Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Focus: Coloring with Copics

I am NOT an artist.

I cannot even draw a stick figure that looks right.

But...even so...I am passionately in love with Copic markers. I am a very simplistic user of Copics but they are so easy to use that even my simple methods look good.

So, I have a few "gifts" for you today regarding Copic markers:
1. Some simple examples with tips to show you how easy they can be and how good they can look.
2. The charts that I have created for Stampin' Up matches and Papertrey matches.
3. Links to many other sources that can teach you much more about the basic techniques and can also teach you much more advanced techniques.

Disclaimer: I have not been trained nor certified by Copic, but I do
read all of your blogs and follow various forums.  What I CAN do with
"expertise" is gather all of this information into one post! 
Thanks to all of you for the information that you have shared.

Copics are alcohol based compared to Stampin' Up or Tombow markers which are water-based.  The alcohol allows to fully saturate your paper thus making it easier to develop rich colors and to blend colors.

Copics come in Original, Sketch and Ciao.  You don't want the Originals as they only have a broad tip and fine tip.  Sketch and Ciao have a brush tip which allows you to color.

If you do any shopping you will quickly see that the Copic Ciao markers are significantly cheaper than Copic Sketch.  I started with Sketch markers so kept going in that direction.  The explanations that I can find are that Ciao markers "offer all the features of the Sketch Marker, but in an economical size" - obviously a little vague.  Frankly, I haven't explored any more than that because the one BIG difference for me is that Ciao markers come in only 180 colors while Sketch markers come in 346 colors and I am totally obsessive about matching colors to my papers!

Copics color are identified with a letter and a two-digit number.

The letter defines the color, e.g. R = reds, YG = yellow/greens.

The first number identifies the family within the color.  The second number identifies the lightness/darkness.

For example, the markers R05 and R08 are both reds, they are both in the same family because of the first "0", but the R08 is darker than than the R05.  R85 is also a red but it is an entirely different family based on the first "8" and is not comparable to the first two.

Copics cannot be used to color directly on stamps.  They dry too quickly for you to apply multiple colors. 

(FYI - having said "don't do it", I have seen technique videos coloring on stamps, but it is a royal pain!)


Card Info: Stampin' Up Posy Punch
Stampin' Up Crumb Cake CS and dsp, Razzleberry Taffeta

Saturate it
To get the full depth of color, you cannot be afraid to saturate the paper.

Here's the front of my circles:

Here's the back - totally saturated!

Circular Strokes
Coloring in little circles will give you better coverage.  If you color back and forth, you will be surprised how often you will notice - often not until the card is entirely done - that you have white streaks where you didn't quite get everything colored.

Basic Shading
I am a very simplistic shader.  The links that I have at the bottom of this post give you some very artistic examples of light sources, etc. to create amazingly realistic shading.  I simply shade around the inside edges to make my image appear to have some dimension - for example, the circles appear more rounded - they have the dimension of darkening toward the "back" and lightening near the "front".

1. Give your image a light coloring with your lighter marker. 

2. Before it dries, add your darker marker around the edges.  If you do this right away, the "wetness" of the bottom layer will start blending the darker marker by itself.  Be sure to use circular strokes or lightly draw "feathers" toward the inside - you just don't want a defined line because it's hard to blend. 

3. Color over the whole thing again with your lighter marker. Keep coloring until you don't see the edges any more. Remember - saturating the paper is good! (As I am writing this, I see that my photo does not do justice to the last circle - check out the original card to see what it should really look like!)

Did you notice the gems on the card?  Did you notice that they matched?  Gems and pearls can be colored with copics!!!  Once you get a collection of Copics, you never have to buy a colored gem or pearl again!

Slightly More Detailed Shading
Even without getting overly "artistic", Copics make it amazingly easy to add a variety of colors to an image.

Card info: Sweet 'n Sassy Spring Tulips
PTI Terracotta Tile, SU Wasabi, Basic Grey Curio

Layering up colors like this is quite easy.

1. The first step is to add the highlights in the darkest color (you could lay down a light color first to help blending.

