Copic Markers And How To Use The Copic Color Code System
Copic Markers And How To Use The Copic Color Code System
A short while ago I asked the question on social media, “If anyone wanted me to do a Copic Marker review?”. Quite a lot of people said yes and a few said no, for the same reasons I was initially hesitant, as so many artists have completed Copic Marker Reviews. So I originally shelved the idea and just got on with other reviews, however, lately I have received a few marker sets from other companies to review and I have already a few marker reviews uploaded. So I thought that as everyone knows, Copic markers are pretty much the industry standard for alcohol markers, I felt it was important to include a review on my YouTube channel and here on the website, so that artists can reference between my other marker reviews and this Copic one.
As I mentioned, the Copic marker system has pretty much been the goto marker for illustrators all over the world and as a result many artists have wanted to purchase Copics and try for themselves and type of amazing art that can be created, using markers. The main issue has always been cost and of course the vast range of Copic markers available. Because of this problem, so many companies have tried to manufacture Copic alternatives at much cheaper cost, some companies have come very close to the Copic standard, one or two in my opinion have either achieve exactly or better than the Copic standard and then there are others that just should not even be spoken about in the same conversation.
So this is not like all my other reviews, in this article I will be demonstrating to you, how the Copic Color Coding system works, the types of Copic markers available, the Copic accessories and the colors available in the Copic eco system. This isn’t really so much about how to blend with the markers, although I will be soon adding tutorial videos, showing new artist primarily, how to use colored pencils, alcohol based markers, watercolor pencils, pastel pencils and many more amazing supplies that artists have at their disposal.
Copic Markers Available
The first thing we should look at are the different markers available in the Copic system and what the differences are between those markers.
The first marker I want to look at is the Copic Ciao, this is a round barrel marker, with the Copic Superbrush tip on one side and the standard Chisel Tip on the other side. Both lids or caps as they are sometimes referred to are colored the same color as the actual ink within the barrel, this makes visually selecting your desired color, quick and easy.
Along one side of the barrel, there are small icons at both ends of the barrel, depicting the brush tip or chisel tip end of the marker. Along the same side is the Copic number code attributed to each pigment, for example V17, BG20, RV42; I will explain in detail the number system later. On the opposite side of the Copic Ciao barrel is another print of the number code, only this time the actual pigment name is also present.
Although the Copic Ciao is a round barrel and some would expect for the barrel to roll about quite a bit, this isn’t actually the case. On each of the lids, there are a tiny little dimple protruding out which helps prevent the barrel from rolling. There are a total of 180 colors in the Copic Ciao collection and that includes the colorless blender.
The next marker and perhaps the most popular of all the Copic markers, is the Copic Sketch. The Copic Sketch marker sports an oval shaped barrel, which can be prone to rolling, but is actually quite sturdy on a studio desk. The Copic Sketch also has a Super Brush tip and a Chisel tip, both these tips are exactly the same as the tips on the Copic Ciao, there is no difference whatsoever, it is important to remember this.
Along one side of the barrel, as with the Copic Ciao, are depictions of the Super Brush tip and Chisel tip at the respective ends of the barrel, again this is to simply help the artists distinguish which tip they want without having to remove both lids and visually locate the tip. Along the same side of the barrel there is printed the Copic Number system for that particular pigment.
I think the lids are perhaps one of the reasons the Copic Sketch is a slightly more desirable marker to artists and I will explain this. Both lids on the Copic Sketch are colored on the very ends the same color of the marker pigment. They are not colored in their entirety as with the Ciao, only the end of them sport the color. On the very end of the lid, there is the pigment name as well as the Copic Code stamped in clear print.
The reason this is so much desirable the Copic Ciao is due the way in which alcohol markers should be stored. Because of the ink inside the barrel and the fact the markers have a tip on both end, it is better to store the markers horizontally as opposed to vertically say in a jar. The reason is, should the marker be placed in a jar vertically, the ink will run to one end of the barrel, saturating which ever tip is facing south and drying out the other tip now void of ink. Storing them in the horizontal position means the ink settles touching both tips helping to keep them moist and from drying out.
When the markers are stored in this fashion, because the Copic Sketch has the pigment name and Copic Number code stamped on the very end of each lid, this makes selecting the desired pigment easier than that of the Ciao. There is a grand total of 358 colors available in the Copic Sketch collection, including the colorless blender.
Copic Original Or Sometimes Referred To As The Copic Classic Original
The Copic Original sports a square barrel, this is actually quite a chunky marker and as with the Sketch and Ciao, the Copic Original has twin tips, only there is a slight difference in the style of tip. The Copic Original has the Chisel tip, exactly the same as the Sketch and Ciao, however, rather than the Super Brush tip, there is a Bullet Nib. This style of nib is perfect for detail and lettering, you can blend a little bit with it, but nowhere near as well as you can with the softness and flexibility of the Super Brush tip.
