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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: 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