Review: Sketchmarker Brush Pro

One of Copic’s longstanding advantages over newer competitors is its 358 available colors. Most alternative brands have less than half the selection of colors.

Well, here comes Sketchmarker touting a ridiculous 400 available colors… but how does the rest of it hold up?

Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Sketchmarker Brush Pro on Strathmore Bristol. Markers labeled “Sketchmarker Brush” are identical to markers labeled “Sketchmarker Brush Pro” so they must’ve just upgraded the name without changing the product?

Sketchmarker is a relatively new Slovenian1 brand. Marker Universe is its North American distributor, but they also has an Amazon store.

Sketchmarker’s regular line has light grey marker bodies and features a chisel nib and a fine nib. Its Brush Pro line has black marker bodies and features a chisel nib and a brush nib. (It looks like the Brush Pro line was originally just Brush, but the “Pro” was added later for…?? Marketing reasons?) The brush nib is noted specifically as being Japanese-made.

Both the regular and Brush Pro lines come in the 400 colors.

1 They’re headquartered in Slovenia, but Marker Universe says they’re a leading art brand in “Russia and Ukraine,” and their official website is in English and Russian. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Sketchmarker Brush Pro.

The Sketchmarker Brush Pro has a cylindrical body with roll-stops on both caps. The caps post, but poorly — they’re only posting onto 2 mm’s worth of color indicator, so it’s not very secure at all. The caps do close very tightly onto the marker ends with a satisfying click though.

The brush tip is ~10 mm long and ~4 mm at the base. The chisel tip is ~7 mm wide. The chisel end of the marker has a grey band at the base of the nib section as an extra identifier. (Annoyingly, this is the exact opposite of Copic, which has the grey band on the brush end, though now that I look back, both the Blick Illustrator and the Blick Studio have the banded identifier on the chisel end…)

Drawing with Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Lines with Tombow Fudenosuke and colored with Sketchmarker Brush Pro on Strathmore Bristol.

The ink in this marker is super juicy. If you press down with even medium pressure, the ink will really soak into the paper and cause significant feathering. Back-of-page bleed comes with the territory of alcohol markers, and I always recommend a buffer sheet anyway, but you’d really want to make sure you have one with the Sketchmarker!

Ink vibrancy and blending is as expected (which means it’s good!). Layering works well to minimise streaking, but can also lead to oversaturation of the paper and more feathering.

The alcohol smell is mild — it’s not overwhelming, but it also tends to hit you a few seconds after you use the marker.

Drawing with Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Crested pigeon drawing, inked with Tombow Fudenosuke and shaded with Sketchmarker Brush Pro in a Punctuate Sketchbook. You can see some feathering in the stripey parts of the wing and on the back near the wing, where the lighter grey layered over the darker grey.

For me, the brush tip is the most important part of most pens and markers. And for most of the alcohol-ink brush markers I’ve tried thus far, the brush tip is the most lacking aspect.

But the Sketchmarker Brush Pro’s brush tip is actually really good.

The ergonomics of the marker body allow for comfortable control, and the brush is springy and flexible enough to noodle back and forth between wildly different line widths in a single stroke.

The juiciness of the ink does mean that wider/heavier strokes tend to feather, which can be annoying for stripes/spots/markings that are extra fun with a brush. This at least isn’t as noticeable for lighter colors though.

Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch
Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch.

Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch/Ciao

Comparing the Sketchmarker with my Copics made me really aware of the fact that most of my Copic brush tips are quite old. A lot of them are visibly worn. They’re still great for most color jobs, but their tips aren’t as fine — they’ve deformed a bit with time, and this is particularly noticeable when you’re comparing 1:1 brush strokes and how thin, fine, and precise you can get them to be.

The Sketchmarker Brush performed better than most of my battle-worn Copics.

Sketchmarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Sketchmarker Brush Pro (SG2) VS Copic Sketch worn (C7) and new (C3) brush tips. You can tell with the older Copic brush that I wasn’t able to get really thin strokes or taper as much.

By convenient coincidence though, I’d just replaced the brush nib on my C3 Copic Sketch marker after like 10 years of service.

This brand new Copic brush was better than the Sketchmarker, but only just. It’s a small enough difference that you might just chalk it up to my hand being more familiar with the Copic Sketch and therefore having better control over it. It remains to be see how Sketchmarker’s brush tips wear over time though. The old brush tip on my C3 Copic was in use longer than Sketchmarker’s been a company.

Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch, blending
Right color was layered over left color. Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch on Bristol. There’s hardly any difference.

