The cost of refilling your Copic markers is increasing in 2020, but refilling still makes Copics a more affordable long term choice of pen. It’s worth keeping this in mind when weighing up alternatives to Copic markers, as not all brands offer the ability to refill.
New Copic Refills
The reason behind the increase in Copic ink cost in 2020 is the introduction of the new 12ml Copic refill. According to Copic’s own site, the new type of refill was brought to market to make it easier to pack and easier to drip ink straight on to artwork. That nozzle will obviously also make it easier to refill pens.
Less Copic ink, higher price
The cynic in me also sees it as an opportunity for Copic to charge more for the same product. The old 25ml refill retailed for around $8.99, and this 12ml looks to sell for around $6 – that’s an increase in price of about 39% per millilitre. So let’s refactor the costs of refilling a Copic Marker with this new option.
How much are Copic refills?
Copic ink refills retail for around $6 for 12ml of ink and are available in all colors.
Refilling a Copic Classic/Original costs about 17% 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 their replaceable nature.
How much does it cost per refill of a Copic marker?
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, and you are throwing money away if you just buy a replacement pen each time it happens.
Let’s 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 17% cheaper than buying a new pen.
I base this on average US Copic prices. 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.
How much ink is in a Copic refill?
|Product||Ink Capacity||Average Price|
|Copic Ink Refill||12ml||$6.00|
There a 12ml of ink contained in these new Copic refills, so you will completely refill a Copic classic 4.3 times per refill.
Knowing that, we can then divide the cost of the refill pack by 4.3, to get the cost of each individual refill on a Copic Classic.
|Cost per refill tank||Number of refills||Cost per refill|
With a $6 refill offering 4.3 refills per go, that works out around $1.39 per refill of a Copic Classic.
Is it cheaper to refill Copic markers?
Without doubt is is cheaper to refill your Copic markers than it is to buy new ones. It costs $6 less each time you refill a Copic Classic pen rather than just replacing it.
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.
Hardware vs Software
So if we know how much the ink costs, can we find out how much the rest of the pen costs?
|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 $6.61.
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 83% of your outlay is on the reusable element of your pen. This 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. This is also a handy way of exploring the difference in price between buying individual Copic markers and buying them in sets.
|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 colors 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. Above we’ve had a look at the numbers when applied to the Copic Classic, let’s have a quick dive into the other Copic pen types too.
Is it cheaper to refill a Copic Ciao?
As the smallest of the Copic pens, it still works out cheaper to refill your pens rather than buy new when you run dry. Ciao’s get a rough ride from some artists compared to the other types of Copic markers, but they make a good entry point and some people prefer then thin feel of the pens.
Can you refill a Copic Ciao?
Yes, you can refill a Copic Ciao. You do this by removing one of the nibs and dripping the refill ink into the pen’s tank. When full, the nib just pops back in place and you are done. Copic sell specific tweezers to help you out with this task.
How much ink is in a Copic Ciao?
The Copic Ciao carries an ink well which holds a volume of 1.66ml. That means you can get 7.2 refills per refill.
How much does it cost to refill a Copic Ciao?
Each refill of a Copic Ciao will work out at about $0.83. As the smallest pen, they are cheaper to refill but that doesn’t mean they are cheaper overall. You will find yourself filling them up more often than other types of Copic markers.
Copic Ciao’s retail for about $5.80, and if we consider the cost of the refill ink is $0.83, that leaves the cost of the Copic Ciao hardware at $4.97.
Is it cheaper to refill a Copic Sketch?
No surprise here, yes it is still cheaper to refill a Copic Sketch rather than replace it.
Can you refill a Copic Sketch?
Yes, refilling a Copic Sketch is relatively easy (I’ve done it myself numerous times). Using a pair of tweezers (or the specific Copic pair built specially for the job) you simply tease one of the nibs out and pour in the ink. The pouring of ink is now easier than before with the 12ml’s nozzle.
How much ink is in a Copic Sketch?
The sketch has a larger inkwell than the Ciao, but smaller than the Classic – holding 2.08ml. This means the new 12ml various Copic ink refill will top up a Copic Sketch 5.8 times.
Oddly, the current list price for a Sketch is the same as a Classic or Original, despite the smaller reservoir. So a $6.99 pen will get more refills out of a Copic ink tank: working out at $1.03 per refill. That leaves the hardware element of a Copic Sketch valued at $5.93.
Is it Cheaper to refill a Copic Wide?
To me, it looks like you will soon only be able to refill a copic Wide.
It’s hard to tell what is happening with the Copic Wide, and rather than being available in a limited number of colors, it seems the trend is for empty Wide cases to be sold that you can fill with your choice of color.
Can you refill a Copic Wide?
Yes, you can refill a Copic Wide. As mentioned above this is becoming the normal approach – so that rather than buying your color choice of Wide, you will most likely buy blank pens and fill them with your choice of ink.
They are refilled the same way any other copic is refilled, with careful removal of the nib followed by dripping ink into the Wide’s body.
How much ink is in a Copic Wide?
A Copic Wide will hold 3.57 ml of ink. As a result, a single 12ml refill tank will allow 3.4 complete refills of a Copic Wide, working out at $1.76 per refill.
That covers the mechanics of topping up, but a Copic Wide user is likely to work in large formats and run through that ink too – so overall prices are likely to be higher on an ongoing basis. This makes and even stronger case for refilling pens when they run out, rather than just replacing them.
Can you refill a Copic Colorless Blender?
Yes, even the Copic Colorless Blender has a refill option available. Seeing that the blender takes the form of any of the types of marker, refilling is just the same process: remove the nib and top up the tank.
Copic Colorless Blender Refill
The blender ‘ink’ will cost the same amount as all the other refill products, and carry 12ml of the fluid.
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 $8.00. By the time you have exhausted your 2nd 2.78ml of ink (your first refill) you’ve spent the original amount, plus $1.39 on your refill, bringing you total outlay per pen to $9.39, and your average cost per use comes down to $4.70 – 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 $2.05 per outing. That makes the price comparable even when you look at the cheapest alternatives to Copic Markers available.
Are alcohol inks toxic?
Not all alcohol inks are made equally, and some should be used with caution. Depending on the ventilation of your work space and how you are applying the ink, you may need to consider a mask of some kind. If the ink is due to get on your hands, you may also want to consider using gloves.
Is Copic ink toxic?
The main ingredient of Copic ink is alcohol. There is a very faint alcohol smell apparent when using the pens. Copic themselves state that Copic ink is non-toxic and can be used safely.