A Beginner’s Review of Copic Markers


My current Copic collection.

As I noted before, I decided to try Copics to see if they could potentially replace watercolors. They’re very expensive (I got mine using coupons and a shipping deal), but they seem to be the default alcohol-based marker, so I wanted to see what they were like.

I tried some blending first, but the real goal for me was mimicking watercolor washes, so I did the backgrounds for my last panel post (along with a few other things) in Copics. The short form: even for someone like me, who can’t seem to do a totally streak-free marker picture, Copics create a smoother effect than I can manage with most markers. (For instance, the ones I used for the shirts in my last panel post.) But they’re definitely not the same as watercolors. I feel like watercolors have more depth to them, a bit more nuance; the Copic shades look flatter and more uniform. That’s an impression I get from looking at the actual paper drafts of my panels, though. For projects that I’m mainly interested in scanning to the computer, I don’t know that it makes much of a difference whether I use watercolors or Copics. And Copics have much easier cleanup, and don’t make me feel guilty about excessive brush rinsing, both points in their favor.

You’ll also notice from the picture that I tested one original marker, but the others were all Copic Sketch markers. I had read that the brush tip was hard to maneuver in small spaces–and yes, it can be. But since I’m more comfortable with watercolors than ink, maybe it’s not surprising that I still ended up liking the Copic Sketch markers better. I also don’t intend to do most of my Copic coloring in tiny spaces, so that’s not a deal breaker for me. I can see how if you were planning on that, you might go for a smaller nib.

Other notes:

  • I found it a bit easier to stay inside the lines with Copics. I’m terrible at that with watercolors. On the flip side, I felt like I had to color faster before the ink dried.
  • The pens are easy to work with. I like the oval shape, and I did find myself treating them a bit like watercolor brushes, so that’s all good.
  • I noticed some feathering with multiple layers. I used mixed media paper, so that may have had something to do with it.
  • I’m not sure I like the fact that the colors show through on the other side of the paper. I’m leery of doing projects back-to-back anyway; I never want to take the risk of anything bleeding through. Still, I like to look at the back of a page and not see hints of the drawing on the other side.
  • Copics have a wonderful range of colors. I can see how that alone might keep me interested in buying them.
  • The multiliner took some getting used to, since I’m pretty accustomed to my usual pens and fineliners, but I have to admit I love the way it holds up when you color over it.
  • I like the Sketching Grays. And oddly, in a brand that’s so full of color, I think black-and-white scenes are something Copics or other alcohol-based markers could be really good for. That’s one case, at least, in which I definitely wouldn’t reach for watercolors first, so it might be a good place to get my bearings with a new medium.

Overall, I’m willing to keep experimenting with Copics, but I also want to try at least one other alcohol-based marker. I’m thinking Spectrum Noirs. They’re a lot cheaper, and considering that I’m not aspiring to be a professional illustrator, they may be sufficient.

I also still want to work on this blending thing. I’m not there yet. But I probably need different paper.


One of my blending tests.