If you are like me, you buy craft things and then leave them lying around, because you haven’t got around to using them, then you might enjoy reading this blog article on Copic Markers.
What are Copic Markers?
Copic Markers have become very popular with crafters, in particular with stampers, who are using either digital or traditional stamps. These very high quality markers were originally used mainly by designers for colouring but like many things, the potential for crafting was spotted and they are now staple items in many peoples’ paper-crafting stash. We have lots of digital stamps on the website and copic markers are just one way to colour them in!
I certainly don’t profess to be an expert but I thought I would pass on the things I have learnt about using Copic markers.
What are the main features of these pens?
Copic Markers contain alcohol based dye ink, which is the key feature that allows the colours to be blended together without causing a mess. Anyone, who has used normal felt-tip pens, will know that if you go over and over the paper, trying to blend colours, you end up causing it to shred and tear. By being able to blend colours, you can get real depth to your images, something that is difficult to do with felt-tip pens.
The pens are refillable and the nibs can be replaced, this increases their life-span greatly, which is useful considering that they can be quite expensive to buy.
Types of Markers
There are 4 main types of markers within the Copic range – Ciao, Sketch, Copic and Wide.
The markers are all refillable, so the real differences are just in the number of colours that they each come in and the types of nibs.
Copic Original – come in 216 colours, have a square body, which stops them rolling off the table, a broad chisel nib useful for colouring and a thinner fine point nib which is useful for finer work. They can also be used in the Copic Airbrush System.
Ciao – the smallest pen, come in 180 colours, have a chisel medium-broad nib and a super brush nib which gives flexibility in the brush strokes. The nibs are actually the same as the Sketch markers. They can’t be used in the Airbrush System but are a great starter pen and for children to use.
Sketch –come in a whopping 346 colours, have an oval shape, with a chisel medium-broad nib (slightly smaller than the Original Copic) and a super brush, just like the Ciao pens. They can be used in the Copic Airbrush System. This is the one that I have and use and find the most useful, as it is a nice pen to hold and use.
Wide – come in 36 colours, are bigger and thicker, with a wide chisel tip, so good for colouring and covering larger areas.
The Labelling System for Copic Markers
The Copic Markers have a labelling system, which is useful to be aware of, if you are buying them for the first time and relates to the various characteristics of the pens. If we look at the code on my Sketch markers, there is a letter and two digits.
What do the letters mean?
The letters on the code are the broad categorisation and define the colour family that the pen belongs to, i.e. B = blues, R = reds, G= Greens, Y = yellows, V = violets, E = Earthy. Then there are some pens with a mixture of these letters, such as BG = blue green, RV = red violet, BV = blue violet and so on. The grey colours in the Sketch pens are Warm Greys, Cool Greys, Neutral Grey and Toner Grey. There is also a Black, a Special Black, Fluoro colours and colourless blender.
What does the first digit mean?
The first digit is the intermediate classification and relates to the colour saturation. The numbers range from 0 to 9, indicating the amount of grey that is added to the ink. The higher numbers have more grey and will be less radiant/more dull.
What does the second digit mean?
The second digit is the specific classification and relates to the brightness of the colour. The lower the number the lighter the colour will be. Click the link below to link to the Copic Colour Wheel, which shows the relationship between the colours and the coding system at work and is useful for choosing your colours if you are starting from scratch.
As an example, if you look at the red part of the colour wheel, markers with numbers R02, R12, R22, R32, will all have the same brightness but have different colour saturation. Pens R02, R01 and R00, will vary in brightness but have the same saturation.
What kind of paper do I need?
I find that smooth coated white paper or card is the best surface to use the markers on. If you use normal paper, you will find that the ink soaks into the paper too quickly and this can make the colour bleed beyond your stamped image. Thinner papers, will result in the ink soaking through to the reverse side too, so I like to go for a thicker paper or thin card. I’m not going to list all the different cards and papers to use, you should try a few different ones out to find the ones that you like to use the most. A few suggestions are:
What kind of ink should I use?
As these markers contain alcohol ink, you will need to be careful with the type of stamping ink you choose. You don’t want to use solvent based inks like StazOn, which will smear when you use the pens. I find Memento or Archival Inks work well and you can use Brilliance inks, but make sure you give your image plenty of time to dry before colouring them. Try heat setting your image first with a heat gun. Perhaps the best way is to test your ink out first before starting your actual project. You can always use a heat gun over your stamped image, before starting to colour.
