2 Quick Questions to Start Your Copic Collection

Brandi York | June 26, 2017

Trying to jump into Copic markers can be daunting! With 358 colors and four different body styles, it can be hard to decide where to start your collection. But fear not! Experienced Copic artist and blogger Brandi York is here to help you find the best markers for your needs.


Image via Copic Marker on Instagram

Some Background: Copic's 4 Marker Styles

 Let's start with a quick rundown of the four Copic marker styles available:

Copic Classic:

Copic Classic Marker Product Description

  • Copic's original alcohol-based blending marker
  • Available in 214 colors
  • Comes with Chisel and Bullet Point nibs
  • Seven additional interchangeable nibs are also available

Copic Sketch:

Copic Sketch Marker Product Description

  • Available in 358 colors
  • Comes with Super Brush and Chisel nibs
  • One additional nib style is available

The Ciao:

Copic Ciao Marker Product Description

  • Available in 180 colors
  • Smaller version of the Sketch
  • Comes with Super Brush and Chisel nibs

The Wide:

Copic Wide Marker Product Description

  • Available in 36 colors
  • Comes with 3/4" Extra Broad Chisel nib
  • One additional nib style available

Question 1: What is Your Budget?

It's no secret that Copic markers are expensive. At least, up front. The beauty of these markers is that they are all refillable, and the nibs are replaceable should they wear down or become damaged. Once you have the marker, you never throw it away. So what's expensive up front is far less expensive in the long run than it would be to replace markers.

That aside, it can still be a budget buster for some people in the beginning. But there's hope! Even those on the tightest budget can get started with Copic markers.

Start with Grays

Copic Marker Gray Collection Color ChartIf you're not comfortable with color, but have a good grasp of value, or you just want to start out simple and be able to do a full, finished piece of work without spending hundreds of dollars, picking out some grays is a great way to start.  

Copic makes four different shades of gray - Cool, Neutral, Toner, and Warm. Pick the tone you like the best, and choose one light, one mid-tone, and one dark. For example, W1, W5, and W9. You can achieve a decent range of values with just three markers that are all the same tone of gray. However, with only three markers, smooth transitions might be a little harder to accomplish (but not impossible with practice), so you may decide to go with five markers instead - W1, W3, W5, W7, and W9. Either way, you can achieve a full range of value with just a few markers.

Say Hello to Ciao!

There's a common misconception that Ciao markers are less expensive because they're not refillable. That is not true! ALL Copic markers are refillable, regardless of body style or cost. So what's the difference then? The Sketch and Ciao bodies are very similar - same brush and chisel tips, same inks. But Ciao markers are just a bit smaller, so they need to be refilled more frequently. They also don't have the Copic color codes printed on the caps, and they don't fit into the ABS airbrush system.

Ciao markers are available in 180 colors, so you can still find a wide range of colors, or choose grays as well, although there are fewer grays available in the Ciao line. Either way, you can save a bit (or get more markers) by choosing to go with Ciao over Sketch.

Question 2: What Do You Like to Draw?

This is a very important question when it comes to choosing your first Copic markers. Do you draw people? Landscapes? Cityscapes? Make cards? I encourage you to sit down for a moment and think about what colors you are most likely to use in the majority of your work. Once you have that sorted, you can start looking at colors.

Read how artist, Chihiro Howe, picked her first six markers.


Understanding the Copic numbering system also helps a great deal here. You can pick and choose your colors based on the numbers on each marker. A quick breakdown: 

Copic Marker Color Label System Breakdown

  • The letter is the Color Family: R is Red, B is Blue, E is Earth

  • The first number is the Blending Group, the saturation level of the color - how bright or vibrant the color is. 0s, 1s, and 2s are brighter colors, while 7s, 8s, and 9s are darker, more grayed out (Es are an exception to this rule)

  • The second number is the Intensity or value. 0s, 1s, and 2s are lighter; 7s, 8s, and 9s are darker.

For example: R22 and R29 are the same Color Family and Blending Group, but the value, or intensity of the color is different. R22 is lighter, R29 is dark. However, if you put R29 and R89 next to each other, the value is the same, but the R89 is more muted than the R29.

Copic Red Color Group Comparison

(Note: Be aware that colors may not be accurately represented, based on your monitor's color calibration. When choosing color, it's always best to do so in person if at all possible, to make sure you're getting exactly what you want. If that is not an option for you, choose based on the numbering system, or email us and we'll do our best to help!)

People & Skin Tones

Likely one of the most popular subjects rendered in Copics, there are a lot of choices out there for coloring skin tones. Earth tones are a solid choice for just about any tone of skin, plus some Reds thrown in to tint and tone skin as needed. You don't need every color listed here to get started, but a few will definitely set you on the right path. 

Some of my favorite colors that I use quite frequently when rendering portraits are the following:

For skin tone base layers: E000, E00, E01, E02, E11, E13, E15, E21, E25, E29, E51, E53, E71, E74, E79

Copic Skin Tone Color Blends

For highlights and lowlights: R000, R00, R01, R02, R20; BV23, BV25, BV29; YR00

Copic Marker Skin Highlights and Shadowing ColorsThe BVs listed there are not a typo! My favorite way to add shadow and depth to skin tones is to add blue violets. Think about it this way - when dealing with color and value, if your lighting is warm, your shadows are cold. (Conversely, if your lighting is cool, your shadows are warm, but that's more difficult to render, so we won't go there today.) So if you were to use a warm gray on a skin shadow, you're not creating that cool aspect to the tone. Cool grays would work better for this, but if you really want a good punch of dynamic color, go for blues and violets, as they will not only cool things down, but they also play into the aspect of complimentary colors.

