How to use copic markers tutorial 1 | how to buy copic markers

This is part 1 of a series of articles by Michelle Houghton on copic markers.

by Michelle Houghton

Do you have a drawer full of Copic markers because they are the latest craze? Have you been waiting to break them out, though, because you don’t know where to start?  Or maybe you haven’t invested yet because you’re not sure what the big deal is, or what to buy.

Let me share just a little bit about these markers to get you going.  The information is what I am gathering as I discover more about this fun tool myself.  I am not a certified instructor (yes they exist) but an enthusiast, and I enjoy sharing as I go. Copic markers have been around for a while, over 25 years in fact.  They were designed for artists and designers with their needs in mind.  Copic markers are filled with an alcohol-based dye ink.  The advantage to this is that it provides the capability for blending colors together without destroying your paper.  The pens are meant to be refilled with ink, and even the pen nubs or tips can be replaced as they wear out. What’s more, once dry, the alcohol ink is archival.

There are 4 different styles of Copic markers available right now but the one you will see most frequently used in the crafting industry is the Copic “sketch” marker.  These have a flat oval shape so they won’t roll off your table. They have two tips–a medium sized chisel for tight control and a brush-like tip.  You can find them at craft stores but they’re more easily found art supply stores.

If, after learning a little more, you decide you would like to invest here are two things you need to know.  The Copic Sketch markers currently have 334 colors to choose from and this number continues to grow. Before you buy, go to the Copic Library. Scroll down, find the color chart, and print it off to take with you whenever you go shopping. This way you can keep track of the pens you’ve purchased.  Also understand that the numbering system on the end of the pen tells you if the pens will blend well with each other.  The whole magic to these pens is their ability to blend. HOWEVER, you need to use a combination of the right markers for that to work.  On the colored cap of each pen there will be a label with 1 or 2 letters and 1 to 4 numbers.  The letter(s) represent the color family that marker is part of.  The number(s), in laymen’s terms, represent how light or dark the pen is.  The first number is how vibrant or bright the color is so a marker with the first number a 0 is going to be very bright while one starting with a 9 is going to be very dull or gray. The last digit tells you how light or dark that marker is within that set.  To get pens that will blend well together you want two pens that have the same letter and same first number, the last number should be within 2 or 3 numbers of each other.  You can also blend across color families but this is more complicated and an entirely different lesson.  You need at least 2 or 3 pens in a range to do color blending.

Copic markers are pricey.  You can find decent deals on the web or at sales but most people will find they have to buy only a few pens at a time and can slowly build a collection.  Try them out in a store before you buy if you can–or buy only two or three that will blend as a start so you can play with them before shelling out big bucks.

Bio-shot-2011-150Michelle Houghton is a wife, mother and artist living in Iowa. Even before she began scrapbooking, she was a lifelong artist, majoring in Fine Arts at the University of Oregon and then teaching high school art for 7 years. Michelle has been scrapbooking for more than 15 years and she enjoys adding her own art, doodles and handmade elements to her pages for a one-of-a-kind look.

Michelle teaches doodling, Copics, handlettering and more at workshops throughout the country. She writes tutorials at Get It Scrapped and is an instructor for Imagination International Inc., the US distributor of Copic products. The best way to learn more about Michelle is at her website,

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63 Responses to How to use copic markers tutorial 1 | how to buy copic markers

  1. denise harris March 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article….I am wanting to start my collection, but want more information and how to use them is great information. Esp the way they number the colors. Looking forward to another installment!

    • Cheryl Huff March 5, 2018 at 7:52 pm #

      Help I have decided to purchase the sketch markers, but what set do I buy first. I mostly do coloring for cards, such as flowers and people. So should I start with the 72 set A or purchase the smaller 36 basic set? It is all so confusing, I’m afraid if I purchase a set there will be duplications in another set.

  2. Carla-Rae March 22, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    My question is…Do I REALLY need these things? I use pens mostly for journaling not so much…coloring. They look really cool but I just dont know.

  3. Becky Boyd March 22, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    In a magazine, they colored a ribbon in rainbow colors with Copic Markers. I colored a white ribbon green to use as flower stems. It worked beautifully but left the ribbon stiff. That was fine for my project. I only have 3 Copic Ciao pens and plan to get many more. Thank you for your blog. It was tweeted to me from Jana_NJ.

