Acrylic Markers—Do You Prefer a Certain Brand?

July 7, 2014


Above: Montana Markers (pink and red), Golden High Flow acrylic paint in one of their markers (PB60, dark blue), Sharpie Poster Paint Marker (non-solvent; white); and a couple dried out lavender tints in Zig markers. On thin Japanese notebook paper. I first sketched with the blue pen, then worked the pink background in with a 15 mm tipped Montana, then added the other colors—using colors that were on hand because I didn't want to dig out more markers. The brown splotchiness under the epaulet button on the far right is dye-based ink seeping through from the next page. In general if I really like something I did on a page I make time to scan it and keep a digital copy the day I create it, before the ink from the next spread comes into play, but I'm actually not minding that contamination much at all, which is a huge surprise to me and it's unclear if this is a temporary abberation or permanent temperament change. And for people guessing, that's Ciarán Hinds in "Persuasion," my favorite film adapation of what is arguably one of the most achingly sad romances Jane Austen wrote.

Readers of my blog will realize that for the last several years I've been experimenting with using Montana Markers in various nib sizes (from a fine tip to a wide tip that's 60mm). 

During April's celebration of International Fake Journal Month 2014 I used makers sometimes to sketch, sometimes to lay flat color on a paper that didn't like wet media much. It was a way to easily and quickly get some color down without adding a lot of moisture to the mix.

Other journal artists might enjoy the same characteristics. These characteristics are also useful when you want to quickly add a background or when you want to add a bit of flat color, or large lettering, or when you want to lay down a base of color onto which you'll add additional media.

This last approach is particularly useful when you are use non-art papers not sized for wet media. What you need is a paper that doesn't allow seepage of the acrylic paint in the marker. Not every drawing paper or non-art paper or non-wet media paper does that. You'll have to do a test. But I've found that some very "flimsy" sheets made for "note taking" can yield surprising results, like the thin paper in the lined Japanese notebooks I've been using lately (seen in the two images posted today).

I've promised to write about these notebooks, and I will, but I need to video tape a flip through.

My real love for ink sketching is the dip pen, but I am a total klutz when it comes to carrying ink around, so I don't use it out and about. I'm also working larger now than I typically work when working with dip pens, and so I've been seeking ways to scale up my line. Nothing says scaled up quite as well as a 15 or 30 mm fiber tip! (And I've enjoyed doing some sketching with those broad tips, tilting them on edge and in general getting looser because detail work isn't possible with them unless you slow down and take extra care, and I'm not interested in taking care at the moment.

After using the Montana markers and their acrylic paint I've tried one Molotow Marker (a shocking, shocking pink), and have been working with the Golden High Flow Acrylic Paints. The last seems to me to be the best paint in that it's pigmented with the same attention to detail that Golden uses in its other paint lines so you can get mostly single pigment paints and know what you're mixing, and they are high quality. 

In my initial tests Golden High Flow Acrylic Paint also seems a little more transparent or translucent. That's not necessarily a good thing. I really like the matte and opaque nature of the Montana paints, especially the pink and light blue, which I must use daily.

But until recently I had not tried the Golden MARKERS, I was putting Golden High Flow Acrylic Paint in other empty markers that I had. 

140625_HiFlowFaceNotesLeft: Another Golden Marker experiment, filled with their High Flow Acrylic Paint. My goal on this day was to get fussy with the fine tip to see if I could control my hatch marks without blobbling, and get a sense of value. (That's Montana Marker added afterwards in the background, and also pink Montana Marker.)

The one problem I've always had with Montana Marker's fiber tips is that they seem a bit scratchy to me and don't flow as quickly as I would like them to. I have to contantly press the tip to get paint to flow. I shouldn't find this disruptive because when you work with a dip pen you do, after all, have to stop frequently and refill it. But for some reason I do find this disruptive.

Then I tired the fine tipped Golden marker with their High Flow Acrylic Paint (PB 60 of course), on June 12, 2014. What a difference. If flowed smoothly and evenly—it looks like my usual maker drawings as far as line quality goes—I'm not one who smooths and blends markers.

In my second example (June 25) I tried to work with the fine tip more like I would with a dip pen. I got frustrated in various areas and fussy. It is difficult for me, without more practice, to control the ink to achieve the different values I effortlessly achieve with a dip pen. Here I'm trying to angle the tip to get it to do thinner lines and a lighter deposit of ink, but at some point you have to call up more ink. If I'm going to make that work successfully with this approach I'm going to have to have more of a plan in mind, so that each time the pen is fully loaded I go to the dark values and work there until the ink runs down a bit and I can work in a lighter value elsewhere. It's doable, I just need to concentrate. Which is exactly how I learned to work with the rhythm and flow of the dip pen; so it's doable. I have to ask myself what types of marks I really want to make with these tools and if they are fun enough for the results I get. The fact that the Golden marker tips didn't feel as scratchy was a huge plus for me. (And I know that there is a certain amount of scratchiness to dip pens, depending on which one, but you can control it with the paper you use and the nibs you select, and it's a different type of scratchy. I'm sure decades from now some artist will write about how these types of markers are scratchy but because they grew up with them…)

I also found Golden's paint is a little slicker, so that in doing the hatching I sometimes get more smearing than I do with my dip pen because the thicker tip of the marker might hit the previous hatchmark before it's dry and cause it to smear. Again, I just need to get used to the placement of this tip, the drying time of the ink…

If I were doing a simple line drawing such as I did in the first example I wouldn't experience these problems of ink control—I found the ink flowed well when I was always trying to lay down the same unifrom line.

And both of these results are more satisfying than the times I have worked with the fine-tipped Montana Markers. 

