Copic Markers don’t come cheap, don’t look online at artist’s amassed collections and get discouraged.
However, that shouldn’t put off the aspiring user from making a start. If you are new to Copic Markers, there’s a lot to learn from having access to a limited number of markers as opposed to spending big on a 72 piece set. Here we look at the best Copic Markers to start with.
Best two copic markers to start with
Yep, two. There’s an awful lot you can do with just two pens. You can even remove color from the equation. With two pens you can see how the alcohol based ink in Copic Markers works across a range of tones, you can play with shadow and light, you can layer.
If you are new to sketching in general, focus on the content of your sketch rather than endlessly agonising over whether or not you can afford that set of 72 colorful markers – you can always buy individual Copic markers. Pens won’t make you a better artist, only practice can do that. To keep things simple, get hold of a pen built for use with alcohol-based markers for a guarantee that you won’t make the linework run.
Once comfortable, you can experiment with other line making tools, even trying Copic Markers over pencil and on different types of paper if the mood takes you. You could also consider using coloring books for Copic Markers, to let you focus exclusively on the way the inks work.
Starting blending with two Copic Markers
Back to the pens you should start with, as I said earlier, if you are really just starting out – dismiss color, it’s a distraction (although if you must, we can recommend starter colors for Copic Markers). I recommend the Cool Gray range as a starting point, although you may want to also explore the four families of grayscale Copics. As they are all closely related tones, you can focus on using pens with different levels of saturation.
To make the most of your two pen purchase, you want them one or two tones apart. Pens with a bigger gap are great at providing contrast, but make it difficult to to see the full possibilities of blending.
A C1 and C2 would be a good starting place. Both are light enough to be forgiving to the new user. They will also offer the ability to see how a single Copic marker layers on itself. Their closeness will allow you to create subtle fades from one into the other. You might also need a primer on blending with alcohol markers.
If the cost of even just one or two Copics is still off-putting to you, you might one to start with one of the best Copic dupes.
You do not need a blender to start with Copic Markers
When I started out with Copic Markers, the Colorless Blender was one of the first pens I bought. I was under the impression that this pen magically unlocked the ability for the others to blend and play nicely together.
I was wrong.
You do not need a colorless blender.
It’s certainly a useful pen to have. With the colorless blender you can move ink around and create texture. But Copic Markers are pens made to blend. You do not need a third pen to assist the process.
Best full set of Copic Markers to start with
If you can afford a full set of Copic Markers, stick to the monochromatic sets. The Cool Gray set of 12 offers a range from C-00 (incredibly light) to C-10 so the combinations of light and shade are practically limitless. You may want to throw in a Black 100 if you want the darkest shade to experiment with. This way, the full range of techniques to blend and contrast with Copic Markers is at your disposal.
Side note: it seems some Cool Gray sets span c-00 to c-10, while some drop the c-00 and instead go from C-0 to C-10 and throw in the 100 Black.
Adding a highlight tone
Once comfortable with monochromatic markers, you can start to incorporate a highlight color and take your first step into the world of colors. My first color was a Chrome Orange (YR04), and it still has a special place in my heart. By adding highlight tones to your work you can see how color interacts when a bed of ink is already laid down.
A lighter color will work here, as anything too dark will start to dominate the grays. You are looking for something that will gently layer on top of the work you have already done.
Which paper to use when you start with Copic Markers
When I first started using Copic Markers I wasn’t using a sketch book, just a cheap note pad. It was a nightmare. So much bleed. The paper became saturated so quickly, if the inks were blending I couldn’t tell. I used a sketch pad shortly after, but I worked the pens out properly once I got paper designed for use with Copic pens. It was a game changer.
There are more papers out there than you can count. Play it safe when starting out. Experiment later when the basics are figured out. Copic sells paper and sketchbooks designed to be used with their pens. This is especially important if you are going to be starting with two close tones. A coated brilliant white is essential for playing with close related tones.
Starting small and humble will allow you to really get a feel for what the pens can do. Stick to a monochromatic set of Copics and avoid being overwhelmed by color complexities. With the right paper you will create a fertile space for ideas once your collection starts growing. You will also learn how to be more efficient with your inks once you have a wider set of pens.
Of course, if you want to dive into coloring skin tones with Copic Markers there are plenty of options there too.