Letraset Tria markers vs Copic

Every morning this week I’ve got up at six am to work on my home cinema unit project for an hour before leaving for work. The unit is designed, measured, drawn and inked and all that’s left is the colour rendering. By yesterday I was ready to start but I got out my set of Letraset Tria Markers to find that every one of them had dried out. Every single one.

I’ve had my set for two or three years and haven’t used them very much and so I was pretty pissed off that they’re now unusable. There are suggestions online about injecting each pen with alcohol using a syringe but I can’t be bothered with that, and more to the point, why should I have to do it?

Last night I went to my second favourite shop in the world, London Graphics in Covent Garden, to see if they could help. The very helpful sales assistant told me something that made me sad. Letraset are a British brand, founded in London in 1959, and are one of those brands that we should be proud of but they have apparently lost their way. She told me that their products just aren’t as good or as innovative as they used to be and they are being left behind by Japanese rival Copic, a brand I’d never heard of until yesterday. The famous Tria markers have changed little in recent years and Letraset have not moved their product set forwards to keep up with the market. They seemingly rested on the laurels of their marker monopoly and didn’t notice the newcomer hurtling up the inside. Apparently London Graphics’ professional customers rarely buy Letraset anymore, they’ve all converted to Copic which I think is a real shame.

I took her advice and bought a set of Copics and I was amazed at how good these pens are. The ink flows perfectly, they blend well and are a joy to use. Each pen has two nibs and the best thing is that, not only are they refillable (there is an ink refill for every colour), but she assured me that they will never, ever dry out. At £5.99 they are more expensive than the £4.49 Tria’s but to pay an extra £1.50 to get a pen that will last a lifetime rather than one that will dry out after only a couple of years, for me there is no contest.

Have you had the same problems with Trias? Have you tried Copics? What media do you use for colour rendering? I’d love to hear your tips.


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  1. I have no tips, I still need to comment on your lovely daffodil post, and I don’t have any real need for a pack of markers, BUT. There is very little that fills my heart with such satisfaction than a package like the one in that last picture! Have fun!!

    • Oh I know. I should really have only bought a few pens but the lure of a special box with slots for each pen was too much to resist! x

  2. Tell me about Annie, I had the same problem with half of my Tria’s and was really annoyed because of the amount of money they cost. Plus, the nibs get a bit craggy too and seemed to smudge everywhere. That said, I use the Letraset Pro Markers too and they have lasted really well and continue to work. I like the tiny nib on one end which is good for intricate rendering.

    I’ve been using the Copic Multiliners, which are pretty good but never tried their colour rendering markers, I’ll definitely give them a go now. It looks like you’ve got a good selection of colours in this set, is it an interiors set or did you select each marker yourself? Thanks for sharing this big tip. I’m looking forward to seeing your results love, Today I’m working on the electrical circuit for the interior construction booklet which is absolutely doing my head in!

    • Oh I was looking at the multiliners at the till but managed to restrain myself as I really needed a dark brown but they don’t do one. That’s good to know that they’re worth buying too.

      It’s not an interiors set, they don’t do themed sets. They do a set of 10 which are the brights, this set of 36 which are all the greys plus a pretty good variety of the spectrum. I thought it was pretty good as an interiors set as most of the colours are mid tone with a few bright reds etc thrown in. Then they do a set of 100 which I would *heart* but is probably about a million pounds.

      I’m such a nightmare in LG. I can never just buy what I went there for, I always come out with armfuls of stuff. I love it in there so much! I suffered for years in Cheltenham with a really crappy old art shop that had been there for ever and was fusty. It didn’t sell anything new and never had anything I needed in stock. The first time I walked into London Graphics I was agog with how beautiful it is :)

      Ugh poor you doing the electrical circuits. I have that to come. Next I have the kitchen perspectives and rendering. If I ever get this cumbersome cinema project done!

      • Ahh yes, just looked them up on graphicsdirect.co.uk. I don’t have any art shops around here either, but I’d be a nightmare if there was. I’m gonna buy them now with some more tracing paper I need, this weekend is free shipping so there’s no better time to buy :-)

        • Oh they have loads of sets on there! They didn’t have all those in LG. Plus they’re cheaper there too. Should have done my research! Which ones did you go for?

