Creating Realistic Metal Textures with Copic Markers

Jayleen Weaver | June 26, 2017

Illustrator Jayleen Weaver dives offers some bullet-proof advice for creating realistic metal surfaces with Copic markers, adding texture details that give your work a professional finishing touch.

illustrated old metal bucket with rust patina

Adding a little extra texture to artwork done with Copic markers is pretty simple to do—but can enhance your work a great deal. It's important to remember when looking at my examples that these are greatly enlarged texture details that are normally very small on a non-focal area of an image. 

What You'll Need

For the sake of simplicity, I'm using only five colors. You can feel free to grab a ton of colors and capture every nuance of a surface and make it as hyper-realistic as you like, or just add colors that give your picture some color unity. It's up to you how far you want to go.


Copic marker rust coloring demoRust is probably the most complicated texture to replicate, and I'll go through this process step-by-step to help you see how to build the effect. It's important to look up some reference photos or take a closer look at some rust details in real life to see where and how rust occurs, and what it looks like. Most metal exposed to the elements will have some paint or coating to protect it from water. Rust will occur where this coating is removed or damaged. Referencing life in art is always important!



Step 1: Coloring the Base Layer

Copic marker metal bucket illustration
To start, I've used a base layer of C3. Normally, my base layers are a little streaky and sloppy, knowing that my subsequent layers will smooth them out, but in this case it's best to have a nice clean base to work on. I did a little shading with C5 to give the bucket some shape.

Step 2: Plot Your Rust Spots

creating rust effects with Copic markers
Then I put some Colorless Blender in a little dish. I use a regular Bamboo brush (something not too expensive, as the alcohol base of the blender is hard on natural bristles), dip it in the blender and then quickly tap the brush to let some of the blender blot onto the surface. You'll see it start to make the colors merge and spread out.

Step 3: "Marble" Your Metal

creating metallic textures with Copic markers

add texture to metal illustration with brushAfter drying it off a little bit, you can work on further texture by tapping the brush vertically. Using the blender in this way keeps your patterns random. Rotate the brush around to vary the texture. This creates that subtle, flecked look that looks like galvanized metal.


Step 4: Ramp Up the Rust

I use E93 again to start working on areas I want to get really rusty. I find it helpful to work off of some of the blobs that the blender creates (circled in white) and use them as my rusty spots. I just color around the inside of these blob shapes to mark out my rust.

adding rust spots to metal with Copic markers

Then, I go in with E08, starting from the outside of the blob shape, coloring a little bit loose and blobby. I leave little areas of E93 showing through. I also tap in little rusty areas under the spot where the handle is, along the bottom, and around the metal seam of the pail. Just be very sparing with these additions, and keep them random. 

adding rust spots with copic markers

I blend the areas I left showing through with E93 by tapping just a bit of the color into the middle. It's not supposed to be perfect. Textures can be very forgiving.

adding rust spots with copic markers

Step 5: Tone Temperatures

how to create metal patinas with Copic markers

I was looking at some references and noticed  that a lot of buckets had warm tones in some areas, so I applied E30 in a downward, feathering stroke (areas marked by white brackets). It's a very subtle shift in color, but I find that it makes a difference.

Step 6: Highlight Your Work

create 3D rust effect with Copic markers

Back to the rust blobs: here I use the Opaque White with the brush and add a few little highlights to the edges of the rust, and then I add some other little "flecks" to the metal texture. 

Here are some details of the highlighted rust spots:

rust spots created with Copic professional markers

Finished!  Here is the final image of the bucket (scanned so the color is reads correctly). I added a few nicks to the surface too!

rusty bucket Copic marker illustration

Nicks and Surfaces:

Most of the variety in your textures come from the additional surface effects you create. Things like little nicks and cuts can be added onto a surface by simply using a Multiliner in the same color as the surface.

In this example, I colored with cool gray markers, so I used a cool gray Multiliner to add nicks and cuts. I just draw a little line or a dot with the Multiliner to indicate the cut. After that, using the Opaque White with the brush, I create strokes parallel to the pen line with Opaque White to add a little highlight to one side. It's important to keep the white on the same side of each nick to keep the "lighting angle" consistent!

galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

You can make a smooth metal surface by using just the markers. Or, you can create a galvanized metal effect, as was done for the rust sample, by adding Colorless Blender.

aged galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

You can also create a brushed chrome look by using the Colorless Blender and your brush; this time, swipe the bristles in one direction across your surface to give the metal a streaky, brushed chrome look. Bonus Tip: This technique also makes a nice, light summer rain effect for landscapes.!

aged galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

To make a shiny surface, the nicks are created the same way. It all comes down to adding an interruption to the surface, creating a highlight (white) and a shadowed (Multiliner) area. 

Want to change it up? Go for it!

aged galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

The same techniques can now be applied using warm grey tones as well—thanks to Copic's Warm Grey Multiliners! Here's a smooth surface with some little raised bumps.

pitted galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

The same techniques were used here to create a galvanized texture on this warm metal.

aged galvanized steel texture effect created with Copic markers

aged galvanized metal texture study with Copic markersWith just a few simple tools, you can create a variety of lovely, subtle textures to enhance your background elements. Markers, Multiliners, Colorless Blender, and Opaque White. Then you're all set!



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Topics: Illustration, Copic

Jayleen Weaver
Jayleen Weaver on June 26, 2017

Comics creator Jayleen Weaver (Marker Guru) runs Gurukitty Studios with her sister. They’re self-described as the craziest little comics and animation studio to ever try to hash out a living.