The Best Copic Markers In 2021
I’ve been interested in illustration my entire life. As a kid, I dreamed of becoming an artist. That’s a dream that I eventually realised as I moved from High School into Art College and from Art College into University.
Once I graduated, I made a career as an illustrator for Hallmark Cards before moving to become a freelance creative.
In those years of experience, there isn’t a brand of marker that has impressed me more than Copic.
Copic markers hold a prestigious place in the eyes of many professional artists, and there’s a very good reason for that. The reviews I’ve seen have praised the brand for the variety of colours, quality of the ink, as well as how versatile the nibs are. I can verify that most, if not all, of those claims are true through first-hand experience.
Copic markers may be a bit more expensive than a lot of other marker brands, making them a difficult investment for any beginner artist. However, I would advocate that anyone looking to turn their passion into a profession in this medium invest in a decent set of Copic sketch markers, regardless.
Rather than simply giving you reviews of various Copic Marker sets, I’m going to talk about the brand at large and dive into what exactly makes it so superior to the others out there that are significantly cheaper.
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- Copic Markers
- The Best Copic Markers In 2021
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- Copic Sketch Markers
- What are Copic Markers?
- Copic Marker Set
- How to Use Copic Markers
- How to Refill Copic Markers
- Copic Ciao Markers
- Why are Copic Markers so Expensive?
- How to Store Copic Markers
- Where to Get Copic Markers Cheap?
- What to Look for When Buying Copic Markers
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Copic Sketch Markers
Copic Sketch Markers are among the most widely used Copic Marker sets the company offers. A full combination of colours is going to run you around £70, which is far more expensive than a lot of others that you might find in your local art store.
However, compared to those store-bought sets, Copic Markers are going to last you far longer, making the investment more than worth it in the long term.
As well as not needing to purchase Copic Sketch Marker sets as often as store-bought sets, you can actually purchase refills for your Copic Markers for around £10 that can refill a marker multiple times.
This makes these markers a financially sound investment even for amateur artists as they can buy refills rather than needing to purchase entire sets.
While you have to buy refills for each individual colour, I’ve found that the list of Copic Marker colours that I use regularly enough to constantly run out is fairly small, meaning it’s only going to cost you a handful of dollars per month to maintain your markers after your initial purchase.
What are Copic Markers?
Perhaps I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. I could give you a ton of information about Copic Markers, but if you don’t know what they are, that hardly matters.
Copic Markers are professional-grade markers. If you’ve never used markers before, they’re a more vibrant and versatile alternative to colouring pencils, at least in my experience.
Copic Marker set sets are particularly well-regarded by professional artists for the versatility that each one offers, as well as the array of vibrant and gorgeous colour options available in each sketch set. The nib-combination design of these markers means that there is a nip on each end, further increasing the versatility that these offer.
The ink used in Copic Sketch Marker sets is alcohol-based with low-odor levels and zero toxicity. This allows Copics to be blended, layered, and shaded without any streaks and without any tearing or bleed on your sketch pad.
The range that Copic Sketch Marker sets offer artists is arguably the biggest upside the brand has. Every type of artist in every medium can make use of them.
Copics have been used by manga artists, for painting, and even by particularly promising kids, although it’s not a set you buy for your children with a colouring book from your local shop.
The initial high price that these marker pens have is a bit misleading. While a set of Copics is going to cost you upwards of £150, which is significantly more expensive than the types you find in local art stores, they are designed to last you for several years.
If you take your art seriously, you’ve likely amassed a collection of pens, brush types, and markers that you have replaced over the years. You might buy one set for a few shades you’re fond of, replacing the set once you run out of ink, meaning you’re left with a collection of markers that are either wasted or that you never use.
Art products like this are ten a penny, and Copic is an exception.
Copic markers can be topped up with ink refill cartridges that usually sell for around £10, meaning you don’t need to replace the marker to replace the ink. Furthermore, the nibs are also replaceable, so you can easily pick up a nib set for when your current ones get worn down. This makes Copic not only a professional option but a financially viable one as it’s going to decrease the amount you spend on products in the long term.
