The Sketchmarker manufacturer in Slovenia made it Christmas early in my studio! I put on my Christmas pjs for the unboxing…..ha! (Anyone else “get” that new-art-supply feeling?)

First, let me say I’ve tried lots of alcohol markers. Usually I only buy a set of 12 since I’m not about to sink precious art money into unproven items….I’ve been disappointed on nearly every occasion with copies of Copics! Once a company sent me 12 colors of a brand to play with and….that just wasn’t enough, and yet they were still pretty meh for an alcohol pen. But when this company offered a reasonable number of colors, I thought why not – if the MSRP is $3 each below Copic, and if they’re any good — i can’t really ignore that.

My advice is at the end of this post, along with shopping links.

BIG CAVEATS

  • The company only asked for an unboxing on social media in exchange for the pens. I wasn’t required to like or recommend them, and if there had been a quid pro quo I’d have told them to take a hike.
  • For $3 in cost-cutting SOMETHING WILL SUFFER. With a lot of markers, it’s the nib, or the colors, or other important things. Making the choice to have a marker BODY that bears the brunt of the cost cutting isn’t so bad. So watch the video with that in mind. When raising my concerns with the company they did say they plan on upgrading the marker bodies as they increase production to bring that cost down, so that shows they at least know there’s room to improve.

Special disclaimer for this marker review:

Before Sketchmarker approached me, my friend Ellen Hutson said she wanted to bring them into her store, and asked if I wanted to play with them. I was hemming and hawing, because I’m getting ready for Christmas and an ironically-busy sabbatical in December. Then, completely independently, the Sketchmarker company approached me on Instagram because they also launched on Amazon. I decided that two independent requests was probably a sign I should at least look; I wanted to be able to get an early opinion out there to the craft community, as I know a lot of people may just hit YT with “Hey loookee cheap copics!” with some fast swatching – and I didn’t want folks making an investment decision based on someone trying to just get the first sales on a product new to our sector.

As with EVERY art supply, I don’t recommend things willy nilly. I truly believe in getting the best supplies you can afford, because my experience shows if I go for cheap, I end up tossing it at some point and getting the good stuff instead. It infuriates me that I fell for it yet again (ha!) and I want y’all to have your eyes wide open.

So the disclaimer on all this: If you make a purchase using my Amazon links, I will receive a % of that sale, at no cost to you. If you buy from my Ellen Hutson links, I will only receive a % if you have cookies turned ON.

So I humbly request you turn them back on if you’re attempting to help keep this blog going. Thanks!

Okay are ya ready? Get a cup of your fave beverage, this is a long one!

Video

Watch the video below or click HERE to see it on YouTube.

The markers

Sketchmarkers come in either 400 or 448 colors – there’s apparently a special 48 set not available everywhere (like Copic had an anniversary set at one point, I’m guessing).

The nibs are Japanese, as are the inks – I don’t know what it is about Japanese art supplies, but that gives me confidence. At first look I have zero idea how they last long term, how long the nibs last, how long til refilling (or even what that process is, etc). Lots of outstanding questions for me in a lot of areas.

The tests

After each image are some notes about what I learned in each test.

I made the choice to receive the “Pop” collection of colors, as it was the largest of the sets they offered me; I didn’t want a small set like skin/hair colors that wouldn’t give me an overview of naming conventions in other colors, etc. So the realism fail(ish) is not at all their fault – it’s mine. The US distributor did offer to send me some in between colors – perhaps we’ll still go that route, but I wanted this post out there sooner rather than later (Christmas is a-comin!) so opted to go with only what’s in my box. Aside from items listed in the animé piece below.

That said, once I got over not getting a strong creamy yellow for my trees, I was pretty satisfied with the ability to layer colors for a more realistic kind of colorway. This was a quick sketch – but I’m betting I could spend more time on something (and more product knowledge, and on better paper) and come out with something really nice.

As for the nib performance, it felt much like coloring with Copics – marks I made felt very natural. The pen is smaller in my hand, and I actually like a round body pen in general more than the oval Copic body – so that’s all pretty good.

I wish the caps did “post” (click onto the back of the pen while coloring) – Copics never did that at all and I’ve always wished they did – my pups love to chew on lids if one hits the floor. The pen bodies, as I said, are the part that got “cut” to lower the price, so the inconsistency in the posting (some do, some don’t) is to be expected.

A challenge: blending with really limited color selection! ha. Yeah, I know, probably unfair with the Pop collection! But even though it was on marker paper that doesn’t like to smoothly blend anyway, I was able to preview the color issue I was going to have with pink hair later – when trying to blend the several pinks, it went red really fast! And the edge of the yellow-orangey color didn’t want to melt/soften, though I could do some tip to tip coloring to try to compensate.

