Holiday Gift Guide: Alcohol Markers for the Aspiring Artist

I think MOST of my readers have found this blog while searching for information on alcohol based markers like Prismacolor, Spectrum Noir, Copic, and Shin Han Twin Touch.  While I've covered a wide variety of brands individually (check out my review section!), and I've done gift guides for young artists (link) in the past, I had yet to do a marker guide, let alone a marker gift guide.  Whether you're a teenager or an undergrad asking for markers as a present this upcoming holiday season, or a parent or relative trying to purchase markers for someone new to alcohol markers, I hope this post, which is mostly a list with some explanation, is useful to you.

There are a lot of items on this list, and while I recommend all of them individually, don't let the length intimidate you.  Where applicable, I explain when items are duplicates, or perform similar functions.

Most of my links in this post are to DickBlick and Amazon.  Whenever possible I tried to link to DickBlick, as I regularly buy my art supplies from them, and I think they're fantastic overall- cheap prices, lots of openstock options, fast shipping, good customer service.  When that is NOT possible, I do provide my Amazon affiliates link, although you may be able to find those products in person in craft and hobby stores like Michaels, or brick and mortar art supply stores.  DickBlick and Amazon do pay me a percentage for sales, money earned from that goes to blog upkeep, purchasing supplies to review, and minor reimbursement for time spent writing.

How to Use This Gift Guide

I recommend right clicking links and hitting Open in New Tab, as there are A LOT of links.

If you are the giftee:

I recommend you make wishlists on Blick and Amazon, and share those with your 'gift'er' so they can easily purchase your present.  By creating a wishlist, you can share your selections with several people, which is perfect if say, your parents and your younger siblings are all chipping in to buy you markers.

If you are the gifter:

Sites like DickBlick offer bulk savings for many of the brands they carry, so make sure you take advantage of that if possible.  They also offer free shipping once you've hit a certain price point, so you may want to take advantage of that as well, especially for heavier items.  You can do both of these things by making your purchase in one lump sum, if possible.  DickBlick takes credit cards and Amazon Payments.

If you are buying for yourself:

I recommend you make a wishlist, and any time you're shopping at either site, you pick a couple items from the list.  This way, you can spread the cost of your purchase across several months, slowly collecting markers and finding out which ones you still need to buy, based on your needs as well as my recommendations.

Back when I lived near a DickBlick, and had access to openstock Copics (all the stores around here lock them up), I'd buy myself a new color every time I visited the store.  Now that I have most of the Copic colors I want, I've started filling in the color gaps with Shin Han Twin Touch markers, Blick Studio Brush markers, and Prismacolor Premier markers.  I like to buy Prismacolor markers openstock- one or two every time I buy something from DickBlick, one or two every time I visit my local Pla-Za or Jerry's Artarama.  While I may spend a bit more by purchasing openstock, I am getting colors I know I need, rather than a set of colors I may find difficult to use.

Why Alcohol Based Markers?  Aren't Waterbased Good Enough?

While there are many FANTASTIC waterbased markers out there, the short answer is no, not really.  Waterbased markers are prone to tearing up your paper, are difficult to blend, and work best on very specific types of paper.  While they are often much cheaper than alcohol based markers, they have a high learning curb, and you usually see your best results after years of practice, or after learning how to use alcohol markers.

Alcohol markers on the other hand are quick drying, do not abrade paper surfaces, come in a wide variety of colors, and are often refillable.    These days, alcohol based markers are available at a variety of stores, from Michael's to your local art supply shop, with two of the biggest and most common brands being Copic and Prismacolor.

You may think (or you may have been informed) that Copic is the end all, be all for alcohol based markers.  While Copic markers are fantastic, there are plenty of fantastic alternatives available, and even amongst Copic brand markers, there's a degree of variety.  Although Copic, as a whole, has a huge variety of colors to choose from, not every model of marker offers all the colors, so if you're planning your colors ahead of time, it pays to check and make sure that the colors you want are available in the markers you can afford, or plan to purchase.

My personal preference are Copic Sketch or Copic Ciao.  When I first started collecting Copic markers, Copic had not released their Ciao line, but over the years I've written about alcohol markers, I've purchased a few Ciaos to test, and I've found them to be nearly as good as the Sketch markers.  All of Copic's markers are refillable, and feature replaceable nibs, which makes these markers a longterm investment.

As Copic markers are on my recommended list, and they're both commonly available and offer a confusing amount of options, I'm going to briefly go over the major types.

