Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Copic Markers

Copic markers are the holy grail amongst the color markers.

In the hands of a good artist, they can create stunningly vivid images.

This article will tell you all you need to know about Copic markers to get started yourself.

If you walk into a store that sells Copic markers, you might be overwhelmed by the vast amount of markers to choose from. Not only will you have to choose between all the Copic marker colors, there are differences amongst the types of Copic marker as well.

Different Types of Copic Markers

The four different types of Copic markers are the Classic Copic marker, Sketch Copic marker, Ciao Copic marker and the Wide Copic marker. There are some key differences amongst these markers. Let’s go over them one by one.

Copic Marker Nibs

The end of the marker you use to draw is called the nib of the marker. These nibs can come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Most Copic markers have two different nibs; one on each side. One these nibs is a round brush that can be used for detailed work. The other nib is a flat brush that can be used to quickly fill large areas and make straight lines. The only exception is the Wide Copic marker, which only has 1 flat nib.

The kind of nib depends on the Copic marker you buy. The Classic marker comes with a broad chisel nib and a fine point nib, the Sketch and Ciao markers both come with a super brush nib and a medium broad nib, and the Wide marker has a 3/4″ wide nib.

You should try to find the best Copic marker nib for your personal drawing style and that suits your project.

Fortunately, it is possible to change the nibs of your Copic markers. This is useful when your nib breaks and you need to replace it. But it also lets you change the nib between two different projects. The Classic marker is the most versatile and can be used with 9 different kinds of nibs. The Sketch can use 3 different nibs, while the Ciao and Wide markers can only use 2 different nibs.

Best Copic Marker collection

Copic Marker Colors

Every Copic marker uses the exact same ink and there are 358 colors in total. However, not every type of marker is available for purchase in all 358 colors.

You can buy the Sketch Copic marker in all 358 colors. So you don’t need to be afraid that the color you want isn’t there. The Classic and Ciao markers can be bought in 214 and 180 different colors respectively. And the Wide marker only comes in 36 colors.

Of course, when you are choosing the best Copic colors to start with and make your first Copic marker set, you don’t need to buy all 358 different colors. Actually, we would strongly discourage it. Afterall, you can blend different colors together to get new colors.

Size and Shape of the Copic Marker

The Ciao Copic marker has a round barrel like a regular pen. This makes it intuitive to hold, since we are all used to it. The Wide marker has a flat oval shape, what many would associate with a regular marker. On the other hand, the Classic and Sketch models have a square and oval barrel shape, that might take some time to get used to.

Additionally, you will notice that the Ciao is somewhat smaller than the other types. The Ciao Copic marker is basically the smaller brother of the Sketch marker. This means it can hold less ink and will need to be refilled more frequently.

Finally, the Ciao marker doesn’t have the color code written on it like the other types. This makes a bit more bothersome to find the right marker if you work with a lot of similar colors.

For a short summary of the difference between the Copic marker types, check the table below.

 Classic Copic MarkerSketch Copic MarkerCiao Copic MarkerWide Copic Marker
ShapeSquare barrelOval barrelRound barrelFlat barrel
Available colors214358180
Standard nibsBroad Chisel nib
Fine Point nib
Medium Broad nib,
Super Brush nib
Super brush nib,
Medium Broad nib
3/4" wide nib
Optional nibsStandard Broad nib, Semi Broad nib,
Soft Broad nib, Super Fine nib,
Round nib, Calligraphy 3 mm nib,
Calligraphy 5 mm nib
Medium RoundN/ABroad Calligraphy

What are the Best Copic Markers to Start with?

Now that you know the basics about Copic markers and the differences between the types, it is time to start your Copic marker collection.

Unfortunately, deciding on the best Copic colors to start with is not easy. If you get the hang of mixing different colors on the paper, you definitely don’t need to build a huge Copic marker set over 100 colors. Additionally, the colors that you need most will depend on the type of art you do. Portraits will require more pinks and skin colors, while landscape artists will need more green and brown colors. Keep your goal in mind when buying Copic markers.

