by Michelle Houghton

Markers with alcohol-based dye ink have special properties: they allow you blend colors together without tearing up your paper as you might with a water-based ink.

I’ve been happily using the Copic brand of alcohol markers and sharing lessons on buying and using them for almost two years.  I started collecting and using Copic markers without knowing there were other markers that would blend like them and have some of the same wonderful features.

Now that I know–and since I am a lover of ALL things color–I found three brands, in addition to Copic, to try out and compare in action side-by-side. I am ready to give you the skinny on how they stack up.  Remember this is my opinion only!

The three brands that I found to purchase easily on the internet are: Spectrum Noir, ShinHan Touch marker and the Letraset Tria marker.

I purchased three of the Tria and Touch markers in colors that, on-line, looked like they would blend together and might be comparable to colors that I own in the Copic Sketch.  The Spectrum Noir can only be purchased in sets of 6 so the color groupings are set for you.

To start here are basic facts:

  Price $ Refillable Nibs # of colors

Copic Sketch

6.99 Yes Brush and chisel 358
Letraset – Tria 5.50 Yes Brush, chisel and fine tip 300
Spectrum Noir 1.99 Yes Chisel and bullet (fine) 168
ShinHan -Touch Twin Brush 1.89 Yes Brush and chisel 168


I compared each brand to Copic Sketch markers because they are the markers that I own and have the broadest knowledge of.  Below I highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each brand.  In this article, I am sharing my comparison of the Spectrum Noir markers with the Copic markers. In a second article, I will share how the Tria and Touch markers compare.

Spectrum Noir Markers

Before I even opened my markers, there were a few things I noticed about the body of the Spectrum Noir marker.

  • The Spectrum Noir marker has a square body that will not roll off your table and that fits well in my hand.
  • The caps flair outward slightly which should make them easy to pull off.
  • Unfortunately straight out of my package they are difficult to open and one of them actually comes apart with the marker tip staying locked up inside the lid apart from the body of the marker.
  • The ends are colored and marked with the color number, although the marking is printed on and looks like it might eventually rub off with time and use.
  • The side of the marker does have symbols showing the nib size at each end and the fine tip end is marked with a gray ring which I appreciate for quick work in finding your end.


The Spectrum Noir comes in sets of 6 so the number system and color picking becomes easier. 

I purchased a set of blues that include TB1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9.  The 1, 2 and 3 are light and very comparable to B00, B02 and B63 in Copic ink.  The 5, 6 and 9 take a jump up in color and are similar to B24, B28 and B97 in my Copic set.


Below I used my Multiliner SP to sketch butterflies to color with both the Spectrum Noir and Copics so you can see them together. 

The first three colors of the Spectrum Noir blended fairly easily and smoothly.  When I added my fourth color the ink seemed to pool a little on my paper and was very difficult to blend back in, partially due to the extra ink and partially because of the large color jump.

Butterfly blended with Spectrum Noir.

On the Copic butterfly example below I used the same series of steps with the colors that seemed to match the closest to the Spectrum Noir.  The Copic managed to blend the wider gap of colors fairly smoothly.  Even with the 4 layers of colorm the color seemed to do well on the paper without pooling or oversaturating.

Butterfly blended with Copic markers.

The advantages of the Spectrum Noir:

  • Price
  • The sets take the guess work out of buying
  • When the colors are close they blend well

The disadvantages of the Spectrum Noir:

  • You can only buy in sets of 6 not individual colors
  • When there is a larger gap in colors I had trouble forcing the blend
  • The ink seems to oversaturate the paper with 3 to 4 layers
  • The construction and quality of the marker body is not very good
  • There is no brush nib

I look forward to sharing the comparison of the other markers with you in a second article. If you’ve got experience with the Spectrum Noir, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.