Copic Marker Strategies: Different objects should be colored differently

Think about what you're coloring before you start. |

Let me ask a question…

and be please honest about the answer.

Think back to the last project you colored with Copic markers. Picture it in your mind.


I'll bet you made a classic Copic mistake

Don't feel bad, I see people making this same mistake every day.

What mistake?

Well, it's the kind of mistake that results in projects that look like this:

Traditional Copic coloring technique is always going to look flat and lifeless, no matter what markers you use. |

when you could be coloring like this:

It's not enough to plan out your colors, you need to think about what each item is made out of. |

Why is one so much more pleasing than the other?

It's not the stamp image. It's the same digital stamp ("Snowman Supplies" found here). Printed on the same kind of marker card too.

Don't be tempted to blame the skill of the colorer. I colored them both. And you can't say that I half-hearted the top image because I was really, really, really careful to use the same exact technique that I was given in a Copic class taught by a Copic certified teacher at a reputable art store.

It has nothing to do with the markers used. I used the same markers for both images.

Too many colorers color every object the same exact way

Mount Rushmore stamp? Blend it smooth.

Clown on a unicycle stamp? Blend it smooth.

Dancing cow wearing a road cone for a hat? Blend that sucker out as smooth as you can.


Remember that one annoying kid on the playground?

On our playground, his name was Phillip. No one wanted to play with Phillip, especially not games of chance like Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Because Phillip always chose rock.

Rock. Rock. Rock. It didn't matter what time of day or whom he played, Phillip chose rock 98.992% of the time.

Not much fun, eh?

Now I know you really don't want to hear this, but every time you color your entire image with the same smooth blending technique, you become Phillip.

Blend. Blend. Blend.



Classic Copic Technique can only take you so far

You can color better than this! Learn more at |

Classic Copic technique is that smooth blending thing that most of you do.

I don' t care how you use the smooth blending technique. Some of you put a dark edge around every shape and work towards the center getting lighter and lighter. Others put the dark in the center of each shape and work lighter as you move outwards. And some of you have grown enough that you really try to get the darks in the corners, crevices, and folds.

Darks, darks, and darks. We're always worried about where the dark markers go. And yet somehow, no matter how much you color and practice, you're still not getting closer to realism.

That's because you are handcuffed by the blending process.

Classic Copic technique will never give you depth or realism.

Because you're still blending everything smooth.


Real Life is not smooth

Three different materials require three different coloring methods. Coloring everything the same looks boring. |

The top hat I drew for this image was once worn by Abraham Lincoln. Either Old Abe was really hard on his headgear or maybe it was dumped in someone's attic for a century; the point is that the hat is in rough shape. The beaver-felt is faded, cracked, scuffed, and rumpled.

You can't color something like that smooth.

Coal is a deep black rock but it has millions of facets on the surface that are almost reflective. Coal in bright light practically glitters. 

You can't color something like that smooth.

Woolen mittens are soft and fluffy but that only describes how they feel. Using your eyes instead of your fingers, knitted objects are a series of ridges and each ridge is made up of tiny little knots. Knitwear is lumpy, bumpy, and full of cross-directional fibers.

You can't color something like that smooth.


realism takes the object into account

Is the object in your stamp image made of:

  • fur?

  • plastic?

  • metal?

  • fabric?

  • flesh?

  • paper?

  • stone?

All of those objects feel different, correct? Your fingers do not lie. I can hand you a pair of stainless steel scissors, then a pair of plastic scissors, and even with your eyes closed, you can tell them apart, right?

Realism is when your viewer can feel something using just their eyes.

So if a rock feels different than a pair of scissors which feels different than a piece of paper, your coloring should show me that.

Rock, paper, and scissors should never be colored the same. Because each object feels decidedly different. Your viewer should sense that from the way you color them.

Help me feel them with my eyes.


The top mistake colorers make…

…is to think more about the color than the way something feels.

Even long time, very popular coloring bloggers... people with decades of Copic experience... most of them still color their images 100% smooth.

So this isn't a newbie mistake, it's an ALMOST-EVERYONE-WHO-OWNS-A-COPIC mistake.

People spend waaaaayyyy too much time planning out just the right blending palettes.

And they spend zero time thinking "Hey, what does a pair of scissors feel like?" "What does a rock feel like?" What does paper feel like?"

If you aren't describing the feel of unique objects with your coloring, if you're coloring everything smoother than Fred Astaire, you're blowing your shot at realism.


before you sit down to your next coloring project, please pause!

Put aside your plans for awesome blending combinations and spend a few moments thinking about what each object in the stamp feels like.

Is it matte or shiny? Hard or soft? Gritty or silky? Heavy or lightweight?

Then tell us that story- through your use of texture, stroke quality, and line pattern.

Help us feel it with our eyes.