The versatile marker isn’t limited to grade school art projects. This affordable pen is used by writers and artists alike. Smooth and offering firm control, the marker is excellent for everything from drawing to hand lettering. Keep reading to learn considerations for picking out a marker and see our favorites for different applications.
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There are two types of tips among markers. One is a firm, plastic nib that is typically housed in a metal funnel. It dispenses ink evenly, making it suitable for writing or detailed illustrations. The other is a spongy, fibrous felt tip, usually shaped like a cone. It loses its firmness over time, but its shape is more versatile. For example, you can use the point of the tip to write finely or turn it on its side to shade or color.
Markers come in various tip sizes. Fine tips produce more precise lines, but they can feel scratchier to use relative to broader markers. On the flip side, broad tips create fewer details but feel smoother and lay down bolder lines. Depending on the ink type and tip material, one brand's definition of a fine tip may not be the same as another brand.
Most of our marker pens are pigment- or water-based, but we also carry some alcohol (permanent) and oil-based inks. Oil- and alcohol-based inks tend to bleed more through paper since they're meant to be used on other media, such as glossy paper, plastic, metal, or glass. Some markers feature acid-free ink. For example, the pigment ink in the Sakura Micron pens is acid free and archival so your work retains its quality and color over time.
Bleedthrough is a common issue since markers cover a greater area and dispense more ink than other kinds of pens. This is especially true when you're using a marker pen for writing. However, aside from permanent and oil-based pens, many markers do not bleed through paper.
As ink flows more freely in markers than in other pens, feathering is a serious concern. How much an ink feathers depends on a combination of the ink formula and the paper used. We usually use marker-friendly paper like Rhodia and Kokuyo, so we don’t experience much feathering unless we linger on a word or point.
Water and Copic resistance is important if you use your markers with other tools, such as water brushes or Copic pens (alcohol-based ink). An innocent swipe of a wet brush or Copic marker may result in a muddy mess if you're not careful.
If you’re planning to work with water, make sure that the marker that you’re using is water resistant or waterproof. When exposed to water, “water-resistant” inks may run or fade but still remain legible. Waterproof inks are completely unaffected by water.
The Faber-Castell PITT Pen is lightfast, waterproof, and Copic-proof to ensure that your work lasts. Its tip sizes range from 0.1 mm to 2.5 mm, so you can use it to make both detailed illustrations and bold lines. The 0.3 mm tip comes in the most colors, with 14 colors available, and writes smoothly despite its small size. The ink shows through paper, particularly the darker colors, but doesn't bleed.
Artists love the compact Sakura Pigma Micron. It contains smooth-flowing ink that is acidfree, permanent, and archival. These qualities ensure that your work lasts over time. Sakura Pigma ink is also Copic proof and waterproof, which makes it easy to use with other art tools like Copic markers and water brushes. The pen sports a dependable cap that protects the tip from drying out as well as a durable metal clip that hangs securely onto notebooks and pen slots.
It comes in 17 colors in the Size 05 (0.45 mm) range. Try not to press too hard on the pen tip or it may cause small squirts of ink to spit out.
The Zebra ClickArt Pen's unique retractable tip makes it ideal for jotting down quick notes or swapping colors while you color code. The vibrant ink takes about fifteen seconds to dry on smooth paper, but it dries nearly instantaneously on copy paper. The 0.6 mm tip is a little bolder than the other markers listed here, making it best for attention-grabbing headers and key information—or notes that you have trouble remembering! If you're more artistically inclined, this marker's ink is also waterproof and Copic proof, allowing you to use it with watercolors and Copic markers.
The sleek Marvy Le Pen writes smoothly with very little feathering and just the slightest showthrough from the back side. The ink dries within five seconds so you won’t get unsightly smears on your notes. The barrel is slim and lightweight, perfect for slipping in your pen case without adding too much bulk. The cap sports a sturdy metal clip and snaps on securely to the barrel. Marvy Uchida’s most popular pen also comes in a rainbow of 36 colors, which you can use for marking distinct sections and keywords in your notes with different colors.
With its thin tip and wide variety of colors, the Triplus Fineliner is one of our favorites for both writing down thoughts and adding decorations in a journal. Despite its thin body, the triangular shape creates a comfortable grip even during long writing sessions. It also lends itself well to bullet journaling and planning, creating a fine line so you can squeeze information into calendar boxes. The Triplus comes in 60 colors—more than enough for doodling, writing, and creating eye-catching headers.
The ink is formulated with Staedtler’s "dry safe" technology, which means that it can be left uncapped for a few days without drying out. However, we don’t recommend leaving your pen uncapped indefinitely.
For writing and personalizing a journal with doodles and art, the Uni EMOTT is our top choice among plastic tip markers. Its tip is reinforced with a protective plastic shield, making it great for heavy-handed writers and long writing sessions. No matter the angle or pressure, the pen creates a consistent line. The ink dries within ten seconds, preventing smearing. The ink is also water and Copic resistant—it will run a bit, but the writing underneath will stay legible in case of any spills. It comes in 40 colors, including bold shades, sweet pastels, and muted vintage colors.
