We use the DOMS Sketch Max felt tip coloring pen set for drawing, doodling and coloring things brightly to our hearts content. Adult coloring books come up, as do the vast improvements that cheap coloured markers have seen over the past decades. Are they a serious medium for art? Are they fun? Watch to hear our thoughts.
Reviewing the DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive where every week we test drive a new or old or classic or maybe it’s from the future, stationery tool or implement or paper.
Minjal: In today’s episode we’re test driving the DOMS Sketch Max. It is a set of 12 felt pens. The pack says ‘Unique, push resistant, 2.5 mm pens.’
Vishal: And the jokes about doms are just starting, so buckle up folks.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Vishal: I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Vishal: These are sketch pens as we know them in India. You may know them as felt tip markers, Sharpie-style things or Sign Pens or any of those other things. They’re all basically the same kind of thing, right? It’s a felt tip with a ink barrel behind it somewhere. And yeah, we grew up calling these sketch pens.
These are now Sketch Max, brilliant colors, Made in India, push-resistant, 12 shades, all for the low, low price of Rs. 30, which I don’t think we even spent 30 rupees on this one, which is like 50 cents maybe. This is a childhood staple, this is the kind of thing that you would give kids when you were in some ways trying to give them a cheap gift. I don’t remember using them in school too much actually, even though they are aimed at kids.
Samir: At least when we were in school it was always considered to be kind of a lesser medium.
Vishal: Because they were not actually that nice to use back then, this was in the 80s and 90s.
Samir: Yes, I think until about maybe the 90s, a lot of these markers, I think all around the world, not just the ones in India that are called sketch pens by us, used to be solvent or alcohol-based. If you remember when we were kids these things used to stink.
Vishal: Oh my god they used to stink. You’d wonder what kind of long-lasting effects that would have on your brain.
Samir: But these new ones are a lot more water-based and are fairly pain-free to use.
Vishal: These ones are certainly very easy and very simple and they give a nice even line for the most part, we’ll get to that. But let’s look at our test drives. Minjal what do you have for us?
Line Art Landscape with DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens
Minjal: What I have is nearly 2000 lines drawn with the sketch pens.
Samir & Vishal: That is lovely, entirely worth the effort I think and a very different take on, like we said we call them sketch pens, here they are mostly used for sketching and this is anything but a sketch. This is quite finished, quite an accomplished piece of work.
Minjal: From what I understand of sketch pens, I believe kids in nursery or preschool, when they’re introduced to coloring, sketch pens the first tools handed over to them. They’re easy to use, they’re easy to fill in color and you know as adults we don’t really end up using sketch pens at all. So this was interesting to use. There were some issues with smudging which is bound to happen. This is Rs. 30, you’re not expecting it to be smudge -proof.
Vishal: See I think until you end up in that very hallowed adult sketch pen world of things like the Copics or others, I don’t think you’re getting better lines than this, certainly I don’t remember.
Samir: And the difference we’re talking about between this one and that is just too large to even compare them. I don’t think you would get a single Copic marker for the cost of this entire set.
Vishal: I think one of the only real issues that we had is that we are old enough that I always remember these running out or drying out long before I was ever actually able to put down even these many lines. Especially the cheap markers, but this one didn’t work that way this one just kept going. I did not run out, I will show you what I did because I think I put down the most ink of all of us.
Product Illustration with DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens
Samir & Vishal: That is vibrant!
Vishal: I mean I used about five or six colors actually, entirely. There’s a couple of blues, a couple of greens, and a couple of the pink, purples and yes there’s a yellow in there.
Minjal: Vishal, do you want to read this out?
Vishal: It’s Aiyyodex! If you have seen our episode on the Pentel Graph 600, this is a callback to something in that one. But yeah, one thing I wanted to point out in this one, we have done kind of the same thing, in the sense that we are old enough, again, that we didn’t really press this into the paper for fear that it would run out.
One of the problems that we had growing up with cheap sketch pens was that they would run out, I’ve mentioned that or that they would dry out. But on the flip side of that I think one of the nice things about it is the thin line quality, because in the way we do Stationery Test Drive, we test a bunch of things, at the same time, in the same sort of set that we’re doing, we’re doing these fatter markers that’s coming up in a couple of weeks, and that in some ways was made entirely for bulk pressing down and filling up shapes rather than making line work.
But I really liked putting down lines, at no point did I drag the pen along to fill out. Even though this is meant to be a flat color, see I started here kind of doing a more thick line but then I quickly started enjoying the spaces in between, if that makes sense.
Minjal & Vishal: These were actually really fun to use.