Best Copic Set for Beginners

Since most new artists don’t know exactly what they need yet, we normally recommend buying a Copic set for beginners. Buying them as a set is normally cheaper than buying them separately. Additionally, these sets include a good variety of colors that will cover most of your bases. Depending on your budget, you can buy a set that contains 6, 12, 24, 36 or 72 different colors.

The Classic Copic Marker Set is a good option for beginners. The one shown below contains 36 different colors and each marker has a chisel nib and a fine point nib. If you don’t like one of the nibs, you can easily swap it out for one of the alternative nibs. With this Copic marker set, you will soon be able to make stunning drawings by yourself.

If you want to read more about different options, give our article on the best Copic Markers set for beginners to start with a try.

How to Use Copic Markers for Beginners

Now that you own some Copic markers, you should learn how to use them like a pro! In this section, we will try to give you a mini Copic marker tutorial for beginners.

The most important thing to learn is the proper Copic marker blending. The ability to smoothly blend different colors using Copic markers is what makes them better than most other markers. But not every color can be mixed together. To know which colors you can and can not blend, we first need to take a look at the Copic color coding system.

Learning the Copic Color Coding System

Every color is characterized by a special code that is made up out of 1 or 2 letters and 2 number, such as R24 or B99. You can normally find this code written on top of the marker.

The letter indicates the color family of the marker. Where “B” stands for blue, “R” stands for red, etc. Sometimes you will have two letter like “YR”, which simply means yellow-red. Pretty straightforward stuff.

The first number in the color code stands for the saturation level of the color and can range from 0 to 9. Low numbers correspond to a high saturation and give vibrant colors. The second number indicates the shade and also ranges from 0 to 9. A lower number gives a lighter shade and vice versa.

Two different Copic markers blend well together if they are from the same color family and have the same saturation. This means the letters and the first number are the same, whereas the last number can differ. For example, markers with the B22 and B26 color code work well together, but blending B22 with Y12 will be quite tricky.

Copic Marker Blending Technique

To blend two different colors together, start by applying one color on the paper. Then take your second color and go over the same area in circular motions till the colors blend well together.

It is totally normal if you didn’t get the exact result you wanted the first try. The good thing about Copic markers is that you can apply them over and over again to the same location. Sometimes you have to go back and add more ink over 3 times. But make sure that you give the ink plenty of time to dry between each time. If the paper gets too wet, the ink might bleed to places and ruin your drawing.

With some experience you will notice that some colors are easier to blend than others. Especially blending colors with very different shades can be difficult. For example, even though B99 and B91 are in the same color family and have the same saturation, the difference in shade is very high. In this case, consider buying a new marker that has a shade somewhere in between the other two. In this case, B94 or B95 would be a good choice.

Everything we mentioned so far is of course just some basic guidelines for beginners to follow when they first learn how to use Copic markers. There are always exceptions to the rules. Don’t be afraid to mix two colors from different color families on a piece of scrap paper as a test. Some colors that are very similar, like YR15 and R43, can still be used together to create a smooth gradient if you use flicking motions instead of circular motions.

 

If you want to learn more advanced blending techniques, check out our article that explains how to use Copic markers to beginners.

 

Best Paper for Copic Markers

If you are working with watercolor paint, you want to use special watercolor paper. If you are working with Copic markers, you want to use special Copic paper.

You won’t be able to do proper blending if you are using the wrong type of paper such as printer paper.

When working with Copic markers you will probably apply color to the same area several times to get exactly what you want. This means you need special marker paper that can absorb enough ink without crumbling. At the same time, the paper shouldn’t absorb the ink too fast, because that will make blending more difficult.

What to Look for in Copic Paper?

It is best to test a variety of different papers and see which one fits your style the best. Even if you find the perfect paper that fits you, it is good practice to periodically retest some of the other paper brands, because your drawing technique will change over time.

