Copic Marker Leaks: What Causes Ink Explosions? (and how to prevent them)

Copic Marker Leaks: What Causes Ink Explosions? (and how to prevent them)

My Copic Marker exploded!

You’re coloring with a Copic and life is wonderful. Then suddenly ink starts oozing out the end of your marker and all over your project. Join Amy for a look at how and why Copic Markers suddenly leak ink. How can you prevent ink floods from damaging your next coloring project?

Is Your Coloring Flat? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers


Do you have depth problems?

It's a common complaint I hear from new Copic Marker students.

I've tried and I've tried. I've taken classes and I've worked through every tutorial I can get my hands on. I own a lot of markers and I keep trying new blending combinations... but still, everything I color looks flat!

Part of the problem is the learning process. Free tutorials can only teach you what the blogger is willing to give away for free. Which usually isn't much and it's almost always relegated to how they colored one particular stamp.

But honestly? The source and true underlying problem is glaringly obvious when I ask to see what markers the person owns. This is photo is fairly typical; most people only own the beautiful colors.

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

It's fun to buy pretty markers

Copic newbies buy markers in small bursts, carefully selecting only the best and most beautiful colors.

Oh! That's pretty! I like that red and the purple... I should get a pink? That one's nice. Let's get a green too!

You did the same thing, didn't you? When every dollar counts, you select the colors you love most. That's completely logical. I get it.

But then you get home and find that you can't color anything because you only own two greens, a bright yellow, fire engine red, and three pale violets.


So you head back to the store

Because the internet said that you should buy markers in blending combinations.

And the internet never lies, right?

So you plop down more hard-earned cash to purchase two markers to go with each of your existing markers. You start buying Copics by number, one step up and one step down. Perfect little Copic approved blending combinations.

Now you feel special because you own lots of markers; enough to need a special box and to fill out lots of rectangles in your inventory chart. And hey, look at all the blending trios! Aren't you clever?

But you still can't color much because you haven't done a thing to remedy the fact that you're STILL sitting there with only green, yellow, red, and violet markers.

You can't color bears, you can't color Easter baskets, you can't color chickens, or sailboats or monkeys or piglets or rainbows or ice cream or that funny stamp with smiling underwear rolling around in a little clothes dryer.


then you get smart

You take your stamps to the store.

This weekend I'm going to color the bear. I need a brown bear combination. No pretty colors, just a brown trio!

About now is when students usually hunt me down for help. They own over a hundred markers and still can't color much. And it's all flat. No depth. No dimension. Just pretty colored flatness.

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

If you want dimension, you've gotta get ugly!

I colored this C. C. Designs image using just pretty colors. I used a couple nice skin tones, some lovely hair colors, a few cute pinks and two dreamy blues.

Then I did my usual colored pencil magic over the top. I added all the texture I normally would. But again, I only used pretty pinks and blues and one Copic approved Sepia Multiliner.

Boring. Snooze fest. Unimpressive.

What's missing?


Neutrals! Desaturated Colors! Muddy Tones!

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

You know, the colors that you skipped over because they're not very pretty?

I'll buy a few grays someday... but first I want to own all the cute colors.

Here is Bunny Twila again. I used all the same colors as the first shot, but this time I added the grunge.


Completely different.

It's important to understand that depth is a trick of the eye, a false sense of spacial distance. The look of distance doesn't come from using a darker marker. It's not the dark pink that makes the inside of Twila's bunny-rabbit ears look deep and inset.

Instead, the central ear looks deep because I muddied up the color by putting some gray underneath the pink. Then I added some Indigo Blue pencil on top. Gray? Indigo? On pink?

The inside of her ears is not a pretty color anymore, but it does look pretty darned dimensional. If you want objects to look deep or recessed, you have to shade them and that's different than coloring them with the next level of pink.


Copic makes 44 gray markers

And they have a ton of pseudo grays hiding in amongst the other color families.

And I'll bet that even if you own some of them, you're not using them.

You have to make a little mud if you want to get dimensional. That means choosing grays or other colors that deliberately clash with your pretty markers.

Underneath your sunshine yellows, there needs to be a little violet. Under your skin tones, you gotta have some sleep-deprived-eye-bag blue. Reds need more than burgundy to look shaded. And don't get me started on the wonderful relationship between orange and purple!

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

If all of this sounds foreign to you, you are not alone

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

Free tutorials don't cover this stuff because it's not something you can explain in four paragraphs and a few tut photos.

And frankly, most Copic instructors don't understand desaturation well enough to teach it. Ask 'em why some artists use bold violet on faces and you're not likely to get a correct answer.

It's easy to include a gray marker in a free tutorial, especially when you saw someone else use the same recipe and it magically worked for them. So why not pass it on in your blog readers too? 

It's much harder to explain why it works or to give readers advice on other similarly effective colors. 

A student asked me what Copic Markers I use most

Here's the list.

Not what you expected, eh?