Vishal: I think that if you gave me any random sheet of A4 paper and one of these I would have a lot of fun with them. I think for Rs. 30 and some spare time. Fun is greatly underrated. Samir, did you have fun with your experiment?
Portrait Sketch with DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens
Samir: I definitely did and I think the pattern I’m seeing, the thing that we’ve all done, which maybe we would not have done as kids, is to really lean into the fact that this thing makes great lines. We all ended up making these pieces of art that are very colorful but do not have flat shapes in them at all. Minjal: We didn’t really use them for coloring or filling in.
Samir: As adults we have lent into the fact that this is a medium that consists of lines and we have kind of used lines to mix colors on the page visually rather than what we would have done as kids which is just kind of make large overlapping shapes.
Vishal: I think the way you’ve gotten that fine blue line is not something I would even expect from a sketch pen. Until I would see maybe this part. And we talked about this in a previous episode where we talked about the sort of the feathering quality of being able to pull off a felt tip but on the other end of things that kind of line is something I would expect from an ink pen or a Uni Pin, a fine liner or something like that.
Minjal: Domes or Doms? I don’t know. Maybe somebody should clarify the pronunciation.
Vishal: One of our subs can tell us about Doms!
Minjal: Yes, surely! In the comments, please! So this is a relatively new-ish brand in the Indian stationery market.
Vishal: I certainly do not remember seeing them as a kid, but they seem to be pretty ubiquitous now.
Samir: I believe that they started off as a pencil company and they had more of a traditional Indian family business name. The DOMS brand itself was only introduced in 2006 or so which is why we are not as familiar with it.
Minjal: And maybe they didn’t do any market research for the name of the brand, I’m sure!
Samir: I mean, look, we can make all the jokes we want but the point is that even though it’s fairly new, I see these everywhere. Stationery shopkeepers all over India know this brand. This is the first thing they give you and the thing is whatever DOMS means it does not matter. Because whether by design or just by plain old good luck, they have ended up with a brand name that is essentially pronounceable by almost anyone. It’s not as dumb a name as you think it is.
Minjal: When I actually went to buy my set, I was actually looking for the water-based sketch pens that they have. I couldn’t find them in my area but those are also very popular, where you can actually blend the color with a little bit of water to get the water color effect.
Vishal: I think the strength of this thing as an adult is the fact that you can’t blend but you can layer. Many of these I’ve just gone in willy-nilly after a while. I thought I’d go in for something very structured but after a while you do end up playing, I ended up playing much more than I thought I would.
Samir: It’s interesting to see some of these mediums that we grew up with, kind of improve over time. We saw a similar story with colored pencils when we covered the Staedtler Luna Pencils a while ago. Just like that, this one too, when we were kids was not something that you could add water to and spread the paint with. but now that they have moved to a more water-based medium, it adds that ability to make it more like a watercolor just like the Staedtler Luna’s, so that’s an interesting improvement with a lot of these as time goes by.
Vishal: There is a strange pattern forming here where I’m sure these are engineering and sort of scientific technique based things that encourage hardier use by kids that actually end up being better for adults. I am sure that the tip is harder and finer on these than when we were kids, because as a kid you will press into them more and you don’t have that control.
Whereas we will enjoy it because we know we can build up stuff, whereas most kids are going to like really hammer into this thing and it’ll take it. And don’t worry the jokes are coming to us as well, just leave them in the comments.
Do felt tip pens dry out?
Samir: I think the thing we have to cover because we have mentioned growing up with these and the way they have changed, we actually need to go over the way these things have changed. Even growing up as a kid and having this pretty much as the only option to color bright colors with, we knew they were bad. They were always a terrible medium to use, so let’s go over the things that have changed.
As they say, ‘Unique push-resistant,’ that was one of the first things that would go wrong with most sketch pencil as kids. The felt tip was maybe about a centimeter long and it would just get pushed back into the body and then you could not use the pen anymore. That was one problem, they obviously seemed to fix that. The other problem was that it would dry out quickly, we did not have that problem at all, clearly it does not dry out quickly.
So, they solved the push-in issue, they solved the problem with drying and they also solved the issue of it essentially sticking to high heaven every time you open the cap.
Minjal: Also, do you’ll remember what brands you’ll used growing up? I used the Camlin Sketch Pens when I was growing up.
Vishal: Camlin is another Indian manufacturer more towards the student end and the kid’s end.
Minjal: They were not half as bad as the experience you’ll are talking about.
Vishal: We grew up in the middle-east. We had access to things like the Staedtlers or the Faber-Castells and they were also fine but they were prohibitively expensive.
Samir: But the thing is and we are talking about using these in the 80s. I have used Staedtler sketch pens in the 80s, they had all the problems that I just mentioned.
