7 Things you must know about Acrylic Paint Marker Pens
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Reading time: 15 minutes
Whether it is occupying the kids during school holidays with rock painting or just decorating everyday household possessions, acrylic paint marker pens have huge appeal. In fact, some prefer them over traditional artist acrylic painting using a brush and palette. Why is this so? And what makes a good acrylic paint pen set?
1. Water-Based Paint
The term ‘paint marker’ is used loosely to refer to (1) acrylic paint markers (2) oil-based makers and (3) Permanent ink marker pens. So it’s important to know exactly what acrylic paint pens are not.
You will have come across oil-based paint pens if you’ve ever used a pen where you have to vigorously shake the pen so the ball bearing can mix the paint with the oil before use. Being oil solvent based, these markers leave a strong odour and are, therefore, not ideal for (or around) children or for use in poorly ventilated areas. Oil-based markers will take much longer to dry than acrylic ones. Though they can be used on similar surfaces to their acrylic counterparts, oil-based markers will behave slightly differently. The paint tends to sit slightly better on porous surfaces and offers the advantage of not having to be ‘sealed’ (more on this later). That said, on non-porous surfaces, such as paper and card, they are more susceptible to bleeding on the surface.
Permanent pens, like Sharpie®, are sometimes confused for paint pens. The vital difference is that they are ink-based as opposed to paint-based and, as such, they behave very differently. Beyond drying fast and working well on white surfaces, they are rather limited. The ink will not show up well on darker surfaces nor work particularly well on porous surfaces. Blending and layering is not possible with ink.
So that leaves us with acrylic paint marker pens – a relatively new technology using water-based acrylic paint. Their ease of use amongst other things means they are gaining popularity.
Simply put, acrylic paint marker pens can be used on anything! Whether the surface is light or dark, rough or smooth it makes no difference. Porcelain, glass, plastic, fabric, wood, metal, rubber or leather you name it! So whether you are decorating a mug, a key ring or a T-shirt there is bags of fun to be had in personalizing any of your own stuff.
Perhaps the most popular use for acrylic paint pens, however, is rock painting (sometimes referred to as stone or pebble painting). Being different shapes and sizes, rocks make brilliant ornaments for children’s bedrooms or excellent presents to gift to others.
Tip: If you want to use your pens on rough surfaces such as pebbles you will want tough nibs that will not easily fray.
Being a water-based paint, acrylic pens marker pens are very popular amongst all ages – especially children (though they are generally not recommended for those under the age of 3). The pens offer an excellent trade-off between being permanent (discussed in the next section) while still being able to be washed off your hands with some soapy water.
It is a good idea, especially for younger children, to wear an apron to guard against any paint getting on their clothes as once the paint is dry it will be permanent.
It is important to remember that when using acrylic paint pens on items that you wish to consume food or drink from, you check if the paint is food-safe. Most paint pens on the market are intended for decorative purposes only.
The same goes for being dishwasher safe. Some manufacturers will claim that it is perfectly safe to put your decorative work through a dishwasher. Our recommendation, however, is to avoid this. If you’ve spent hours on your creation the last thing you want is to risk a dishwasher ruining it.
Finally, ensure that any pens you buy are non-toxic.
You may notice that most acrylic paint pen markers are sold as being permanent. This is sort of true! Let’s explain.
On porous (or matt) surfaces such as wood, fabric, paper and stone the paint from good quality acrylic pens will dry permanent. So you can rest assure that your artwork will stand the test of time.
If you are looking to use the pens on non-porous (or glossy) surfaces such as glass, mirror, ceramic or metal the paint will not be completely permanent once the paint has dried. It will also take longer to dry on than it would on a porous surface. On glossy surfaces acrylic paint is susceptible to cracking and chipping.
When painting on ceramic or porcelain, after the paint has dried it can be placed in the oven and this is popular with many people. Not only does it give your colours more vibrancy, but it allows the paint to set and become permanent. Before doing this always check that the porcelain or ceramic you are using is oven-safe.
If you wish to preserve your decorated work on these surfaces you can easily ‘seal’ it with a varnish spray to make the paint more permanent and protect it against cracking and chipping. An acrylic-based varnish such as Montana™ Gold varnish spray, available in gloss, semi-gloss and matt, is ideal for sealing. It is advisable that the spraying of varnish be carried out by an adult or at the very least under adult supervision.
Please see our short guide on how to apply a varnish seal to your work on non-porous surfaces.
5. Ease of use
One of the biggest advantages paint pens have over painting with a brush is that they tend to be less fiddly and messy. No cleaning of brushes and pallets is required. Just put the lid back on the pen when you are finished. Also, there is no wastage of paint as there is with traditional painting where some of the paint is often left in the pallet.
Perhaps the biggest benefit though is that most people feel they have better control with a pen than they do with a brush. Seeing as most of us use pens or pencils frequently this makes perfect sense.
Ensure you choose pens that are simple and easy to get started with. Zieler acrylic paint pens only require you to shake them and then press down the nib on some paper or card until you see the paint come down.
Some pens have reversible nibs or tips so that you get the use of two different style nibs in once piece. The idea of these is good, however, be warned they are fiddly. Normally, a pair of metal tweezers is supplied and, even then, it can be messy turning the nibs around especially when they are wet.
