Bad Copic Marker advice?
Visit any adult coloring discussion board or Copic Marker fan site, or search How to Color with Copics and you’ll get lots of helpful advice. A lot of the information people volunteer is useful, but that’s not true for everything.
Free flowing knowledge is a good thing, until you get false info. Bad advice makes coloring harder than it has to be.
Some advice is iffy. Some information is misguided. And some tips are flat out wrong.
Why do people pass along bad tips?
Well, it’s not malice.
I don’t think people give fake tips on purpose.
Copic people try to be helpful.
They mean well.
But “someone told me” is usually the basis for Copic advice.
Someone tells someone else and that person tells three more people…
You can see how it spreads, right?
If you’ve ever played the telephone game, you know info gets mangled. “I love my dog Fred” can easily become a bomb threat if you pass the message through enough people.
People mis-hear. People mis-remember. People fill in the gaps with wrong details.
And that all assumes the very first someone knew what they were talking about.
We’re grateful to receive help. We appreciate good advice. We accept it with open hearts.
So we don’t question it.
We don’t put tips through scientific testing much less common sense scrutiny. We just assume it’s true and pass it along.
We give bad advice with the best of intentions.
And that’s why the virus spreads.
The worst Copic tip ever…
I was sitting in my cubicle, doodling with a stray Copic someone left on my desk. To level-up my procrastination game, I googled Copic Marker Art and landed on a discussion board where I was astonished to read:
“Add distilled water to Copics when they feel dry!”
Hey, at least it said distilled water. You wouldn’t want any city water mucking up your markers!
Granted, this was more than a decade ago and the expert in question was likely a 14 year old manga kid, but it bugged the bejeebers out of me.
Actually, it wasn’t the bad advice that rattled my dentures, it was the responses.
“Thanks for the tip!”
“I’ll try it next time.”
“Yes! My black marker is dead and I can’t afford a refill!”
I kept stewing about the poor readers. I dragged coworkers over to see the discussion thread. I told everyone I knew about the vast Copic crimewave on the internet. People avoided me for days because of my loud indignation.
My illustration partner got a tad fed up with me, cleared his throat and calmly said, “Well, go teach it better.”
Which shut me right up.
You see, I didn’t take the full series of marker indication classes in school. I hated markers, so I only did the bare minimum required to graduate. He was the one with all the marker enthusiasm. He was the one who left his darned Copic on my table in the first place.
He was the expert, not me.
Except in those days, an expert was anyone with two minutes more experience than everyone else. The cornucopia of bad advice was proof of that.
Eventually, I started teaching.
Because I was worried y’all would add water to your markers.
(Warning, this article contains a few associate links where applicable.)
Copic advice is better now
Most of it.
But there are a few horrible fake tips out there that absolutely will not die.
The problem with bad advice is that you’re usually in trouble when you hear it.
Your marker is exploding, you’ve made a big mistake, you need help now!
You don’t think. You just do what they tell you.
I know this article is going to open me up to some criticism. No one wants to get challenged on the advice they’ve been giving out. I know this article is going to drag a few haters out of their hidey-holes.
But darn it, if I have to read wrong stuff on yet another beginner Facebook group, I’ll have to call up my old partner again and vent his ear off.
Poor man. He thought he’d get rid of me by sending me off to teach.
Poor silly old man.
Myth #1: copic Markers take years to run dry
I hear this one a lot.
“Why would I need to buy refills? I’ve been using my markers for years and I’ve never refilled any of them!”
It’s almost a braggy thing. Refills are for the peasant-folk!
Look, I’ll be honest. I have a few Copics that have never been refilled. But that’s because I never use them!
Ink does not regenerate itself.
I feel stupid even typing that sentence.
But judging from how few people own refills, a lot of you are really into magical thinking.
Let’s be logical. When you use a marker, you take ink out of the marker and put it on paper. The ink leaves the marker and doesn’t come back.
Every time you color, your marker weighs a little less.
This can’t keep going on forever!
So this bad advice doesn’t hinge on years or any kind of time measurement.
The question is how much use can a marker endure before it requires more ink?
That depends upon you.
