Well, I ended up picking up the 24-set of Blick Studio Brush markers from my local store. With the Blick Illustrator set being both a disappointment and a product whose existence I don’t understand, I just had to see what Blick’s regular line of alcohol markers was like.
In typical Copic-alternative fashion, Blick Studio markers come in two lines: the regular line with the chisel and fine tip (competes with Copic classic), and the brush line with the chisel and brush tip (competes with Copic Sketch and Ciao). In this house we only care about brush pens, so. :)
While the Blick Studio regular markers have cylindrical, black bodies and a colored wrap-around label (reminiscent of Prismacolor markers?), the brush markers are grey and octagonal, with information printed directly on the marker body and colored ends on the caps — just like Copic Sketch (though the Sketch is an elliptic cylinder). This set comes in a handy, plastic storage case.
There are divets in each of the Blick Studio Brush’s caps: a handy place to grip when pulling the caps off. The caps don’t post, but that’s the typical case for alcohol markers. The brush tip is ~11 mm long and 3 mm at the base; the chisel is ~6 mm wide.
The Blick Studio Brush’s brush performed as expected. It’s soft and flexible, capable of making both wide strokes and thin strokes. Transitioning mid-stroke isn’t as smooth as I’d like, but it’s passable. It’s easy and intuitive to use, and it’s similar to the brush on most other alcohol markers.
The chisel tip, too, was unremarkable and normal, and that’s great!
Ink flow wasn’t great though.
The ink dries out of both tips very quickly when in use. When you initially set the nib down on paper, the ink is juicy and wet, but this often changes by the end of the stroke. You can see the nib visibly lose ink as you use it — instead of having a consistently and evenly saturated tip, the tip-half of the brush tip grows an ugly patch of dry felt. The end of the stroke on the page is noticeably dryer than the start.
Performance is pretty inconsistent, but this happens even when the brush stroke is very short. The bottom of the below character’s sweater has short strokes of color, but you can see that the ink saturation changes dramatically between the start and the end of the stroke — and it wasn’t because I was lifting the marker or trying to create the effect on purpose. It affected the main part of the sweater, too, but I colored over that part multiple times to even out the saturation and blending.
The blending is fine though. Similar colors blend into each other nicely; disparate colors react and create weird splotchy patches. This is all average and typical, which is all I’m looking for, so great!
However, I did find the color selection a bit annoying.
There are a decent number of browns/yellows/golds, which is awesome, but the two pink/peach colors (013 and 064 above) are waaaaaay too bright and saturated, so there’s nothing suitable for lighter skintones. All of the greens have the same problem. Why does blue get that nice, subtle, barely-there shade (008), but no one else? That there’s no good yellow-green is a travesty.
Blick Studio Brush’s 6-piece sets are mostly monochromatic; it has two 12-piece sets, a typical rainbow and a skintone set — its sole 24-piece set should be the first with a decent variety, but it seems non-themed marker sets always tend towards bright and saturated and rarely include any good muted tones.
Limited color selection can be a fun thing to work around though.
I didn’t have a good light green, so I just made this echeveria super yellow, and that worked out okay. Periwinkle is neutral enough to make a decent shading color when you’re lacking in sufficiently different values (relative lightness or darkness) in a hue group.
Blick Studio Brush VS Blick Illustrator
Well, on one hand, the Blick Studio Brush marker has an actual functional brush. On the other hand, the Blick Illustrator marker’s ink saturation is consistent (but if feathering is a big problem).
So I guess if you’re a chisel tip user, the Illustrator brush is better, but if you’re a brush tip user, the Studio Brush is the clear, indisputable winner.
I think the Blick Illustrator also had a better color selection, but that 24-piece set is the entire product line so if you aren’t happy with those colors, you have to supplement with a different line. Meanwhile, Blick Studio Brush currently has 143 total colors, so you can expand from the 24-piece set, start with a different set, or just buy singles.
Blick Studio Brush VS Copic Sketch/Ciao
For brief moments when coloring with the Blick Studio Brush, I sometimes forgot I was using them and not Copics. Wild, huh?
I ran into the ink dryness/saturation issue not infrequently, and it annoyed me each time. I don’t know if it’s the brush tip or the ink that’s the problem, but for most drawings, it’s an easy enough issue to work around. Just go over the area again (and again) until the saturation evens out.
The brush on the Copic Sketch is almost 3 mm longer than the one on the Blick Studio Brush, so the Copic is more flexible and has a bigger maximum stroke width, but I don’t think most people would notice or care. The minimum stroke widths are very comparable.
Unlike a shocking number of other Copic-alternatives, the Blick Studio lines are refillable. So if performance is relatively comparable, then the Blick Studio is a sweet, sweet deal.
My receipt claims the 24-piece Blick Studio Brush set typically goes for $90 + tax (though Blick’s website usually has them for ~$75?). Through some combination of Black Friday deal shenanigans, I ended up getting them for paltry $20, which is the same as I got the Blick Illustrator set for. Before tax, that’s 83 cents a marker.
Copic doesn’t have a 24-piece set, but I’m pretty sure the cheapest I’ve ever gotten a Copic Sketch, with sales and everything, was for around $3.50 a marker. (Even un-discounted, the Blick Studio Brush usually comes out to around $3.15/marker: still cheaper) Maybe a deeply discounted Copic Ciao can go a little lower, but even a Ciao would never approach the sub-dollar range.
So is Blick Studio better than Copic? Nah. Copic’s brush and ink quality are both better, and Copic has more than double the color selection.
But the Blick Studio Brush is a great lower-cost alternative. As an alcohol-based ink marker, even scoring average across the board means it’s a good marker, and I’d even say the Blick Studio Brush has higher than average brush control. And given that Blick is apparently cool with letting a Blick Studio Brush set go for the same price as its Blick Illustrator set, I’m still confused as to why the Illustrator set even exists. Don’t bother with that one and just go with this one.
I guess this is what my friend is getting for late-Christmas, then.