Q&A: 10 Ways to Kill a Copic Nib


It was Miss Scarlett in the library with the candlestick...

No, maybe it was Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the wrench.

Ah ha! I've got it now...

It was Mr. Prismacolor in the studio with an alcohol based solvent!

Yeah, my Clue game board is perhaps slightly different than yours.

But the point is that we've got a dead Copic marker nib and someone is definitely to blame.



Frankie has a question:

You mentioned to be careful of using Copics with some ink liners that they can ruin the marker. So my question is what other things will ruin the marker? Can graphite pencil ruin the marker tip? What about color pencil, will the wax ruin it?

Here's my brain-dump on the subject:

Meaning it's a loose conglomeration of personal sorrows combined with things I've heard from students...

First we need to distinguish between the dead and the unfortunately maimed.

Copic Replacement Nibs |

A dead Copic marker nib is one that has been damaged beyond repair and needs to be replaced.

You can do that? Yep, they sell replacement nibs and you can do surgery on your marker, right from home. Also, if your local Copic retailer offers refilling service, they can do it for you. Many Copic instructors also offer the service to their students.

By the way, a "nib" is a fancy-pants technical term for the tips of your Copic marker.

An unfortunately maimed Copic marker nib is one that is ugly but still perfectly serviceable.


So what will kill or maim your Copic nibs? Let's run through my list of unfortunate accidents:

1. Stamping with the wrong ink pad- 

Copic ink has an alcohol based solvent. If you stamp with an ink pad that uses a similar solvent to stay moist and juicy and then color over it with a Copic marker, you most likely will reactivate that ink. The first clue that something is amiss will be that your marker starts to smear the stamped lines. At that point, you've likely discolored your marker tip (maiming). If you keep going long enough, you're going to pick up enough stamp ink particles that you'll either clog the pores of your nib which impedes proper ink flow (a definite kill) or you'll forever be leaving streaks of ink pad ink everytime you use that marker (not fatal but essentially a kill).

And no, heat setting does not solve your incompatible ink pad problem!!! That's dead wrong, wrongity-wrong. A solvent will always have the ability to chemically reconstitute an ink, no matter how long you let it dry, no matter how much you heat set it. You may prolong the amount of time it takes to smear that ink but it will still happen eventually.


2. Incompatible Ink Jet printer inks-

See stamp pad ink above. Same story only with definitely tragic consequences.

This does not apply to ALL ink jet printers. HP and Brother each have several ink formulations that are Copic safe. If you're a digital stamp collector, you really need to test the printer ink before you buy the printer.

3. Microns or technical pens other than Multiliners-

Okay, there's always someone who did it and didn't die. Different line pens have different inks, and I suspect the paper also has something to do with the process. But just like stamp pads, you can pick up, drag, and smear technical pen ink. And just like stamp pads, heat setting or long dry times won't negate the incompatibility problem.

Copic developed and sells Multiliners precisely because of this problem. And frankly, I don't understand the reluctance of many Manga artists to switch from Microns to Multiliners. Sheesh, you pay big bucks for each Copic marker but you won't spend the extra $1 to get a technical pen that won't kill your $7 marker??? On what planet does that make good economical sense?

4. Colored Pencils, wax or oil based pigment sticks-

The official spiel is that you always do your colored pencil work AFTER you've finished ALL the Copic work. And once you put down colored pencil, you NEVER go back and touch anything up.

Copic solvent will dissolve the binder in colored pencil marks which then frees the pigment particles up to clog the pores in your Copic nibs.

Having given you the officially official word, I'll tell you that I'm guilty of violating this law quite regularly. And I've seen other artists violate it religiously, with fervor, and without a care in the world.

It can clog your nibs. But it's not going to happen instantaneously. You have to do it a lot and you've got to be deliberately scrubbing the area repeatedly to encourage the clogging.

So, don't do what I do unless you're prepared to deal with the consequences.

5. Charcoal, graphite, pastels, and other unbound grainy items like raw or unfired clay (and even dirty surfaces)-

Unlike colored pencils, these items have less binder holding the pigment grains together. Unbound pigments are pretty much guaranteed to clog your nibs on the very first pass.

Will they kill it? Uhhhh.... maybe. I'd imagine clay or pastel is an immediate kill. Clay is pretty wicked.

But I have several nibs that are essentially stained with graphite. They're ugly but they're not clogged and have never transferred the graphite to other projects. Graphite stains are the bane of folks like me who draw, then ink, then color their projects. Even with a good eraser, you always leave some graphite behind and your Copic marker will eventually find it.

6. Poster paint and white-out-

Basically, we're talking about inexpensive matte paints here. They're usually water based but some white outs have acetone or alcohol as a base.

That matte, shine free, paper like surface they produce is because the particles aren't well bonded to the paper. There's always some rub-off potential, even with a wet finger.

Even a slight touchdown with a Copic will lift off particles and clog the pores.

8. Acrylic paint, faux embossing, lacquered items-

Copic solvent does a pretty mean job on some plastics, especially acrylic based paints and even cured embossing powders. 

It won't happen instantaneously, not with one touch but with enough contact and the natural friction caused by normal coloring strokes, you will gum up your nibs.

Even worse are lacquered items- non-traditional surface like a gift box or even a shiny or pearl glazed specialty papers. Lacquers ARE by definition alcohol based, so it's not a "maybe it'll clog the pores eventually" but an "it's gonna ruin it darned quick" kind of situation.

