Art Paper Testing With Copic Markers

Colleen Schaan | May 8, 2017

Colleen Schaan shares her technique for testing paper to determine what type will work best for different artistic style. She tests out 19 papers and divides them into sketch & drawing paper and marker-specific papers. Follow along and find out which papers sound like they'd work best for your artwork. 

While Copic Markers are an exceptional art tool, some people can find them challenging or downright frustrating. The good news is that it’s not you or the markers… it’s probably the paper!  There are a variety of art papers that range in weight, density, content, and thickness. Each of these variables affects the overall look when using them with Copic Markers. While we may say some papers aren’t compatible, it’s really about learning how a paper reacts to Copic inks and what techniques work well (or don’t work well) with them. 

So how do you know what paper is best? Test them!  I recommend testing a lot of papers. Raid your stash and test out every paper you can get your hands on, even if you don’t typically think of using it with markers. You never know what you will find. 

 

Video of Paper Comparison

In this video, I show how I go about testing papers. The things that are important to me are:

  • How smoothly does the ink lay down?
  • Does layering the same color create deeper shades?
  • How much ink does it take to saturate the paper and cause feathering?
  • How easily does it blend? Overblend?
  • What kind of special effects can I achieve with the Colorless Blender?

 

For this post, I’ve tested 19 different papers using the technique shown in the video above. Some of them I tested in the past and some are new to me. As my inking and coloring technique changes, my paper preferences do too, so I like to retest papers periodically to see how they stand up to my current inking style.

 

Sketch & Drawing

Sketch and drawing papers are not typically recommended for use with markers because they are generally soft papers, but you might be surprised to find one you like. 

1. Canson Drawing

 Copic Marker Test On Canson Paper


  • Rough surface creates a lot of drag
  • Dramatic darkening with layering
  • Poor saturation point (feathers on the third layer)
  • Extremely easy blending (can overblend quickly and loose contrast)
  • Colorless Blender creates little to no effect

Overall Thoughts - The rough surface and the quick saturation make this a paper that I would not use with my Copics. 

2. Copic Sketchbook 

Copic Marker Test On Copic Sketch
  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Great saturation point (feathers on the seventh layer)
  • Extremely easy blending (can overblend quickly and become mottled)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp and bright effects

Overall Thoughts - I love the way the marker glides across the Copic Sketchbook's smooth surface and the blending is almost effortless. Great blender effects! 

 

3. Master's Touch Sketchpad

Copic Marker Test On Masters Touch

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layering (initial layer is darker than on the papers)
  • Very poor saturation point (feathers immediately)
  • Immediate feathering inhibits control
  • Colorless Blender creates minimal effects (spreads quickly and lightens as it dries)

 

Overall Thoughts - Due to the quick saturation point of this paper, I would not use it with my Copic markers. 

4. Strathmore Sketch

Copic Marker Test On Strathmore Paper

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Very poor saturation point (feathers on the second layer)
  • Easy blending (feathering can cause loss of control)
  • Colorless Blender creates soft and subtle effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I like the feel of this paper with the markers, but the fact it saturates so quickly makes it one I wouldn’t use with Copics. 

 

Bristols

Similar to sketch and drawing papers, bristols are generally soft. The variation in surface treatment gives a number of options, so make sure to add them to your testing list.

5. Canson Bristol Smooth

Copic Market Test On Bristol Paper

  • Soft surface creates a slight drag
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Okay saturation point (feathers on the fourth layer)
  • Extremely easy blending
  • Colorless Blender creates soft and light effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I like the blending ability of this paper, but the fact that it saturates pretty quickly makes it one I would not use with my Copic markers.

6. Canson Bristol Vellum

Copic Marker Test On Bristol Paper

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layering 
  • Good saturation point (feathers on the fifth layer)
  • Extremely easy blending (doesn't mottle as quickly as the smooth bristol)
  • Colorless Blender creates soft but visible effects

 

Overall Thoughts - While this paper is a bit softer than I prefer, I love the blendability. I would recommend this paper with Copics with the note to be aware of saturation point. 

7. Strathmore Bristol Smooth

Copic Marker Test On Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper

  • Move slowly for smooth ink laydown
  • Dramatic darkening with layering
  • Okay saturation point (feathers on the fourth layer)
  • Extremely easy blending (mottles quickly with over-blending)
  • Colorless Blending creates crisp, but light effects

 

Overall Thoughts - If this paper could hold more ink before feathering, I’d love it. The blendability is wonderful and the Colorless Blender effects are nice. This may be a good choice for someone who doesn’t use a lot of layers. 

8. Strathmore Bristol Vellum

Copic Marker Test On Strathmore Bristol Vellum Paper

  • Soft surface creates a lot of drag
  • Dramatic darkening with layering
  • Okay saturation point (feathers on the fourth layer)
  • Immediate feathering inhibits control (over-blends easily)
  • Colorless Blender creates light and indistinct effects

 

Overall Thoughts - This paper feels much softer and absorbs ink more quickly than the Strathmore smooth surface. The immediate blending makes controlling color placement difficult, so I would not use this paper with my Copic markers.

 

Mixed Media

I knew going into this test that the mixed media papers probably wouldn’t be a favorite. They were made to handle a lot of different mediums and layers, so I wanted to add them to my test list anyway. 

9. Canson Mixed Media

Copic Marker Test On Canson Mixed Media Paper

  • Very soft surface creates a lot of drag (almost felt like I was using a dry marker)
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Poor saturation point (feathers on the third layer)
  • Feathering inhibits blending control
  • Colorless Blender creates very subtle effects

 

Overall Thoughts - This paper has a very low saturation point and the difficult blending make it a paper I would not use with my Copic markers.

