Choosing a Touch Up Marker

February 02, 2016

Mohawk manufactures several types of touch up markers so you can repair a large variation in finish types. This can make it confusing so it's important to evaluate your finish and situation so you can pick the right marker. You can quickly eliminate a whole family of markers by distinguishing between a painted finish and a stain color.

Paints are opaque and most often completely hide your view of the wood; you might see texture but not the wood color. Paints can be applied to mostly hide the wood, such as a pickled finish or washed look. Either of these will require a more heavily pigmented paint marker using less color on the lighter effects.

Our pigmented Ultra Mark Markers range from opaque to semi-transparent stain colors. Colors in the white families will be more opaque while stain colors with wood tone names are more transparent.

Pigmented markers contain pigment color that will settle and they must be shaken to re-mix the pigments to maintain their intended color. This type of marker has a valve behind the tip that must be activated to allow the material to flow through for application. The material behind the valve remains in a chamber where it can be mixed prior to use. This arrangement doesn't allow for continuous flow like that of a capillary marker which wicks out fluid as long as the tip demands it and until it's depleted. The magic markers we commonly use around the home or office are capillary markers.

Ultra Mark Markers are available in stain colors but with much lower pigment levels than a paint marker. They will stain wood with a similar look to the original finish without covering the view of the wood. These too are valve type markers.

Pro-Mark Markers contain dye colors which don't settle out of the marker fluid. For this reason, they can flow through a capillary process so there's no mixing or valve to worry with. A real advantage of continuous flow is the ability to color long table edges which are prone to wear without stopping to replenish the tip. You can't beat a Pro Mark for ease of use and convenience when it fits your application.

Dyes are totally transparent and won't hide the wood features. If a finish was colored with dye originally then a dye would be appropriate for touch up as well. In many cases a dye is sufficient for repair on a pigmented finish as well. Their free flowing, always ready qualities make them very handy and fast for repairs. Dyes do penetrate more freely into raw wood and they can go darker than expected in cross grain scratches which can catch you off guard. Dyes can be brighter than pigments on some finishes they stand out and draw attention to a repair where a pigment may have been a better option and be aware of color shifts if you top coat dyes as they tent to shift when a clear coat is applied. 

Color-wise, choosing a dye over a pigment takes a bit of evaluation. If the finish is very clean and clear, exhibits extreme clarity, not muddy, then a dye would be a good choice. Finishes that are clean and clear but are slightly muddy may still be a good choice for a dye marker unless you're dealing with cross grain scratches or rough raw wood. A muddy finish may be better repaired with a pigmented marker.

A pigmented stain will appear transparent and exhibit good clarity but compared to a dye finish there's a certain muddiness that still exists. In these cases, a pigmented Ultra Mark is the best and safest choice particularly in cross grain scratches where they won't over penetrate and go dark like a dye. Pro Marks are easy, but Ultra Marks can be made to work on almost any project. 

Ultimately, test your marker out to ensure the color matches before beginning your repair. The right color can make the difference between a flawless repair and a DIY disaster. 

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