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It’s paint! It’s a pen! Actually, it’s an oil-based marker, so it’s kind of both—and neither. Broadly, many implements can be considered oil-based markers: Most inks branded as “permanent” contain glycerides, the water-repellent chemical building blocks of vegetable oils and animal fats. Paint markers and pens, as they are often marketed, go a step further: They contain oil-based paint rather than ink and thus usually need to be shaken before use. The lines are typically not only water resistant but also resistant to fading and abrasion. That’s across materials, too: You can expect these products to work on any surface that oil-based paint will cling to, like earthenware, ceramic, glass, and more. Below, find our recommendations.
Chromatek Medium-Tip Paint Pens
Experienced mixed-media artists and newbies alike will find themselves entranced by this nicely priced Chromatek set. We’re obsessed with the sheer number of colors on tap: 21 vibrant hues, including two metallics (silver and gold). The nib shape allows you to fine-tune your line thickness, making these markers a good fit for both high-coverage and high-detail projects. You’ll surely hit the ground running with these quick-drying, anti-fade pens, but if you’re looking for inspiration, your set comes with an e-book replete with craft ideas and instructions. Just be warned: The paint flows quickly from the nib, so be wary when coloring for the first time—you might want to be conservative with pen pressure until you get a feel for these.
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Decocolor Paint Markers
Need a pen that can brave the elements? Decocolor’s paint markers stand up to all manner of outdoor signage needs. They’re lightfast and weatherproof, and, like the Chromatek set, they dry almost instantly. Their “permanent” calling card is no joke, either: Their paint can be cleaned off only with turpentine, or rubbed away with a chisel-tip paint marker remover from the same brand. Decocolor’s markers come in four vibrant color packs (primary, pastel, hot, and metallic) in a range of nib sizes and styles; the offerings are somewhat similar to Sharpie’s line, but at a slightly lower price.
Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers
It’s all the permanence of Sharpie and then some: This pen line is specifically designed to draw not just on porous surfaces but also on nonporous materials like glass and terracotta. The pens are available in the same handsome colors and range of tips (extra fine, fine, medium, bold) as ink-based Sharpie pens. You can buy them individually or in sets of 2 to 8.
Castle Arts Oil Based Premium Paint Pens
At first glance these pens seem like your standard middle-of-the-road pick: They’re not quite as pricey as Sharpie or Decocolor, but also not as kaleidoscopic as reigning champ Chromatek. What’s special about these will become clear as you put pen to paper—or whatever material you use them on. The dozen colors in Castle Arts’ pack are completely gorgeous, coming in bright peacock tones, metallics with lustrous sheens, and rich blacks and whites. Why Artists’ Choice? For those who feel confident blending colors, these are some of the most mixable on our list.
Sakura Pen-Touch Paint Markers
Artists searching for the perfect paint pen would be remiss to overlook Sakura’s contributions to the genre. What sets Sakura’s Pen-Touch implements apart are their replaceable nibs, available in a variety of sizes. (None are bold or chisel-tip, so these are really best for finer lines and detail work.) The color options aren’t expansive, but they are luscious, with an emphasis on metallics, black and white, and standard primary and secondary colors. They’re available in sets of 3 to 7, as well as individually.