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How-to Draw Realistic Portraits with Copic Markers

Jen Mercer | May 8, 2017

Jen Mercer creates amazing realistic portraits with Copic markers, and has generously agreed to let us in on her process as she colors John Barrowman's Doctor Who character, Captain Jack Harkness. Enjoy!

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Materials

  • 11" x 17" 300 series Strathmore bristol smooth paper 
  • Copic Sketch Markers
  • Copic Multiliners
  • Copic Various Inks
  • Gelly Roll pens
  • White colored pencil 

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I begin my pieces with a rough sketch. I start by printing a black and white copy of my reference onto a sheet of paper the same size as the piece I'm starting. I will draw a 1" grid on my reference as well as the board/paper that I'll be working on. I transfer the reference onto the board/paper with a rough sketch. I use the grid method because it helps me get a more accurate likeness by allowing me to focus on smaller areas rather than the entire piece. It also helps me get my proportions right. 

Note: I almost always use the brush tip on my Copic Sketch Markers. I only use the chisel tip when I have to fill in very large areas.

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I almost always start with the eye on the left. For some reason, it helps me get the tones worked out for the piece. Here, I have the left eye started. I used .05 and .1 grey, dark blue and brown Copic Multiliners, and .05 black Copic SP Multiliners for the fine details of the eyes. Then I erased the pencil lines in the areas where I put down the marker. You need to do that, or the ink will permanently set in the pencil lines.

For the iris of the eyes, I used Copic Sketch B21, B23, B24, B26, B29, B39, C5, C7, and C9. I laid down a foundation of the lightest tone and then gradually went darker. I then went back with the lighter tones to blend. The pupil is black .02 Copic multiliner SP and the highlight is Gelly Roll gel pen in white. I added in more detail in the iris by going over that with a little bit of Prismacolor white colored pencil. 

For the white of the eye, I used Copic Sketch W00, W1, W3, W5, W7, W9, R01, and R02. Again, laying down a foundation of the lightest tone and then gradually going darker, then blending with lighter tones. I added in more color by adding the pale red tones.

For the skin tones, I used Copic Sketch E000, E00, E01, E02, E11, E13, E70, E71, E74, E40, E42, E44 and E49. For the pinker areas I added in Copic Sketch R00, R01, R02 and R20. I stippled in the flesh tones around the eyes to help get some skin texture. Again, I laid down a base with the palest color and then went darker, then blended by going lighter again. 

In some areas I put down a darker color, but stippled it in to help get texture worked in. I mostly used E11 and E13 as the base for the shaded areas. Sometimes I would go back and add another layer of light to dark and blending again with lighter tones to add depth.

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This further shows the stippling to drop in the base tones and add texture. Colors used on the cheek area at this stage are Copic Sketch E000, E00, E01, E11, E13, E40, E42, E70, E71, R00, R01, and R20. Again, it is very important to erase your pencil lines before laying down your base tones or they will be set in by the ink.

Sometimes I would repeat the process of going light to dark and then blending with the lighter tones. Multiple layers add depth and texture. I also started stippling with the white Gelly Roll pen to add more skin texture. I would stipple about five dots, and then dab them with my finger to make sure that the white wasn't so bright.

I would also go back over those white dots with the marker to blend them in. In this stage I also started the hairline with black 0.1 and 0.2 Copic Multiliner SPs.

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Here, I started filling in the hair, working on the forehead and nose, roughing out the outline for the coat, and working on the background. For the outline of the coat I used my grey 0.1 Copic Multiliner. For the hair I continued to use my black 0.1 and 0.2 Copic Multiliner SPs. I began filling in the hair and coat with Copic Sketch Marker 110.

On the forehead and nose, I filled in with Copic Sketch E000, E00, E01, E11, and E13. I stippled in with Copic Sketch E70, E71, and E74 on the forehead. Again, working from light to dark and then blending with lighter tones. For some reason the E000 shows up as pink in the scan.

For the background, I used Copic Sketch B21, B23, B24, B26, B29, B39, and 110. I filled in the areas with the chisel tip going from light to dark, the blended them in with the brush tip with the lighter tones. To create more texture I dripped ink from Copic Various Ink refills B21, B23, B24, and 0 (colorless blender) onto the background.

Then I used white Gelly Roll pen to stipple in the stars. Sometimes I would go and dab my fingers on the "stars" while the ink was still wet to tone them down. The ink dries really quickly, so I was able to stipple four or five dots, then dab.

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Here's the fun part! The coat!

For this, I used Copic Sketch C03, C05, C07, C09, and 110, as well as white Gelly Roll pen. I put down a base using C03. Then I began stippling with C05, C07, C09, and 110. I would then go over all of it with a layer of stippling with white pen and dab with my finger to tone it down. 

I would then go over the entire area with C03 or C05 to blend everything. Do not be too aggressive going over the white gel pen with the marker. You do not want to blend away all of the stippling. That's where the texture is.

I then repeated the entire process for several layers. In some areas, there are only 3 layers of the stippled marker and white gel pen. In some areas, there are more.

