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Traditional Art


When starting out in traditional media it can be a little intimidating to decide upon what medium to start or try working with. After seeing what some amazing artists can do with these traditional tools, it may be difficult to choose which one to try out. This article endeavours to cover two such mediums, Copics (an alcohol based marker) and watercolours (a water based paint), starting to compare them for the newcomer.
Blue Exorcist by Khallandra

Costs and Initial Set up

The initial cost of any traditional medium can be expensive as several things need to be purchased at the same time. There are often cheaper alternatives to the paints and markers that can be substituted.

Watercolour Tools

Watercolours come in a few varieties, the two most common being pans or tubes. A set of Winsor & Newton pans (12) is around $22USD whilst a set of 10 tubes is about $35USD. They can be purchased individually in each type to build up a set, or there are a variety of sets to suit the needs of the individual. Other brands have a similar price range for the 'student' level artist, you can pick up sets of 12 pans for less than $10USD. Depending on your style you can choose which type suits you best. See Artist's toolbox: Watercolor Equipment for more detailed information and examples.

Once you have purchased your watercolours, you will also need a set of brushes. A set of 7 Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour brushes will set you back an additional $30USD, or can purchase some individual brushes to start the journey, e.g. Round, 1/8" Angled and Flat of desirable size. Whilst purchasing the brushes adds to the initial expense of this art medium, they are a once-off outlay until you need to replace a brush or get a new addition. The final step to starting a watercolour journey is a pad of watercolour paper or set of cards. There are many options, pads of paper come in many sizes and range from $5-15USD for an average pad of 15 sheets. Using an unsuitable paper will lead to warping due to the amount of water this medium uses. The following article has some additional examples of papers, Watercolour 1: Material, or a Moleskine notepad may also be an option for the beginner if already available. There are also other items you may wish to add such as mixing pans (if your initial kit doesn't come with these), water holders (shot glasses are an alternative), sponges, masking fluid, gum, salt, etc some of these are detailed in Artist's Toolbox: Watercolor equipment II and My Watercolor Tools.

Watercolour Station by Khallandra
This example shows Winsor and Newton 45 half-pan, W&N Masking Fluid, W&N watercolour brush set, Canson Watercolor pad, Arches Watercolor Smooth pad, Water Brushes, Copic Opaque White Ink, pencils & eraser.

Copic Tools

On the other side of the spectrum, a set of six Copic Sketch will set you back around $35USD, set of 12 $60USD, and the 72-marker sets are north of $350USD. Though there is the option of purchasing individual markers to suit your requirements, some sellers may also allow the customer to build their own set of markers, typically in lots of 12, 24 or 36 at a time. The cheaper option is the Copic Ciao size, which are are smaller versions of the Sketch, but they cannot be used in the Airbrush system and contain less ink (so they run out faster). See the following articles, Guide: Buying Copics v2.1 and Tutorial Copics - First Part and Introduction for further ideas on how to start on a Copic collecting journey.

Once you have a set of markers, they can be used on cardboard and some standard papers to some degree. Two more standard options are: Bleedproof pads, which come in a few sizes and are around $12USD for a pad of 50 A4 sized sheets, and Illustration/Bristol pads that range in size of 15 sheets $5-12USD.
Whilst the markers themselves are expensive to purchase, building up a collection can be done slowly. The replaceable components of the markers are what makes them versatile; if a nib gets damaged it can be replaced, ink can be replaced and even mixed to make an entire new marker. See PE: Tools for taking care of Copic Markers for more information.

Copic Station by Khallandra
This example shows Copic Sketch markers, two Ciao sized and one standard marker for comparison of sizes, Multi-liners, Copic Opaque White Ink, Canson Bleedproof paper (thin marker paper) and Canson Manga Drawing Pad (more illustration board).

The initial costs to start out are fairly comparable for a few colours. The ongoing cost with watercolours is mainly that the paper is expensive, but replacing colours and getting new brushes is cheaper. For Copics, ongoing costs include the replaceable marker components, as inks can be easily topped up at a cheaper price than buying a new marker. The Bleedproof paper is quite cheap for number of sheets per pad.

Shape and Form

Due to the nature of each of the mediums, the types of shapes that can be used to put the colours onto the paper vary. Copic markers are limited due to their design whilst Watercolours, whilst messier, have a greater range of options in brush types, materials and sizes.


