Chalk and Paint Pens: Pros + Cons

trythis.jpg

Chalk pens and paint pens are tools I use almost daily in my work. When I first started making signs it was difficult to navigate which pens were best. The process of finding which pens work best with each material has been a costly one for me. I’m happy to say that I have found my favorites though!

I hope that my blog saves you a little money, a lot of time and helps you discover which pen you like using the most. As a disclaimer, I would like to say that I have many friends who do signage as well and we all have varying opinions about which pen is our favorite. Part of your “artist journey” is figuring out the tools you like to use the most! Below is my personal opinion about each pen I have used.

Molotow paint pen

Molotow paint pen

We will start out with my ALL time favorite pen…. the MOLOTOW paint pen. Which I just discovered about 6 months ago. This is pretty much the only paint pen I use now when I am writing something that I need to remain permanent.

PROS

  • The opacity is fantastic

  • Great quality

  • Easy to write with

  • Lots of sizes available (I use EF, 1.5mm and 2mm typically)

  • No harsh smell (the paint is water based)

  • Very water resistant on most surfaces

CONS

  • They are much more expensive than most paint pens

  • If you are new to calligraphy, and you want to be able to wipe off your work easily because you are scared of a mistake, it may may not be the pen for you. You can wipe it off VERY quickly with a wet microfiber cloth right after you write with it, but once it’s dry, it will leave an outline no matter what.

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Wood, chalkboard, acrylic

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • I order mine from Amazon, but I know Blick Art Materials carries them as well.

Sharpie WATER-BASED paint pen

Sharpie WATER-BASED paint pen

Next in line on my list is the Sharpie WATER-BASED paint pen. I’ll be candid with you, I was not a fan of Sharpie paint pens for a very long time. Just recently I started using them again and I really like them. I’m not sure if they changed the formula or if I just became more patient when shaking the pen to get the ink running. This is my go-to pen for my reusable wood signage and writing on glass (when I need it removable). I recently did a wedding where they wanted me to write on the large glass door leading into their venue and this paint pen worked great and was easily removed after the event.

PROS

  • Good opacity

  • Writes well and comes in various sizes

  • Easily removed if you make a mistake

  • Affordable

  • Available in various colors

CONS

  • Isn’t permanent

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Wood, chalkboards, glass, mirrors, acrylic

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • I usually get mine from Michaels, but you can find them just about anywhere these days.

Sharpie OIL-BASED paint pen

Sharpie OIL-BASED paint pen

Not to be confused with the Sharpie WATER-BASED paint pen above, this is a Sharpie OIL-BASED paint pen. There is a HUGE difference, so please take care to read the label. You can see that the oil-based pens have a magenta colored label and the water-based a blue label. I struggled with this paint pen for a while, you really have to shake the heck out of it before you press down to get the ink running. I think this is due to it being oil based, it needs more motion to get the ink flowing. What I experienced was the oil coming out but not the paint…. once I got the hang of shaking it correctly (and for the correct amount of time) it worked well!

PROS

  • Good opacity

  • Permanent

  • Affordable

  • Available in various colors

CONS

  • Permanent (again this could be a con for some people)

  • Strong odor

  • Can be difficult to get the paint to start flowing

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Wood and Glass - Or basically anything you want to be permanent

    (I use these pens for my glass ornaments, the paint can be removed with alcohol but you need to remove it quickly after writing)

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • I get mine from Michaels, but most places will have them.

Chalk ink

Chalk ink

This chalk pen takes me down memory lane, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for this little guy because it’s one of the first chalk pens I ever used!

PROS

  • Good Opacity

  • Easy to write with

  • Removable

  • Multiple sizes available

CONS

  • Not Permanent

  • Can be difficult to find

  • Even though it says it can be wiped off with water and a towel, it almost always leaves a trace of the chalk ink behind. Making it not ideal for reusable surfaces.

