The post provides a product review.
Above: No this is not a painting made with Letraset Aquamarkers. This is a gouache painting made over a drawing made with the markers. It's in an 8 x 8 inch journal I made with now defunct paper (which always took watercolor even though it wasn't a watercolor paper). I've used gouache over the sketching. The writing is made with the lavender pen in this line, the same one I sketched with. Read more about all this below.
I like to sketch with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen or other pens and then paint in gouache over those sketches. Most of the time you can't even tell that there's a pen sketch under there.
Sometimes I like to try other markers and pens to see how they hold up to this, or to see what they can offer in the way of sketching options. So the other day when I was going through the Daniel Smith Catalog, and needed to make an order anyway, how could I resist spending some of my birthday money on the Letraset Aquamarker set of 12 water-based markers (with a free blender pen)?
Let me announce right now that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a marker person. Lots of my graphic designer friends started out using markers and never left off. Sensitive to smells I avoided all markers and always had other ways to get my work done—most specifically digitally.
I have Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush and Calligraphy pens in lots of colors and use them, but not the way they are shown used on their packaging. There you see pictures not only of sketches but full illustrations—nope, don't do that. I really don't like the way marker looks when it overlaps the previously laid down line. I use my pens from F-C for sketching and I'm happy with that. Typically I end up painting over the lines anyway.
You need to know however, that I don't use markers for "painting." So when I saw the advertisement for Letraset Aquamarkers filled with lovely "painted" images and copy which explained that they were waterbased (no smell there I thought), pigmented inks (oh, joy of joys), and blendable (be still my heart), the money flew right out of my pocket. Did I mention that they had a fine tip and a "brush" tip?
Here's what I found.
On all papers I used them on (watercolor papers included, and drawing papers that have taken all sorts of other wet media) I found that the overlapping of the strokes was awful, the blending with either water or with the blender pen was slow, tedious, uneven, and roughed up the paper. The "brush" tip is fat and solid and has no ability to provide stroke variation, unless you turn it on its side for a fat, uniform stroke. The fine tip is similar to the tip in the old Pantone markers (which may still be made, and I just realized I did use those, but for "airbrushing" with a special nozzle attachment to my air compressor, another long story). In other words that fine nib is equally inflexible.
I also found the color selection rather wimpy, almost all light tints that go on pale and when you do manage to wash them out are even more pale. I like my pigments to have Umph. (Hence my love of gouache.)
After finding blending didn't work at all for me I decided to just use these pens for lettering and sketching.
Believe me, it isn't often that you find a pigmented ink pen that doesn't smell and comes in lovely colors.
So if that's your only hope in regards to these pens, you're home free. These will be great fun to write with in your journals because they have "superior lightfastness and they're acid free too." (According to the packaging.)
As you see in the image opening this post, I decided to sketch with the pens and paint over them. I thought it would be fun to drag pigment from the inked line into my paintings.
Left: Here you can see the sketch before the paint was applied. The background strokes caused the paper to be roughed up. The blending pen didn't work at all on this paper. I left the background to be painted over. I'm not sure what the name of this dog actually is, but it's something like what I've jotted down.
After sketching this dog, I did in fact go over the sketch with gouache, drawing out color, covering other color, allowing some lines of color to show. It was fun and I know I'll have fun using the pens up in just this way, and also for writing. But I won't repurchase them because: I'm not a marker person.
Now, if you are a marker person I have one more thing to say. I was ready to write off these pens, but I'm testing a new sketchbook with plate surface paper. Since these pens were on my desk I picked one up and worked with it on that paper, and WOW! (More about the sketchbook later this week.)
On plate paper the pen overlapped its own line in a more pleasant manner and blended well with water. I didn't even try the blending pen I liked the water blend so well.
So, if you are a marker person and you like to work on plate surface paper, these might be just the pens for you.
Be honest with yourself when purchasing these pens—are you a marker person or not? The honest answer to that question might just save you some frustration, or bring you a whole lot of fun.
Left: Detail of the final painting shows at points A, B, and C, where I left some lavender pen line showing, where I teased out some color from the pen line for shadow, and where I used pen line as the first step in a base for building dark color, respectively. You can also see in the rendering of the eye (these dogs have bulging eyes hence the visible sclera) that I have used the lavender ink lines as part of the undershading in the pupil, left it for eyelid definition, and shaded the pupil on the lower side. Most fun, however, was B, teasing out the line's color to mix with my zinc white gouache for a shadow. Schmincke gouache. (Since it was important to me that you see detail I left this sliver at 300 dpi. It's not larger in size that the full images at lower resolution so you should be able to see some fun detail and not have trouble opening it. If you do let me know and I'll post a lower res version.)