Refilling Disposable Ink Markers

December 3, 2009

As I’ve posted here before, ink markers made with pigmented ink are very nice drawing tools, but one of their main shortcomings is that all the ones I’ve found are made to be disposable. That can get rather expensive and wasteful. It is, however, possible to refill them. This will extend the life of a disposable pen; although, I haven’t yet been able to get one to work quite as well as a new marker.

Dry markers

Prismacolor Liner cut open






In the image above you will see two pigmented ink markers, Prismacolor and Staedtler liners. Both of these are made as disposable pens that aren’t intended to be refilled. However, it is possible to pull off the metal tip and add more ink. You can see where I’ve cut open the Prismacolor to show the felt inside that the metal point is stuck into. Neither of these tips are glued on, so you can just pull them out with pliers. I took the dropper from a bottle of Higgins Black Magic ink and slowly dropped some fresh ink into the plastic opening. It’s a slow process, but it works fairly well.

The .005 point of this Prismacolor marker is too small for the Higgins ink to flow through, I’ve found, and the new ink just bled out the side of the tube. The .5 size of the Staedtler works better; although, the line is still a bit coarse. A larger .7 point didn’t seem to work any better. Even on smoother paper, the line is still more like a thin dry brush, which is shown in the closeup above. Fortunately, that effect is useful, since as you can see in the drawing below, I’ve used this type of line to lightly sketch in where the black shapes will be for the dress around this woman’s waist. The other lines have been drawn with a metal dip pen nib (Nikko G tip.) That rough line also comes in handy with shading effects to gradually build up the value.

Drawing detail

As I say, refilling them is a cumbersome process that slows down the drawing session a bit as it takes awhile for the felt to absorb the new ink, and you don’t want to overfill it. Still, it’s better than throwing the marker away. I need to try different inks to see if they work any better.




There are some pigmented markers on the market that are designed to be refilled; however, even though the refill system they use makes the ink flow better, it’s not as economical as what I’ve demonstrated here. Copic Multiliners work as a cartidge system, like a fountain pen. Refills cost about as much as a disposable marker. Letraset also makes refill pens (Aqua Pro) but the tips are not small point liners, and their liner pens aren’t refillable. It might be that their Aqua Pro ink would flow better in my refill system…



  1. I’ve had success in the past with refilling Pitt brush markers by taking the cap off of the back of the barrel and cautiously dropping in a small amount of Rapidograph ink. As a result, I’ve used the same handful of markers for about seven years. I don’t use them as often as I used to, having gone back more toward traditional brushes and dip pens … but they’re always ready to go when I need them.

  2. See Rotring Variograph. Currently is not produced.

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