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Chalkboards, wood, glass

WHERE TO PURCHASE

Uni-posca

Uni-posca

Another pen that I really love, but don’t use super often because they aren’t quite as permanent as I would like them to be!

PROS

  • Great Opacity

  • Great Quality

  • Easy to write with

  • Various sizes available

  • Various colors available

CONS

  • Not permanent

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Wood, chalkboard, glass, acrylic

WHERE TO PURCHASE

Versa chalk

Versa chalk

Versa Chalk makes a great CHALK marker. It is very removable and I suggest this chalk pen for my students who are beginners.

PROS

  • Great opacity

  • Easily removable (which is great for beginners or if you want to use it on a chalkboard that you use frequently)

CONS

  • Not permanent

  • Sometimes hard to find

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Best for Chalkboard - you can use on wood but it will wipe off (if there is a sealant on the wood, otherwise it may sink into the pores of the wood and not be removable)

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • I purchase mine directly from their website sometimes they do run out of the white pens. I’ve also found that it can take a while to get an order (2-3 weeks)

bistro chalk marker

bistro chalk marker

I have friends that really love this chalk pen. I never really got on the train of loving this one. To me it’s inconsistent in quality.

PROS

  • Fair opacity

  • Inexpensive

  • Removable

CONS

  • Inconsistent

  • Easily removed (which could be a pro for you!)

MATERIALS USED ON

  • Chalkboards are best or wood if you want it removable

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • I see these at Michaels all the time and with a 40% off coupon (which Michael’s always has available) it’s the cheapest option.

craftsmart

craftsmart

This pen falls to the bottom of my list. I only use this pen if I am in an absolute pinch and no other paint pens are available (which doesn’t happen to me now because I’ve built up quite a stock pile haha!)

PROS

  • Inexpensive

  • Usually always available at Michaels

CONS

  • Opacity isn’t great and it’s very inconsistent

  • Tip of pen is awful and makes it difficult to write well

  • Strong odor

I really don’t recommend this pen, so I’m not going to talk about it anymore lol!

DecoColor

DecoColor

Let me start by saying that I have friends who absolutely love this paint pen. I have not adopted their sentiment at this point. I find this pen very inconsistent and it smells awful to me. It is oil based so it is very permanent, which is great if you are making holiday ornaments or need something to stick around for a long time. My advice is try it out! Who knows.. you may love it! Below is only my opinion :)

PROS

  • Very Permanent

CONS

  • Inconsistent opacity

  • Strong Odor

Sakura pen touch

Sakura pen touch

This is not a chalk pen, it is a paint pen. I use these on A LOT of materials. I personally love these pens but I know a few artist friends that do not. Like I said in my intro, it’s important for you to find the pen that works for you. Personally… I LOVE this pen.

PROS

  • Fantastic opacity

  • Metallics are extremely vibrant

  • Writes on tons of surfaces

  • Very permanent

CONS

  • Permanent… there is no room for error, as the ink is extremely difficult to remove

  • The pen can be temperamental … if you hold down the pen too long to get the ink flowing it can leave ink blots

MATERIALS USED ON

  • This is my go-to pen for surfaces I can’t use other pens for. I’ve used this on wood, chalkboard, acrylic, plastic, marble, agate, tile, rocks, shells, leaves… just about anything you can think of!

WHERE TO PURCHASE

  • You can find these just about anywhere, I’ve found them at Michaels, Blick art materials, Amazon etc… I typically purchase from Paper Ink Arts though. A word to the wise… pay very close attention to what size you are ordering, they have lots of different sizes, and there is also one with a chiseled tip (which I don’t recommend).

Thanks for reading along and I hope that my little review of these chalk/paint pens is helpful for you. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just try them out for yourself! There is a very popular calligrapher who swears by Elmer pens… I tried them out and found them to be awful! However, this artist loves them and she produces beautiful work with them. The moral of the story … you need to find what works for you!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the various paint pens or answer any questions you may have! Feel free to comment below!

XO
Nikki