2. Then add highlights in the next color.

3. Color over the whole thing with the lightest color - just color until it is saturated and colors are blending.

4. In the fourth tulip, I went back and added some of the darker color again - I didn't want it quite as washed out.  You can do this dozens of times.  Let's say I add too much of the red, I can color over it again with the yellow and add a little less red.  Copics are very forgiving!

Degrees of Shading

It is often said that if you buy a specific Copic, you should pick up a color that is one or two away from that color.  For example, if you buy R22, you should also buy R24 so you are able to shade.  (See the examples above on Basic Shading.)  I don't necessarily agree.  To save money, you can definitely shade with a single pen.  Conversely, you may find that you prefer a bigger difference in your shading.

1. The first circle is colored with R22.  Then I went back over the edge with the same R22.  There is still a shaded difference!!

2. The second circle is colored with R22, then edged with R24, then I went over the whole thing again with R22.  There is a little more difference, but is it worth it.  I would suggest that if you have a big budget, perhaps it is worth it - but I think the first circle works almost as effectively with one marker.

3. The third circle is quickly becoming my favorite.  I colored it with R22, then edged with R27 - a FIVE number difference.  I like the richer shading.

It's all preference and if you don't yet know what you prefer - start building your collection with single colors and work toward shading colors after you have figured out what you like.

Shadows and Dimension
So far my examples have been filled-in areas.  Copics are also excellent at adding shadows and dimensions.  Again, I cannot emphasize enough that I am a VERY basic Copic user.  I have put links below in which people create true art with perfect shadows and subtle skies.  I believe you can still create a wonderful card with these basic tips.

Card info: Penny Black snowman
Cosmo Cricket dsp, SU Pool Party (glittered), Daffodil, Poppy
Snowflakes are from a Martha Stewart border punch

So, let's break down the shading on this snowman.  It should be subtle, but it makes a HUGE difference!

1. The first snowman has his muffler, hat and the little bird colored.  He's cute, but a little flat.

2. On the second snowman, I have taken a light gray marker and run it around the inside edges of the snow.  This gives the appearance of a rounded edge, giving this guy a little more dimension.

3. On the third snowman, I focused on popping him from the background.  A light line of blue sky makes him appear more "forward", giving it even more dimension!!!

These basic shading colors are a must-have in your collection.  I even find myself shading around solid stamps to pop them from their background. 
Some recommended shading colors are:
   C1 Cool Grey, W1 Warm Grey (there are light grays than these, but I find they tend to totally fade into the paper)
   B000 Pale Porcelain Blue (also B0000 Pale Celestine is a little more subtle so I use it on more subtle cards)
   Y000 Pale Lemon (for a sunny background)

Coloring Faces
There are a few markers that you are going to want to pick up to color faces.

Card Info: The Angel Company Dear Friend
SU Regal Rose, Pretty in Pink, Saffron, Bashful Blue, Pear Pizzazz

Sitting here in Parker, CO, I generally have one set of markers that I use for faces.  I color the face with E50, I shade it with E51 and I add rosy cheeks with R20.  The I Like Markers blog has this detailed post on various skin colors.

Did you notice the polka dots on her shirt?  I used a Copic Colorless Blender.  I think this pen has been named incorrectly.  You do NOT need it to blend colors as I have previously demonstrated.  What it does is pick up color.  For her shirt, I just dabbed it around to pick up some color and lighten the polka dots.  I also know that it is used to pick up mistakes like when you color outside of the lines.  Frankly, I have never had much luck with that, although I have seen great demonstrations.  You can see by the close-up of this little girl that I didn't even try to pink up the pink smear on her back!


Does cardstock make a difference?
Yes.  My absolute favorite cardstock comes from office supply stores - Neenah Classic Crest 80 lb. Cover Stock.  I use Solar White for white and Natural White for off-white.  I actually buy it by the ream as I use so much of it, but many on-line stamp stores sell packs of 10 of each color.  Two that I can quickly think of are Ellen Hutson and Sweet 'n Sassy and I know there are many others.

