Lady Teceangl Bach took it upon herself to study the reliability of many different kinds of texta (marker pens, if you’re not Antipodean) to see which brands were best for heraldic purposes.  Here method is explained in the companion article; this is the nitty-gritty detail of everything she found.

Markers, huh?  Yeah, I know something about markers.

For the past four or five years I’ve been testing markers for SCA usability.  This is a list of the brands I have on hand currently:

  • Crayola Classic
  • Crayola Classic washable
  • Crayola Click-On
  • Crayola Twistables
  • Crayola Flip-Top
  • Crayola Super Tips
  • Crayola Doodling
  • Color Gear by Rose Art classic
  • Color View by Rose Art
  • Colorific classic
  • Colorific retractable
  • Faber-Castell
  • e-color-gy by Liquimark
  • Foohy classic colors scented markers
  • Scholastic
  • Ultra Color classic
  • Prang classic
  • Prang Fun Pro
  • Mr. Sketch
  • Pentel
  • Western Family
  • Bic Mark-It
  • Bic Magic Marker
  • Sharpie Flip Chart markers
  • Sharpie permanent markers (partial set – red, green, black)
  • Busykids
  • Cars Supercharged by Sandylion (Disney licensed)
  • Marvy Marker (partial set – blue, green, brown)
  • Colorations (partial set – green, yellow, purple)

I have had the opportunity to mess around with Staedtler when my husband was in design school.  Awesome quality, expensive, VERY serious ink that will take out the printed lines on the page if you color over them.

Testing I do involved color trueness, durability under ‘normal’ (SCA normal) handling, durability under extreme conditions, ability to retain color over long periods, and how well the markers stand up to being hauled around and abused in practice.  I haven’t had the budget to see how long they last against one another (i.e. how many submissions forms before you kill them off), and would welcome any information I can get on that.

Here are some broad results that might help:

Crayola Classic – the ‘standard’, but don’t leave ’em in direct sunlight because they dry out. Note that ‘classic’ means ‘the color set with primary colors’, it does not indicate non-washable ink (washables are ‘Classic’, too.)  Nip that rumor right in the bud.

Crayola Classic washable – Same staying power as non-washable (doesn’t wash off paper any more or less than non-washable, darn it), exact shade of colors differs from non-washable but all colors are distinct and unmistakeable. As good as non-washable in all meaningful ways.

Crayola Super Tips – dangerous in that the set has multiple shades of each color and some shades are unsuitable for heraldic use. Choose carefully and you can select out the correct palette. Red is oranger than other Crayola pens, after time under uncontrolled temperature conditions (in a steel outdoor mailbox for two days with 30 degree nights and 70 degree days) the red went dangerously, returnably orange. Otherwise the ink has the typical Crayola staying power.

Crayola Doodling – VERY dangerous in that the set is primarily pastels. You can pick out a decent heraldic color collection from it, though. Mine dried out faster than any Crayola product I’ve ever had but before that they had the same staying power (wet, temperature, fade) as other Crayolas.

Crayola Click-On – All the color trueness and durability of the two above Crayola products with the benefit that you can build things with them between clients. I highly recommend these.

Crayola Twistables – Most colors match Classic except purple, which is too magenta straight out of the pen for SCA use and only gets worse with time. This is returnable ‘not purpure’ purple and should be avoided. Preliminary waterfastness testing equates these with Crayola products above. Staying power (a little door clicks across the tip when retracted to keep it from drying out) is unknown as I’ve only had my set three days.

Crayola Flip-Top – Crayola reports that the ink in these is precisely the ink they use in other markers. Perhaps by formula, but not by color. The yellow is exceedingly lemon, the green darker than any other secondary Crayola green and the purple is blue-gray and not suitable for submission use as it blurs the line between purpure and azure big-time. The yellow is so close to highlighter I scanned it to see if it disappeared – it does not but I’m not confident it has any staying power, either. Yellow, any brand or type, always disappears first when a colored sheet gets wet, but this yellow didn’t even leave a trace that it had ever been there, unlike other Crayola golden yellows which at least leave evidence. Have not had the chance to time-test these as I’ve only had my set a few days.