Adding High and Low Tones to Skin with Copic Markers

Comics & Manga

Likely one of the most popular subjects rendered in Copics, there are a lot of choices out there for coloring skin tones. Earth tones are a solid choice for just about any tone of skin, plus some Reds thrown in to tint and tone skin as needed. You don't need every color listed here to get started, but a few will definitely set you on the right path. 

A bit different from straight skin tones, comic and manga artists also need a variety of bright or moody colors. You'll want a smaller selection of skin tones (typically, a few light and a medium tones), plus colors that best suit your style of comic. Super heroes? A light and medium of your heroes' costumes. Magical Girl manga? Don't forget their school uniforms too! A nighttime vigilante out to save the city? You get the idea. Take stock of what your comic or manga is about and what will show up frequently in your panels and art.

The following are merely suggestions based on the style of comic or manga you may be drawing. Tailor these suggestions to fit your needs accordingly:

  • Skin Tones (See Examples Above):
    • E00, E02, E25, E27, E71, E74
    • R00, R02, R20
    • BV23, BV25
  • Super Hero:
    • Reds: YR02, R27 (bright), R22, R59 (muted)
      • Why YR? As red gets lighter, they often turn pink. YR02 still looks like a lighter red without turning pink. Copic Reds Super Hero Colors
    • Blues: B23, B29 (bright), B41, B45 (muted)
      Copic Blues Super Hero Colors
    • Yellows & Golds: Y06 & Y08; Y26 & Y28

      Copic Yellows Super Hero Colors
    • Greens: G03, G17 (bright), G24, G46 (muted)Copic Greens Super Hero Colors
  • Brightly Colored World
    • Colors listed above

    • Purples: V01, V05, V15, V17

      Bright Copic Colors Violets
    • Pinks: RV02, RV04 (bright), RV21, RV25 (muted)Bright Copic Colors Pinks
    • Teals: BG02, BG07 (bright), BG45, BG49 (muted)Bright Copic Colors Teals
  • Darkly Colored Setting
    • Cool and Neutral Grays in several values

    • Reds: R56, R59

      Dark Copic Colors Reds
    • Blues: B95, B99; BV25, BV29 (more toward violet)Dark Copic Colors Blues
    • Greens: G24, G29; YG95, YG99 (more olive)Dark Copic Colors Greens

Product & Industrial Design

Copic has been a staple marker of the design industry for a long time. And it's no wonder - they were created as design markers! Choosing colors widely depends upon what you're designing. Wide markers are always popular here as well, as they can cover a large area very quickly, ideal for landscape and architecture design. Copic_Green_Markers_for_Product_Design_22.jpg

  • Product Design: Any mix of light and midtone colors, plus gray, works well. For example, G12, G17, and C7 would work well to create a quick range of value for rendering products. Throw in some lighter Cool Grays to add a bit of depth to glass or clear objects.
  • Landscape Architecture: It goes without saying that greens and browns will dominate here.
    • Keep toward mid-ranged and muted greens, such as G85, G94, and G99. G21 works well for brightly lit areas without over-saturating.
    • YGs shine in plant life as well. Some favorites are YG01, YG13, and YG25.
    • E30s and E50s work well for browns, as they're a bit more golden in tone than many of the other E blending groups.
    • Stick to mid-tone blues, such as B30s, for sky and water. Copic_Marker_Colors_for_Product_Design_23.jpg
    • Neutral grays are ideal here as they will work well with both warm and cool colors, as can be toned with your lighter colors to push toward warm or cool as needed.
    • Add a few pops of bright color as needed with Rs, Vs, and Ys.


While this is also a very broad subject, the following suggestions come from one of our resident Copic papercrafters.

Copic Green Markers for Papercrafting

  • Primaries:
    • R32, R35, R37 (real red)

    • B21, B23, B26 (bright blue)

    • G12, G14, G16 (grass green)

    • Y11, Y15, Y17 (sunny yellow)

  • Expanded Color Palette:
    • R81, R83, R85 (pink-red combo)

    • B000, B01, B04 (teal blue)

    • YG11, YG13, YG17 (bright green)

    • Y00, Y02, Y08 (rich yellow)

  • Neutrals:
    • N1, N3, N5 (neutral gray)

    • E11, E13, E15 (reddish brown)

    • E40, E42, E44 (darker brown)

    • E51, E53, E55 (tan)

  • Light Brights
    • V12, V15, V17 (bright purple)

    • YG21, YG23, YG25 (lime green)

    • Y32, Y35, Y38 (yellow orange)

    • YR61, YR65, YR68 (bright tangerine)

  • Country
    • B91, B93, B95 (soft country blue)

    • V91, V93, V95 (muted lavender)

    • Y21, Y26, Y28 (straw)

    • E71, E74, E77 (dark, weathered wood)

Once you have your start, be it three grays or 72 colors, you can continue to expand your collection by purchasing the colors as you need them. Since Copic markers are refillable, you'll never have to buy the same color twice, so over time, your collection will grow. 

Only have the budget for 6 markers? Make the most of your Copic starter selections by reading this handy guide to choosing your very first Copic markers!


Topics: Copic

Brandi York
Brandi York on June 26, 2017

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there was a young girl who grew up down the street from Disneyland. From 1992, and her first viewing of Beauty and the Beast, she began her long road as a portraiture artist and the life of a geek. More than 20 years and thousands of portraits later, Brandi's work has become a strange collection of fine art landscapes and florals, with the occasional en plein air piece, mixed with the geekier side of pop culture.