In the world of art materials, things keep getting better and better. 100,000 years ago, in Blombos Cave in South Africa, a complete toolkit for grinding pigments and making a primitive paint-like substance has been recently discovered. Egyptians mixed pigment with gums or animal glue, which made them workable and fixed them to the surface being decorated over ago, and they still possess their brilliant color 2,000 years later. We have come a long way.

Most paints consist of three basic elements. The binder is one part of the vehicle of the paint, and the second part of the vehicle is the solvent for the binder, usually oil or water based. When the solvent in the vehicle dries, the binder adheres to the surface. The third element is the pigment, which is blended with the vehicle in varying degrees. Additional elements are added to these three ingredients to create the enormous variety of paints and inks available today.

Quick line work with acrylic markers.

One of the more innovative art materials I’ve used lately are the Montana acrylic markers, which consist of high quality water based acrylic paint in a drawing tool which allows for the creation of continuous line work. The flexibility of the system is what attracted me to the use of these markers, and so far they have worked very well for my paintings.

Empty markers are available in varying sizes, from extra fine to nearly 2″ wide. They are easily taken apart so that any color may be custom mixed and used to fill the paint chamber. In addition, extra nib points are available so that if they wear out, or if a new color is being used in the marker, they can be replaced. Since the paints used are high flow water based acrylic, it is easy to wash them out and start with a new color.

The amount of time that is reduced creating line work using acrylic markers is cut back astronomically. Usually line work is produced by using a brush of appropriate width and repeatedly dipping it into the paint and onto the canvas. The brush must be filled with paint correctly each time it is used to provide a consistent line width. The Montana acrylic markers are like a brush that is constantly full of the correct amount of paint and ready to go.

Although I have only mixed colors and filled markers with the Montana high viscosity opaque acrylic formulation, it is possible to use other paints to experiment with various mixtures. In addition, it would possible to cut the nibs into specialized shapes using an x-acto or matte knife to further customize these great artist’s tools.

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Chris Bird is a designer for print and web specializing in the development of marketing materials for a varied spectrum of clients. He currently resides in Santa Rosa, California. His music website is at and his painting and fine arts website is located at