Review: Winsor & Newton Promarker and Promarker Brush

Several years ago now, I obtained several Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush markers (then called the Brushmarker), and one regular Promarker, for free at Emerald City Comicon, as some distributor or retailer gave free product to all Artist Alley artists.

You know you’ve been sitting on a product too long when it gets rebranded before you review it, huh.

Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush

These two alcohol-based ink markers round out W&N’s marker collection, which also includes the Promarker Watercolor, which I reviewed when it was simply the Watercolor Marker, and the Pigment Marker, which I also reviewed.

It makes sense that W&N rebranded the Brushmarker as the Promarker Brush, since this makes it much clearer that it and the Promarker are the same marker, just with different tips: the Promarker has a bullet tip and a chisel tip, while the Promarker Brush has a brush tip and a chisel tip. As with many other alcohol-marker lineups, they’re likely based on the Copic and Copic Sketch markers, which also have bullet/chisel and brush/chisel tips respectively.

Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush
Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush (Brushmarker).

It feels like a stupid critique, but I don’t like the shape of the Promarkers.

The body is cylindrical, but with a taper, so one end is slightly wider in diameter than the other end. I’m indifferent to the taper, but this marker is so thick! The chisel end is thinner at 12mm in diameter, while the brush/bullet tip is thicker, at 15mm in diameter.

Since I rarely use the chisel end, I’m always gripping the marker at its widest point, and it feels bulky and cumbersome in my hand. It tires my hand to use the Promarker because of its bulk, and I wish I was exaggerating because coloring making you tired feels ridiculous.

Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush
Some quick blend tests on Bristol. There are also some on the back side of this sheet.

The caps on either end of the marker have a different design to indicate which end has which type of tip: a flat cap for the chisel tip, and a pointed cap for the brush or bullet tip. Tip indicators are printed on the labeling as well.

The pointed cap has a roll-stop on its edge, necessitated by the marker’s cylindrical shape. Personally, I dislike this design since the marker will still roll until it hits the roll-stop — and given that this marker is large, rolling its circumference is a significant distance!

Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush

The pointed cap tapers very quickly into a point and it’s a snug fit with the brush tip on the Promarker Brush. You have to position the brush tip properly in the middle of the cap, which can be difficult when trying to cap the marker quickly. You’ll end up hitting the brush tip against the the inside sides of the cap a lot, which might damage the tip over time. This isn’t really an issue with the bullet tip of the regular Promarker though, and the cap of the chisel tip also doesn’t require precise capping coordination.

On the plus side, the the pointed tip cap does seem to close very securely and has a satisfying click. The seal feels very substantial, which is good for markers not drying out unexpectedly. Strangely though, the flat cap for the chisel end doesn’t seem to seal as tightly, and there’s no click when you cap that end. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A drawing with Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush
Ink drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke shaded with W&N Promarker Brush on a sturdy sketchbook page.

Both the Promarker and the Promarker Brush feature a broad, 7mm chisel tip. I rarely use this side. It can be nice for covering large areas of color, but the chisel tip isn’t conducive to blending, which I’m pretty sure is alcohol-based ink’s biggest claim to fame, alongside high color saturation.

The Promarker’s bullet tip is about 0.5mm and 4mm long. Also not good for blending, but it’s nice for small details, as you’d expect.

A drawing with Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush
This photo has better lighting than the others, so you can tell it was taken on a different day, whoops.

The Promarker Brush’s brush tip is 10mm long and made of a solid, compact felt — but it’s very flexible. Pressing down on the marker can push the whole brush tip 90 degrees from the base. This degree of flexibility can be useful for certain effects, but I find it’s more useful for inking tools than coloring tools.

Ink vibrancy in the Promarkers is great, and ink flow is nice and controlled. The markers put down ink at a good rate without being overly juicy, and the flow is steady despite the markers already being a few years old. The alcohol smell of the ink is there, but it isn’t particularly strong, and definitely not overpowering.

A drawing with Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush
Ink drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke, colored with W&N Promarker Brush on a sturdy sketchbook page.

Ink blending with the Promarker Brush is also very good!

