Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

PE: Tips for Blending with Markers

Thu Apr 30, 2015, 12:10 AM by Khallandra:iconkhallandra:

Artists Toolbox


This article is to give some handy tips and tricks for blending with alcohol based markers (Copic, Pantone, Tria, etc). The majority of the article is demonstrated using Copic markers, but the techniques used can be applied to the different marker types.

Bakuman by Khallandra


Marker papers come in many shapes and sizes. The common ones are:
Bleedproof / Bleedfree Marker Paper - 70 gsm paper which is thin and has a right side and a 'wrong' side, often comes in pads of 50 sheets and is quite cheap.
Manga Drawing Pad - 250gsm paper which is thick and textured, often comes in pads of 10-20 or as single sheets, can be expensive.
Japanese Manga Paper - thick, but smooth, more designed for inks and screentones, but can be used for colour pieces.

The type of paper used can vastly change the way blending with the markers works, as they often behave in different ways. In this article two papers are used as examples: Bleedproof (70gsm Canson brand) and Manga Pad (250gsm Fanboy Brand).

What to Blend

For Copic Markers specifically it is key to understand the number scheme:
The Letter is the Broad Classification, which is the colour family/basic hue.
First Number is the Intermediate Classification, which is the saturation. Typically lower numbers are vibrant, higher have more grey/purple.
Second Number is the Specific Classification, which is the brightness. The lower numbers are lighter than higher numbers, whilst multiple zeros means it is lighter than one with less number of zeros.
Prisma Markers do not appear to have a numbering scheme, and Pantone is a colour scheme used in commercial printing (
Picking ColoursBasic blending is done in the same family of colours, i.e. same Broad and Intermediate Classification, but varying Specific Classification. This example shows blending a YR20 and YR21, immediately close to one another in the Copic family:
Yellow-Red Example by Khallandra
The next basic blending is with markers that have the same Broad and Specific Classifications, but different Intermediate Classification. This example shows G05 (very vibrant green) and G85 (muted, more grey green):
Green Example by Khallandra
The following are examples of blending within the Broad Classification, and even using a Gray to add a third colour:
Example Blue Range by Khallandra

Another easy method is to blend adjacent Broad Classification, same Intermediate Classification and close Specific Classification. These are just colours that are easier to blend together, however it does not mean that colours outside of these ranges will not blend together.

How to Blend

The techniques for blending are highly dependant on the paper type and marker nibs being used. Blending with a brush nib can be a lot easier than with a chisel or rounded nib. The shape of the item being coloured may also govern the tactics on colouring. Figuring out where shadows and colours interact is key in selecting colours (see Colour Theory tutorials for more information).

Hold the marker comfortably and apply the first colour (often lightest or colourless blender). With a light touch, add the next colour whilst that first layer is still 'wet' and build up the colour layers. The next steps are then often governed by the type of paper.

In the example below of blending on the Manga Pad (thicker paper), the technique used was: first fill the circle with the lightest colour, then gradually add the darker colours. When the blending was not successful re-applying the lighter colour sparingly then having to reapply the darker colour. The colourless blender was then used to create a 'light spot', however on this paper it tends to create unwanted edges that often need reapplication of the colour underneath to remove.
Example Circles by Khallandra
For the Bleedproof paper, like the thicker paper the lightest colour was applied first, but then it went darker to lightest with re-applying the lightest to blend any obvious lines. Though note the difference on the Violet and Red example, the Red has a more defined colour than on the thicker paper. One difficulty with this paper is when a marker is running out of ink or the nib needs replacing this can leave sticky blotches of colour that make it difficult to blend out.
The following two gifs demonstrate the colour order used to achieve the effects:
Example Blending Mangapad by Khallandra Example Blending Colours by Khallandra

Some Relevant Tutorials


A gradient can be challenging even once blending is mastered. One way is to decide where the meeting point of colour is and how much 'blend together area' is desired, i.e. is it one long smooth blend (with multiple colours as well if desired) or a stronger differentiation in the middle?
To make the process easier, try to keep at least one of the numbers in the Intermediate or Specific classification within one or two of the colour you are blending with. If this is not possible consider adding a third colour to aid with the gradient transition.
Note: Complementary colours are often very difficult to blend together, as the meeting point can be an undesirable combination. Lighter versions of complimentary colours are quite easy to blend and can look nice together, whereas the higher the Specific Classification, the less pleasant the interacting colours can be.

