You have probably seen some illustrations made with Copic markers, whether you realize it or not. Copic markers are some of the highest quality markers that exist and have been used in many different areas such as design, crafts and manga illustrations.
So what makes Copic markers so much better than other markers? First, you need to know what Copic markers are and how they differ from each other. To answer those questions, let’s start by mentioning that not every Copic marker is the same. There are 4 different kinds of markers; Classic, Sketch, Ciao, and Wide. Today we will go over everything you need to know to start your own Copic marker collection.
Copic Marker Types
With the exception of the Wide Copic marker, the remaining three types all have two different nibs; one on each side. The tip on one side can be compared with a round brush and is used for detailed work, while the nib on the other side is comparable with a flat brush and for quickly filling larger areas and straight lines.
The Classic marker comes with broad chisel nib and a fine point nib, while the Sketch and Ciao both come with a medium broad nib and a super brush nib and the Wide comes with a 3/4″ wide nib. The kind of nib on your marker largely determine what work they can do so make sure to choose the right one for you!
You probably noticed that both the Ciao and Sketch come with the same nibs. So if you really need that super brush nib, should you choose the Copic Ciao or Sketch? A good way to think of the Ciao is a slightly smaller version of the Sketch. As a result, you will have to refill them more often and they don’t fit in the ABS airbrush system. Finally, the Ciao doesn’t have the color code written on the top, which might give a little confusion sometimes. However, if the Ciao fits the size and shape of your hand better and is more comfortable to work with, they are still a good option.
Thankfully, most Copic markers give you the option of changing the nibs. This lets you use the same marker for a variety of different projects. The Copic Classic is the most versatile with 9 different kinds of nibs. The Sketch can work with 3 different nibs, while the Ciao and Wide give you the choose between 2 different ones.
The second big difference amongst Copic markers is the available colors. The Wide type only comes in 36 colors, while the Sketch comes in 358 colors. The Classic and Ciao are both available in 214 and 180 colors respectively. Compared to the full range of the Sketch with 358 different colors, the 180 different colors of the Ciao might not sound very impressive. But keep in mind that for most projects you don’t need anywhere near to 180 different colors and Copic markers can blend together to make additional colors.
The last key difference is the difference in barrel shapes. The Copic Ciao has a round barrel which makes it intuitive to hold. The Classic and Sketch, however, have a square and oval barrel shape respectively, which might take some time to get used to. Finally, the Wide marker has a flattened oval shape.
How Do Copic Markers Work?
Copic markers are high-quality alcohol based markers. This means the ink applies smoothly and it is simple to blend with other inks. Due to the ink formulation, you can even re-wet the ink and adjust previous illustrations made with Copic markers years later. Additionally, since the ink is alcohol based and free of any acid, it doesn’t harm the fibers of the paper. Although, to achieve the best results we do recommend people to purchase special paper for their Copic markers.
If you are not a super prolific artist, you don’t have to worry your purchase will go to waste. Copic markers don’t dry out even when not used for several years and normally come with a 3-year shelf life guarantee.
On the other hand, if you love these markers so much that you use them every day, you don’t have to be afraid of constantly having to buy new ones. All Copic markers can be refilled and damaged nibs can be replaced.
When compared to other types, you might start to wonder: why are Copic markers so expensive? It is true that Copic markers are quite pricey. This is therefore better to think of them as a long-term investment. Since they are refillable and the nibs are replaceable, Copic markers are very durable and once you buy one, it can last a lifetime.
Read our Ultimate Guide to Copic Markers!
Mixing Copic Colours
I already mentioned you don’t need to buy all the different Copic color markers in order to start drawing. One of the benefits of working with Copic is that you can easily blend colors in the same color family. Learning which Copic marker colors can be mixed and how to mix them well is vital for getting good results.
Most markers will have a code written on them containing one or two letters, followed by two numbers. The letters will indicate what color family or hue that the marker belongs to (R=red, B=blue, RB=red-blue, etc.). The first number will indicate stands for the saturation of the ink. The last number shows how light or dark the color is; ranging from highlights (0-4), mid-tones (4-6) or shadows (7-9).
When blending Copic colors it is best to stay in the same color family and either keep the first number or the second number the same. By only changing the first numbers you can make a nice gradient of different saturations. By only varying the second number you can control the whiteness or the amount of grey.
For example, the YG13 marker is from the Yellow-Green color family and has a saturation of 1 and can be used for highlights. It will mix well with the YG17 and YG11 for a gradient in intensity or with YG23 and YG03 to change the saturation.
Copic Marker Set
Now that you know what Copic markers are and how to work with them, all you need is to actually decide which ones to get. If you get the hang of mixing different colors together you definitely don’t to buy a huge collection of Copic markers.
The best Copic marker set to start with of course depends on you! Before rushing into things, consider which model (Classic, Sketch, Ciao or Wide) and which colors you will need. If you want to specialize on portraiture you will need lots of earth tones such as E000, E02 and E51 to make skin colors. For landscape artist, you will mainly use colors from the YG and B family for plants, water and the sky.
To save some money, a good way to start is to buy a pre-made set of markers. These sets normally contain 6, 12, 24, 36 or 72 different colors. Depending on your budget a good beginner Copic marker set contains 24 or more different colors. Below we made a small summary to help you choose the right marker for you.
Classic Copic Marker Set
- Square barrel
- ABS Compatible
- 214 colors available
- Includes a Broad Chisel nib and a Fine Point nib
- Alternative nib options: Brush nib, Semi Broad nib, Soft Broad nib, Super Fine nib, Round nib, Calligraphy 3 mm nib and Calligraphy 5 mm nib
Sketch Copic Marker Set
- Oval barrel
- ABS Compatible
- 358 colors available
- Includes a Medium Broad nib and a Super Brush nib
- Alternative nib options: Medium Round
Ciao Copic Marker Set
- Round barrel
- 180 colors available
- Includes a Medium Broad Chisel nib and a Super Brush nib
- Come with a child-safe cap that features small air holes
Wide Copic Marker Set
- Flat barrel
- Available in 36 colors
- Includes a 3/4″ wide nib
- Alternative Nib Options: Broad Calligraphy
- How to use Copic markers?
- What is the best paper for Copic markers?
- How do I refill my Copic markers?