In general when people think of marker coloring, regular folks think of more graphic application of color – it’s cardmakers who insist on perfection in blending. Markers are considered more of a sketching medium than a fine art medium – think back to my waterfall drawing, where I wasn’t worried about blending, but more about the sketched result from a distance, not the nose-to-paper perfection.

On to Neenah! I stamped “Get Together” from Colorado Craft Company with Lawn Fawn’s Jet Black ink, on Neenah Cardstock, and everything felt much better right away. Ha! That’s the paper I use for almost all my marker work so it was comortable.

While this will take a lot more testing, I did notice more of the light colors “eating into” the darker areas – it’s something I’ve definitely seen with Copic but not to this extent. I’d have to test it with more color pairings and more of the Sketchmarker light colors to see if it really is a “thing” or not. For the casual user, especially cardmaker, it may entail being careful that light colors could act more like a colorless blender, pushing back darks – and for some you might love that if your darks take over! But – I was looking for differences to note, so that’s one.

And of course colors are different than Copic, so that’s to be expected. I’d be curious to see the full range in person and see if overall they’re more bright/cartoony as this Pop set feels – but remember – I chose this one, knowing it’s “pop” kinds of colors. So I wasn’t expecting my beloved neutral-ish colors. Plus, who wants the exact same colors in two lines? I’d like to be able to supplement my Copic collection with some useful other colors, so I’m glad they’re slightly different.

I know, I’m not an animé artist! That’s not my jam, though I’ve been asked if I’d create an animé coloring class for the kids and grandkids of some of my students – watch for that in 2022.

But I thought since some might want these less expensive pens for their young folks, I thought showing you this piece would help.

First – I wanted to see if the Copic airbrush would fit these pens, so handled the skintones that way. And yes, they fit! Just snap them all the way into the gun. (At first I thought it was a fail til I pushed it in til it snapped in place.) The angle that it sprays is different, so be aware of that.

Then the colors- the hair made me crazy! In my first attempt at this, I tried for smooth blending of the hair, and that reddish pink totally took over the pinkish pink, which was not what I wanted. Way too red.The whole thing came out really muddy, so I started over with a different plan – leaving some whites, then airbrushing on the last bit of color on top. That kept the pink feel.

The deeper shadows were, well, another problem. I tried using the bluish purple, and unfortunately that was too blue, and going over it with the reddish purple, it got muddy fast. In general I found the “muddy” to be an ongoing overall sadness with these pens – most people will never see it, but it’ll take having the right colors potentially to keep from creating muddy layers, I think. Hard to say with a limited color collection.

And if you want to download this to color up yourself – here’s the link to get it from my teaching site: LINK

My verdict, for now

For those who haven’t invested in Copics, these would be a decent alternative. Though right now I honestly can’t tell you what colors to get, or how to choose by color number (with Copics you can kinda say “get the same letters but go up or down two digits). I’m of no help at this point. But subscribe to my YT if you want any further updates in 2022. Be very careful who you listen to about “buy this set!” or “buy these colors!” Because everyone wants a piece of your dollars in their affiliate sales. Look at their art – is that what you want to create? If not, find someone else with advice for ya.

For those already invested in Copics: stay the course, IMHO. I won’t be choosing any of these as a go-to for my coloring, at least not yet. I may try to find some colors to insert into my Copic range, but I won’t be abandoning the investment already made – even WITH the cost of refills, they’re a better value for you as an artist. Remember, you already paid for that marker body. Use it! If you want to mix some of the Sketchmarker colors in with what you have, that’s totally fine.

For those who don’t even care about alcohol markers: You’re free to enjoy whatever mediums you love!

Supplies

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I’m only listing the brush marker sets here but you can get them in bullet (fine) with Chisel. NOTE: the fine/chisel MAY NOT have same colors as the brush sets. I’ve listed both Ellen Hutson’s links and Amazon’s; the AMZ Sketchmarker store has a selection of just a few sets.

  • 96 Set 1, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 96 Set 2, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 96 Set 3, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 96 Set 4, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • POP 48, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set — AMZ
  • People 36, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EHAMZ
  • Starter 36, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • America 36, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set — AMZ
  • Starter 24, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 24 Portrait, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 24 Manga, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 12 Gray, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • 12 Skin, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • Skin 6 Set 2, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • Cool Gray 6, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • Neutral Gray 6, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • Skin 6 Set 1, Sketchmarker Brush Pro Marker Set —- EH
  • These items are not in their Amazon store:
    • Sketchmarkers sketchbook
    • Sketchmarkers Bristol pad
    • Sketchmarkers Illustration pad
    • Sketchmarkers Marker pad
    • Sketchmarkers liner pens