Review samples provided by Ohuhu
Ohuhu is a company that sells markers and marker accessories such as refills, sketchbooks, pens and other art supplies. They sell two types of markers: the alcohol-based and water-based markers.
The company is celebrating their 7th anniversary this year with the launch of marker refills, and they have generously sent me their 168-colour Honolulu set (USD 134.99) and 100-colour Oahu set (USD 52.99), refills and a marker sketchbook (full review here) to check out.
If I remember correctly, I started urban sketching with alcohol markers before I learned watercolour. I had built up a sizeable collection of Copic markers but those were too expensive. Eventually, I decided not to spend much money and sold all the coloured markers leaving behind only the grays.
This is the first time I've heard of the Ohuhu brand and I was surprised to find out that each marker is around USD 2.49, and cheaper in sets, and are significantly more affordable compared to Copic markers which are USD 5.85 (from Blick). And now with the release of Ohuhu alcohol ink refills, it's even more economical. If I used the same amount of money to buy Ohuhu instead of Copic, I would have two times more colours and from what I can see, the quality seems similar.
These are the different series of alcohol markers available from the company:
- Honolulu (3ml) - Cyclindrical body with brush and 1 to 6mm chisel tips
- Honolulu B (3ml) - Cyclindrical body with brush and fine tips
- Oahu (2ml) - Oval body with fine and 1 to 6mm chisel tips
- Kaala (2ml) - Oval body with fine and 1 to 7mm chisel tips
- Molokai (5ml) - Flat body with 3 to 18mm chisel tips
- Mokauea - Round body with 1 to 9mm tri-tip and 1 to 6mm chisel tip
The markers are available in sets of 24 to 320 colours and the prices are from USD 19.99 to 244.99. The price of a marker can be $1 each in some of the sets. That is very attractive pricing. This means if you're a beginner, you don't have to spend that much to experiment with markers. And if you're a professional and find the markers good enough, then you can get these for the value they provide.
There are also themed sets such as skin tones, pastels and grays.
At the time of review, Ohuhu has a total of 481 colours so even the largest marker set does not have all the markers. Ink refills are currently only available for 51 colours.
The sets comes in a bag with a number label by the side indicating the number of colours in the bag.
Downside of the bag is if you take too many markers out, the remaining markers will just collapse since there's nothing to hold the markers vertically. This is where I find a plastic case to be more useful.
Also note that markers are best stored horizontally so that the ink can reach both tips. If you only use the brush tip, you have to make a conscious effort to store the brush tip facing down.
Swatching out so many colours can be tedious.
Since the colours on the marker caps are truly representative of the actual coloured ink on paper, it's best to swatch out the colours for reference purposes.
One downside to having so many colours is finding a colour can take some time. The upside of course is you get a huge variety of colours to choose from.
The alcohol-inks are vibrant, quick drying and do not streak. Note that these are actually dye-based inks which means they will fade when exposed to light for long periods of time. So these markers are not suitable for creating archival art that's meant for display. I won't worry too much about the colours fading when you're using these markers in sketchbooks or the art is kept away from light. Having said that, I highly recommend scanning whatever completed art you have created with these markers.
Alcohol inks are usually dye-based. If you need your colours to be archival, you have to look at pigment-based markers. Note that there are companies and reviews that advertise alcohol inks has being heavily pigmented which is highly unlikely. A pigment is a colored substance that is completely or nearly insoluble in water.
So why use dye-based inks over pigment-based inks? These alcohol inks are preferred for their vibrance, quick drying time and how easy the colours are to blend. And the colour range of alcohol inks is much larger than pigment-based inks.
Alcohol inks are considered permanent in the sense that the colour will not lift once applied. Permanent does not mean the colours are fade-proof.
The Honolulu markers are round or cylindrical and the caps come with little extrusions to prevent the markers from rolling off the table. The tips are clearly labeled on the side of the markers and the top of the caps have the colour and colour number.
The Oahu markers have oval bodies.
The fine or brush tip has a gray hold while the chisel tip has a white holder. You can easily see the gray or white stripe to know which tip it is without even looking at the label.
The markers can be purchased with either the brush and chisel tip, or the brush and fine tip. I personally prefer the brush tip for its versatility and the chisel tip for the ability to cover larger areas.
The tips are replaceable and replacement tips are sold in a 8-piece set for USD $9.99.
The tip is even reversible so you can pull it out and reverse it to get a new tip if needed.
These are alcohol markers so they smell like alcohol markers. I could barely smell the markers while using so that's great.
Alcohol markers are best used on paper that's made to handle alcohol inks to prevent ink bleed-through. The Ohuhu Marker Pad I received actually does not use marker paper but the paper is thick enough to handle marker inks.
How are these markers vs other brands
All these markers use dye-based inks and to me the quality of the ink (vibrance and blendability) seems similar. As such, I don't really have any preference towards any brand. So what I look instead are the following features:
- Open stock availability - So you can you can replace a specific coloured marker if needed
- How easy can the marker be purchased - Can you find them in shops? What's the shipping cost for online purchases?
- Colour range - The wider the colour range, the better
- Refills availability - Refilling markers is more economical and better for the environment
- Replaceable tips - So that worn out tips can be replaced
- Price - If you have to buy many markers, the cost will add up
I'm glad to say that Ohuhu markers score well in all these areas.
The only issue I experienced is some markers have inks leaked into the caps which can splatter out unexpectedly when opened. That's why there are some ink blots for the sketch above.
That's one reason why markers are best stored horizontally. It's better to let ink flow to two tips than concentrate in one.
Some ink also splattered onto the side of the sketchbook. And remember once the ink is on paper, it's permanent and incredibly difficult or impossible to remove.
It would be good to check each marker when they first arrive so that you can remove excess ink in markers that have them. If there are dried markers, let the company know and they will replace them.
For illustrations, I definitely reommend getting the markers with the brush point. Colouring with the chisel tip is not the best way to work. Having a brush point allows you to paint details and the chisel tip can cover large areas quickly.
If you're using the markers for layout and presentation, perhaps the chisel and fine point combo is more suitable.
The markers are really wet and the colours are so vibrant. For the sketch above, I used a white gel pen to draw the white lines. These alcohol inks are transparent so you can overlay colours for mixing. The sequence to using colours is important.
How well or how easy the markers blend will depend a lot on the paper you use. Shown above is the inks on the Canson marker pad (70gsm) and blending was easy.
As with using any new art supplies or tools, I recommend you test them out thoroughly first to see how the media and surfaces work. Test the inks from your pens to see if they will react with the alcohol inks, or if your pen ink can dry fast enough for quick sketches.
The sketch above was challenging in the sense that I had to try several darker red shades to find the one that works well as the shaded side for the lighter Coral colour I used. And I had to go over the colours a few times to make the brush strokes less obvious.
These markers work well and the colour range is wide.
I can recommend these easily because of how affordable they are. Even if you don't like them, or found out you're not a marker-person, you won't have wasted too much money. They are great for beginners getting into marker art, and for professionals looking for more affordable options.
The downsides? These are dye-based alcohol inks so they are not fade proof. Same applies to other brands of alcohol markers too. And just be careful when opening up the caps in case there's excess ink that spills out.
Where to buy
You can find the markers, refills and sketchbooks from the Ohuhu online store.