The caps are a major disappointment. Good idea: caps affixed to the pen so you can’t lose them. Bad idea: flimsy construction where they’re attached and fits that are too tight to click cap to bottom of pen and keep out of the way, so tight on tip that I hurt my wrist getting caps off and when I let others play with them two people could not get caps sealed tightly without serious (teeth-gritting, two-handed grunting) effort. My test group was husband and another male herald. These are badly constructed pens.

Color Gear by Rose Art classic – True colors but watch the red. Older pens tend to orange out. Has all the staying power of Crayola. Purple is a bit more wine than grape, but is unmistakably purple and not magenta. I would consider this an excellent contender for SCA primary use if Crayola wasn’t on the market, and a perfectly good marker set even against Crayola. Brands are either Rose Art or Color Gear, product is same no matter which name is on the box.

Color View by Rose Art – Highly disappointing. The ink began to fade in the pen (possibly because the ‘View’ is transparent barrels). They were appreciably drying out within a month of purchase and while the colors are unmistakable, black should no be gray. Not recommended.

Colorific classic – The third best pen on the market for our purposes. Again, the red oranges out when the pen gets old but keep it capped and it’s a very true color. The brown is (IMHO) better than Crayola, being a tad lighter and having more contrast against everything else. The purple is excellent. All the staying power of Crayola and Rose Art and in fact, the ‘washable’ labeled inks are deeper in shade than standard, which means that under wet conditions the colors fade out at the same rate. Right up there with Crayola and possibly in contention to push Rose Art/Color Gear out of the #2 spot.

Colorific retractable – No black! The set comes with the three primaries and the three secondaries, alas, because these are excellent pens. Strong color, easy to use (ball-point style click), and the little door protecting the tip has kept my set fresh for over a year. The colors are strong and durable (the red is pure stop sign). Even lacking a sable or brown marker, I highly recommend this set.

Faber-Castell – Spendier than many other sets, as these are considered ‘real’ art supplies. Comes in fine and thick tips. Colors are amazingly true and stand up very well to fade conditions in sunlight and temperature swings.  Brown is darkish with zilch contrast with black or purple, purple is pure and true and stays that way. If you’re willing to spend the money, these are excellent markers.

e-color-gy by Liquimark – For green heralds. Recycled materials in the markers and packaging (100% recycled in the packaging). All parts of marker and package made in the USA. Spendier than everything else but Faber-Castell, Pentel, Bic and Sharpie, but with the environmental benefits, I considered it a good buy. Promises an unconditional guarantee and somehow I believe them. Colors are excellent and preliminary fade and wet tests put them on a par with Rose Art for staying power. Have had them a month, testing continues.

Foohy classic colors scented markers – Colors are good, blue is the color of those road signs pointing to hospitals. These are scented markers, and for that reason I do not recommend them because it takes a month or so for the scent to face. I have received a cherry-licorice-banana-mint submission packet and had to leave it outside for several days in order to not get nauseated by it. Don’t do this to submissions heralds, please.

Scholastic – Strong, bold colors that survived the wet test as well as Crayola. I’ve had them three days so that’s about all I can say about these.

Ultra Color classic – The red starts life wan and gets worse. These have good colors straight out of the pen but aren’t holding up under fade or damp conditions. I say spend your money on something more certain.

Prang classic – (Sometimes marketed as Prang Professional) Good colors right out of the pen and appreciable staying power. These are also marketed as serious art supplies, so you’re paying for that. I find they have cap issues, if you’re not diligent about assuring the caps are snapped on completely, you’ll get premature drying and tip disintegration. When that happens the yellow oranges our horrible and the black goes utterly gray. The brown is dangerously dark from the beginning, brown and black together are only distinguishable under directly, strong light. For durability they’re fine, for serious and continued use, go with a less expensive but more sturdy brand.

Prang Fun Pro – Cheaper than Prang classic. Colors match and they’re
appreciably durable under wet test. Fade test isn’t far enough along for more than a guess, but they’re holding up well against Crayola. Same cap problems as Prang Classics.