And yes, I know you card makers think of embossing powders as "embossing" but it's actually a faux process meant to mimic the look of embossing/debossing. If you're heat-setting a a powder, you're doing the fake thing.

9. Copic Jelly-

Here's one you may not have thought of but I'd be willing to bet it's on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

Copic Jelly? Really?

Yep. Every time you cap your marker, your marker dings up against the inside of the cap. Often used caps begin to get really messy inside. The ink kinda-maybe-sorta dries on the inside of the cap but it never really fully dries. It's sticky. It's jellyish.

So if you've got a jelly coated marker cap, now every time you replace that cap, you're rubbing a bit of jelly onto your marker tip. It happens with the brush tips A LOT. When you collect enough jelly on your nib, it starts to look dark and leaves jelly streaks on your project. The jelly also prevents full ink flow in those dark patches. Leave it long enough and the entire brush nib will get hard and gunky.

Gunky. That's a technical term.

So cleaning your caps isn't just a think that Copic bloggers like to write about, it's something you really need to stay on top of.

Don't underestimate the importance of good Marker Hygiene.


Okay, so there are 9 ways to maim or kill your Copic nibs.

But ten would be so much nicer, no?

So here's number 10...

Izzy the Copic Eater |

10. the family dog-


Don't ask me how I know that a dog's tongue will remain a lovely shade of V09 for approximately 3.25 days....

Why you should ask 3 questions in every Copic Marker class


I've sat on both sides of the classroom- instructor and student

I can honestly say that the best classroom environments are the one where the questions fly freely.

I debuted the first class of an entirely new series last night- a new style and a new set of students. And while I've been teaching for years now, new always brings challenges.

But you know what helps?

When students ask questions.


I want to encourage you to ask at least 3 questions in every class you take.


Well, when I'm sitting on the student side of the room, I don't always hear things correctly.

Maybe the person next to me moved their chair or whispered a comment. Maybe a bird flew past the window. You don't have to have a raging case of untreated A.D.D. to get distracted by the world around you.

It happens. Life happens.

What I've found is that if I miss the key point of what my instructor is telling me, it's sometimes hard to catch up. I often miss even more important points when I spend too much time muddling over what I missed.

I'm paying for that information, so either I raise my hand for a second shot at the info or the class looses value.

It's okay to ask for a repeat.

Here's another thing that I notice: sometimes what the teacher says doesn't match up with my real life observations or experience.

If the instructor has spent 20 minutes talking about how we can mix orange and green to get beautiful blues, either I mis-heard the word "blue" or he needs to make a serous clarification.

Instructors aren't infallible and it's okay to question the premise. If I'm confused, I'll bet other students are too.

It's okay to raise your hand and ask what everyone else is thinking.




But here's the crazy thing that I've learned from the instructor's side of the class room:

I'm a better teacher when you ask questions

1. Sometimes what's in my brain is NOT what comes out of my mouth. My mind is usually whirring away on 14 other matters.

  1. Is the classroom too warm or is it just me?

  2. I should break in 10 minutes but not before I get this next point made.

  3. The tag in my shirt is really annoying.

  4. Whoops, my screen saver just came on.

  5. I need my YG67 back soon, who did I just loan it to?

  6. Stacey looks confused, should I stop and explain better?

  7. I need to sit down soon but if I do, will I look lazy?

  8. There's a customer lurking outside the door, should I acknowledge them?

  9. Why did I wear this shirt? The tag is killing me.

  10. Get dog food on the way home.

  11. Oops, I forgot to mention the thingamabobber, I need to mention it soon.

  12. New Girl, what is her name again?

  13. Betsy is tapping her foot, is that normal or am I boring her?

  14. If I whip my shirt off and rip this damned tag out with my teeth, will anyone notice?

So yeah, sometimes I say YR63 instead of YG63. You need to call me on that!

2. There's this pesky thing called professional bias. Just because I've spent the last twenty years obsessing on art doesn't mean you have. It's hard to put myself back in a beginner's shoes and sometimes I don't even realize I'm talking over your head. Stop me before I blather on too long!

3. No one explains everything perfectly the first time. If my example doesn't make sense, you do me a favor by pointing that out. You help keep me from repeating that mistake in future classes.

4. You know things I don't know. This happens a lot! I don't know craft products nearly as well as I know art products. I also tend to do things from scratch, the hard way without shortcuts. I appreciate it when students say "you know, there's a tool for that, made by the X Company, would that work?" I love to learn new things and when it comes to product info, more is good.

5. It's a class, not a lecture. Classes are a participatory process that should bend according to the needs of the students. Classes are a service, not a product. You shape and improve that service by asking questions.


So asking questions is a good thing, but why 3 questions?

Well, maybe not always 3 questions. It depends upon the environment. If there are 50 people in the classroom, obviously the instructor doesn't want 150 questions flung at them.

But here's my theory of three:

The first question puts you on my radar. You're telling me that you are mentally tuned in.

The second question tells me where you're at. A beginner question indicates that I need to speak plainer and use less jargon. Complex questions mean I can skip the piddly stuff.

The third question kicks the dialog process into a higher gear. You're learning from me, I'm learning from you. Good information pops out during sidebars, stuff that isn't on the syllabus and unplanned tidbits are the gems that make live classes so much better than online videos and tutorials.


In keeping with my theme of three, the top 3 questions from class last night were:

  1. What you're saying is different from what So-and-so said in her last video tut. Why are you doing it this way?

  2. I did just what you said and look, it's not working. Can you show me again?

  3. Can I put you in my pocket and take you home with me?

What a great way to spend an evening!