Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Great White Marker Matchup: Which Brand is Best for Balloons?



If you've been twisting balloons for any length of time, chances are you've come across the debate on which white markers are the best for writing on balloons. White markers come in handy when you want to add details to a dark colored balloon, or when you'd like to add white eyes to any balloon.  Of course, you can always go with stickers for quick and clean eyes, but many of us like to have the ability to customize our balloons' eyes.  SO, I thought I'd do a little test and compare a bunch of white markers!  I'm going to start by just giving you the facts...photos of how things turned out, and then at the end I'll chime in with my own experience and thoughts on each marker.


It took me a while but I assembled a lineup of 11 different kinds of white markers.  I not only scoured my own stash, but shopped on Ebay and Amazon as well.  I didn't just purchase the markers that I had heard balloon twisters talking about...I did a lot of searching to find every type of white marker I could.  After all, who knows, there could be some hidden gem out there that nobody has tried on balloons!

Price:
To make things easy for you to find, I'm including Amazon links with all of these markers along with their Amazon prices (not including shipping), except for the Toyo marker which I could only find on ebay. However, you may be able to find these cheaper in a local store or by shopping around online...

(A) Marvy Uchida "Deco Color" Marker - $4.99
(B) Galaxy Marker - $5-$7
(C) Sharpie Water Based - $5.44
(D) Sharpie Oil Based - $5.78
(E) Pentel White 100W S - $4.59
(F) Super Chalks - $6.39
(G) Duct Tape Marker - $3.97
(H) Glaze Pen - $7.04 (2 pack)
(I) Elmer's Panters Pen - $2.79
(J) Toyo Marker - $5.60 (ebay; free but long shipping from China)
(K) Edding Marker - $7.99 ($16.18 with shipping!)

All in all this little experiment probably cost me somewhere around $70.00. 

Preparation:
Most white markers require you to shake them (mixing up the paint inside), and pump the tip to fill it with paint before writing.


Lines:
All of these markers made decent lines.  As you can see, there is quite some variety in line weights out there. There are also a variety of tip sizes within several of these brands as well, so check that if you like the coverage but not necessarily the line weight.



Coverage & Pulling In:
When testing coverage I'm referring to how even and opaque the white is, without having to repeatedly color over the same area.  Some markers also tend to "pull in" around the edges. You can kindof work around this by going over your lines a second or third time, but that all adds time to the process.  Here is an example of what I'm talking about:

...the paint sortof shrinks on the balloon, leaving rough edges.

Here are all of the circles I drew. I realize that one could repeatedly go over an area in layers to get better coverage, but I tried to only spend the amount of time I'd normally want to spend when doing lots of balloons for lots of kids, and did one layer, to give a more accurate representation of the difference in coverage and time required:

The ones that did NOT pull in and left the cleanest lines were:
A, D, F (just slightly pulls in), G, I, J, K.

Smear Test:
While this might not matter if you are creating sculptures ahead of time for an event, the length of time it takes for markers to dry is really important when you are twisting for a big line of kids and need to move quickly.

For this test I wrote one letter, re-capped my marker, blew on it from maybe 1-2" away for 5 seconds (top row), and then very lightly swiped my fingertip across the letter.  This is meant to simulate a kid maybe bumping the balloon with their hand or against their clothes...I wasn't rubbing hard.


The bottom row of results are after blowing for 10 seconds.  Some actually seemed to smear MORE after more blowing...my only thought is that this must have been an inconsistency in the amount of paint that came out when writing the letters.  I did my best to write with an even pressure on all of them, but some did get more gloopy than others!  Either way, it still is pretty clear that some smear a lot more than others.

I'd vote A, E, and G as the least smeary.

Eyeball Test:
When you're drawing an eyeball on a black balloon, chances are you'll want to go over the white with a color, to make an iris. For these I used a regular blue Sharpie for the iris.  If you use another paint pen on top of the paint pens for color, you run the risk of re-activating the white underneath and smearing. I could probably test dozens of combinations of pens here but for the sake of testing out the ability to draw on top of white, I just stuck with a colored sharpie.