Watercolours are not limited by anything other than the brushes at the disposal of the artist. Additional brushes can be purchased, or existing ones modified to suit the needs of the artist. Shown in the following example are several types of brushes, sizes and how they look on paper. The Round lower numbered brushes are useful for finer details, but need constantly to be dipped in their respective colours. The larger flat brushes carry a lot of water and can fill large spaces at a time. Using different types of brushes (by materials they are made out of) can lead to different results. Watercolours can also be applied (or removed) by anything at the artist's disposal, leading to a large variety of experiments to try.
Watercolour Brushes by Khallandra
This is most of a set of 7 Winsor & Newton, plus a Roymac Round-000. Below is the scanned version of the results of the brush type used in a basic manner.
Watercolours by Khallandra
See these additional links for types of brushes and fibres: Craftsy Types of Watercolor Brushes and Art is Fun Paintbrushes for Watercolors.


Copics come with only four different nib types: Brush (Sketch and Ciao), Medium Broad [Chisel shaped] (Sketch, Ciao, Original), Standard (Original) and Super Broad (Wide), though the keen artist may make their own nib types by modifying a replacement nib. In this example the first stroke is the thick stroke, middle is thinnest, followed by a dab and finally the tip of the marker. The paper used is the Illustration Fanboy pad.
Copic Nibs by Khallandra
Each marker only comes with two ends, so while there are only the two options when colouring and blending, being creative and practising will lead to being more dexterous with the markers. A bold artist can also use a paint brush and the replacement ink directly for greater precision, but it is often quite cumbersome to do this. Due to the Copic marker being contained they are easily portable for the artist on the go.

Watercolours have greater diversity in brush types which can lead to a lot of variation when colouring with them, and from "happy mistakes". Copics, on the other hand, have a defined set of nib types which makes it easier to get into a repeatable habit when colouring and can prove faster in the long run because of this aspect.

Colours and Mixing Colours

The underlying chemical base behind each of these two mediums is different, so whilst both are "wet" they have fundamentally different properties due to one being water-based and the other being alcohol-based. The defining property of alcohol is that it evaporates much quicker than water.

Copic Blending

When using Copics the ink remains more damp than wet, so it can blend, but does not need much time for it to dry. Re-applying ink over the top of dried ink is also possible, but the longer it is 'dry' the harder it becomes to remove the pigment when blending. There are so many techniques to blend with Copics and the paper chosen for the artwork does impact the effects greatly. See the following guide PE: Tips for Blending with Markers for blending techniques on the different paper types. One limitation with Copics is the amount of ink in the marker itself can make it more difficult when either too full (lots of ink coming out) or running out (not enough ink leaving the marker). Adding clear alcohol or colourless blender doesn't extend the life of the marker, it just makes the ink inside more diluted and lighter.
Copic Samples by Khallandra
This example shows the blending of similar shades with the E0x and BV000. The second circle shows a blended BG11 and B00, then the darker Y28 applied over the top. Some of the marker colours can still be seen underneath, but because of the heavier saturation, it 'overwrote' the visible colours. The Y32 was more difficult, but it started to become more yellow a the edge of the circle the more the marker was applied. The third circle demonstrates smaller gradients. The small circle at the bottom had an accident with the pink (R85) going outside the lines, then some colourless blender was used but made the edge very fuzzy and left some of the pink looking bled-out. On the yellow circle, colourless blender was applied to try to 'zap out' some of the colour, this is more effective on lighter shades. The final circle is an example of skin tones and eye colouring, the blended iris is a result of wet on wet shading with the colours.

One benefits of Copic markers is that the colour inside the marker is consistent, it doesn't lighten or darken throughout the life of the marker and with refill inks it can be topped up as much as the artist likes. This becomes easy when developing characters and trying to be consistent, marking down which markers used for hair, eyes, clothes, etc. makes it easily repeatable. Also, if commissioning another Copic artist, sharing these colours can help that artist make the commission as close to the original as they can.

Watercolour Blending

Watercolours require water, whether it be in a palette, on the pan itself or using a water brush, water is needed to apply the pigment. There are shades of colours that are consistent, however the more water added, the lighter the colour is; less water means more of the colour is applied leading to the colour being more saturated. There are many techniques with watercolours; washes, wet on wet, wet on dry and a whole lot more in between, the possibilities are what makes it a diverse medium.
Watercolour Samples by Khallandra
Trying to replicate the same set of examples with watercolours led to some very different results. The first circle looked very similar to the Copic example until it started to dry and a dark edge started to form. Though the differences are negligible, the changes to be made would be to add more purple pigment in the top section. The next example has a very nice consistent gradient, likely because the base of the blue-green segment is the same as the blue, so they blended together without a seam. The yellow on the other hand was a little more difficult, the original colour needed to dry first which took some time. It has a nice definite edge to the yellow sections, this can be quite useful. Vast differences appear in the third circle, the two smaller circles were very difficult. Being very clumsy, the same accident was repeated with the small circle going outside the lines. No worries, some water was added and the mistake was blotted away with tissue paper. Trying to remove the yellow pigment, the results are different, but the pigment is removed from lighter and darker areas in the same way (water and blotting technique). The final circle is just an example of how the two media look different, with Copic being softer and Watercolour having more texture to it; it is simply a matter of preference.