If you’re making itty-bitty images for teeny-tiny cards, maybe you can go years between refills.
If you only color once a month, that might also extend the lifespan.
But me? I color images as large as 18 inches. I color daily. I use a lot of ink! I can’t go years between refills. My YG03 and B60 can’t even last a full week!
The myth is wrong. If you color large or frequently, you will need to refill your favorite markers more than once a year.
The other bad advice here: running dry.
If you’re waiting for a marker to run dry before you refill it, then honey, you’ve been coloring badly for a good long time.
Blending requires a generous application of ink. You can not blend well without adequate moisture!
A Copic Marker comes from the factory weighing a little over 14 grams. In my testing, the blending reaction is compromised when markers reach about 13.7 grams. Blending is noticeably harder at 13.5 grams and almost impossible at 13.2 grams.
.8 grams is not a lot of ink and yet it makes a difference.
Most people don’t have blending problems, they have thirsty markers.
And I know that you know this! I hear people all the time talk about that wonderful “new marker feel!”
Folks, new markers feel new because they’re full!
You can have that new marker feel every darned day if you keep your markers properly filled.
I get it, Copics are expensive. The last thing you want to hear after you’ve blown $100 on a small handful of markers is that now you have to buy all the corresponding refills.
So when someone says “relax, I never refill anything” that sounds great!
But it’s bad advice.
Buy the refills. Use the refills.
For more info on ink levels and correct marker weights, see my article here.
Myth #2: When your marker Squeaks, it’s time to refill
If you follow this bad tip, you’re playing with fire.
You can kill a marker waiting for a squeak that never comes.
Copic Markers are like kids.
Some of them whine all the time. My son is like this. He feels every mosquito bite deep in his soul.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
Meanwhile, my daughter honestly did not find shin splints worth mentioning.
I film coloring classes with a microphone about 8 inches over my paper. You can hear some of my freshly filled Copics sing entire arias.
Other markers never make a sound.
Don’t get me wrong, a squeak is not nothing.
Squeaks indicate friction between the nib and the paper. A dry marker nib may squeak more than a well lubricated nib.
But some Copic inks are slicker than others. Some of the E inks, a few dark Rs, and many Vs feel downright oily. If you wait for an oily color to squeak, you won’t hear it until you’re in the dangerously low zone. By that time, you could have nib damage or even core damage.
You can easily replace a crusty nib but you can never replace the core. You can’t repair a core. When it dies, it’s dead. If you let a core dry out, you’re stuck shelling out money for a new marker.
Squeaks are not reliable.
The only way to accurately tell when a marker needs refilling is to weigh it with a digital scale.
For more information on weighing markers, see my article here.
Myth #3: use Copic colorless blender to smooth blends
Every beginner makes this mistake once.
One time only.
Once you do it, you learn your lesson.
I get it. It sounds like it would work. The #0 marker says “Colorless Blender”. Blender. It’s right there on the label. So it blends, right?
You’ve got a red marker and a blue marker and you want to make pretty purple transition zone. So you rub the little red/blue overlap with the #0.
You’re expecting great things. You can almost taste the gorgeous grape blend it will make…
But instead, you get a mess.
Not purple. Not smooth.
The colorless blender carves out a big puddle-looking bleached zone with a funky dark ring around the edge.
And don’t even try smoothing out the dark ring because that just makes the puddle bigger.
Why does the cap say blender when it should say Evil Rampager of Death?
Colorless blender doesn’t mean what you think it means.
A #0 marker is filled with solvent, Solvent is the base liquid that goes into all Copic markers.
At the factory, they start with the solvent and add a precise recipe of different dyes to make each unique marker color.
A blue Copic ink might have some blue dye, some violet dye, and maybe a little pink dye in the mixture. And it’s all blended together in the solvent base to make B66 or B37.
The colorless blender blending happens at the factory, not on your paper.
Blend-er is different than blend-ing.
Colorless blender is not for blending.
It will damage your project every freakin’ time you try it.
Which makes me wonder why we all sit back and ignore it when people suggest blend-ing with blend-er on discussion boards.
We all know it’s wrong. We’ve all done it. We’ve all failed. We all know it will never work.
