Friday, April 8, 2016

Copic 101 - Which colors to buy?

One of the questions I see most often when it comes to Copics is what colors to start with -- what are the must-have colors, and what else is absolutely necessary for starting out with Copics. And it's a really tough question to answer because it depends on a lot of things -- what's being colored, whether you prefer a bright palette or a more subdued one, whether you have other coloring supplies, and so on.

But Copics have 358 colors and it's pretty overwhelming to go through all the colors and decide which ones work best. One of the things I usually recommend is keeping track of color combos that other artists and crafters use (Pintrest is great for this), but that can take quite a long time and some of you might want to jump into coloring sooner.

So, I'm going to share a list of 50 Copic marker colors and go over some possible uses for the colors. I tried to build a list that lets you build several palettes - ex. taking a pink and adding it to the reds for a lighter red combo, etc. - in addition to the basic 3-color palette. So, if you just want to get a yellow, you can go with a 3 yellow marker choice and build your collection by color type.

My list was built around coloring cute people and critters, with a few colors for backgrounds. I love bright, saturated colors, so that's what my palettes are composed of. If you're looking into coloring nature or more realistic images, you'll want to tweak the list and substitute some of the brighter tones with more natural colors.

Note that these are colors that I use most often and that it's not an absolute must-have list. I like having a lot of contrast between my colors and I don't work too hard on blending them together absolutely perfectly. I tend to work in 3s (light, medium, dark) and color relatively quickly.

You can make beautiful things with fewer colors or with completely different marker combinations. So, do continue to experiment and find colors that will best work for you. :)

-E (Earth colors- browns)-
Skin tones: E00, E11, E13, E15
With these colors, you can build a light skin tone (E00, E11, E13) or a darker skin tone (E11, E13, E15). You can also use the darker colors for environment such as wood.

E50, E53, E33, E57, E59, E79
These colors cover the blond (E50, E53, E33, E57) and brown (E33, E57, E59, E79) hairstyles. They can also be used for environments like sand (E53, E33, E13) or for clothing and fur (ex. cream color E50, E53; medium brown E57, E59, etc).

-R (reds/pinks)-
Pink: R11, R20, R22
This is a light and bright pink palette that can also be added to the skin tones for blush or used as a gentle baby girl color.

Red: R08, R46, R59
This is a bright and true red palette that's very vibrant. You can tone down this palette by adding a gray undertone.

-RV (pinks)-
RV11, RV34, RV66
This is a darker pink and works great for floral images or combined with a cooler palette.

-V (violets)-
V12, V06, V17
This is my go-to combination for purple, so I actually haven't got many more Violet markers beyond that.

-BV (blue violets)-
BV11, BV13, BV17
These colors give a much more desaturated/blue tone, but they also work great to add extra dimension to your shading or to use as a blue undertone for dark/black hair.

- Y (yellows)-
Y11, Y15, Y35
This is also my standard yellow palette. I prefer my yellows to be warm, so these colors are more on the orange side and work great with the YR markers.

-YR (orange)-
YR21, YR14, YR68
I don't use orange a whole lot, but it's useful to have a few colors that you can add into your other palettes. YR21, for example, can be used with pinks to add a peachy undertone. Or you can use E15 with YR68 for a darker orange.

- YG (yellow greens)-
YG13, YG17, YG67
These are mainly grassy greens and what I gravitate toward with green. I don't use green too often, so I mainly stick to things that help with environments (ex. folliage, grass,etc).

- G (greens)-
G21, G46, G29
These are darker pine greens that work well for environments especially.

-BG (blue greens)-
BG11, BG32, BG49
This is a good aqua/teal combination. You can also use BG11 to do subtle shading on white - it brings extra depth and makes white look whiter (ex. snow).

- B (blues)-
Light: B00, B02, B05
I use these colors a lot, especially for sky and water. They are bright and saturated, so they fit in great with other bright combinations. I also use this for baby boy colors.
Dark: B41, B45, B37
This is a darker combination you might want to use with clothing like jeans. I also use B41 and B45 on white clothing to add extra depth.

-W (warm greys)-
W2, W4, W6, W8
You can use these for coloring light gray (ex. elephant W2, W4, W6) or a darker color that's closer to black (W4, W6, W8). The warmth of these can also be comforting if it's used on sympathy cards.

Grays are especially great to start with because you can use them to practice shading and as an undertone for other colors. So, if you're missing a rich red, you can color your image in gray and add a bright red over the top (see here). If your budget only allows for a few colors at a time, start with the grays and then add middle colors of each 3-marker set on the list. This will let you build up your shading, but still have more than just a monochromatic look.

And there you have it. I hope this list is helpful to some of you out there.
Thanks for reading!


  1. What a lot of work! This list will be a great tool for a new to Copic person.

    1. That's what I'm hoping, too! I've been trying to find a recommendation for colors for a crafty friend, and there just isn't one out there. So, I figured someone's got to make one - why not me? :D

  2. What is the best set if I draw an Animals?