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Copic Markers: My Newest Illustration and Some Helpful Beginner Tips

“Meet the Ghost Captain… No one knows much about him, where he is from, why his ghost is clinging to the wrecks of old ships. But you’d do well to sit and listen to him, if you’d meet him wandering the lonely shores at night. Sometimes he’d be alone, but some nights you may notice a spectral parrot at home upon his shoulder or arm. He could tell you tales of sirens, sea serpents and ships that long since became homes to such creatures below the waves. But, when morning comes, he will disappear and once more leave you wondering if what you had seen and heard was a dream, or a wild reality of life on the sea.”

I’ve been getting a few requests to help teach artists new to markers how to use Copic Markers. Copic Markers are usually a big investment, so I thought I’d give some beginner tips on how to start with these markers.

  1. Always store your markers on their side as to stop the ink from running to one end of the marker and drying the other. It is also best to keep them out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Purchasing a Copic Carry Bag or a clear tub to keep them in is usually your best bet when storing your markers.
  2. Never use watercolor paper, or sketching paper with a rough texture. This will damage the brush tip on your marker and you will have to purchase replacements to fix the marker. Watercolor paper will also absorb the ink, drying out your markers much quicker than smooth, thick paper will. The best I can recommend is card-stock or Bristol Board.
  3. Start by coloring small areas. Start on smaller illustrations for blending, smooth layering and flat washes of colors. Not only will this help build your confidence, but you are less likely to get streaky results.
  4. If possible, watch lots of videos about Copic Markers and the different methods of using them. Another good tip might be to talk to an artist who has experience with this medium. These tips will help give you realistic expectations on what to expect when you start with your Markers. Although Copic is one of the best brands of alcohol-based markers available, the markers themselves aren’t without flaw. Unfortunately, many artists, including myself, find themselves disillusioned when they realize that Copic Markers will not turn them into a professional, nor will it improve your art without practice. But don’t let this discourage you from trying! Just remember to be patient and not to panic if you do struggle.
I am very proud of how this character design turned out! I’m a big fan of using pastel colour pallets, and the mixture of light cool grays, purples, teals and blues really helped bring this ghostly Captain to life. For the background I used Copic Inks, rubbing alcohol and a brush to paint in the transparent ships and clouds. The rest of the drawing was done in Copic Markers over the purple sketch-layer.

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Product Tips: Angelus Leather Paint

Angelus Leather Paint: Product Overview

Although most people are familiar with fabric paints, leather paint is growing in popularity. What is leather paint? What can it be used for? What are the requirements for working with this art medium? In this post I will give a brief overview to answer these questions, as well as showcase a few projects I have made using Angelus paints.  

What is Angelus Leather Paint and what can it be used for?
Angelus Leather paint is a specialty paint designed to work on leather, fabric, vinyl and many other surfaces, if prepared properly. The paint is thick and mimics acrylic in most cases, but can be thinned using a thinning medium by Angelus. The paint layers well, however, be weary of how many layers you add on fabric surfaces. Too many layers of paint will create a hardened shell on fabrics which can be uncomfortable or crack with time if not prepared properly.

This brand of paint is often used in customizing shoes and other items of clothing. The Angelus official website has many videos demonstrating the ways in which these paints can be used. In my personal experience I’ve used the paints on fabric, fake leather, suede leather and regular leather. The colors are vibrant and rarely need a second coat. When layering, make sure that the paint underneath is dry. If the layer is not dry, you risk blending the colors you want to layer. Angelus paints can be used to blend with beautiful results, however, the paint will dry more quickly on hot days. These paints are perfect to use for a variety of styles.

What are the requirements for working with this art medium?

Depending on the projects and surfaces you are working on, you will need to purchase Angelus leather deglazier, sealant or fabric medium. You can also purchase Angelus acrylic finisher to give your paints a glossy or mat finish. You will need soft paintbrushes with secure bristles to work with the paint. If you use textured brushes, the texture will remain once the paint dries. I would recommend brushes with secure bristles so that they will not fall out and get stuck in the paint. I also highly recommend using dotting tools if you are planning on working on smoother surfaces or if you want very precise lines and dots in your artwork. When planning your project, do some extra research to make sure that you purchase all the materials you need. If you are new to Angelus leather paint, considered buying a few basic colors to test first. Consider starting out with leather deglazier, the primary colors and a small set of soft brushes. Try starting with a small, simplified project. That way you learn about the medium from first hand experience. This is especially important if you are working towards painting on expensive leather products, as a mistake may end up being very costly.

Project Showcase

My first project with these paints was the cover of a Filofax as a birthday gift for a friend. These Filofax journals are ideal for notes, studying and journaling, as they are refillable and made to last. For this project I decided to work in a more detailed style. Armed with a reference picture of a particular rich and grand dragon from the Hobbit, I began to sketch out the basis of the dragon eye. As usual, my creativity did lead me to change the colors of the dragon, as well as adding and subtracting details. For this style I required layering and blending, as well as a good sketch to build off. I started by drawing the eye and scales with charcoal pencil. This worked really well, as I could erase if I needed to. The one thing to keep in mind when using charcoal or pastel is that it tends to smudge. Thus, during the sketching process, the project should ideally be kept out of reach from prying hands (and cats). The paint layers over the charcoal, and in my experience is opaque enough not to tint, even when working with the very light greens.