You don't have to worry about this test if you are the type of artist who plans out your eyeballs in a way that you don't overlap colors, of course.  If I were drawing an eye on a blush balloon, I leave space for the iris so I'm not coloring on top of another marker.  But if you have to draw an eye on black, this might be useful!

Stretch Test:
If you're going for longevity in your sculptures, you might want to steer clear of the markers that crack and peel under pressure.  After drawing the eyeballs above, I tried just bending the balloon into a curve, and stretching the latex a little.

H and I completely cracked and peeled.  D crumbled a bit, and J cracked a little as well. C, E and F cracked a little but didn't seem to crumble off.  The rest stayed just the same.  I really wouldn't worry too much about cracking for any of the markers except for H and I as they were the worst (Glaze pen and Elmer's pen).

My Summary:
I am still new to twisting, so I am not set in my ways as far as any white marker goes.  I only started twisting last year, and was curious which marker would be best for white, which is why I did this blog post.  So, I consider myself pretty un-biased! I know many of you SWEAR by your brand of marker, and that's great! In the end, use whatever works best for you!! I hope if you're new to this, that my little test results will help you to at least narrow it down to which ones you'd like to try.


Here are some thoughts that I had on each of these markers...



(A) Marvy Uchida "Deco Color" Marker - $4.99 
This is the only paint pen I had already in my studio.  I bought it in a set with other colors at a craft store. It was fine...requires shaking and pumping.  It gave decent coverage, didn't "pull in," was pretty darn good for coloring on top of, and was one of the quickest to dry in my smear test.



(B) Galaxy Marker - $5-$7
I really, really wanted to love this marker, after all the rave reviews I had read about it online.  The great thing about the Galaxy Marker is that it doesn't require any shaking and pumping. Just pull off the cap and start drawing! However, I was quite unimpressed with it's coverage. If you have the time to draw, blow until dry, and repeat until you get good coverage, that's great...although I'm not sure if that saves you any time in the end vs the shaking/pumping variety. It did also tend to "pull in," giving me rough edges.



(C) Sharpie Water Based - $5.44
This one requires shaking and pumping. I did like how nice and bright the white is with this marker!  However, it did pull in, and also took too long to dry for me to do a good eyeball iris on top.  It might be a nice option still for made-ahead sculptures if you want a really white white.



(D) Sharpie Oil Based - $5.78
This one requires shaking and pumping.  The oil based version did not pull in, leaving nice, crisp lines.  In the stretch test, though, while it wasn't the worst for flaking, it did crumble a little.  It dried pretty quickly, and was pretty good for drawing on top of for eyes.



(E) Pentel White 100W S - $4.59
This was unique in that it required shaking, but no pumping.  The marker actually came without a tip in it, but with 3 tips included in the package. When you first open it, you have to pull out a little plastic plug, and insert your marker tip.  Then you shake, shake, shake (a LOT), until the little paint well near the tip fills up with paint and soaks the tip.  It took a lot of work to get this to the point of being able to use it, but once it was ready to go, it performed okay. It had a very fine point tip, and dried pretty fast which was nice for eyeballs.  It did just slightly crumble in our stretch test, but not really enough to matter to a kid.  It does pull in a little.



(F) Super Chalks - $6.39
This is one I stumbled upon in my internet searches and had to try it. It does require shaking and pumping.  It had the widest tip of the ones I tried.  This marker did pull in a little bit. It does have good, white coverage.  But, it does take a while to dry, and was one of the worst performers in my smear test.



(G) Duct Tape Marker - About $5-$6?
This marker was kindof awesome. It does require shaking and pumping. It didn't pull in, leaving nice, crisp lines.  The coverage was great, and it dried pretty fast, making for nice looking eyeballs with blue on top.  I think this might be my favorite.



