Paint marks on a shipping container

As paint markers take on tasks from touching up tires to tracking inventory, "permanent" becomes a relative term

In our first look at uses for paint markers, we explained how they’ve become an essential tool in industries and on surfaces where permanent markers fail. But the challenge for consumers is this: with manufacturers offering specialty models designed to mark everything from nuclear reactors to car parts, what do users really need? Why invest more in a niche marker when so many types already claim to write on any surface?

In part two of our series, QRFS looks at some especially common uses of permanent paint markers to help consumers make an informed and cost-effective choice between various models. We explore:

QRFS also invites you to take a look at our selection of paint markers for metal, rubber, and other non-porous surfaces—available in more than ten colors.

Black paint marker

Are the differences between brands real or just a marketing gimmick?

We've already mentioned one of the most surprising examples we've come across in this market: the "nuclear-grade" paint marker. There's a host of nuclear-grade products out there—even, for better or worse, nuclear-grade duct tape—but it's hard to imagine why somebody would need a nuclear-grade painting tool. And yet, there they are: laboratory-certified paints carefully made to mark nuclear pipe.

Some paint markers really do have a unique selling proposition. Uncommon applications include:

  • Markers with paint that fuses to metal at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Bleed-through paint that stays visible even when painted over
  • Inks that show only under ultraviolet light

And there's still a tremendous variety of paint markers for ordinary applications. California's Angelus Direct specializes in marking leather. Elmer's offers non-toxic markers for children, and Liquitex makes paint pens in a stunning variety of colors.

Retailers also sell general purpose or industrial paint markers that claim to permanently mark virtually any non-porous surface. Although some over-promise and underperform, Arro-Mark's PM-16 Mighty Marker seems to offer all these benefits and more. Watch it write underwater:

Some specialty markers may fill an important niche, but a general-use paint marker gets a lot of jobs done at a lower cost.

Color, ease of application, and permanence vary among paint markers for outdoor art

Brooklyn, New York's KRINK remains one of the most well-known manufacturers in the graffiti space, offering brilliant colors, extremely fine tips, and squeezable bottle-based markers ("mops"). They're a joy to watch in action:

More casual outdoor artists have adopted a more casual—and legal—hobby: rock painting. It's a surprisingly popular endeavor, and paint markers for rocks are a sought-after commodity. Across the United States, some have taken to hiding painted rocks for strangers to discover, spreading uplifting messages in public places.

Rock painting

At Colorado's Peterson Air Force Base, families on base paint and hide rocks known to travel as far away as California. Source: Peterson Air Force Base

There are paint markers and pens that brand themselves as specific to painting rocks—just as there are for graffiti. But many such products appear to be little more than an exercise in branding. Leading the search results for "paint markers for rocks" are sets of oil-based paint markers that sell elsewhere simply as all-purpose markers.

Here are some factors to consider when looking at paint markers for rocks or other outdoor art:

  • Cost: Markers with similar paints in identical quantities of can cost half as much as markers branding themselves specifically for art—and can write on an even wider variety of surfaces.
  • Colors: For work in black, white, or other basic colors, industrial paint markers can deliver in much the same way as specialty markers. On the other hand, brands made specifically for art offer a wider range of colors and, often, more stylish applicators.
  • Function: It doesn't matter how good paint looks if it doesn't stick. Markers made for metalwork and other industrial tasks account for factors such as weather, sun exposure, and surface porosity. The paint will stay put!

Other considerations: Solvents in industrial paint markers may be too strong-smelling for artists' tastes.

Return to the table of contents or browse our paint markers.

Mechanics get plenty of mileage out of industrial paint markers, but pit crews and car enthusiasts may need something special

Unlike artwork, many automotive uses for paint markers have less to do with aesthetics and more to do with efficient, safe vehicle improvements. Mechanics have found a variety of applications for these writing devices, including:

  • Marking the position of seat posts, chain tensioners, bolts, or propeller shafts. It's a way of putting things back in place after repairs are complete—or tracking which parts have been properly adjusted.
  • Paint markers are also a recommended tool for installing aftermarket liftgates on trucks or an additional row of seats in some vehicles. In both cases, these tools mark metal to make accurate cutting, welding, and placement of parts easier.
  • Markings along the sidewalls of tires allow semiprofessional and professional drivers to keep track of tire usage, placement, positioning, and other critical information.