Copic Original

  • Comes with a bullet nib and a chisel nib
  • Nibs are replaceable, wide variety of nib types to use

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Copic Original Colors Available

Copic Sketch

  • Comes with chisel nib and super brush nib
  • Nibs are replacable, variety of replacements available
  • Largest color selection available
  • Most popular type of Copic

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Copic Sketch Colors Available

Copic Ciao

  • comes with Chisel and superbrush
  • replacement nibs available
  • great way to affordably start a collection

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Copic Ciao Colors Available

Copic Wide

  • Comes with angled chisel nib
  • Replacable nibs, only a couple nib options
  • Smallest color family available
  • Useful for covering large areas of color

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Copic Wide Colors Available

Various Inks- Used to refill your markers, but you can also paint with it if you wish

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Various Ink Colors Available

Copic Wide, Copic Sketch, and Copic Original also come with blank markers, so if there's a color you like that's available in Various Ink, you can fill your own markers.  I do this with Copic Wides, to make the colors I need for alcohol ink washes.

Copic Ciao Markers- refillable markers with replaceable nibs

Absolute Must- Necessary for Maintaining Your Marker Collection

Copic Ciao Colorless Blender- $3.59 on DickBlick
Colorless Blender Refill- $6.29 on DickBlick (will refill your Colorless Blender marker several times though, so it's definitely worth the investment)
Replacement nibs-  $7.39 on Amazon Prime (free two day shipping)
Copic nib tweezers- $8.12 on Amazon with free shipping

Recommended Sets

Skintone Basics- Pick the one you feel will best suit your needs.

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Doodle Pack- People - Includes 5 markers, and 2 Copic-proof Multiliners, black and dark brown- $23.93 (DickBlick)
Copic Ciao Markers, Skin, 6 Pack (just markers, includes )- $32.94 (Amazon)

Basic Starter Set: 

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12 Piece Basic Set (Includes Blue Violet, Violet, Shock Pink, Lipstick Red, Cadmium Orange, Yellow, Yellowish Green, Forest Green, Blue Green, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber, and Black. ) - $43.11

Additional Useful Colors for Skin (openstock from DickBlick) $3.59- Augment as you see necessary, or discover a need.


Colors for Blending, Shading, and/or adding details to skin:
Openstock Ciaos are $3.59 each at DickBlick, select those that seem relevant to your needs.


If you'd like to purchase a single set that should cover your basic color needs for the first couple years of using alcohol markers, and you don't want to purchase markers piecemeal openstock every time you visit an art store (it's how I collect markers, btw), I recommend

Copic Ciao 36 marker set D, 36 slot wallet included- $109.98 on Amazon

Keep in mind that when buying multiple sets, there are repeat colors, so you will end up with duplicates.

Copic Alternatives

Three Cheap Copic Alternatives by Nattosoup

Blick Studio Brush Markers

I highly recommend you read my review on Blick Original Studio Markers, Blick Brush Markers, and Utrecht Design Markers, but if you're short on time, take the fact that I'm mentioning these markers in this Holiday Gift Guide as an endorsement!

Blick Studio Brush markers are not refillable, and you can't replace the nibs, but the brush nib is almost as good as the Copic Super brush nib on Copic Ciao and Copic Sketch markers, and they make a fine compliment to your marker collection.
Image from DickBlick

Image from DickBlick

If you want to buy many alcohol based markers at one time, and you'd like to do so affordably, Blick's Studio Brush markers are a great way to build up a collection.  I recommend you use these markers to augment your Copic Ciao collection, and replace Blick Studio Brush markers as they run out with Copic Sketch or Copic Ciao, both of which are refillable.

Studio Brush Markers tend to be a little less saturated than Copic or Prismacolor markers, so I recommend staying away from very saturated colors like purples and reds if you can afford them elsewhere.

Sets to get you started:

Assorted 6 Piece Set
Assorted 12 Piece Set
Assorted 24 Piece Set
Assorted 48 Piece Set
Assorted 96 Piece Set

Recommended Individual Colors:

List price is $2.99, cheaper if you buy in bulk (12+ markers) or in sets.

Basic Gray:
Apple Green
Coral Pink
Ink Blue
Warm Black
Yellow Ochre

Warm Gray:

True Blue
Brick Red


Prismacolor markers come in two styles- Prismacolor Double Ended Brush Tip Markers and Prismacolor Double Ended Art Markers.  Don't let the name fool you- for artists and illustrators, you will probably want the Brush Tip Markers over the Double Ended Art Markers, but I do wish Prismacolor would mash up the best of both worlds, and offer a brush tip marker that ALSO has their chisel tip, as it's the best I've ever encountered.
Prismacolor Double Ended Brush Tip Marker- Photo from DickBlick

Prismacolor Double Ended Art Marker- Photo from DickBlick

Like Blick Studio Brush Markers, Prismacolor markers are not refillable, and do not have replacable nibs.  They tend to shine at saturated, intense colors such as yellow greens, yellows, and purples, areas where both Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers fall flat.

Recommended Sets:

If you'd prefer to buy your grays as a set, French grays are a lovely alternative to warm grays (or addition, if you do a lot of architectural work), and can be used to shade skintones, or to stretch a limited range or skintones.

