Do you know that copic marker is not permanent?
Many crafters have grown quite accustomed to the term “archival”.
Lightfast, permanent, and archival products are now so standard in the paper crafting world that people automatically assume all premium products are lightfast.
But that’s not true in the art world.
Many of the products that artists use every day will fade with either exposure to light, moisture, or air.
Some of the most gorgeous watercolor pigments can not stand up to UV light. Many mid tone art papers will lighten over time and some expensive and beautiful artist grade drawing papers yellow with age.
Copic Marker? It fades.
Copic is what we call a “fugitive” ink.
Fugitive means that not only does the ink fade, but it fades pretty darned fast.
You can frame your project under special UV protectant glass and then tuck that project into the darkest of drawers and the Copic will still fade.
It’s not light waves, moisture, or oxygen exposure that makes Copic Ink fade, it’s all of the above plus the passing of time.
Copic Marker ink is highly fugitive.
wait, Copic Marker Fades?
Holy cow. If you haven’t heard this before, please listen.
YES! Copic Marker fades!
Some projects dim worse than others but all Copic ink will disappear eventually. It all depends upon the color, the environmental conditions, and sadly, the tick of the clock.
My Rainbow Chameleon project shown here was colored in May of 2018.
It’s been hanging in a shop display since the day I colored it.
Not near a window
Not in direct sunlight (about 25 feet from the nearest sunbeam and the windows are commercial UV glass designed to protect scrapbooking inventory)
Held at a fairly constant 70 degrees
No major changes in humidity
I scanned the chameleon again today, nine months later, so that you could fully appreciate the typical look of very average Copic fading.
I think the green, red, and orange are all about the same.
The darkest violet marker has lightened slightly.
But whoa, look at the front arm!
The blue portions of the chin, shoulder, and arm were colored with B32, B34, and B37.
The B32 and B34 are completely gone.
Only a little of the B37 remains and now it looks more like C2.
In fact, most of the blue you’re seeing on the faded chameleon is actually Prismacolor 901 Indigo Blue, which frankly, is not one of the most lightfast pencils in the Prismacolor lineup.
To be clear, only 9 months have passed and the project is now pretty much ruined.
So when I said Copics are not lightfast, were you expecting them to be this level of not-lightfast?
Pssstttt… for those of you who spent big bucks on ultra-lightfast brands of premium colored pencils to use with your Copics… how sick to your stomach are you feeling right now?
So why aren’t copic fans rioting in the streets?
I mean, we’re paying upwards of $6.00 per marker and we’re getting less than 9 months of color from them?
Why aren’t people talking about this more?”
Well, I don’t have an answer for that. It’s not exactly a deeply hidden secret.
I can only assume that folks aren’t paying attention.
Crafters assume that all artist grade products have a little halo or a quality seal of approval on them. They expect that anything made for an artist must be permanent, lightfast, archival, and built to withstand nuclear winter.
But that’s not true.
Especially if it’s a classic artist product using the same heritage ingredients that they’ve always been made with.
User complacency is also a problem.
If you see the same coloring project every day on your bulletin board, you don’t notice it gradually changing, little teeny-tiny bits at a time, softly fading away.
But also, let’s face it, a lot of you give your artwork away. You make cards or little gift tags with your markers and like it or not, that stuff ends up in your nephew’s trash can about 10 minutes after the birthday party is over.
If you give it away, you don’t notice the fade.
But certainly the Copic company knows, right?
Why haven’t they done something about this?
Copic was never meant to last
At this point in this article, you’ve likely noticed that I’m not terribly upset that all my Copic projects are destined to dissolve into nothingness.
I really don’t care that Copic Marker fades. It can disappear completely, oh well.
Why am I not bothered?
Well, I’m an old-school artist who took all my training classes just before the world went digital.
I was a Graphic Artist back when the word Graphic actually meant more than “I took a web design class at the community college.”
I was in the Commercial Illustration program back when Illustration meant more than “I heart Manga.”
These terms have been watered down by today’s younger generations but once upon a time, Graphic Arts & Commercial Illustration used to imply specific talents, precise training, and practiced skill.
Graphic Artists used tools particularly suited to the needs of our industry.
These tools, materials, and mediums are still available at art stores today and they have totally different standards and different aims than other artist mediums.
Markers were never designed to make final, framable, keepable art.
Markers were designed for designing.
In advertising, an Art Director would plan out an advertising campaign and an Illustrator would use markers to draw mock-ups of the advertisement for client approval.
“Here is what the ad will look like; do you approve?”
