Mistakes Experienced Copic Colorers Make - Overly Complex Coloring


Race car drivers occasionally crash.

Professional scuba divers sometimes drown and winning an Academy Award does not preclude you from starring in a long string of box-office bombs.

Being good at something doesn't guarantee success.

In fact, some might say that your expertise on a subject makes it MORE likely that you'll encounter failure.

After all, the odds of being mutilated by a wild beast go up significantly when you earn that impressive promotion from Lion Feeder to Lion Tamer.


Copic Masters make mistakes too

We talked about mistakes that beginning colorers make here.

And then we talked some more about it here.

But beginners aren't the only ones out there producing less-than-wow images. Blunders may be harder to spot when a colorer has had years of practice under their belt, but the oopses are still worth learning from.

Over the next few months, we'll take a look at mistakes that are more common amongst the experienced crowd.

I hesitate to call them mistakes because in most cases, pros do these things without realizing it. You get good at coloring and that breeds complacency. We're going to talk about the stuff that pops into your work when you're not paying attention. Is there a word for mucking something up because you were thinking about solving the middle east crisis instead of correctly coloring a laughing goat stamp?

Maybe not. Eskimos might have 200 words for snow but they got nothin' for that.

If you're an old-hand at markering, it never hurts to be reminded of possible pitfalls or pratfalls. And if you're still a beginner, use this as a warning about what not to do when you're good enough to do a lot more of what you like to do.


Pro Mistake #1- Using every marker you own on a single image

Is this really a problem?

Hoo-boy, it sure is!

Take an oogle at Pinterest some time and you'll see tons of recipes which use 5-6 markers for on hair or skin.

Six markers used on one head of hair?


I once clicked on an pretty awesome dog image and found the blogger had used nine markers.

On a white poodle.

Nine, on just the white part. The pink collar had another four markers.

It was fabulous coloring but I wonder what her family was doing for the three years it took her to perfect her amazing thirteen marker technique.


quality over quantity

It's nice to have every color but you don't have to use them all in one image. Intermediate levvel mistakes. | VanillaArts.com

Trust me. I've seen a lot of people who own 358 ways to screw something up.

Copic markers are an investment. They aren't cheap and for many of us, it takes a while to build up a decent collection.

Years of saving, wishing, dreaming. All that time spent waiting increases the pride of ownership when you finally do own more than a handful.

There's a certain joy that comes from having just the right color for every occasion. I know that sounds weird to non-marker people but darned if it doesn't feel great to think "hey, I need a darker orange" and to reach right for it. A good collection of colors makes your soul smile.

But you can color quite well without owning the entire collection.

I hate to harp on the K.I.S.S. principle but it really does hold true here. Simple color palettes almost always rise above the marker intensive palettes.

And using 42 reds doesn't make for a better apple image, it often leads to an over-inked image.


Many of my images are just Two marker blending combinations

I'm serious.

"Super Hero Henry" by CCDesigns, colored with four 2 marker combos. You don't have to own every Copic to color successfully. | VanillaArts.com

Meet "Super Hero Henry" here, a wonderful stamp image by C. C. Designs.

He's colored in 2-marker blending combinations.


2 red markers.

2 gold markers.

A gray and a black.

2 light blue.

2 dark blue.

And 3 pencils. But honestly, he looked pretty spiffy without the pencils.

You don't need to own every blue on the market to color that cape. And anyone who uses six markers to do it runs the risk of over-inking their image.

Because here's what happens when you try to squeeze six markers onto a 1 inch cape:

Too many markers can eat away at your progress. | VanillaArts.com

I've used six blue markers on the cape here, the darkest ends in a 9, the lightest in a 1.

See inside the yellow circle? The color has been eaten away. This happened when my B41 from the highlight zone leached up into a mid-tone area containing B34 and B37. 

The high levels of solvent in the B41 literally ate away at the darker inks. Solvent can carry further than you think, especially if you're an experienced colorer who is past the point of having to think through every single stroke and blend.

To fix that, I need to go back up into that dark stripe and bring more color down to mask the transition from dark to light. And from the original B99, I'll have to go all the way down through the entire marker set to blend smoothly into the B41 area again.

avoid over-inking by checking the backside of coloring images | VanillaArts.com

But a quick check of the backside of my cardstock tells me that my paper is almost fully saturated.

Essentially, I laid down so much ink in the first go-round from B99 on downward that I've almost exhausted the amount of ink my cardstock can hold. Remember, this area only measures 1" square so it's pretty easy to ink it too aggressively as you blend.

If I go through the process again, I'm going to develop that greasy, flooded look that over-colored areas get.

This wouldn't have happened if I'd limited my blending combination. It's much harder to do damage with two or three colors from a smaller number range. Six complicates your life. You almost can't help over-inking when using large combinations, your level 1 is going to damage anything over a 4 that it makes contact with. Small stamp size only compounds the squeeze-'em-all-in-there problem.

And really, it is simply not necessary to blend with a 9-8-7-4-2-1 combination. That's complete overkill.

I own enough markers to do it, but that doesn't mean it's a wise decision.


so if you've got a small collection of markers, relax!

The good news is that you don't need every blue under the sun to color well.

Two can do.

And for all those pros, showing off their overly complex blending combinations... well, to each his own. If it makes you happy to use 'em all, I can't stop you.

But color me unimpressed.