Review: Winsor & Newton pigment marker

I found this Winsor & Newton pigment marker still in its individual clear wrapper while straightening up my desk the other day.

I’m pretty sure Winsor & Newton was handing them out as a promotional item at a convention last year, or at least, I don’t have any record of having actually bought this marker myself. Which is good because I don’t like it at all.

Winsor & Newton pigment marker cool grey 5. I still don’t know which way ampersands go.

Like many other double-ended markers, the W&N pigment marker line has a chisel tip and a fine tip. Unlike many other double-ended markers, the two ends of this W&N cool grey 5 produce different colors for some reason.

The chisel tip produces a very dark grey, and the fine tip produces a more medium grey — what I’d expect from a “cool grey 5.” Since I only have one marker, I have no idea whether this is the case for other markers in the series. I’m also not sure if the marker sitting unused and forgotten in my studio for probably a year or more had any effect on it. Either way, it’s not a good sign.

Also, a design nitpick: there’s no indication on the marker body as to which end is which tip. The caps on each end are slightly different — the chisel tip’s cap is oval and has the marker’s color number, and the fine tip’s cap is triangular and has no label, but these differences aren’t obvious at a glance and still would require you knowing offhand which is which.

W&N cool grey 5 VS Copic cool gray 5, 6, 7.

Not only are the colors from the two ends different though, they don’t even look like they’re in the same color family/hue. The fine tip end is closer in value to Copic’s C5 and C6, but it looks significantly “cooler” and more saturated, with more of a blue/green tinge. I’d probably describe it as a “steel grey” or “ocean grey.” The chisel tip is more of a desaturated “true” grey, but it’s closer in value to Copic’s C7.

I don’t really expect any color to match across brands, so the comparison to Copic here is really just to emphasize how weird and different these two ends of the same marker are. What a mess!

Marker test on cardstock. Doesn’t blend well at all.

To make things worse, the colors don’t blend at all. No amount of going over the edges where the colors meet got them to blend together. I can’t remember the last time I’ve used such an unblendable marker.

Some places specifically recommend using the W&N pigment marker on primed canvas and boards so the pigment doesn’t absorb into the material as quickly, which is better for blending, but those aren’t really surfaces I work on frequently. W&N also has a specific paper pad for this marker, which apparently makes it more conducive to blending. I really dislike tools that only work well with a specific proprietary paper stock though.

W&N marker doesn’t bleed as much as a Copic though. (I used the chisel end for this test.)

Additionally, every marker that doesn’t have a brush tip is a disappointment to me these days. Brush pens give me so much versatility that not having it feels like a severe handicap now. The fine tip isn’t fine enough! I wouldn’t have been able to color in the teeth on the puppy above without going outside the lines even with the fine tip on this marker. And aside from giving some nice character to sketches and studies, the chisel tip is only useful for filling in large spaces, which isn’t something I need to do often?

Chisel tip markers also aren’t great for calligraphy, in my opinion. Markers are shorter and fatter than calligraphy pens, so you hold them differently, and it’s really hard to angle a marker in a way ideal for calligraphy, especially consistently.

Winsor & Newton does have a separate line of watercolor markers, which do feature brush tips, so I’d like to try them out at some point.

Alcohol-proof and waterproof.

All in all, I personally don’t have any use for this marker.

My primary use of grey pens and markers is for giving value to my pen sketches and studies, but I feel like neither end of this marker is good for that. The chisel tip may be good for large format sketching, but that’s also something I don’t do a lot personally. I prefer to work on much smaller scales.

I think I’ll probably end up using it as a chisel-tip sharpie or something, since it’s waterproof, or it might end up lost in my studio again and I won’t notice or miss it at all.

About the author

Kiri is a Seattle-based artist, writer, and (brush) pen enthusiast with over 12 years of convention vending experience and a lot of opinions.