Vishal: Yes, they were not significantly better to make you think, “oh okay, now these are fine.” These for Rs. 30, generational progress I must say. It’s totally worth using as a medium as an adult and using them as in some way sketch pens. This is great to sketch with.
Samir: And Vishal actually touched upon something that’s an important change that has happened here which is that these were invented for children. And this goes back to another episode that we’ve had before on the oil pastels.
Oil pastels were also invented specifically to be more colorful than the previous medium which was crayons, wax crayons. Now if you look at that as kind of a progression over time, the difference in just plain vibrancy between a wax crayon and then to an oil pastel and then from an oil pastel to this, you can see it getting more and more colorful.
So this was a great invention for kids, that’s how we grow up seeing them as something that are used purely by kids. But as they have fixed the technical issues it’s genuinely become a medium that adults can control in a way that maybe kids may never do but it’s a great single coloring medium which you can start off as a kid pushing in blindly into and then use in this much more refined way that when you get this range.
DOMS Sketch Max – Felt Tips Pens That Don’t Bleed
Vishal: One of the other issues with older sketch pens was when you put two lines even close to each other or heaven forbid on top of each other you would almost invariably get this very dull, low saturation, muddy is the very artist’s preferred term, a grayish brown, everything would eventually turn into brown.
Whereas here we’ve layered sometimes three or four and it’s kept the vibrancy and that’s just great. I was afraid of this, again my major experience with sketch pens was as a child growing up and then as soon as possible I switched to doing things in pencil and pen on paper and then just coloring them on the computer because that vibrancy was just not there.
Whereas now for the princely sum of Rs. 30 rupees or 50 cents in the US, cheaper maybe, or you will have an equivalent somewhere in the world that’s similar because this chemistry is not exclusive, it’s not some Indian derived thing, probably many Japanese stationers who have come up with this years ago and now it’s trickling down to all the rest of us.
Minjal: The noticeable thing is, I’m somebody who goes by brands which has been my learning while shooting these episodes. I would buy a Sharpie without even thinking about a locally available brand which kind of works just as well. I don’t think I can get a very different output with a Sharpie than I managed with this really inexpensive pen set.
Vishal: That is a great point, you can go out today and get this, maybe you can go and get a 0.8 fine liner set in colors and you will pay maybe what 20, 30, 40 times as much for one of those sets, I’m saying of 12 colors in the same way to get you the same line quality. And it won’t fundamentally be better. Now obviously there will be archival considerations, we’ll have to look at these sketches in a few years and see if they’ve faded or the colors have bled or gone away, but right now, in the here and now and in some ways now is all you have, Rs. 30 rupees, this piece of paper.
Samir: As you say there is a place in the world obviously for what are probably called artist markers rather than sketch pens which will last 100 years or whatever. But there is something to be said for a medium like this which gets rid of that barrier of entry, just lets you experiment.
And before we talk about anything else, and before we leave I need to mention the one unique thing about a sketch pen after having used a lot of mediums over the past few episodes. You have mediums like colored markers which are fine liners, and we’re going to be covering some of those in the future, things like the Stabilo and even the gel pens like Gelly Rolls are available in colors. They give you a very, very fine line and that’s great.
Then you have colored markers like the Staedtler Calligraph that we covered just last week which are a very broad edge. this is unique in that it’s neither thin nor thick, it has that perfect sort of middle thickness, where you can apply it very lightly and get a slightly thinner line and you can push it in a little and get a slightly thicker line.
Vishal: On a slight negative note sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting. Like the blue is very thin here, at its thinnest, at its lightest pressure. The green, dark green that I got was thicker, I could not pull this level. So, yeah in some ways it is luck of the draw but that kind of organic quality can be leaned into and you can still get something good out of it.
I guess what I’m saying is that you do need to take it for what it is, which is a Rs. 30, comically innuendo filled name thing, that is the DOMS Sketch Max. We have done all of these with it, you should get a set, you should get two, hell, you can probably pick up 20 of them, call 20 of your friends over, if you actually have 20 friends and tell them it’s a DOM party and see what happens! Please report what happens to us. Keep the keep the terminology on YouTube fairly kosher so that you don’t get flagged, or at least we shouldn’t get flagged. Please go out and try these tools, show us your experiments. You can find us on social media, many places but mostly you will find those links on screen and in the description.
Get the DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens
1. DOMS Aqua Non-Toxic Watercolour Sketch Pen Set with Plastic Case (24 Assorted Shades) – https://amzn.to/3KIwjh7
2. DOMS Sketch Max – https://www.domsindia.com/product/doms-water-color-pens-sketch-12-shades/