Sunday, March 24, 2013

Product Reviews: Spectrum Noir Markers Review

For quite some time, I've been searching for a good quality alcohol marker that wouldn't break the bank.  Enter Spectrum Noir!

But let's back up and start with the basics: how are alcohol markers unique and what can they offer us crafty folks?  Alcohol makers have alcohol-based dyes which allow you to blend the colors together without your paper getting destroyed (like they might with other types of markers when you try and layer colors).  They're a little more "juicy," than other markers, if that makes sense, which allows you to have the colors (ideally) blend together seamlessly like water colors.  They can be a great tool to use to color in stamped images.

The most well-known brand of alcohol markers are Copic markers, which pretty much set the standard in the field.  Copic markers will cost you about $7 a marker and I didn't want to fork over that kind of money right out of the gates.  That's when I went to JoAnns and saw these Spectrum Noir markers and decided to give them a whirl.  Spectrum Noir markers are only about $1.99 per marker and they come in sets of six.  If you use a 40% off coupon, it's a great deal and it's nice that they come packaged in "color families" to save you the effort of trying to figure out which shades blend together.

Each Spectrum Noir marker has two ends, labeled "broad" and "fine," which you can see below:

You also may notice the square body shape, which is handy if you have a bunch of them on your desk (no stray roll-away markers)!  The lid of each marker (on both ends) is colored and labeled, so that's also a plus.  It's also nice that the marker is labeled as to which end is which.

I bought a few different sets and here is my first Spectrum Noir experiment: a digital stamp from Octopode Factory (artist: Lily Chilvers) that I colored in:

After having used these Spectrum Noir markers, here are some pro's and con's, as well as some advice if you're going to try them out:

1.  Be careful of the markers that are "extra juicy."  While I understand that this is necessary to help them blend, the colors bled a bit more than I anticipated (such as how the flesh color went into her eyeball).  It seemed like some markers were way juicier than others and I had to get to know each marker specifically to figure out how it would blend. 

2.  They are kind of hard to open.  I'm a healthy non-arthritic person, but even my hands got a little tired of yanking the lids off and snapping them back on just right.  Granted, I did this about a billion times because I was experimenting with every single color, but still.  My fingers stayed cramped in "lid pull off position" after awhile.  I know that they have to seal tightly so that they don't dry out, but maybe a more ergonomically friendly design could help.

3.  If the store will allow you to, open the package you're going to buy and try out both ends of each marker before you leave the store!  When I initially bought these, there were several that were dried out, so I had to return them.  JoAnns was cool about it and let me exchange them and test the new packs out before I left, but beware that some could be dried out, which was not a pleasant discovery.

4.  Other than those cautions, I would recommend Spectrum Noir markers to those who want to see if they like alcohol markers, but don't want to commit to the pricier Copic markers.  If you want an "introductory marker" that lets you see how they work, but doesn't break the bank, these are ideal.  They blend well, the color families have some beautiful shades, you can buy refills for every color, and they are super budget-friendly.  

5.  Lastly, whether you decided to go Spectrum Noir or some other brand, an absolute lifesaver for me was to make a color guide first and then keep the markers stored in their respective color families.  The guide doesn't have to be fancy, but it saves a ton of time when you want to know what the marker shade will look like.  Here's the quick one I did:

Bottom line?  Go for the Spectrum Noir if you want to test out some alcohol markers but don't want to pay for pricier brands.  They're easy to use and I've been pleased with the results.  Try just one pack and see how they work.  After all, you can always upgrade later if you become addicted to using alcohol markers and if you don't end up liking them, at least you haven't wasted lots of moo-lah.


  1. Thanks for the review! That's very helpful information. I've been wondering about them, and I did not know they were at Joann's. So, I'll have to try them. Do you know yet how the color codes correspond to Copics? Say for example, someone's blog says they used Copic #blah-blah, how that corresponds to the numbers on these? Not a big thing, really, but was just wondering.

    Thanks, again, and I love your stamp coloring (eye ball and all!)

    1. A color conversion chart between Copic and Spectrum Noir is a great idea! Wish I had more Copics to be able to build such a chart! I looked online and didn't see one yet, but hopefully someone out there will make one for us! Thanks for your comment and for liking my coloring. :)