I have Copic markers! And I’m a little in love.
I’ve been watching YouTube videos from Baylee Jae, Art ala Carte, Draw With Jazza, and others lately. And I was entranced by the smooth, rich colors their markers produced. I’ve long wanted to add color to my sketchbook, but I had mixed feelings about different medias.
Colored pencils never looked quite as rich as I wanted. Pastels were too messy. Crayons were obviously out. And markers were all streaky. Or so I thought. I had wondered in the past how artists working with markers could produce such smooth, even finishes, and I really got my answer while watching these videos.
Copics and other alcohol-based art markers (Prismacolor, Windsor & Newton, etc.) are made to blend smoothly, and also have an option on colorless blenders to help you smooth and blend out any streaks that do happen. I have also begun to learn that your technique (how you apply the marker to the page) can affect it. I am learning, loving the process, and REALLY loving the results!
Care for a little sketchbook tour? I’m so glad you asked!
(ProTip: you can follow me on Instagram to get previews and sneak peeks for all my work that will then be featured here on the blog!)
This is my very first Copic-colored picture. A quick self-portrait, mostly to get a feel for the brush tips, which I had never worked with before (most markers I’ve ever used are bullet or chisel tips).
Followed by a few experimental eyes. I use eyes as a metric for new methods, because they’re a quick draw, I enjoy them, and I feel I’m good enough at them that it’s a good quality-control practice. And, wow! Am I happy with the results!
I got a reasonable selection of skintones in my set, but I’m already feeling the need to expand it a bit. I mostly draw people, so I know it will further expand my ability to get my drawings just how I want them. I seem to have a reasonable selection of darker skintones, but I feel like I’m really missing lighter tones, especially yellow-based tones.
Here is the step-by-step process of one drawing. The first panel is the initial sketch and inking. Second panel is the initial layer of flats with moderate shading. The shading here comes only through layering of the flat colors. Third panel has secondary color shading. Fourth panel has tertiary shading. Fourth panel is the final work, where I attempted to smooth things out a bit, as well as added her makeup. I didn’t have a rose/red/pink appropriate for her lip color, so I used my colorless blender to pick up some red and transfer a light layer of it to her lips. Then I hit the mascara and BAM! Diva! I learned a few things about blending on this one. I’m largely happy with it, but I wish I had managed to smooth it out a bit more.
If you’re interested in Copics (or other art markers), I highly recommend doing some research before buying. They are a pricey investment, so be sure you know which brand of marker you want to use and find the most affordable buying option.
I particularly recommend this video from Baylee Jae comparing Copics to other art markers, including comparisons of visual results as well as cost and a variety of other factors. But come back here to find out how to save the most money on Copics.
Cost is a major factor in deciding on which markers to get and how many. To begin with, I opted to limit myself to Copic Ciao’s. The Copic Sketch is the better-known line of markers, with the beautiful, clearly-labeled end caps and oval barrel, and come in a huge range of 358 colors. But they’re pricey. $7.99 retail, to be exact. Which is a hard pill to swallow.
Ciao is Copic’s budget line, and retail about $5.49 each. They have a slightly smaller barrel and therefore hold slightly less ink, and the caps aren’t labeled. They also have about half the color selection of the Sketch line (180 colors vs the full Sketch line of 358). But I opted to start my collection with the Ciao because in two very important ways: the exact same replaceable brush and chisel tips, and the exact same refillable inks as the Sketches. This means that if the marker begins to wear out, you don’t have to pay the full replacement cost for a new marker. You can get bottles of refill ink for $8.99/25cc retail. From what I understand, a Sketch holds about 3cc and a Ciao about 2cc of ink, and according to Copic’s website you can get 12 refills in a Sketch or 15 refills in a Ciao from one refill bottle.
So, I’ll be buying sets of Ciao’s to flesh out my collection of Copic markers, then filling in gaps as needed with Sketches.
I find that the best online prices on Copics are found on Dick Blick and Period Style, whose prices are almost the same. These prices are accurate as of this posting. You’ll want to do some comparison at the time you do your shopping/buying, as I won’t be updating this post to reflect price changes on their websites. Do a little digging on your own, too, and see if you come up with anything better (and let me know if you do!! 😉 ).
If you pick and choose individual markers at either of these sites you will pay $5.24 for a Sketch (savings of $2.75 over retail) and $3.59 for a Ciao (savings of $1.90 over retail). And as for refills, you can expect to pay $4.58/25cc on Dick Blick and $5.99/25cc on Period Style.
But, as far as I can tell, your best per-marker deal is going to be in the box sets. From my research, 12- and 36-count box sets are priced at the same deal as individual markers on these sites ($5.24/Sketch and $3.59/Ciao). In other words, you won’t get a better per-marker deal on these size sets, except that you get a free box to put them in. Your best prices are found in the 72- and 24-count boxes.
If you’re looking for the best price on the Sketch, look no further than the 72-count box set. On both sites, the per-marker price in a 72-count box set comes out to $4.89/Sketch, a per-marker savings of $3.10 over retail. That’s 39% off. In this size set you will pay $3.35 per individual Ciao, which is a %40 savings of $2.14 off per marker.