(H) Glaze Pen - $7.04 (2 pack)
This is a strange pen for balloons...I bought it because it said it would even write on ceramic and glass.  The pen comes with a little drop of plastic dried on the tip, so you have to pick that off before you use the pen.  It's a ballpoint, so there is no shaking/pumping. When you first draw with it on a black balloon, the ink comes out clear.  After it dries, it turns white.  You can see on the eyeball test results, the outside edge is white while the center was still clear, as it takes a while to dry.  It smeared really easily, and was the worst performer in our stretch test, totally flaking off.  I'd consider this pen not to be practical for balloon twisters.  But, I thought it was fun to try and I wanted to be thorough! ;-)



(I) Elmer's Panters Pen - $2.79
This pen requires shaking and pumping. It was the cheapest of all the pens I tried. I really liked this one for it's great coverage, and it does not pull in, so it leaves nice, clean lines.  It was sortof in the middle ground as far as smearing, so it takes more than 10 seconds of blowing to get it dry.  Sadly, it was the 2nd worst when it came to flaking off with just a little bending of the balloon.



(J) Toyo Marker - $5.60 (ebay; free but long shipping from China)
The Toyo marker requires shaking and pumping. I read about this marker on a message board somewhere, and ordered a couple on ebay.  They aren't bad price-wise, with free shipping, but it does take a while to get them from China. So, don't order these if you are in a time crunch.  The first one I ever used seemed to work fine. But, I've only had it for a few months and even with the cap on tight, the tip is all dried up and crusty now :-( Luckily I bought 2 so I could crack open a fresh one for this test...which unfortunately gave me the biggest gloopy mess whenever I pumped it:

These markers don't pull in, which leaves a nice, clean line.  These I think were pretty good for drawing over the top of, and dried pretty quickly!



(K) Edding Marker - $7.99 ($16.18 with shipping!)
Oooh, boy, did I ever want to love this marker.  It's the one I seemed to hear the most rave reviews about online.  I had to order one on ebay to get a fairly decent price, as Amazon only had them shipping from overseas for $16.18 with shipping.  So, I ordered a 2-pack for about $10 on ebay. I got all of my other markers. I waited for my Edding. And I waited.  50 days later I contacted the seller and got a refund as they never made it to me.  So, I bit the bullet and paid $16.18 for ONE marker via Amazon. I'm sure they are cheaper SOMEWHERE else online, but I really wanted to include this one in my test. Finally, 2 months after setting out to do this test, I had my Edding and was able to start testing! The Edding does require shaking and pumping.  Much to my dismay, this one was almost as gloopy as the Toyo when pumping...I had white paint spills everywhere and most definitely couldn't shake it here and there without having the cap on, unless I wanted polka dotted walls and carpet.  It doesn't pull in, so it leaves nice clean lines.  It wasn't the fastest for dry time, but was still among the fastest few markers to dry so I'd say it's pretty good on that front.  I also worked really nice for drawing over the top of once it was dry.  I didn't see any issues with cracking or flaking when stretched. It wasn't horrible, but wasn't my favorite.  I think maybe it was hyped up so much, I was expecting the world from it.  It was an extremely expensive, average oil paint marker to me.

I tried to diagram all of the results into some sort of chart for you below.  Of course these grades are purely based on my own opinion, so take them for whatever they are worth for you! I gave my overall opinion in the far right column as good, bad, or okay for general balloon twisting use.  You may, however, find that some markers are better for certain tasks than others, so don't completely count any out unless you try them and consider your project (line work vs make-ahead, etc).

 
 Got another white marker you LOVE, but I didn't test it here? Please feel free to leave a comment! We'd love to hear about it! :-)




17 comments:

OneCrazyStitch said...

This is awesome!! Thank you for doing this! I'd never even heard of some of these, and I never was a fan of design but it seemed like the only thing available. I'm so excited!!!

jojo entertainer said...

Thank you so much for all your hard work!!! I've wanted to know all this but settled on the galaxy marker because at the time it was cheaper than what other twisters had recommended and you didn't have to pump. But then had issues with it (The tip fell off and then the cap stuck shut). So I didn't try any others , but wondered which one would work without buying them all. So thank you so much!!!