Copics have a limited number of colours, however new colours can be made up by combining multiple ink refills into blank marker shafts. By marking how much of each ink was used makes it a repeatable process. Watercolours are more versatile in palette as the can be mixed into whatever colour the artist desires, repeating the process is a little more difficult, but achievable. There are many different texture effects achievable easily with watercolours, they can be achieved with Copics by using colourless blender or a clear alcohol as well.

Watercolour Articles and Tutorials

Watercolor TechniquesWatercolor Techniques I

Traditional Art Week at projecteducate continues! During Artist's Toolbox weeks, I've published articles dedicated to watercolor tools (Watercolor Equipment I - Basic Tools, Watercolor Equipment II - Additional Tools). You should go grab your tools now, because the next series of articles will be focusing on painting methods. I sincerely hope these will help you and wish you all happy painting! :#1:

Laying a wash
A wash is a large area in a watercolor painting where the paint flow and diffusion have been manipulated to efface individual brushstrokes. Within wash areas, color transitions are usually gradual and span analogous hues. Laying a wash is one of the most satisfying tasks in watercolor painting. Essentials of this s
Watercolor Techniques IIWatercolor Techniques II
Traditional Art Week at projecteducate continues! During Artist's Toolbox weeks, I've published articles dedicated to watercolor tools (Watercolor Equipment I - Basic Tools, Watercolor Equipment II - Additional Tools). Current series of articles is focusing on painting methods, previously published Watercolor Techniques I article can be found HERE. I sincerely hope these will motivate some of you to try something new and wish you all happy painting! #1
Wet-in-Wet Technique
Wet-into-wet is another versatile and popular technique where watercolor, or water, is dropped onto a wet surface. This i
PE: ARTIST TOOLBOX: Water-based Media!Waterbased Media!
I love water-based media! What is “waterbased media” you say? Well that would be any kind of water-soluble ink or paint! There are many advantages to working with water-based media, the main one being that many water-based paints and inks are not extremely dangerous to work with (in comparison to oils which are not good to get on your hands people…wear gloves!), there is no need for special clean up or a specific work environment (on that note, please PLEASE do not paint with oils in your living room).  Another advantage to working with water-based media is quick drying times. This is a pro especially if you do illustrative works. A third pro to water-based media is that they are somewhat cost effective for us starving artists. Here are some types of water-based media: watercolor, ink, latex paint, and acrylic paint. My favorite type of water-based media is watercolor. Tip: you don’t need t
PE: How to Use Masking Fluid Traditional Art Week
I use lots of watercolors in my mixed media works and people once in a while ask me how do I paint backgrounds so that objects or characters do not get painted at the same time. I often just paint background around a character quickly with free hand, but if I want to be more precise and when there are lots of jagged edges or tiny details to go round, I use masking fluid to protect those.
Here is a little tutorial how I use masking fluid in my mixed media works! You can use same tips in your pure watercolor artworks – the fluid still works similarly.
What is masking fluid?
Masking fluid is a handy tool if you want to leave some areas unpainted when painting with watercolors. It allows you to paint freely over the masked areas so you can avoid painting around complicated characters – instead you can just paint over them.
Masking fluid made of rubber, latex, ammonia and in some case there is also pigment added on
PE: Watercolour and saltWatercolour and salt
Watercolour painting provides us with fantastic possibilities to create various textures. They can be achieved in many different ways with use of many different side components and equipment - in this article, I'll focus on salt textures. It usually takes time to get a handle of it - like everything else - but the outcome is definitely worth it.
Water and pigment
The three factors that determine the effects are the amount of water, amount of pigment and amount of salt, with the two first being the harder part. The more water you use, the more time it takes for the paint to dry and the more time the salt has to work - therefore the pigment will be pushed further away and you'll get bigger, paler spots between darker pigment borders. Less water will get you smaller, star-like
Watercolour tutorialsAt Traditionalists, each month is dedicated to one traditional medium - July is for watercolour. Here's a collection of 32 very nice and well made watercolour tutorials and tips.
Everyone can contribute and post their own journals! How to take a part: simply send a note to Traditionalists and tell us what would you like to write about (or what art would you like to feature). We'll provide any needed help (including spell-check).
   Watercolor paper Guide by jane-beata Watercolor Techniques by JoJo-Seames Watercoloring tips by dodostad  
  Interesting watercolour journalsAt Traditionalists, each month is dedicated to one traditional medium - July is for watercolour. Here's a collection of useful and interesting articles on the subject.
Everyone can contribute and post their own journals! How to take a part: simply send a note to Traditionalists and tell us what would you like to write about (or what art would you like to feature). We'll provide any needed help (including spell-check).

