Copic markers are some of the best alcohol-based markers you can buy (that is if you can afford it). Alcohol-based markers rely on the general principle of solubility (like dissolves like) in which the alcohol acts a carrier for the dye ink and evaporates after application. When you apply another layer of colour, the alcohol solution lifts some of the ink allowing it to be blended and smooths the gradient between colours.
There are many types of Copic markers – Original, Sketch, Wide, and Ciao. They vary in the body size and type of nibs that they have. Copic Ciao Markers are equipped with a brush nib that is great for blending in addition to a chisel nib for filling in large areas. You can buy them individually or in sets.
The coding system on Copics is quite intuitive with the letter(s) representing the colour group that they belong to. For example, YG means yellow, green; while E represents Earth tones. You can find the full list of abbreviations on their website. The number following the letter(s) vary from 0-9 and represents the saturation. The lower the number, the brighter and more saturated the colour is. The second number refers to the shade/value of the colour and lighter colours will tend to be in the 0-4 range while darker colours will be from 5-9. There are some colours that have 3 numbers following the letters, and that just means their saturation and shade numbers marked as 0. That means they are even lighter than the “lightest color”. For example, B000 is even lighter than B00, even though both its saturation and shade numbers are as low as they can be.
I bought my Copic Ciao markers many years ago (>5years), and they still work very well even though they mainly just sit in my pen holder. I bought them because I saw so many inspiring artists creating such beautiful artworks with them. Back in my DeviantArt days, I used to try to follow tutorials that showed how to colour with Copics. The problem I encountered was that you need so many colours/markers to create the nice, blended qualities and it also doesn’t work well on regular paper.
I don’t think I’ve really practiced that much with these Copics and so I don’t enjoy using them too much. I think I will try to incorporate them in my watercolours, so they don’t go to waste. I’m glad I only bought a small selection to try out and realized they weren’t for me.
- Cheaper than Copic sketch (because they have less ink/smaller body)
- High quality brush nibs
- Amazing blending quality
- Don’t have colour label on the marker cap
- Less colour selection (180) than Copic Sketch markers
- You need a lot of markers to get a full colour range
- Ciao markers are best for beginners who want to try using Copic alcohol markers, but don’t want to spend as much for the Sketch markers
- Great for comic art and cartoons (not for writing)
- My recommendation is to buy a couple and see if you actually enjoy using them since it takes practice to use them skillfully
- The type of paper you use is important because it affects the blendability of colours
- Thin paper will most likely tear after too many layers of ink
- Copic marker paper is less absorbent = less feathering, more vibrant colours, use less ink
- Pairing Copics with different media like coloured pencils and watercolours if you have a limited number of markers
- Or get a set to start out
- Use Copic safe pens for lineart
Many artists create gorgeous illustrations with Copic markers, but for me personally they’re too heavy of an investment, and I enjoy using watercolours more than markers.