Subscribe to Email Updates

Watercolor Tricks with Copic Various Inks & Multiliners

Charlie Cody | May 8, 2017

This week's tutorial comes from Charlie Cody, a New England-based illustrator. Follow along and see how Charlie applies his experience with watercolors to the Copic system. His unique approach beautifully combines Various Ink and Multiliners in this 'stellar' portrait.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_12.jpg

Before I first started sketching with Copic markers, most of my work was done in gouache and watercolor, so I'm no stranger to a paintbrush. In this exercise I've tried to apply certain watercolor principles to my Copic work. And "watercolor" may seem a bit misleading here, because what we're actually dealing with is isopropyl alcohol and Copic Various Ink. But these are certain tricks and techniques I've picked up working with watercolor that can work great in combination with Copic products. 

Matierals and Tools

  • Copic Various Inks: Y0000, E00, V01, E51, BV00, R20, E11, B32, B63
  • 11x17 Strathmore Web Media Board
  • .5 Staedtler mechanical pencil 
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Winsor& Newton Art Masking Fluid
  • 0.3 Copic Multiliner
  • 0.03 Copic Multiliner
  • Dinner plate
  • Ceramic saucer
  • Small container for water
  • Paper towels
  •  91% Isopropyl alcohol
  • #5 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable brush 
  • #4 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Sable brush

To start with, instead of sketching with a marker, we'll be using brushes. Diluting Copic Various Inks with isopropyl alcohol allows you to change the value of whatever color you're using much like water dilutes watercolor paint. And this watercolor-like application of Copic Various Ink has technical advantages, as well as economic ones.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_1.jpg

For the subject of this picture I chose my favorite strange fiction author, H.P. Lovecraft; a writer renowned for tales of cosmic terror. I was able to find a very dramatic high-contrast reference photo of him and decided to set him against a backdrop of interstellar nebulae similar to images from the Hubble space telescope—something I'm sure Lovecraft would've loved.

And I'm actually not using any reference for the cosmic backdrop. Instead I'll be playing to the strengths of a watercolor-like application of Copic Various Inks; letting colors blend and pool as they naturally will. As I'll be using Copic Ink directly as a medium, I chose a nice, sturdy sheet of Strathmore Wet Media Board; something that won't buckle or wrinkle under repeated application and saturation of liquid.

Step 1: Tracing a circle

I begin by tracing a circle around a large dinner plate using a 0.3 Copic Multiliner and lightly drawing the main figure of the picture with a .5 mechanical pencil. It's important to get the overall composition of this pencil stage just right before proceeding. I then use a 0.03 Copic multiliner to ink directly over the pencil, before using a kneadable eraser to eliminate any last trace of lead on the paper.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_2.jpg

Step 2: Protecting your paper

Now for the watercolor tricks. Art Masking Fluid is a fast-drying liquid latex used to cover or protect paper from watercolor paint. It's typically got a slightly off-color tint to it so that, once it's dry on your paper, you'll be able to see it clearly. Using a very beaten-up and expendable old paintbrush, I carefully apply the Masking Fluid to the sections of Lovecraft's face where I'd like to see the brightest highlights.

Saving the white of your paper is another watercolor technique that I employ in my Copic work, and Masking Fluid helps you easily to do that. After I've finished using the Masking Fluid on the figure, I actually flip my paintbrush around and use the other end to apply dozens and dozens and dozens of small dots in the background that will eventually become stars.

Any stick or pointy object will do for this step. I also strongly advise against using a good or expensive paint brush to apply masking fluid; it dries quickly and can damage the bristles of the brush.

Any stick or pointy object will do for this step. I also strongly advise against using a good or expensive paint brush to apply masking fluid; it dries quickly and can damage the bristles of the brush.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_3.jpg

Step 3: Working with isopropyl alcohol

The photo above shows a mixture of 1ml of Copic Various Ink (E00) diluted and mixed with 15ml of isopropyl alcohol. You can see in the photo that as the alcohol evaporates from the saucer, it leaves an almost tidal strata of dried pigment around the edge of the saucer. A brush wet with isopropyl alcohol can easily mix this dried pigment into any remaining ink in the saucer.

You'll need a small water container filled with enough isopropyl alcohol to clean your brush. When it comes to a physical palette for your ink and isopropyl alcohol, I find it's most practical to work a single color at a time. This stuff evaporates quickly, so it's best to focus on the color at hand, work fast, and do it in manageable quantities. A small ceramic saucer is the perfect size tool for a job like this.

As I'm working with open containers and wet media, the surface of my drafting table is laying completely flat. This will give you the most direct control of the wet ink on your paper, avoiding runny ink and unwanted color mixing on the page. The biggest economical advantage here is how much ink you're actually saving by the careful and purposeful mixture and application of the alcohol and Various Ink.

The rule-of-thumb here is that the more alcohol you use to dilute the ink, the lighter the resultant value will be.