You would never know from this list that red is my favorite color. You can't tell that BG11 appears in almost all my color palettes or that I go through YG03 like it's water. And my list here isn't muted because I only draw and color drab or uninteresting things. I use these markers on everything from freelance human anatomy and technical illustrations to my hobby botanicals.

And yet, these are the markers that sit in little mug on my desk. They rarely go back into my marker storage unit. There's no point in putting away something I'm going to use again soon.

My most used markers won't win any beauty contests. Thhey're not the stars of the show but they are the supporting cast of every image that I color. Every single one.

I use this weird raggle-taggle group of ugly markers to push the beauty queen colors deeper, farther, and stronger. These are the colors I use to create dimension. I don't use them to color, I use them to color my colors.

And I can teach you too.


Join me in a coloring class- learn to push colors to a whole new depth

You'll never look at color the same way again.

Is your coloring flat and lacking in depth? Why you need to own lots of ugly Copic Markers. |

Improve Your Coloring Immediately: Fill Your Marker


I'm not a big believer in abracadabra style tips and tricks.

Changes and improvements usually require a bit of blood, sweat, and that stuff that leaks out of your eyes when the ASPCA commercials play.

But sometimes there really are easy things which we completely overlook- because they're so simple.


Here's another installment of the tiny thing series

Otherwise known as "Amy points out the little things some of you are not doing..."

Once a month, I point out one small thing, one mind-numbingly easy step that you can add to your coloring routine that will allow you to color better forever.

Last month, we talked about why it's important to identify every element in your stamp image BEFORE you begin coloring. Today we tackle a brand new Tiny Thing:


Refill your Markers

I know it's dumb for me to even mention this, but stick with me here. I'm not going where you think I'm going...

I'll bet for 99% of us, the top reason to purchase Copic markers instead of another brand is because Copic Sketch, Ciao, Original, and Copic Wide markers are refillable.

If you're like me, you actually used refill-ability as the primary justification for splurging on a luxury marker rather than going with a standard marker.

"Jinkies! they're totally refillable!!! So in the long run, I'm saving tons and tons of money!"

That's what you said, way back then. But let's be honest now...

How many Copics have you actually refilled? How many Various Inks do you own? How many of your markers are more than 2 years old and have never been refilled?

Have you ever refilled your Copics? |

I'm not just talking about your favorite go-to markers, the ones you use in almost every project. I'm including the pumpkin orange markers that you mainly use in the fall and the pine-dark greens that only see action in December.

Of all the Copic Markers you own, what percentage of them have been refilled?

If you're a normal crafter, I'm guessing it's a fairly low number.

"But, but, but... my teachers and my favorite blogs... they all say that you don't have to refill a marker until it squeaks!"

You won't hear that kind of nonsense from me. Here's the low-down and dirty truth:

  1. Some markers always squeak- call 'em the squeaky wheels, they never shut up!

  2. Some markers never squeak- these are the martyr markers that will die before they complain

  3. By the time a marker squeaks, you've been coloring at less than full power for quite a while


Skills & technique can only get you so far

Let's say that tomorrow, you decide not to tie your shoes. You head off to work or run errands and your sneaker laces are flapping in the breeze. Just because.

What could go wrong?

Well, for starters, you're going to move at grandma pace, especially after you stumble for the fifth time. You'll be lucky not to break your face when you run down a flight or two of stairs. You might even miss a big staff meeting if your meandering lace gets stuck in the elevator door.

But I'm willing to bet that the last thing you'll do is to berate yourself, "Geeze, I'm sooooo bad at walking!"

I'm also guessing that you won't surf the internet for tutorials on how to walk better and you won't price out unicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.

It's the shoelaces, not you.

The condition of your tools matters too.

You can be the love child of Rembrandt and Picasso but if you're using dry markers, you aren't going to be cranking out any masterpieces.

Every time you use a weak marker, you are deliberately deciding not to tie your shoes.


Copics need adequate juice to blend properly

If you've got enough ink in the mix, even improbable sounding blends are possible.

BG57 to Y38.

Here, I've feather blended BG18 into Y35. I'm not sure when you'd ever use this blending combination, but with enough moisture, you can blend any two markers.

Moisture. In markers, that means solvent. Your coloring needs to be ooshy, gooshy and wet to give the pigments a chance to get cozy and mingle.

Solvent is like Barry White music. To make a blend, ANY BLEND, the pigments need to get romantic and really looooove one another.

Mmm hmmmmm, baby.

Low-ink markers have no sex appeal.

But here's the problem, Copic Markers do not come with a see through window. There's no level markings, no handy-dandy fill gauge, and there's no ADT alarm system that makes your desk lamp blink Def-Con 3 red until you refill your marker.

Instead, you have to pay attention, you have to know your markers. Copics are 358 little children and you are their mother.


Unless you are magical, your marker projects all use ink

3 Reasons why my markers need refilling this week |

I colored the same large image three different times last week.

These images are each 8.5" wide.

That's three big reasons why my BG53 and BG57 markers are now low on juice.

Barry doesn't like it when my markers are dry.

No, baby. Noooooo.

Neither marker is squeaking yet. As I said above, by the time a marker cries out in pain. it's already past it's prime.

