okay, so it only took me eighty posts to get to the single largest art supply investment (in terms of non-electronic) that i have made, these pens are hands down the standing titan of price tags that i have yet to surpass.
so since i've made a big deal about the price, i guess i should address the pricing on these pens. when i discovered these pen, around 2000-01, they were selling them individually for around $2-$3 as i recall (note that the pens that i own from this era are slightly different that the pens they sell now, i believe its mostly cosmetic changes but i haven't taken the opportunity to try one out) they came in different sets as well, primaires, metals, warm/cool/french grays, that were like twelve pens to a set. there were also sets of around like twenty-four, thirty-two, 120 and the holy grail, aka, the 144 pen complete set.
as i recall i think that i found that set, on sale, from an art supply store on lower market street in san francisco, a few blocks from the main campus of the college i was attending. the sale price was like 10% off and i believe that i paid around $300. i just looked this set up online and discovered that the price i remember paying is pretty damned close to what they still are selling for, go here: Sanford Berol Prismacolor Art Marker 144 Color Set if you're curious.
at the time of this purchase, i was still in the more traditional art classes, not so much the computer editing and animation courses and these pens made my life so much easier. the mid-term and final projects looked really sharp and professional, and over time i learned how to work around the peculiarities of these pens.
so let's start with the praise: these pens are bold, saturation is awesome, the bleed is potentially moderate but if you have something under the page you are working on its not all that bad, and when coloring around the outlines of whatever you can start to anticipate how much the bleed will creep and let the ink work for you, especially if you are moving slow. the pens dry very quickly, it is alcohol based and that means it evaporates, the smell of the ink is not unpleasant, and really the only thing that i can think to compare it to is itself which really doesn't help out much if you've never smelled one.
the inks can overlap to get some interesting results and the strength of their gray selection is extensive making for extremely fun layering work in monochromatic backgrounds, storyboards and concept art, this also lends itself to the other lighter colored pens and the darker ones will have limited effectiveness with the grays that fall into the 60%+ range.
the drawbacks are unfortunately numerous, however, many of them can be worked around if you're careful. first, when got the set home i discovered that several of the pens were dry, as in never had ink in them, lame, i had to argue with the store to get a replacement pen, luckily they were common colors and the store had them on the shelves, the other annoying discovery was that a few of the labels were all crooked and in some cases backwards indication the wrong direction for the wrong tip. i know that this sounds picky but come on, i paid $300, sale or not it was a lot of money at the time... who am i kidding, it still is. the ink, while it does dry quickly can be blended with the blending pen which is nice but that blender gets all mucky after a few uses so meh, also the caps, if not SECURELY, like fort knox secure, and you might think you've capped it but double check, for serious, because if any air gets to circulate inside the pen will dry out faster than something that's like crazy fast. i dunno, its late, sue me. the caps are tricky, they don't seem to stay on the pen very well, and if you're carrying them around in a bag they tend to fall off on their own. i have used up an entire pen several times from usage, mostly the black and various grays, but i have lost more pens to a loose cap than i'd like to remember.
i know that this post seems to be focus on a lot of negative things, but for the price tag, these pens should work better. as i mentioned earlier, they have made some changes to the pen design and i do not know if they have addressed any of these shortcomings.
i should also point out that even though they were expensive, they were incredibly useful, i loved these pens at the time, and the only reason i would not buy these pens now is that there are other brands, like copic, that are better quality and yes, more expensive. the other reason i don't think i would but a set like this again is that i do most of my coloring digitally these days, for the price of the pens i could get a pretty snazzy printer - yes, i know it's not the same, but that's just where my focus is these days.
what they say:
Every artist can appreciate these double-ended art markers. The ink is formulated to give the richest color saturation with silky smooooooth coverage. The duality of the thick and skinny tips let you change it up whenever the mood strikes. One ink source ensures color consistency from either end. It’s an alcohol, dye-based ink that’s non toxic.