Copic maintenance isn’t rocket science. So long as you use common sense approaches to storage and cleaning, you should find that you don’t have to replace pens (expensive) and simply need to top up the ink (cheaper).
Copic Maintenance: Storage
When you get hold of your first Copic Markers, if you are anything like me, you will be yearning for the day when storing a bigger collection will be an issue. Given the nature of Copic purchases (singles, packs of 6, 12, 72 etc.) you will find your collection growing asymmetrically. You can store your markers anyway you like, but there are a few housekeeping considerations to get right first.
This shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise to you, but Copic Markers dry out. Now, they will dry out as you use them, of course. But they will also dry out it you leave your lids off. Because they use an alcohol based ink, they will dry out quickly if left exposed. Where ever you choose to store your pens, it is vital that your solution is stable enough that the lids stay on. You don’t want the lids coming off without you knowing about it, and coming back to your pens to find the colour you need bone dry.
Copic lids let you know when they are on correctly. They provide a clear ‘click’ when put back on a pen. The connection when on is pretty reliable too, so it should take a fair bit of effort to remove a correctly placed lid. If you are putting your lids on correctly, and not storing them in a way which can bash the lids off, you should be ok.
You will also want to keep your pens away from direct sunlight. Continued exposure will result in the plastic casing of then marker degrading, which could result in parts of the pen becoming weak enough to crack with continued use. The best solution in this case is a container which blocks sunlight altogether, but you should be sensible enough to keep your solution out of direct sunlight if it is transparent (if you are keeping your pens in an original Copic 72 pack for instance).
Similarly, any Copic Inks you have will also need to stay out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures. The official site says that Copic inks can change colour if exposed to direct sunlight. This might come up with some interesting results, but I’m guessing you bought those inks because you like or need the colours they came in.
In extreme heat, the liquid inside Copic Ink refill is likely to expand, which can weaken the plastic container (especially if the plastic container has also been exposed to direct sunlight). This can lead to leakages and spillages, not only wasting ink but also messing up whatever the inks are being stored alongside.
While Copic pens and inks aren’t fragile by any means, they are an investment that you should take some basic effort to look after. They don’t need a dedicated cellar, but some common sense will mean you end up with the cheaper option of topping up ink, rather than replacing pens all the time.
There are 358 colours in the Copic world (including 46 grays), but you don’t need that full number of colours before you will ask yourself how best to organise your pens so you can find them when you need them. So whatever your longterm solution is, we suggest it also allows for some form of categorisation.
The are many ways you can organise your Copics. What we suggest is you find a solution that works best for you. If you find you are spending too long trying to find the right colour, it’s time to take another look at your organisational system.
Copic Maintenance: Cleaning
There’s nothing quite like a set of box fresh Copic Markers. With use, those once gleaming bodies, lids and nibs will inevitably lose their sheen. While some artists might take pride in messy tools (aren’t they, after all, a sign of hard work?) there are some basic hygiene considerations when looking after your pens.
Every now and again, you will end up with surplus ink running from the nib down the neck of your pen. This isn’t just a cosmetic issue. The spilt ink can accumulate and dry where the lid makes contact with the body and stick, causing issues even getting in to the pen again. To get ahead of this issue, you can simply use rubbing alcohol to carefully wipe up the spill. Even if the ink has already started to become tacky and hard to move, the rubbing alcohol should eventually shift it.
The same approach of rubbing alcohol can be taken if you also happen to get ink on the outside of the lids or on the bodies of the pens. While these blemishes aren’t crucial to the working of your pens, they can make the pens feel new again and maybe instil some new inspiration in artworks to come.
Over time your nibs will discolour. This can occur by picking up inks from other pens, or trapping elements from other materials. This is especially the case when using Copic Markers with pencil lines. It is important to remember that this will usually be a cosmetic issue only. Whatever has discoloured your nib will not make its way into your drawing, and you can colour away in confidence you will only be delivering your chosen ink.
However, you may find the need to replace your nib. This might be because of damage to the nib (either impact trauma or use) or because a pen has completely dried out. Alternatively, it might be because you don’t care that a discoloured nib is only a cosmetic issue, and you insist that your pens all look perfect. If that’s the case, of course you can buy and fit new nibs to your markers without too much fuss. All you will need is a replacement nib and a set of tweezers.
Simply tug out the old nib using tweezers. Be sure to keep the body of the pen upright, especially if it is still quite full. The new nib can then be inserted, and should fit snugly once in.
Copic Maintenance: Topping up
If you follow the above recommendations you should find yourself with a set of pens that last you for ages and need topping up with ink every now and again. Refilling your Copics is much cheaper than replacing your pens.
Topping up couldn’t be simpler, with two main approaches to choose.
Feeding the nib
The first approach is the simplest, but takes a little longer than the second. It involves holding the refill tank up to the exposed nib of the pen. As you slowly encourage drop after drop of ink on to the nib, it soaks back into the nib and into the body of the pen. Each type of Copic Marker has a different ink capacity, so you should make sure not to overfill when using this method. The back of the ink refill tanks have millilitre markings on, so you can monitor how much you have put in. You will also know when you have reached your pens capacity when the nib stops soaking in the ink and starts dribbling all over the place.
Feeding the body
The second approach involves using tweezers to remove one of the nibs of the pen and dripping ink directly into the pen’s body.
This approach is faster than waiting for the nib to soak the ink through, however don’t get carried away squeezing the ink tank to fill it up faster. A slow drip is the best bet to get the ink in without making too much mess and wasting ink. Just like when replacing with a new nib, you can then slide the nib back in until you are satisfied with the fit.
It’s an investment
As an art supply, Copics should be expensive to set up and cheap to maintain. You are investing in tools when you buy these pens. While they won’t ask a lot of you, some basic Copic maintenance will keep your running costs down.