So all this makes me wonder—are YOU using a brand of acrylic marker: Montana, Molotow, Golden, Liquitex? Have you started working with markers made to be used with specially formulated acrylic paints? (But not the smelly, solvent based markers, because Montana and Molotow make both types).

If you are using these acrylic markers, which is your favorite brand and why? It flows well; it's the size tip you want; it dries a certain way; the nibs last longer, etc. How are you using it? Do you find your work getting larger and larger? (My work has been getting larger and larger the past 2 years, but I can't say it is all because of working with these markers. That's a discussion for another day.)

I'd love to hear what you think of these versatile tools. Send me a jpg of one of your marker pieces if you like. If there's enough interest I'll make a "page" on the blog about Markers.

Contact me at my email address with MARKER in the subject matter so I can find the emails. Write before July 30 and I'll try and put something together in August—just in time for the Minnesota State Fair, should some people be tempted to take these tools to the Fair (I know I am; hindered only by the fact that my pockets aren't deep enough to hold several markers at once while I stand sketching—it's sort of the juggling-colored-pencils-problem magnified 10 x. Yeah, watercolors are so much easier to take into the "field.")

So let me know what your preferences are if you have a moment and would like to weigh in.

  1. Reply

    I love your portrait journal pages, and they reminded me of a bunch of acrylic markers I had bought some time ago, and inspired me to add some simple colour to some portraits in one of my Moleskine sketchbooks. They are great for that kind of paper, which does not take water-based colour easily, and they dry quickly. I use Liquitex markers, because they’re the only ones available here, so I have no way of comparing. Some colours flow easier than others, and might need more than one layer. I hope to get my hands on a Montana Marker one day, I love that pink! And hopefully, the Golden ones will be available here one day soon too. But I’m glad we have at least the Liquitex ones. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • claudia dominguez
    • July 9, 2014


    I didnt even know these markers existed! I love trying out new media. Will let you know if i try them. These might also be a fun tool for the ifj project too. thanks for the tip!

  2. Reply

    Claudia, I’ll look forward to hearing how you use them. They would be fun to use for an IFJM project—however I currently have a thought about what I want to do in 2015 so I’ll probably take a break from them then! Or not. Things can change so much between now and next April.

    • john dee
    • June 15, 2015

    I know this is a little late but I like your art and found your post. I wanted to mention one you may or may not know about. MOLOTOW One4all Markers. they come in the widest range of colours available (and are made to be refilled) the company makes refills to purchase to save money and the planet. you can get empty Molotow markers to mix custom colors in 1.5mm, 2mm, 4mm/8mm, 15mm 30mm, 60mm,and 2mmbrush tip. the paint in the markers is extremely opaque and can be used on any surface, they are water based so you can thin them. average price at artprimo is 4.00 for smalls and 12.00 for a 60mm. other art places jack the price up too much so go to for the best price. Molotow are hands down the best paint marker on the market. molotow also makes a masking marker that might be the neatest thing in marker technology in decades it really opens up so many doors. molotow hold the patent on the flow master pump valve. so they pride themselves on quality
    you can find them at
    enjoy and keep up the amazing work

  3. Reply

    john dee, Yep, I know about and own several Molotow markers and have written about them on the blog.

    I think they are a good paint marker. I like them equally well with the Montana. I had so many Montana’s before Molotow became available in my area that I use both.

    I like their tips in some ways, in other ways I prefer the Montana. The Molotow are harder/firmer and that’s a good thing sometimes and not others just in feel.

    I like that they are getting new tips like the sponge tops. And I love that they have the central bit you can add to the marker for easy filling without a mess and disassembly. Something they all should have thought about.

    I buy my Molotow markers locally at Wet Paint.

    Thanks for writing in.

    • Lisa
    • February 20, 2021

    Roz, I like Posca pens and Molotows.
    I’m sensitive to odors and I haven’t noticed any odor with those. I was considering buying some Golden High Flow acrylic paint. Is there an odor with that brand?

    1. Reply

      I use Uni Posca Pens and Molotow Markers with water-based acrylic paint/ink too. I like them both for different usages.

      I do find that both have a slight odor, especially, the Uni Posca pens, but in both cases the odor is very low, mild, and the paint/ink quickly dries and ends the odor.

      So in answer to your question I feel there is odor to all the brands it’s just ultimately a matter of whether the odor is something you can still work with.

      I find Liquitex acrylic markers have such a strong odor I can’t work with them.

      As I mention in this post, back in 2014 I used Golden High Flow in Montana Markers and then in the special markers they came with (maybe still available? I don’t know).

      In this post I write about the translucency of the High Flow, and the fact that I know it’s got quality pigments in it as a Golden Product.

      I don’t have any high flow bottles right now on hand to have a quick check on odor.

      Since I don’t mention the odor in my review discussion it had to have been no stronger at worst than the Molotow, or I would have mentioned it. So if you’re using the waterbased paint Molotows (not the solvent ones obviously) then you should find the the Golden High Flow useable.

      But since odors are dependent on an individual’s physical ability to actually smell them and then tolerate them I’d suggest just to be safe you actually go to a local store and ask to smell a tester bottle of the paint. Stores always have testers around for people to use in the store to see if they like something.

      Alternately if there are no local stores with Covid practices in place near you, consider ordering just one small bottle, or one maker (if they are now selling them individually).

      I wish I could be more definitive for you, but after 7 years I don’t recall the exact smell, don’t currently have any of the product on hand to refresh my memory, and my journals, which would contain the details notes from which I wrote my blog post are now in storage.

      What you should remember is that you’re using two pens now that are both on the opaque end of the range of transparent to opacity. And the High flow, I do remember, but can also see from my digital scans from that time, was much more translucent. If that’s not a feature that you want the odor is irrelevant and I’d stay away from them.

      Best of luck with your marker explorations.

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