French Grays, set of 12 - $26.69 on DickBlick
24 Piece Portrait Set

Other Sets to Get You Started

24 Piece Set
48 Piece New Colors Set
48 Piece Original Colors

At DickBlick, Prismacolor's Brush markers are listed at $3.19, but the first bulk pricebreak starts at 6 markers ($2.98), and the second discount starts at 12 ($2.87)

Note:  I have not tested the entire range of Prismacolor markers, and my recommendations are based on my general familiarity with what the markers excel at, my familiarity with the shortcomings of Copic Ciao and Blick Studio brush markers, and Blick's flawed color chip representations on site.  If you've already ordered a number of Copic or Blick Studio Brush reds, hold off ordering Prismacolor reds until you know for certain whether you really do need more.

Recommended Open Stock Colors

Crimson Red
Green Tea
Mineral Orange
Parma Violet
Parrot Green
Pale Vermillion

If You Like Neons-

Neon Blue
Neon Green
Neon Orange
Neon Pink
Neon Yellow
Neon Yello Green

Marker Accessories

Cover of Copic Swatch Book.  Photo from DickBlick

Interior of Copic Swatch Book.  As you acquire markers, you use the chisel nib to fill in the appropriate square.  I apply my Blick Studio Brush or Prismacolor markers to a piece of sticker paper, and apply that in the appropriate color family.  Keeping track of your markers lets you know which you already own, and where you need to focus your buying power.  Photo from DickBlick

Marker Cases and Storage

Travel case

Alvin Prestige Marker- Case holds 48 markers- great for a mixed set of Prismacolor, Blick Studio Brush Markers, and Prismacolor markers.  Sized to hold larger markers like Prismacolor. $21.77 on DickBlick
Spectrum Noir Marker case- holds approx 36 markers, depending on what you have $3.93 on DickBlick

Box storage

ArtBin Marker Storage Satchel-  Holds up to 64 markers, $19.57 on DickBlick

Display storage

Spectrum Noir marker storage trays- six tray set holds 72 markers on display.  For use on desktop.  $19.99 on DickBlick

Correctional Accessories

Everyone makes mistakes, and while you should always wait until the end of the project to make your corrections, these opaque white art supplies are also great for adding highlights and sparkles to hair, eyes, jewelry, metal- basically anything with a shine.

White gouache- $5.09 on DickBlick. Water this down just a smidge, and apply with a fairly stiff bristled brush.
Copic Opaque White- $8.67 on Amazon Prime.  Water this one down a smidge as well, stir until it reaches a consistency you can work with, and apply with a synthetic brush.
Signo white gel pen- $8.96 on Amazon Prime for 5, used at the last stage for spot corrections, adding white highlights or details.

Inking Accessories

Note:  You don't need to buy all of these immediately, and some are repetitive- both Multiliners and Microns are alcohol proof, waterproof technical pens that are a mainstay for many young artists learning the ropes.

Sailor Mitsuo Aida-The only brushpen I've found that is both Copic and waterproof.  Twintipped with a small fude brush, and a large fude brush.  You can read my review here. $4.45 on Jetpens (note:  Not an affiliate link)
Kaimai Sol K Ink  $11.00 on Jetpens (Note:  Not an affiliate link) (for brushes, dip pens, or to refill your Pentel Pocket Brush cartridges.  Copic-proof, not waterproof)

Copic Multiliners- Set of 9, includes sizes 0.03 mm0.05 mm0.1 mm0.3 mm0.5 mm0.8 mm, and 1.0 mm, Brush Small, Brush Medium on DickBlick   $25.09

Copic Multiliners, Openstock, Recommended Sizes- $2.79 each on DickBlick
Brush Medium

Sakura Microns
Set of 8, various tip sizes, all in black $16.16 on DickBlick


Note:  You don't need to buy all of these, you'd probably be just fine buying a ream of cardstock, but these are papers I use when I create marker illustrations, and I vouch for their results.  For artists who are still learning, I recommend the ream of cardstock and the XL watercolor paper, as they're the most cost efficient while still producing nice results.

Cardstock- Neenah 110 lb cardstock, 8.5"x11", $15.99 for a ream on Amazon
Canson XL Watercolor Paper- 9"x12", 30 sheets, $6.21 on Amazon
Strathmore 500 series Plate bristol- 14"x11", 15 sheet pad, $15.46 on DickBlick
Copic PM paper- Size A5, lowest price is $12.22 on Amazon
Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media Paper- 9"x12", 15 sheets, $5l94 on DickBlick

Other Places to Purchase Markers

Carpe Diem Markers

Other Resources


Copic 101 (From the actual Copic site)

Printable Blank Copic Color Chart (fill this in as you collect your markers.  I recommend getting this printed at Office Max/Office Depot/through a copier machine, as toner ink can resist alcohol marker applications)

What Copics to Start With?  And Where to Buy Them? -- Baylee Jae

Blending Copic Markers by Baylee Creations-- Copic Marker

Copic Markers 101- Animetalchick


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