Watercolor papers review by KmyeChanThe magic of Polish watercolors by Feidhelm
Watercolor Paper Sizing - Why it Matters by windfalconCommunity AquaTip - Internet Watercolor Resources by watercolorists
Textures in Watercolor by agataylor  Watercolor Textures Tutorial by ElvenstarArt Tree Tutorial by GrimDreamArt  Textures in Ink and Watercolor by hibbary  Watercolor Techniques by JoJo-Seames  Watercolor Tutorial by Claparo-Sans  Watercolor Tutorial: Salt Glaze by Xadrea  Watercolor Stretching Tutorial by blix-it  Watercolour Basics - Technique by the-artists-cubby

Mixing Together

Since the two have very different textures and colour blending abilities, they can be combined together to take advantage of their individual strengths. Watercolours can easily be applied on top of Copics without any transfer or bleeding, and the same can be done in reverse. If it seems difficult to get a softer shadow with watercolour, try a Copic marker instead. If unable to get that exact shade of red needed, try adding watercolour on top of the Copic layer.

Another technique is colouring certain aspects of the artwork in the certain mediums. For example skin tones and eyes in Copics as they have a nice soft and consistent colour, or a fluffy jacket in Copics, but a feathery one with watercolours. Flowers and scenery are easier to achieve with watercolours, whilst metals and flatter man-made structures may be easier with Copics. Textured backgrounds are very simple with watercolours, or adding the Copic airbrush system could lead to an even greater range of options.

One restriction with combining the two is that the paper needs to be suitable to both mediums. Bleed-proof paper will buckle and warp when water is applied, and some thicker Illustration paper will have a blotchy effect when a certain amount of water is applied. Rough watercolour paper can be difficult for the Copic nibs to glide across and leaves inconsistent messy coverage. A smooth paper that can handle watercolours will likely also work well with Copic markers, experimentation with different types of paper will yield which one is the best for the given purpose.
DanMachi Dance by Khallandra

Both Worlds

Winsor & Newton also have in their range watercolour markers (cost-wise they are more expensive than Copic sketch markers) which have two ends: a brush end and a fine point. Their colour range is not as extensive and very bright upon initial application. Add water via a brush or aqua pen, and you have more of the traditional watercolour version as they simply bleed to the amount of water added. Benefits are the initial application is very saturated that can then be turned into a wash if desired.
Watercolour Markers Example by Khallandra
A set of 6 will set you back ~$25USD and there are other varieties like the Letraset AquaMarkers.
Features are that they act like other markers, the markers can be blended together easily without any other water being added. Their key difference is that with the application of some water they become like a standard watercolour pad or tube in behaviour.
Watercolour Markers Sample by Khallandra
This example shows the two nib types: a standard nib and brush nib. The green has been extended with use of a water brush, whilst in the second an attempt at a gradient was made using the two colours and water brush. The red needed a few applications because it was lighter than the blue. The black is an example of using it as a 'palette' of colour to make other black markings elsewhere and adding extra water for texture effect, whilst the brown and yellow component was using the markers directly, no water was applied separately. With the flowers, the red was made entirely with just the brush side of the marker, the yellow made with the water brush.

These markers are quite versatile and portable like the Copic marker, though they are quite expensive and do not seem refillable, so need to be replaced when the pigment inside runs out.

Final Thoughts

Costs: Watercolours win out by being cheaper to maintain and start up with larger amounts of colours available initially. Paper wise Copic Bleedproof paper is cheaper per sheet than even the cheapest quality watercolour paper.
Shape and Form: If variable, inconsistent and surprising colouring is desired, go with watercolours, due to the range of brush types and shapes. For more consistent results, portability and less set up time, go with Copic markers.
Colours and Mixing Colours: Copics can give a softer feel and are always the same shade, but are in limited range of colours without mixing the refill inks into blank markers. Watercolours have a large range of texture possibilities and can make any shade of colour, however repeatability can be difficult to achieve.

