I had a question come up about refilling and I figured that now is a good time to start talking about refilling markers. I got to typing this up and I realized that to cover this in depth I needed to break it up over a few posts. Sorry about that, but I figure the more you know the less likely you are to make mistakes.
I suggest you download our refilling guide from the Copic library for the simple directions and diagrams.
Planning ahead for Refilling Markers
How do I know when to refill?
Test both ends of the marker. The biggest hint that it's time to refill is when you use the chisel end you see streaks. On the brush end you'll need to refill when the ink has a harder time reaching the tip of the brush. If one end is dry but the other is juicy you may think your marker is fine, but it's not. It still needs to be refilled.
Sometimes the marker is so dry the tips will look light and blotchy (see photo). This is a REALLY dry marker and needs lots of help (sadly most of my personal collection looks like this and I always forget to get inks until I need that exact color).
Over time, if you find it difficult to evenly soak your paper or blend with some colors then you probably need to refill. You'll have to refill your favorite colors sooner than you think, so if you are like me and use your pale blues or favorite skin colors all the time, then go ahead and get refills now, before those colors run out. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a large project and having your main color go dry.
Q. Will it hurt my marker if I don't refill it right away?
A. Not really. My biggest concern is that when I teach workshops and the markers start to go dry people tend to push harder on the brush to get the color to come out and they're more likely to break the tip. It is also annoying if you go to use the marker again and it's dry, so I try to frequently test my demo markers and weed out the dry ones.
Q. How many refills can I get from one bottle?
A. It depends on the marker type, but in general and without overfilling you can get about 10-12 refills for Sketch, about 15 for Ciao, about 8 for Copic, and 5-7 for Wide. On the side of the bottle are little measurement marks so you'll know exactly how much ink to use (more about this later).
Q. How should I store the Various inks?
A. You can store them either horizontal or or upright, just make sure the cap is on tight. It may take you a while to use up a bottle of ink (I've had some colors for about 8 years). They have a little rubber seal inside so they won't dry out, even if the bottle sits for a long time. Keep them out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures and they'll be fine. Copic makes 24 pc. empty storage cases that hold either Various Inks or Wide markers. This photo is actually my personal ink set kept in an old store display.
Some things to consider before you refill:
1. Work over a protected surface. A thick paper plate, pie tin, or a stack of old newspapers make a great barrier for spills. Don't work over your brand new pants, your favorite tablecloth, or the white carpet. (sometime in the next few days I'll mention how to get marker out of fabric, since I have lots of experience with this).
2. Make sure your refill color matches the marker. This is an easy mistake to make.
3. Have everything ready before you start. Everything includes your clean-up supplies. Keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) or hand-sanitizer and some paper towels for clean up. If you are using a booster needle I suggest keeping a small disposable cup to rinse it out in. Some people prefer wearing rubber gloves while refilling, so if you think you may spill the first time you try to refill think about wearing a rubber glove.
When you are refilling your markers this is also a good time to replace damaged nibs, so keep a supply of replacement tips and a pair of tweezers. Copic tweezers have little gripping teeth to get hold of those slippery nibs better (these are also important for pulling out broken brush nibs that can get stuck down in the barrel). It helps if you store all your refill supplies in one place close to your inks so that you can quickly fill your markers if you are in the middle of a project and don't want to stop.
4. The Refill cap unscrews. Don't try to pull it straight off like a marker lid, and whatever you do, don't squeeze the bottle while unscrewing it. You're bound to make a mess (I know this the hard way). Unscrew it over your protected surface.
5. Don't overfill. It's better to underfill.
6. Refill from the chisel end of the marker. Whatever you do, DON'T pull out the brush nib. This is made from two specially joined pieces of felt. You can mush and squish these nibs, but don't pull on them unless you need to replace them.
7. Give yourself plenty of time to refill. Accidents happen when you get distracted or in a rush. I can't tell you how many times I've spilled inks or overfilled a marker while refilling in the middle of a demo just because I look away for a moment, I get in a rush, or I'm just not paying attention. Usually if I have ink stains on my fingers it's from getting distracted when refilling.
Refilling is not hard to do, especially if you are prepared and you allow yourself some uninterrupted time to try it the first time. I usually try to get my teenage friends to refill my markers for me. It takes about 5 minutes to show them how to refill (I frequently tell my babysitter that she can refill her markers from my inks any time if she tests and refills my markers as well). Now that you're ready, look for my next posts on how to refill each style of marker.