Improve your Copic coloring: use fresh eyes


Wouldn't it be cool to trade bodies with someone?

One Tiny Thing can improve your Copic coloring TODAY! Fresh eyes. |

Like in the movie Freaky Friday. The Jodi Foster version, not the Lindsay Lohan version.

Oh Lord no, not the Lindsay Lohan anything...

If you could switch bodies with a really good artist, maybe you could pick up a few secrets about how to draw or color better.

Sadly, no. There are no easy fixes. Ask Lindsay Lohan.

Learning takes time and practice; and even if we wish really hard for a freaky exchange, there are no shortcuts to better coloring.

But there are a few tiny things that you can do today which will instantly improve the quality of your Copic Marker projects.



Before you call a project finished, look at it with fresh eyes.

Nobody knows your project as well as you do. After all, you were there when you made it, right?

And you know exactly where all the oopsies are.

You know where you went outside the lines; you know where the blend is a little choppy. You were there when you accidentally dripped a little blue ink in the bottom right hand corner. 

Yep. Been there, done that. More than once.

You've also spent a lot of time obsessing over the details. Getting everything just right.

But here's the thing- all that attention to detail? It has left you in a state of hyper-awareness.


most people won't notice the mistakes


It's not that we're stupid, it's just that we haven't spent the last two hours hovering six inches above the project. We simply don't see the flaws the way you do.

Meanwhile, you're sitting there wondering how in the heck no one has noticed the little blue drip in the bottom right hand corner.

On long coloring projects, I encourage my students to take a break every twenty minutes.

In my live classes, I secretly plot to distract people every ten to fifteen minutes by telling a story or asking a student how her weekend went. They don't realize what I'm doing, but it serves a purpose.

Taking short breaks from coloring isn't for the benefit of your rear end, although it is nice to get up and stretch. Short breaks are actually far more beneficial to your brain than to your buns.


after a break, you look at your project in a new way

We call this "using fresh eyes".

Taking a walk, doing a load of laundry, chatting with a friend about the new restaurant in town... all of these things pull you out of the self-critical zone. That's the state we get worked-up into, where every other thought that runs through your head begins with the words "well, I totally screwed that up..."

We're our own worst critics and that only gets worse the longer we sit chained to our desk, staring at all the mistakes.

Taking a break divorces you from the project. The longer the break, the more remote those mistakes seem. When you come back to it, you no longer look at your coloring with a super-duper hyper-critical eye; you are kinder to yourself.

Plus, with fresh eyes, you realize that the little blue drip in the bottom right hand corner isn't as big as you thought it was.

Fresh eyes are a volume control button for your inner voice. The flaws may still scream out at you but you'll be better able to tune them out. And the good stuff will start talking to you too.


Things don't look as bad as you thought when you use fresh eyes

By getting away from the project, you begin to see your work the same way we do.

It's a less emotional experience.

That little blue drip won't feel like a dagger in your left ventricle anymore.

And here's the really cool thing- you can increase the efficacy of the fresh-eye effect by increasing the length of your break!

10 minutes = good

10 hours = absofreekinwonderful

One Tiny Thing can improve your Copic coloring TODAY! Fresh eyes. |

Setting your project aside for a few days is an essential part of the process for most professional artists. We build that resting period into our delivery time frame because we know the power of fresh-eyed observations.

With portraits, I set them aside for a full week, completely out of sight and out of mind. When I pull it out again, I pay attention to my thoughts:

  • What's the first thing that drew my eye- chances are it's either something really good or it's a flaw I need to fix immediately.

  • Where does my eye linger- that's almost always something good

  • What are the first three flaws I notice- those instantly jump to the top of my "fix it" list

  • After my eye roves around the project, does my gaze settle back upon the eyes? If not, then the the eyes need more attention

Taking an extended break from your work is like a mini vacation. When you come back rested and relaxed, you will notice things you didn't see before- things your inner critique wouldn't let you see before.

You can't always run your projects by a trusted friend who will give you an honest critique. It's hard to trust family to tell you the truth because they love you, and frankly, they also want you to make dinner tonight and that might not happen if they mention the little blue drip in the bottom right hand corner...

Sometimes, your fresh eyes are the only tool available to you to evaluate the success of your projects.

