Alcohol Marker Comparison – Part 1 (copic tutorial no. 27)

by Michelle Houghton

Markers with alcohol-based dye ink have special properties: they allow you blend colors together without tearing up your paper as you might with a water-based ink.

I’ve been happily using the Copic brand of alcohol markers and sharing lessons on buying and using them for almost two years.  I started collecting and using Copic markers without knowing there were other markers that would blend like them and have some of the same wonderful features.

Now that I know–and since I am a lover of ALL things color–I found three brands, in addition to Copic, to try out and compare in action side-by-side. I am ready to give you the skinny on how they stack up.  Remember this is my opinion only!

The three brands that I found to purchase easily on the internet are: Spectrum Noir, ShinHan Touch marker and the Letraset Tria marker.

I purchased three of the Tria and Touch markers in colors that, on-line, looked like they would blend together and might be comparable to colors that I own in the Copic Sketch.  The Spectrum Noir can only be purchased in sets of 6 so the color groupings are set for you.

To start here are basic facts:

  Price $ Refillable Nibs # of colors

Copic Sketch

6.99 Yes Brush and chisel 358
Letraset – Tria 5.50 Yes Brush, chisel and fine tip 300
Spectrum Noir 1.99 Yes Chisel and bullet (fine) 168
ShinHan -Touch Twin Brush 1.89 Yes Brush and chisel 168


I compared each brand to Copic Sketch markers because they are the markers that I own and have the broadest knowledge of.  Below I highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each brand.  In this article, I am sharing my comparison of the Spectrum Noir markers with the Copic markers. In a second article, I will share how the Tria and Touch markers compare.

Spectrum Noir Markers

Before I even opened my markers, there were a few things I noticed about the body of the Spectrum Noir marker.

  • The Spectrum Noir marker has a square body that will not roll off your table and that fits well in my hand.
  • The caps flair outward slightly which should make them easy to pull off.
  • Unfortunately straight out of my package they are difficult to open and one of them actually comes apart with the marker tip staying locked up inside the lid apart from the body of the marker.
  • The ends are colored and marked with the color number, although the marking is printed on and looks like it might eventually rub off with time and use.
  • The side of the marker does have symbols showing the nib size at each end and the fine tip end is marked with a gray ring which I appreciate for quick work in finding your end.


The Spectrum Noir comes in sets of 6 so the number system and color picking becomes easier. 

I purchased a set of blues that include TB1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9.  The 1, 2 and 3 are light and very comparable to B00, B02 and B63 in Copic ink.  The 5, 6 and 9 take a jump up in color and are similar to B24, B28 and B97 in my Copic set.


Below I used my Multiliner SP to sketch butterflies to color with both the Spectrum Noir and Copics so you can see them together. 

The first three colors of the Spectrum Noir blended fairly easily and smoothly.  When I added my fourth color the ink seemed to pool a little on my paper and was very difficult to blend back in, partially due to the extra ink and partially because of the large color jump.

Butterfly blended with Spectrum Noir.

On the Copic butterfly example below I used the same series of steps with the colors that seemed to match the closest to the Spectrum Noir.  The Copic managed to blend the wider gap of colors fairly smoothly.  Even with the 4 layers of colorm the color seemed to do well on the paper without pooling or oversaturating.

Butterfly blended with Copic markers.

The advantages of the Spectrum Noir:

  • Price
  • The sets take the guess work out of buying
  • When the colors are close they blend well

The disadvantages of the Spectrum Noir:

  • You can only buy in sets of 6 not individual colors
  • When there is a larger gap in colors I had trouble forcing the blend
  • The ink seems to oversaturate the paper with 3 to 4 layers
  • The construction and quality of the marker body is not very good
  • There is no brush nib

I look forward to sharing the comparison of the other markers with you in a second article. If you’ve got experience with the Spectrum Noir, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.

Bio-shot-2011-150Michelle Houghton is a wife, mother and artist living in Iowa. Even before she began scrapbooking, she was a lifelong artist, majoring in Fine Arts at the University of Oregon and then teaching high school art for 7 years. Michelle has been scrapbooking for more than 15 years and she enjoys adding her own art, doodles and handmade elements to her pages for a one-of-a-kind look.

Michelle teaches doodling, Copics, handlettering and more at workshops throughout the country. She writes tutorials at Get It Scrapped and is an instructor for Imagination International Inc., the US distributor of Copic products. The best way to learn more about Michelle is at her website,

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43 Responses to Alcohol Marker Comparison – Part 1 (copic tutorial no. 27)

  1. A'Lucia Harper June 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I love the Noir pastel colors, BUT Some of the tops are impossible to get off except with pliers, and they do come apart in the wrong place and have to be put together again, doesn’t seem to hurt anything, though, but irritating to happen when you are in the middle of a project. I have used Copics and Noir on the same thing and good results. Wonder after they are pulled apart in the wrong place is they will dry up?

    • Michelle June 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

      Thanks for the input! I had not tried any together yet so good to know. I don’t know on the drying up :-( I would question that over time as well since the seal is obviously broken.

