Refilling a Copic Classic costs about 15% the price of an individually purchased pen.
We make no bones about it on Copic Thinking, Copics are expensive but extremely good value. That value stems from two elements of the marker: the quality of ink and pen, and the replaceable nature. On art forums far and wide I’ve seen people asking if refilling their pens is worth it or if they should just buy new pens. So, exactly how much are Copic refills?
So let’s make this clear: it will always be cheaper to top up your pen with ink than to buy a new pen (provided you maintain your pens properly).
Even if you use the best paper for Copic markers, you will still find yourself using ink up.
Here we breakdown the cost of replacement ink, relevant to the original price of the pen.
How much are copic refills compared to the original pen price?
Refilling your Copic Classic is about 85% cheaper than buying a new pen.
I base this on UK pen prices, but individual items a consistently priced relevant to each other globally. For comparison purposes we will be comparing to the cost of buying an individual pen, as opposed to the cost of a single pen contained within a set. And to define the scope further, in this article we will be comparing ink prices to Copic Classics only, rather than other types of Copic Markers.
|Product||Ink Capacity||Average Price|
|Copic Ink Refill||25ml||£8.35|
Next we work out how many times a refill will top up a Copic Classic. 2.78ml goes into 25ml nine times (rounding up ever so slightly). So a refill should be able to top up a Classic Copic nine times.
Knowing that, we can then divide the cost of the refill pack by 9, to get the cost of each individual refill on a Copic Classic.
|Cost per refill tank||Number of refills||Cost per refill|
So that’s 93p per refill of a Copic Classic.
That puts to bed the question of whether or not you should refill or just replace the pen. So long as you look after your pens, it should be significantly cheaper in the long run.
It costs £5.67 less each time you refill a pen rather than just replacing it.
Hardware vs Software
With those calculations, it’s possible to work out a value for the individual pen before you pay for the ink.
|Cost of ink||Cost of body, nibs, lids, etc.||Total|
Based on the value of ink in a refill tank, the remainder of the pen you purchase is £5.67.
That covers all non-ink element, from the sponge inside the pen, both nibs, case, lids etc.
Expensive to set up, less expensive to maintain
This means that 86% of your outlay is on the reusable element of your pen. This is a statistic which reframes the conversation about Copic Markers being expensive.
Expensive to set up, sure. You get the quality you pay for.
But to maintain? No, not expensive to maintain. And as a result, you get to keep the quality purchased with your initial outlay. Of course, this is also dependant on you not letting your Copic Markers dry out and taking a common sense approach to storage.
How much are Copic Refills when you buy large sets of pens?
The cost of individual pens reduces when they are bought in packs, which offsets the cost of ink per pen. For the following table, I have scoured Amazon for the prices of 12 and 72 packs of Copic Classics and averaged for each. This average is likely to change significantly over time as for both sets I have taken full price packs and packs displaying discounts.
|Number of Pens||Cost of Pack||Cost per Pen||Per Refill||Pen no Ink||%|
As can be expected, the ratio of money spent on hardware vs. ink changes as the price of pens come down. But even purchasing 72 pens, which creates the cheapest price point per pen, the percentage spent on hardware is still high at 79%. Which would mean you only spend 1/5 the price per pen when refilling.
Even if we take the heaviest discounted box of 72 Copic Classics at time of writing (November 2019) it only brings the percentage spent on down to 75%. So in this scenario you would only spend 1/4 the price per pen when refilling.
Investing in inks
All of this doesn’t mean the cost to get set up in Copics can’t be prohibitive, so some tactical purchasing might be necessary. While the refill tanks might be cheap per refill, you are locked in to purchasing multiple refills, rather than one-shot expenses of 93p each.
As such, unless you know you will be using particular colours extensively, it makes sense to wait until you need a refill before purchasing. There are ways to organise your copic markers which makes it easier to identify the inks you will need refills of.
By now it should be clear however, buying inks are cheaper than buying entire new markers.
Cost per refill compared to the set up of all other pens
A quick search tells me the average price per individual Sketch is £5.75, almost a pound cheaper than the Classic. With a smaller inkwell, you also get more refills out of a Copic ink tank: 12 compared to the Classic’s 9. This means each time you refill a sketch, the ink costs you 70p per refill.
So if we value the ink in a Sketch at 70p, that leave the value of the hardware at purchase as £5.05.
The Ciaos are cheaper again at £4.00. And, again, their ink capacity is smaller meaning that you get a full 15.1 refills per Copic ink refill tank. With 15.1 refills per £8.35 spent on a refill tank, it costs a measly 55p each time you top up a Copic Ciao. You will have figured this out already, but I feel duty bound to point out this doesn’t mean Ciaos are the cheapest to run – they are cheaper to fill up, but you have to fill them up more often!
Valuing an individual off the shelf Copic Ciao at £4.00, and the cost of the 1.66ml of ink contained within at 55p, we see the Ciao hardware costing £3.45.
Establishing a base cost of the Copic Wide is difficult as not everywhere stocks them. At the time of writing, the Official Copic site has Copic Wides listed with a RRP of £12, so I will use this price for the calculations. You get 7 refills per ink tank with the Wide, which works out to £1.19 for each refill.
Here, we reverse our last point about the size of the pen not having any bearing on overall cost. A wide is more expensive to refill, but its massive nib is also a big user of ink, so you are likely to get through the ink quickly. A Wide user will know that however, working in a large format – and it is for artwork anyway, so what does it matter?
Cost of Copic pen refills over lifetime
To further demonstrate the value of Copic Markers for the long term user, let’s look at the average price per full use of ink over a series of refills.
The first use of a Copic Classic, exhausting the 2.78ml of ink contained within, costs £6.60. By the time you have exhausted your 2nd 2.78ml of ink (your first refill) you’ve spent the original amount, plus 93p on your refill, bringing you total outlay per pen to £7.53, and your average cost per use comes down to £3.77 – cheaper than one measly Copic Ciao!
By the time you’ve had your 9th refill, or 10th full use of ink, your average value per use comes down to an affordable £1.50 per outing. That makes the price comparable even when you look at even the cheapest Copic dupes available.