On one side of the barrel both tips are depicted in the form of a bullet nib icon and chisel tip icon, positioned at the relevant ends of the barrel. The lids on the Copic Original are similar to the Sketch lids in that only the ends of the lids display the pigment color and both lids have the pigment name and copic code stamped on them. There are 214 colors available in the Copic Original collection
The Copic Wide is relatively new to the Copic Family, there is only one tip on the Copic Wide and as I am sure you can guess, it is a pretty large wide tip, similar to a thinner Chisel tip. There are only 36 colors available in this line, which is much lower than the other markers in the range, however, the Copic Wide markers are amazing for filling in large areas, such as backgrounds etc.
There are quite a few pretty awesome accessories that Copic have created to enhance their impressive marker range. There is a Copic Airbrush System and this allows the user to insert a Copic marker into a place holder and compressed air is sprayed out over the tip, leaving a thin mist of ink. This is another excellent thing for covering large areas such as Backgrounds.
For all of the copic markers I have just mentioned, you can purchase refills, that cover all 358 pigments. One 25ml refill, will fill a Sketch marker approximately 13 times, a Ciao approximately 17 times, the Copic Original approximately 10 times and the Copic Wide approximately 7 times.
You can also purchase a small jar of Copic Opaque White which is amazing for generating incredibly bright highlights that will make your art really pop.
Paper For Copic Markers
I can’t stress this enough, the paper you use is critical to the performance you will achieve from the Copic’s. You can have every color in the Copic range and be the best artist in the world, but if you are not using the correct paper, your art is not going to look the best and this will be due to the ink bleeding. When I very first purchased my 36 Set of Copic Ciao, I tried using them on ordinary printer paper, the results were pretty bad.
At that point I can remember thinking “What has all the hype about?”, I genuinely felt I had wasted money on markers that didn’t really do what I hoped they would do. After a bit more research I discovered I needed to buy paper that is specifically for alcohol markers which is when I discovered the huge range of papers available.
Some of the papers I use for Copic or other alcohol markers is the Strathmore 500 Series Bristol Plate, this is a top quality paper and can handle markers with no problems. The only issue I have with it is, the paper is 100% cotton and so absorbs the ink a bit faster than some of the other papers. But if you are creating a piece of art you might sell the original and also use colored pencils to help with the blending process and detail, this paper is perfect.
There are a lot of papers which are as thin as printer paper, but are coated with a thin film which allows the marker ink to almost sit on the surface and allow the artist time to blend before the ink is too dry. Paper such as Letraset Bleedproof Marker Pad, Copics own paper and many more others like them.
My favourite paper to use however is really inexpensive and allows for perfect blending alone or colored pencil layers. The Frisks Bristol Board is 250gsm paper, nice and sturdy, capable of withstanding layers of marker and plenty of colored pencil layers.
The Copic Color Code System
As I mentioned above, on every Copic Marker, there is an alpha numerical code stamped on the lid and or barrel, as well as the pigment name. The code breaks down into sections and each section means an important bit of information for the artist and can help beginners get to grips with blending.
The pigment name is self explanatory, because there are so many colors, you can’t just look at the markers and select a purple color due to the various shades and tones there are in any one color family.
The first part of the Copic Code is letter based referring to the actual color family. Every color family available in the Copic range is as follows
B V = Blue Violet | V = Violet | R V = Red Violet | R = Red | Y R = Yellow Red | Y = Yellow | Y G = Yellow Green | G = Green | B G = Blue Green | B = Blue | E = Earth | C = Cool Gray | W = Warm Gray | N = Neutral Gray | T = Toner Gray | A = Achromatic | F = Fluorescent
This is every color family in the copic range, most of the initials speak for themselves, but there are one or two you may not know, such as the A = Achromatic which just includes the Black and Colorless Blender. Never the less, when you look at the first part of the Copic Code, the initials refer to the particular color family. It is advised to blend in the same color families, however, as you become more accomplished with Copics, you don’t always have to stick to this rule.
The numbers present after the color family letters are perhaps were most of the confusion lays. There are always two numbers, 20, 34, 95 etc, however, those numbers are not Twenty, Thirty Four and Ninety Five, rather they are separate digits for example Two and Zero, Three and Four, Nine and Five, but it is handy to know what the numbers represent.
The first number refers to the saturation of the particular color you are using, the first number can range from 0 to 9 with zero representing the least saturated and Nine representing the most saturated, in other words the color will be more washed out looking.
The second number also has a range from 0 to 9 and this number represents the level of brightness in the color with zero representing the lightest and nine the darkest. I have a few examples to show you in images, but you can also see my video review which gives you real time demonstrations of the Copic color code.
You can see in the image below, I have added three colors B95 B97 and B99, Copic recommend blending with at least three colors for a seamless blend, the three colors represent your lights, mid tones and darks. You can see with the three colors I have chosen, they are all from the same color family B = Blue. They all have the same Saturation 9 (Nine) which is also recommended by Copic for that seamless blend, all three colors should be from the same family and the same saturation level. The next digit is the brightness and it is best for those number to increase by two or three. So in the case of these colors, the brightness is increased by two every time, 5 - 7 - 9.
