Many artists, mostly live retail caricaturists, have been asking about markers. I've worked for Kaman's Art Shoppes for over 5 years (on and off in the last year) and I've used many different supplies, specifically markers.

I started with the popular 229-LF DESIGN marker. They had a great firm-yet-flexible bullet tip that felt like a soft pencil, at times. While they were great, they were a bit short and hard to hold in a pencil-grip, they smelled horrible (xylene solvent for quick drying- ick!), and are now unavailable. On top of all this, about half of the old Design Markers would get pushed into the neck, like a turtle's head, from pressure. Other times, the tip would break off or wear down to a fuzzy nib.

I've also tried the
Chartpak AD markers. They also dried quickly and had a long-life, but the tip rotated in the marker when I applied pressure, and I don't always have a very soft hand while drawing- I like to vary the line weight quite a bit, and this became difficult. It is also difficult to get a fine or thin line out of them.

Copic makes a great brush-tip/chisel-tip marker that is refillable. I can't say enough good things about Copic- they are amazing markers, have replaceable tips that are suited for all types of drawing, they are refillable, and the ink is dense and wonderful. The only problem is that they tend to slow down the live caricaturist, as they require a bit more finess and maintenance. Put simply, one must slow down to get the quality out of these markers. When slammed with a crowd in a retail environment, it's tough to speed through and make a good paycheck. That being said, I used Copics exclusively for over a year and didn't regret it a bit. I'm actually thinking of getting a full set of colors, as they're great for illustration.

There are many other sorts of markers-
Sharpies, Faber-Castell PITT pens, Tombo brush-pens, Zebra brush-pens, Staedtler-Mars Graphic 3000 brush-pens and others. I can't stand Sharpies, but often use these other tools for different projects and in my sketchbook. Either way, the marker that I prefer now, for live work is the Dixon Markette.

Manufactured in Canada, it seems to be almost identical a marker to the old 229-LF DESIGN marker, save a few points:

1. It doesn't STINK as much
2. It's longer- fits in your hand better
3. It lasts longer
4. The tip lasts longer than the ink

5. It's actually being MANUFACTURED

The Dixon Markette is quick to use, it's forgiving, you can get a sharp, pen-like line and a dark, WIDE brush-like stroke. The tip doesn't deteriorate, and you can draw much faster and cleaner than with a brush-style pen. (I know many artists that can handle brush-pens well, but you're limited to a certain flair or style, whereas I personally see more versatility in the bullet-tip)

I'm not certain where the most accessible or cheap way to acquire the Markette is found, I do know that Kaman's Art Shoppes (the leading caricature and theme park art concession company in the world) uses them almost exclusively. At the behest of the NCN, the wonderful people at
ART SYSTEMS did some hefty work and got access to them. You can order them by calling the store at ArtSystemsFL.com and asking for Deidre Harris (or anyone else willing to help). You will have to pay shipping, but they offer a great price. Last I checked, they're nearly $3/marker.


Brian said...

I have been using the Markette or a brush pen for the interior of the face. Then I use the Chartpak AD for the exterior. I would like to hear what papers you have experimented on. ( card stock, slick laser paper...)

The Hurricane said...

you smell like a new marker, joe. pick anyone,... and you smell like that one. yes. yes you do. yes again.

Anonymous said...

$3 a pop?! Thank god for KAS's neverending supply (well, almost neverending).
-Ramon, KGA, SF Bay Area

Anonymous said...

can you said something about the colour, what kind of charcoal or pastel you used?


Joe Bluhm said...

I use the popular Prismacolor Art Stixx. They are basically colored pencils (without the wood), in stick form. These are great because they're wax-based and won't smudge. You have to be careful when laying down the colors, tho- start with local colors and lighter colors and build from there - it's not always easy to approach the shadows, first, unless you're using markers underneath the color.

Try it out!

Gabriel Hunt said...

According to your picture, you only use 5 colors, and a buttload of markers. Is that for speed, or aesthetics?

Joe Bluhm said...