If you can’t seem to color within the lines, you’ll appreciate the erasable Pilot FriXion Marker. Pilot FriXion ink is heat-sensitive and erases with friction. If you color a little over the line, simply rub your marks with the rubber eraser on the cap and watch the ink disappear. Be aware that the ink can disappear with heat, so don’t store your coloring book in hot places.
The distinctly hexagonal Stabilo Point 88 is a European staple. This pen has a thin plastic nib but we find that it writes slightly thicker than the Japanese pens mentioned in this guide. The thin tip helps you color within the lines. It is also rounded, which makes it ideal for shading. The ink doesn’t bleed unless you color over the same section a few times. Our favorite feature is the incredible range of colors — with 55 to choose from, you can pick out exactly the shade you're looking for.
The double-sided Mackee allows you to produce fine 0.5 mm lines and broad 1.0 mm lines. It uses an alcohol- and oil-based ink that writes on a variety of surfaces including paper, plastic, metal, and fabric. The ink is water resistant but can be removed from nonporous surfaces with alcohol. From previous tests, we found that the Mackee writes well on zip-top bags used for storing food. The ink doesn't rub off with condensation but can be easily washed off. The Mackee's body is made of 83% recycled plastic and it's also refillable, which makes it economical and eco-friendly.
The Ultra Fine Sharpie Marker features a thin plastic nib but its free-flowing ink creates a thick, bold line. It bleeds on regular paper but fares well on adhesive labels and nonporous surfaces like metal and glass. You can also pair it with washi tape for labeling small jars. It retains its boldness on washi tape and won’t smear. Since the ink is water resistant, rest assured that your letters will remain legible even if they come in contact with water.
Dubbed the "Original Fiber-Tipped Pen," the Pentel Sign Pen sports a simple plastic body and secure snap-fit cap. Smooth and easy to control, the firm tip is better for creating consistent letter shapes and outlines rather than expressive line variation. The ink is made of a water-based dye that yields bright, intense lines. This pen is available in 12 colors.
In the brush lettering community, the Tombow Dual Brush is highly lauded for good reason. On one end of the pen is a flexible felt tip which allows for expressive brushstrokes depending on the angle and pressure used when writing. On the other end is a sturdy bullet tip for adding details, outlining, or doodling. Because it’s water soluble, a blending kit can be used to create washes of color or to combine inks. The Tombow Dual Brush comes in 108 colors and is available in sets or as single pens if you want to curate a collection of your favorite colors.
The Uni Posca is a versatile multi-surface marker. It dispenses waterproof, opaque ink that shows up on both light and dark surfaces. It shows up well on porous surfaces, such as paper and wood, and non-porous surfaces, such as glass, plastic, and metal. When dry, the ink can be scraped off of non-porous surfaces, but will permanently adhere to porous ones. In the 0.7 mm tip size, it comes in 29 colors.
The Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker can write on almost any non-porous surface including glass, plastic, metal, wood, and stone. Like the Uni Posca, its ink is opaque when applied. It is also water, fade, and abrasion resistant and quick drying, making it perfect for outdoor craft projects. We recommend using it on glossy or coated paper, as it may bleed through regular, non-coated paper. This marker comes in 15 different colors in the Medium size.
Those who play or fidget with their pens will love the Artline Blox. It features an interlocking design on both the pen body and cap. You can snap the pens together side-by-side or end-to-end to create a fun shape. The design also makes storing and organizing them easier. The ink shows up best on light, smooth paper and is suitable for drawing, writing, or color-coding. This pen comes in 18 colors and would be a great gift for any child (or kid at heart)!
Like the broader-tipped felt marker, the Pilot FriXion Fineliner uses FriXion ink that erases easily and cleanly. Its erasability makes it a good choice for coloring, notes, or making tentative plans in a planner, but we don't advise using it for important documents—it's more likely to smear than the other pens listed here as it takes a little longer to dry, and the ink disappears when exposed to heat. It comes in 12 colors, which are fairly bright but slightly less saturated than comparable colors in this guide.
The Marvy Uchida Bistro Chalk Marker features water-based pigment ink that is opaque on non-porous surfaces such as whiteboards, glass, and chalkboards. It can be erased from some, but not all, chalkboards with a damp cloth. We recommend testing it in a small area before writing or drawing over a larger area. In the fine tip size it is available in 22 different colors, including unconventional, fluorescent shades and eye-catching metallics.
We tested these products for bleed through, water-resistance, and Copic-resistance. Tests were done on Rhodia DotPad paper, which is smooth and non-absorbent.
Our writers draw on their personal expertise, consult our in-house subject matter experts, and do extensive research to make our guides as accurate and comprehensive as possible. We then test every finding that makes it through the research stage. Only the techniques and tools whose performance we personally confirm make it into our guides as recommendations.
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Whether you love writing in large bold strokes or are looking to improve your penmanship, a trusty marker is the perfect pen for the job. With a huge variety of colors, tip sizes, and applications, it will always have a special place in our pen case. Let us know how you use your markers below!