Alcohol vs Water Based Markers | Witness the True Battle

The battle between alcohol-based and water-based markers has been going on for a long time. And now, it’s your turn to decide which one you should go with!

But before taking any decision, let us help you understand the ins and outs of both types of markers. This way, we can make sure that there won’t be any regrets afterward when you take your final call.

Which one do you think is the best?

In fact, it varies depending on your profession and needs. Both of the markers have distinctive features and qualities.

In this article, we’ll try to cover every feature of water and alcohol-based markers. We’ll also let you know that which one is the best for you.

So, witness the ultimate battle of alcohol vs. water-based markers and see who wins!

Alcohol vs Watercolor Markers

Alcohol-Based or Water-Based?

As we’ve already mentioned, whether it’s alcohol-based or water-based markers, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. And you should remember that both of them are not used for the same purposes. Their field of use is also different.

However, suppose you are a professional artist. In that case, you may need to use both of these marker types sometimes according to your art projects. So, before getting into the main differences, you need to know what alcohol and water-based markers are.

What Are Alcohol-Based Markers?

Alcohol-based markers generally have professional quality than their water-based counterparts, making them a better choice for serious artists. And Copic Markers rule the world of alcohol markers.

However, alcohol marker usually provides bold and bright colors. These markers offer huge color choices also which are the main reason for many artists choosing them. It’s not to mention that they are permanent.

As soon as you open the marker, the ink starts flowing down its nib automatically. The alcohol-based dye ink dries faster as the alcohol evaporates quickly. That’s why these markers are best for professional artists and adult coloring books.

You can also use these markers on various surfaces other than paper, including fabric, wood, metal, plastics, and more.

Alcohol-based markers have extreme blend-ability, meaning you can achieve a broader palette of hues with fewer markers. You can also mix different colors of alcohol markers and add several layers to create new color shades. Some alcohol-based marker set offers colorless blender pen also. It helps to blend colors smoothly.

This variety also tends to be pricier than water markers. Sometimes that’s because they are refillable, or sometimes you need to pay extra cost for the replaceable nibs option. Although the upfront cost is higher, they provide better long-term value for your money. Still, there are some cheap alternatives that you can look after.

These markers come with two types – lightfast or not lightfast ink, which makes no difference in performance. But if you work on delicate paper, then use only those with a ‘lightfast’ label. Still, we always recommend using high-quality marker paper when you are working with alcohol-based ink.

What Are Water-Based Markers?

Water-based markers are basically made of water and pigment-based ink. Unlike alcohol markers, watercolor markers are generally less expensive to purchase. Suppose you are choosing markers for children or just want to make posters advertising an upcoming garage sale. In that case, water-based markers are the way to go.

Water-based ink is non-toxic and not permanent. It washes off the skin and other surfaces easily. That’s why Crayola markers are one of the popular art supplies among parents as they’re water-soluble. They choose it mainly for kids coloring pages.

However, because the liquid tends to soak into the paper rather than just coating it, the blending ability of most water-based markers is not up to the mark. But the higher quality water brush markers are great for creating a watercolor effect.

Water-based marker doesn’t come with a vast color range like alcohol ones. Still, the color variations they offer can compete with its competitor, alcohol markers.

These markers’ color can be streaky, showing each stroke rather than a smooth wash of color. Too much marker can cause the paper to warp, wrinkle, or even tear.

That’s why we always recommend using watercolor paper when using water-based markers. The watercolor paper gives a smooth finish as the paper fiber is strong enough to hold the watery texture.

If you compare the price tag between water versus alcohol markers, the water-based ones are obviously budget-friendly. So, these are always recommended for beginner artists. But if you are a bullet journal lover, then you can blindly go for waterbased markers.

Watercolor vs. Alcohol Markers: Major Differences Between Them

In this section, we’ll just go through a quick overview of the major differences between alcohol-based and water based markers.

If we first see the inks, watercolor markers contain water based acid-free ink, where the alcohol ones have alcohol-based dyes inside. Unlike water-based markers, the chemical composition is totally different.

Alcohol markers act like permanent markers as the ink is permanent, but the watercolor markers are not. The alcohol ones come with a vast color range, but the water based markers come with fewer colors.

Another thing is that alcohol ink dries faster than water-based markers. But suppose you use the latter one in a well-ventilated area, for example – in your backyard. In that case, it’ll dry also dry quickly.

In terms of blend-ability, the alcohol markers will obviously win as they have an extreme blending ability.

You may need to use special watercolor paper while using water based markers. On the other hand, alcohol markers work well on any non-absorbent paper.

Alcohol MarkersWatercolor Markers
Ink TypeDye BasedWater Based
Ink QualityPermanentWashable
Works OnNon-Absorbent PaperWatercolor Paper
LightfastnessFade-ProofMay Fade Away
Best ForIllustrations, Manga, Professional ArtworksWatercolor Effect, Handlettering, Bullet Journals

Alcohol-Based Markers: What Are They Best For?

