Review: Graph’it B Brush Markers

Graph’it is a French marker company; their North American distributor is again Marker Universe. Graph’it B, their alcohol brush markers, weren’t available as open stock at Emerald City Comic Con, so I grabbed one of their 12-piece sets.

Graph'it B brush markers
Graph’it B alcohol brush markers, “Urban” 12-piece set.

The set came in a plastic box that I immediately hated. It opens via some button closures and has a slide-out tray with the markers in it. The tray doesn’t come out all the way and the markers are just piled in there, loose. This makes it impossible to pick out a specific color quickly because the ends of the markers, where the color codes are, aren’t visible until you take the marker out of the box.

The color codes and a tiny color name are also on each marker’s barcode sticker, but no one wants to squint at those! It’s not practical to keep the markers in the box when actively using them, so they’ll just end up piled on your desk unless you get your own storage solution. Super annoying. It seems like the 36- and 80-piece sets have more sensible setups though.

Graph'it B brush marker 12-pc box
The box for the 12-piece sets suck.

The Graph’it B markers themselves are rounded triangular prisms. The caps have little raised bumps to make them easier to grip and pull off. They look like they should post, but they don’t. I’m really annoyed the color names aren’t also on the caps. Numbers are useful for quick citation, but I remember colors by actual name in my head.

It doesn’t help that the color codes are 4-digit numerals only. There are only 96 colors altogether; why make it so complicated?? Why the heck is Cool Grey 8 9108. That’s the number on the marker, but the color reference on the back of the box actually has it as GIB9108. GIB is “Graph’it B,” I suppose, but this begs the question of whether the non-brush Graph’it markers (with 176 total colors) have different codes? And if not, why the differentiator?

The markers are on the large side, diameter-wise — about as girthy as the Copic regulars and the Winsor & Newton Promarkers — and I wasn’t a fan of that either.

Color swatches for "Urban" set
Color swatches for the “Urban” set on Strathmore Bristol.

On the plus side, Graph’it B’s two tips are a brush tip and a fine tip! It’s not a chisel on the other side! I don’t understand why more companies haven’t done this. It’s probably just my own bias, and I’m sure plenty of people like the chisel tip and that’s why most do it that way, but man, I have so many more uses for a fine tip than a chisel.

Unfortunately, my excitement waned immediately when I put the first marker to paper.

This is another marker with a shitty brush tip.

Graph'it B brush markers, initial test
Initial scribbles for Graph’it B on Bristol.

The Graph’it B’s brush tip is ~10 mm long and ~5 mm at the base, but while most alcohol brush tips are flexible the whole way through, only about the last 2 mm of this one is. This severely limits the single-stroke line width range, as well as taper effects.

It reminded me of the Blick Illustrator‘s brush tips, but they aren’t quite as bad. The felt in the Graph’it B brush tip isn’t very dense, so the point isn’t very pointy, making thinner strokes harder to control. It’s easy to see the lack of flexibility and versatility in the comparison below. It just can’t get the same range:

Graph'it B brush quality comparison
Graph’it B brush tip VS Blick Illustrator, Blick Studio, Sketchmarker, and Copic, on Bristol.

Good thing it has that fine point?

The fine tip tends to deposit color a shade lighter than the brush tip, though if you go over it a bunch of times you’ll eventually get the same color. It also seems like the fine tip’s color will get darker the more you use it, but the first time you write with it (including after a break, like a day), it will come out significantly lighter.

The alcohol smell of the ink is a bit stronger than average.

Dog thing with Graph'it B
Dog thing with Graph’it B in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

Other than filling in tiny areas that are too tight for the mediocre brush tip though, the fine tip of the Graph’it B wasn’t as useful as I felt like it should be. The width difference between the fine point and the brush tip is huge, making it hard to use them together practically.

The Graph’it B has an extra fine, tech pen-style nib, rather than a hard felt bullet point like other markers (including Graph’it’s own regular chisel/fine marker). This makes filling in areas super inefficient with the fine tip, but the brush tip isn’t flexible enough to make up for it.

For example, the base of the dog’s ear above — where there’s solid color meeting the lined edges of the cheek fluff — edging in the solid color against the fine “spikes” of fur was difficult with the brush’s imprecise tip, but it’s still a large enough area between tufts of fur that using the fine tip felt annoying.

Alcohol ink isn’t great to do lines with if you’re also going to color over them with more alcohol ink — the “blending” effect will blur and distort the lines. You can see it in white neck fur and the brow of the dog — they get “washed out” when colored over.

Mourning dove drawing with Graph'it B
Mourning dove drawing with Graph’it B in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

I ended up going back over the lines on the mourning dove’s wing’s to reestablish them after coloring, but I didn’t go back over the tail feather lines, so they look more faded. This can be a neat effect if that’s what you’re going for though?

Unfortunately it seems like the Graph’it B’s ink is also kinda bad. When blending different colors, the mixed areas seem to get extra splotchy and “freckled.” Almost all alcohol markers get freckly when mixed/blended; the effect just seems especially prominent with Graph’it B.

And even within the same color, it doesn’t blend well, as seen in the dove’s green background bits. I’d intended to fill in more of the background with the green, but it looked so bad that I stopped.

Graph'it B blending
Graph’it B blending on Strathmore Bristol.

Splotchy ink mixing doesn’t bother me a ton since it can add a neat texture to some drawings, but I don’t think it’s ideal either. Look at how splotchy the colors in the vase ended up after a few layers of blending. The color is leaking out past the lines too:

Plant drawing with Graph'it B
Plant drawing inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and colored with Graph’it B.

The ink is also extra juicy and feathers a fair bit, depending on the paper you’re using. This is also part of why the brush tip seems imprecise — the ink spreads out significantly from the nib’s contact point on the page, so even if your nib is coloring in the lines, the ink can end up outside it.

The fine tip in particular can get really bad depending on how hard you press, or how long you have the nib touching the paper. If you’re drawing slowly and keeping the nib on the paper longer, your lines will end up a lot wider than if you were drawing faster, even if you aren’t putting much pressure on the nib.

Graph'it B's ink just soaks and soaks into the page
Graph’it B’s fine tip will continue depositing ink onto the page if you hold it there. The big dots on the third row were made by just holding the fine tip against the paper for a few seconds — I didn’t press down hard at all, but the ink just kept flowing.

The 12-set cost me $36 at ECCC. Online, it looks like Marker Universe has their MSRP at $63.48, though they’re currently on sale for $30. The Graph’it B brush markers don’t seem to be available open stock online either (the non-brush markers are available open stock though).

There are 96 available colors, but refill inks are available for only 36 of them? $7.99 MSRP for 25mL is pretty good though. No replacement nibs are available.

At MSRP, that’s $5.29/marker. At their current sale price, $2.50/marker.

The MSRP doesn’t beat Copic Ciao. The sale price puts it on the cheaper end of alcohol markers, but Blick Studio’s 12-sets are still cheaper. Blick Studio Brush’s ink seemed to have the opposite problem of Graph’it — they’re on the dry side — but their blending is a bit better and the brush tip is superior.

Drawing with Graph'it B
Dude inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and colored with Graph’it B.

Despite being an interesting outlier with its extra fine tip, I’d give the Graph’it B a hard pass.

Yes, it’s mostly because of the crappy brush tip, but even that aside, there just isn’t much to praise about it. The ink is below average. The ergonomics and design are below average. The price is just so-so. The fine tip is cool and might’ve been cooler if the ink wasn’t as bleed/feather-prone, but it doesn’t save it.

Oh well.

Another floating head with Graph'it B
Another floating head.

About the author

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