The two media are quite different from each other, whilst both are a 'wet' medium they behave in different ways and are used for different techniques. Watercolours can be challenging and often surprising, whilst Copics can be less forgiving in some ways, but quite consistent. Depending on your artwork both are very strong and fun media to experiment with, the ultimate decision comes down what the artist is trying to achieve and which suits their tastes more.

Have fun with the medium of your choice or have both!
Sket Dance Kids by Khallandra

Questions for the Reader

  • Which medium do you prefer for what type of tasks?
  • Have you mixed them together or are keen to try?
  • Any suggestions or tips for the readers that you would like to share from experience?

Add a Comment:
LeenaCruz Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Wow, thank you for sharing this post it's really in-depth! 
Now I know more about both mediums, I was looking for tutorials on how to use watercolors and copics, but after reading this I can say I'll go with Copics as my main medium. Thank you again! 
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome :D Hope it does come in handy ;)
I've also started dabbling with pencils on top of Copics too (mainly polychromos and prismas) and it's been working well too :D
Mainly highlights and giving a bit of shadows to edges kind of thing since Copics are a little awkward for it.
LeenaCruz Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Oh I need to find my prismacolors then :D 
I'm making a watercolor right now, I will use a little of Copics on it, maybe the eyes (for now), probably I will use pencils for the shadows and edges now that you mention it :3
Fallen-Sock Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Watercolour markers??? Heavy Breathing Cat Emoticon GIF 
Khallandra Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Exactly how I felt when I discovered them  :D
Wailore Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
The anniversary set is so pretty, I really wanted some, but they were only in the sets, which made them look so good :D
At the suggestion of another Deviant artist the smoother watercolour papers tend to like markers much easier (and not as difficult to use cause the rough paper tends to be blotchy and catches the marker nib at the exact wrong point :O). If you are keen to try, Canson smooth paper or even their Fanboy range of marker pad (this one in particular :D…) has been nice and friendly to both mediums :) (though as usual red and violet markers still like to bleed even with the lightest touch of the brush nib :doh:).
Sparkleno Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
wow i didn't know that existed! :D I think i tried it on a canson brand... but i will definitely check out the link, thank you so much! 5 seconds hug  
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you :D
I fear the dreaded streak in the middle of colouring a big section and panicking thinking 'what inks do I have that I could use to make this last longer' and hoping i have one that I can use :D
Agaave Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2015
You're welcome! :heart:

You had covered pretty much everything in your article but those dying and ending colors came into my mind because it just happened to me with my current drawing. :nuu:
I am now desperately trying to think how to fix uneven colors and make those weird streaks less visible. I probably just cover them with colored pencils and hope for the best. :giggle:
kbalo0 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Amazing article! Its really informative thanks :happybounce:
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you :D
GrimDreamArt Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Great article! I've never tried to draw with copics but it seems that they give quite similar results to watercolors. One day I'll try them :)

Thanks a lot for featuring my tutorial by the way!
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome, thanks for making such a useful tutorial :D
agataylor Featured By Owner Edited Jul 29, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Thanks a lot for the mention about my watercolor textures! 
I just finished reading the whole article now, it's so useful! And the other articles linked on this one are so useful as well.
I've always thought about trying to experiment with Copic Markers, now I have some useful insights about that. 
Watercolors can be expensive to maintain, especially because of the papers, as you've mentioned (where I live, there are some bigger sized papers that can be worth $20 for one sheet!), but I'm still loving to explore several possibilities with them :heart:
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for making such awesome textures :)
Ouch on the paper prices, I'd be so intimidated to try and draw on ones that expensive :blush:
agataylor Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Ahh, it's nothing really :) I had made those for a class I gave here, and I thought maybe it'd be useful to share them with the community.'s really hard to work freely and without worries about ruining the whole thing when your paper is that expensive :fear:
sealandangel Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
amazing as always! i should one day do one seeing as I do graphite,colored pencil,prismamarkers,copics,watercolor and digital lmfao
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks :) Check out the CommunityRelation groups for any of the various weeks (or just projecteducate), the teams are always wanting new articles :D
sealandangel Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
i def will~
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have not used gouache, but if it's anything like Copic opaque white (paste white ink) I use a small brush specifically for it and it does go over much brighter than a white gel pen. Only issue I have with it is when making a mistake the Copics don't like going back over the top :(
Definitely makes the highlights very bright :D
Tudalia Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
This is an awesome article!
I really like the accurate points.
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks, making all the visual references is the hardest part hey ;)
Tudalia Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Oh yesss!
Can't forget that!
GeorgeXVII Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015   Traditional Artist
Amazing article Khallandra :iconclapplz:
Khallandra Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you :D
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