Marker Madness: Copic Markers

· by my blog · Read in about 7 min · (1470 words) ·

Many artists and crafters have not heard of the Too company. It began in 1919 as the Izumiya Art Supply Store in Shibuya, Tokyo. In 1950, they incorporated as the Izumiya Limited Company and in 1965 began exporting art supplies to Europe and the U.S. The Magic Marker Corporation of Japan was established in 1968 as a joint venture with Magic Marker Corporation in the U.S. The COPIC design marker was developed in 1987. In 1992 the Izumiya Corporation was renamed to Too Corporation. 1993 saw the Development of the COPIC Sketch marker. Today, COPIC markers are distributed in the United States by Imagination International.

I purchased two sets of Ciao markers (a total of 144 markers) from Amazon in 2010, Set A and Set B.

The markers came in a very nice container which is designed for you to store your makers.

When you open the container, there are two plastic grids that go across the top of the markers to stabilize their positions.

And there is a grid at the bottom of the container which keeps each marker standing up and separate from the others.

The container is very nice, but it is made from rigid plastic, which is brittle and can crack. My containers are now old enough that I have several cracks in them, so I store my markers horizontally in my racks.

The individual markers are 5-78″ long with both caps on and 5-38″ with both caps off. The light grey barrel is imprinted in black with the color code and branding information. Each end has a nib indicator.

The 1-14″covers are color-coded to the ink color. Both of them are the same size, and interchangeable. They click into place over a small ridge around the nib collar and make an air-tight seal. Copic guarantees their makers will have a 3-year “shelf life”, meaning they will not dry out even if you don‘t use them for 3 years!

There is a little bump on each cover that will keep the pens from rolling around on the work surface.

When you take one cap off, it will fit over the end of the other cap.

Ciao Copic markers are twin tipped. One end is a Super Brush tip.

The other end has a Medium Broad Chisel tip.

You can purchase replacement tips for these pens. While you can use plyers or your own tweezers to remove the used tip and insert the new one, Copic also sells their own nib tweezers.


Copic markers use an ink that is a mixture of dye and alcohol, a mixture of Ethanol, Pentaerythritol, Propanol and isopropyl alcohol. The ink is flammable, so it is not recommended to smoke around them or use near open flames, such as a candle.

These markers are not quite neutral, which means they are not quite acid free. If all of the alcohol evaporates from the paper, the artwork will be fine. But some papers will hang on to a small amount of carrier, which could present a problem.

In addition, these are dye markers. That means the ink is not light-fast and can fade or change with exposure.

I modified my standard tests to accomodate this type of ink by switching from water to isopropyl alcohol.

The two different tips allow you to make a wide variety of line sizes.

Coloring with these is a dream. When done properly, they do not leave indications of overlapping lines. It is possible to create beautiful gradations and blended color combinations with them.

Once applied to the paper, these are permanent. Even trying to pull out the color with alcohol has almost no effect.

I wet a spot with alchohol and tried drawing into it to see if the markers would bleed, and they really didn‘t. It had almost no effect.

The one thing that did work was scribbling on my palette and then picking up the ink with a brush dipped in rubbing alcohol. As you can see below, this worked very well. However, once it dried, it was permanent and adding more alcohol had no effect.

Note: Substrate used for testing examples is Strathmore Vellum finish Bristol board.

Although here are 358 permanent, non-toxic, alcohol-based ink colors in the Copic line, Ciao markers themselves are available in only 180 of them.

You can get a complete color chart from the U.S. Website.

If you want a blank color chart that you can fill in with your own markers, you can get it here.

I downloaded the one from the website, printed it out, and colored it in.

I did have to load the blank chart into Photoshop and split it into two 8-12″ x 11″ pages so it would print properly.

Note: I made the color example(s) by printing the outline on computer cover stock which was then scanned into the computer and processed in Photoshop. Therefore, while all care was taken, the colors are probably not exactly as they would appear in real life.

There is also another color chart, in a wheel format, on the Imagination International website. You can get that one here.

One of the great things about Copic markers is that they are designed to be “reusable”. The tips are replaceable. It is possible to order replacement covers directly from the company. And every color is available in an ink refill. You can even get empty ink bottles so you can mix your own, custom color if you wish.

Ciao markers can be refilled from this bottle 15 times. The bottle has a sticker on it that lists the ink color. And the color is also marked on the cover.

The top of the bottle is designed to make it fairly easy to re-ink the marker. You can add ink drop-by-drop.

Simply remove both marker caps. Pull out the chisel nib. Add enough ink to make your marker juicy, but add it slowly so you don‘t over fill it. Put the nib back in and put the covers back on and you‘re ready to go.

The ink can be used to stain various plastic materials. For example, you can use it to color polyester lace, plastic buttons, and it can stain other types of plastic… which you may not have planned on. If you want to “paint” with these, I suggest you use a Corelle plate instead of a plastic palette to scribble on! I had to use alcohol to clean my palette to get rid of most of the stain, although a small amount still remains.

Copic makes 5 different marker bodies: Classic, Sketch, Wide and Copic. All of them use the same ink.

The Classic is the original line of markers. They are available in 214 different colors. The square barrel marker comes with a Broad Chisel Nib and a Fine Point nib. It also has the widest range of changeable nibs including Brush, Standard Broad, Semi Broad, Soft Broad, Super Fine, Round, Calligraphy 3mm, and Calligraphy 5mm.

Sketch markers come in every color that Copic makes. This oval-barreled marker holds less ink than the Classic. It comes with a Medium Broad nib and a Super Brush nib. There is also a Medium Round nib available for it.

Ciao markers are available in 180 colors and hold the least amount of ink. The come with a Medium Broad Chisel tip and a Super Brush nib. There are no other nibs available for these.

Finally, there is the Wide marker. It holds the most ink, and is available in 36 colors. It comes with a 34″ wide nib and there are only two nib options available for it: 18mm and Broad Calligraphy.

There are lots of resources at Imagination International for learning how to use these markers. You can get downloadable resources that you can print out.

In addtion there are tons of tutorials on the Internet and YouTube. There are classes and workshops available in various larger cities thoroughout the U.S. during the calendar year. You could even earn various levels of Copic Certification, if desired.

Copic markers are a major investment. However, they are well worth the money because they are designed to last for a lifetime. The pens will not dry out if you don‘t use them for a while. Copic guarantees a 3-year shelf-life, saying they will not dry out over that length of non-use. The nibs can be replaced when they become worn. And they are refillable. They are available individually and in various sets. The sets are usually the most economical way to get started. Be sure to shop around and take advantage of coupons whenever you can.

  • Target - none listed on the website
  • Walmart - Various products and prices
  • Amazon - Various products and prices
  • Dick Blick - Ciao markers, individual and sets
  • Jerry‘s Artarama - Various products and prices