          • Bummer about the price, still you know for next time. I bought the same as you, but I did have my big eyes on a 72 set, can’t justify that price though. Well done for getting another set from Paul Lewin. Be sure to let us know if there’s an improvement in the quality. The power of the internet hey? Have a great weekend x

    • I had no idea they would dry out. I never would have bought so many if I’d known. I assumed they’d last until the ink ran out. Very cross! Definitely try the Copics, I’ve found them to be much easier to use so far. x

  3. I don’t really have anything to add since I don’t use markers for anything these days, and my biggest indulgence is a new flare tip pen, but my dad used to have the best set of markers. I don’t know if they were Letraset but they might have been. His came in a similar stand for them like the Copics ones. There were two ends with two different caps, a thick tip and a fine tip. He used them for drafting and rendering at his architecture firm, but whenever I used to visit I’d use them for drawing and coloring on his drafting paper. This brings back such good memories, thanks Annie. xo

    (Aha! Did a quick google search and it was these ones, from Prismacolor. He had millions. Also a nice set of colored chalk in short, skinny cube sticks. Oh my god, I love google, it was these!!)

  4. I used to love my Copic markers but haven’t used them much after I finished college in 01 but they still work today, my Tria markers don’t. Never got a set, just bought the colors I needed. You can also change the tips on the Copic markers when they are worn out. You’l enjoy them!…Also liked my set of Polychromos and chalk for renderings. When I did renderings on vellum I sometimes glued ripped out pieces from magazines on the back to give it some interest. Really enjoyed rendering by hand…

  5. Dear Annabel,

    I just came across your blog post on Twitter and I was sorry to hear of your experience with our Tria Markers.

    In short, there were teething problems when the new design Tria Marker launched in 2006. By the look of the packaging, the markers you have were manufactured around that time. Since then we have re-designed the marker and have stringent quality control, ensuring the markers are completely air tight and will not dry out over time.

    If you would like more details about this, then I would be happy to discuss this with you further.

    I would also like to replace all of the dried out markers for you, and send you a few of our other other new products to try out.

    Please forward me your email address, or contact me plewin[at]letraset.com and I’ll get a replacement set sent out to you straight away.

    Paul Lewin
    Marketing Executive
    Letraset LTD

    • Hi There Paul,
      I came across this blog post while deciding whether to invest in more Letraset markers or if I should move to Copic, which seems to be the New Kid on the Block. I do however love my Letraset markers and feel some loyalty to them (ok, maybe that should be emotional attachment). I was scrolling down to post on this blog post and let the blogger know that my markers that were purchased in 1993 are still going strong! They are not used everyday but fairly often. Just thought you’d like to know that too!
      But since you are here and even though I pretty much made up my mind on my purchase, can you tell me why I should choose Letraset over Copic?
      Megan Horsfall
      Megan Horsfall recently posted..Another Test Post!My Profile

  6. Oh, poor you. That must have pissed you off no end…. Markers are a nightmare and Letraset is dead! When I studied Graphic Design in Long Acre in the 80’s the very first London Graphic Centre was right opposite Saint Martins. I thought I found heaven.
    Letraset was king!!!

    I can see why the big LGC appeals to you. It is big and bold but I much prefer Cass Arts flagship store in Islington. They have many of the same products heavily reduced and I like what they stand for.

    Copics are the best, albeit pricey. You did well getting them. I’m a sucker for sets and probably own far too many. One day I’ll show you in a post:)

  7. I used Tria throughout my degree and noticed that they had a tendency to dry out. I discovered Copics in my final year (my flatmate swore by them) but by then I knew that I wouldn’t be using markers as often and so I didn’t bother making the switch.

    I’ve recently started drawing by hand again (so much more relaxing than trying to do so in Adobe Illustrator!) so I think I might invest in some. I didn’t know they were refillable – sold!!!! :D

    P.S. Thanks for the – ahem – tip! ;)
    P.P.S. I’d love to see your project when it’s done – I bet it looks fab. :D

  8. similar disappointment annie… i even once purchased a couple of letraset pens (& stupidly did not test them in the shop) only to get them home to discover they were already dead as a dodo… may as well have just set my purse on fire! i didn’t get so much as a single line out of them!

  9. I use Staedtler pens for my illustrations and love them. I have looked into and tried Copics at the art supply store and thought they were really great. They don’t bleed into the paper or shred the paper when you’re doing heavy coloring. I convinced myself I didn’t really need them as I don’t do much all over coloring. However, after reading this post, I’m thinking I could create things to color. :) I heart art supplies.

