Black Ink on Glossy Papers

With National Letterwriting Month in full swing, we are seeing a lot of black ink markers and pens being used for cards, envelopes, and postcards.
When picking out which marker you are going to use for your mail, it can seem like the only decision you need to make is the size and shape of the tip. Remember to also consider that the type of ink is important too! If your paper/envelope has a glossy finish to it, you may have issues with the ink smudging and smearing off. And what if it rains on your mail during its travels? Will the ink run when it gets wet?

Use these quick comparison charts for help picking the markers that will work best for you, particularly when using glossy papers!




Meet the Markers

We gathered a group of black pens and markers we often use for writing here at Marker Supply that features a mix of ink types- pigment, dye, water, oil, acrylic, and alcohol-based pens. Then we did several tests with each to see how they held up on different types of envelopes.


blackinks-normal(Find each of these markers at Marker Supply!)


Plain White Envelopes

A lot of folks stick to plain white paper envelopes- and most black ink markers work great on them!


Rain Test

See what happens to each ink when the plain white envelope meets water..


While some of the inks smeared a little bit when rubbed over, they all stayed pretty intact. Dye-based markers (like the Marvy Le Pen and Pentel Sign Pen) have ink that is made to move with water (for blending effects, watercolor, etc.) Watch out using these types of pens if your paper is ever likely to come in contact with water as the color will bleed.

Bleed-Through Test

Keep in mind that oil-based (Marvy Decocolor, Sharpie Paint) and alcohol-based (Prismacolor, Kurecolor, Copic) markers, along with other permanent markers with a lot of ink (Sharpies), commonly bleed through papers- so write on your envelopes before putting the mail inside if using pens like these.


Also, if they get hit with water, other types of ink can bleed though as well, potentially damaging the contents inside:


Specialty Paper/Glossy Envelopes

When addressing some snail mail recently, we ran into problems whenever we used fancier and make-them-yourself envelopes. The paper was smoother and shinier.. and our “go-to addressing markers” didn’t work well on that type of surface.

This example shows how inks worked differently on one of the trickier silver paper envelopes:


Some of the marker ink repelled right off of the surface, and some barely left any color at all!
The good news is that after just a moment of drying, none of the inks smeared around.

Rain Test

“Rain or shine, the mail must go through!” What if it rains on your glossy envelope?



If you’ve used a dye-based marker (like the Pentel Sign Pen or Clean Color Real Brushes), your ink can totally disappear! We loved the Posca Paint Markers and the Sakura Permapaque Markers for these envelopes- and both of those marker ranges include a nice variety of colors too!
So keep in mind that some inks may look ok when dry, but won’t hold up well on a glossy surface if they meet rain or snow while on their way to their destination.


Ink Dry-Times / Smudge Tests

Writing with some pens and markers can be frustrating if they are prone to smearing and smudging- which happens a lot more when working with smooth, glossy papers.

Take a look at how these different inks stand up to smudging after different drying times:

Lightweight Glossy Paper

Ink smudging immediately after writing:


Smudging after 10 seconds of lightly blowing on the ink:


This definitely made a big difference with some of the pens! A lot of them still lost the dark black color that sits of top of the writing- common with glossy paper as it’s harder for the ink to soak into. Some others smeared in the areas the pen stopped writing each letter- where there was still a small dot of wet ink that needed a little longer to fully dry.

Ultra-Glossy Photo Paper

From photo-like postcards to regular photographs, this type of slippery surface can be tricky to mark on.

This is what the inks looked like on photo paper after being smeared immediately after writing:


We were pretty impressed with the results! Most of the markers did much better on this type of glossy surface than the smooth shiny paper! Some of the thicker ink markers rubbed away, leaving only a “ghosting” behind.

Trying photo paper marking again, we smudged each ink after lightly blowing on it for 10 seconds:


Again, just those few extra seconds of drying really seemed to help the ink set. A few pens still had trouble fully absorbing into the shiny surface, as the top black color still rubbed away after drying.

Another test with photo paper- we sprayed on a little water and watched how each ink reacted:


Some stayed intact but lost their black color on top when rubbed over, while also making a mess of black smear marks.
And others, like the Marvy Le Pen (which was one of the best, super fast-drying fine line pens for photo marking) instantly began to “melt” like the other dye-based inks (which are made to be movable with water), surrounding themselves with blue/purple color. Interesting to see the Zig Photo Signature, another of the best quick-drying pens to use on glossy photos, reacted to the water with an orange color, even though the black markings held up alright.


So keep in mind as you decorate and address your mail that not all black inks are the same on various surfaces, and not all will hold up to certain conditions. Try some experiments first on a test envelope to see how your markers do!



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