Performance-wise, the Sketchmarker Brush is the closest thing to a Copic Sketch I’ve tried. I really wish I had some Copic Ciaos on hand as that’s closer to the Sketchmarker shape-wise, and I’d like to compare the ergonomics/feel, but alas.

Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch
Brush and chisel tips on Sketchmarker Brush and Copic Sketch. That’s the fresh brush tip on the Copic; you can see it’s just a smidgen sharper than the Sketchmarker at the tip. (It’s also a bit longer, making it more flexible, but harder to control.)

Sketchmarkers are refillable and their nibs are replaceable.

Neither Marker Universe nor Sketchmarker’s Amazon store actually seems to have the replacement nibs available, but the base of the Sketchmarker brush nibs and the Copic brush nibs look super close in size, so you could probably put a Copic replacement nib in a Sketchmarker…?? 🤔

Sketchmarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Tigers with Sketchmarker Brush (left) and Copic Sketch (right) in a Punctuate Sketchbook.

I think the most notable downside of the Sketchmarker Brush is the juiciness of the ink and its tendency to feather. Copic will also feather if you press down hard enough, but it’s usually not as dramatic or noticeable.

Still, feathering is more an issue when inking/lining than coloring. Using the markers to ink tigers is a good demonstration of feathering, but I’d typically just ink with a pigment brush pen, not a marker. Actually filling in and coloring the tigers would produce much less of an effect.

Sketchmarker Brush VS Copic Sketch
Arrows point out some of where the ink is feathering due to oversaturation. Sketchmarker color was SG2; Copic was C7.

At least for me, I tend to have a much lighter hand when coloring. I’m trying to stay inside the lines, and it’s way easier to put down color a little bit at a time than it is to try and mop up coloring mistakes with a blender.

But when inking, because pressure dictates the shape of my lines and brush strokes, taking advantage of the brush tip requires pressing down harder to get the effects I want. You can’t draw stripes without pressure, and that leads to feathering.

I picked up my four Sketchmarker Brushes at Marker Unvierse‘s booth at ECCC for $3.75/ea, but their MSRP is $5.39/ea — just ten cents cheaper than the Copic Ciao.

Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Copic Sketch
Copic Ciao
(Open Stock)
$5.39/ea $7.99/ea $5.49/ea
Price (6-pc set)
Price (36-pc set) $194.04/set
Price (Refill inks)
$6.99 for 20 mL
$5.39 for 12 mL
$5.39 for 12 mL

All prices in the table are MSRP, though Copic is very often available at significant discounts from various retailers. Sketchmarker, too, seems to be undercutting its own distributor in its Amazon store with lower prices there…

Like Copic, Sketchmarker doesn’t offer any bulk discounts in its sets. They have a huge variety of sets though, with the biggest ones being 96-marker sets. Sketchmarker’s refills are also a better value, and come in a larger 20 mL size. (Copic refills used to be 25 mL for $8.99 MSRP, which would’ve been just one cent more per mL than Sketchmarker, but they retired that size and now only have the 12 mL ones.)

So the Sketchmarker performs as well as Copic and is available in more colors than Copic, but it’s very nearly the same price as the Copic Ciao. Good stuff comes at a price, after all!

Sketchmarker Brush Pro VS Copic Sketch
Left: Sketchmarker Brush Pro; Right: Copic Sketch. (Please ignore the part where I started to color the hair with the wrong grey.) Both drawings inked with Tombow Fudenosuke.

Sketchmarker still gets the win on color availability though, so being about the same in performance and price might well make it the overall winner here? Wild.

Obviously there’s no reason to ditch your Copics if you already have them, but if you aren’t already invested in a particular brand for your alcohol marker collection, the Sketchmarker Brush is worth considering. If you’re picky about brush tips, the Sketchmarker Brush Pro can be a nice upgrade from the cheaper end of the alcohol marker spectrum… or you could still go with Copic Sketch/Ciao. The incumbent is way more widely available, of course.

Sketchmarker Brush blending into Copic Sketch
Sketchmarker Brush blending into Copic Sketch.

The Sketchmarker inks seem to play nicely with Copics, too, so you could just augment a Copic collection with the extra Sketchmarker colors. You could even fill an empty Copic marker with Sketchmarker refill inks for those extra colors to keep all the marker bodies the same. Lots of ways to mix, match, and choose your own adventure!

Sketchmarker Brush Pro
Sketchmarker Brush Pro display at the Marker Universe booth at Emerald City Comic Con.

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.