In this Copic Sketch Marker review I first compare the 4 different styles of Copic artist’s markers and then I evaluate Copic Sketch markers specifically including nibs, ink, colors, tips for working with Copics including blending techniques, and more.
Copic markers are used by professional artists, designers, illustrators, students, crafters, hobbyists, and anyone who enjoys working with high quality permanent markers. You can safely rely on these markers for their consistency of color, the color system, and the manufacturing quality. Not only are Copic markers used to create highly detailed, finished marker drawings/paintings, they are also perfect for quick sketches and drawing on location. You can easily grab a handful of Copics, a sketchbook, and head out into the world to get inspired.
Before we launch into the Copic Sketch Marker review itself, let’s address the pronunciation of “Copic”, the English translation of the Japanese name “kopikku”. I emailed Copic USA for an official answer and here is their reply: “‘Copic’ is pronounced with a long O, like ‘roll’ or ‘mode.'” So, there we have it. Copic markers are made in Japan by the .Too Corporation which is headquartered in Tokyo. The .Too corporation was initially founded in 1919 (as Izumiya) Izumiya changed their name to .Too in 1992.
The Four Styles of Copic Markers:
All 4 styles are:
- Non toxic
- Sold in sets or individually
- Replaceable nibs
Copic Original or Classic
- The Original markers were released in 1987 and geared toward manga artists. In the early to mid-70s manga artists started using photocopies as a time-saving device and .Too’s alcohol-based markers wouldn’t smear the toner lines on these photocopies. Originally released in 71 colors, there are 214 colors available now. The Original markers come with a square barrel and are dual tipped. The chisel nib is same as Sketch’s, but other nib is a smaller, shorter “bullet nib.” The Original feels very substantial in your hand like the Sketch, with solid, high quality packaging. The Original style marker hold more ink than the Sketch. Professional quality.
- Sketch markers were released in 1993 and are available in the full 358 color range. .Too has stated that “any new colors will only come in Sketch.” Sketch markers are the most popular of the 4 styles and are perfect if you’re looking for a marker for sketching. They have an oval-shaped barrel and are dual tipped with a chisel nib on one end and a 12mm long brush nib on the other. Sketch markers hold less ink than the Original, but more than Ciao. Professional quality.
- Ciao markers were released in 1998 and are available in 180 colors. They have a round barrel, are also dual tipped, and have the same nibs as the Sketch. They hold the least amount of ink and are less expensive than the other 3 styles so they make an excellent beginner or student choice.
- The Wide was released in 2002 and is available in a range of 36 colors. Since they only have one 3/4” wide nib and hold the most ink, they are good for covering backgrounds and other large areas quickly and easily. The Wide has an elliptical barrel and is professional quality.
Copic Sketch Markers Are:
- Professional quality
- Non toxic
- Dual tipped
- Available in 358 colors
- Sold in sets or individually
- Replaceable nibs
The aesthetic of Copic Sketch markers overall? As if Apple decided to make an iMarker. They’re minimalistic and modern and feel good in your hand. The light gray barrel is oval shaped with a darker gray band around one end that indicates the end with the brush nib. This tells you which end has which nib quickly without having to look too closely. There are icons of the nibs on each end also, but they are rather tiny and are only on one side of the barrel.
Copic Sketch Chisel Nib
With two different nibs you can create a variety of different marks. The chisel nib produces at least two thicknesses of line depending on whether you use the short side/width of the nib or the wide one.
Copic Sketch Brush Nib
For me the star of the Copic Sketch marker is the “Super Brush Nib” which performs somewhat like a paint brush, but instead of being composed of individual brush hairs it’s made out of “molded fibers” i.e. porous, pressed, felt fibers. Similar to a paint brush you can control the width of the line depending on how hard you press down. Very light pressure produces a very thin line and of course the more pressure you apply to the paper the thicker the line gets. You can also use the brush nib on its side, parallel to the paper to draw a thick line.
