“Hey folks, what paper should I buy for Copics?”
I see this question a lot on marker discussion boards. And usually eight to ten very nice and well meaning colorers respond with:
“I love frog paper!”
“Hammermill is awesome!”
“I”ve been buying coverstock for twenty years now and it’s the best!”
“You can’t beat the paper that I found stuffed behind a dumpster in the alley off 53rd Street!!!!”
Okay, maybe not that last one… but honest to Betsy, I want to stab myself in the left eyeball with a flaming marshmallow on a sharp stick every single time someone recommends the wrong paper for Copic coloring.
Yes, I said it.
The wrong paper
Office grade copy coverstock is the WRONG, WRONG, WRONG paper for Copic coloring.
I always preface these One Tiny Thing articles with a warning that there are no amazing tricks that will instantly improve your coloring with zero effort on your part.
There are no marker life-hacks.
But that’s not entirely true.
There is one thing which absolutely, positively, and most assuredly will improve your coloring instantaneously.
Use the right freekin’ paper.
Let me ask you this:
How many races would Dale Earnhardt have won if he’d decided that Coca Cola was cheaper than gasoline?
Would Michael Jordan have dominated the basketball court if he had worn six inch peep-toe stilletos?
How far would Neil Armstrong have gotten in a space suit made up of duct tape and Hershey’s Kiss wrappers?
Ohhhhh… so some things are not interchangeable?
Huh. So you totally understand that to do something well, you need the right tool for the job?
And yet you still try to blend Copic Markers on paper designed for computer printers?
Paper is a tool
In fact, I firmly believe that your choice of paper is far more important than which brand of alcohol marker you use.
The paper is more important than the marker.
You can get good results from the worst markers on great quality paper.
Marker paper and marker cardstocks are designed for use with marker inks.
It’s not a case of finding a paper which doesn’t bleed through or get feathery. Lots of papers are thick enough to prevent bleed through and there are a ton of papers which do not feather. That doesn’t make them good for Copics.
Marker paper is more than thick and smooth.
Quality marker paper facilitates blending.
On the right paper, you don’t have to do the blending. The blending happens automatically.
Specialty Marker paper and cardstocks don’t just allow you to blend well, they actually make the blends happen.
Students who come to me with blending problems often assume it's something they're doing wrong. In most cases, a simple switch to marker formulated paper solves at least half of their blending problem.
Paper is incredibly important
I can’t state that firmly enough. Your choice of paper is the number one thing affecting the look of your blends.
Paper is more important than your marker selection.
Paper is more important than your blending combinations.
It’s more important than your application technique.
It’s more important than artistic talent.
Paper is a vital tool. Substandard paper gives you inferior results.
Look, I get it. You’ve shelled out a bunch of money on Copics. You’ve blown your budget and you can’t stand to think about spending another fortune on paper.
Here’s my advice: suck it up and spend some money on decent paper.
When you purchased the markers, you essentially signed up for the cost of the correct paper.
And you won’t get a lot of sympathy from me about marker paper prices given that I routinely shell out four to five times that cost for my watercolor and illustration papers.
Good paper is worth every penny
Artists are very particular about paper because we’ve learned from experience that the price of paper is part of the cost of doing art. We’re willing to pay for good paper because we see how it improves our process and our projects.
Colorers don’t get that life lesson quite as fast because they’re generally not coloring multiple projects every single day. And because most colorers never try anything other than inappropriate computer paper, they don’t realize how much easier blending can be.
how would you react?
Let's say your dumb cousin Jimmy called you up and asked to borrow your dog. Someday he wants to race in the Kentucky Derby but he can’t afford a horse yet. So he wants to ride your Labradoodle until he scrapes together enough money for a thoroughbred.
I feel like that sometimes when I’m talking with people who will complain all the live-long day about their blending problems and yet they won’t switch to a better grade of paper.
“But what if I try a different marker combination? Or what if I take more classes? Or what do you think of that tutorial that recommends coloring upside-down by the light of the full moon?”
Or how about if you get the correct paper to go with your markers?
Scrapbookers understand that some decorative papers are better than others. I’ve been told by more than one cardmaker “Don’t get those multipacks of paper from the dollar store. They’re not as nice as the good stuff!”
I’ve also heard from colorers and art journalers that you have to be careful about the paper quality in coloring books and journals.
So why do so many people not make the same connection about Copic Markers?
Why do so many colorers wholeheartedly recommend the wrong type of paper for marker coloring?
Copy paper is not Copic paper
When you recommend frog paper, you’re essentially saying “This is the best of the worst kind of paper. But hey, enjoy!”
I’ve got a few other articles about paper here in the Studio Journal. The links are at the end of this article. I encourage you to read them and think about the paper that you use.
Selecting a proper artist grade marker paper is essential to the quality of your projects.
Unfortunately, these great papers usually cost more than computer paper. That's because paper for copy machines and printers is a low-grade paper that's designed to be inexpensive and disposable.
If you’re cheaping out and selecting copy paper based on it’s bargain basement price, then you need to beware. You aren't getting the great deal you think you are. There are hidden costs-
You are using extra ink to smooth your blends.
You are starting over more frequently because of unfixable mistakes.
You are paying for it emotionally every single time you crank out yet another mediocre looking project.
Part of your blending problems have nothing to do with you. It’s the paper.
Using the best marker cardstocks and papers available is One Tiny Thing you can do to improve your coloring.
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