Nah, I use every color I can get my hand on. I just layed those out to look pretty.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Dana. I worked for Kaman's from '90 to '95 at B.G. Williamsburg and B.G. Tampa. Some of the best years of my life. Your description of the old pens was perfect!! And those art stixx...I never found anything better. However, in Williamsburg it could get really hot and they'd sometimes melt a bit :)
Back in my day (oy!) there was a once a year KAS retreat for employees out to Put-In-Bay in Ohio. Rich and Trish were always there. Have you ever gone? They were a blast. Anyway, it was nice to find your site; it brings back fond memories :)

Impy said...

Hey Joe, it's DeJon. It's weird, I was google-ing Markettes and your blog along with Gabe's came up! Just had to say thanks for pointing me in the right direction to get some ^__^

Anonymous said...

does Kaman's art shoppes pay good?? i'm might get a job with them over the summer...

Anonymous said...

Yes- Markettes are the best now. But not as good as the Design 229LFs The design's point was more flexible. The 229LFs do stink but only those manufactured after about 1998. Previously they did not! I still have some in a sealed container and I only use them for outdoor gigs. They changed manufaturers before they discontinued them (because of Xylene.) but now you can buy xylene by the gallon- go figure!
My dad and I use to use the refillable flo-master pens from the 1950'S you could change the nibs and control the ink flow -the only draw back was you had to draw on a relatively flat(not upright) surface.

Doug Finifter caricatureconcepts.com

Anonymous said...

My only complain is that Markette ink flow gets dry pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Went to BG and Seaworld recently. You guys are amazing! How do you get work there? - Do you have to show them your portfolio?

Anonymous said...


Do you know were kamans art shoppes get their easels from?-they look really solid - mine wobbles too much.

P.S. great one of George Kastanza!

Daniel Castelló Muñiz said...

Your book "Rejects" is brilliant, Joe.

Forgive my english, I use a online translator, that I know that they aren´t of trusting. I´m from Spain.

After receiving "Rejects" this summer, I asked you for the markers and the colors that you use, but you didn´t answer me. I thought that probably you wasn´t interested in saying it to me so I didn´t insist any more, and I understood it .
I have just seen Sean Gardner's video that speaks about the Dixon Markette and the Prismacolor Stixx and in this video it was showing a link to this section.

I understand now why you didn´t answer me to that e-mail... Because many people have asked the same thing you and you answer all of once.

Now I expect to find in Spain some shop that commercializes them or a way of obtaining them.

Joe, thousand thanks for sharing with us your knowledges.

A great greeting from Spain's North.

Daniel Castelló Muñiz said...

Joe, 3 questions:

► Are The Dixon Markette with water base or with base of alcohol?...

► Do the outline that leave penetrate the paper?

► What type of paper you use and that weight has?...

Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering were to find it on the kas website I couldn't find the dixon e-mail me at

Anonymous said...

Just bought Rejects! great book, and now inspired me to try caricatures! and these are some very helpful information that you've provided here, thank you very much! I was wondering where can I get individual color stix without having to buy the whole set with a bunch of colors I don't need? And what color palette would be good to start with if I'm new to caricatures?

Unknown said...

Hi everyone, i am trying to buy those markette markers, but they are so expensive. Where can i buy them? Thank you.

Lynny said...

I know a guy that has a large box full of original used Design Markers.
He mentioned selling for the right price. If anyone is interested.


Kaijuman said...

So, I wrote to the manufacturers of Markette to see if they could do anything about the change in the nib. I wrote a lengthy email expressing how fantastic they were for artists.

Alas... this was her response.
Maybe if more people write, they will do something about it...

"Thanks for your email. Unfortunately, the original Markette nib was discontinued by our manufacture and therefore our current markette does not function the same way it used to for artists such as yourself. We have tried to source the original nib but have had no luck. It is not a lost cause, but at this point there is no place to buy the original markets."

Kim Delgado

Daniel Castelló Muñiz said...

It's a shame.
Thank you for reporting.

Unknown said...

I've been using the Markette 690 for years. Love them and stocked up with a supplier that has lasted me for many years. I tried to order more today and was told the nib has changed in the last 4 years and caricature artists hate it now. What's the favorite these days?