Starting a Marker Collection from Scratch

Two years ago, I set about trying to produce a list of 25 essential Copic colors for artists to start their collection with.  I wanted a list that could cover the basics that most young illustrators would encounter- figures, landscapes, home interiors.  Although I've struggled to compile this list, I eventually had to admit defeat- there was no way a list of 25 that worked for me would always work for others.  As artists, we have individual preferences and aesthetic choices.

Heidi and I are preparing a panel on the basics of alcohol marker rendering for Mechacon this year, and while preparing the presentation, I wanted to include a list of guidelines for artists looking to start a collection.  Rather than list specific colors, I tried to provide guidelines for artists to keep in mind while purchasing markers.   The slide itself is a much abridged list of the original list I'm sharing today.

Basic Guidelines for Starting an Alcohol Based Marker Collection

  • When starting your collection, consider it as an investment that can last several years.  More expensive marker brands offer features like replaceable nibs, a selection of nibs, and refillability.  This extends the life of each marker significantly.  If you're considering sinking a significant amount of money on markers at one time, do your research first.
  • Warm greys W0-W5 (in the Copic color system) are really versatile for adding shading to everything from skin to landscapes until you have a larger collection.
  • All colors can be layered multiple times to build up color. Darker colors can be lightened with the application of a very light color from the same color family (something in the 00 or 01 range, if you're using Copics)
  • Depending on what you're rendering (I mostly render figures), you won't necessarily need a lot of super saturated colors. Maybe a couple saturated colors in each color family until you have a better idea of what you'll need.  The majority of markers in my collection are lighter colors.
  • Light blue violets are useful for shading skin and doing cooler shadows (BV000-BV01)
  • My collection is mostly focused around skintones in the E ranges, which are useful for not only rendering skin, but hair and many natural objects.
  • Make sure you buy a Blender and refills for it. That's going to be really useful in the beginning, and remains useful for as long as you use alcohol based markers.
  • If you presaturate the area you're coloring with colorless blender first, it'll make your color markers stretch further/permeate the paper more evenly. For large areas of color, consider investing in a few Copic Wide markers (or the blanks, and purchase refills of the color you want to fill at home).
  • Alcohol based markers and watercolors can be used together, so feel free to augment your alcohol based marker color selection with applied watercolor either before or after marker rendering.
  • Color pencil can be layered on top of alcohol based markers for better color blends or to add small details.
  • To add spot areas of white, apply color pencil, gouache, white gel pen, on Copic's Opaque white after marker has dried.


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