And yet at least once a month some helpful newbie says to another newbie on the newbie board, “hey maybe you should try blending it with a zero?”
It’s bad advice.
If you suggest it, you’ve never tried it. If you’ve never tried it, you’ve got no business suggesting it.
Myth #4: Erase Copic mistakes with colorless blender
I’ve heard people call the zero “the eraser”.
And unlike the blending fiasco which we all know won’t work, you’ll get people who try to erase their marker mistakes with a colorless blender time and time again.
Because one of these days, it’s going to work, right?
Colorless blender is not magic.
It can’t make your mistakes go poof. It doesn’t make ink disappear.
There is nothing, Nothing, NOTHING that can erase a Copic Marker mistake.
Permanent markers make permanent mistakes.
The best you can do is disguise a mistake. Camouflage is the best you can hope for.
Remember when I said in the previous myth that colorless blender makes a big bleached out puddle with a dark ring around the edge?
Ink is made of little dye particles and those particles embed themselves between paper fibers. Colorless blender detaches the particles from the fiber and allows the particles to float freely again.
To be clear, the solvent isn’t making the dye fade or disappear, it’s just floating them around in a puddle of colorless blender.
But dye particles are slightly magnetic and they like to clump together. This is why you get a dark bath-tub ring around the outside edge of a puddle of blender. The solvent allows the dye particles to clump together, then it shoves the clumps to the outside edge where they dry out into a wall of dye that you can almost feel with your fingernail.
We could talk about fluid dynamics, surface tension, and covalency here, but it’s much easier to think of it this way:
Colorless blender is a snow shovel.
You can never erase a mistake. You can only move the color somewhere else.
I watch a lot of students make a lot of mistakes. And they all grab the #0 and start scrubbing right on top, in the center of the mistake.
Bad move. It just shovels the dye out into a ring. The ring is often worse than the original mistake. Then they’ll scrub the ring until the paper shreds.
It’s a marker. Stop using it like a pink pencil eraser. Friction does no good.
You have to be smart. You have to be patient. You have to go into every fix with a plan.
Fixing Copic mistakes is an art in itself. My next article will cover the entire process but for now, get the idea out of your head that the #0 marker can erase anything.
Colorless Blender does not erase mistakes, it just moves the mistake somewhere else.
Check out Amy’s favorite art supplies, click above.
Myth #5: Copic explosions are caused by built-up pressure
Now we’re getting controversial. Some of you are going to fight me on this one.
I’m expecting angst filled emails because I’ve met too many colorers who are strangely emotionally invested in this myth.
They want it to be right. So darned badly!
Copic markers have a weird design flaw.
You’ll be coloring along, whistling while you work, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the chipmunks are dancing, the air smells like cinnamon, your coloring looks perfect…
…and then your Copic vomits all over the place.
And it’s not a gentle ooze. Uncle Jed strikes oil. The shark bites the oxygen tank. Bill Murray takes out the gopher on the 18th hole. It’s Death Star level destruction, right there on your paper.
I call them Copic Volcanoes.
At least once a week, someone posts on the internet about the weird explosion thingie that happened to their marker.
And a whole bunch of people say the same darned thing. Admit it, you’ve said it too.
You blamed the explosion on pressure.
Pressure imbalance. Pressure build-up. Pressure release. Pressure, pressure pressure.
I call shenanigans.
It’s not pressure. Stop telling people this!
Copic Markers are not pressurized!
What does that even mean anyway?
Are they supposed to be high pressure inside? If that was the case, you could spray paint your walls with any Copic at any time.
Is it low pressure, like a vacuum? If that was case, they would suck, not spew.
You couldn’t pressurize a Copic if you tried! They’re not a sealed system. Both of the nibs sit in holes but there are air gaps around the edges. I’m not kidding. Go look straight down into the chisel nib end. That’s a mighty wide gap to hold on to any kind of positive or negative pressure!
The caps don’t seal tightly enough to hold pressure either. If they did, you’d need a pry bar to remove a cap. And when you finally got it off, it would make a loud hollow air pop sound, not a cute little click.
