Art · Product Review · Showcase

First Impressions: Winsor & Newton Markers

In my exploration of the world of art markers, I hadn’t really considered Winsor & Newton. In this world, there are several competitors, but it seems that the winning brand is quite clearly Copic. As I have recently delved into this world, I completely understand the draw (see my first two posts about my Copic obsession here and here), and so I hadn’t explored others. There are several more affordable options out there, but the re-branded ProMarker and BrushMarker family is currently the subject of an Instagram-based competition*.

In all honesty, if the competition wasn’t happening, I probably wouldn’t have any W&N markers. But the contest is interesting with a not-unworthy prize: a complete set of W&N ProMarkers (148 colors) and BrushMarkers (72 colors) for the grand prize winner, first runner-up receives a full set of ProMarkers, second runner-up receives a full set of Brush Markers, and the public favorite (the one with the most likes on Instagram) will receive a full set of ProMarkrs.

That’s not too shabby, as contest prizes go, and the task involved is really quite interesting: take a predetermined set of lines and work with it to create an original artwork, using the markers in question. For reference, these are the lines:

I decided that it might be worth exploring. I had several ideas arise from the inspiration lines, and so I decided that I would put in a minimal investment to test the product and enter the competition. I would have preferred the BrushMarkers, as I’m getting quite used to the brush tip used by the Copic Ciao and Sketch markers, but my local Michael’s only carried the Pro and had them on sale 40% off. That, combined with a $5 off $25 purchase, meant that I walked away with 9 markers for around $30. That may seem a lot for markers, but after biting the bullet on Copics, spending $2.99 sale price ($4.99 retail) on a marker really ain’t no thang.

And I will say, I had a lot of fun with them. The competition lends toward some very creative interpretation, and so I had two designs that I was quite happy with. The markers themselves have some very rich color; the ink is well-saturated, and results in a very even coat of color. They also blend pretty well. I would be curious to see how smooth I could get it with more color variation.

But, at any rate, my entries! My first idea was a giant octopus attacking a Steampunk submarine, so I geared my color choices toward really getting the colors right for that particular idea. I didn’t want to buy a ton of markers, so I just tried to make good decisions on what I got and how to get the colors I wanted to be versatile in other ways.

(1-2 pics)img_20160918_152645006

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Raa! Marker power!!

I’m loving how rich the colors turned out. I really love the overall look of the piece, and I’m  very happy with how it turned out as a whole, even with the constraint of using provided lines.

My second idea was actually a mermaid, but I realized quite quickly that I had a problem with doing another water-based concept: my watery colors were running low on ink. The first piece was quite large at 9″x12″, one of the largest that I have done in marker, and I fully saturated it from edge to edge with color. And, although the markers are quite good, they are not an infinite resource.

And then I realized one of the drawbacks of this marker line: they aren’t refillable. They are intended as disposable markers. So in my mind, Copic automatically gets extra points for being refillable with replaceable nibs. It made me realize that although the initial investment in Copics vs. W&N markers is substantially different, with the win going to W&N, but the battle over long-term costs definitely go to Copics.

You can get 12 markers’ worth (Sketch; 15 Ciao) out of one refill container (retail $8.99, discount sites $4.96-5.99), which means you can get the use of 12 markers for a total of $16.98 retail or as low as $10.20 discounted (see my previous post about how to get Copics affordably). So, you could say you get 13 markers (original marker’s worth of ink plus 12 refills) for $1.31-$0.78 each. Whereas, if you go with Pro- or BrushMarkers, you’ll pay $4.99 retail whenever you run out of ink. Every. Single. Time. So for 13 markers you’d pay $64.87. Even on sale for 40% off you’re looking at $38.92.

Huge price difference over the long haul. Even so, I’m still totally hoping to win some markers. 😉 Which is why I went ahead and followed up on another line of inspiration that departed completely from the water-based ideas: the desert. I imagined a new story for the Arabian Nights lover, involving a hunt for treasure and a cursed Golden Scarab. This was the result:

img_20160919_165556032

Again, quite happy with the final result. I may yet work the background a little more, to smooth things out, but I’ll admit that I get tired of doing backgrounds fairly quickly and tend to get lazy about it. But that’s on me and not the fault of the marker. Although you can see where the blue finally gave up on me during the sky. But luckily I think it does give the impression of a hot desert sky, as if the heat and sun make the sky look white.

But, at any rate, putting aside my cost comparison, here’s the rundown of my first impressions of the Winsor & Newton ProMarker:

  • Marker Body: feels lighter and cheaper to handle than the Copic. I do like that the caps are shaped differently to differentiate between the two nib styles (chisel and bullet on the ProMarker). The label on the cap is marked by color and number, but the number system isn’t intuitive enough to mean anything at a passing glance. The color on the cap and side of the marker also aren’t entirely representative of the ink color.
  • Ink: Fantastic. Great, saturated color with even coverage. I didn’t observe any texturing on the Bristol (by texturing, I mean the spots of paper variation that can appear sometimes). Alcohol-based, so it blends well (also means that it plays well with Copics).
  • Coloring: Both the chisel and bullet nibs went on smoothly and were nice to work with on Bristol.

Overall, my impression is this: They’re good markers. They color well and get the job done nicely. But they aren’t the best markers for your money in the long run. If, however, you’re new to alcohol-based markers and want to give them a try without going all in, these are definitely a good option. You could, for instance, get a small variety to try to see if you feel like this type of marker is right for you. You might give it a try to see if you prefer brush nibs to bullet nibs before choosing to invest in either Copic Sketches or Copic Originals. These are good markers with a good (but not great) variety of colors to get started on. Then, if you decide that they’re right for you, you could begin phasing in Copic colors as your W&N’s run out of ink, for instance. Decide what works best for you.

Have you tried the Winsor & Newton ProMarkers or BrushMarkers? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!!

*The official rules for the competition can be found here.

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