Review: Graph’it Graph’O markers

Graph’O is Graph’it’s line of water-based, dual tip markers. They have a brush tip on one end and an extra fine, 0.5 mm nib on the other. This is the last of the stuff I picked up at ECCC!

Graph'O water-based markers
Graph’O water-based marker (#9504, Neutral Grey Medium) on Strathmore Bristol (left) and an index card (right).

I get that water-based marker bodies are typically thinner than alcohol-based ones, so maybe it’s impractical to have color names and codes on the end of the caps, but in that case it should be obvious and basic to have this information displayed prominently on the marker body, right? Apparently not, because most water-based markers seem to suck at this.

Graph’O is no different: once again, the color name is only in tiny text above the barcode. The color code is to the side of the barcode (and isn’t obvious that it’s the color code). The whole thing is also a sticker on the marker body, rather than being printed on: annoying if you like peeling stickers off things.

Also, Graph’O only comes in 48 colors. There’s no reason their color codes need to be four digits!!

Graph'O markers
Graph’O markers. The brush cap doesn’t post, but the fine cap does…upside down.

The marker is ~6.75″ or ~17 cm long, which is longer than average, but not quite calligraphy brush long. The larger, colored cap for the brush end does not post even though it looks like it would’ve been trivial to engineer it to. The smaller, black cap for the fine end does post… but with the cap upside-down, which I hate because it’s confusing when I want to recap it.

Only being able to post one side is confusing, too. I kept taking off the small cap to cap the brush end when I was finished using it because I forgot that that end doesn’t post and the correct cap is actually on my desk somewhere. But I can confirm that the small cap fits on the brush end. There’s enough room in there, though maybe it’s crushing the tip a tad.

Hisuian Arcanine drawing with Graph'O markers
Hisuian Arcanine drawing with Graph’O markers in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

On the bright side, the Graph’O’s brush is pretty good.

It’s ~9 mm long and ~4 mm at the base. As is typical, only about the last 2-3 mm of the brush is flexible, but the material is dense and seems to spring back nicely between strokes. Brush control is good, and you can go between thin and broad lines easily.

The ink comes out light and wet; joining strokes together or putting down a block of color can look a bit messy until everything dries.

Graph'O marker brush tip VS other water-based markers
Graph’O marker brush tip VS other water-based markers. Left to right: Graph’O, Tombow Dual Brush, Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen, Newpen Ginza, Sailor Shikiori.

Graph’O’s brush tip feels similar to the Tombow Dual Brush in density, but it’s shorter and has less of a taper near the tip. I think this shape will help it keep its tip for a little longer than the Tombow, whose tips can blunt and fray tragically fast at times. The shorter brush on the Graph’O also grants a bit more control, and overall it feels like a slight upgrade over the Tombow’s brush.

The Graph’O brush is better quality than Sakura Koi and Newpen Ginza. Sailor Shikiori’s brush is denser and holds its shape better, but Graph’O really isn’t that far off. It also has the most similar opposite-end fine tip.

Hyena drawing with Graph'O markers
Hyena sketch with Graph’O markers in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

The fine end of the Graph’O has a tech pen-style nib, rather than the broader bullet nib most other markers have. Graph’it’s alcohol brush markers had this style of fine nib too, but it works so much better with a water-based marker because the ink doesn’t bleed and feather as much — or at all, really.

The fine nib is great for precision and detail work if you aren’t as confident controlling the brush tip, or when the brush tip inevitably frays and becomes less pointed. I also found it useful for sketch/prelim work — for light grey, it’s light enough that it doesn’t bother me if it shows through in a finished drawing. It’s like sketching with pencil, but it doesn’t smear!

Drawing inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and shaded with Graph'O
Drawing inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and shaded with Graph’O. Every time I draw this dude, his hair gets wavier.

I got my two neutral grey Graph’O markers at the Marker Universe booth for $1.00/ea, which is also their current online sale price. This is a fantastic deal, honestly. MSRP for single markers is otherwise $3.89, which is on the high end for a water-based marker.

Still, the Graph’O has a good brush tip and a unique, extra-fine tip, making it one of the most versatile options in the category. I wish they were more widely available — I did hear the Marker Universe was planning to work with more retailers, like Blick — but with the sale, the price is great even with shipping. Maybe I’ll stock up and they can take the place of my Tombow Dual Brushes for a while.

Photo of comic toned with Graph'O markers
Part of a recent comic, toned with Graph’O markers.

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.