Look, I’ll be writing about Copic volcanoes next month but in the meantime, can we just agree to stop blaming volcanoes on the satanic forces of pressure?
Because it’s not pressure.
It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure. It’s not pressure.
Copics are not sealed systems. Copics can not hold pressure.
It’s not a thing. Stop telling people this.
Myth #6: Prevent Copic explosions by removing both caps
I wanted to make this a 5 Myth article but I knew what would happen when I mentioned #5 about pressure.
C’mon. You know you’re dying to say it. It’s right there on the tip of your tongue. So let’s get it over with:
But Amy, if Copic explosions are not a pressure imbalance, why does it help when I take the opposite cap off?
Look, I know it’s all over the internet. I’ve heard teachers say it.
When your marker explodes, take both caps off…
It’s a myth.
I promise I will follow up on this more in an in depth article.
But for now, let me say this loud and clear:
Taking both caps off does NOTHING to stop Copic explosions.
Taking both caps off does NOTHING to prevent additional Copic explosions.
Now hold on. I know this is angering some of you.
Calm down. Stop for a moment.
Let’s think about this clearly.
What happens when your Copic explodes?
You daintily say “oh, oh, oh” or you start chucking F-bombs.
You stare blankly at the explosion wondering “is this really happening?”
You look around for help.
You drop the marker.
You realize you dropped the marker on your paper, so you snatch it up and fling it on the desk instead.
You look around for help again.
You scramble for a tissue or paper towel. It’s usually across the room, so you have to run to get it.
You dab your project madly, trying to mop up the spill.
You look around for help. Third time on that, still no help coming.
You breathe slowly and try to fight back the tears.
You start brainstorming how to fix the blobby mess.
It takes a while to perform all of these steps, right?
It might take 2 to 5 minutes before you resume coloring. And the marker doesn’t lay there oozing that whole entire time, does it?
It stops on it’s own, usually somewhere between steps 2 and 4.
Copic explosions are a temporary burst, not a steady stream.
By the time you’re thinking clearly enough to take opposite cap off, the flood is over.
It’s long gone, whether you remove the caps or not.
Taking the opposite cap off makes you feel better. It makes you feel like you’re actively doing something. You’re effective! You’re proactive! You’re in charge and on guard. No more spewing on your watch!
But deep down, you know darned well that removing the cap doesn’t actually help because we’ve all had secondary explosions with both caps off!
So what does taking the cap off really do?
“Take the caps off” is easy advice. It feels highly effective but it’s like pressing the elevator button six times.
You can do it but it’s not doing anything.
For a full article on Volcano theories and possible solutions, read more here.
Stop believing without thinking!
Copic myths make coloring harder.
Copic myths make coloring less enjoyable.
Don’t just parrot advice, think about it before you pass it on.
6 myths to avoid spreading:
1. It’ll be years before you have to refill a Copic Marker
Maybe, but certainly not if you color large, not if you color often, or if you want to blend well.
2. Wait until your Copic squeaks, then buy the refill
Nope. I’ve got markers that squeak when they’re full and markers that never squeak at all.
3. Use a Colorless Blender to get smooth Copic blends
Argh! NOOooooo!!! You’re going to damage your project!
4. Use a Copic Colorless Blender to erase mistakes
That’s not how it works. Solvent can’t erase anything, it can only sweep the mistake under the rug.
5. Copic explosions happen when the forces of evil gather on the far side of the ice wall and plot to take over the summerlands where peaceful hobbits square dance with wand-wielding British boarding school students…
Oh sorry. That’s the same kind of fantasy as Pressure Imbalance. They’re all a fat lot of fiction.
6. Quick! Take the caps off to prevent Copic explosions!
Tap dancing works too. Not really, but both are fun.
Want to know more about Copic myths and breaking all the coloring rules?
Join me for Splashy Hydrangea, a lesson which will have you coloring upside-down and backwards.
I’m not kidding.
We’re thinking so far outside the box your head will spin. Don’t miss this life changing lesson. You’ll never look at coloring the same way again.
Let’s color drips & splashes!
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"Splashy Hydrangea" using Power Poppy's Hydrangea Hype
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