Sunday, April 03, 2016

Marker paper review (For Copics and Prismacolor Markers)

There are a lot of reviews on papers for markers out there, but not many that are focused on creating character design-oriented work: what I found were mostly people doing shaded apples with curlicue stems or arguments on art forums between people who had completely different priorities than each other. So I bought a large stack of papers I heard recommended and tried them for myself. There are still a few that I didn't try because the artists seemed to want something different from me, but I'll add anything I find to this review as I try it out.

I'll be posting a review on markers soon, but for now it should be sufficient to know that I picked Copics above the rest.
What I discovered pretty quickly is that Copics were amazing and fun with the right type of paper, and frustrating to the point of unbearable with the wrong paper. So I went on a wide paper search, hoping to find something that would make the markers great.

For those of you who just want the quick answer and skip the rest, these are the papers I liked best:
Borden and Riley Boris Layout
Xpress-It Blending Card

Now for those of you who want to know why. As you might read below, none of the top papers got an A grade---meaning every paper has weaknesses and I'm still on the search. For example, I found that Copics bleed through basically everything. I found I just had to always have a blank scratch paper underneath to avoid ruining either the next page or the table. That said, I'm pretty happy with the papers I did rate highly.

So here's my breakdown of each paper.

Animation paper (I bought this stuff for this review):
• No feathering!
• Colors are fairly bright

• Slightly translucent, but you'll want a blank paper underneath to catch the bleed anyway
• Doesn't blend much at all, mostly only layers color (maybe a pro if you prefer layers)
• Colors lay on slightly darker than they dry, which makes it difficult to anticipate what you're going to get

Grade: B+. This animation paper is pretty good in almost every category but I miss the blending too much to rate it higher.

Borden and Riley #37 Boris Marker Layout:
• Almost no feathering, markers stay where you put them
• Colors lay on how they dry
• Gives vibrant colors!
• Blends nicely once the paper is saturated, but layers colors before blending, meaning you can get both effects with little skill. 

• The blending takes a little patience; you can push colors all over the place with a little work but it's not super slow either.
• Slight visual texture (the paper is smooth to the touch) that shows up with blended colors
• Extremely translucent! This is a plus if you want to trace a drawing but it means if the paper behind has anything on it at all you will see it while you work.

Grade: A-. The translucency is an annoyance sometimes but its so easy to use with the markers I'm willing to forgive a bit. It doesn't get great Amazon reviews but I'd ignore that if I were you; it's still the best.

I had to put in black lines to get any definition at all on the edges. 
Borden and Riley #234 Paris Paper for Pens:
• Pretty good for layering

• Feathers and spreads almost every stroke, but not consistently enough to count on it
• Only okay blending. For a paper that feathers my edges this much it has got to be amazing at blending to justify the lack of control.
• Bleeds even though it specifically says it is "bleedproof"!
• Hard to get vibrant colors, you really have to layer them in to avoid the chalky look

Grade: D. This paper is really not terrible for markers, just mediocre bordering on bad. But what makes me give it a bad grade is the fact that it is not even good for inking. This is another one that was recommended by multiple artists but I honestly can't see why they would choose it. I'd love to hear

Strathmore Bristol:
• Blends okay, but takes a lot of work to do so
• Colors lay on nearly as they dry

• Not as vibrant as some of the other papers
• Bleeds a lot more than you'd expect for such a thick paper.
• The feathering makes the colors spread quite a bit, not enough to make it useless but enough to make small detail work annoying

Grade: B-. I had a lot of people recommending Bristol paper but I wasn't happy with either of the Bristols I got.

Canson Bristol:
Pros and Cons: Behaves almost exactly like the Strathmore, with easier blending but more feathering and even less vibrant colors. Basically a step down from Strathmore.
Grade: C

Hammermill Color Copy Digital
• Layering is great
• Little feathering

• Even though it doesn't feather, it pulls solid color from the marker in a slightly larger area than the tip, making tight details tricky
• Blending almost non-existent
• Bleeds a ton, you might need two scratch papers behind if you're really laying down the color

Grade: C+. This is one of my favorite papers for inking with pure black ink, but it's only just above average for marker work.

Hammermill Premium Multi-Purpose Paper:
• Great scratch paper!

• All the flaws of the Color Copy paper, but now with feathering.
Grade: C-. I use it all the time for drawing but I wouldn't use it for any serious marker work.

X-Press It Blending Card
• Super clean results
• Layers colors with first strokes, but blends when you work over the strokes multiple times

• Blending takes a bit of work
• Colors lay down much darker than they dry, making it hard to use
• Need to layer in colors to get good saturation (lays down pale at first)

Grade: B+. This paper takes a little skill to use but you can get great results from it. I'd rate it up with the Boris Layout if not for the strokes laying down darker than they dry---it slows down your work unless you're familiar with how the colors are going to look after drying.

Kind of a terrible iPhone photo but the image is really clean in person.
Stonehenge Paper:
• Great blending!
• Vibrant colors
• Barely any feathering, the colors stay where you put them
• Probably bleeds the least out of all the papers, but there's still a touch of color that comes through

• Paper has a touch of texture to it, which makes it nice for drawing on but might be bothersome to people who prefer a smooth marker surface. It doesn't interfere with how it takes the colors.
•A thirsty paper, if your markers are drying out you'll have to go over it twice to get a smooth flat color.

Grade: A-. This is really close to my favorite paper. I think the blending is just slightly better on the Borden and Riley Marker but this is a really great paper.

Winsor and Newton Pigment Marker Pad:
• None.

• Too many to count!

Grade: F. I know this paper isn't meant for Copics, but it's not only terrible for Copics, it's terrible for the Winsor and Newton Pigment markers it was made for. It's a terrible, difficult-to-control, useless paper. I would also not recommend the markers, something I'll get into in a later post.

Summary: I don't think my search is over, but I feel happy enough with the animation paper, the Borden and Riley marker paper, the Xpress-it Blending card, and the Stonehenge paper, that if I never find anything better I can be satisfied. But if I ever do find that perfect paper I'll be sure to let you know. I'd love to hear your experiences with these and other papers in the comments!