As a good marker-momma, I know my two babies are hungry. If I'm to continue coloring at top level, I must refill them before I can expect good results from either maker. To continue using them half-full is the equivalent of not tying my shoes for the next few projects.

I have a mug where I stash markers that need refreshing.

Did you catch that?  I don't even call it refilling. I refresh my markers... because having to refill them means I am not being good to my precious little Copic babies.

This weekend, or when I have a few spare moments, I'll refresh all my sad mug markers that need attention. It's much easier to refresh a bunch at a time than to stop everything I'm doing to freshen and clean just one marker.


Keep your markers topped off, fresh, and juicy

Mmm hmmmm, baby. Make Barry happy.

It's One Tiny Thing you can do today which will improve your coloring immediately!

One Size Fits All? Internet Coloring Tutorials Can be Misleading


I love not having to try-on Blue Jeans anymore!

It's so wonderful to go into any store, pick out six different pairs of pants, and not have to try any of them on.

Perfect fitting jeans- every time. No matter what I grab, it all fits!

Yep. Thanks to the new One-Size-Fits-All technology that Levi's is now using, fitting rooms are totally a thing of the past.

2, 4, 6, 8, or 18... it no longer matters. It's One-Size-Fits-All from here on out, baby! And here's the cool part. I'm a woman who's 5'6" married to a man who's 6'4"... now we can share the same pants! It's like double the wardrobe as long as he doesn't mind a few sequins on the back pockets.

Wait... that's not real?

It was all a dream?




Now Think about this for a minute:

  1. Your sister makes amazing chocolate chip cookies

  2. Your friend from work just gave you a recipe for killer chocolate chip cookies

  3. Mrs. Fields sells yummy chocolate chip cookies

Your head didn't explode. All three things can be equally true.

There are several ways to make a pretty darned good cookie.


one size doesn't fit all

This isn't a shock to you, is it?

Nope. And if the popularity of Life Hackers and other tips & tricks sites is any indication, we're all in search of ways to improve the way we do things. Heck, my Facebook feed is full of gif videos about how I've been tying my shoes all wrong and how to cook a whole chicken in under 15 seconds... recently it seems the internet is all about finding new ways to do the same old stuff.

Different is good. We like different.

So why then, do you beat yourself up for not being able to duplicate the techniques used by the Copic Goddess you've subscribed to on YouTube?

Isn't she the possessor of the one and only magically correct way to color something?

Gotcha there, didn't I?

Levi's doesn't make one size fits all jeans and YouTubers don't make one method fits all videos.

I know. Bummer.


There are millions of ways to skin a cat

Strawberry Tea, a lesson in coloring realism |

Disclaimer: I have never skinned a cat; I've never tried. I have never looked at my cat and wondered what she'd look like sans-skin. Where in the heck did that phrase come from anyway?

Anyway... back to coloring.

I color in the way that makes the most sense for me:

  • I work from dark to light

  • I rarely use markers from the same number family

  • I usually use two stroke patterns

  • I underpaint or overpaint shade colors with gray, purple, or blue markers

  • I rarely highlight with markers

  • I add details and texture with colored pencils

And these are the methods I teach in my classes.

But here's the thing- I don't expect my methods to work for every student.

You live in a different body than I do. Your muscles move your hands and fingers differently than my muscles do. Your eyes see things differently; your brain processes information differently. We have different styles, preferences, and most importantly, we have different goals for our coloring.

There is absolutely no reason to assume that we should color the same way.

I find that about 1/3 of my students require something different. Maybe we change their grip or the stroke direction. Maybe we adjust the color palette, the number of passes, or the order of passes.

Of the remaining 2/3 of students who do closely mimic me, every single one of them will take my method and slowly modify it over the months and years as they perfect their own unique technique.

Millions of cats...

A good teacher will show you more than one way to do something. A great teacher will watch what you're doing and tailor solutions based upon your unique situation.

Ultimately, the goal isn't to learn THE ideal technique, it's to find YOUR ideal technique.

You're a unique person, why would you assume that your ideal technique would be right off the shelf (or straight off an internet tutorial)?


So ease up on yourself!

Your YouTube or Vimeo Idol is demonstrating one way to color. But I can guarantee, it is not the only way to get the job done.

If you can duplicate what an artist is doing, then bonus points and a gold star for your forehead; that's just ducky.

But remember, all coloring videos are a performance.They are not showing you the one and only, end all-be all, ultimate way of coloring. It's a way of coloring.

Videos are great and I'm not trying to knock them. I've learned a ton about what (and what not) to do via videos. But keep it in perspective. It's a free video.

Learn from your favorite internet colorer, but do not feel pressured to perfectly mimic someone else's technique or approach.

Free tutorials are sometimes a hit and sometimes a miss. And oh boy, I've seen a heck of a lot of bad information on YouTube!

If something doesn't work, the fault is either in the YouTuber's technique or their presentation. It's almost never you.

Use the stuff that works and trash the rest.

Now if we can just get someone to develop those magical pants...