And fresh eyes are free. You don't have to go anywhere or do anything. All it takes is a little will power to go a few days without peeking.


take advantage of fresh eyes on your next project

If you're coloring a card on a deadline, leave yourself enough time to set it aside, at least overnight. Because when it's sitting on Aunt Minnie's mantle? That's not the time to discover that you forgot to glitter the unicorn's horn.

For larger projects, like coloring a class assignment or making a gift for someone, use fresh eyes several times during the process. Catching mistakes before the teacher does or before the recipient notices is embarrassment avoided.

Time spent in time-out is worth the wait. Fresh eyes will catch more than you think but fresh eyes will also pleasantly surprise you.

Because that little blue drip in the bottom right hand corner might look totally artistic and planned, once you see it with fresh eyes.

Improve your Copic coloring today: replace worn nibs


A doctor’s prescription for coloring?

Think about it, what could be easier than popping a pill to instantly improve your coloring? I’d consider it!

Maybe there are no pharmacological remedies for bad Copic blending, but there are some little things you can do today which can immediately improve the look of your Copic projects.


I’ll try to discuss this in a PG rated way…

Some marker Super Brush nibs get, well… they kind'a loose the spring in their step.

Age is a factor.

Use is a factor.


I tend to color with the side of my brush nibs more than I color with the tip o’ the tip, so pressure is definitely a factor too.

Brush nibs do not last forever.

At a certain point, you are going to notice less bounce-back on your brush nibs.

In fact, when you color they may flop right over.

Every brush nib has a hardened felt core. And that core is pretty springy when the nib is fresh and new and virgin.


But over time...

with use and age… how do I say this nicely… well, things no longer point northward as strongly as they used to.

They might leak a little more frequently too.

And it’s okay.


It happens when things get old

The circle of life and all that jazz.

The plumbing ain’t what it used to be.

But don't worry. There is a very easy solution.

Dump your old and worn out brush nib for a brand new, younger nib!

Yep. If there’s no life left in the old geezer, then do not hesitate! Kick him to the curb, pronto!

One Tiny Thing to improve your Copic coloring immediately! Nibs wear out. |

Stuff doesn’t last forever

And really, isn't the whole point of a Copic marker, the reason you shelled out the big bucks, is that it's totally refillable and has lots of replaceable parts?

Well, that means you might actually have to do some refilling and maybe some replacing every once in a while.

Maintenance, darling. Maintenance.

There’s no shame in retiring a nib that no longer gets the job done. Pasture that sucker for a newer model.

New nibs are relatively inexpensive and they come in packs of three, so you can have lots of fun replacing your old nibs with younger studs.

Yep. Trust me. It’s an easy task to do. It takes about 30 seconds to pop out an old nib out install a new one.

In fact, you could change out your nibs while sitting in a bath tub on the beach.

After all, you’ll know when the moment is right.


Improve your coloring today - Turn off the distractions


There are no magical shortcuts to better coloring...

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

But there are small things you can do TODAY to immediately improve the quality of your finished coloring projects.




Today I'd like to talk about

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Hold on, they're about to vote someone off the island.

what happens when you color

Wait? The butler did it?

with the television on

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Oh, yeah. I need to remember to buy fabric softener.

I know that for a lot of you, coloring is a relaxing hobby.

Cool! I've been waiting for that season to be available on Netflix!

So it makes sense that you'd want to put on your comfy slippers, grab a hot beverage and your bag of markers, and plonk down in the recliner in front of the television.

Dang, that's the new song everyone is raving about? I don't get it, that's a hit?

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Coloring and catching up on your latest programs, that sounds like a perfect evening, eh?

Ohhhh... that looks yummy! Let's go out for burgers Thursday night.

But here's the problem. If you are trying to improve the look of your coloring or if you're trying to master a new technique, that requires learning. Learning requires your full attention.

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

In order to retain what you practice, your brain needs to

Hold on, let me turn off the television. There. That's better. Let's continue...


Whew! That’s better!

Okay, in order to really learn something, your brain needs to engage.

  1. You must consciously make the decision to change something about the technique that you are currently using.

  2. You must coach yourself through the new movements and the motion as you're doing it.

  3. You must view and analyse the results of this new motion to evaluate if you performed the action correctly.

  4. You must evaluate the results to decide if the change in process was an improvement over old results.

  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 and visually monitor yourself as you continue to perform the new action, making corrections when you accidentally revert back into your old technique.

