Monday, August 18, 2014

Copic 101 - Hair

A short while ago, my friend Kylie suggested that I write a tutorial about how to shade hair with Copic markers. I've been planning on starting a chat about Copics, but I keep getting bogged down about what to talk about. So, hair seemed like a pretty good place to start.

Although I don't consider myself a pro (I'm not a certified Copic instructor, after all), I did sit down and jot a few tips that might be helpful. And I figured it wouldn't hurt to share.

Let's start with a simple experiment. Take a thin sheet of paper (printer paper works awesome). Hold it up to the light and see how white it is all over. Then, pinch it at the top and the bottom and bend it into an S shape. Now, if you look closely, you'll notice that the paper is no longer white everywhere. There are gray shadows where the paper is curved in and where the light is blocked.

It's probably pretty easy to see how this applies to wavy hair - that basic S shape is your guide that shows you which areas are darker and which are lighter. But what about straight hair? Well, the same principle still applies! Even the straightest of hair is still on a head - which has a round shape. So, you will have portions that curve in (like near the roots) and out (like the temples, where the head is at its widest).

Ok, let's get into some of the essentials.

Choosing your colors
Colors can be really intimidating - especially with Copics, which happen to have a million shades. But it's not scary, I promise!

You can ease into choosing your color palette by looking at what some of the other crafters are using. Jot down the color combinations when you see some that you like. And you'll find that there are many! Just like saying someone has "brown" hair could mean hundreds of different shades, there are just as many combinations of Copics you could use for hair.

There's also stamp packaging. If there's no colored image on the stamp packaging, check out the company's website. They will often have examples of how the image could be colored - which is a fantastic starting point.

Once you've figured out your go-to combo, experiment! Switch out a color and see how it changes the result. And don't just stick to one family. Try mixing in some BV in your reds rotation, or even a dark red with greens. Not all combinations will work, but some of them will have a surprising amount of depth.

Flicking and texture
If you've ever watched a Copic coloring video, you've probably heard something called "flicking". This refers to a specific motion that gives you a line that's a bit like a tear shape - rounded on the top and tapering at the bottom.

The best way to explain it is to think of it as if you're quickly drawing a check-mark - using your wrist rather than the whole arm. The important part is right at the end - when you're using less pressure and lifting the pen off the paper. This is what you want to practice with Copics. So, you start with a a bit of pressure, lifting the marker off the paper as you move your wrist. It's a quick movement. You'll know you've done it right when the line looks a bit like a teardrop.

Why is Flicking important? Well, it's one of the easiest ways to show texture in hair. Stamped images are usually very small, and Copic markers are not 0.1mm thin. This means that you can't keep drawing lines to show individual hair, so you have to show texture in a slightly different way.

Try practicing holding the pen at different angles (more vertical = generally thinner line) and different amounts of pressure. Also try various stroke lengths - see what a difference it makes when you lift the marker right away, versus making the line longer and lifting it later.

The biggest tip I can give you about blending hair is to not. Yes, that's right. You don't need to blend hair. Leaving hair un-blended gives you that contrast between different sections and makes the hair look like it has strands.

But what if it just looks off? Well, you can sometimes try adding a few more flicks of one of the shades. Other times, it's a matter of trying out a different color combination.

Stamp Choice
Your choice of stamp will also make a big difference in how successful you can make hair coloring. Different companies have very different looks, and some of them will be a lot easier to color than others.

I'm going to give a few examples here, for different levels of challenge. Remember that it's ok to start slow. But eventually, you want to jump out of your comfort zone and play around with something more challenging.

My recommendations are based on stamps I've tried and used, myself. If you've got a company you like who would fit one of the categories, leave a comment! I'd love to check them out. :)

If you're just starting out and you want a guide to help you know where the darker shades go:
- Gorjuss stamps have a generally simple shape and line guides that help you figure out how the hair is divided into different sections and where the darker shade would go
- Mama Elephant has several stamp sets which have small and cartoon-like characters. Because of their size and style, you won't need a ton of detail and texture - which means you can just focus on figuring out where the shading goes.

If you want a larger area to work with and to practice flicking, try:
- The Greeting Farm has stamps which are very large and with lots of hair. The hair is still relatively simple, but the large stamp size gives you the opportunity to practice flicking and short vs long strokes.

- Another company with simple hairstyles and larger stamps is the Sugarplums line from C.C. Designs.

 If you want a more challenging stamp with more complex hairstyles, try:
- Some Odd Girl - which is my personal favorite, in case you couldn't tell from all the cards I post that use their stamps - has a very large selection of styles. Simple hair, complex hair, fantasy hair and more. Don't be scared of the highly-detailed stamps. They might take a little longer to color, but they're still fantastic practice.

- Tiddly Inks is another company I like. They have recurring characters (like Wryn, Chloe and Ellie), which is fantastic for coloring practice because you'll be working with one hairstyle in many different occasions.

Be bold
Don't be afraid to use bright colors, weird colors or crazy combinations. It's just paper and ink. If you mess up, you just stamp it again and start over. So, get out of your comfort zone and start playing!

Your coloring doesn't have to be perfect. As long as you like it and you're proud of it, it's good enough! There will probably always be someone who's league better than you at coloring. But at the same time, there will be a quiet someone who will look at your work with awe and wish they had your skill.

 So, be brave and play with color. :)


And that's it for now! Please leave a comment if you've got any questions or if you want me to talk about anything in more depth.

Next time, I'll go over some more basic Copic coloring - including the basic paper, ink and must-have colors.


  1. Elle, this is FANTASTIC! What a great 101 for Copic Colouring. Great tips in here and I love how you encourage us to TRY - as you say, it is just paper and ink.

    1. Aw, thank you Kylie! I'm so glad it's useful to you. :D

      I think a lot of us get bogged down before even starting because we want the piece to look perfect. Or we don't want to ruin a piece, so we stay in our comfort zone. But getting messy and taking chances is the best way to get used to working with color, contrast and all kinds of fun techniques. :)