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A few days ago a friend and I were talking about coloring books and our favorite pens / pencils. I confessed that I really am not a pencil person (though I do enjoy watercolor pencils) but I love markers. I usually use Ultra Fine Sharpies, but I’ve recently come to enjoy my Zig Clean Color Real Brush Watercolor Pens (24 pack) because the colors are vividly bright and they blend well. These pens, as you might expect, are a little more expensive than many others (though they’re probably in the medium range for price), and my friend laughed and called me a “pen snob.” While it’s true that I love pens, markers, paints, pretty much any kind of inky substance, I never thought of myself as a “snob.” After all, I’m interested in a good bargain as much (if not more than) most people. As a matter of fact, I actually got a bargain on my Zig Pens, but I had to order them from an importer and wait for them to ship on a slow boat from Japan. So, in response to her admonition that “Some of us can’t afford fancy markers,” I took a trip to Dollar Tree and purchased a set of each kind of colored pen to give them a go. Some were keepers, and some weren’t. Here’s what I found out:

The package of 20 fine tip markers is pretty good for coloring.  The colors are vibrant and the fine tips make it easy to color details. The markers weren’t overly wet and didn’t bleed through the paper. (Though I always put a piece of card stock under the page I’m coloring, just in case.) They were a little on the scratchy feeling side, but gave good coverage. In addition, the barrels are pretty slim, so they were didn’t play well with the arthritis in my fingers. However, adding on soft grips (also available at Dollar Tree) would remedy that easily enough. Overall, these are a good choice if you don’t want to fork out much money, if you go through markers quickly, your kids play with them, or your friends walk away them at the end of a coloring party.

This package of mini gel pens is a great size to carry in your purse or backpack. The colors are vivid and the coverage is good (comparable to other gel pens I’ve purchased at a craft store). As with other gel pens I’ve used, I had to flick the ends a few times to get the ink going (Since the gel ink is thicker, it can be a little persnickety.) However, once the ink started flowing, I didn’t have any problems with them. Since they are so small it might be necessary to put them in a little zipper bag to keep them from getting lost in the bottom of a bag, and (like the other skinny pens) a soft, fat grip would improve ease of use. Overall, these worked pretty well if you want a miniature set of coloring pens to take on the go.

These skinny stick pens came in two sets – neon and metallic. The ink flowed more smoothly than the gel in the mini pens, especially the metallic colors which have a pearly finish. The coverage is good with a nice opacity. Again, they could use some grips, but I would buy these for the vividness of the neons and the lovely metallic sheens.

This set of three gel pens have an attractive design and a comfort grip built into the barrel. However, the grip was in the wrong place for me (which shows the advantage of adding your own), and I had trouble getting them started. I actually had to take the end off the pens, pull out the ink cartridge, and shake it down several times before these would write. They had a scratchy feel even after the ink began to flow and took a couple of fine lines off the design. I wouldn’t buy these again.

While I don’t usually color with ball point pens, the nostalgia factor on this one is irresistible. I had a four color pen when I was in high school that enabled me to doodle up the margins of every notebook in red, blue, green, and black. So, when I saw this pen with ten colors, I knew it had to go home with me. As with any ballpoint pen, the coverage for coloring isn’t ideal. It takes a couple of coats to get an opaque area, and by then the ink may soak through or the ball point may tear the page if it’s thin. However, this pen was so much fun (and comfortable because of the fat barrel), it has to go to school with me so I can doodle my way through dull meetings.

This set of three ball point click pens seemed like a fun choice for the bright colors and comfort grips, which were soft and easy to hold. The coverage was pretty average for a ball point, but they were annoying because the ink kept cutting out. I tried just writing to see if that worked better, but it didn’t change the performance. I wouldn’t even buy these to grade papers.

I like the candy stripe look of these ballpoint pens, and they worked better than the rest of the ballpoints with smoother ink and better coverage. The colors are cute and they have a fine tip to get into small spaces. However, they are VERY skinny and need a grip to be comfortable for more than a few minutes. I like these, though, and I would buy them for grading and doodling. (I’m just not crazy about coloring with ball point pens.)

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As you can see, I didn’t even get to color with this set of ProMarx Grip pens. The grip was too hard to really be of any benefit, and only two of the pens worked. (Trust me, I tried to get the other two going!) These weren’t worth the dollar I paid for them.

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