It’s been a hot minute since I last did an art supply review, so I figured my new paint pens would be the perfect transition back into this kind of post.
Before we officially begin, I’d just like to say this isn’t a sponsored post. All products mentioned below were purchased by me or my husband. 🙂
I use acrylic paint pens on almost a daily basis. These things just mesh perfectly with my art style, are super versatile, and can be used with most of the other art mediums I typically create with.
I even did a first impression review of my Posca extra fine liners back in 2019.
Back in that post, I concluded there was something wrong with my white Posca paint pen. Time has just strengthened that belief. No matter how many times I shook and re-compressed the nib, the pigment never gained any level of opacity and it often stopped working altogether. As you can imagine, this was a source of endless frustration. But it must have something to do with either that specific pen or the batch because reviewers and friends who use the product all love their white Posca pens.
Anyway, I’ve been using that set for 3 years now and my black pen has finally started showing signs of drying. So, I headed over to Amazon to purchase a replacement black and white set.
Posca is quality. Because it is quality, it’s more expensive than other similar products on the market. Which I totally understand. I mean, if it works, it works, and I consider myself a Posca fangirl, too. But then, we wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t discovered an alternative.
I’d never heard of Tooli-Art until their products went on sale around April and a targeted Amazon ad reached my eyeballs. It’s a small family-owned business operated out of a home in California, but the reviews on their products were overwhelmingly positive, with some users even going so far as to say Tooli-Art acrylic pens are better quality than most other brands, and equal to the quality of Posca. And of course, that I had to see.
So, I purchased the 36-pen Skin and Earth Tone set. And, my friends, the reviews were right.
I can genuinely agree that Tooli-Art paint pens are the same quality as my Posca pens.
Of course, the point of this story is that I had to replace the black and white pens. A quick search on Amazon showed that the cost of a set of 2 Posca pens, black and white, would cost around $14 (Canadian). A set of 18 Tooli-Art markers, including black and white, would cost $15 on sale (the regular price is around $17).
I knew the 36-piece set was pretty awesome, so I gambled that the 18-piece set would be the same quality. I’m happy to say the gamble paid off.
The 18-piece set seems to be an older generation product than the 36 Skin & Earth tones, as the packaging slightly differs and the leaflet inside the Skin & Earth tones box contains newer information. Still, the quality is astounding, especially considering the price.
But okay, let’s talk specifics.
- The pens line 0.7mm.
- Water-based acrylic paint.
- The physical dimensions of the Tooli-Art pens are the same as their Posca counterparts, with the only exception being the wider cap of the Posca pens. The body of the pen is black, while the cap is coloured according to the pigment.
- The pens have hard plastic nibs. This allows more or less pigment to flow to the tip, depending on how much pressure you apply while drawing.
- Each box set includes replacement nibs, and Tooli-Art sells additional replacements on their website.
- Though the box has swatches and colour names on the back, the pens themselves don’t have any number or colour code on them. (Though it does seem the stock they sell directly from their website has been updated to include colour codes.)
- Each purchase includes a link to a free e-book with tips and ideas for rock painting.
- The care instructions suggest storing the pens flat on their sides.
- Tooli-Art pens must be shaken before each use.
- Can mark multiple surfaces, and can be baked to stick to glass and ceramics.
Okay, so obviously the first thing I did was a swatch comparison between my new Tooli-Art pens and the old Posca set. I tried to pick colours as similar as possible to the 8 included in the Posca set.
I made 3 swatches with each: a thicker box, 3 lines in the same spot, and finally a single line to show true line width and opacity.
The one exception to this is the white Posca pen, which I had to suppress until pigment bled on a piece of paper and then ‘paint’ on the lines with the pooled pigment (because, again, this pen has never worked as it should). I had to repeat this process twice before the white pigment showed up clearly enough for me to take a photo. Also, the written part on the black paper is in the white Tooli-Art pen.
The Sunburst Yellow included in the Tooli-Art 18-piece set wasn’t bright enough to truly compare with the Posca #2 Yellow, so I also swatched Sunflower from the Skin & Earth tones set. I will admit that I don’t think there are great alternatives available for the yellow Posca pen, and the pink and light blue ones (#13 and #8) are brighter than the variants in the Tooli-Art sets I own, but the other colours come pretty close.
Most importantly, the white Tooli-Art pen works. 🤣 It doesn’t have the yellowish base that the Posca one has, but this might be because my pen was faulty from the start, IDK. Either way, the Tooli-Art pen is a nice cool white and easily marks dark surfaces.
I also found that when marking directly on my acrylic paintings, the Tooli-Art pens fared exceptionally well. I can create even lines over thick patches of paint and I feel less concerned about ruining the nibs than the tips on the Posca pens. Maybe this is simply a mental thing, since I know I have a baggie of replacement nibs if needed. Either way, I’m impressed.
Now, the pens I purchased don’t have any kind of colour code or number on their bodies. I have noticed that the sets sold directly on the Tooli-Art website do have numbers, which is great. For them.
Honestly, this not knowing exactly which colour I’m working with thing is my greatest (and only) issue with this brand. In some cases, it’s simple enough to see which colour is which by looking at the cap, but the shades in the Skin & Earth tones set are so close to each other, that this trick doesn’t always work. And if you’re creating a complex piece that requires exact shades, having to retest colours every time slows creativity.
So anyway, I swatched both sets as best I could. Some of these might not be 100% correct, but should be close enough to gauge the range of colours.
Reviewers on Amazon have complained about having to shake the Tooli-Art pens before each use, but this is something I habitually do with all paint pens, so it doesn’t bother me as much.
Considering the range of colours, the opacity of pigment, and the massive difference in price, I’ll purchase Tooli-Art pens every time. I’m blown away by the value for money! And I mean, it’s a small business, which means I’m more likely to support them anyway.
I highly recommend this product!
Thanks for reading!