The next image demonstrates that the numbers on the Copics are not sequential, so it is not G17 (Seventeen), G19, (Nineteen) and G24 (Twenty Four). If this was the case, in this image, you can see a slight darkness increase from G17 to G19, so for G24, you would expect the color to be darker still, over G19. However, because of the Copic Color System I have just explained, G24 is a lighter color because the Saturation is less than is slightly more washed out than 1 (One) and the Brightness number 4 is lighter than 7 and 9.
I hope I have demonstrated this in an easy to follow explanation, once you know and understand the system, it does help you get to grips with the best blending combinations. As you grow with the Copic Color Coding system and you understand color theory, blending colors from the same family and saturation level will not be so important. The Code absolutely helps beginners to Copics, but as I say, rules are made to be broken and if it blends and creates the look you are after, then blend away, the end results are all that matters.
I mentioned that the copic color system has a total of 358 colors, all 358 are available in the Copic Sketch line, 180 of those colors are available in the Copic Ciao, 214 in the Copic Original and 36 colors available in the Copic Wide Markers. If you wanted to collect every marker in all collection, you would have a total of 788 markers and that is not including the refills.
The expense for the Copic markers is incredible, but there are simple ways in which you can create a wonderful collection without breaking the bank. The Copic Ciao and Sketch are essentially exactly the same, the nibs are identical, it is only the barrel shape and the aesthetics of the barrels that are different.
However, even if you wanted to stick with just the Sketch Markers, it is worth mentioning and I will demonstrate here, that some colors are almost identical and it is worth looking very closely to the Copic Color Chart before making a purchase.
If you look at some of the colors I have included in the images, R89, R59 and RV69, colors from different color families, different saturation levels and yet they are so incredibly similar, the same is true for the R46, R29 and RV29. YR00, YR61 and E95, again, different color families and different saturation levels, but very similar to look at. Finally the greens as well, YG03, YG23, YG25, YG05, YG06 and YG07, all from the same family, different saturation levels but very very similar in color
So with this information in mind, you can see why it may not be necessary to buy the entire collection and that perhaps 150 or even 200 colors would allow you an excellent collection capable of creating any genre of art.
Copic Sets and Availability
Copic have an excellent selection when it comes to their markers. With the Copic Ciao, they are available in blister packs of three and six, they are also come in plastic containers of 12, 24, 36 and 72. There are also various sets in available, Set 72 A and B, Set 36 A, B, C, D and E
With the Copic Sketch the set sizes are pretty much the same. There are five 72 Sets, A, B, C, D, E and F and this will give you the full range of 358, plus blenders, the number is 360 in total with all 72 sets.
Again, the Copic Original have the same number of sets, 12, 24, 36 and 72, there are three 72 sets in the Original line, A, B and C with only one 36 Set.
All markers are sold separately and here in the UK, there is an outstanding store called Cult Pens, they have the largest range I know, their prices are amazing and their delivery standards are fantastic. Cult Pens sell so many markers and pens, but if you are looking to buy Copics, Cult Pens is the place to go in the UK, however Cult Pens don’t just keep the magic for us in the UK, they ship all over the world.
Once you start buying Copics, there is a fantastic way of keeping on top of the colors you have and swatching them out. A YouTuber called Sandy Allnock who has created a fantastic system called the Hex Chart. The chart visually organises the colors as they are seen and not necessarily by color families and saturation. I haven’t shown the chart in its entirety because there is a small fee for the chart on Sandy’s website. This is a fantastic and complex system which has taken quite a while to create it, so the small fee being asked is more than reasonable.
As I have mentioned, the prices of Copic Markers is really quite expensive, however the Copic Ciao’s are the least expensive and really quite financially manageable and of course, with the exception of a few aesthetic details, the fundamentals of the Ciao and Sketch are exactly the same.
Amazon UK Prices
For the Strathmore 500 Series Bristol Plate you can pay £23. For the Letraset Bleedproof paper you will pay £6 and for the Frisks Bristol Board you can pay £5.99 for the A4 and £11 for the A3.
You can also buy the full range of Copic Sketch Markers in a gorgeous briefcase but the cost is quite hefty coming in at £2104
E-Bay US Prices
For the Copic Original it will cost approximately €4.50,
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Copic markers, be it the Sketch, Ciao or Original, have been considered the industry standard in so far as alcohol markers for illustrators are concerned. Although the goal of The Art Gear Guide is to test and demonstrate art supplies to a high level, so that you the viewer, can decided whether or not you want to purchase said supply. However, trying to save money for you guys would also be a bonus.
Although Copic markers are incredibly expensive, they are of such an amazingly high quality allowing the new artist to alcohol markers to easily learn blending thanks to the Copic Color Code and for the more experienced marker artist to create the most amazing blends and effects.
To see my video review of Copic Markers and the Color Code system follow the link, I have also included some images of artwork I have completed using Copic as well as links to the speed drawings