Monday, February 21, 2011

More About Paint Markers

On the Wargaming on a Budget forum the question always comes up: what paints do you use? Once it gravitated towards using paint markers and I was pretty negative about it, given my past experiences. Of course, my experience was quite some time ago and, I believe, was with Testor's enamel paint markers. They were messy, smelly, and prone to "bleeding" paint all over if you pressed too hard. It was almost like using a quill pen. When the paint started to run out in the brush the safest thing to do was to press down on a scrap piece of paper and release more paint. That way if it bled, it did not do it on your model.

Today, things are quite different. As I indicated in my last blog entry, I had made an impulse purchase and obtained a Sharpie metallic silver permanent marking pen and tried it out. On a lark, I decided to try it out to paint the barrels and bayonets of my muskets and it worked. Here are the results:

As you can see, it created a nice, crisp line, and had a fine enough point for me to draw a hammer for the fire lock. Also, this ink is opaque and designed to cover dark surfaces, unlike colored Sharpie marker pens, so I did not have to paint it white first; I was able to mark over the musket's brown paint. Coverage was one stroke. So, this marker is a keeper.

Looking through the Sharpie catalog I noticed several other products of interest, such as the oil-based paint markersMean Streak super marking sticks, and poster paint markers. Because I am currently working strange hours I was not able to get to the local Staples office supply, so I had to settle for the local 24-hour Wal-mart. Unfortunately, their selection of Sharpie products was minimal, but I was able to try two other, comparable products: the Elmer's opaque, fine point, acrylic paint marker, and the @ the Office metallic permanent markers (a Wal-mart only brand that I could not find on their website's catalog).

Here are the tips of the three markers:

Elmer's Paint Marker

As stated previously, these markers are opaque and acrylic. I chose a fine point white to test out. As you can see in the picture above, it has a fairly nice body that comes down to a fine point. This is a traditional "paint marker" in that you press down to release paint. What differs from the paint markers of yore is tha, being acrylic, it doesn't really smell and it dries fairly quickly.

Don't be fooled, however. You can end up with a mess if you press down too firmly while marking. This happened to me when I was not thinking and I was trying to get paint into a crack. I pressed down to get in deep and the paint poured out. Fortunately, the damage was recoverable; it only painted over a black backpack and not over any detail. Here are the final results:

I painted the two straps on the bedroll and the two straps on the pack. Coverage was surprisingly good, given how thin the acrylic paint was. As the pack is balsa wood and the bedroll oak, bleeding of the paint line was worse on the balsa, but it was acceptable. For where it was bad, I simply went back and touched up with black, which I often do with hand-painted lines anyway.

This probably requires more experimentation to see how valuable it is. Given the large size of the tube, it is not exactly a precision instrument like a paint brush is.

@ the Office Metallic Marker

Like the Sharpie marker, these markers are opaque ink, not paint, so problems with flow and pressing too hard are not a problem. The point is not as fine as with the Sharpie, but still adequate.

I tested this pen by drawing the gold piping on the kepi of a 1" (25mm) figure. The line was fine, coverage was adequate (needed two strokes in some spots), and control was very good. Given the thick point I can see some problems with not being able to get into tight spots and therefore having to follow-up with a brush. Either that or buy a second and trim down the point even finer. Given that I bought this pen in a pack of eight metallic colors, that isn't something I want to do a lot of.

Nonetheless, I can see the utility of this marker, so it is also a keeper.

I hope this has been of some help. Let me know if you have any questions.


  1. Who is the little chap in the kepi?

  2. I was experimenting with a "Micro Peg" I saw at Michael's, so I decided to try him out. Given the bell shape at the bottom it made an excellent frock coat. I added a flat-headed button plug and shaped it with a sanding drum to make a kepi.

    I stopped the experiment as I was getting too far away from what I need to focus on: finishing the artillery piece by making the artilleryman. But, as I wanted to try the marker on some piping, I thought that figure was a good way to try it out.

    Once I finish using my 1,000 pawns I purchased, maybe I will go with a different scale and pick up these micro pegs again (they make great, thin 25mm figures).

    So, long story short, he is an experimental figure for the 1850-1870 era of uniforms.

  3. I keep thinking of trying out these marker pens..but they are pretty expensive..mind you if making the lines is easier then maybe they are worth it

  4. Hi Dale,

    I used a white paint pen once for metal figures. I never did get it working right. might just be the pen. I'll have to see how these work. BTW, I will start my tutorial at the end of the week. Wife is taking the kids skiing for a week and I will have a large block of time to kill. :-)





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