Winsor & Newton Watercolour Markers is certainly an interesting product. When I first heard of it, I wondered why would anyone want to put watercolour into a marker? Would it have the advantages of both the marker and watercolour?
The markers can be bought individually or as a set. Mine's the set that came with 12 colours. The whole range only has 36 colours, which is significantly less compared to their watercolour tube range.
The colours that come in the set of 12 are:
- Lemon Yellow Hue (PY3)
- Cadmium Yellow Hue (PY74 + PY83)
- Cadmium Red Hue (PR188)
- Alizarin Crimson Hue (PV19 + PR179)
- Dioxazine Violet (PV23)
- Prussian Blue Hue (PB15:3 + PV23 + PBk7)
- Cerulean Blue Hue (PB15:3)
- Hooker's Greek Dark (PB15:3 + PY83)
- Sap Green (PY83 + PG7)
- Yellow Ochre (PY42 + PY83 + PR179)
- Burnt Umber (PY83 + PR122 + PBk7)
- Ivory Black (PBk7 + PY83 + PBk9)
Cerulean Blue Hue is interesting. It uses the same pigment as Phthalo Blue but here it appears like a true Cerulean. Overall selection is nice. I like that they did not use too many pigments for those multi-pigment colours. PB15:3, PY83, PR179 appear a few times. It's easier to achieve colour harmony when there aren't too many different pigments.
The selling point of these markers is they use pigmented ink. So they are supposed to be more lightfast and the colours can resist fading better compared to dyed based inks used in other brands of markers.
Each marker is quite thick. WN says that it's best to store them horizontally. That way, the ink can reach both tips. I've bought my set many months ago and they did not dry out so the capping mechanism works well.
Each marker comes with two tips, a fine point and a brush tip. The tips are made of sponge-like material that's not too different from other brands of markers. The fine point is good for putting in details and the brush tip for covering larger areas.
The sharp cap hides the fine point. And on the sharp cap there's a part that protrudes out that prevents the marker from rolling around.
Here are swatches created on Winsor and Newton Watercolour Marker Paper. The paper is good enough. 300gsm, coldpress, cellulose. However, it's not too different from other brands of paper with the same attributes. The markers and the paper does not benefit from being used with each other.
For the swatches, I allowed the paint to dry before I tried to lift and blend the colours into the white of the paper. It's difficult to lift some colours. If you really do want to use it this way, it's best to put several layers of paint, and that would mean you need to use it on durable paper because lousy paper will start to turn soft and produce fiber.
This was on Bee Watercolour Paper (300gsm, coldpress, 100% cotton). For some reason, lifting the colours is even more difficult here. So the choice of paper you use matters.
This is cartridge paper. Lifting is difficult too. And notice that the marks left by the markers are very obvious compared to the pale wash that's created. Also note that the colours are mostly transparent, so these markers can be good for pen and ink sketches.
If you want to use these watercolour markers with pencil and pen, make sure to test it on scrap paper first. The marker tips may smear your lines. It definitely smears pencil lines, and ink that does not dry quickly.
Here's a sketch I drew with Uniball Signo Gelstick black pen on hotpress paper. Markers work best on smoother paper.
The look is a blend of marker and watercolour. There are marker streaks and overlays if you look out for them. Generally speaking, WN Watercolour Markers work like water-based markers. As such, they do not bleed over to the opposite page.
To achieve intense colours, you need to use several layers. The colours are not as intense compared to watercolour tubes. And they are very slightly muted so they can actually be used straight onto paper without mixing to produce a nice illustrative look.
Because the colours are difficult to lift, it's not easy to create gradated washes or colour blends.
I usually do not use these markers to colour from start to finish. I use them mostly to touch up my watercolour sketches. When there are areas that I have forgotten to colour, or left out, I can use the markers to quickly colour those areas. If I were to use a brush, I would have to mix colours, and to switch colours, I have to clean the brush first. So using markers to touch up is very convenient.
Here are some advantages to using markers. They are portable and convenient to use. You can use them sitting down or even standing up. Once you're done, you can put the cap back, and throw them into your pencil case and leave. They are great for fast and loose sketches.
The downside to these markers, or markers in general are, they can be quite pricey, especially when compared to watercolour tubes. Markers are not good at covering large areas compared to using a watercolour brush, and streaking marks have to be carefully controlled unless that's the look you're looking for. It's not easy to mix colours with markers, and this may make you want to get more markers, and hence spend more money.
Below's an excellent tutorial on using these markers. In the right hands, you can create beautiful artworks. However, when I watched the tutorial, I did not really see any advantage markers have over watercolour tubes or pans.
Before you buy them, think of how they are going to fit into your workflow. Main advantage would be since they are pigmented, they would have better lightfast quality compared to dye-based markers. This is important if you create artworks that are meant for archival, or for commission.
The other question to ask yourself is whether you need them in marker form, or would watercolour tubes work for you as well.
They are fun to use but not necessary to have.