    • Jessica December 4, 2012 at 10:01 am #

      Wow, those are so cute. I had no idea you could use permanent ink on a shirt like that, not sure I can make mine look as good as yours tuhgoh. I guess I’ll be heading to hobby lobby today asap!

    • Dirck Otto Wempe August 3, 2016 at 12:05 am #

      I hear may complaints about the spectrumm noir caps, that they are too tight. Well, they are supposed to be that tight, they were designed like that. The will loosen somewhat, over time.

      Now what you should not do, is try to PULL the cap of. As in the review mentioned, the tip could come of (which is good: they are replacable. And fitted with a brush tip, which I recommend, they are IMO no less than the more expensive copics…).

      What you should do: PUSH the cap of. Hold the marker straight up, vertically and, maybe with a little help from your free hand, push the cap to the side and slightly upwards…

      Hope this helps.

      • Tracey Jean August 3, 2016 at 9:40 am #

        Once you buy the brush tip for the Spectrum Noir, you are essentially spending what you would for a Copic marker anyway. So you may as well just collect Copics a little at a time. Or look for a less expensive alternative that already comes with a brush nib – like the Touch Twin Brush…

  2. Carolyn September 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    In Disadvantages section above you list that the Spectrum Noir doesn’t have a brush nib, but in your table before that you mention that it does have a brush & bullet nibs? Which is it?

    • Michelle September 24, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Carolyn, Thank you so much for catching this! There is NO brush nib on the Spectrum Noir, only a chisel and bullet tip. I will see if I can get it fixed. Thank you! And sorry for the confusion!

      • askings03 September 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

        Thanks Carolyn, we’ve updated that information in the original table so it reads correctly :)

  3. yvan October 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    i was wondering if you could do a review on Kurecolour markers the newier version plsssssss and can you do them on fabercastell makers and Tombow markers pllllsssss i would be so glad if you did these reviews (^-^)

    • Michelle October 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      I have 5 more brands on my desk to get working on next month :-) Let’s see I have Le Plume, Blick Studio, Kurecolors, Chromatix and Prisma Color. I will see what I can find out about Tombow and Fabercastell. Let me ask is there a specific marker you are interested in the Fabercastell, they make several. And on the Tombow the dual tip are water based which is different from the start but I am happy to try to add them if you are interested.

      • yvan October 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

        you prety much read my mind i was going to ask you do do an review on the blicks and prismacolor but your way ahead of me thanx cant wait to see the review.

  4. Judi Priest October 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    I, also purchased the Spectrum Noir when they first came out.
    I had to send one set back as it had leaked all over the case it came in.
    I was excited to use them, however, I could not get the caps off without pliers and the pens were continually coming apart; thus, drying out. I notified the company, they sent me a video to watch and their paper. The pens seemed to bleed on most papers. They never responded to the cap problem….probably thought I was just an unhappy person ;-) I am not! They should not sell something that they did not test thoroughly.
    They did not blend well for me; and, they tend to either puddle or nothing comes out. However, people are saying they do blend and they like them. Maybe they made changes to the newer ones.
    I am totally preferring Copics even though they are much more expensive. I feel you get what you pay for.

    • Michelle October 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

      Sorry you got so little response to an obvious quality issue! I would agree though. You do get what you pay for in this case.

      • Katherine May 6, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

        There are two things I would like to remind folks about Spectrum Noir. First: they are refillable and Second: if you cover, for example the above butterfly first with the blender pen then start your inks I think you will find they blend even nicer. As for the butterfly above , I have never used this type of pen before and I never ever have hard anything blotchy like that butterfly lol
        Seriously, I don’t know how you did that lol.
        Myself, I think much of a persons opinion is quite limited until you accomplish that products learning curve.

  5. fdgtgrl November 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I see you put the equivalent of color between the Spectrum Noir and Copics for the blue set, could or do you have a chart for all the other colors ???
    Thank you, sincerely

    • Michelle November 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Are you asking for the equivalent for all the Spectrum Noir in Copic?
      When I made these matches I was only going from my own personal set (which is about a third of the colors) and I was matching directly on paper. Sorry I do not own all the Spectrum Noir markers to do this direct matching with and I honestly do not know if there is a chart out there. It is a great idea though!

      • fdgtgrl November 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

        Yes that was my question.
        Thank you for getting back to me ;)

  6. Mary Jane December 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Hi, Im trying to find the equivalent of the following Spectrum Noir pens.
    I have copic markers and want to do a project that was done with the following SN pens. DG3, GB9, TN9 and DG4. They were going for a bronze look. THe copics do have a bronze color but its too green. Im looking for something more bronze.
    Can you help?
    Mary Jane

  7. Valentina December 29, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    Thank you very much for this review, it’s so helpful!!

  8. Mark January 19, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    Google or look on Ebay for FINECOLOUR PRO Sketch Markers.. they are close to Copic Sketch markers

  9. Noir Lover February 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    You needed to blend the butterfly better. The Spectrum Noir have a firmer tip keeping the pen from bleeding out. The Copics have a soft which flare a little causing bleeding. I sold my Copic and switch To Spectrum Noir.Watch their video and see the proper use of the markers.