One other automotive niche for paint markers seems particularly popular: tire touch-ups. Car enthusiasts may find that the lettering on their tires fades far sooner than they'd like. With a thorough cleaning and a couple of coats of paint, some markers can revitalize old tires. Manufacturers like the Colorado-based Tire Penz specialize in this exact line of work, offering brightly colored markers made to highlight treads, wheels, and text.

Marking tires with paint markers

Tire marking isn't just for fun—professional drivers and their racing teams count on long-lasting marks for a safer, more efficient and, hopefully, winning race. Source: BR Racing

In the end, consumers on the hunt for automotive marking tools have two options at their disposal:

  • Industrial or general-purpose paint markers are likely more than enough for mechanics' needs. The key concern is tip size: are they large enough to leave visible marks, or small enough to squeeze into tight spaces? On the other hand, buyers looking to touch up their tires should choose carefully. Some have reported success with white paint markers that claim to write permanently on rubber—with careful cleaning—while others find that marks quickly fade.
  • Racing or other specialty markers. For pit crews and those looking for a better-tested solution to the problem of writing on tires, manufacturers like Tire Penz and Arro-Mark offer paint markers designed and tested to leave permanent marks on rubber tires.

Return to the table of contents or browse our paint markers.

Where labels fail or spray paint doesn't look right, paint markers offer an identification and marking solution

In industries where sensitive or expensive equipment travels across the globe, consumers rely on heavy-duty protective cases. Marking these cases makes them easier to identify and sort—and makes it clear who they belong to. While spray paint and printed labels seem especially common in this space, paint markers offer a slightly less messy and faster way to get the job done.

Paint markings on camera cases

Paint markers can identify important gear. Source: Reddit

Heavy-duty cases aren't the only things that benefit from permanent labeling. Take, for instance, scuba gear: divers may find themselves crammed in boats with groups of other divers. When the gear dries off, it's hard to tell whose fins are whose. Waterproof paint markers can help dedicated divers keep track of their wetsuits, booties, and other equipment.

Hobbyists of all sorts have found that paint markers' ability to stick on any surface ensures that their equipment doesn't suddenly go missing. Disc golfers, for example, use paint markers to leave their initials on (and make cosmetic repairs to) their golf discs—marks that withstand repeated use and the occasional toss into a body of water.

There are a variety of options open to consumers who simply want to make sure that their tools, toys, and equipment don't get mixed up with anyone else's. While black and white paint markers are the go-to option for basic marks, other, more distinctive colors may make it easier to identify equipment at a glance—and can help to categorize and color-code otherwise similar containers.

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A little paint can make inventory management simpler, but shelf life and solubility matter

In almost any industrial setting with a large inventory, paint markers play a key role. Junkyards, for example, use paint markers to permanently label metallic shelving and parts, ensuring that handling and weathering don't slowly cause marks to fade. But the same goes for any business with a big inventory of items.

Paint markers mark junkyard inventory

With so many parts to keep track of, suppliers need an easy way to account for their inventories. A long-lasting, reusable paint marker can make systematizing large collections simple. Source: Essington Avenue Used Auto Parts

Industrial paint markers in simple colors can usually do the trick. Still, some features common to these markers may be overkill. It's unlikely that metal shelves, such as those pictured above, will endure extreme heat or chemical wear. But it's worth looking closely at two factors:

  • How long will the marker last after its first use? With shelving and inventory in flux, a paint marker that dries when stored can quickly become a repeat purchase.
  • Which substances can remove the paint? The paint from most industrial markers won't remove without solvents—and some may require abrasive forms of removal. Others respond well to household cleaners. If products or the racks they sit on will require reorganization, look for paint that responds to your preferred dissolving agent.

Return to the table of contents or browse our paint markers.

Some industrial paint markers can handle almost anything that comes their way!

When it's time to write on a surface that wasn't made to be written on, there is a go-to option.

Whether you're repairing a vehicle, marking inventory, or introducing some decorative rocks into the wild, of MIGHTY MARKER-brand paint markers will get the job done.

Orange paint marker

Each PM-16 MIGHTY MARKER writes on metal, rubber, plastic, glass, concrete, and other surfaces with Xylene-based paint. Their marks dry quickly and last as long as ten years outdoors.

Shop our selection of paint markers in 11 different colors.

Questions or need help placing an order? Call us at +1 (888) 361-6662 or email support@qrfs.com.

This blog was originally posted at QRFS.com/blog. Check us out at Facebook.com/QuickResponseFireSupply or on Twitter @QuickResponseFS.