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How to Use Gray and Black Copic Markers

Marianne Walker | May 8, 2017

Have you ever tried to color something you wanted to look black, so you color it with black and it just looks bland and bad? You're not alone. Lots of people have this problem and hopefully I can help your black areas look better after this post.

01-fading-copic-black-with-grey.jpgBRING A BASIC BLACK SHAPE TO LIFE:

Look at this shirt. The black shirt is just a black shape. It has no life. Next, we have a t-shirt colored with two shades of toner gray, T6 and T8. The shirt still looks black but now we can see the black lines around the shape. Now look at the last shirt. This shirt has been through the wash too many times and looks faded. This was an easy effect by going over the shirt with the lightest gray of the same family T0. I could have used the blender but it would have been too much and too harsh.

Usually you can get a good "black" by using the 6 or 7 in each gray family as the base color and shadowing with the 8 or 9 from the same family. Sometimes you may need to use the 10 in that color family, but rarely do I reach for a black.

Why are there so many grays?

Each gray has a slightly different feel. If you look at this sequence you can see that the W's are warm, almost brown, the T's are a little less brown, the N's are truly neutral, and the C's are sort of blue. I'd use the Warm grays for warm feeling natural things, trees, dirt, etc. I'd use the Toner grays if I didn't want the grays to be quite so brown but not cool or neutral. The Neutral grays are really that- neutral.


If you look the Neutral circle looks more black than the others when you see them in this sequence. The Cool grays are more for metal and cold things. The shirt above is a fabric that I wanted to be sort of neutral, so I used the Toner Grays, since the warm grays were too brown. I could have used Neutral gray, but I didn't feel like it at the time. I drew the circles with lines through the light area so you can get an idea of how the black lines compare to the blacks of the shape. (Note: the T4 you see in this picture is one of the first two markers I was given over 8 years ago- it still has the original brush tip).

What about the black markers?

First, never use the black 100 or 110 for drawing a shape you're going to color in with other colors of Copic markers. These markers are meant to blend, so the lines will just get blurry and look bad.

If you want black lines draw them with a multiliner.

Use these if you need deepest shadows in your artwork. If you want black lines draw them with a multiliner. The lines will be crisper and they won't bleed with other marker colors.

The difference between 100 and 110 

Have you ever worn a black shirt with black pants and it's not the same shade of black, yet each piece of clothing by itself looks black? That's the difference. You can't really see it unless you're on certain papers and the two are next to each other. 100 is equal to a C11, or a cool, deep blue black. This is what most people consider true black. 110 is equal to a T11, or a slightly warm black.

Coloring black shiny things

03-metal-using-copic-c8-c5-opaque-white.jpgFor black metal you can color the shape exactly the same way as other black things, but where a t-shirt is fabric and has a matte finish, metal is shiny and will reflect light back. This is another case where you need to use opaque white. No way can I leave the white areas white when I'm working on such a small shape and with such dark colors. However, a little dab of thick opaque white covers up the black nicely and makes our little ball look like dark, shiny metal (it's cool gray so it's supposed to look like metal or hematite, my favorite stone).

Your turn! Share your gray-as-black work with us on Facebook or Twitter!


Topics: Illustration, Copic

Marianne Walker
Marianne Walker on May 8, 2017

I am the North American Product Director for Copic Markers, working at Imagination International, Inc. I have written 4 books on coloring with Copics in conjunction with Colleen Schaan. I used to design stamps for Our Craft Lounge. The things I post on this blog are my personal opinions or techniques I have come across over the years- I will try to give credit where credit is due. These ramblings do not necessarily reflect the general opinions of Copic Markers/Imagination International Inc.