Copic Marker Set
Copic products are made in Japan and launched back in 1987. The initial purpose of the markers was to provide a professional option to manga authors. Since then, the products have exploded onto the international stage, with graphics professionals, fashion designers, and even fine arts enthusiasts migrating to the brand for the overwhelmingly high quality of the pens.
Rather than simply becoming another part of your marker collection, Copic marker sets give you the option to completely replace that drawer of useless pens that you’ve collected over the years as you bought new sets.
Copic products are a one-and-done kind of deal. With replaceable nibs and ink, you only need to buy one marker set rather than constantly cycle out replacements. That being said, you might need to buy more for different colour options such as pastel colours, skin tone, or earth colours. Either way, these sketch markers are going to last you years, if not decades.
How to Use Copic Markers
Using a Copic Markers set is no different from the ways you use any other kind of marker. There are no special requirements, especially as an amateur. In reality, you can buy your set, open the markers, and start illustrating.
However, Copic makes professional products. Meaning if you’re getting these sets for kids to use in their colouring books, you’re massively underutilising just what these items can do.
As professional-grade markers, Copics are designed to be used by people that know what they’re doing. They are designed to be layer-able, can be shaded, and don’t tear most materials. If you truly want to use Copic markers, you’re going to need a bit of art-theory knowledge to make the most of them.
That’s not to say you can’t use Copic without that knowledge, though. Plenty of reviews highlight how the ink quality and colour vibrancy alone is enough justification for the price, and I’m inclined to agree.
If you want to treat yourself during a holiday and you’re a fan of drawing, a set of Copics is a fine purchase.
Aside from that, the only thing you really need to know about how a Copic Markers set works is in how it codes its colours.
Copic colours are made up of a combination of letters and numbers. The letter digits refer to the colour family that it belongs to, the first number digit refers to the blending group it belongs to, or what kind of saturation the ink has, and the last digit refers to the intensity of the colour.
Rather than memorising all that, though, just make a list of all your favourite markers and colours with the codes so that you can easily find the refills online.
Read more on how to use Copic Markers at our online guide here.
How to Refill Copic Markers
One of the biggest selling points Copic has over store-bought markers is the ability to refill them. This allows your markers set to last several years, giving you continuous discounts on buying new markers.
Before we talk about how to refill your markers set, you need to know that there are actually two different models of Copic pens refills. The old type of refill, called Copic Various Ink, was discontinued back in 2019, with the replacement, Copic Ink, launching in 2020.
The differences between the two aren’t purely superficial. The new ink bottle features an elongated nozzle design that makes refilling your markers an easier and less messy experience. These bottles carry less ink than the old ones, but the price has been adjusted down to account for that.
In general, the new Copic Ink bottles can fill a Copic Sketch Marker seven times, a Copic Ciao Marker nine times, and a classic Copic five times.
There are currently 358 different Copic colours, with ink refillable available for every single one. Although, you’re not going to get all 358 in the art store down the street, so be prepared to order online.
How to Refill a Copic Marker Using the Old Ink Bottle
Refilling your Copic markers set using the old bottle is significantly more time-consuming and less user-friendly than using the new bottles. However, it was the method that Copic users had to use for years, so it’s still perfectly viable.
- Put out some old new paper or something to protect your workspace from any potential spillage.
- Uncap both ends of your Copic so that you equalize the pressure in the marker.
- Take the cap off of your refill bottle and get ready for application.
- Tilt your marker at a 45-degree angle and drop the ink onto the chisel/broad nib one droplet at a time. It can take between 20 and 30 drops to fully fill the marker, but you need to take your time. If you’ve filled the marker up too much, ink is going to start seeping out of the other nib.
- If you apply the ink too quickly and make a mess, such as overflowing your nib, you can use an alcohol wipe to clean it up.
As I said, out of all the ways you have to fill up any kind of marker, this is one of the more time-consuming. Luckily, Copic addressed this when it released its new ink bottle design.