10. Strathmore Mixed Media

Copic Marker Test On Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

  • Soft surface creates slight drag
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Very poor saturation point (feathers on the second layer)
  • Easy blending (over-blends quickly to loose contrast)
  • Colorless Blender creates soft effects (somewhat uncontrollable die to feathering)

 

Overall Thoughts - While this paper gives easy blends, the very low saturation point makes it one I would not use with my Copic markers.

 

Marker Paper

Marker papers are generally thinner, denser papers than sketch or bristols. Some marker papers have a right side and a wrong side. On these, the markers will react differently on each side.

11. Strathmore Marker Pad

Copic Marker Test On Strathmore Marker Pad

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Minimal darkening with layering
  • Excellent saturation point (no feathering even after ten layers)
  • Good blending (adjust technique slightly since the ink sits on the surface longer)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp and bright effects

 

Overall Thoughts - This is an excellent paper for use with Copic markers. Care needs to be taken when layering darker shades as the ink sits on the surface and may turn shiny or sticky.

12. .Too PM Marker Pad

Copic Marker Test On .Too PM Marker Pad

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Minimal darkening with layering
  • Excellent saturation point (no feathering even after ten layers)
  • Easy blending (blends more like a soft paper than a marker pad)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp but light effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I love .Too PM paper!  I am used to card weight, so this is much thinner, but it reacts much like the softer paper I’m used to. I love the blending and the unbelievable saturation point. 

 

Manga and Illustration Paper

This category is a mix of marker-type papers and the heavier weight card-type papers. 

13. Canson Comic Manga Illustration

Copic Marker Test On Canson Comic Manga

  • Slight drag, but smooth ink appearance
  • noticeable darkening with layering
  • Great saturation point (feathers on the sixth layer)
  • Challenging blending (results give vibrant contrast)
  • Colorless Blender creates soft, almost indistinct effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I like the saturation point of this paper and the final blending results. With effort, this paper works with Copic markers.

14. Copic Manga Illustration Paper 

Copic Marker Test On Copic Manga Paper

  • Noticeable front and back
  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layering
  • Excellent saturation point (no feathering even after ten layers)
  • Difficult blending (ink sits on the surface and gets picked up when blending)
  • Colorless Blender creates very light effects

 

Overall Thoughts - This is not a paper I would use due to my blending style, but if more traditional marker rendering techniques are used, the Copic Manga illustration paper is excellent to use with Copic markers. 

15. Manga Manuscript Paper

Copic Marker Test On Copic Manga Paper

  • Very slight drag, but smooth ink appearance
  • Minimal darkening with layers
  • Okay saturation point (feathers on the fourth layer)
  • Challenging blending (happens suddenly then over-blended and loses contrast)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp, visible effects

 

Overall Thoughts - With practice and patience, this paper can be used successfully with Copic markers.

 

Other (Vellums, Yupo, Card)

These papers include the card wweight papers and  the ones I consider "other" surfaces that aren't typically used with markers.  

16. Borden & Riley Bleedproof for Pens

Copic Marker Test On Borden Riley Bleedproof Paper

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Minimal darkening with layers
  • Great saturation point (slight feathering on the sixth layer)
  • Excellent blending (can really work it to get contrast without over-blending)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp, visible effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I love this paper! It’s heavy like a bristol, but smooth and tightly woven so the saturation level is higher. The ease of blending and Colorless Blender effects make this a paper that is top on my list. 

17. Borden & Riley Vellum and Trace

Copic Marker Test On Borden Riley Vellum and Trace

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • No noticeable darkening with layers
  • Excellent saturation point (no feathering even after ten layers)
  • No blending (because the ink sits on the surface, it is reactivated with any other marker and is picked up, not blended. Ink on the surface can get shiny or sticky)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp, vibrant effects

 

Overall Thoughts - I would not use this paper to do my normal marker coloring.  BUT, this surface can be used brilliantly with Copic markers and inks with a different approach.

18. X-Press It Blending Card

Copic Marker Test On X-Press It Blending Card

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • Noticeable darkening with layers
  • Great saturation point (feathers on the seventh layer)
  • Excellent blending (can really work it to get contrast without over-blending, but mottling will happen if over-blended)
  • Colorless Blender creates srisp, visible results (doesn't appear immediately, brightens as it dries)

 

Overall Thoughts - X-Press It Blending is my number one paper!  I love the blendability, the Colorless Blender effects and the high saturation point. (the super smooth surface is a plus too).

 

19. Yupo

Copic Marker Test On Yupo Paper

  • Smooth ink laydown
  • No noticeable darkening with layers
  • Excellent saturation point (no feathering even after ten layers)
  • No blending (because the ink sits on the surface, it is reactivated with any other marker and is picked up, not blended. Ink on the surface can get shiny or sticky)
  • Colorless Blender creates crisp, vibrant effects.

 

Overall Thoughts - I would not use this paper to do my normal marker coloring.  BUT, this surface can be used brilliantly with Copic inks for painting or directly out of the bottle. 

 

Conclusion

Remember, these are results from my own testing, using my own inking and blending style. To find the papers that are best for you, I recommend that you do your own testing with a variety of papers and brands. I’m sure you will quickly find the ones that support your technique and style. 

 


Explore the Copic Inspire Gallary for more tips, tricks and techniques! 


 

Topics: Illustration, Copic

Colleen Schaan
Colleen Schaan on May 8, 2017

My name is Colleen Schaan and I am a teacher, writer and freelance designer. I am currently the Education Specialist at Imagination International Inc./Copic Marker.