Ester's Face Painting Fun-draising said...

Thank you for this...the white I had (Sharpie water based) works exactly as your test showed...so my next purchase will be the Duct Tape marker. You saved us all SOOOO much work and stress!!! Many Thanks!

hydher said...

Thank you for the effort.

I will be using the toyo pen for my automotive tire based on your reviews.

Costs about $0.80 from ebay with search "tire marker"

Random balloon guy said...

The duct tape marker is great in some ways, but I've noticed that about half the time, my balloon pops as I'm using the marker. Very frustrating. Is this because it's oil based? I know that oil based markers are discouraged for balloon use, and maybe this is why.

Unfortunately, it looks like the markers you really liked are oil based. Does anyone have any suggestions for water based markers they like, or does anyone know a trick for using the oil based ones without popping the balloon?

Unknown said...

I have been using only Eddings so far. I have only popped once or twice. Now the question is why. Is it friction? Is there an Eddings with a finer point that might cause popping? Is in in the touch when you are putting your marker tip to the balloon? Are you shaking it too much or not enough. I'm not sure. Sounds like a new test is needed. There's one thing that I'd like to say about the Eddings. Sometimes it spreads out on the balloon kind of in streaks just when I place the marker on the balloon. So I get this paint splatter look that is not very useful. Is anyone else experiencing this phenomena?

J Harmer said...

I think I will search out a few Duct Tape markers and the Toyo thanks to you studious research. Thank you.
I have been unfortunate at times to have my white Edding marker
"spider " across my figure in the final stages of completing a face.

J Harmer said...

Thank you for your studious research! I have been using the Eddings brand and will now try the Toyo and the Duct Tape markers. I have had the unfortunate accidents of the Eddings "Spidering" across a nearly completed large figure. It's that oh shoot moment when you thought you were finished

Random balloon guy said...

As a follow-up to my previous comment: It appears that oil makes latex pop. That's all there is to it. (This explains some of the warnings you received in a certain health class in high school.) So I no longer use the duct tape marker.

The Edding has been great for me. I really like it and I've had no issues. So that's what I recommend.

Gretchen Fleener said...

Ooooh, interesting!! I've never had an issue with a balloon popping with my duct tape marker! But that makes sense!! Ha ha...I don't remember that warning in school but that's certainly good to know! ;-) Thanks so much for the comments!

Random balloon guy said...

If you never had a balloon pop using your duct tape marker, it might just be that your balloons aren't under as much pressure as mine. But I'm still very surprised. It really happened about half the time to me! I'm usually using Qualatex baloons (and sometimes Betallatex); maybe you're using some super-thick brand.

I noticed in one of Michael Floyd's balloon youtube videos that he uses the Edding as well. I paid something like $7.50 for mine and I just lumped it in with a big balloon order from larocksmagic.com.

Gretchen Fleener said...

Hmm, could be! I also use Qualatex.

Cheryl said...

I'm more than impressed with all the research you did. That must have took a lot of time. I know what it likes since I tend to write up detailed information when I want to help others. You have definitely helped me and I'm sure many others as well. Thank you so much for all the hard work you've done!!!

Cheryl said...

Thank you so much for all the hard work you've done. You've helped me tremendously and I'm sure you have helped others as well. I am new at twisting myself and have been researching all the different types of markers that would be best to use and your article is amazing!! I really appreciate it.

Cheryl said...

I'm more than impressed with all the research you did. That must have took a lot of time. I know what it likes since I tend to write up detailed information when I want to help others. You have definitely helped me and I'm sure many others as well. Thank you so much for all the hard work you've done!!!

Unknown said...

Wow thank you! My daughter is making stress balls for a school market day and wants to draw faces or designs on them. Will order her a duct tape marker, had never heard of them before.

J Smith said...

I want to thank you profusely for doing this! This information is hard to come by!