In movies and television, another Art Director or even the main Director would have a Storyboard Artist capture the scenes they intend to film.
“Here is what the scenes will look like; do you approve?”
In architecture, an Architect would use markers to draw street level views of his building for client approval.
“Here is what the building will look like; do you approve?”
In landscaping, a Landscape Designer would use markers to layout the plan for gardens.
“Here is what the landscaping will look like; do you approve?”
In interior design, an Interior Designer used markers to create room views and layout boards.
“Here is what the room will look like; do you approve?”
In fashion, a Fashion Designer used markers to draw the cut, style, and color of a garment.
“Here is what the clothes will look like; do you approve?”
Notice: there is NEVER a time when the marker artist is creating a final piece of artwork.
This is why I don’t care about Copic fading.
Pretty marker artwork is not the goal.
The marker drawing is not the art.
The marker drawing is a plan for making art with something else.
This is why I’m not upset about markers fading.
Copic Markers are not the problem.
YOU are the problem!
You are using the wrong tool to create long-lasting framable art.
A house made from cotton candy
If you want to draw or color something that lasts, you need to use materials that last.
It’s just that simple.
As a crafter, you can’t wander into an art store, grab a nifty looking product, and then get angry when it doesn’t conform to your assumptions.
Markers were not made to make final art.
Would I object to Copic introducing a lightfast lineup?
Are you crazy? I’d be first in line to purchase lightfast Copics. I’d camp out overnight in front of the store. I’d dump my savings account into the Kickstarter fund. I’d pay through the nose for a truly permanent marker and I would recommend them to all my students.
But for now, if I want to make art that lasts for generations, I’m simply not going to choose markers.
How do we preserve marker art?
So by now, I’ve got you panicked, right?
You’re sitting on stacks of cards and projects and you never realized they’re all about as archival as a gallon of milk.
What to do, what to do, what to do?
Is there a UV spray, fixative, or sealant that will stop the fading?
Nope. Because UV light isn’t the only problem. No spray will stop all light, all oxygen, all humidity, or the ceaseless march of time. Even worse, many sprays contain alcohol, so spraying your Copic Marker projects can damage them beyond repair.
Can we frame them behind protective glass?
Sure, but that won’t stop fugitive ink. Glass only stops UV rays, so it’ll only be as effective as the sealant sprays discussed above.
What about storing them in the dark using binders, portfolios, or archive boxes?
That still won’t stop oxygen, moisture, and the tick of the clock.
Is it hopeless? Is there nothing we can do?
Ahhh, my dear grasshoppers… remember when I talked about what markers were originally developed for?
Remember when I mentioned design and Graphic Arts?
That’s the key to preservation, sweet friends.
Graphic Art was never intended to be a final product. Graphic Art is designed to be graphically reproduced.
Mass media— Magazines. Newspapers. Flyers. Billboards. And now the internet.
How do you keep your Copic artwork forever?
Capture it graphically!
1. Scan all your projects using a high quality scanner using the best settings. I scan all my projects at 600dpi.
2. Keep digital master copies of all your artwork. Keep back-up copies too.
3. When you want to give something away, print a copy.
4. If you can’t print properly from home, go to a print shop. You don’t have to have full lithographs made but at least have your art printed on archival paper using high quality inks designed to last for more than a couple of years.
Look, I know that sounds like a major pain in the keister but you were the one who chose to use Copic Markers.
You voluntarily signed yourself up for this style of art.
When you choose to use an old school Graphic Artist’s product, you assume responsibility for all that the medium entails. Now you must work like an old school Graphic Artist and that means using print shops and Graphic reproductions.
Them’s the rules.
That’s what it takes to prevent the fade.
Copic Marker fades but your projects do not have to!
When you use a classic Graphic Artist medium, you must think and work like a classic Graphic Artist.
That means reproducing your art instead of framing original pieces.
That means having cards printed instead of expecting them to last forever.
But there’s a golden lining to the reproduction process. There are no limits to the number of times you can print a project. You can make cards for all your family members. And you can give them a tote bag, a coaster, dinnerware, or a calendar every darned year.
Graphic Art is limitless.
You may have accidentally stumbled into this art form but that’s not a bad thing.
Expand your thinking beyond original artwork. There is great value in reproductive art. I know you’ve been conditioned to thinking that only the original piece has value but stop for a moment and consider these names:
If any of these names ring a bell, it’s not because you’ve seen their original art, you’ve only seen their prints!
Take advantage of the fact that your Copic Marker art was born to be reproduced.
Embrace your medium. Love your markers for what they are and not what you wish they were.
And print the heck out of your art!