy?

Overall, I was very pleased with how these markers performed, especially on clear stamps. I love the versatility that stamp markers provide, and I’m so happy to find some to use on my vast clear stamp collection.

They’re relatively inexpensive, so it wouldn’t take much to amass the whole collection. I think they would be good for newer stampers, who might be overwhelmed by a whole lot of color choices.


  • Juicy markers that work well on clear stamps.
  • Two tip sizes make it easy to color in detailed stamps or to selectively color certain areas.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other markers designed for use with stamps.
  • Blend well with each other and markers from other companies.


  • Some pilling of tip after usage.
  • Limited colors compared to other stamp markers.
  • Not refillable.

Our friends at American Crafts have provided a prize pack for one of our lucky readers! Just leave a comment on this post answering the following questions to be entered:

Have you tried American Crafts Stamping Markers? What do you think of their coverage on clear stamps? And, did you watch the Partridge Family? It’s okay, you can tell us!

One entry per person, per American Crafts’ article, please. And be sure to check out the articles from Monday… they’ve been edited to add this giveaway info, so get to commenting!