How to Refill a Copic Marker Using the New Ink Bottle
The elongated neck of the new ink bottle means that you can apply your ink straight into your Copic Sketch Marker without needing to fill it up with droplets at a time.
- The new bottles are far less likely to spill, but you should still be protecting your workspace, just in case.
- Again, uncap both ends so that you equalize the pressure in the marker barrel.
- Using tweezers, gently remove the chisel/broad nib of the marker. Copic has tweezers designed especially for this, but any old tweezers should do so long as you take your time. Just make sure you never take out the brush tip unless you’re replacing it as the felt it’s made from can come apart.
- Take the cap off of your ink bottle and insert the neck into the Copic. The bottle isn’t going to release ink until you squeeze.
- Squeeze slowly to fill up your marker. Copic markers aren’t transparent, meaning you can’t see how much ink you’re inserting. However, the ink bottle has one-millilitre lines on it. To fully refill a dry Ciao marker, you need 1.4ml. For a Copic Sketch Marker, it’s 1.8ml, and for a classic marker, it’s 2.5ml.
- Using your tweezers, gently put the nib back into the marker and clean up any mess you’ve made.
Copic Ciao Markers
There are three kinds of Copic markers:
- Copic Sketch Markers.
- Copic Classic Markers.
- Copic Ciao Markers.
Unless you’re working at a professional level, the differences between the three are minimal, as are the results each one gives you and the ways in which you use it. Each marker is made from the same materials, but there are some adjustments in dimensions.
We’ve already looked at the sketch marker set, which is one of the Copic products with the most review pages. However, the Ciao markers are plenty popular, as well.
In particular, the Ciao line is popular among all of the Copic shop products because it’s the cheapest of the three. It’s the smallest and has more limited ink colours than the others, but this makes them the best Copic products for beginners.
While I haven’t used a Ciao marker set in any long-term capacity since my uni days, I do recommend them for anyone looking to take their art game to the next level while still being limited by budget, like students.
Why are Copic Markers so Expensive?
A Ciao marker set is going to cost you significantly less than other Copic store products. You can get a decent set of them for around £25. However, Sketch markers and the original products cost a whole lot more.
Every review of Copic store products is going to tell you the same thing, but the reason these items and pens are so expensive is because of the focus on quality that Copic puts on its stock.
Every single one of its products is hand-tested for quality control, which immediately hikes the price of the items up.
On top of that, Copic markers are also incredibly long-lasting. A £150 set can last you years with you only spending a few pounds on refills and brush/chisel nibs every now and again.
Over the course of my career, I wouldn’t be surprised if Copic shop products have saved me money because I haven’t needed to constantly buy replacement markers.
How to Store Copic Markers
Given how much you might end up spending on your marker set, you should know how to store these items and products properly.
In accordance with the product information that comes with almost every alcohol-based ink marker set, you should store your Copic products horizontally, in a dry area, while always leaving the caps on.
If you don’t follow these guidelines for all of your markers, including your Copic Sketch Marker set, as well as the classic and ciao products, you’re markers are going to dry out, meaning you’re going to have to spend more on them to replace the nibs and ink.
Where to Get Copic Markers Cheap?
If you’re looking for a cheap Copic Sketch Marker kit, you’re not going to find them with any significant discounts unless you’re buying second-hand, which is certainly an option.
If you are looking for Copic products on a budget, your best bet is to pick up a ciao set. The reviews for Copic Ciao markers sing the set’s praises, and that’s a sentiment I can get behind. You’re going to be getting a beginner-friendly yet professional marker for a fraction of the cost that a Copic Sketch Marker kit is going to cost you.
What to Look for When Buying Copic Markers
When you’re deciding between sketch markers, ciao markers, and classic markers, there are a few different things that you need to consider. Of course, I recommend that you read the reviews of others to make sure you’re buying the right markers for you, but these are the criteria that I would look out for.
The three different pens have different colours available. You could go with an airbrush system that can combine with each different marker to get access to all the colours, but that means you need to buy a set for each of the three pens.