Copic Sketch Replacement Nibs
Both nibs are resistant to fraying unless you have an intense scrubbing method. When they wear down you can buy replacements. The chisel nib replacement for Copic Sketch is called “medium broad” and the brush nib is called “super brush”. There are also 2 optional nibs for Copic Sketch: the “medium round” and the “sketch fine”
The ink is actually the same for all 4 styles of marker. It is an odorless, alcohol-based, dye* ink. This means the carrier for the dye is alcohol as opposed to water and since alcohol evaporates much faster than water they interact with the paper differently than water based markers. Which is to say, not much, since alcohol based markers won’t cause your paper to pill up or buckle the way water based markers can. Copics are easy to layer and the inks layer beautifully. The ink produces a beautiful velvety matte finish.
Copic markers are “permanent” meaning the marker is indelible or waterproof not that it lasts forever. Copic Sketch markers are permanent but they are not lightfast. From the Copic website: “Dyes are artificial materials made through chemical processes and are not usually as archival as pigment products. In general, dyes are susceptible to ultra-violet rays. Copic inks are a dye and a Copic colored image will fade under direct sunlight or fluorescent light. If your artwork with Copic will be put up in well-lit area, it is better to seal it with a UV blocking seal.”
* except for the 4 fluorescent colors, none of which are in Set A
Copic Ink Refills
When you notice the color waning or the marker isn’t as juicy as it once was it’s time to refill the ink. A “Various Ink” refill bottle will get you 8-10 refills for Sketch markers. Refill inks can also be mixed to create custom colors and put into a Sketch Original empty marker.
Update: The Various Ink refills have been discontinued as of 2020. Click here to read about the new Copic ink refills.
Set A Colors
If the brush nib is the North Star, then the color range is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Between the flexible brush nib and the gorgeous transparent ink you almost feel like you’re painting with watercolors. Although colors are somewhat open to interpretation, there are basically equal numbers of standard or classic yellows, reds, oranges, purples, and greens: 4 each. So the colors are pretty evenly distributed as far as primaries and secondaries. There are however 10 blues, so Set A is strong on blues. Also included are gorgeous pinks and peachy colors, turquoises, teals, bright yellow-greens and of course many neutrals.
Standout colors: Shock Pink (neon, bordering on fluorescent), Chrome Orange (melted orange popsicle), Lilac, (a bright, true purple), Blue Green (a deep, rich teal), Yellow Green (an almost neon spring green), Ultramarine Blue (a true, rich, intense ultramarine), and probably my favorite color of the set Cool Shadow (a beautiful, very pale aqua). One color I might miss when working with Set A would be a very pale violet. Because Copic markers are transparent, you can get some gorgeous layering effects and color mixes. The sky’s the limit once you start mixing and laying.
Copic Sketch Marker Performance
This review is based on my experience using Copic markers for roughly 3 years. My preferred medium is oil paint so there was definitely a learning curve as far as blending with markers. When I paint with oils I generally work dark to light, but with markers I tend to work light to dark in the same way I do with watercolors. Of course your methods may vary and you will find people who work dark to light with great results. Use the right paper ie designated marker paper. I use Copic X-Press IT paper throughout the review and for the Copic swatches in the Art Swatch Gallery™.
How to Blend with Copic Markers
There are several different techniques for blending. But let’s step back for one moment, what exactly IS blending? Blending refers to mixing the inks to create a smooth, seamless transition from one color to another (for example yellow into green), or creating an imperceptible gradation from one value to another (for example when a dark gray melts into a light gray), or both. So really we’re looking for ways to minimize abrupt changes between one color and another, prevent marker streaks, and instead create one even, unified area of color. If you’re going to physically mix the inks you need to work quickly since the alcohol in the ink dries so fast. Once you get used to working with a certain amount of speed and you develop your own favored technique your blending will be stellar.
- If you’re truly unfamiliar with markers I’d just experiment a bit at first. Try out the different techniques mentioned here in a sketchbook. See which ones you like. Are there any that you have a natural affinity for? Practice for awhile before you start a full on drawing.
- It’s a good idea to have a plan: decide which colors you’ll be using ahead of time, lay them out, and work area by area.
- The blending is not necessarily as straightforward as you would assume. It takes effort, technique, and speed to create a blend before the alcohol evaporates.