From some of the main companies - I know that Papertrey's cardstock and Gina K's cardstock is recommended.  Stampin' Up's Whisper White is not recommended.  It has a bit of a glossy coat and the ink just doesn't blend well.

Does ink make a difference?
Yes.  As a rule of thumb, think opposite.  If you are water-coloring, use alcohol-based ink like Staz-On.  For alcohol-based coloring with Copics, use water-based dye inks.  And even dye inks seems to have differences that I can't explain, e.g. I get smearing with Stampin' Up ink and copics.  DO NOT use Staz-on with Copics - it's alcohol based and will smear and get into the tips of your markers.

The inks that I use for copic-coloring are Memento and Adirondack.  I have a black pad and a brown pad from each of them that I use everytime I bring out the copics!

Some people do have a problem with printer inks when you are using digital stamps.  I have a Canon printer, I used to have an Epson - and I haven't had a problem.  BUT...I also color a little more carefully - I don't necessarily just color across the image - I pay attention to the image lines to avoid any potential smearing.

Best places to buy Copics:
There are many on-line stores that have multi-packs of Copics that are reduced.  I have mixed feelings about multi-packs as I built my Copic collection based on Stampin' Up/Papertrey groups of colors. Multi-packs could give you a bunch of colors you rarely use thus negating the savings.

Our big box stores - Hobby Lobby, Michaels - do carry a small line of Copics.  When they are on sale, it's a great place to start.

If you are a Papertrey user - they do sell sets of three to coordinate with their various colors.

My favorite online store is The Merri Artist.  Their prices are some of the best, their shipping is reasonable and fast.

How do I budget my purchases?  Where do I start my collection?
1. Are you a Stampin' Up or a Papertrey user?  In the right column, I have downloadable charts of the Copic matches to both of their colors.

2. Do you have a favorite color group?  I really like the Stampin' Up Brights collection, so I would start there.

3. Do you want to immediately start with a coordinating lighter or darker marker (see "Degrees of Shading" above)? 

4. Do you do faces?  If so, pick up E50, E51 (shading) and R20 (cheeks) for basic "caucasian" coloring.  Or check out some of the advanced videos below for other color schemes.  Also...the I Like Markers blog (noted below in "Links") has this detailed post on various skin colors.

5. You want a couple of very light colors on hand for the shadows and dimension.  I like Shadows: C1 Cool Grey, W1 Warm Grey, B0000 Pale Celestine, B000 Pale Porcelain Blue, and Y000 Pale Lemon.

How long do they last?  Are they refillable?
Yes, they are refillable, but frankly, in the four years that I have been "using", I have never had to refill a marker.  I have very little to offer you here - except...if you ever have to refill, before you invest in the equipment and refills, check if any of your local stores do it.  We have a store in the Denver area that keeps all the refills and will do it for a small charge - MUCH smaller than investing in your own equipment and refills!

I use Stampin' Up cardstock and Papertrey Ink cardstock.  I love having coordinated sets - so I have the ribbons, buttons, brads etc for the color lines.  A logical extension is that I have created reference charts for Copic markers.  So...if I am doing a card with Crumb Cake and Rich Razzleberry, I pull out my chart and start coloring!!

These charts are my gift to you!!  Just go the right column and find the DOWNLOAD section.  Click each chart and when it comes up, use the File button on the toolbar to either Save it or Print it.  The boxes on each chart are left blank for you to fill in as you build your Copic collection.  Be sure to print your copy on the same paper that you will be using for stamping so, when you color in the squares, they will be the same color that you will be getting on your cards.

The matches on this chart come from many different sources.  I have studied the forums on Splitcoast, I have studied the blogs of Copic experts and, when I still don't like the matches, I have actually thrown my own "opinions" into the charts.  (FYI - I am particularly fanatical about greens so those blends are all mine.)

It is VERY important that you know that paper does make a difference.  It is possible that something I feel is a perfect match on my preferred cardstock, Neenah Classic Crest (details below) may appear different if you are using something else.  I don't think they will be radically off - but just wanted you to know!

It is handy to have a chart of ALL of the available Copic colors.  Then, when you make a purchase, you can add a dash of that color to the appropriate square in the chart and (1) you don't run the risk of buying duplicates and (2) you can use that chart to find the color that you like.

