Acrylic and Oil-Based Paint Marker

The Different Types of Permanent Markers

For many creative projects, I love to use acrylic or oil-based paint markers. They are a wonderful alternative to using a thin brush and would make a welcome addition to your arts and crafts supplies.

You may wonder — How is a paint pen different from other permanent marker pens? This page explains the distinctions.

At the bottom of the page, you also will find some craft tips for using opaque paint markers; namely, how to shake them, how to “pump” the tip, and what to do if they get clogged up.


Art Markers

Art marker is a general term that includes many different types of marker products.

Art markers include water-based (acrylic), solvent-based (oil-based), permanent, non-toxic, transparent, glitter, and opaque paint markers.


Permanent marker

permanent marker is a marker pen that creates a permanent marking on a surface. The liquid (ink or paint) usually is water-resistant and can write on a variety of surfaces including paper, metal, and stone, as well as on surfaces that are either smooth or rough.

The mark that the pen makes is not really “permanent.” On most surfaces, the liquid does not actually stain but instead forms a surface layer of color that can be removed with paint thinning solvents (such as acetone) or high-pressure cleaning. It also will wear away eventually. Some markers are designed to be long-lasting and are more resistant to solvents and fading.

Like spray paint, these markers give off volatile organic compounds, which in some cases are toxic. However, most permanent markers today use an alcohol solvent (as opposed to xylene or toluene — toxic solvents that were widely used in the past). The alcohol is more environmentally friendly — and it also smells better. Alcohol also evaporates quickly which allows the permanent markers to dry faster than they used to.

Permanent markers come in a variety of colors and tip sizes and shapes.


Opaque Paint Markers

Acrylic and oil-based paint markers

Paint markers, also called opaque paint markers, are permanent markers that contain paint instead of ink. They are available in acrylic or oil-based.

Acrylic paint markers are water-based and non-toxic. They are great tools for drawing on glass, metal, leather, and a variety of other surfaces that are not waxy or greasy. For clean up, only water is needed.

Oil-based paint markers are more durable than water-based acrylic markers, and the color will not fade with exposure to UV light. For cleaning up, an oil-based paint marker requires a solvent or paint thinner. Oil-based markers generally are used for more advanced projects.

Oil-based paint markers, like acrylic paint markers, can be used on a variety of surfaces such as glass, metal, wood, plastic, and paper. Oil-based paint generally does not work as well on leather as acrylic paint does. However, it can be used if the leather is properly prepared before the paint is applied.

The paint in both acrylic and oil-based markers is opaque and will show up on black and other dark surfaces. Therefore, you are not limited to using these markers on white and other light surfaces like you are when using regular transparent markers.

Although the opaque marker is a “permanent” marker, the paint actually can be removed with paint thinning solvents (such as acetone) or high pressure cleaning, or it can be painted over.

Most paint markers, especially the oil-based markers, need to be shaken before each use (similar to an aerosol spray paint can). However, some brands do not need to be shaken. For example, Permapaque opaque paint markers do not need to be shaken.

Most paint marker brands offer at least two different tip widths to choose from, including a fine tip and a medium tip.

Not all brands offer a paint marker with an extra-fine tip. Extra fine tips usually are made of a different material than the wider tips are, even within the same brand. Extra fine tips usually are metal and needle-like, whereas the wider tips (including the fine tip) usually are made of a porous material.


Craft Tips for Using Paint Markers

How to Shake Marker and Pump Tip

Before each use, most paint markers need to be shaken and the tip needs to be pumped. Here are the steps to take to “activate” and use the marker:

  • Shake the marker vigorously for about 30 seconds with the cap securely attached. (You will hear a small metal ball in the barrel of the pen.)
  • Remove the cap and press the tip down 3-4 times on a piece of scrap paper to start the paint flowing.
  • As you work, you may need to recap and shake the marker periodically for better flow.
  • Replace cap tightly and store the marker horizontally when not in use.

How to Prevent Clogging

To keep paint markers from clogging:

  • Replace the cap tightly over the marker (listen for the snap).
  • Store the marker horizontally.
  • Before using the marker again, wipe the tip with a bit of solvent (paint thinner, etc.).
  • Shake the marker thoroughly to remix the paint.

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