  4. Carrie Bond March 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    This is such good information. I’ve been wanting to start buying but no one has been able to explain how to start. You did a terrific job!

  5. Sharon March 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Michelle – I was told that you need to buy the light, medium, and dark of the exact marker color. Is this what you said (and I’m being thick) or does it just need to be in the same family? Plus you need a blending pen to start, as well. Correct?

    • Megan December 5, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      You do not need a blending pen to start! Blending pens are actually not at all for blending colors. They push the ink around the page. They’re great for correcting mistakes if you colored outside the lines, and they can be used to produce different effects.

      For your markers to be most effective, try buying three in the same family. For example, if you wanted to start in the warm grey family (grey with red undertones) you might pick out W3 W5 and W7

  6. Jacqueline March 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    I wonder what the difference is between the ‘old’ Pantone Tria Markers and these Coptic Markers. I know that the Tria Markers are to be discontinued, but that means that remaining supplies are offered with good discounts.
    Tria is also alcohol based and comes with 3 (yes!) nibs.

  7. Miche March 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    Hey ladies thanks so much for the questions.

    Carla Rae if you do not use pens to add color to your pages other than writing than NO you do not need these. They are primarily for filling in color on stamped images and drawings.

    Sharon what I said and what you heard are the same thing. You need 2 or 3 colors in the same color (light medium dark) or in the same color family. I was just specific on how to tell if you are getting the same family. And nope you do not need the blender to start blending! Stay tuned next installment next week!

  8. Miche March 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Jacquline- I just looked up the Tria markers and at least the ones they are showing on their site would be similar. They are more work, in that the solution the dye is suspended in dries even more quickly so you would have to have the blender marker to truly blend colors together. So yes you could use them for the same projects just use some different techniques with blending.
    I also have Prisma Color markers and they are alcohol based as well, beautiful color but not made for blending.

  9. Gab March 26, 2010 at 6:57 am #

    Michelle, this is a great article, thank you …..

  10. Lori S. April 12, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Thanks for the info Michelle – and the link ;)

  11. Christine Rickert May 14, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    OK Michelle. Call me an overachiever-LOL Snuck over here to start studying for Sept. Class!!! Seriously. Did thoroughly enjoy your article. Thanks for the explanation. Am going to experiment with a few today. Off to get some. And another addiction begins.

    • Michelle Houghton May 16, 2010 at 12:19 am #

      Christine let me know if you have any questions! Glad you are excited about these, me too!

  12. Marla February 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I’m starting to use the copic markers and the information you have given is great!

    My question is what colors are best for the color of someone’s skin?

    • Michelle February 16, 2011 at 10:06 am #


      So glad you are liking the tutorials! Skin is a tough one. There are several that work well. The “standard” is E00 and E02 for Caucasian skin. Not knowing that when I started I lean towards YR000 and YR01. They are the ones I purchased first. There are several other earth tones that work, even very pale reds that work. Hope this at least gets you started!

      • Rosie March 21, 2014 at 10:43 am #

        This little girl is hanivg a ball. Beautiful coloring and shading; I can see why you were selected to have your image in the new copic book. Congrats. Hope I am lucky enough to win this book.

  13. Irena March 1, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    Thank you for sharing!

    I’ve been searching and reading the info about Copics for a while as they seem to bring a lot of fun. Since they are really expensive I want to make me sure about what to buy exactly.

    I’ve started with a few ciao markers (a blender, E00, E11), meant for to color the skin on stamped or drawn image, as it is hard to do other ways. For the rest of image I am using other ways, like cut out paper shapes or other mediums for coloring like color pencils or gel pens. I do this occasionally and I still didn’t decide, if I am going into colouring or not.

    But the more I read the more I get involved. :) I think, I’ll be in after all!

    I have found a really essential and encouraging info in your blog.

    • Michelle March 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

      Thanks Irena! So glad the info is useful. Give a shout out with any specific questions!

    • Chad December 4, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Mu husband got me this set for my briahdty and I have had a lot of fun playing with them with my Cricut. They had a fun, colorful outline to your die cuts.I can’t wait to get another set.

    • Megan December 5, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      One quick bit of advice forking mediums!! Copics don’t play so nice with others…. If you’re using more than one medium, make sure the copic goes on the paper first!!!

