I’ve wondered for a long time what the differences would be between crafty and fine-art grade markers; I used to have three of a different brand (Winsor and Newton) but couldn’t find them to take part in this test. (Plus I hadn’t tested with them since it was only three colors; I get a better sense of the whole with a larger selection of colors.)

But….since Sketchmarker sent me (THANK YOU!) this “Animals” set of their Aqua pens, I finally set aside a little of my art supply budget for the Albrecht Dürer markers by Faber Castell too. I figured that would give me a solid test….so here we go!

NOTE: I’ll have two more posts coming with more “real world” tests – tomorrow using the Sketchmarkers (blog hop, whee!) and Albrecht Dürer on Friday.


Watch the lonnnng video below or click here to see it on YouTube……or just scroll through the pics and notes below, and I’ll give you my topline assessments of test results!

New class

Before we get to all the charts – the Travel Sketches class mentioned is taught at level 3, and uses crafty markers. You can use any brand you have, but I teach with the Sketchmarker Aqua.

Sketchmarker Aqua

Spoiler Alert: This is my new favorite crafty watercolor marker! I really like how the nib feels – it’s like a Copic. They water out nicely on the Canson XL, and they work great with stamped watercolor. I haven’t had time for lightfast testing – but no crafty marker is going to be very lightfast if at all. But my crafty projects don’t have to last so I’m ok with that.

Sketchmarker Aqua pens have a brush nib and bullet nib. They have a little nib drawn on the body so you know which end is which, but I think I’ll use washi tape to mark them; it’ll be a bit faster. Their line currently has 72 colors in it, this is half of them shown below; they come in different size sets, and per-pen price currently (summer ’22) is $2.50-2.75 depending on set size. Some of the colors water out to a different color – but I’m used to that with other crafty brands too; it’s a matter of swatching them so you know what’ll happen to them, and using those properties to your advantage! Stay tuned this week on social media and I’ll play with some of the colorshifting pens to draw some animals for ya.

This rhino was one of my early sketches with these – look at the colors! Kinda crazy but it worked well.

Albrecht Dürer by Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell is a fine art manufacturer I’m quite familiar with – Polychromos, Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils, etc. Their color numbers/names in this marker set are the same as their equivalents in their other lines – I love that for consistency! Using these with watercolor pencil would be nice. There’s just this set of 30 as far as I can tell, and it came out in 2020. Their brush nib is a little fatter than the Sketchmarker ones, and the bullet nib too, though the bulllet can be drawn with light pressure to get a thinner line. These water out best on both tested papers; not a surprise since the msrp per pen is over $6! But when buying this set of 30, the price per pen is $3.33, which is not that much higher than the $2.50 -$3.00 of most midgrade crafty pens. (I’ve not taken any of the super cheap brands – I tried two that shall remain nameless, and I’ll just say if you’re not satisfied with those results, try the Sketchmarkers and you’ll see why a little more expensive pen makes an outsized difference.)

The color set here is quite nice – very much what I’d have selected, myself, I think! I did swatch them on Arches, and left the paper overnight – next day when I tried adding the water, the color didn’t move like I had hoped it would. So if using these on good paper, do it in a sitting so any water gets applied before everything gets fully dry. On Friday I’ll use these for a sketch that I think you’ll find interesting, it worked out super well on Arches – so be sure to subscribe so you hear when that’s published!


I tested four brands on Arches first even though I knew the Tombow and Zigs would have some of their color stick to the paper and leave a shadow. But since I had hopes for the Albrecht Dürer, I thought it’d be worth testing this first. Let’s just say I am finding I know my papers and pens fairly well nowadays so things performed as I expected: middling results with crafty pens, much better with fine art pens.

Then testing on the cellulose-based paper (ie not cotton) Canson XL – which is what I highly recommend for watercolor markers. I haven’t found any crafty pens that don’t perform better on this paper! The edges aren’t as delicate as on cotton paper – but usually for crafty projects that’s not a dealbreaker.

The Sketchmarker nibs feel much like a Copic nib; I think that it’s felt, as is Tombow, but it just has a different feel to it and colors much nicer as you saw in the video.


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