How to use Copic Markers for Beginners

how to use copic markersNot sure how to get the best performance out of your Copic markers?

Considering the price of Copic markers, you will definitely do yourself a disservice if you don’t take the time to learn how to use them properly.

In this article, we will go over some of the basic of using Copic markers that every beginner should know.

Copic Marker Basics

Before we can begin with the fun stuff, it’s important to know some basic things about Copic 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 form a blending group, try to look for 2 or 3 markers that are from the same blending group and identical saturation but are different in their last digit. For example, B22 and B26 will blend much better than B22 with B12 or Y22.

How To Blend Copic Markers?

Now that you know how to choose different markers that blend well together, it’s time to take a closer look at the blending technique.

As mentioned above, when blending it’s best to stay inside the same color family and saturation and only use markers with a different shade. However, if the difference in shade is too high, such as B99 and B91, it might still be rather challenging to blend the two colors smoothly.

If you notice that two colors don’t blend very well together, consider buying a Copic marker with a color that has a shade value between the original two. For example, using B02 can help when you try to blend B01 and B05. Use circular motions until you get a satisfying result.

Sometimes it’s even possible to combine two colors that are not in the same color family but are similar enough, such as YR15 and R43. In this case, it works best to use flicking motions while blending rather than circular motions.

This flicking motion will cause a gradient in saturation for both colors which makes it easier to combine the two colors. Check the video below for a demonstration of this technique.

While blending it might be necessary to go back in a second or even a third time with the same color to get the exact effect you want. But make sure that you give the ink sufficient time to dry, since applying too much ink in a short time will cause bleeding.

How to Color Skin with Copics?

With the knowledge of blending in the back of our minds, it’s time to apply what we have learned so far. Coloring skin with Copic markers or with any other medium can be very challenging but is a crucial skill to have.

Although there are many Copic maker tutorials on this topic, we have selected to go over the one shown below.

Start off by using an E000 Copic marker to fill in the skin with an initial layer of color. Keep in mind that Copic markers use alcohol-based ink and therefore can dry pretty quick. For an even result, try to work quickly and fill the entire skin before it dries to prevent stains and stripes.

When the first layer is dry, use your E000 marker a second time to add the first layer of shadows at places such as underneath hair and neck and to contour the nose etc. It’s always useful to carefully consider where your lighting comes from and where the shadows should be before working on the second layer.

After your initial shadows are dried up, use an E00 marker to darken the shadows where necessary. Knowing exactly where to place shadows is a skill that only comes after much practice and study. Don’t be afraid to use shadows to contour or indicate the nose, dimples or the corners of the mouth. However, when working in these small areas be aware of possible bleeding.

Depending on your personal style and preference, this might be all the coloring you want to do. But if you are looking for a more photorealistic drawing you can add additional details using an R20 marker and use your E00 marker for additional blending.

In general, if you prefer the boundaries between different colors and shadows to remain visible you want to wait until the underlying layer of ink is completely dry before adding a second color. If you aim for very smooth blending, you want to add the different colors while the paper is still wet from the previous ink.

Which Copic Markers To Get?

how to use copic pensIf you are just starting out, the first question that might come to mind is which Copics to start with? After all, there are almost 800 unique markers to choose from.

The first thing to realize is that there are 4 types of Copic markers: Classic, Sketch, Ciao and Wide.

The Wide marker is only used in very specific cases, you they are not the best marker to start with. But either the Classic, Sketch or Ciao can all be a good one to start with. There are some small difference between them, such as the available colors or nibs, but there are no huge differences.

More importantly, you should make sure that you have enough colors to start with. The main benefit of using Copics is that you can mix and blend colors. But this only works well if you have enough colors and every color is not super different from each other.

Normally, Copic markers are sold in sets of 6, 12, 24, 36 or 72 different colors. To ensure you have enough colors for proper blending, it is highly recommended that you start with at least 36 different colors, or if your budget allows it even 72 colors.

For more details, check our article on selecting the right Copic marker set to begin with.

Copic Marker Tips and Tricks

The last video we are going to look at is from Jazza, who is a famous artist on Youtube that works with a variety of different mediums. He goes over his top 10 tips on working with Copic Markers. Since we already went over some of them we will just discuss the most important ones here, but feel free to watch the entire video below.

Paper for Copic Markers

how to use copic markers for beginnersFirst of all, choosing the right paper is very important. The main benefit of using Copic markers is the easiness with which you can blend their colors. However, if you just use printer paper you will quickly realize that the ink will bleed through and ruin the surface underneath. Additionally, printer paper can only hold a small amount of ink so you can only do about 1 or 2 layers of ink.

On the other hand, using sketch book paper is normally much thicker which can hold more ink and prevents bleeding through. However, since sketch book paper absorbs the ink very fast, you will have difficulty blending.

We already wrote a more thorough review on the ideal paper for Copic markers. However, as suggested Blending Card is a good option since it is specifically designed to be used in combination with color markers and will give the best results.

What is the Copic Colorless Blender For?

A marker with transparent ink sounds useless, right? That’s what I thought as well at first.

One way to use your colorless blender is to correct small mistakes. If you made small mistakes and applied ink slightly outside the lines, you can use the colorless blender. The blender will rewet the ink such that you can push it back into the lines or try to smooth out your mistakes.

Secondly, the Copic colorless blender is true to its name and can be used for blending. Normally two different colors are used to make a color gradient. But by combining the colorless marker with a second color, you can make the second color gradually fade away into the paper.

Finally, you can create special textures or soften colors to remove smooth edges by applying the colorless ink on dried ink. Useful when you work on smoke for example.

Combining Colors

We are not talking about blending colors here! What we mean is that you can obtain certain hues by combining two colors. Copic markers are quite expensive and you might not always have the color you want to use.

Similar to watercolors, you can sometimes create new colors by adding a second color while the first one is still wet. For example, you can create certain tones of green by combining your yellow and blue or you can lighten some dark colors by combining them with a light grey.

Unfortunately, unlike watercolors this doesn’t work with every color. So try out some color combination on a scrap piece of paper before you use them on your real project.

Refilling Copic Markers

copic marker tutorialUnlike most other art markers, Copic markers can be refilled when you run out of ink. Of course, you want to use the official Copic ink for this to prevent any problems.

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 Copics.

Filling Large Areas with Copic Markers

We already mentioned the difficulty of filling large areas with Copic markers above. Since the alcohol-based ink dries pretty quick on most kinds of paper you might be left with an irregular color with stripes all over.

Jazza suggests filling the area several times by using strokes in different directions. For example, start with the first layer of lines that go horizontal, then directly apply a second layer of vertical stripes, followed by a third layer of diagonal lines. This will give a pretty smooth color in most cases.

Line Art and Copic Markers

how to use copics for beginnersIn many art projects, such as comics, manga etc., you want to use your Copic markers to fill in your line art. Keep in mind that some kinds of ink may bleed when they come in contact with Copic markers.

India ink is commonly used for line art but will bleed terribly when in contact with the ink of Copic markers. You might want to accompany your Copic markers with the Copic pen or Copic brush pen, which are resistant to bleeding.
Correcting Small Mistakes

No matter how careful you are, eventually you might make some small mistakes and go outside your line art. You can solve this using the colorless blender mentioned above.

Another way to solve this problem is by doing your line art using a 2 step process. First off, you want to do you line are with a very thin pen. Then use your Copic markers as usual and color as your heart pleases. Then in the second step, you want to use a pen that is slightly thicker than your initial line is and trace you lines a second time.

If you keep all these tips and tricks in mind when using your Copic markers you might see some clear improvement in no time.