What about using digital stamps?
Some printer inks will react badly when you use Copics, smudging the lines and bleeding the ink. I’ve had some spectacular messes with this and it doesn’t matter how careful you are, it is likely that you will ruin your image. It really depends on the printer you are using and the best way is to just test it out, to see what happens. Some people find that heat setting their image with a heat gun, or by running a warm iron over the image (cover it will a tea-towel or something similar, so you aren’t ironing directly on the image), works.
If you can afford a laser printer, this is a good option, as they are toner based and this does not react with the pens. There are some very affordable laser printers on the market now, so if you are going to be using digital images a lot, it might be worth the investment. You can also try photocopying your image, using a proper photocopier and not a printer that copies, as this is again based on a toner.
How do I start?
I don’t profess to be an expert in using these pens, there are far more skilled people out there! However, if you want to get started, here are a few pointers and suggestions that you might find helpful. As you get used to using the pens, you can try out different colouring and shading techniques and produce real masterpieces.
I like to use three shades when I am colouring, a lighter shade, a medium shade and a darker shade. There is actually a proper system to doing this but it does depend on the pens you own. I bought mine as a job lot off Ebay and had no choice over the colours, so I have to make do with the ones I have. If you are starting from scratch, you can make sure you have the right mix of colours to get the best effect. The next section talks about this a bit more.
How to pick colours for blending.
The Copic numbering system, ensures that you get colours which will blend well with the next darker or lighter shade. Firstly pick pens within the same colour family (with the same letters). Then match the first number, this keeps the tone the same. Then with the last number, which relates to the brightness (remember the lower the number, lighter the colour), go for pens according to what you want to achieve. For example, if you want to create a shadow, go for pens with a last number of say 7-9. For a mid-tone, go for pens with a last number of 4-6 and for highlights, go for pens with a last number of 0-3. The more pens you use, the smoother the blending will be.
Copic advise that you should pick pens that have 2 or 3 digits difference between your colours but again, this depends on what you have in your collection. This is the science behind the numbering system ut if like me, you don’t have pens that fit within this, you can still achieve a pretty good effect by using your eye to choose the pens, one light, one mid-tone and one darker tone.
Colouring in an image
I’ve stamped my image and waiting for it to dry. This was just a free stamp from a magazine but it actually is excellent quality, with lovely crisp lines. With regard to stamping, I sometimes stamp a whole heap of them and leave them for a few days until I get around to doing some colouring.That way they are definitely dry by the time I get to use them.
Next, I’ve chosen my colours. Like I said, I haven’t got the best range of pens to choose from, so I have just gone for three pens that looked light, mid-tone and darker tone.
First I’ve coloured the rabbit with my lightest colour, by just adding the colour in little circles. I find this helps me to control the pen and stop going over the lines.
I’ve then tried to add shadows by using the mid-tone, in the areas that I think would be darker. I’m not an artist, so I don’t have a natural gift for this, but generally, if you stick to shadowing the edges and along any creases, you will get a good effect and this will be enough for a simple image, like the one I have used here.
I’ve gone back in with the lightest colour to blend the two together and then moved on to the darkest colour. Again, when I have finished with this one, I’ve returned with the mid-tone pen to blend them. You do need to work quite quickly, to make sure the colours blend properly. If you don’t, you can end up with a patchy result. I haven’t worked quickly enough on my image, as I was stopping regularly to take photos, so you can see that the colours are not as blended as I would have liked.
You can carry on adding the colours, adding darker shades if you wish, just make sure that you go back with the next lighter colour to blend them each time. I’ve simply mounted my image onto some layered paper, to create a quick Easter card.
What about the Colourless blender pen?
I haven’t used this one to colour my rabbit stamped image but this pen can be useful. People who are good with their pens can use the blender skilfully but I tend to use it sparingly. The blender pen can be used to move the colours around. For example, if you end up going over the lines, you can ‘fix’ the mistake by using the tip of the pen to try and just move the colour back. It won’t look perfect but it will lessen the mess a bit. Personally, I just tend to start again with a new image, unless I have spent ages on it and make the mistake near the end. You can experiment a bit with this.
You can also use the blender pen to soften your colours and to try to fix any areas where you haven’t managed to blend colours properly. Just go over the areas lightly. I try not to do this a lot, as I end up removing too much colour and have to start all over again but trial and error is the best option here!
I hope you have enjoyed this article on getting started with Copic makers!