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What are the advantages and disadvantages to a valve-controlled or valve-action marker?

Comparing Valve Controlled Markers and Capillary Action markers in terms of Lifespan, Capacity, Nib Replacement, Versatility of application, Price, and Environmental impact

The Valve-Controlled Markers we make are quality tools and and not throw away items.

Before we can compare the differences between Valve Action markers and Capillary Action markers, we have to define what each are:

Capillary action

If you have not heard of valve-action, this is likely the kind of ink marker you are used to. Sharpie®, Avery® Marks a lot, even magic marker are known for their capillary action markers. You just take the cap off and start writing. When it dries out, it gets thrown out. Very often that happens very fast. That is because much of the inside of the barrel is taken up by an absorbent sponge-like tube. It drinks up the ink inside so that it can constantly supply the nib with ink. It is especially important to keep a capillary action marker capped when not in use since the ink is always exposed to air this way and is always evaporating. We always recommend to store markers on their side because of this and it is especially important to do it for capillary action markers.

Sharpie® Fine Point: an example of a capillary-controlled ink marker

Valve-Action or Valve-Controlled

Most paint markers use a valve action mechanism. When you un-cap a new pen, you will notice that the nib is clean and has no ink or paint inside. It can be pulled out of the marker. To start using the marker, you will have to depress the valve by pressing down on your surface with the nib. When the valve opens, the paint is then exposed to the nib. Once it is sufficiently inked up, you can start writing. We suggest using a test surface when inking up if you are not used to how your marker flows. Once you have the hang of it, the mark-maker has the ultimate control of how much paint or ink is used.

arroMarker IM-17: an example of a valve controlled permanent ink marker
Mighty Marker® PM-19: an example of a valve-controlled permanent paint marker



It is no question that valve action markers last much much much longer than capillary action markers. We have found xylene markers from the 1960's and before. They still work just as well as when they were made. This is because the marker contents are not only sealed from the air by the cap but by the closed valve that only opens when the nib is being inked.

As far as how many uses you get out of the product, valve action markers keep going and going and going all the way down to the last drop. Nothing is wasted. I have heard stories of someone using a marker for over 30 years until they had to scramble to find if the marker company still existed so they could purchase another one. Capillary markers start to weaken after the first few uses.


Because capillary action markers use a soak up mechanism inside the pen, there is not much more space left to house ink. It is hard to measure how much ink is used in the production of capillary action markers because of the presence of the soak up mechanism. On the other hand, valve-controlled pens allow for the entire area of the barrel to be dedicated to housing paint or ink.

Nib Replacement

Capillary pens need to have the nib fastened to the soak up mechanism and cant be removed. Valve action always has a replaceable and reversible nib and can always be renewed and used down to the last drop.

Versatility of application

We supply industrial grade paints and inks for a great variety of specialty applications. Many of these would be entirely inappropriate to use with a capillary mechanism. For capillary pens, you are strictly confined to the use of dye based inks that hold much less paint


Everybody and their mother has Sharpies. They are cheap. They are convenient. They are everywhere. The thing is, they don't last and they are not mean't for industrial use. We make all of our valve action markers here in the U.S.A. and have dedicated our factory to producing them as efficiently and contentiously as possible. The most costly part of the markers we make are the paint and we fill our pens to capacity. Because of this, you will notice the price per individual pen is higher than most throw-away capillary pens we sell. All things considered, for the amount of usage you get out of our valve-controlled pens, they are a bargain.

The Environment

Anyone with any sense can see how wasteful these cheap capillary pens are in the long run - not only for your bank account but for the environment. One valve action marker under consistent usage will still outlast more than a dozen regular markers. Keep these throwaway markers out of your community's landfill!

Because we know we are making high quality tools, we use better materials such as metal barrels and higher quality plastics and nibs for our markers. All things considered, we promise you will still be pleasantly surprised by the low price, lead time, and lasting value you get from our valve controlled products.

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