  6. You must register a sense of joy or pride in the newly learned skill in order to have the desire to repeat it again.

And in order for any of this to take root and become a natural habit, you have to be clear and mentally present throughout every single part of the process.

You can't do that if half your brain is paying attention to the television.

if you are not concentrating, most of what you do will fade from memory before bedtime.  


Multi-tasking is a myth

I don't care what the get-it-all-done-today efficiency nuts tell you. Doing two things at once is essentially doing neither thing well.

You never color well when you're distracted. Tips for improving your Copic coloring. |

Learning, practicing, and progressing in skill levels? You really, really, really can not multi-task the learning process.

If you aren't wholly involved in the learning process, if you brain isn't locked in and loaded for Copic coloring, then you are not logging the new information into long your term memory storage. If you aren't fully engaged in the task at hand, you are not developing muscle memory.

I don't care if it's just the news or a talk show. I don't care if it's an old episode of something you've seen 200 times. Your brain still checks in and out when you should be concentrating.

The first half of this blog today was really hard to read, right?

It's because I wasn't focused on story telling. It was actually pretty hard for me to write; I kept getting side tracked as I tried to recreate the distraction process.

Yes, I was distracted by the distraction.

That is precisely what happens when you try to color when there are too many visual and audio disturbances.


It's not enough to practice coloring every day

I know many of you made New Year's resolutions to improve your Copic coloring this year. And all those 30 day coloring challenge people? They've inspired you with their talk about how great they feel and all the amazing things they've learned. Practing your coloringisnt like the piano lessons you were forced to take when you were eight. Coloring practice is fun and rewarding. 

But sitting down and logging minutes with a marker in your hand isn't the point.

The point is to be learning, growing, and improving.

That requires full brain engagement.

You can't do that with episodes of CSI MIAMI MEETS NCIS SVU AT JAG playing in the background.

It doesn't matter if you mute it. Your brain will still check in with the programming on a very frequent basis.

Oh, I really like this part. They just don't make cops like Jerry Orbach anymore!


Turn off the tube

And if you're like me, turn the podcast off.

Maybe you have to turn off music with vocals.

It all depends upon what what twinges the "hey, let's think about something else" process in your brain. For most people, distractions are mostly the visual kind like the television or the grandkids playing in the corner of the room. But it might also be a window that displays scenery you find appealing.

For other people, it's the sound of voices. I can't concentrate when people sing on the radio because I find myself stopping to listen to the words.

It can also be certain sounds.

I have an app that plays environmental recordings in my studio. I have to be super picky about which sounds I play because I find bird calls to be a distraction. Rain or waves I can handle but as soon as an animal chimes in, I get pulled out of the art-zone and into the

Is that a bluebird I hear? I wonder how long they had to wait to capture a bluebird in that spring meadow recording? Where was the microphone? Was it camouflaged? I wonder how much sound technicians earn annually. Seems like an easy job to set up a mic in a field and then wait...

See what I mean?

Be honest. You know what rings your bell. Avoid that stuff.


20 minutes is easy!

I know you have twenty minutes in you. Find a quiet spot, away from the household traffic and the buzz of life.

Practice coloring for 20 minutes in a distraction free environment.

You'll get more done and see more growth in 20 minutes of dedication than in 2 hours of the same project in front of the television.


Improve Your Coloring Immediately: Fill Your Marker


I'm not a big believer in abracadabra style tips and tricks.

Changes and improvements usually require a bit of blood, sweat, and that stuff that leaks out of your eyes when the ASPCA commercials play.

But sometimes there really are easy things which we completely overlook- because they're so simple.


Here's another installment of the tiny thing series

Otherwise known as "Amy points out the little things some of you are not doing..."

Once a month, I point out one small thing, one mind-numbingly easy step that you can add to your coloring routine that will allow you to color better forever.

Last month, we talked about why it's important to identify every element in your stamp image BEFORE you begin coloring. Today we tackle a brand new Tiny Thing:


Refill your Markers

I know it's dumb for me to even mention this, but stick with me here. I'm not going where you think I'm going...

