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.
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 (www.pantone.com).
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:
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):
The following are examples of blending within the Broad Classification, and even using a Gray to add a third colour:
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.
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:
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:
Here are some references produced on these two different paper types:
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:
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 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.
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.
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
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
Skin Copic Marker Tutorial
Hi everyone! I'm back from the previous Black & White Tutorial! Here's a tutorial with skin colors, almost the same concept, but a bit different. (sorry if camera quality is really bad, it was night time)
Finished drawingCopicsCopic colors E00, E11, E13, R20EraserWhite pen
Always, Always start with the darkest copic (E13), in case you don't have the blender copic (which I don't, I find it kind of useless.) This depends on where the light is coming from, which for me, its coming on the right side. Use the chisel tip for the edges, since the brush tends to spread a lot.
From then on, you can use E11, a little more, and then E00 for the slightly lightest part of the skin, and R00 to the side of the cheeks.
Hopefully your skin will look like this! If you have a dark skinned character, you can use E18 as the darkest, and
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.
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:
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.
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.
It is strongly advised to test any new techniques on scrap paper prior to trying them on a final piece.
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