From the invention of alcohol-based markers, it’s being used for professional artworks. Whether it’s for illustrations or manga drawing, alcohol-based ones are the first choice. These marker pens have a variety of colors that can be used to create different textures and tones.

The colors produced by alcohol ink are high quality with rich color tints. These marker pens are suitable for large areas such as skin tone or sky blue background. And if you want your artwork to last long, then go for them as it has archival quality ink.

But it’s not actually true that these are only for professionals, as beginners can use them too. Even Copic range has a collection named Copic Ciao markers, one of the best markers for beginner artists.

Our Recommendation: Alcohol-Based Markers

From the whole alcohol markers collection, here we’re recommending a set that is the best for artists and a brand that is renowned worldwide. So, let’s get into the details.

Copic Sketch Markers Set– Best Alcohol Based Marker Set

Copic Sketch Markers

Though Copic Sketch markers are known to be for professionals only, these alcohol-based markers can be an ideal choice for enthusiastic beginners. It allows you to start amazingly or helps to add more colors to your current collection.

This sketch set offers 12 colors with dual nib facilities– one is Chisel, and the other is Super Brush nib. The chisel nibs allow covering a large area and the fine tip for details and precision lines. So, you can make any illustrations, designs, and art. You can also change the nib and go for the airbrush system.

In fact, it has a refillable option that increases the durability of these markers. Some artists have been using the same one for a decade or more. Its alcohol-based ink provides a smooth finish and becomes permanent, as it won’t destroy the paper fiber. The ink is non-toxic, acid-free, and dries faster.

Another interesting fact is that you can re-wet the ink to adjust your drawing. It really helps a lot to blend colors as well as highlight and shading. That’s why Copic was originally designed for Japanese Manga Artists. Now, all types of artists love it more than any other brand in the market.

But these are somewhat big in size. So, before starting an important project or artwork, practice a little for holding the marker properly. Though the oval shape won’t disappoint you at all and won’t fell off your desk.

If you’re thinking of beginning, then go for this Copic marker set. But it is a little more expensive than the Ciao ones. Still, it worths every single penny.

Water-Based Markers: What Are They Best For?

If you are addicted to bullet journals or love to do hand lettering very often, then we can bet that the water-based markers are the best suit for you. You can also use them for coloring books. Since these are non-toxic, you can give them to your little artists too.

But keep a thing in mind that water-based ink may fade away with time. So, to get the best out of them, use most markers on watercolor paper. They also work well on hand-drawn pictures, sketches done with colored pencils, charcoal pencils, etc.

However, for creating the watercolor effect, there is no alternative to water-based markers.

Our Recommendation: Water Based Markers

Just like the alcohol-based markers, here we’re going to introduce you to the top-selling water-based markers set in the market. So, let’s begin.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen : Best Water Based Marker Set

Best Watercolor Marker

Whether you’re new or a pro in lettering, you may have heard about Tombow Dual Brush Pens. As the name suggests, it has dual tips- one is a flexible brush tip, and another is a fine bullet tip.

The flexible brush tips work like paintbrushes. Tips are made of nylon fiber that provides a smooth finish without losing the original shape. It has made them super durable, and you can give pressure on the tip according to your need. And the bullet tip is useful for normal writing or drawing fine lines.

This brand provides a total number of 108 colors. But as a beginner, it’s always better to start up with a 10 pack set, in which you’ll get 9 colors and a colorless blending pen.

And the color-coded caps help you to select and organize the colors quickly. Airtight caps also keep the colors always fresh.

Its vibrant water-based ink allows you to blend and mix quickly to create a huge array of new colors. You can also add some water and use the colorless blending pen to give your artwork a soft color wash effect. Due to its water-based ink, you can easily rectify any mistakes in your project.

This set is really a great option for people interested in bullet journals or brush lettering. You can also use them for decorations, illustrations, designing, and many more.

So, Which One Is Best?

The battle of alcohol-based markers vs. water-based markers was pretty cool so far. But it’s time to announce the winner!

If you are looking for high-quality with huge color variations, you can select alcohol-based markers. They also last long as many of them have refillable and nib replacement options. However, they are a bit costly, yet worthy!

On the other hand, if you are looking for washable, low-cost, or experimenting, you can go for the water-based markers. These markers are suitable for kids too.

However, from all the perspectives, here is a win-win situation. The main reason is that you must have to use both of them for different projects. Any one of them cannot do the work of both.

So, depending on your project type and need, choose the marker accordingly. Always try to experiment with something new without any fear!

Our Final Analysis

There is really no such thing as a perfect marker. Whether you choose water-based markers or the markers that deliver alcohol-based ink depends on your preferences as well as the project you are using them for.

It may take some experimentation before finding the type and brand of markers that best suit your needs. But it’s always good to have a wide variety so that you are prepared for every occasion!

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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