Here are some example gradients using the two different types of paper:
Example Gradient Eggs by Khallandra
Here are some references produced on these two different paper types:
Resource: Gradients by Khallandra Reference: Skin and Hair Tones (Copics) by Khallandra Example Gradients by Khallandra

On some spare paper try to create some gradients to see what is the best technique for the paper and colours chosen.

What if there is no colour to blend with?

What if there is no marker between or one that can easily be blended with? Two things to try: either create your own marker using a blank (an article on this is included in PE: Tools for taking care of Copic Markers) or transfer some colour from another marker onto the base marker.
The easiest way of doing this is to tap the base marker's brush nib to the broad end of the transfer colour. Start by applying a small amount and using that until the transferred colour runs out, then dab on some more. Remember to clean your nib of excess colour at the end (the nib might appear discoloured, but if the ink coming out is the original colour it should generally be okay).
The example shows BG70 and using BG72 to make the shadows:
Dabbing to get more colour by Khallandra

Too risky? Try a Gray that is close to your Copic Broad Classification - typically a warmer grey for warmer colours (i.e Warm or Toner), or Neutral for the mid range and Cool for the cooler colours (blues). Choose the Specific Classification close to the original colour.

Skin Tones

Skin tones are as varied as the rest of the colour palette, and preferences are wide as well. Common staples are E000, E00, E11, E51 and E40. For example the E0x range are pinkish (to red) in tone, the E1x are slightly orange, E2x yellow-orange, E4x yellow-grey, E5x yellow, E7x purple, E8x green-yellow, E9x pink-orange.

The two paper types described above behave vastly differently with the same colours. On both, a light touch and careful small strokes were used to colour the different facial features.

Example Skintones by Khallandra
The following example on the Manga Pad was created by leaving the highlights of the face without colour, and building colour from around them. The colouring order used was to build up the depth slowly, starting with the lightest marker progressing through to the darkest and re-blending with the lighter colour if the dark was too vibrant. This paper made the tones quite yellow because the paper itself was more yellow in colour.
Skintones-mangapad by Khallandra
On the Bleedproof Paper, the order was different. The BV colours were applied first, then the R0000 and R00 blush and lips, followed by E20* and E10* shadowing. The next step was to add the base E0000 onto the entire face, then grade the depth with E40, E000 and E00, and finally re-apply E0000 to blend in any areas. This technique is a combination of dark->light and light->dark, this paper has the ability to allow blending with the lightest colour without sapping out the vibrancy of the darker colours.
*these are Custom made markers
Skintones-bleedproof by Khallandra

Note: Adding a colour underneath another colour changes its hue and saturation qualities. A lighter Specific Classification than the next colour will give a more subtle effect.

Some Relevant Tutorials

Airbrush System

Copic have a handy airbrush system that 'plugs in' a marker into an Air Grip and turns it into an airbrush. There are some limitations, the Ciao markers do not fit into the holder and the pressure is quite low so fine details are not easy to achieve.
PreparationEnsure all colouring of the artwork is finished prior to the airbrushing phase, as it does not allow blending in the same way as blank paper.  If you do not want a section of artwork to be airbrushed wait for it to dry then either mask off with a stencil or using masking fluid.
Masking fluid article PE: How to Use Masking Fluid
Using the AirbushThe Air Grip works by inserting the marker's broad side into the holder and using either a compressor or air canister to spray the ink across the artwork.
Airbrush by Khallandra
Some key things to note when using the airbrush system are to be careful of being too close to the paper, as you may get dark spots (as shown on the Manga pad example for Y28). Also make sure the marker is full, if it is running out it can be splotchy (as shown on the Bleedproof Y28 example).
The results are slightly different on the two different papers:
Airbrush by Khallandra
One 'feature' of the airbrush is that it does to like to have markers applied over the sprayed marker ink; it can generate a streaky effect. This is shown on the lower areas of the Y28 examples using 0 Blender.
Alternatively, this effect can have its uses, such as rain or adding texture.

Other Techniques

Since the alcohol markers can behave in a similar way to watercolour or ink, techniques used to give texture and effects can also be modified to work with Copics. Often these techniques rely on the paper being 'wet'; this can be achieved with ink refills, Colourless Blender 'ink' or perhaps even rubbing alcohol.
Note: Excess ink on the Bleedproof paper may cause undesirable warping of the paper.

