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Best Paint Pens

Updated November 2022
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Best of the Best
Uni Posca 8-Color Paint Marker Set
Uni Posca
8-Color Paint Marker Set
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Best for Experts
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These markers are a favorite due to unique, quick-drying, water-based paint whose vibrant colors pop out on nearly any service they're applied to.


These started as a favorite among graffiti artists, and quickly traveled the world thanks to their versatility, sturdy nibs, unmatched vibrancy and opacity, and ease of use compared to many leading pump-action paint pens. Especially good for wood crafts, DIY projects, and fine-detail work on mixed media projects.


Limited palette that isn't particularly easy to mix.

Best Bang for the Buck
Ohuhu 40-Color Acrylic Marker Set
40-Color Acrylic Marker Set
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Simple Yet Solid
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Acrylic-based paint markers from an up-and-coming bargain brand beloved by artists around the world.


Great range of colors for a fraction of the cost of competitors. Paint flows seamlessly when shaken, pumped, and handled correctly. Best for non-porous surfaces that won't absorb pigments, though primer makes most surfaces applicable. Comes in an easily portable carrying bag for artists on the go.


More bleeding and paint clogging than competitors — be sure to look at best practices for maintenance.

Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Markers Set
Oil-Based Paint Markers Set
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Trusted Brand
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These Sharpie brand markers offer reliability and pack a greater punch than the ones you used in school.


Oil-based Sharpie markers that flow like water-based inks with added lightfastness, flexibility, and vibrancy. Shake the marker, pump the nib, and draw on nearly any surface that can take it. Five standard colors that mix better than several acrylic-based competitors. Medium tip does detail work and large projects quite well.


Limited palette, with priming recommended for porous surfaces.

Arteza Acrylic Paint Markers, Set of 20
Acrylic Paint Markers, Set of 20
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Good for Beginners
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Arteza's signature budget-conscious brand delivers an impressive slate of paint-based pens that outshine most bargain brands in sight.


Perfect middle ground between Ohuhu's bargain-based pens for beginners and Posca's user-friendly, artist-quality vibrancy. All the colors needed for a basic, vibrant palette. Case also makes for good display stand, while many buyers laud the way the paint pens work together for mixed media projects.


Large tip great for large, expressive projects, not for small, detail-oriented ones.

IVSUN Acrylic Pain Markers
Acrylic Pain Markers
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Great on Wood
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With a few shakes, you can mark on wood, glass, and most other surfaces without toxic smells.


There are 24 colors in the pack with an extra fine tip for detailed work. Great for crafting, rock painting, and general artistic use. The included colors should fulfill most basic needs. Acrylic ink dries opaque and vibrantly. A few quick shakes are all you need to use it. This a creative gift for beginners who never used paint pens before and kids.


Acrylic dries on the tip - make sure not to store it upside down or capless.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best paint pens

Why should you consider buying a set of paint pens? Let’s say you need to work on an art project for school or work—or you’re just feeling a creative urge—but pulling out your full set of paints and brushes sounds like too much work. Let’s say you want to avoid the mess and cleanup involved with traditional painting.

Paint pens are an affordable, easy-to-use artistic alternative. They make little mess and provide a colorful result. These versatile pens can be used for an array of projects or tasks, from drawing and decorating objects to practical purposes around the house.

If you want to buy a set of pain pens, you'll want to know the types available as well as your pricing options.

a person using paint pens
Give children non-toxic paint pens to use. Most modern paint pens use non-toxic paints, but it never hurts to double-check.

The pros of paint pens

Paint pens, sometimes referred to as “paint markers,” offer a number of benefits. They’re much easier to use than paint brushes, and because you’re not dealing with separate paint containers and cups of water, they create less mess. In particular, beginning artists and the parents of small children appreciate these benefits.

What’s more, paint pens are highly versatile in that they can be used on a large number of items and materials. And they last for a long time if properly maintained, making them a popular alternative to the classic paintbrush.

Uses for paint pens

Paint pens serve all the same purposes as regular paint and brushes, but they are often easier to use on certain materials. Here are some of the materials on which you can use paint pens:

  • Wood, cardboard, and paper
  • Rocks and stones (rock painting is a popular activity for children)
  • Ceramic, tile, and glass
  • Canvas
  • Fabric, textiles, and cloth
  • Shoes, hats, belts, purses, and other accessories
  • Car exteriors (to fill in scratches or blemishes in the paint job)
  • Household appliances and furniture
  • Metal
  • Plastic

Besides being used for arts and crafts, some paint pens are handy for filling in small “dings” or unsightly scuffs on furniture, appliances, and cars. Matching the paint color might take some effort, but if you can find what you need, it’s an inexpensive solution to a potentially expensive problem.

Store your paint pens horizontally for an even distribution of the paint sediment. This also prevents the nib from drying out.


Types of paint pens

Different paint pens dispense different types of paint. Each type of paint pen is available in almost every color you can think of, including some shiny metallic finishes.

The type of paint you need depends on the surface you’re working with and how long you want your paint to last. There are two main types here: oil-based paint pens and water-based paint pens.

Oil-based paint pens

The paint in oil-based pens is slightly thicker and generally sports a thick or wide tip. Oil-based paint takes less time to dry and might produce a slightly raised surface. It often produces a high sheen, creating a shiny finish. Suitable for use on porous and glossy surfaces, oil-based paint is notably permanent (as opposed to semi-permanent).