Rather than using an airbrush system, have a look at what colours come with each marker set. Watch reviews with colour demonstrations and go with the set that most appeals to your personal style. What works for one person might not work for others. You might need flesh tones while someone else is a fan of neons and vice versa.
The different Copic pens and products hold different ink volumes. You can view these volumes in the Copic digital shop, but you don’t really need to pay too much attention to this.
Given that Copic Markers are refillable, you’re never going to have to worry about ink volume too much so long as you don’t run out mid-page.
Ease of Use
The Ciao Copic products and items are made with beginners in mind. Any review of Copic pens you see is going to recommend them over the other two or over an airbrush system.
So, if you’re not at a professional level, you need to take that into consideration when buying. If you do have some practice working on products professionally, though, then there’s nothing stopping you from upgrading to more expensive markers and pens.
I would argue that the biggest thing to look out for when you’re looking in the Copic shop for items and products is price. Compared to brands like Blick, a set of Ciao pens has an incredibly affordable price, making them the best budget markers on the market, in my opinion.
If you do have a bit of a higher budget to work with, then you’re going to want to check the price of the sketch and classical products that Copic has in stock in the shop. You don’t really need to work with these kinds of prices unless you’re pursuing art professionally, though, so bear that in mind.
It’s impossible for me to point at one set of pens, products, or items and tell you definitively that they are the best. What I’m a fan of and what someone else enjoys might be completely different, from pens and markers down to what kind of page we prefer.
That being said, I would argue that Copic products and pens are the best. The company puts a massive emphasis on quality control that other manufacturers do not, and that really shines through in all of the items it sells on whatever web page stocks its products.
Why Are Copic Products so Special?
As I said, Copic pens and products are so special because of the quality. Everything from the felt of the nib to the ink is made from materials superior to those used by others in the same industry.
Copic pens are built to last years, meaning you spend less money and time in the art store and more time working on your page.
Is the Copic Airbrush System Good for a Beginner Artist?
This is subjective, but I would argue no, absolutely not.
As a fledgling artist, you need to be balancing your budget with how much income you’re producing. Not only does an airbrush system cost you more money, but to get the most out of it, you’re going to need the three different pen categories.
It’s bad enough having to buy a single sketch marker set, but imagine needing to spend upwards of £450 just to make the most of an airbrush system.
Of course, you can get it and only use ciao pens with it, but that’s a waste of investment over simply buying more Copic items and products.
What is the Best Set of Copic Pens to Start With?
Out of the list of products and pens on the Copic shop, I would recommend you start with any of the ciao pens. These are the least expensive by quite a large margin and are great for amateurs making the transition to professional work.
Where Can I Buy Copic Products?
There are a few different places that stock Copic pens and products. Your local art store or craft shop might have a few sets in stock, but your best bet is to check the online site of a professional crafts store. Copic doesn’t have its own online store, so when I say the Copic shop, I’m referring to the range of products that the company produces.
If you want to purchase any of the products or pens, then an arts and crafts online site is your best bet. Some of these stores might be limited by stock, price, or colour, though, so don’t be afraid to do some shopping around.
Do Copic Markers Last a Long Time?
Yes. If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that your stock of Copic products is going to last you years, possibly decades. With the right kind of maintenance, you’re never going to need to buy more pens again.
Okay, that’s pretty much all I’ve got for you on Copic products. I’ve been using the brand for years now, and I swear by the results that the pens give me. I’ve built up a fairly sizable Copic colour stock over the years, and despite the price of each set, I think I’ve actually saved money on pens in the long run.
If you’re looking for a new sketch marker set, I honestly can’t recommend Copic enough.
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Adam has made a name for himself in the illustration industry and is a passionate blogger and writer on the subject of art, illustration and graphic design.
His artwork has been featured in countless publications and used for very well-known media projects. As a professional illustrator for over 20 years, Adam's wealth of knowledge and experience enables him to consult and advise artists and illustrators all over the world.