On tests with 300 series Strathmore Bristol board, filling in solid areas causes minimal streaking, and colors blend together very readily. Layering ink over the edge between two colors will reduce the harshness of the edge gradually, and this is the case even for colors that are very different.

Blending is most effective with the brush tips, in part because brush lines have the softest edges. The same ink comes out of the chisel and bullet tips, of course, but the harsher edges are more noticeable when blending since they don’t disappear completely.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch

Every alcohol-based ink marker will be compared to the Copic Sketch, the long revered king of the category. That’s just how it is.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Blending test: Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch on 300 series Strathmore Bristol.

The biggest kicker here is that the W&N Promarker blends just as well, or better, than the Copic Sketch, and it does it with less ink evaporation. This means the blended colors look a lot more solid in the end, where Copic can leave patches of light speckling texture, which you can see above.

Copic might blend better in that it can get find edges to disappear more, especially if you really layer on the ink, but it’s at the cost of the speckling. This will vary depending on the paper being used though — this problem isn’t very common or noticeable on very absorbent papers, like watercolor paper.

Worth noting: the Winsor and Newton markers also blend well with Copic, which is great for people who might have small collections of both types of marker.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Tip comparisons: Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch

Compared to the Promarker Brush’s 10mm brush tip, Copic Sketch’s has a standard 12mm brush tip, but it’s only flexible from about halfway down when it’s healthy.

Copic’s brush tip can become more flexible over time if you put pressure on it often, but this can eventually cause the brush tip to fall out and/or become separated. (The Copic brush tip comprises of two pieces, one inside the other.) On the other hand, Copic’s tips are replaceable (and the Sketch is compatible with several tip options, so you can get a firmer or softer brush tip), and Winsor and Newton’s are not.

In fact, no part of the Promarker or Promarker Brush is replaceable. They’re disposable markers. Sigh.

Other comparisons:

W&N Promarker W&N Promarker Brush Copic Sketch Copic Ciao
Brush tip Great Great Great
Brush control
High High High
Chisel tip 7mm 7mm 6mm 6mm
Marker body Circle, 12-15mm Circle, 12-15mm Oval, 10mm/14mm Circle, 9mm
Ink vibrancy Great Great Great Great
Ink smell Average Average Average Average
Ink bleed Average Average Average Average
Ink blending Low Great Good Good
Ink capacity
? ? 1.8 mL 1.4 mL
Color selection 148 72 358 180
Ink refillable? No No Yes Yes
Tips replaceable?
No No Yes Yes
Price (Singles) $5.99/ea MSRP $5.99/ea MSRP $7.99/ea MSRP $5.49/ea MSRP
Price (Set of 24)
$99.99 MSRP
($4.16/ea)
$99.99 MSRP
($4.16/ea)
$191.76 MSRP
($7.99/ea)
$131.76 MSRP
($5.49/ea)

Most of the Promarker Brush’s attributes are honestly very similar to the Copic Sketch. Ink flow, vibrancy, and blendability are all great! Even ink bleed is basically the same. I find the Promarkers significantly less comfortable to hold, but this will surely vary between people.

Promarkers cost less, but only as a set. The Ciao, which is basically the same as the Sketch but smaller, is cheaper as singles. Copic sets offer no discount to speak of, at least at MSRP. On the other hand, you’re also more likely to buy the Promarker as a set because they’re hard to find as singles. Aside from W&N’s own site, I’ve only found them as singles on Blick.

W&N does not share the ink capacity of either Promarker, so unfortunately we can’t get a price per mL comparison.

Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Misc Winsor & Newton Promarker Brush VS Copic Sketch on 300 series Strathmore Bristol.

As long-time incumbents in the market though, Copic Sketch and Ciao markers go on sale fairly often and are widely available both at brick and mortar specialty art stores and online. This makes their higher price point largely negligible, I think.

I’ve been able to find single Sketch markers as low as $4.70/marker; it’s more often around $5.85, but that’s enough to make it comparable to the Promarker Brush while being refillable. Copic Sketch is also available in almost five times as many colors.

The Promarker and Promarker Brush are solid markers. But unless you just have very strong preferences about marker body shape or the ink-evaporation-texture-when-blending thing, then I think Copic Sketch — or at least the Copic Ciao — are just plain better choices.

Winsor & Newton Promarker & Promarker Brush