Testing DecoColor Acrylic Paint Markers

December 12, 2011

A friend of mine recently suggested I take a look at this line of markers that uses acrylic paint. I became even more interested in them when I discovered they were made by the Marvy/Uchida company, who also make a line of pigmented markers called “Le Plume” that I’m very fond of. DecoColor comes in a variety of types and point shapes. These happen to be acrylic based, but they also have a version that is oil based. The acrylic ones only seem to be available with chisel point and “jumbo” wide tip nibs, whereas the oil ones (called “Opaque Paint Markers”) come in three different sizes. I have the oil based ones on order and plan to review them later. Here, I picked up just three acrylic markers to test out: “brown,” “English red,” and “celadon” colors.

They are pigmented markers, but there’s no mention of exactly what pigment is used. The description also states “acid-free” and “lightfast” which is good. On the side of the marker is printed some instructions of a sort, but the print was so small I had to scan the marker to read it. “Shake with cap on. Press down until color appears.” It’s rare to have art materials that come with instructions. Okay, so I gave one of them a good shake (there’s a small ball inside like inside a paint can,) pressed down for a few seconds until the paint began to appear on the nib, and started making marks. By the way, as I discovered later, when you’re shaking it be sure and leave the cap on.

In the example above the marks were very solid and opaque with all three markers. They dried to the touch in only a few seconds. I then wanted to see how well they stood up to water, so I washed over them with a wet cotton swab. I then saw that the paint immediately broke down into a wet wash. At first the paint was only slightly disturbed but the more pressure and water I added caused the paint to almost completely disappear. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and can in fact be quite useful. If the surface is damp the paint will spread like watercolor, but it won’t flow as it would from a brush filled with paint. I discovered a couple days later that the opaque paint was a little harder to remove with a wet swab but still not what I would call “water-proof.” That opinion changed, however.

Other instructions on the side say “Store in a horizontal position, Clean nib when finished, Make sure cap snaps on properly, Store at room temperature” (I’m paraphrasing.) Storing them upright will be a bit awkward since they’re easy to tip over and I don’t really have a good place for them, but I’ll see what I can manage. Cleaning… hmmm. It doesn’t exactly say how to clean them, but I figure that should be easy enough with water alone. When I take them to the sink I discover that the nib easily pulls out of the base. This makes the cleaning even easier. I hold each nib under running water until the water is clear, dry the nib on a paper towel, and insert it back in the base. Simple.

The next day I wanted to test these out by using them for underpainting of oil based paint. That’s when I discovered something interesting: the paint coming out of them was no longer as opaque as it was the first time I tried them. Now the marks were much more transparent, like thin watercolor. I actually prefer this now than with a more opaque flow. You can over-paint when the marks are dry, but I wouldn’t try to get it too thick since the binder is so weak. See that purple color above? That’s actually the English red. Apparently this marker is a mixed color and the pigments separate, so be sure and shake well before use, and test it out beforehand. When the paint is still damp you can make marks into it that will spread and stain, like in the blue-green “celadon” color above, or you can paint onto a damp surface and get a similar effect. I also discovered that these new marks do not erase nearly as easily as the first opaque marks did the day before. You can see the result of my scrubbing on the brown area above. Some color lifted, but not very much. As with other markers that claim to be water-PROOF I would more accurately decribe them as water-resistent.

I’m not sure if the cleaning method I used to hold the nib under running water is the way the manufacturer would recommend doing it. That’s likely what has caused the paint to now come out more transparent, but I like it that way. It also causes less paint to come out, but I wind up washing paint down the drain. I’m wondering if it might be better now to just wipe the tips rather than wash them? I’ll try to contact Ushida for an offical response.

Finally, my oil over-paint tests went well on these arcylic markers. Oil paint adheres well when the marks are as thin as these. Acrylic paint also works well without lifting, even when the fresh paint is wet. If the markers are used in a more opaque manner, I wouldn’t recommend over painting it unless you do so with other marker colors. The paint these lay down just would not be strong enough otherwise.



  1. Update: I received an email reply from Uchida today. The best solution to cleaning the nibs is to do exactly as I had done; remove the nib and wash it in warm water. They specifically said soap and water, but soap isn’t really required. It still strikes me as wasteful, but it’s better than having a nib with dried paint on it.

    My final review at this point is not very positive on these markers. The English red marker above is now coming out more opaque again, but the other two are still transparent. It’s also uncertain exactly what color will come out. The “Celadon” blue-green marker comes out mostly blue, until I pump it a few more times for the white to mix with it. It also now floods the tip. They do work, but the result is sometimes unpredictable. The “jumbo” tip style might be more useful for putting down a solid undertone layer, so I won’t completely give up on them yet. I think regular paint from a tube or acrylic inks are easier to deal with, however.

  2. Great review. I’m experimenting with the DecoColor Paint Markers myself. Have you tried sealing over the paint markers with anything such as matte varnish. So far, I haven’t had much luck. Perhaps I’m not letting them dry long enough. I haven’t tried a spray acrylic fixative yet either. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  3. You said:

    “Other instructions on the side say “Store in a horizontal position, Clean nib when finished, Make sure cap snaps on properly, Store at room temperature” (I’m paraphrasing.) Storing them upright will be a bit awkward since they’re easy to tip over and I don’t really have a good place for them, but I’ll see what I can manage”

    Perhaps you confused horzontal with vertical? Because horozontal is not standing them upright, but rather, would be laying them down flat.

    Also, in your update, you mentioned Uchida’s response mentioning soap and water. Was that for water based paint markers only? Or for the oil based ones as well? Because I saw it suggested elsewhere that oil-based paint be cleaned with alcohol.


  4. This review and the reply from Uchida was for acrylic markers. Soap and water does actually wash out the oil markers fairly well, as long as the paint on them is still wet, but you could also use alcohol. If you use water, I’d recommend making sure the tip is completely dry before putting it back in the marker.

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