I'll bet for 99% of us, the top reason to purchase Copic markers instead of another brand is because Copic Sketch, Ciao, Original, and Copic Wide markers are refillable.

If you're like me, you actually used refill-ability as the primary justification for splurging on a luxury marker rather than going with a standard marker.

"Jinkies! they're totally refillable!!! So in the long run, I'm saving tons and tons of money!"

That's what you said, way back then. But let's be honest now...

How many Copics have you actually refilled? How many Various Inks do you own? How many of your markers are more than 2 years old and have never been refilled?

Have you ever refilled your Copics? |

I'm not just talking about your favorite go-to markers, the ones you use in almost every project. I'm including the pumpkin orange markers that you mainly use in the fall and the pine-dark greens that only see action in December.

Of all the Copic Markers you own, what percentage of them have been refilled?

If you're a normal crafter, I'm guessing it's a fairly low number.

"But, but, but... my teachers and my favorite blogs... they all say that you don't have to refill a marker until it squeaks!"

You won't hear that kind of nonsense from me. Here's the low-down and dirty truth:

  1. Some markers always squeak- call 'em the squeaky wheels, they never shut up!

  2. Some markers never squeak- these are the martyr markers that will die before they complain

  3. By the time a marker squeaks, you've been coloring at less than full power for quite a while


Skills & technique can only get you so far

Let's say that tomorrow, you decide not to tie your shoes. You head off to work or run errands and your sneaker laces are flapping in the breeze. Just because.

What could go wrong?

Well, for starters, you're going to move at grandma pace, especially after you stumble for the fifth time. You'll be lucky not to break your face when you run down a flight or two of stairs. You might even miss a big staff meeting if your meandering lace gets stuck in the elevator door.

But I'm willing to bet that the last thing you'll do is to berate yourself, "Geeze, I'm sooooo bad at walking!"

I'm also guessing that you won't surf the internet for tutorials on how to walk better and you won't price out unicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.

It's the shoelaces, not you.

The condition of your tools matters too.

You can be the love child of Rembrandt and Picasso but if you're using dry markers, you aren't going to be cranking out any masterpieces.

Every time you use a weak marker, you are deliberately deciding not to tie your shoes.


Copics need adequate juice to blend properly

If you've got enough ink in the mix, even improbable sounding blends are possible.

BG57 to Y38.

Here, I've feather blended BG18 into Y35. I'm not sure when you'd ever use this blending combination, but with enough moisture, you can blend any two markers.

Moisture. In markers, that means solvent. Your coloring needs to be ooshy, gooshy and wet to give the pigments a chance to get cozy and mingle.

Solvent is like Barry White music. To make a blend, ANY BLEND, the pigments need to get romantic and really looooove one another.

Mmm hmmmmm, baby.

Low-ink markers have no sex appeal.

But here's the problem, Copic Markers do not come with a see through window. There's no level markings, no handy-dandy fill gauge, and there's no ADT alarm system that makes your desk lamp blink Def-Con 3 red until you refill your marker.

Instead, you have to pay attention, you have to know your markers. Copics are 358 little children and you are their mother.


Unless you are magical, your marker projects all use ink

3 Reasons why my markers need refilling this week |

I colored the same large image three different times last week.

These images are each 8.5" wide.

That's three big reasons why my BG53 and BG57 markers are now low on juice.

Barry doesn't like it when my markers are dry.

No, baby. Noooooo.

Neither marker is squeaking yet. As I said above, by the time a marker cries out in pain. it's already past it's prime.

As a good marker-momma, I know my two babies are hungry. If I'm to continue coloring at top level, I must refill them before I can expect good results from either maker. To continue using them half-full is the equivalent of not tying my shoes for the next few projects.

I have a mug where I stash markers that need refreshing.

Did you catch that?  I don't even call it refilling. I refresh my markers... because having to refill them means I am not being good to my precious little Copic babies.

This weekend, or when I have a few spare moments, I'll refresh all my sad mug markers that need attention. It's much easier to refresh a bunch at a time than to stop everything I'm doing to freshen and clean just one marker.


Keep your markers topped off, fresh, and juicy

Mmm hmmmm, baby. Make Barry happy.

It's One Tiny Thing you can do today which will improve your coloring immediately!