I was able to easily blend, shade and layer the scales. The paint dries fairly quickly (like acrylic), which is very helpful when you are doing many layers. To cover the journal, one layer of paint was opaque enough, so although I did do second coats in a few places, they were rarely required. It was a fun experience, and I was able to finish the project much faster than expected. Unfortunately that meant waiting in suspense until I am able to present my friend with the birthday gift…

The project took a total of 28 hours. For brushes I used a Pro-Art Multi Use Brush Set of 10. I used Black, White, Neon Popsicle Green, Green and Blue Angelus Leather paint.

As it has been nearly six months since I completed this project, I am able to evaluate that the paint has not chipped nor been scratched or damaged in use. The dragon to whom this eye belongs must be rather intelligent, it’s pages steadily being filled with mathematical formulas and other important studying subjects.

The completed project

So far, I’ve worked on many commission items, as well as some products that are still available for purchase. At the time of posting this, I have one Filofax journal available, as well as two genuine leather shoes. For more details on the available products, feel free to send us an email. Most of the products showcased in this blog have already been sold or were commissioned for specific people.

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Product Tips

Scratch-Board:

Learning how to work with a new and different medium

As a kid, I remember spending all my pocket money on small scratch-board images. They came with a plastic tool and a piece of black board, the faint grey outlines of an animal printed on it. The plastic tool, which resembled a small spear with a slightly sharpened tip, could be used to scrape away the grey outlines, revealing the silver or gold below. I would spend hours scratching away at the board, slowly revealing the animal in shades of bright gold or shimmering silver. In time, I left the school and soon forgot all about the little scratch-board images I had loves so much. Recently, to my delight, I discovered that scratch board is much more than just a children’s’ art project, but much like drawing and coloring, can be mastered and enjoyed into adulthood. I bought blank scratch-board and a single tool which resembled a small knife. Even with the familiar memories of my childhood, I still had no idea how to approach the scratch-board…

I had to adjust my style, knowing full well that comic art and character design may be the wrong approach, given the dark black surface I’d be working on. In my sketchbook I began planning a patterned dragon, one I could use to experiment with the scratch-board. At first, I was nervous about using pencil to sketch on the board, as the sharp tip may scratch away the layer of black and thus deceive the purpose of planning the drawing. I bought a pencil with a softer and darker lead and took care not to press into the scratch-board. This worked well, as I could use my kneaded eraser to erase the pencil when needed and see the outlines of the drawing taking shape. I still remained cautious though, if I pressed too hard with the pencil, I could leave scratches by mistake. I would recommend working in a well-lit area, as this makes the graphite much easier to see.

Note how the graphite is easier to see in the well lit area of the photo above.

Next, after I was happy with my initial pencil sketch, I began the process of scraping away the black. The black coating on scratch-board is either a type of ink, or a black clay. The Essdee Scraper-board I used for this project is coated in black ink. The ink is relatively easy to remove, but it takes time and patience. The under layer of the scratch-board can differ depending on the personal tastes of the artist. Some are plain white, and is the type of scratch-board used in most artworks you’d see online. Other scratch-board can have a rainbow under layer, or holographic like the board I used. The tool I bought had a diamond shaped blade at the end, and is relatively sharp. It could easily take off the layer of ink to reveal the colorful holographic under layer. I was able to get a variety of different line-widths and styles, all with just the one tool.

When working with scratch-board, I found that the trick is to work slowly. Precision is important, as once you’ve scratched the layer of black ink, the marks are permanent.  Protecting the artwork is very important, and between drawing sessions it is important to place the artwork safely out of the way.

Scraper-board (or scratch-board) art is a fun medium to try and I would recommend it to artists of all ages.

The final artwork!
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Product Tips: Copic Markers- An Overview

Copic Markers have been growing in popularity, and it’s no wonder why. These high-quality, alcohol-based markers have astounding blending abilities, a wide arrange of bright and pastel colors and of course, brush tips to aid the coloring process. Here is an overview of what Copic Markers are, how they can be used, and what makes them unique.

Copic Marker Illustration

What exactly is Copic?

Copic Markers are a unique art medium, characterized by bold flat colors that mimic the look of digital art. The Copic Ciao Markers are dual tip, with a brush end and a wide end. Each marker is also refillable, so that you never run out of your favorite colors.

The Copic medium mimics digital art- Note the smooth flat shading

What does it mean for markers to be alcohol-based and how does it affect marker performance?

Copic markers are alcohol based, meaning that they contain alcohol, as well as a dye ink. They are less likely to leave streaks on the paper and blend wonderfully, because the ink soaks into the paper. This does mean you need thicker paper for the markers, like Bristol Board or other forms of marker paper, but even cardboard will do.  You can smell the ink of a Copic because of the alcohol contents. Luckily, the smell will fade from your artwork after a while, and won’t be that strong. Copic alcohol-based markers are specialized, can be refilled, layered and blended, which cannot be done as easily with water-based markers such as felt-tip pens. They are the current highest quality alcohol markers. 

