6 things I wish I knew before picking up my first Copic Marker!

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

When I first learned about Copic markers I was swooned, I wanted to create something with them everyday. Looking back, I can now see that the markers had some kind of power over me and before I knew it I found myself on this rollercoaster ride. If only someone had been there to give me Copic markers advice.

So in the spirit of “paying it forward” I would like to share what I experienced with my markers so that you can avoid some of the ups and downs of my rollercoaster ride. If you are experienced with markers, I would love to hear if you took the same ride, was that you sitting behind me screaming as we headed for that big rollercoaster drop?

Slow Down -

It would have been nice if someone would have told me to just slow down, take my time, because Copic ink will blend nicely.

Turns out, that is only if you give the ink time to do its job. In my case, I would get upset when I would try to blend colors together. Turns out that I was using far too much ink than needed. As a result, the ink would either bleed into sections I didn’t want it to go into or it would create this goopy mess (like an oil slick—and there is no way to fix that). In hopes to figure this out, I would watch a lot of people coloring with markers on YouTube, all of whom made it look so easy. Just a couple of strokes and they made master pieces. Now I understand better that they are not magical they were just more practiced with the marker.

Unfortunately, I fell into that trap of thinking to I just need to blend my markers, and keep blending until my project looked smooth. I have since learned the solution is to simply slow down. Trust that the marker ink will blend beautifully. Now, when I color I start in one area then I work on another area of my project and then come back to the first area a few minutes later. Mostly, I have found coming back with fresh eyes I can see better if anything needs adjusting (little more ink or a different color) or if it blended just fine.

Only buy the biggest set of Copic Markers you can afford -

Ok, I heard this when I started using Copic markers, but honestly, I didn’t really listen. I felt like I needed to own every color of Copic marker to be able to create beautiful works of art. If I didn’t own a color I had to buy it because it would be impossible to make the project look good without the exact colors called for. Don’t get me wrong there are certain colors that are necessary. I don’t think you can go without a set of grays or blues, but you definitely don’t need to own the entire selection of blue Copic markers available.

I wish I would have listened to this advice because I wouldn't have spent a ton of money for markers I don’t use that often. But more importantly, I have learned that I missed learning opportunities by buying too many markers. By using a small set (when I say small I mean a set of 24 or 48 which is significantly smaller than the 358 Copic markers available) you get to know your markers really well. You learn and understand how the colors blend together because you use them more often. You learn how to create new colors with the small number of colors you have by blending different colors together to create your own colors. I cannot tell you how freeing it is to give myself permission to make my own colors. For example I might use a pinkish RV marker but I think it is too bright, I can make a new version of that by adding some blue to it or even a grey. Making new colors is fun to me and I have learned so much about my markers in the process.

Swatch often -

This is a lesson I am still trying to learn, because I still have a bad habit of just picking out a marker and putting it right on the project without testing it. You might say it is really brave of me to just dig in and just go for it. But, in reality, it is not a smart move. You see, I don’t know how that color is going to look on the project with the other colors I have already put down, at the strength I have put them at. The smart thing to do is to have a scrap of paper next to me and swatch the color combinations I want to use to be sure it is what I am looking for. This will save so much time from having to figure out how to correct a problem because I put down a color that didn't turn out the way I like. When I make the mistake of using a wrong marker it takes me a lot of time to find the right colored pencil(s) to cover it up or shift the hue to correct the problem I created by not swatching. Some projects I have done would have been completed in half of the time if I just took the few minutes before hand to swatch it out.

Maintain an inventory of your Copic markers and/or refills -

This is probably the most valuable tip that no one gave me about my Copic markers. I didn’t start out by creating an inventory of my markers because I thought for sure I could just keep them organized. Yeah, that turned out to be a costly mistake. I had purchased a nice carry bag for my markers where I organized the markers by color hue so I could see them all easily. One day I was looking for BV20 and I found it, then I found another one, and another one... That discovery made me pull all my markers out and organize them by number. Can you imagine my surprise to find I had multiples of seven markers. Not two or three, but four or five! I had no clue I was buying the same markers over and over. But I got into the habit of buying what I needed for a project, assuming I didn’t have a project color because I didn’t remember having the color called for. Yes, I now know that was super wasteful - please don’t tell my husband because he would do the math (at minimum 4 multiples of x 7 markers = 28 x $7.00 per marker = $196.00). LOL. Really if I had used an inventory tracker I would have saved myself not just money, but time and storage space.

There are several ways to track your Copic markers. You can use an old fashioned note pad and pen to keep track. But if you are like me, not that good at keeping papers organized, you can use your smart phone. I use a note taking app for things like this that I need to remember. The note taking app is just one of many available apps to help you create and track your Copic marker inventory too.

Find a good Copic marker coloring class -

I have to say, YouTube is not a good coloring class - don’t get me wrong there are many things to learn from the videos people post on Youtube about Copic coloring. What I am referring to here is that to really know, and understand, how to make your markers create beautiful art you need to find an instructor that will interact with you. A good instructor guides you through the coloring process from how the markers work through specific techniques, teaching you to master your markers with flare. The bottom line is that you need to do more than watch a speed coloring video on YouTube to create beautiful art work.

There are tons of classes out there and I have heard horror stories of people spending a great deal of money on a Copic class to end up walking away feeling like they didn’t learn a thing. I suggest seeking out an instructor that you can relate to, by searching on social media like YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. If you find someone that you think might be a good fit. See if they offer a free sample class before committing to a fee-based class. That way you can determine if you like their style or if they teach in a way that makes sense to you. Also, reach out and comment on their posts and start talking with their followers. You will gain a ton of information from chatting online with others in the classes already. You will find out if they like the classes, what they are learning, and most of all do they feel like it is worth the money. I am surprised all the time by how much people are willing to say about their experience with people they just started talking with on the internet. Testimonials are always the decision maker for me.

I can recommend classes at Vanilla Arts (see list here). If you are new to Copic markers, the Marker Foundations Painting course is incredible. You will learn everything I mentioned above and so much more. The most consistent comment I hear about this class is how much more they learned than just how to color with markers, they learn to create art. If you are new to colored pencils, I recommend you check out the Colored Pencil Plus class.

Practice your techniques -

No one told me to practice. Let’s face it, who wants to practice when you are so busy coloring?

Bottom line, practicing is the most important thing for me to do if I want to improve my coloring with Copic markers. I think deep down I knew that but I didn’t REALLY accept it until a couple of years into my coloring experience. The power of practice is mind-blowing. I know we have all heard about the benefits of practice from coaches and teachers but when you see how practice actually transforms your work it becomes part of your life.

When I say practice I do not I mean color everyday, I mean I practice a particular technique I want to learn and/or improve. It is just like a teenager who wants to become a pro basketball player. The teenager has to do more than just play basketball everyday they need to work on the skills that will make them a great ball player. They need to work on their dribble over and over so they are so confident with it that it doesn't matter how tall or fast their opponent—that opponent can’t take the ball away. It is the same concept for becoming the artist you want to become. The simple skills, like marker flick strokes, is something that is as easy as dribbling a ball but requires a lot of practice to gain the confidence to master that stroke in any situation.

That’s what we do here in the Practice Corner, we take specific techniques and practice them for an entire month. We explore ways of using the techniques in different situations. And then we practice them some more. We share our drills and coloring images with each other and discuss what we see, how we might change things to achieve different results and celebrate our new found artistic wisdom.

If you are ready to make practicing part of your artistic life then come hang out with us in the Practice Corner.

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