- To create a simple one hue gradation, let’s say from light blue to dark blue, choose 3 blue markers: a light blue, a midtone blue, and a dark blue. Moving from left to right, lay down a patch of color with the light blue marker then quickly to the right of it lay down some of the midtone blue overlapping the outer third of the light blue. Then quickly lay some of the dark blue to the right of the midtone blue, again overlapping and layering about a third of the midtone blue. Work the edges of the colors together and go back and forth between the markers as needed until you get the effect you want.
- Layering allows the alcohol to re-wet an area, lift the initial ink, and mix it with the new layer.
- It can be helpful to introduce an intermediate marker to create color blends. It’s easier to blend from yellow to red using a yellow, an orange, and a red Copic than it is to just use a yellow and a red. If it’s easier using 3 markers to mix analogous colors (colors next to each other on the color wheel) you may want to use 4 or 5 when mixing complementary colors on opposite sides of the color wheel. So to transition from say blue to orange you may want to use 4 or even 5 markers to move through the more neutral colors you’ll get in the middle.
- My preferred method for physical blending is to move the marker quickly, randomly, and organically as opposed to any kind of mechanical pattern.
- You can also feather or flick the edges together using the brush nib.
- Another mixing technique you might try is to touch the tips of two markers together to get a transfer of ink right on the nib and then draw with that.
- Physically mixing the different marker inks when wet isn’t the only way to create color gradations and transitions from light to dark. You can also layer new marks on top of a dry area. I love stippling or drawing tiny dots to layer one area over and into the next. It’s slow-going but you get a lot of control over the process. You can also cross-hatch to create transitions.
- If you are having trouble blending make sure your markers aren’t running low on ink. They need enough ink to be able to blend well.
- You can also try the Copic Colorless Blender – a marker that consists of a transparent, alcohol-based solution, and is the base of all Copic inks. This marker can be used as a blender and an eraser of sorts as it “lightens Copic inks by pushing color through the back of the paper.”
Copics are wet but not overly so. If you are using appropriate paper (designated marker paper) there is little to no marker bleed. Out of 72 markers maybe 2 or 3 produced a very slightly fuzzy edge. The vast majority produce edges that are crisp or ever so slightly velvety. If you end up working an area over and over you may get some bleed through to the back of the paper.
The Copic Color System
Each marker is labelled with an alpha-numeric code. For example “BG13”. The first one or two letters refer to the hue or the basic “color family”, in this example Blue Green.
The Color Family
- B = blue
- BV = blue violet
- V = violet
- RV = red violet
- R = red
- YR = yellow red
- Y = yellow
- YG = yellow green
- G = green
- BG = blue green
- E = earth/earth tones
- C = cool
- N = neutral
- T = toner
- W = warm
- O = colorless
- 1 = black
- F = fluorescent. There are 8 fluorescent markers. If the last digit is a 1, the ink contains pigments; if the last digit is a 2, the ink contains dyes.
The Blending Group
The 1st number (anything from 0 to 9), what Copic calls the “blending group”, or how pure, saturated, and intense the color is. 0 indicates the most saturated color through to the number 9 which is the least. [In the Art Swatch Gallery I use words like “bright”, “vivid”, or “rich” to indicate more saturated colors and “subdued”, “dusty”, or “grayed” to indicate less saturated colors.]
The Specific Value
The second number is called the “specific value” and represents how dark or light the ink is. 000 indicates the palest through 9 which is the darkest in value.
Copic Sketch 72 Color Set A:
Click the button below to see swatches of all 72 colors in the Art Swatch Gallery™.
Disclosure: These markers were purchased with my own funds. All opinions are my own.
Copic Sketch Markers
Product Name: Copic Sketch Markers
Product Description: Set A - 72 sketch markers with chisel and round brush nibs and alcohol-based ink.
Overall Quality - 100%
Pigmentation - 97%
Blendability - 93%
Range of Colors - 100%
Ink Flow - 97%
Ink Bleed - 93%
Price - 90%
Copic Sketch markers are alcohol-based, professional quality, and available in 358 colors. The are dual tipped with a standard chisel nib on one end and a 12 mm long brush nib on the other. Highly recommended.
Wide range of colors