Coloring Pencils/Pens/Markers Product Reviews

Spectrum Noir Illustrator Markers Review

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Spectrum Noir Illustrator Markers Review

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I hope you enjoyed the review of the Spectrum Noir Illustrator Markers.

Prior to Christmas last year,  Crafters Companion the company that owns the Spectrum Noir brand launched a new series of markers called Illustrator.  As part of that launch they had a special offer on the markers.   Of course,  I wanted them badly. Even though it meant shipping them from the UK to a friend, and having them ship them to Australia for me – I still had to have them.   The launch price was a bargain, even with the Australian dollar. I ordered all of the packs that they had (which totalled 96 markers).

When I received the markers,  I shared them with you, with a quick unboxing video that you might remember here.   Of course,  life got in the way, and it slipped my mind and my schedule, to review these markers until now.

Types of Markers Created by Spectrum Noir

Spectrum Noir make a range of alcohol and water based markers of different types.    There are the Colorista range of markers, with a fine point, great for the fiddly bits on coloring pages and for new colorists.

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There are the Spectrum Noir Next Generation refillable markers with a bullet point at one end and chisel tip at the other.    If you use markers a lot,  then a refillable marker will save you money in the long term.

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There are water based markers that you can use to get a water effect with the aqua markers.

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There are artliners with a super fine brush and microliners.

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If you like a little bit of sparkle in your life there are also sparkle/glitter markers which are great for adding a dash of fun to a page and highlighting areas

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For artists and designers, there is the Graphic range of markers that have a fine tip at one end and a chisel tip at the other

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Finally, there are the Illustrator markers that have a brush tip and fine tip at the other end.

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The tip or brush is what makes the Illustrator markers so attractive for coloring for me.    I find, that it is much easier to color with a brush tip than any other type of tip.

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They share the same colour chart as the original Spectrum Noir alcohol markers but have a different barrel and nib and total 216 colors in the range. Illustrator colors are named and arranged differently but they still follow the rules of the original Spectrum Noir alcohol marker coloring system. They wanted to make it as easy as possible for existing Spectrum Noir colorists to use Illustrator side by side with the original marker. Every Illustrator marker shows the original coloring system cross-reference on its cap.

The pdf below show the 29 color families in the range and how they work together

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The illustrator marker has a distinctive honeycomb style barrel which has been ergonomically designed for “comfortable extended use, supporting a range of grip and stroke styles”

A brush nib is always preferred for coloring and the Illustrator makers  feature a brush nib at one end and fine point at the other.

The markers are refillable and the nibs can be replaced.  However, at the moment these items are not readily available.

There is about  “25% more ink than our standard alcohol marker” according to Crafters Companion which makes these markers long lasting.

The barrel measures 15.5cm approximately

The ergonomic designed barrel features colored caps at both ends, fine point at one end and brush tip at the other


User Experience

In all honesty, I had put off using markers as it felt it may be too difficult for me. In the end, I dived in and watched the free course offered by Spectrum Noir here and the free Markers 101 course offered by Kit and Clowder.    Even though I’m on my training wheels with markers I immediately noticed a massive change.  My wrist wasn’t aching like it does when layering pencils!   As markers disburse color more readily and easily than layering pencils there is less work on the joints.     This is really important if you are sporting a battle wound like me (damaged right wrist) or if you have arthritis or any other joint pain in your hands.

Of course,  I have too many pencils to abandon, but my experience with the markers makes me want to use them a lot more especially to avoid layering pencils.   The other thing that I will do more of  now is to use markers as a base and pencils over the top to add in shading and detail.  Naturally, as these are alcohol based markers I will not be coloring with them in my double page coloring books but rather on single sided images or digital downloads.

Spectrum Noir recommends their own paper to be used with their products.     As I didn’t have any of that stock I first tested these on plain copy paper.    You could immediately tell the issues with paper in that the copy paper just sopped up the fluid.   I then used some Express It paper that is recommended for other alcohol based markers and the difference was immediate.   Using the right paper with alcohol markers really makes a difference to the bleed through and how you can blend on the page.