    PS~Annie, I think it’s FANtastic that Letraset left a comment here addressing your disappointment. Very cool!
    PSS~Erin, your dad’s markers sound like Tombows…Those are really great markers too.

  10. Oh no, what a nightmare, especially when you got up early to get your project finished.

    Thanks for sharing your findings, I’ve only just started rendering so I don’t have many colours yet, but I’m worried about buying anymore from Letraset! However, the fact they offered to replace your set and left an explanation does go someway to redeeming them, not much use for the people out there with faulty pens though…

  11. I would just like to say have a set of the original Letraset Panatone Pens which I have been using for nearly 30 years and they are still going strong.

  12. I bought a set of Tria markers in Calif at a bargain price at an art supply show a few years back and likewise used them very little until yesterday. I found that 4 of the markers were dried out but revived them by pulling one end off the cartridge, as you would if you were changing the cartridge. I then used an eyedropper to add 91% isopropyl alcohol (NOT rubbing alcohol; available at any drug store here in Calif), shook the markers and then left them for about 15 or 20 minutes. This seems to have solved the problem as they are all working fine now. I am disappointed, however, to find that replacement cartridges or refill ink is really hard to find here.

  13. well, copics were originally meant for anime/manga. but it works with pretty much anything but if there are any anime drawers out there; like me, PICK COPIC! like it was meant for baby. (anime/manga is the best you should try it.)

    thanks annie
    would you happen to know a place in england where thay sell copic or the internet. (i got mine from the internet and its a hassle)
    everyone recently posted..Out & About: New Covent Garden MarketMy Profile

  14. I was considering trying Copic markers for the first time, but after your post, I remembered that back in 1995 my father got me a big series of Tria markers as a present. So, I took them out of the closet where they laid forgotten and tried them out. They are all just fine…just as new…I still am curious about Copic though…

  15. OHHH
    I had the same trouble with my tria markers set (24 markers dried without using them!!!!)
    I dont know if i will buy some cartidge or change and buy come new copic!!!!

  16. I’ve had my Copics for four years now, with moderate to heavy use and all I’ve ever had to refill are the greys, which I used for render practice in university :) I’ve tried Letraset as well, and I do like the texture; but for me it’s all about the colour and Copic is all over that.

  17. I started using COPICS when I was 16, eversince I heard that all my mangaka (Japanese comic) heroes used them! I bought a set of 72 when I was 17 (ten years ago) and almost ALL of the pens still have some ink. Impressive given that I use them frequently; for 3 years I’d use them to colour 2-3 full A4 sized illustrations a week, and then for the next 7 years I’d use them on-and-off for small sketches. Conclusion; these markers are FOR LIFE.

    Love, a new blog reader and fellow marker enthusiast.

    Jasiminne Yip recently posted..No.41My Profile

  18. So nice to see someone discussing this topic!
    Tria-markers became one of my most beloved tools when I bought my first 72-piece set back in 2001. All but a few of the colours lasted until I wanted to expand my collection in 2009. I found a huge set online with all the colours (400 or so), much cheaper than here in Norway. I noticed they had changed the design, but didn’t think to much about it. The only thing was that they had replaced the thinnest pen-tip with a brush-tip. The one thing that made the Tria-markers stand out amongst the competition. Sadly almost all of the markers had dried out after a short time because of the poor design changes done to the ink casing. I sent a reply to both the store and the manifacturers without getting anything back. If only they had added the fine tip to the promarker. I guess I’ll have to buy them separately.

  19. I too am dismayed at the poor quality of Letraset in recent months, I use the Promarkers. I’ve been replenishing stock and constantly have at least 2 if not 3 defective markers in each pack. Although Letraset are putting this right, it does not bode well for future purchases! Think I will be investigating Copic from now. Interesting to read Graphic Design’s thoughts, such a shame.

  20. It’s very sad that letraset quality is not as good as it used to be. I have bought my letraset tria markers 14 years ago. Yes, 14 years ago, in February 2001. I used them for some time, then my daughter used it for her school projects. Last 8 years they were packed away in the box. Just recently I have took them out and started to use again. I’m amased how good my markers – bright, vibrant colours, as new. I want to buy more colours but realised that local shops (Sydney, Australia) doesn’t sell them Ny more. What a shame.


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