  10. Jeanette March 13, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    I was at a craft show on the weekend and was recommended that blending with the dark colour works better.

  11. Tracey Jean April 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I’ve been collecting Touch Twin Brush for a few months now and found your site through some exploration trying to decipher the numbering system. I think the price on your chart is for the old style square barrel, not the newer rounded version (which is now available on Amazon). Most sites list the price of the brush marker at $4.30 with the chisel nib coming in at around $3.40. Hope this helps…

    • Michelle April 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Hi Tracey,

      Yep when I wrote this comparison they were just bringing in the new markers and I had prices for the old ones. If you find any good info on the numbering system let me know. I keep getting referred back to their color chart, which I agree is organized nicely but does not help me decipher the numbering :-)

      • Tracey Jean August 20, 2013 at 11:22 am #

        Michelle, I’ve looked everywhere and I firmly believe that Touch Twins are numbered according to when they are released. However, now that I’ve only got 12 colours to go, I’ve realised that the hand colour chart on the ShinHan site makes it easy to choose blending groups. The markers are listed by colour family, not number order.

        • Michelle August 22, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

          Tracey, That has been my best guess as well. And i agree on the color chart it does help for those that are looking for some suggestions.

  12. Michelle June 24, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Spectrum Noir. I have just bought my first sets of Spectrum Noir. Tried them out on normal printer paper and they bled when the sketch I’d done in black biro hit the noir pen. Should I be using a special ink pen to sketch with as don’t want to continue with this problem as all the demo video’s never have this problem. Or is the problem the paper I am using ?


    • Michelle August 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Michelle, I am not sure how I missed your question and I am hoping you are still popping in. you do have to use special sketch pens, but I am not sure which ones would be appropriate to use with the Spectrum Noir. I do know that Copic has what are called “Multiliners” that work with Copics and it might work with other alcohol inks as well.
      Also the printer paper is probably not helping, you need to work on something heavier like a cardstock. Cardstocks vary as well, different brands will bleed more or blend more smoothly.

  13. neha August 5, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Hi, I was wondering where you got.your touch twin brush markers?

  14. Tracey August 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Touch Twins are available from a few online retailers. I get mine at or

  15. updateyoursite November 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    You should update your price list on the blog… shin han markers are now as expensive as copics and no longer the bargin you state they are. useless without an update!

    • Michelle November 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for pointing this out. You are right all the information is due an update. Thank you for the input.

  16. TraceyJean November 11, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    For those who are interested, there are now 204 colours in the Touch Twin Brush from ShinHan Art. I’ve purchased them for as low as $3.50 and as much as $4.50.

    • Michelle November 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

      Tracey thank you so much for the update! I am working on updating all this information for the new year and will have something pulled together in the next couple months. (January ish 2015)

  17. Beth April 12, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I switched back to Copics from SN because of the over saturation and pooling, you are totally correct that if you make a big color jump, or not even that big, you will have lots of problem w/ blending. It got frustrating for me as I advanced further in my coloring. I do think SN are great for beginners or someone who on a limited budget. But if you are going to want to get into coloring big time, or if you wish to sell your creations, I would definitely recommend Copics over SN. I think a lot of people start w/ SN then move on to Copics.

    • Michelle April 17, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

      Yep that is exactly how I felt when trying them Beth. As you said as a beginner this is a great CHEAP alternative but long term if you are going to color a lot and want to push your own abilities and skills you most likely will want a higher quality product. Thanks Beth!

  18. Veronica December 6, 2015 at 3:04 am #

    I just want to let people know that the Spectrum Noir markers I bought in mid-2015 have a differently designed lid, and I haven’t had trouble taking them off. There is also a rubberized area on the barrels, just below each lid, that helps you grip the marker while removing the lid. I never used the older design, but I can tell from the pictures here that they are different now. I haven’t used my SNs for paper work, so I don’t have any input in that area, but I thought the easier opening lids might help others make their decisions on what to buy. I have chronic illnesses, and I deal with pain and weakness that makes it necessary to buy more expensive products if they are the ones that I am able to use; over the cheaper, more difficult to use products. :)

    • Michelle December 13, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

      Thanks, Veronica glad to hear they corrected that issue! It is always nice to get updates from people using the product!

  19. Chrtistine Lioubenov June 21, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    FYI, you can buy Spectrum noir individualy for $1.99 at the Carpedium web site.
    Each pen has its number and color beside it. Much easier to order just the color you need versus buying a set for the one or two needed.


  1. Comparing Alcohol Markers | Scrapweaver - May 25, 2012

    […] I have a new article over at Get It Scrapped.  I purchased 3 other styles of  alcohol markers to see how they stacked up against Copic Sketch markers.  You can see the first installment that examines some of the facts of all four marker brands and then looks at Spectrum Noir markers a little closer.  Check it out HERE. […]

  2. Michelle Houghton: An Equal Opportunity Artist | Creative Passion Classes - June 4, 2012

    […] Alcohol Marker Comaprison (Part One) […]

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