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How to Create Watercolor Backgrounds with Copic Markers

Jennifer Dove | May 8, 2017

Learn how to use Colorless Blender solution to create watercolor effects in your backgrounds.  Enjoy this fun tutorial from Jennifer Dove, a member of the Copic Art/Design Education team!

A lot of people ask about different ways to create fun backgrounds. I thought I would start doing a few tutorials showing different techniques. For this tutorial I am going to show you how to use an alcohol filled water-brush to create a fun background. I discovered this technique while experimenting with my Copics in 2012 and it has been my favorite technique to play with ever since.  

You can use this technique to color on papers you might not have tried, or ones that aren’t as user friendly. Try using this technique with Copics and watercolor paper to achieve a watercolor look. The possibilities are endless! The technique works well whether you are drawing your own illustrations or using one already drawn for you. I chose to use a digital stamp from powerpoppy.com for this example.

 

Copic watercolor card

Materials

  • An image on your favorite blending cardstock
  • Fillable water-brush
  • Isopropyl alcohol 70% and Colorless Blender solution
  • Texture rags (burlap and or terry cloth)
  • Your favorite Copic markers 
  • Optional - piece of acetate

Step 1: Fill the waterbrush with 70% isopropyl alcohol.

This will be what you “paint” the color with. Isopropyl alcohol has a tendency to alter some of the Copic colors, so if you do not want them altered, fill the water-brush with actual Copic Colorless Blending solution.  

Copic colorless blender

Step 2: Put some ink on the sheet of acetate or use the ink on the inside of the Copic Marker cap as your palette.

I chose BV29 for my image. I love the way it changes from a deep purple to a blue when using Isopropyl alcohol.

Note: If using isopropyl alcohol inside of the cap, be sure and allow for it to completely evaporate from the cap before recapping marker to avoid contamination.

Step 3: Make sure the solution is saturating the waterbrush bristles.

You will want to squeeze more solution into the bristles as it is used up or evaporates during the application process; this will keep the color flowing for a soft look. Allowing it to feather into the white is key.

Step 4: Pick up a generous amount of ink off the palette or from the cap.

Starting with a light touch, place the tip of the water-brush where you wish the ink to be applied and “paint” some of the color onto the paper. I always start right up next to the image.

Copic watercolor techniques

Step 5: Create a feathering effect.

As the ink is transferred onto the paper and off the bristles, start to feather out the bristles by wiggling the waterbrush in a very small side-to-side motion. Keep the water-brush in the same spot while feathering the bristles.  Once the bristles are feathered out, begin to work outward away from the image in a controlled, side-to-side stroke until the ink is off the bristles and the color fades into the white background.

Copic watercolor techniques

Step 6: Pick up more ink and repeat step 5 anywhere you wish to add color to the background.

If you are seeing brush strokes, you will need more solution in the bristles; it should flow smoothly when done correctly. Some strokes are fine because the next step will partially smooth out the imperfections.

Step 7: Put a small amount of blending solution onto a texture rag.

Get out the texture rags and the Blender Solution. I like to use both burlap and terry cloth. Old wash clothes work best. Hold the rag with the Blending solution on the color closest to the white for about 3 seconds, then work your way around the image. Do this anywhere you want the texture to be. If you want heavy textured look use burlap, for a softer look use terry cloth. Once you have achieved the look you desire you can stop, or continue to add more color to the background. I chose to use YG11 and BG34 to compliment the image I was using.

Copic colorless blender

Step 8: Soften the texture.

I went back over the textured portion with the waterbrush to soften the texture until I was pleased with the final outcome. You can apply all the desired colors and then texture, or alternate texture and color application. Each has its own look.

Copic watercolor techniques

Step 9: Have fun with it!

It takes a little practice, but it's not hard to achieve a beautifully colored background. You can do this technique with an image that has been colored as well, but it stands a higher chance of having the colors bleed into the image or texturing in the wrong places. The good news is it is just paper and ink. Have fun with it!!

Copic watercolor card

Topics: Illustration, Copic

Jennifer Dove
Jennifer Dove on May 8, 2017

Jennifer is a Regional Instructor for the Copic Art and Design Education team at Imagination International Inc.