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The colors were very vivid and the ink flowed very easily on the page.     There were two markers where the nibs had fibres skewiff that were not great to color with.    Replacing the nibs is a quick task though and very low cost.

Spectrum Noir Illustrator Color Swatch

I’m pretty sad that my packs of markers only total 96 out of the 216 colors available.   I feel like my color swatch is a little empty so I’ve also attached the one from Spectrum Noir so you can see how many colors are in the range.

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Download the colored swatch for Illustrator here

Download a blank color swatch for the Illustrator markers here

What you will notice from the color swatch is that there are not as many reds in the color range as other colors.   Hopefully further colors will be added to the red collection in the future.

Using the Blender pen

A colorless blender pen is also included with the pack of  Essentials.    When most colorists think of a blender pen, we tend to think of the blenders that you use with pencils to combine layers.      This is not the way a marker blender pen works.   The blender pen is basically used as an eraser to take off color.   This is great to achieve interesting effects that are great for backgrounds and to remove little mistakes that we might make.     You just touch the blender pen to the area and push the color back to the area where it should be.     It is a little bit of a knack and I need to practice this more.

Layering and blending

Spectrum Noir markers are set out based on color theory and it does take a little bit of getting used to.   Markers have to belong to the same color family to effortlessly blend together. The color family is denoted with letters on the end of the marker eg TN denotes the marker is from the Tan family.    As well as the letters there are also numbers, the lower the number the paler the color of the marker so 1 would be a very light color and 10 would be a darker tone.

The Spectrum Noir coloring system allows you to work with a light, mid and dark tone with your markers.  Usually, to have a lovely blend you need 3 colors to achieve this.  If the colors are far apart from each other in tone though you may want to consider using 4 colors so there is not a large jump between colors.

You can lay down the color in your choice either light first or dark first and use your mid tone to blend out the color.   Where two colors join the mid tone is lightly applied between the two removing any hard line edges where the colors meet.

The pdf below shows how the color tones work together

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Blending outside the color family

Even though colors are not within the same color family you can still blend them.    This is called palette blending which sounds pretty fancy but is very easy.     All you need to do is take a scrap of plastic and rub the color you want to blend on it.   You can then pick up the color with a darker color.  Ads you color it graduates from the lighter shade to the darker shade marker you are using.

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Alternatively, you can pick up the color by just using your colorless blender marker and applying it to the page. You can also mix up your own colors on the plastic palette to apply. Make sure you clean your blender brush by just drawing on a piece of paper until the end is clear of pigment.

Where to buy Spectrum Noir Illustrator Markers

You can buy in packs of  12 x 4 and 6 x 8 and the balance of the range is available for individual purchase.

Amazon 12 pack   Amazon 6 pack 


  • Large range of colors
  • Refillable
  • Works with original range of marker colors and  their coloring system
  • Long lasting


  • Only 96 colors available in packs with the balance to be purchased individually.  There is no bundle if you want the whole set
  • Refills and replacement nibs can sometimes be difficult to obtain
  • Difficult to obtain in Australia

I hope you enjoyed this review.

Happy coloring x


About the author


I'm Lea and I love everything to do with coloring! If it is a coloring book, a poster or even a bookmark that you can color in, I'm all over it. Of course, a girl has to have some pencils, markers, gelly rolls, pastels and what not to make those pictures pretty and I love those as well.

Whilst my coloring style lacks skill, I am enthusiastic and focused on enjoying the moment and having fun.

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    • Far easier! I couldn’t believe how much better on my wrist they were than trying to build up layers with pencils. I’m probably still going to do a base of markers and then just do any shading with pencils over the top – who needs the pain! The other products I like to ease pain are crayons – normal crayola type with my blending tips in the tutorial section. My real fave though are my new Caran D’Ache Neocolor II. They are crayons that you can use as crayons dry or activate with water. You can leave it with the watercolor effect or add a pencil shade over. Super soft and easy on the hands. Happy coloring x