The rule-of-thumb here is that the more alcohol you use to dilute the ink, the lighter the resultant value will be. I found that anywhere between 1ml-5ml of Ink mixed with 15ml of alcohol gives you a wide enough tonal range to create very effective washes of color.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_4.jpg

Step 5: Light to dark

Using the smaller #4 paintbrush, and applying another watercolor principle—working from lightest value to darkest value—I start on the figure with an underpainting of diluted Y0000. Each wash of color applied to this picture is going to gradually build on top of each other, blending and creating combinations of color similar to those of watercolor paintings. And, again, the values of these colors depends on how diluted with alcohol the ink is.

Giving the paper enough time to adequately dry, I then start building up subtle shadows in the face and figure with diluted E51. After this dries, I then build even further upon those shadows with a diluted solution of E00.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_5.jpg

Step 6: Background

Switching to the slightly larger #5 paintbrush, I begin on the background. I typically work on backgrounds first, but seeing as though this is (literally) a nebulous figure, I apply a diluted wash of V000 over both the background and to parts of the foreground figure. While most of the background wash is still wet, I immediately begin rendering more definitive cloud forms with a diluted solution of V01: in painting, this technique is called wet on wet.

This is a somewhat loose stage where the natural flow of the ink on the page largely decides how it's going to behave and perform. This technique works beautifully for rendering soft shapes like clouds and nebulae. I then apply some of that same diluted solution of V01 to parts of the foreground figure, giving him the appearance of emerging from or dissolving into the nebula.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_6.jpg

After allowing the paper to completely drybefore continuing, I then apply a single uniform wash of diluted BV00 over the entire background and parts of the foreground figure. As I let that wash dry, I switch back to the smaller #4 paintbrush and build up some of the facial shadows with a diluted solution of V01.

Incorporating highlights of background colors into your foreground figures always helps to unify a picture and visually anchor a figure into a sense of space.

Incorporating highlights of background colors into your foreground figures always helps to unify a picture and visually anchor a figure into a sense of space. Switching then to the larger #5 paintbrush, I continue rendering and defining cloud shapes with a darker (less diluted) solution of BV00.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_7.jpg

Step 7: Cosmic glow

A diluted solution of B63 adds even more form to the nebulous background clouds and helps to subtly define the figure's shoulder. I carefully apply a gentle gradient that makes it appear as though the figure dissolves into the clouds around him.

A wash of nearly undiluted R20 over sections of the background nebula appear to give it an almost cosmic glow, while that same solution of R20 on the figure's shoulder seems to reflect the shadows of the clouds around him (again, unifying the image as a whole and anchoring the figure into the background setting).

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_8.jpg

Step 8: Shadows of the face

Switching back again to the slightly smaller #4 paintbrush, a diluted solution of E11 refines the subtle shadows of the face. But now it's time to completely dispense with subtlety as a garish diluted solution of B32 fills in the largest reservoirs of pure shadow in the figure.

This underpainting of B32 in the foreground figure is the only color not incorporated into the background. Playing to the strengths of Copic Ink's transparency, this underpainting will help the figure stand out against the background and lend an extra sense of depth to the shadows. Once that's dry, a slightly diluted solution of B63 is applied on top of it.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_9.jpg

This same area of B63 shadow in the figure is built up with multiple washes, each allowed to completely dry before repeating. Each one is less diluted than the previous until it's eventually a completely undiluted wash of B63. As this strengthening shadow alters the overall contrast of the figure's face, a less diluted (darker) solution of E11 helps balance those shadows in both the figure's face and on his shirt and tie.

Step 9: Final wash

A final wash of the entire background with a diluted solution of B63 helps enhance all of the subtle background shadows beneath it. After this wash has dried, a less diluted solution of B63 helps define the shapes and shadows of the background's cosmic clouds, as well as the cloud-like shadows in the foreground figure.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_11.jpg

The moment of truth. Once the page has completely dried, a kneadable eraser lifts up every one of those dozens and dozens and dozens of small latex dots and masked areas on the figure's face. And beneath is revealed the pristine white of the paper that's been protected from the ink all this time. These protected areas of pure white give the highlights of the figure and the stars an almost spectral glow.

Copic_lovcraft_drawing_12.jpg

These protected areas of pure white give the highlights of the figure and the stars an almost spectral glow.

What's been methodically produced is a dynamically balanced but organic-looking image. A hybrid piece of art that plays the strengths of one medium against the weaknesses of another, creating a third medium: Copic Various Inks as watercolor.



We hope you enjoyed this amazing tutorial by Charlie! What tutorial topics would you like us to tackle next? Let us know in the comments!


 

Topics: Illustration, Copic

Charlie Cody
Charlie Cody on May 8, 2017

Charlie is a sketch card artist, approved by Lucasfilm LTD to work on the Rogue One Series 1 trading card set from the Topps Trading Card Company.