Sharon Harnist has great charts on her blog.  I use the first "blank chart" of all 346 Copic colors and the 24 Spica Glitter colors to use keep my inventory.

There is also an iPhone/iPod app that easily tracks your stash so you don't make duplicate purchases.  Just search for "Copic Collection" in the app store.


Basic Copic use:

A book by Annie's Attic called Copic Coloring Guide (and also two new books on coloring nature and coloring people) is a very nice resource.  (I have also seen it at Archivers).  It starts at the VERY beginning with types of markers and the coding on each one.  Then it goes through basic coloring and blending tips.  The pictures are nice and the card samples are basic, yet cute.  (Annie's Attic also has a good book called Coloring Techniques for Card Making that includes colored pencils, watercolors and even some basic info on Copics.)

Danielle, on her Neat & Tangled blog, just did this post with a video of her using Copics on a butterfly.  It's so easy to see the idea of circular strokes, feathering and blending when you see it done!  She also says she will be doing further posts on Copics.

The ultimate online Copic guide is the I Like Markers blog.  Marianne is the product director/specialist for Copic markers.  She started a blog in 2008 to demonstrate every aspect of using the markers.  She goes through best papers, best inks, basic colors, etc.  But the trick to using this blog is to start reading it in reverse!!  Think of it like an instruction manual.  Her first posts give you the basics; her recent posts are very advanced.

For advanced techniques:
In my disclaimer at the very beginning of this post, I mentioned that I was not Copic-certified.  If you ever want to really learn about the full potential of these markers, watch the I Like Markers blog for a certification class near you.

You will be blown away by the amazing fall leaves on this post on the Prickley Pear blog spot.  They give a dozen different color combos and samples.

Amy Rysavy, on her Prairie, Paper & Ink, has done dozens of videos on coloring with Copics.  She's in the middle of a series of Christmas cards that are amazing.  Amy is a true artist with Copics (as compared to my simplistic style).  Check out this post and video to see the attention she gives to a face!  Amy's blog is worth watching as her videos are detailed and informative.

This YouTube video with a great demonstration of blending techniques.  She discusses "palette blending" and "feathering".  This video and this one by Kristina Werner are great with faces and hair.

There are hundreds and hundreds of videos out there - I just selected these few to give you a taste of how Copics can work.


I am actually hoping that that is not the case.  My goal was to show you how truly easy it is to use these wonderful markers and create art - even without any expertise!!  They are an expensive investment, but I find that they are one of my most used tools - and I wanted to give you the knowledge and direction to try them for yourselves.

Please feel free to ask any questions.  I may not know the answers, but I will likely know a direction in which to send you!



  1. Hi Kim
    This is a fabulous post. I really enjoyed it. I am having problems viewing the two charts, I cannot access them. Can you help with this?
    Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips - very impressed about copics colouring gems and pearls. can't wait to try that!

  2. Kim - this is a brilliant post, thank you for sharing. I'm book marking this page for future reference. I use Promarkers for colouring but have been tempted the the HUGE colour range of Copics. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks x

  3. Hi Kim, What is the name of the store in the Denver-area that does refills?

    This is a great post - thanks for compiling!!

  4. You know, I just realised I forgot to say your cards are just lovely - particularly the one for the Colour Q challenge - so bright and vibrant!

  5. Fantastic cards and a great website too!

  6. Thanks for posting all of this in one place.

  7. Thank you so much!! These charts will be so handy since I mainly use SU papers.

  8. This post is so incredibly helpful! Thank you for all of the great tips and for sharing the research you have done to make the most of these markers. I have quite a collection but do only basic coloring and rarely pull them out, but I should use them more! Your samples are fantastic!

