Felt Tip Pen Vs. Marker: What’s The Difference?

A stroll through a stationery store is one of my favorite things to do – whether I need them or not, I just want all the things. Recently, I was shopping for some colored pens, and I started wondering what the difference is between felt-tip pens and markers. So I did a bit of research, and here is what I found:

There is an overlap between felt tip pens and markers. Technically, markers are felt tip pens. The main difference lies in their purpose. For example, felt tip pens are used for handwriting, whereas marker pens with larger tips and bodies are used for large scriptwriting, such as on notices.

Let’s examine the similarities and differences between felt tip pens and markers, as well as their uses and variations.

What Is The Difference Between A Felt Tip Pen And A Marker?

There really is no clear distinction between a felt tip pen and a marker. As mentioned earlier, most people agree that the main difference between these two types of pens is what they are each used for.

So What Exactly Defines A Marker Or Felt Tip Pen

A marker or a felt tip pen typically refers to a pen with its own ink source and tip made from some sort of porous pressed fiber – usually felt.

The first felt-tip marking pen was invented and patented in 1910 by Lee Newman. He created a cylinder filled with ink with a felt tip. These days, marker pens consist of a container, which could be glass, aluminium or plastic and an absorbent reservoir of ink. It will also have a cap to stop the nib from drying out.

The ink in a marker pen contains a solvent that keeps it in liquid form. The solvent used initially in markers was toluene or xylene. But these days, alcohol is more common as it is less harmful. For the most part, these sorts of pens produce highly saturated markings.

Different Names For Marker Pens

What these sorts of pens are called differs depending on where you are in the world. These pens may also be known as fine liners, marking pens, and flow markers.

They’re called markers, magic markers, sharpies, felt pens or felts in Canada and the USA. Sharpie and Magic Markers are both brands of pens.

You may also come across them as sign pens, name pens, felt pens, or magics in South Korea and Japan. In South Asia, they’re called sketch pens. In Iran, all felt-tip pens are called magics or highlights.

In New Zealand, fine-tipped makers are called felt pens or felts, while large permanent markers are known as vivids – after the famous brand.

In Australia, markers refer to large tipped markers and felt tips for fine-tipped markers. They are also sometimes called Textas or Nikkos, after the brand names. In South Africa, felt tip pens are often called kokis.

With all these names, it’s no wonder that there is no clear distinction between felt-tip pens and markers. So instead of trying to find the differences between these two types of pens, let’s look at the characteristics of these pens and then their uses.

What Sort Of Tips Do These Pens Have?

Felt tip pens and markers typically have one of the following tips:

  • A thin, rigid plastic nib in a metal case, or
  • A softer conical nib

The thin plastic nibs tend to write smoothly, and the conical nib often gives a darker or thicker marking, depending on the size of the nib.

Nib sizes differ from one brand to another, and the nib you choose depends on personal preference and what sort of writing you wish to do.

Generally, you’ll find most brands of marker pens with fine, medium, and broad tips. You may also find chiselled tips, brush tips, round tips and so on.

What Sort Of Inks Can You Find In Felt Tip Pens And Markers?

You’ll find a variety of types of ink in felt tip pens and markers.

  • Permanent inks, known as “permanent markers”, can be used to write on all sorts of surfaces, for example, glass, plastic, metal, and wood. Sometimes the ink can be removed with alcohol or acetone but not with water.
  • Non-permanent inks – these are known as “dry-erase markers” or “whiteboard markers” or “wet-wipe markers”. The markings from these pens dry quickly and erase easily, and can be used on non-porous writing surfaces.
  • Acid-free ink, which is used in archival pens and is resistant to weathering and fading
  • Water-based – they will probably smudge if these come in contact with any sort of liquid, but this also means that if clothing or textiles are accidentally marked, they can be washed, making them ideal for children. Water-based inks are also less likely to bleed through the paper than alcohol-based inks, which is ideal for double-sided note-taking.
  • Oil- and alcohol-based inks – these sorts of inks are more water-resistant. Alcohol-based inks can also be blendable and are used extensively in illustration work. They are also great for labeling materials such as glass and metal. In addition, they’re often permanent and perfect for making smudge-free labels.
  • Semi-transparent inks – which are used in “highlighters”. These can be used over existing text to draw attention to specific sections. You will usually find these pens in fluorescent colors.  
  • Invisible inks – used in “Security markers”, these inks are fluorescent under the UV light. They are often used for marking valuables.
  • Election ink is similar to invisible ink and is used in “Election markers”. It can only be seen when seen under UV light. In some countries, it is applied to the skin to prevent double-voting during election time.


There isn’t a clear line between felt tip pens and markers, and the best way to define the difference is in the use. To recap, markers are usually used for big writing, and felt-tip pens are used for small writing and coloring. Hopefully, this guide to marker and felt tip pens will help you choose the best instrument for your needs.

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