There is also a danger that the nibs may get damaged whilst trying to reverse them. If young children are using the pens it is not recommended to allow them to reverse the nibs as they are small and can be easily dropped or lost.
A criticism often cited against paint pens is that you cannot see how much paint you have left meaning you run the risk of running out of a colour whilst in the middle of your painting! On some occasions users have reported that the paint runs out so quickly that they doubt the pens were full to begin with! There can be nothing more frustrating than not being able to finish off your creative work due to unexpectedly running out of paint.
To help get around this, Zieler paint maker pens use transparent barrels so you can see that they are full. Because you can easily monitor the level of paint at all times, you can better manage your project to a finish. If you can see that one particular colour is running low, finish the section you are working on and switch to another colour.
Tip: Whenever possible, try to store your pens horizontally as this facilitates the paint flow the next time you use then pens and helps prevent the risk of the nibs from drying out.
6. Techniques Achievable
It goes without saying that the effectiveness of any acrylic paint is only as good as the quality of the paint itself and the pigment levels it contains. As well as the paint, the quality of the nib or the tip will also play a big part.
A high quality paint pen can be used to create wonderful effects.
- This is the ability to put one colour on top of another colour. Once the paint is dry a new colour (or the same one) can easily lay over the top of it. This is made easier because the acrylic paint dries quickly especially on porous surfaces.
- Good acrylic paint will be opaque meaning that normally only one layer is required to give you sufficient coverage. However, there will be times where you have an object with a dark surface, such as a rock, which may require an additional layer in order to cover it.
- To help make things easier, you can paint over the dark object initially in white so that it acts as an undercoat on which more colourful layers can be built. These additional layers will sit well on the undercoat and appear more vibrant having the white base underneath them.
Applying this type of base layer is a popular technique amongst artists even when the object is a light colour to start with.
Tip: If you wish to create a base layer use traditional white acrylic paint with a brush so that it saves the paint in your white pen running out!
- Despite being fast-drying on most surfaces, acrylic paint markers can still be used to blend colours together to create new colours. This tends to be more advanced users as it needs to be done while the paint is still wet.
- Blending allows you to create a vast array of colours that go beyond the colours you get in your pack of pens to start with. It also saves you buying colours that you don’t need. If you have a good choice of colours to begin with you should not need to blend too often unless, of course, you want to.
- If you wish to add borders or outlines to your work you will need an extra fine nib for this. The thickness of the nib required, however, depends on the size of your design and how thin an outline you require.
- Contrary to common belief, acrylic paint pens do not always provide the best option for outlining your colours. This is because even the thinner nib pens are not always sufficiently precise for detailed artwork. Because they are that much thinner they tend to be weaker than the thicker nibs and fray more easily – especially on rougher surfaces.
Tip: If you need very thin outline pen consider using alternatives such as thin-tipped, permanent marker pens which are readily available. For glass and porcelain you can consider thin glass marker pens.
A good quality nib will give you a consistent flow with a smooth action.
Zieler pens are made with highly-pigmented paint, durable fibre nibs and designed with a spring-like mechanism that regulates the amount of paint that leaves the tip.
7. Colour Range and Finish
As well good quality paint, you will want vibrant colours that show off your art work. If the paint used in your pens contains too much water it will adversely affect the vibrancy of the colours as well as the ability to layer the colours effectively.
You will want a set of markers with a good range of colours so that you can vary your projects and only blend new colours when you need to.
Acrylic paint pens either dry with a matt finish or a gloss one. So you should consider which type of finish you would like. If you prefer a shine then go with gloss.
If you are after some sparkle in your art you may want to consider having gold and silver colours – especially if you are decorating anything related to Christmas or for a celebration. Traditionally, oil-based paint has always been used when it comes to working with metallic colours, but over recent years acrylic paint pens have developed to become a worthy alternative.
Most acrylic pens appear similar in appearance making it difficult to know what you are really getting.
Though the possibilities of what you can create and personalise are endless, you should consider what surface you would like to paint on and how your paint will behave on that surface. This way you will hopefully get the best results.
The table below the key details of the Zieler acrylic paint marker pens.
|Product||Acrylic Paint||Tip Type||Suitable For||Ease of Use||Number of Colours||Clear Barrel to monitor paint|
• Non- Toxic
Rounded (Bullet) 1.5mm
Covering finer areas.
Outlining for larger work or larger borders areas.
No reversible tip
1 Gold +
• Non- Toxic
Rounded (Bullet) 2.5mm Tough Nylon
Covering larger areas. Not suitable for outlining.
Easy No reversible tip
1 Gold +
Zieler pens produce a semi-gloss finish. If more gloss is required on non-porous surfaces a gloss varnish can be applied.
Most of us are very good at being imaginative and do not need much help producing eye-catching, creative designs. Whatever, we decide our design will be personal to us.
What is also helpful is some guidance as to how to use acrylic pens across different surfaces. The possibilities are endless as you now know. The Zieler marker pens include instructions on how to use the pens plus a little guide with tips for painting on different surfaces.
Learn more on Acrylic paint pens with our helpful guides:
The ultimate guide to rock painting / pebble painting. Table of Contents What is rock painting and where did it originate? Rock Painting or pebble