Comparing Alcohol vs Water Based Markers

Alcohol vs Water based markers: What is the difference between the Tombow ABT Pro alcohol-based markers and the Tombow Dual Brush Pens which are water-based markers

alcohol vs water based markers

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For my Alcohol vs Water based markers comparison here, the alcohol-based markers I am using are the Tombow ABT Pros and the water-based markers are the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. But this comparison holds true for any brand of alcohol-based marker or water-based marker you might already own!

ABT pros vs Dual brush pens

alcohol vs water based markers comparison video:

Seeing is believing! Watch my Alcohol vs Water based markers video by clicking the video box below or To watch the video in HD on YouTube, click HERE

alcohol vs water based markers

1. Appearance


The Tombow ABT Pro has a grey outer barrel and is a brush pen with two tips- a brush and a chisel.

The Dual Brush Pen has a black outer barrel and is also a brush pen with two tips- a brush and a bullet marker tip.

They both have slim barrels that feel exactly the same in your hand. The bigger caps are colored; one has a circle shape indent the other a square.

2. Blending


The Tombow Dual Brush Pens come with a colorless blender pen- N00. The ABT pros have a colorless marker PN00 but it isn’t really a blender pen because the alcohol markers don’t blend but instead layer. The blender pen can also lift off color which is a very fun technique in itself. 

With the water based pens, if you layer color over and over the same area, the paper will start to pill. With the alcohol pens, the paper will not pill at all. However, it will soak through the paper and bleed onto the other side. 

3. What papers to use

The Tombow Dual brush pens work best on mixed media and watercolor papers. So far I have used the ABT pros on Mixed media paper with a vellum finish and also in a marker pad. The smoothness of the vellum allows for the alcohol markers to blend easily.

4. PAPER Bleed:

Alcohol markers will BLEED through to the other side. This will happen with almost all papers so make sure you keep this in mind while coloring into your sketchbooks. Water based markers do not bleed through most papers unless you apply way too much marker to paper.

5. Coloring in Stamped images


If you are a stamper and like to color in images with alcohol markers- you want to use water-based ink like Memento black ink to stamp your images.

To color in images with water based markers- you want to use solvent-based ink like Versafine ink to stamp your images. This will prevent your stamped black lines from bleeding.

alcohol vs water based markers Color Comparison

tombow abt pro tombow dual brush pen

Always try to store your markers horizontally, especially alcohol markers

Most of the color numbers are exactly the same. A few exceptions like Tombow Dual brush pens olive green is 126 and brown in 899 whereas in the Tombow ABT pros they are P127 and P907.

5 reasons why I love using alcohol based markers:

5 Reasons I enjoy using alcohol based markers
  • Alcohol based markers are better at coloring larger areas evenly, smoothly. The coloring might appear a bit uneven at first, but once the alcohol evaporates off of the paper, the color smoothes. Marker coloring with water-based markers always results in streaky, uneven areas.
  • Alcohol-based markers can be used on not just paper, but also other surfaces like wood, metal, and fabric. You can have easily personalized so many items with these markers. Water-based markers can be used only on paper.
  • Alcohol markers dry quickly on paper and the colors remain vibrant! Also, there is no worry about water spilling on your illustration and getting ruined.
  • Alcohol based markers can be used to create dramatic blending in portraits! They work great, especially with skin tones. Use 3 to 5 markers close in color range to achieve beautiful blended color results.
  • Alcohol based markers can be layered to create new colors on paper. You can layer as many colors as you want without ever pilling the paper. Water-based markers tend to moisten the paper and then the paper will pill and disintegrate.

5 reasons why I love using water based markers:

  • Water based markers can be used as watercolor markers. Simply paint over with water to have the color spread, lighten and act like a watercolor. This means that with just one marker you can create lighter shades by just adding water or using a blender pen. With alcohol-based markers, you will need 3 to 5 markers in the same color range to create this effect.
  • Water-based markers do not bleed onto the back of the paper like alcohol-based markers. This makes them much easier to use in sketchbooks, bullet journals, and planners.
  • Water- based markers are usually more economical compared to alcohol markers. Alcohol based markers are generally considered as artist-quality markers whereas the waterbased are hobby level markers.
  • Water based markers are travel friendly, portable and easy to carry around instead of watercolor palettes or cakes.
  • Water based markers can be used easily by anyone anywhere. There are no alcohol fumes, so they can be used in small areas also.


In conclusion, there is no right or wrong answer when asking which wins- Alcohol vs Water Based Markers? Both the marker kinds are unique and awesome on their own.

I reach for the Alcohol Markers when I want to create layered color illustrations with greater details and also when I want to apply really vibrant marker color on paper. You can easily apply a huge block of marker color onto paper with Alcohol Markers- it’s quick and streak-free

I love my Water Based Markers more, simply because I have had them for longer and have used them more. I love how the colors spread with water and how I can quickly mix and blend colors.

Leave a comment below if you found this Alcohol Vs Water Based Markers comparison useful! I’d love to hear from you and so would our community.


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