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Artist’s Process: Copic Marker Illustration (Embracing the colors!)

One characteristic of Copic Marker Illustrations is the flat, blended and layered look which closely mimics digital art. I find that Copic Markers achieve the digital look much better than most other traditional mediums. During this illustration, I decided to embrace the digital look and see how far I can push the bright colors of Copic Markers. This meant that I decided not to use skin tones. The inner character-design artist screamed quite loudly at this concept, especially since ‘alien’ and ‘Smurf’ weren’t on my list of accomplishments for this piece. However, being booted out of your comfort zone is part of the artist’s process, and is beneficial in learning and growing as an artist.

I started out by sketching my general concept in my sketchbook. I wanted the finished result to look like a sticker, so my first few concepts focused on a more ‘distant’ view of the character, who in this case is Atlas. I found that many of the details would be lost with a “far off” view, so my next sketch was a more zoomed in version. This one lost most of the emotion I wanted to achieve, which I felt I had captured much better in the first sketch. My final concept sketch included both the emotion of the first sketch, but with the layout of the second. I ended the planning phase by typing the words that would accompany the illustration into Word. I selected a font that complemented the illustration, and then mimicked the font in my sketchbook. Using Word fonts is a fun way to learn hand-lettering styles and techniques.

Here is the line-art of my final illustration on the sketchbook page dedicated to planning the concept.

I then redrew my final sketch into my Copic Marker booklet, and lined it with Copic Multi Liners. Multi Liners are alcohol proof, and are used alongside the Markers for line art that the alcohol ink won’t smudge. I did the lettering and lining, then left the ink to dry for an hour or so. The ink doesn’t need that long to dry however, and can usually be left for only five to ten minutes. Then I rummaged around my Copic collection for the right colors. For better results in blending, and for a more cohesive color selection, I decided to use Violets, Blue- Violets and Blues. After picking out my markers and testing them together on a separate piece of paper, I was ready to start coloring.

The fully colored illustration!

I knew that inevitably; the characters’ skin would end up being blue… Not being able to bring myself to do it I started on the hair, the clothes, anything to avoid doing the skin. But soon the time had come. The character himself was almost complete, but his skin was still paper white. I just swallowed my nerves, and got started on the skin. To conform my fears, on the first pass, he did look remarkably like a Smurf. Luckily, when I started to add shading with a very light Blue-Violet, it helped the illustration move away from the unwanted ‘alien’ appearance. I then finished the background.

The last step (and also the most fun), was to add white highlights and stars. After I had done this, I decided to add a white outline to the character and the planet. This will cause them to stand out from the dark colors of the background, and keep all the colors more separated.

The process from start to finish, from the messy sketchbook, to the color key, to the final, completed illustration.

The lesson learnt during this illustration was:

Never be afraid to try. Even if you are nervous you may end up with an accidental Smurf, it’s better to try and learn something, than to never try at all and live with the regret.

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Artist Process- Using Pens in Artwork

It can be very fun to add some flair to your artwork with colorful pens. Pens are a great way to add variation and color to sketchbooks, metallic shimmer to watercolor art and of course, add lettering and line work.

Using Pigma Microns in your sketchbook can make your favorite sketches stand out from the page. The bold line work draws the eye much faster than the pencil sketches around it.

Dark colored outlines can help separate your artwork from the background and add more definition to the drawing or illustration. Fine liners are perfect for this, however, be careful. Most fine liners smudge when in contact with wet alcohol ink or watercolors, with the exception of Pigma Micron Pens. Always test the pens with the medium you plan on using, that way you know what to expect while you work on your final piece.  

The Sakura Pigma Microns are waterproof, and can be used with water-based mediums such as watercolor. Give your lines ample time to dry (between 5 and 10 minutes). These pens come in a variety of thicknesses, and the brush pen set comes with many colors. Both sets are ideal to use with watercolor.

Here I used the Pigma Micron Brush Pen, as well as some of the fine liners, for lettering and line work.

White gel pens are especially useful for highlights, or transparency effects. Gelly Rolls can be used for lettering, metallic details and highlights. These pens have unique ink that is smooth, but might take a moment to dry. They can also be used to draw and write on black paper. They are pleasant to use for arts, crafts, writing and even scrapbooking. The white Gelly Roll Pens are opaque over most mediums and are ideal for highlights.

The ‘Moonlight & White’ set have ten beautiful bright colors, as well as two white pens. The ‘Metallic’ set has bold glitter pens that add a nice flourish to any art piece you are working on. The ‘Stardust’ set has finer glitter, adding a shimmer to the ink. The ‘Glaze’ Set has a smooth, glossy ink, and are less fluorescent than the ‘Moonlight & White’ set.

Here is a recent watercolor illustration in which I used both the Pigma Microns and Gelly Roll Pens. The Gelly Rolls were used for the character’s eyes.

With all these Gelly Roll set options, it can be a challenge to know which to buy. This will depend on which style and approach you take to your art. ‘Moonlight and White’ are a wonderful set for hand lettering, writing and drawing on black paper, as well as adding bright highlights to artworks. The ‘Metallic’ and ‘Stardust’ sets are for adding glittering and shimmering touches to artworks or hand lettering. The ‘Metallic’ pens look good on black paper, but the ‘Stardust’ pens don’t stand out a lot on the black surface, but can be layered over other mediums for the shimmering details. 

Using pens alongside other mediums is a fun way to experiment with things such as line work, metallic detailing, highlights and drawing on black paper. Using brush pens for calligraphy and lettering is another way to add a new dimension to artwork.