  9. How wonderful! thanks for sharing all this info, great for a beginner like me!

  10. GREAT post, KIm! LOVE your colourQ card, too! Thanks so much for playing along with us at the ColourQ this week!

  11. Lovely card, Kim! Thanks for joining us at the ColourQ this week.

  12. WOW! Your coloring is AMAZING! Fabulous work! Thanks for playing with us at Pals Paper Arts! :)

  13. Wow, Kim, thank you so much for this wealth of information! I have some Copics (probably only about 20) that I use regularly, but I have noticed that sometimes they are pretty "off" from the colors I'm trying to match. Now I will be able to build my collection based on your lists, very very helpful info! Also, I did not know you could color gems and pearls with them! I can't wait to try!

    I LOVE this card you've done for colourQ! Coloring the circles on the white and then attaching them to the Kraft cs looks SO pretty and vivid!

    I like the Neenah too, we both live in the Denver area, I buy reams of the white and cream colors at Xpedx, have you ever shopped there?

    Thanks so much for playing with us at colourQ this week! :)

  14. What a marathon! You are such a generous blog friend, Kim! I have been uummm-ing and aaahhhing about buying some Copics for a while. But ... you have certainly made it alot easier for me to know where to start! This is such a helpful post ... and I am storing it to refer to ... if I ever find those extra $$$ to buy some! Hugs xxx

  15. You have outdone yourself with this post, Kim! What a fantastic resource! I've been making a list of SU/Copic matches so I'll be interested to see how ours compare.
    As for your cards, I love the ColourQ card - polka dots and circles - ahhh! Your colouring of the flowers on the second card is fantastic. I love the colour combo on the third and the polka dot technique on the 4th is brilliant. :)

  16. Wow..thanks for all the tips. I have wanted to try COPICS for years and just haven't jumped on the bandwagon. You may have just convinced me to try ;)

  17. Thank you for all the hard work on this post! It's so helpful. ;)

  18. Kim, this is awesome! Thank you for all the tips! There's always something new we can learn. I think this would be perfect for SNSS! No worries!

  19. Unbelievable post!! Excellent information you gathered and shared! You have been Pinned too -- You Go Girl!!

  20. What a great post. Thanks so much, it is so clear and interesting

  21. Hi Kim,

    thanks for all the info. also thanks for the lead on copic dealer I got them for 3.59 everyone else wants $5-7.00

  22. Kim, I just saw this post via Pinterest. For someone who is not Copic certified you've done an excellent job of explaining theory. The charts you've created to match up PTI and SU are a real resource for paper crafters too! Thanks so much - you're AWESOME!!

  23. KIM,
    hi, i am a novice..but somewhere I read that if you stamped an image with a certain ink..and i am thinking it was the Staz On, that it would ruin the tip of your copic marker..i wished i could find out where i read that..but i cannot, and was hoping it would be here.

  24. Awesome TY Soooo Much!

  25. It is May 2013 and this post is still one of the best I have ever found on Copic markers guidelines. Thank you! I am going to print this out to keep as a reference. Patsy

  26. i am new to the whole copic marker scene and have viewed about 50 youtube videos and blogs. your site has been the best of all. thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  27. i am new to the whole copic marker scene and have viewed about 50 youtube videos and blogs. your site has been the best of all. thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  28. I just found your site!! Thank you so much! As someone that just "found" copic markers and projects on pinterest and have been fascinated by it but afraid b/c I too don't really know what I'm doing and don't want to buy the "wrong" things and get overwhelmed b/c I don't know how to start...Thanks for sharing your experience and making it easier for newbies! :)

  29. This is so helpful, thank you, Cathy x

  30. This is so helpful, thank you, Cathy x

  31. Very well done post! Too bad I didn't find this when I was just learning about Copic markers. You seem to have distilled into one place everything a beginner usually finds out only after weeks of research. I'm also grateful for the color match charts of the different cardstock lines. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and hard work.

  32. Thank you for the SU charts! As a demonstrator who misses the Blendabilities, I will be using the charts to purchase some Copic markers!

  33. Great post, Kim! Thank you so much! I've pinned it for future reference, and I'm thrilled to have the charts for the SU colors.

  34. So glad I found your blog via Pinterest. The information is GREAT! Thanks for taking the time to share.

  35. Hi, this was a great read. I will go see if things are the same out there as a little time has past since you wrote this article. X


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