When you are looking for paper for Copic markers you want to keep the following things in mind.

  • Paper Weight: the paperweight is an indicator of how much ink the paper can absorb. Heavy paper can absorb a lot of ink and will allow you to apply several layers of ink. The weight is normally measured per 500 sheets, but of course you don’t need to buy 500 sheets at once.
  • Paper Thickness: the paper thickness will determine if you are at risk of your ink bleeding through the page. If you are using paper this is both lightweight and very thin, the ink might go straight through the paper and stain the surface underneath. If you are working with thin paper, always remember to put the old newspapers or scrap paper underneath.
  • Paper Texture: the texture of the paper will decide how fast or how slow it will absorb the ink. Very smooth paper will slowly absorb the ink and give you plenty of time to blend. Rough paper will absorb ink much faster and will reduce the time you will have to wait for some areas to dry.

Although we recommend paper that is heavy and thick enough to prevent any bleeding, there is no ideal paper out there. If you like to work fast and apply lots of layers, go with a paper that is heavy, thick and rough texture. On the other hand, paper that is relatively smooth and lightweight might be better Copic paper for beginners. Since the paper gives plenty of time before the ink is fully absorbed and it is cheaper than heavy paper.

In the end, go for the paper that will allow you to smoothly lay down you ink and that has minimal bleeding. Also, make sure that the paper gives you plenty of time to do your blending and applying several layers will let you darken the color.

Our Recommended Copic Paper

For most beginners, we recommend using the X-Press It Blending Card. It comes in packs of 25 sheets that are 8.5″ x 11″ in size.

This paper has a very smooth texture which makes ideal for people that need some extra time to blend colors.

But at the same time, the paper has a very high saturation point. This will let you apply multiple layers without having to worry that the ink might bleed through the page.

The Copic markers smoothly move over the surface without any resistance. Additionally, every single layer will darken the color a little bit. You can use this to your advantage to shade certain areas.

 

However, many people prefer to work with sketchbooks. If you are looking for the best sketchbook for Copic markers, you need need to look far. The same company that made the Copic marker also released a special Copic Sketchbook.

This sketchbook for Copic markers contains a total of 50 pages and comes in the sizes 5″ x7″, 9” x 12″ and 11” x 14″.

Just like the X-Press It Blending Card, this Copic marker sketchbook is pretty smooth. This makes it easy to glide your markers across the paper and lets you take your time when blending. Adding a second and third layer of ink gives a clearly darker tone as well.

Since the sketchbook is spiral bound on one side, you won’t have to worry about losing your drawing again. You can look back at your first Copic marker drawing at any time in the future.

 

For more detailed instructions on choosing the right paper for you, read our article on the best paper for Copic markers.

 

How to Refill Copic Markers?

We all know Copic markers are expensive. Regardless, we still recommend beginners to buy them since they are such high-quality markers. However, we do not recommend beginners to buy new markers every time you run out of ink!

Every type of Copic marker is refillable and it only takes a few minutes to do.

Copic markers originally hold alcohol based inks, so make sure the buy the right type of ink and refill your Copic markers with alcohol based inks.

You can normally buy the Copic refill ink on Amazon or walk into your local art store that sells Copic markers.

Refilling Copic Markers with the Drip Method

There are different ways to refill your markers. But the drip method is by far the easiest and works with every single type.

Simply uncap the marker on both sides and slowly drip the ink onto the broad nib while holding the marker at an angle. You will know the marker is completely refilled when it starts to leak ink from the other side. Make sure you are doing this above some scrap paper or the sink to avoid a big mess.

After doing this few times, you might get an idea of how much ink it will take to completely refill a marker and prevent any leaking. Or if you are stingy like me, you can just refill the marker only half way. That way you can save some ink, but you will have to refill more often.

 

Read our other articles if you want to learn other methods to refill Copic markers step by step.