The alcohol ink allows for smooth shading and blending, as seen on the mask and lion mane

What are Copic color arrangements and how do I know which Copics to buy?

Copic markers have a very wide range of colors, including beautiful pastels. Water-based markers rarely have pastel tones that can be applied in even, flat washes. Copic’s light and pastel colored markers can be used to build up darker tones by layering, which helps for when you are just starting out your Copic collection and don’t have a wide variety of markers. For striking contrast, they have vibrant, bright colors that stand out from the page. 

Copic color codes can also help you know which tones to build on. The ‘C’ lettering code; also called the Cool Grey markers, all have a similar pigment, but get darker as the code number goes from 0 and up. Although markers from different codes can blend together, getting markers with the same lettering codes can aid for an even more effective and striking blend, although it is not necessary. There main color classes and codes are:

E- Earth Colors

BG- Blue Green

B- Blue

BV- Blue Violet

V- Violet

RV- Red Violet

R- Red

YR- Yellow Red (Orange)

Y- Yellow

YG- Yellow Green

G- Green

W- Warm Gray

C- Cool Gray

With so many colors, how does one even know which Copics to start with? That comes down to the style of art you do. If you tend to do more realism based on what you see in the natural world, a good start are markers from the Green, Yellow Green, Earth Colors and Blue Green Classes. If you are more drawn to making bold and bright artworks, Blue Violets, Red Violets and Reds are good markers to start with.

Of course, you don’t need markers out of every Class when you start, because you can create your own colors when blending and layering. You can start with as little as three markers and build up your collection as time goes on. I started my collection with four markers, two Earth Colors, a Blue Green and a Violet.

The green and purple eyes make use of blending markers from similar color codes. The rainbow eye is done with six different color classes to demonstrate Copic’s blending abilities

My Personal Experience with Copic

I fell in love with the look of Copic art long before I got my first markers. I started my collection about a year and a half ago, with four markers and almost no experience with any mediums other than watercolors and pencil. I quickly became frustrated, since I did not understand the medium at first. After a while, I started combining Copic with chalk pastels, and I started to break into the medium. I understood that layering and blending is essential to getting the more digital look I was after. When I finally began to understand the medium, things started going a lot better. I stopped using chalk pastels with the Copics, and learnt to rely on the markers’ unique attributes.  The most important thing when starting with Copic Markers is to be patient and persistent. It will be a difficult medium to get use to if you’ve primarily used paints, but soon enough the medium will become more familiar. 

Here are the markers used in this illustration. White Gelly Roll pens make for great highlights, as seen along the outline of the character, on the lion’s eyes, and on the character’s nose

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Product Tips: The value of Sketchbooks and Journals

As an artist who draws almost every day, I can assuredly say that sketchbooks have become an art essential in my life. I am rarely ever found without a sketchbook or two under the arm. Sketchbooks have many benefits for artists and journal-enthusiasts alike, and are a great way to keep track of everyday life, improve art skills and memorize things.

Sketchbook Page Spread- Thumbnails and Character Design

A sketchbook is often a safe place for artists to try new techniques, thumbnail, brainstorm, do style studies and improve. No sketchbook has to be perfect, and should rather become an experimental field for the artist to grow and improve upon. Making a habit of drawing every day, even for the shortest amounts of time, is partially what makes a sketchbook so beneficial. In the end, your sketchbook tells a story as your day to day emotions change, and you will see the improvement in your art.

In my experience with sketchbooks, I’ve had a drastic improvement in my specific style, going from only drawing with reference, to drawing without any reference. My previous sketchbook had seen me through both trying times, and times of celebration. My current sketchbook has me drawing comics, doing style studies and learning how to further my story-telling through art. Each person’s sketchbook will become unique to them, and will be a showcase to the artist themselves of their improvement.

First Sketchbook v.s Second Sketchbook- Same Character Development

Journaling is also a great way to keep track of everyday life, learn new skills and memorize Bible verses and quotes. Many people have bullet journals to help organize life, keep track of important dates and even their day to day moods and emotions. Keeping a journal is another beneficial way to improve in time management, creativity and art. Bible journaling helps memorizes verses, spend time with God and creatively grow.

Bible Journaling 1 John 4:8 by Karen Randall

When I just started my art journey, I often found myself embarrassed and shy about my art, especially in the growth stages when my art was not what I wanted it to be. I was too afraid to pursue my own creative style. But I soon found that there are no ‘rules’ to a sketchbook. It didn’t have to be perfect, or even good for that matter. No one had to see my drawings unless I specifically wanted to show them. My sketchbook became a space where I could freely learn and grow. In the end, I no longer feel embarrassed nor shy about my art journey and growth, and I share with others my sketchbook, which has become an ongoing story of growth.

Watercolour Sketchbook Pose Practice

The value of Sketchbooks and Journals are created by what they contain, and they are all the more valuable if the contents in them is growth.