If you’re looking for the best price on the Ciao, it’s found in the 24-count box set. This is the single best per-marker price. In 24-count box sets you will only pay $3.22/Ciao, a %41 savings of $2.27 off per marker. In this size set you will pay $5.24 per individual Sketch, which is only a %34 savings of $2.75 off per marker.
All that said, you will have to take into account shipping at the time you order, potential coupon codes/special offers, as well as what local in-store deals you can get with coupons (and potentially sales, though I’ve found Copics are rarely on sale). My local Michael’s ran a coupon deal for 4th of July for %55 off any one regular-priced item. They let me ring four markers up in separate transactions to take advantage of the deal (I spent a total of $15.68 on four Sketches, which would have otherwise cost me$34.84). Each transaction also earned me a %40 off coupon for a future in-store purchase, which you can bet I’ll be using on more markers (or cookie cutters/decorating supplies, hmm…). Likewise, Hobby Lobby carries Copics and regularly offers %40 off coupons, though they are limited to one transaction per customer per day. That said, my local Michael’s has a very limited selection on Copics and doesn’t restock very often. (Sad face!! 😦 )
Now, as for the online options: you could go with either site (DickBlick or Period Style) and get a great deal. However, Period Style does offer a custom-choice box set option where you receive your chosen colors in a professional box, just like the brands’ boxed sets, at that same discounted box-set rate– but in your preferred colors! I ordered a custom 24 box set from Period Style and think I’ll be returning there for my next markers, too. Not only did I receive them quickly and carefully packaged, they also sent me a freebie Copic Multiliner pen! Gotta love freebies, right?
Additionally, if you’re looking to do a custom set, I highly recommend you spend the $5.99 to get the Sandy Allnock Hex Chart first. As in, before you buy the markers. It might sound odd to buy a blank color chart before you buy markers, but it also comes with the extra resource of a complete hand-colored chart, which is a real bonus and helpful resource for choosing your markers. The chart allows you to see which markers are visually similar. I wish I had purchased it first, as there were a few markers I purchased that were so similar that I could practically use them interchangeably. While having similar colors is good in a large collection for blending or having the exact color you’re looking for, having similar colors in a very small set means fewer options. It also helps when making choices on future purchases, as you can carefully choose your variety or blending sets based on a more real-world comparison than the manufacturer charts.
The following is a list of the initial set of markers I purchased, along with a few notes. This is intended for reference, if you care to have it, but choosing colors is a very personal thing. You pick what seems right for you and your coloring needs.
- 0-Colorless Blender (Sure, it takes up a color slot, but it’s an extremely useful tool to have at your disposal.)
- W1-Warm Gray 1 (I chose two greys, you might choose more. I went with warm greys because I knew that I lean toward warmer tones. They run 0 through 7 — minus 4 and 6– so I chose 1 and 5. I wanted to get options that were not at the total extremes, so I could rely on layering and blending to get my in-betweens.)
- W5-Warm Gray 5
- B05-Process Blue (Probably my surprise favorite of the bunch. Gorgeous, gorgeous blue! Plays well with B99.)
- BG34-Horizon Green
- E02-Fruit Pink (Quite similar to E95, slightly lighter. Fairly similar to R11, with slightly orange base.)
- E49-Dark Bark
- E95-Tea Orange (Quite similar to E02, only slightly darker. You might opt to trade one of these and/or R11 for different skintone colors, like YR20, E53, or E57. Or perhaps a blush shade, such as R20 or R21.)
- G00-Jade Green
- G07-Nile Green
- R11-Pale Cherry Pink (Fairly similar to E02, with less of an orange base.)
- R46-Strong Red (Think “sexy red heels” or Christmas red; definitely not a deep crimson/blood red. It was hard to tell on the manufacturer’s chart, but I ran with it. It’s a good red, though I’m getting a deeper shade on my next order.)
- Y06-Yellow (Very yellow, bright & vibrant, borderline highlighter for my tastes. Would have gone with something a little more subtle if I had known.)
- Y38-Honey (Fairly similar to YR04, slightly less red. I like this yellow/orange, though.)
- YG03-Yellow Green
- YR04-Chrome Orange (Fairly similar to Y28, only slightly redder.)
Now, I put this list together based on a set of predetermined parameters. I knew I wanted a blender and a black marker, two greys and two proper browns (which obviously double as skintones), leaving 18 slots for other colors. I decided four skintones would be a good start, which then left 14 slots. I decided to go with two each of the ROYGBV spectrum (opting to leave out indigo), then have two slots purely for colors that just happened to catch my eye (which were YG03-Yellow Green and BG34-Horizon Green, if you’re curious). I also had to work with the supplier’s options, as several choices were sold out at the time (PS has since restocked several colors). The markers are currently in heavy demand, and suppliers are having a hard time keeping them in stock, wherever you go, but especially at places where you can actually get a bargain.
All said, though, I’m very happy with the markers (the quality is AMAZING) and quite happy with my initial color choices. With the growing experience of working with them, in addition to the help of the Hex Chart, I’m already forming a list for my second order. If that happens, you can expect to see another list and review of my thoughts on those color choices.
Now, I’m not a professional with these, but I’d be happy to answer questions about my experience with them so far.
As always, thanks for reading!