Mr. Sketch – These are also scented, and in a different scent palette than Foohy, but the odors last as long. Reasonable staying power under fade tests, okay wet test results, true colors (but several shades of each color are in the set so choose with care). Not recommended because they’re scented.

Pentel – Dangerous because every set has multiple shades of each color. Professional grade markers and priced to match. Green and purple and blue are so dark that using any two colors together risks contrast issues. Excellent fade test results, good wet test results, almost impervious to temperature changes. Recommended only of you’re not trying something like complex lines between colors or anything not Or on vair, etc.

Western Family – Cost me $2 at the grocery store for a fine-tip set of primary/secondary colors matching Classic sets. Colors are, frankly, excellent. Temperature and wet durability is good, fade is acceptable. Get it on your hands and expect to be technicolor for a couple of showers or so. I recommend these cheap no-brand markers for SCA use, save that they’re find points so coloring large areas is tedius.

Bic Mark-It – Fine points and therefore a real pain to color areas with. They’re marketed as permanent and believe it; the paper disintegrated before the color did. Pack has different shades of each color which are either too light or too dark, mostly. Not a problem in two-tincture armory, can cause confusion when more than three tinctures exist. Expensive. All in all, not recommended.

Bic Magic Marker – My set died in the package. Two weeks after purchase, before having had them out to use at all, they were dry. I was unimpressed by the brand that used to be the industry standard. They’re too dry to effectively test so I’m looking for another pack and hoping this was a fluke.

Sharpie Flip Chart markers – Broad-tip markers that look like highlighters but have bold colors. The package says they won’t bleed through the paper, don’t believe it. I had to take an alcohol wipe to the table. The purple is pure, true, absolute magenta and TOTALLY unacceptable for SCA use. The blue is dangerously dark, as in without comparing it side-by-side to black you might not be able to tell the difference. Naturally they’re acing all wet, fade and temp tests. Far too expensive to recommend, what with the color issues.

Sharpie permanent markers (partial set – red, green, black) – Soaks
through the paper, is impervious to heat, wet and light, colors are insanely vibrant (blue’s a bit dark). If you want to spend the money, just don’t color the forms on anything you don’t want to mark up for good. Soaks through the page without any problem.

Busykids – Cheap set I bought at JoAnn’s. Dangerous package – lots of colors, so select carefully to get true heraldic ones. Waterfastness is negligible, but the colors are true. Haven’t had the set long enough for a real stress test yet.

Cars Supercharged by Sandylion (Disney licensed) – Dollar store. Pack
is eight medium tip markers in primary colors. Also seen were Princess and Fairy sets with all the ‘girly’ pastels. Forget those, but the Cars markers colors are really awesome (one of the best reds I’ve ever seen) and they hold up well under wet conditions. Still working on fade and temperature tests, and to see  if the markers themselves survive for any length of time.

Marvy Marker (partial set – blue, green, brown) – I can’t find a full set of these, darn it. I remember from my youth they were very good quality. Right now I like the color values of the three I have and the tip doubles as wide or fine. I bought them out of a ‘cheap stuff’ box and they’ve survived that sort of handling fine; I was told they’re “at least” a year old. Wet tests are very favorable, so are preliminary fade tests. Haven’t had time to do more than freeze them, which didn’t affect markers or colored page at all. I want to test warm colors and purple before coming to any conclusions.

Colorations (partial set – green, yellow, purple) – More from the ‘cheap stuff’ box. All they say o the barrel is Colorations; I’ve never heard of them before. The purple is awesome, so is the yellow, and the green matches Colorific. Right now they’re pacing Rose Art in durability, but again I want to test an entire set before making conclusions.

That’s what I’ve got so far. I’m always looking for new brands to test and am willing to answer specific questions (like ‘can you get the ink off the cat?’) and run specific tests upon request. I mean, come on. I’m playing with markers here, so any excuse will do.

Author: Teceangl Bach (with input from Giles Leabrook). Updated: 15 May 2009 (AS XLIV)