  14. Helen March 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Thank you so much. I have been buying the sketch copic markers without knowing about the letters and number. Thank you for enlightening me.

    • Michelle March 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

      You caught me on line Helen. I hope the information is clear and helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Babs Y. March 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Thank you Michelle for great tutorials. You make it sound so easy. I’ve been wanting to start ‘collecting’ Copics, but didn’t want to invest until I knew how to use them. With your help I think I’ll be able to do that.

  16. Elizabeth April 1, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    I just found this. thanks so much for all this info. It is so helpful. I just recently bought several markers, the Caio ones and did buy three of the ones I did buy in the same family so I guess I did the right thing. Bought them at the OC expo. Still haven’t used them yet but plan on doing so this w/e when I have time. Thank you so much for all this info……

  17. Michelle April 1, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Babs and Elizabeth, glad you both found us. if you have any extra questions just send a shout out!

  18. Dagmar April 9, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    OM goodness Debbie I am so very happy that I found this site. Thank you for the help in getting started. (log in)
    Michelle thank you, thanks, hugs…
    Your “Copic Craze” class is amazingly informative and a pleasure to work with.So when do we start the next phase.:) I was fortunate in having my family get my markers, now to get them to buy the refills lol

    • Michelle April 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

      Lucky you on the markers! Yep I love them too and my family lest me keep going :-)

      Funny you should ask I am working on my next class at this very moment. I hope to get it done ASAP! Stay tuned!

  19. colleen June 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Hey Michelle,

    GREAT article… a very clear way to explain the numbering system and how to pick good blending markers.

    Folks… Michelle is REALLY talented and is an amazing artist… definitely look into her classes!

  20. Barbara September 12, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Hi Michelle
    I have quite a collection of copics and was wondering what you used for storage on your home page. It was in a round container but kep[t all the markers beautifully upright.

    • Michelle September 12, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Barbara. I am not 100% positive which picture you are looking at BUT I am going to take a guess that it is from my latest tutorial.
      My Current bag that has all my markers in it ends up rounding outward and looking a little round. I have all my markers in 2 72 count marker wallets made by Copic then those two bags fit perfectly into a bag by Thirty One and it is an All in one organizer that looks like it was made to carry the two wallets perfectly! I keep them in it and set the bag on it’s side in my work space then they all ready to go to a crop or anywhere else. Hope that helps! If there is another picture that you are curious about let me know and I will try to help!

      • Barbara September 12, 2011 at 9:21 am #

        Hop[e this is not a bother but are the wallets the ones with the removable straps or the one that stand up in a triangle with velcro? I did find the organizer now just have to decide the size of it and check out Michaels.
        Thanks again

        • Michelle September 12, 2011 at 9:29 am #

          No trouble at all! The wallets are the ones with removable straps I just open the top and tuck it into the bag. The bag is 12″ long x 8″ deep x 6.5″ wide :-)

  21. Sam September 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I have been interested in buying Copic Markers, and while they look fun and easy to use, how much is it really to buy some? And where exactly do I buy them?

    • Michelle September 18, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      They are an investment Sam. you are looking at anywhere from 4.50-7.00 per marker depending where you shop and the coupons in hand. On-line is good tends to be considerably cheaper. and are both very reliable and good customer service. Make sure to register at either you will get better deals on everything. There are several crafting stores that now carry them, Micheal’s, Hobby Lobby, and Archiver’s if you have any of those near. I think JoAnn’s on-line as well. Most people collect slowly and watch for deals.
      Hope that helps!

      • Michelle September 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

        Just found out e-bay is another great source and some amazing discounts there!

  22. sunbrella fabric colors October 25, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    Nice post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I’m inspired! Extremely helpful information specially the ultimate part :) I maintain such information much. I was looking for this particular info for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

    • Michelle October 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      Thanks so glad that you found it helpful!

  23. Lisa December 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    I have a few already because purchasd them for a specific project.
    Can you give me advice at to which ones would be a good buy to compliment the ones I already have?


    • Michelle December 5, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Lisa! Great starter group! The idea is that you want sets or 2 or three if you can manage it so go one higher and/or lower with each one. So…
      BV11 is the lowest in it’s group so BV13 and BV17 would go well
      R22 and R24 go great with R29
      Y15 and Y17 or 19 to go with Y11
      YG11 and YG13 to go with YG17
      YR65 to go with YR68 there is a YR61 as well
      B91 and B95 or 97 to go above and below your B93
      Make sure to get a colorless blender as well :-)
      If you have more questions feel free to ask!

