You want to colour human flesh? If that’s the case, Copic offer an almost endless combination of colours to use. Here we dive in to the official Copic Markers skin tones numbers, as well as exploring the alternative combinations some artists out there are using.
Colouring skin with Copic Markers
You’ve picked the right pen if you want to get your skin tones right. The Copic’s heritage is as a ‘manga’ pen, and as such it is trusted by comic book artists the world over to deliver. Think those fleshy tones of Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell (if you are going after this style, you need to know about the best paper to use with Copic Markers too).
Copic Ciao 5+1 Marker Set – Skin Tones
Featuring five Copic Ciao Markers and a multiliner pen (see types of Copic Markers if you are new to the pens). These five colours are: E43 (Dull Ivory), V91 (Pale Grape), R20 (Blush), R00 (Pinkish White) and E00 (Skin White).
As you can tell from the lightness and pink nature of the colours, this is a set curated to colour white skin. The pale red and earth tones allow for variation. The violet and darker earth tones provide shadow and hints at the variation of pigmentation in the skin.
A bigger set and a bigger pen, the twelve Copic Markers skin tones numbers contained in this set are: YR02 (Light Orange), R02 (Rose Salmon), R20 (Blush), R32 (Peach), E00 (Skin White), E04 (Lipstick Natural), E11 (Barely Beige), E21 (Soft Sun), E35 (Chamois), E37 (Sepia), 0 (Colourless Blender), 100 (Black).
This set carries a mix of lighter and darker tones, freeing the artist up to colour beyond the caucasian skin colour. This set is available in both Sketch and Classic style pens. It’s interesting to note that there’s only one pen shared between this set and the Ciao 5+1 (the R20 Blush).
Copic Markers 6 Piece Sketch Set – Skin Tones
This Sketch set centres around earth tones, again catering for caucasian (or more beige) skin colouring. The fact that most of these are E pens shows the great versatility of this letter in the Copic universe when compared to the next set, which covers darker skin.
It contains: E000 (Pale Fruit Pink), E00 (Skin White), E11 (Barely Beige), E15 (Dark Suntan), E18 (Copper), E93 (Tea Rose).
Bespoke Set for Dark Skin Tones
Taken from a great YouTube video tutorial for Colouring Dark Skin with Copic Markers, this set is made up primarily from the earth tones within the Copic range. Nuri Durr, the video’s author, does a great job of showing how to blend this colour set together. All set to a nice jazz background too, what more could you ask for?
He uses E21 to lay down a base layer for the skin. Darker and darker tones are then layered to establish a very deep representation of darker skin. At later stages he alternates at length between E23, E25 similar tones as it layers up. Much later he introduces E49 for the really dark areas (but has a word of warning about making things too muddy with this one).
One clear advantage of working with darker tones is the ability to completely obliterate the guiding lines of your original sketch. This will greatly reduce the complexities you can come across when using Copic Markers over pencil.
The full range of pens he uses are: E04 (Lipstick Natural), E15 (Dark Suntan), E21 (Soft Sun), E23 (Hazelnut), E25 (Caribe Cocoa), E27 (Milk Chocolate), E41 (Pearl White), E43 (Dull Ivory), E44 (Clay), E49 (Dark Bark), E70 (Ash Rose), E74 (Cocoa Brown), R12 (Light Tea Rose), W10 (Warm Grey 10), V93 (Early Grape), V95 (Light Grape).
There are more colours at play when he colours the hair, but we are just focusing on the skin tones for this article.
If you are building a bespoke set for skin colour, it’s worth thinking about how you might organise Copic Markers to keep those colours together.
The set which suits you will most likely depend on your style and subject matter. Keep in mind some of the official Copic Marker sets may be focused on cartoony/anime style shading. Other sets, like Nuri Durr’s have a more realistic representation in mind. You can start with a basic set and add more depth as you progress. You could also follow the example of countless YouTube artists and build a bespoke set from scratch.
If you are just starting out with Copic Markers, spending on a wide range of tones to colour skin can be tempting. However, we recommend that the best Copic Markers to start with don’t involve colour at all.