The darkest areas did not have the white gel pen, but several layers of the blended stippling. I would work from light to dark, then blend with lighter tones, using the stippling technique so that the texture would still be there. For the strong highlights, I would just stipple with the white Gelly Roll pen, and not dab with my fingertip. And I also went back over the stitching detail with grey 0.1 Copic Multiliner.

I then started filling in the neck area with Copic Sketch 110 and E49.

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I worked more on the background here by filling in with Copic Sketch B21, B23, B24, B26, B29, B39, and 110 Then I dripped Copic Various Ink refills in B21, B23, B24, and 0 (colorless blender).Next I stippled in the stars with white Gelly Roll pen, and started putting in the white outline around the hair with white Gelly Roll pen.

For the neck area, I used Copic Sketch in E000, E00, E01, E02, E11, E13, E44, E49, E74, R02, and 110. I didn't stipple as much here, as I wanted to create the texture of wrinkled, and stretched skin. I also used a .05 brown Copic Multiliner to help create the tiny wrinkles and folds.

I started the mouth here by laying down a base tone of E04 and going over that with RV95 on the top lip. For the bottom lip, I started with RV91. The chin area is E00, E01, E11, E13, E71, and E74. Again, stippling to create skin texture. The eyebrows were started using brown and grey 0.1 Copic Multiliners, and black 0.1 Copic Multiliner SP.

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The right side of the coat was completed here. Again, I used the same technique used for the other side of the coat. Colors used were C03, C05, C07, C09, and 110. Again, I filled in with the C03 and then stippled from light to dark, stippled with white Gelly Roll pen, blended with Copic Sketch C03 or C05, and repeated for several layers. Then I finished the white outline that I started on the hair with the white Gelly Roll pen, enclosing the entire portrait. This makes the portrait pop out from the background.

I filled in more hair with Copic Sketch 110, and Copic Sketch E11 for the lighter areas. Brush strokes went in the direction of the hair to create texture, even if the area was solid black in some areas.

The shirt was done with Copic Sketch C03, C05, C07, C09, and 110. I put down a base of C03, worked from light to dark, and then blended with the lighter tones. Details were put in with grey 0.1 Copic Multiliner, and black 0.1 Copic Multiliner SP, white Prismacolor pencil, and Gelly Roll pen.

The gold buttons were done with Copic Sketch E11, E13, E50, E51, E53, E55, E57, E59, and Y11 with brown 0.1 Copic Multiliner and white Gelly Roll pen for details.

The ear was done with Copic Sketch E000, E00, E01, E11, E13, E44, E71, and E74. I used brown 0.1 Copic Multiliner for the outline of parts of the ear.

The right eye was started using grey and dark blue 0.1 Copic Multiliners. More progress was made on the right side of the face using Copic Sketch E000, E00, E01, E11, and E13.

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In this stage I filled in more of the right side of the face with E000, E00, E01, E11, E13, E70, E71, and E74. Not so much stippling was done on this side, as the area was so much lighter and not as much texture was visible on my reference photo.

The right eye was completed the same way as the left one using Copic Sketch B21, B23, B24, B26, B29, B39, C5, C7, and C9 for the iris and Copic Sketch W00, W1, W3, W5, W7, W9, R01, and R02 for the white of the eye. Brown and grey 0.1 Copic Multiliners and 0.1 Copic Multiliner SP were used for the details around the eyes.

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I completed the hair with Copic Sketch E11, E13, E49, and 110. Again, making the brush strokes go in the direction of the hair. I then went over it with white Gelly roll pen and white Prismacolor pencil to create highlights.

In some areas, I toned down the white pen highlights by going over them with Copic Sketch E11. I also found that I could tone down some of the white colored pencil by doing this, but it doesn't cover well. This was to my benefit, because I just wanted to tone it down a tiny bit.

The eyebrows were filled in with E71 and E74. Then they were finished off with brown and grey 0.1 Copic Multiliners, and black 0.1 Multiliner SP, going in the direction of hair growth. Highlights were put in with white Gelly Roll pen. I went over some of the highlights with the grey and brown pen to tone them down.

The lips were done with Copic Sketch E04, E09, E13, R00, R01, R20, R21, R22, RV91, RV95, and RV99. Finer details were put in with brown and dark red 0.1 Copic Multiliner. White Gelly Roll pen and white Prismacolor pencil were used for highlights. The skin was finished off with E000, E00, E01, E11, E13, E70, E71, and E74. To create the freckling on the right side of the face, I stippled the freckles in with E11, E13, E70, and E71, and then blended them in with lighter tones. 

I also created more skin texture by stippling in white Gelly Roll pen, dabbing with my fingertips, and then blending with lighter tones. Some skin details, like the furrows on the forehead were put in with a brown 0.1 Copic multiliner. And... he's DONE!



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Topics: Illustration, Copic

Jen Mercer
Jen Mercer on May 8, 2017

"When I draw a portrait of someone, I do tend to focus on the eyes. I believe that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and if you do not capture that in the drawing, then the drawing is a failure."