Review: ArtSkills Permanent Markers

I got this ArtSkills Permanent Markers set at Walgreens for $8.49 + tax. Now available at mainstream pharmacy and placed next to the Crayola crayons, alcohol-ink markers have reached the broadest market! But will that market like them?

ArtSkills Permanent Marker
ArtSkills Permanent Marker — “dual-tipped and blendable”!

I feel like labeling these as “permanent markers” is kind of weird. Sure, in contrast to typical markers with water-based inks, which are often washable and non-permanent, alcohol-ink markers will withstand water. They’re not lightfast, but they still tend to fade a lot more slowly than water-based inks.

But at least for me, “permanent marker” means Sharpie permanent markers. So in addition to the non-washable nature, it means a marker meant to write on a variety of surfaces. Sharpie permanent markers are also alcohol-based, but they’re still in a totally different usage category than markers intended for art and coloring, right?

ArtSkills is definitely targeting artists with these markers, so it just seems strange that they’d highlight the “permanent” aspect. Vibrancy and blendability, two other big advantages of alcohol-based ink, are at least mentioned though.

ArtSkills Permanent Markers test sheet
ArtSkills Permanent Markers on Strathmore Bristol.

The ArtSkills Permanent Marker is dual-tipped with a ~6 mm chisel tip and a ~1 mm bullet tip. The marker body is squareish and plain. There’s no printing on the marker other than the brand name and the tip indicators. Colors are indicated on the caps, which post securely on both sides.

As with the Daiso Fluently alcohol markers, I found the marker body too big in diameter and uncomfortable to hold. The smell of the alcohol ink was also much stronger than most — not quite as bad as a Sharpie, but enough that I didn’t want to use them for more than a few minutes at a time.

Drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke and ArtSkills Permanent Marker
Drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke and ArtSkills Permanent Marker in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

The ink was also pretty feathery — it’d spread out from the nib’s contact point on the page, which made the marker feel imprecise. It was easy to color outside lines by accident.

Colors are vibrant though. They’re bright and saturated, which once again limits the practicality of trying to blend any of the colors together. Alcohol inks will react with each other and “blend,” but when the colors are extremely different from each other, this mostly just looks like weird speckle effects and a distinct “washed out” sort of look where the two colors meet.

ArtSkills Permanent Marker blendability
ArtSkills Permanent Marker blendability VS Copic Sketch. Right colors layered over left colors.

These ArtSkills Permanent Markers are a standalone set. It’s not a series of markers. There are no other colors other than these eight, so really, vibrancy is the only thing it has going for it?

Vibrancy makes the markers decent for rough color — stuff that benefits from lack of precision (“energy”), spontaneity, and brightness.

A phoenix drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke and ArtSkills Permanent Markers
A phoenix drawing with Tombow Fudenosuke and ArtSkills Permanent Markers. Scribbly fire is pretty fun with a chisel tip.

But the tendency of the ink to feather, along with the relative thickness of a 1 mm nib, make the ArtSkills markers hard to line with. The overpowering smell adds to that, too, since inking is usually a slower, more delicate process than coloring.

I would’ve spent longer on this loon if the smell hadn’t gotten to me.

A drawing of a loon with ArtSkills Permanent Markers
A drawing of a loon with ArtSkills Permanent Markers in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

As a drawing and coloring tool, I always think brush tips are better than chisel tips, but brush tips are more expensive and easier to ruin, and this product is probably still meant for kids? They really should do something about the smell though, in that case.

I don’t think the target demographic would benefit much from switching over to alcohol markers though, and especially not these alcohol markers. Vibrancy in exchange for extreme paper bleed and feathering issues doesn’t seem like a great trade off, especially when you only have eight colors.

Whoever you’re buying for, I’d skip the ArtSkills Permanent Markers. Daiso’s Fluently markers are harder to find, but they’re both cheaper and have a better color selection. I think they’re the better cheap intro to alcohol markers of the two, but there are tons of better alcohol markers (with brush tips!) across the full gamut of price points to explore, too.

ArtSkills Permanent Markers
Scribbly sketch with ArtSkills Permanent Markers. You can see where the “blending” effect kinda looks like water damage where the yellow meets the orange outline of the flowers. Also, the back of that phoenix drawing demonstrates the typical back-of-page bleed level of alcohol markers. A buffer sheet kept the phoenix from further bleeding onto the page where the flowers are.

Out of curiosity, I tested the black ArtSkills permanent marker against a Sharpie. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was kind of surprised: they’re really comparable!

I didn’t test on a ton of different surfaces, but on various papers and plastics, the ArtSkills marker and the Sharpie performed about the same. The non-black colors don’t show up as boldly, but they still adhere decently and seem about as permanent as I could expect them to be. So I guess they can be used as traditional permanent markers after all?

ArtSkills Permanent Marker VS Sharpie
ArtSkills Permanent Marker (black, fine), Sharpie (black, fine), and Copic (warm grey 9, brush) on the transparent plastic backing of a random sticker sheet I had.

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.