How to Use Copic Markers – Blending and Shading

how to use copic markers

Copic markers might be the best art markers on the market right now. But that doesn’t mean that buying them will instantly turn you into an amazing artist.

To get the most out of your markers, you will have to learn some of the basic techniques first.

This post is a big compilation of tips, techniques and tutorials to help any beginner to get started drawing with Copics.

How To Blend Copic Markers

The great thing about Copic markers is that they can blend very smoothly. You can either use this to make gradients or to make new colors.

But besides knowing the right right blending technique, you also need to know which markers can blend well together and which ones can’t.

So let’s take a closer look at how you determine which colors you can blend together without problems.

Copic Color Chart And Color System

You probably know already that there is a huge amount of different colored Copic markers out there. If you want to check out all of them, you can take a look at a variety of different color charts such as this one.

Obviously, just saying yellow and green blend well together won’t do, because there are many different yellow and green markers. That’s why Copic came up with a labelling system to easily differentiate between markers.

Every Copic marker has a special code on it such as R24 or B99. This numbering system consists of three parts and gives essential information about the marker.

The letter tells you to which color family the marker below. For example, “B” means blue and “R” means red. Sometimes you have two letters like “YR” which stands for yellow-red.

The first number ranges from 0 to 9 and indicates the saturation. A lower number indicates high saturation and will give very bright and vibrant colors.

The second number indicates the shade and also ranges from 0 to 9, with 0 meaning lighter shade and 9 being the darkest shade.

When deciding which Copic markers to choose to blend together, try to look for 2 or 3 markers that are from the same blending group and have identical saturation but are different in their last digit. For example, B22 and B26 will blend much better than B22 with B12 or Y22.

Best Copic Markers to Begin With

There are 4 different types of Copic markers you can choose from: Classics, Sketch, Ciao, and Wide. They all work with the same color labelling system mentioned above, so if you wanted to you could use different types of markers together.

To be honest there is not that much difference between except for the nibs they have, their size and the available colors. Starting out with either Classic, Sketch or Ciao marker is a good choice.

To save some money, I normally recommend buying a set of Copic markers. These normally come in packages of 6, 12, 24, 36, or 72 different colors. Of course, the more colors the better but you will probably have to see what you can afford with your budget.

For more information about what to look for, read our article on buying Copic markers.

How to Color with Copic Markers – Basic Techniques

If you are following the rule mentioned above and choose colors that are easy to blend, you probably won’t run into too many problems. First apply your light color and then blend in the darker colors using circular motions.

Often times the first try won’t give a perfectly smooth result. In that case you can just use your lighter color again to smoothen everything out.

If you are using colors that are not mixing well together it’s best to use a technique called feathering. So instead of circular motions, you want to use a flicking motion when applying the color. This way you can often “cheat” on the basic blending rule.

But also with the flicking method, you will probably have to go over the same area more than once for a good result. Be careful not to apply too much ink at the same time though, else it might start to bleed and ruin your drawing.

Using the Copic Colorless Blender

A maker with transparent ink might sound useless, but that is exactly what the colorless blender is. Instead of blending two colors together, you can blend a color with the colorless blender to slowly fade out a color.

So having one of these at your disposal definitely comes in handy from time to time.

Additionally, the colorless blender can be used to correct small mistakes, rewet dried ink, or apply texture to your drawings.

Shading With Copic Markers

Once you get the hang of blending 3 different colors together, you can use the same principle to start shading.

  1. Apply your lightest color to create a base layer and wet the paper.
  2. Use a midtone to the areas you want to shade using a flicking motion from dark to light.
  3. Add the darkest color to the same area but now use shorter flicks
  4. Smoothen the result by using the lighter colors or the colorless blender.

Try not to blend the colors too much, because that will leave you with just a single color. Also keep in mind that most colors will look darker when they are wet and will become lighter when they dry.

Copic Marker Tips and Tricks

  • copic marker drawingsYou can lift color from the paper to create highlights or textures using the colorless blender.
  • Work fast to prevent the ink from drying for easy blending.
  • Applying the ink in small circles give the smoothest blend.
  • Fix your mistakes by pushing them back where they belong with the colorless blender.
  • Don’t blend too much or you will end up with just a single color.
  • Copic markers are great, but combining them with different media can bring extra life to your work.
  • If you have line art, make sure that it doesn’t mix with the alcohol ink of the Copic marker.
  • Blend apply color to a large area, try wetting it with the colorless blender before applying the color.

Choosing the Right Paper to Work With

how to use copic markers for beginnersWe mentioned bleeding before, so let’s talk about paper for a second. Choosing the right paper is very important if you are using any type of art markers.

The main benefit of using Copic markers is the easiness with which you can blend their colors. However, if you just use printer paper the ink might start bleeding right away. And normally it can’t hold more than 1 or 2 layers of ink which makes blending difficult.

The trick is to use paper that is thick enough to prevent bleeding, but that doesn’t absorb the ink too fast either.

For more information, check out our longer article on paper for Copic markers. However, if you are looking for a quick fix, Blending Card is a good option since it is specifically designed to be used in combination with color markers.

Refilling Your Copic Marker

Unlike most other art markers, Copic markers can be refilled when you run out of ink. No need to waste money on buying new markers over and over again!

There are two basic methods to refill the markers. The easiest one is to simply fill the markers by slowly dripping ink on one end of the marker.

The second method uses a piece of equipment called the Copic refill booster. It’s similar to a needle that you insert into one nib of the pen, such that you can directly fill your Copics.

For more detailed instructions, read our article on how to refill Copic Markers.