Water-based paint pens

Water-based paint pens are semi-permanent and have a lower sheen than their oil-based counterparts. They produce an opaque finish and take longer to dry. All acrylic paint pens are water-based and may use finer tips. This paint absorbs well into porous surfaces but requires sealing when used on glossy surfaces. You can seal water-based paint with a clear coat or varnish spray.

a woman using paint pens
Some paint pens are refillable. Simply remove the nib tip and refill the chamber. Just be sure to refill it with the same type of paint, such as water-based, oil-based, or acrylic paint.

Key features of paint pens

Pen nib tip

The “nib tip” of a paint pen is the writing tip through which the paint flows. Nib tips vary in size and are measured in millimeters. Sizes range from “extra-fine” to “medium” to “broad.”

In addition, there are a number of nib tip types that can affect the shape and desired stroke of your paint:

  • Brush tip: Brush nib tips are most similar to standard paintbrushes. These nibs are the most versatile in that users can create a number of different strokes.
  • Fine tip: Fine nibs are the smallest and most pointed tips. They produce thin lines ideal for writing words or fine detail work.
  • Chisel tip: Chisel nib tips have slanted writing tips that can create both thin and thick lines. These tips are suitable for painting large surfaces and producing calligraphy.
  • Bullet tip: One of the most common paint marker tips, bullet nib tips are rounded. For coloring and experimenting with color blending, bullet tip marker pens are an apt choice.

Paint reservoir or chamber

The paint reservoir or chamber is the part of the pen that you grasp when drawing or writing. It is where the paint for the pen is stored, along with the ball bearing. Some paint pen chambers are transparent, allowing the user to see how much paint is left.

Ball bearing

A number of paint pens (usually oil-based models) contain a small metal ball bearing in the paint reservoir. The intention of the ball bearing is to break up paint sediment when shaken so the paint flows freely through the tip. This produces an even streak that is free from clumps and inconsistencies.

Pen cap

Although a paint pen cap may seem like an obvious feature, it is certainly an important one. The cap helps keep the nib tip moist and protects it from getting dirty. Always remember to put the cap of your paint pen back on the tip when you’re finished using it.

If you misplace your paint pen cap, you can secure a small piece of plastic wrap over the tip as a temporary storage method.

a person using paint pens
Wear gloves while working with paint pens. This prevents the paint from directly contacting your skin. While many water-based paints are easy to wash off, some oil-based paints could prove difficult to remove.

Useful accessories

Disposable gloves

Gloves protect the hands and nails from getting dirty or stained. Disposable gloves are helpful because you can simply remove them and deposit them directly in the trash when you’re finished. If you’d rather reuse your gloves, consider a thin pair of rubber cleaning gloves instead.


An easel is helpful when painting flat items such as paper, canvas, and fabric. With an adjustable height and angled workspace, an easel can help prevent shadows over your work and is generally more ergonomic for the user than a regular table or desk.


An apron designated expressly for painting can help protect the artist’s clothes. These are especially convenient for children who are prone to making messes. Many aprons feature pockets where additional paint pens can be stored.

Use a large strip of paper or a reusable tablecloth to protect your work surface.


Paint pen prices


The most affordable sets of paint pens cost $10 to $18. These tend to be smaller sets of water-based or oil-based pens (quantities vary from 6 to 16) in basic colors. Some single paint pens with high-quality paint may also be found in this price range.


Mid-range sets of paint pens cost $20 to $45. Sets in this price bracket usually include more pens (20+) in a greater variety of colors. Tip types may vary, and the colors may be water-based or oil-based.


The most expensive sets of paint pens usually cost between $45 to $85. These are the largest sets with up to 170 different pens. They feature the greatest variety of colors and may be oil-based or water-based. You can also buy smaller sets of high-quality paint pens in this price range.


  • Keep a cup of water or rubbing alcohol solution nearby when using your paint pens. If you make a mistake, you can dip a cotton swab or small rag into your solution and use it to quickly wipe away your error.
  • Press firmly, but don’t apply too much pressure. It might take a few tries to get the hang of your paint pen, so applying a light amount of pressure when you start is a safe method. This prevents the pen from releasing too much paint, and as you practice, you can apply more pressure for more paint.
  • When using multiple pens, allow your work to dry in between colors. This prevents the colors from bleeding into each other, which may not be your desired result. By allowing the current color fully dry, you maintain a clean look.
a person using paint pens
Some people confuse Sharpie permanent marker pens with paint pens. While Sharpie does make paint pens, their permanent markers aren’t the same. Be sure that the Sharpie paint pen set specifies “oil-based” paint before buying.


Q. Are paint pens and markers the same?

A. No. Paint pens are different from markers. Markers utilize ink, whereas paint pens use a paint-based liquid—and these substances behave very differently.

Many markers are water-based, and while they may dry quickly, they aren’t designed for use on many materials other than paper. Paint pens are intended to be more permanent and can be applied to a wide range of objects and mediums.

Q. Will the paint from my paint pen fade, or will it last forever?

A. Depending on the type of paint and the object or surface, your work should last a few years or even longer. If you’re painting something decorative that won’t endure much wear and tear, your work will last longer.

For good measure, store your work in a cool and dry place out of the sun to prevent fading.

Q. How long should the paint be left to dry?

A. Allow your paint pen work to dry for at least 20 to 30 minutes. The amount of time required depends on the amount of work you’ve done and also the type of paint in the pen. To be safe, you could let your work dry overnight.