      • Lisa December 5, 2011 at 10:11 am #

        Thanks for the reply that will be really helpful – I can start to get my collection now.

  24. Lauren W December 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I am only 16, but I do a lot of design work for the theater department at my school and I am really considering pursuing design work as a career. I thought these markers might be really useful for coloring in sketches. Am I right? I have been using prismacolor colored pencils, but I’m ready for something new. Which kind of copic marker do you like the best: sketch, classic, or ciao? Thank you for the info!
    P.S. sorry, had to repost so that i could get an email notification on comments! :)

    • Michelle December 6, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      Hi Lauren,
      These are awesome markers. You could definitely color sketches with them. I use the Sketch marker because it is a little cheaper but still fits in the airbrush. I like the oval shape so they do not roll around and they hold more ink then the ciao.
      I would also HIGHLY recommend reading more about buy them first so you end up with the colors you need AND then taking at least a beginning class in them. My guess is you will pick them up SUPER quick with your background but always good to start off right so you know some of the potential and the basic info on the markers.
      If you have more questions please ask!

      • Lauren W December 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

        Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement! I think I will definitely look into copic markers more in the future. Also, have you posted any more tutorials recently? So far they have been a huge help!

        • Michelle December 10, 2011 at 12:03 am #

          My last few here have been the tutorials using the re-inkers for mixed media effects. You can check my blog for other tutorials if you like.

          Thanks Lauren!

    • Megan December 5, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Since you’re a student and just getting started, Ciao might not be a bad idea though. They’re cheaper then sketch and have the same tips!

  25. PATTI September 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m going to be doing fine detail on miniatures. 1in. to 1&1/2in. What size and type nib should I get. I want to get what I need to start. Thanks…

    • Michelle September 27, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

      Patti I would love to know what kind of miniatures so i make sure to answer well. Are you working on metal figurines or a different material? Or are you working on images (on paper) that are just really small? I think I know what I would recommend but want to make sure I give you the right information.

    • Debbie Hodge December 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      I’d love to know about the miniatures, too. My boys want to get into warhammer minis and we don’t have a great place fro them to set up a painting station . . . but if they could use pens that would be cool.

  26. Michelle Houghton November 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Great article posted to me by someone who knows me, another Michelle Houghton. I love ink, pens, and art in general. I can’t go into an art supplies store without buying something.

    • Michelle November 15, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

      Hi Michelle How crazy is that to find another Michelle Houghton! Glad you like the articles, and we must be sisters as well I have that same dreaded disease when I go into an art store! :-)

    • Debbie Hodge December 7, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      whoa! 2 Michelle Houghtons!

  27. Marc February 12, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Thanks a lot for the information. i’m starting drawing with markers as new hobby, and it’s a lot of fun…

    • Michelle February 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Glad it was helpful Marc, let me know if you have any questions!

  28. Copic colors October 4, 2013 at 5:50 am #


  29. Christina December 7, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

    I actually got the blue markers that were on your page, B000, BG02, and B05. I haven’t tried them out yet, since I literally JUST got them, but I will be using this tutorial for sure! Thanks for the info… I’m also in a traffic jam (with a line 6 miles long as well) so I won’t be able to use them immediately. Again, thanks!

    • Michelle Houghton January 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      Always glad when the information is helpful! Sorry for the slow reply, hope you have had a chance to play with your markers!

  30. Peggy June 7, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    Great article! Just starting my collection and this does help

  31. Sage November 4, 2017 at 9:22 am #

    Hello! I’m an artist that borders on drawing in anime with more realistic features and I’ve always used pencil crayon when coloring. I’ve known about copics but didn’t’ have the time to invest in them. So my friend just bought me a whole set of alcohol marker from the by the company Artist’s Loft and was wondering can i use these markers the same as people use copics. Can they be a replacement?
    – Loved you article :3

  32. Diana October 23, 2018 at 7:18 pm #

    Do these pens generally come in sets or do you have to buy them individually?
    I have a few Copic Markers and I really want to learn how to blend them. I’m looking forward to more information.

    Thanks D


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