Note: Try turning the Bleedproof paper over to the 'wrong' side to see what other effects this gives.

Example Tutorials

It is strongly advised to test any new techniques on scrap paper prior to trying them on a final piece.

Shirobako Success by Khallandra

Questions for the reader
  • What is your go to method of blending?
  • Do you use the colourless blender?
  • Do you use a mix different brands of markers?

GIFs from: Bakuman & Shirobako

Add a Comment:
mockingbirdontree Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
I found it very essential, easy to understand with good instructions to make your own first experiences.
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you, hope the article comes in handy sometime :)
mockingbirdontree Featured By Owner May 9, 2015
A very good idea.
DubsliderInk Featured By Owner May 4, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
When I first started using markers, I used Letraset and Prismacolors. This was around 2005. In 2007, I was given an opportunity to try a friends copic sketch markers, and I fell absolutely in love with the brush tip.

Fast forward years later, i use copics almost exclusively (the ciao versions, as they are small and economical). I sometimes do mixed media with copics and watercolors.
My go-to method for blending when I decide to do is usually to lay darker colors down in corners, and then work my way to the lightest color, doing several color runs to get an even blend. I do this on Strathmore or Blick Bristol so it does consume some ink (and also some patience). Overall though, the finished product is very good. 

With markers, I tend to use saturated colors and deeper tones for shading- that said, this article taught me more about the color system than I thought I knew! I think this was the kick in the butt I needed to start getting on with color theory traditionally (limited palettes are a challenge but necessary). I don't really use the colorless blender often, unless I am trying to fix minor bleeds. However, sometimes i do use it to blend colors by throwing down the blender as a coat first and kinda dabbing colors around to expand them.

Thanks for another great article, friend!
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 5, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have been meaning to try Bristol Board, does that work well with mixing Copics and watercolours? As I'd love to play around with them together and the bleedproof paper isn't suited to it.
DubsliderInk Featured By Owner May 5, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
I would say its hit or miss.

Heavy washes with watercolor will buckle the paper after extensive use, however the vellum surface is a lil toothy so it might absorb the water better. I usually run with smooth bristol and that seems ok, but I would more likely recommend a canson watercolor pad depending on how much youre using marker vs watercolor. If you're reliant on washes, use a light tooth watercolor pad. If you're mostly coloring with markers and then just doing a couple light washes for backgrounds etc, the paper will bend a bit but overall its workable especially if you intend to frame it.
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 5, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great exactly what I was after, thanks for that :D
DubsliderInk Featured By Owner May 5, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
No problem! Good luck with your work, and thanks for the tips!
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 5, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the links, I had them only up in the other tutorial :blush: I also found this one that had a couple of things in non-PDF formats :)
Kaz-D Featured By Owner May 2, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Fantastic article : ) thanks for sharing!
HannahsDefense Featured By Owner May 2, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for creating this marker tutorial, it has given me a better understanding of how markers will cooperate.
Does anyone ever compare Copic blending to watercolor painting?
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 2, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks, as for comparing I haven't seen such an article in hunting for tutorials on this particular site, though you don't see a lot of painting with the Copic ink often which could make it very similar to watercolour painting (the ink is rather expensive compared to watercolours or water based inks). The alcohol in a marker dries out quicker than watercolours do, so it's harder to get the nice mixed colours when wet, possibly it's akin to when the watercolour is almost dry so it blends a little, but doesn't saturate the entire 'wet' area and to make the blend line a little better you add water / lighter colour.
I'll put it up on the ideas list as I'd like to see such an article too :D
HannahsDefense Featured By Owner May 4, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yes I mean even the way you explained how the marker will dry out faster and furthermore has a different rate of saturation then say watercolor has put it in a frame for me to think. Thank you!

RedAlchemist Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Really liked this tutorial. It's very detailed and the gif's help a lot! Clap 
Khallandra Featured By Owner May 1, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you :) hope it comes in handy sometime :D
Tudalia Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Great tutorial! Well explained and handy ! Keep up the great work.
Khallandra Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you! :D
Tudalia Featured By Owner May 1, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
Thanx to u too for the llama
Add a Comment:

:iconkhallandra: More from Khallandra

Featured in Collections

Journals by JaqueOliveira

Project Educate by GreenGardenFairy

Journals and Contests by ActsofArt

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
April 30, 2015
Submitted with Writer


5,237 (2 today)
85 (who?)