Review: ArtSkills Brush-Tip Markers (double-ended)

I should’ve probably been suspicious of the other ArtSkills Brush-tip Markers because they had the exact same product name as these double-ended ones. Only the tiny subtitle on the front of the packaging is different. This crappy product differentiation also cements the fact that these are markers for children, who I suppose do not care about things like brands, product names, or being able to tell the difference between different products.

Like the other set, the double-ended ArtSkills Brush-tip Markers are felt-tip markers with water-based ink. These have a brush tip on one end and a fine tip on the other. I got them from Walgreens for $5.99.

ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Markers.

This set performed exactly as expected. How good it is to be a marker set not based on a total lie!

The ink comes down wet and takes a long time to dry. It’s thin, so you can usually see the difference in color saturation between the start of a stroke and the end of one. Layering the same color over itself after the first layer is dry can help even out saturation.

Test scribbles, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Markers on Strathmore 300 series Bristol.

Layering different colors while the ink is still wet leads to some mediocre mixing, but it’s not really blending. You also need to be careful of dirtying the nibs of lighter colors with darker colors, but you can clean the nib by pressing it against a scrap sheet of paper “wiping off” the darker color.

Blending test with ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
Blending with the ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Marker on Strathmore 300 series Bristol. Colors layered left to right. Top is blending while the ink is still wet; bottom is layering when the ink is dry.

How the ink reacts when coloring over a dried layer (say, lineart with the black marker) seems depend entirely on the paper.

Sometimes the black gets smeared around — this was the case when drawing on Strathmore Bristol. The black ink got pushed around when I colored over it, but not enough that I’d avoid using the black marker for lineart altogether. I feel like this is a pretty acceptable level of smearing for cheap markers.

Drawing/coloring example, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
Doodle with ArtSkills double-ended markers on Strathmore Bristol. Black lines (with the fine tip) dried overnight before I colored.

Interestingly, lineart still seemed to smear when I inked with my usual Tombow Fudenosuke (which has waterproof ink) instead of the ArtSkills marker… I noticed that the actual paper fibers were being disturbed though, so it could be that the fibers with the black are actually what’s being spread around, rather than the ink on the page?

Bristol is pretty absorbent and fibrous, but I was surprised the ArtSkills marker and its ink was abrasive enough to make it look like ink smearing. I’ve used straight-up watercolor on Bristol before to lesser effect.

Coloring example, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
Coloring sample with ArtSkills double-ended markers over Tombow Fudenosuke lineart, on Strathmore Bristol. The black seemed to “smear” a little around the face and mouth and the leaves in the front, but closer inspection suggests it’s the paper being pulled around.

When using the markers in a Punctuate sketchbook, however; lineart — whether done with the ArtSkills marker or a waterproof inking pen — seems to hold much better. Dry times also improved significantly, and the ink doesn’t seem to come down as wet.

Drawing example, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Markers in a Punctuate sketchbook. No smearing here!

The paper in this sketchbook is extremely smooth, so maybe there’s less paper fiber for the nibs to catch on and push around. Pretty interesting that the ink also dried faster though…

Drawing with ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers on printer paper
Drawing sample on a random scrap of printer/copy paper.

Even more interesting: the ink even faster and doesn’t smear on cheap printer paper. Printer paper is extra thin, so I guess it absorbs the ink immediately, but it’s also smooth, so maybe it isn’t fibrous enough for the marker nibs to catch against it and “smear”?

Funny but fitting that cheap markers would work better on cheap paper than nice paper, huh?

Ink smear on different papers, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
For each of these, I waited 10 seconds between putting down black ink and going over it with orange.

I tested blending/smearing on a few other papers and overall, it seemed like printer paper and index cards worked best, which works out since those are things kids use, right?

It’s still a bit weird to me that Bristol performed so poorly, but the ink just seems to sit on top of the paper for a long time before drying, while it’s absorbed more readily into other papers.

Drawing example, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
Doodle with the ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Marker’s brush tip. Line variation is meh, but that’s honestly pretty typical for felt-tip brush markers with water-based ink.

And how’s the brush tip? It’s nothing to write home about, of course, but it’s fine.

The brush is about 10mm from base to tip, but only the last 3mm is flexible. This common for the category and pretty similar to the Tombow Dual Brush. Thick lines are nice, bold, and have fun character. Thinner lines are more frustrating to try and get consistency with, but that’s why it comes with a fine tip, too. Felt brushes are never going to get you the performance of bristle-tip brushes.

Brush tip, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
Brush tips on the ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip marker.

The nib material isn’t very compact, and the tips began fraying pretty quickly.

These brushes aren’t amazing, but there’s still enough achievable line variation that I think they’re decent as an introduction to brush-tip markers. I ended up mostly using the fine tip for edging and blocking out areas I wanted to leave white on the page, but the brush tip is great for fast color fills and a bit of dynamism in lineart.

ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Markers.

For a basic offering, the ArtSkills double-ended markers are actually pretty nice looking, with bright, translucent colored caps. I wish the color names were on the marker bodies somewhere, since the yellow and orange caps look really similar in bright light. (There’s also apparently a 50-marker set of these, and color names would help a lot there.)

The two ends have different sized caps, which both post on the other and both fit on the opposite end. This means you can put the larger brush tip cap on the fine tip end and vice versa, which is a great way to damage the brush tip faster (since you’re smashing it against the top of a smaller cap), but this probably isn’t a big concern given how quickly the brushes got damaged in regular use, anyway.

These ArtSkills markers are perfectly cylindrical and don’t have a roll-stop. This made photographing them challenging, but kids also don’t care about markers rolling everywhere, probably.

Coloring example, ArtSkills double-ended brush-tip markers
ArtSkills double-ended Brush-tip Markers over Tombow Fudenosuke lineart in a Punctuate sketchbook.

These markers are pretty good! They have a similar ink quality, but feel like a great upgrade from single-tip, water-based markers like Crayola. The colors in the 8-piece set are actually pretty decent, too. They’re still a standard rainbow, but they aren’t as bright and garish as some primary sets — the green and blue are both light, and there’s a nice pink, which is uncommon. (Since it’s a good midtone, I used pink a lot to go over and darken other colors.)

I couldn’t find the 8-piece set of these markers online, but it ArtSkills also has a 50-piece set ($30 on Amazon, but Sam’s Club had it for half that??).

Kids would like these markers, sure, but I also think these would be pretty decent tools for those intricate coloring books that were all the rage a few years ago. Water-based ink means they won’t show through the backs of pages; the fine nib is great for the detail bits, and the brush nib is great for covering large spaces while being easier to control than a chisel nib. And as long as the paper is right, the ink dries pretty fast and doesn’t really smear! Nice.

You can tell I don’t hate these markers because I made more examples than I needed. Maybe I’ll keep these around for funsies.

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.