Want to do a little painting without a lot of mess? Try a paint marker! Unlike regular markers, which are filled with various kinds of ink, or watercolor markers, paint markers or pens lay down opaque colors that sit up on surfaces like paint. The paint marker was first patented in 1926 as a “fountain paintbrush” with a sponge tip and a reservoir filled with paint. Nowadays, paint pens take the form of a marker with a felt tip available in a variety of widths and a barrel containing either oil- or water-based paint. Paint markers are great for using on paper, of course, as well as glass, wood, stone, plastic, and ceramics. Most of these pens require activation by first shaking them and then pressing the tip to paper to make the ink flow. The best set of paint markers for your next project is probably listed below.
1. Uni Posca Paint Markers
Our favorite paint markers strike the right balance of price, consistency, and ease of use. The felt tips seamlessly lay down ultra-opaque, incredibly pigmented paint that is water-soluble while wet and water-resistant when fully dried to a consistent matte finish. This happens quite quickly when left alone, which makes them ideal for layering. They are easy to wipe off when applied to nonporous surfaces and stay permanent on porous materials such as wood or paper. Suitable for users of all ages, Posca’s markers are sold individually, or in sets like this pack of 29, which features markers in “natural” colors like Sky Blue and Coral Pink, as well as metallic silver and gold. You can also blend them to create more colors! Notably, the medium-size tips can be reversed once you wear down one end.
2. Sharpie Paint Makers
These matte markers deliver the famed permanence of Sharpie and then some. They are specifically designed to draw not just on porous surfaces but also on nonporous materials like glass and terra-cotta. Quick-drying and bold, the oil-based paint dispenses evenly so you always feel like you’re in control. The pens are available in 15 handsome hues and four tip sizes (extra fine, fine, medium, and bold) and are sold in sets like this pack of five fashion colors.
3. MTN 5mm Water-Based Paint Markers
An excellent fine art option, Montana’s MTN lightfast, water-based paint markers are cool and uncommon: This set of 20 medium-tip markers, for instance, includes traditional artists’ colors like Quinacridone Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, and Azo Orange in addition to handy basics like Titanium White and Carbon Black. The paint dries to a matte finish and is easy to clean up with soap and water when wet; seal it with Montana varnish after it’s dry for a water- and abrasion-proof finish. Because the tips are highly responsive, you can vary your pressure to create different effects—perfect for careful illustrators. The pens also feature a valve system that regulates the liquid contents to help achieve accurate application. Finally, Montana’s markers are also great for the eco-conscious as you can refill them or replace their nibs.
4. Sakura Pen-Touch Paint Marker
Artists searching for the perfect paint pen would be remiss to overlook Sakura’s contributions to the medium. The oil-based paint leaves raised, bright color on just about any surface, including metal, wood, glass plastic, paper, and stone, and it is both waterproof and fadeproof. The odor- and Xylene-free paint also dries quickly, so smearing is not an issue. What sets Sakura’s Pen-Touch implements apart are their replaceable nibs, which, at 1.0mm, are 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.
5. Uchida Decocolor Paint Marker Set
These markers feature brightly colored oil-based ink that dispenses with minimal pressure. It is also very fast-drying, thanks to the addition of xylene to its formula—the only product on our list with this ingredient. Note that xylene is a paint solvent and so this may not be the option for young ones. But because it also serves as a protective layer, it is weatherproof and can be used for outdoor art. You can use these markers on many surfaces including metal, wood, porcelain, and stone. We also like how the barrel feels in the hand, offering a thick and supersmooth grip. The DecoColor line offers 30 wonderful colors, but you can purchase them only in curated sets like this pastel-themed one.