Copic makes a whole lot of colors. Many beginners have a hard time choosing colors and as such choose the wrong colors to start with. Also, many people find it strange that Copic offers so many grays (44 different grays) and that they have so many light colors. Why are there so many light colors? Today I just want to give you some things to keep in mind about the value of light colors and why you'll find yourself using up your light colors first.
Light Marker Colors vs. Middle or Dark colors
Beginners who use markers are usually drawn to bold bright colors (colors that end in 5-9). They buy colors that are nice and eye-catching, but usually end up being too dark for everyday use. If you are coloring with a traditional medium like paint, then you are used to buying dark and thinning out to the color you need. However, markers are a little different:
• Copic markers are not a paint. It's much harder to thin out to the color you want (unless you use the palette blending technique or lots of colorless blender). With Copic markers you will get much better results if you add and layer light colors to get the darker value that you need. The more you use Copic markers, the more you find yourself going for light colors, or colors that end in 0, 1, or 2.
• When you color smoothly your marker gets darker. The most common beginner problem that I see is that people are not coloring slow and even enough. On most un-coated papers this means that you can see color through the backside just as evenly as you can on the front. This shows that you are soaking your paper enough*. If you put one quick layer of a pale color down then it might not look very good. If you take that same color and slow down, coloring more evenly then it looks much richer and fuller (see my example with E31 from a week ago).
*Note: Super thick stamping papers like PaperTrey Ink or the new Gina K. paper is so thick that it might not be totally soaked through to the back. This is OK. Practice on thinnner paper and look at the backside until you get a feel for how it should look on the front. Then, color just as evenly on the thick papers. Although I say the backside should be smooth, the front side is most important.
• The difference between colors is very subtle. I usually suggest that you keep a 3 or 4 digit differeence between your colors when choosing blending groups because if you let an area dry and color back over it with the same color then you can usually get it another shade darker. Just by slowing down and coloring twice I can get a B12 to look similar to a lightly colored B14, or two shades darker.
When you layer middle colors, too quickly they lose their vibrancy and then are too dark (B37 vs. B39). Look at how a dark B37 is darker than the light stroke of a B39, so it is getting a 3 digit difference from one color. If you try to blend a B37 and a B39 they will be too dark and the whole area will look like B39. Use these sparingly and only for your deepest shadows or they quickly turn dark and are hard to blend.
• It's easier to layer colors from different families if they are light. In yesterday's example you can see how the G21 in the trees far away easily got shaded with a C3 and B32 to really change the tone and feel, though it's the same green as the base color for the close-up tree. In the shadows of the closest tree I added C8. You hardly notice because the shadows are so dark already. Also, on the second closest tree I say I used G28. To get it more subtle I touched it tip to tip with the G21. Then I had more of a color range to work with, since G28 is too dark by itself. Only the darkest shadows on the middle tree were directly colored with the G28 since it is too dark for details to show through.
Balance in All Colors
These thoughts are not to say that you have no need for darker colors. As I have mentioned before and I pointed out just yesterday, contrast adds richness and depth to our lives. However, to achieve visual balance you usually need less dark and more light. In my design classes it helped if you think of a scale. It takes a whole lot of light to equal out the visual impact of a little dark.
Really, you need a full variety of colors, but use the dark ones with care and practice (unless you're going for dark, moody pictures). In my personal set and the classroom marker set that I use when teaching it always ends up being my lightest colors that need to be refilled first. It's not that the dark colors are bad colors, it's a matter of dark colors being used sparingly. Next time you're picking out markers, just keep this in mind and stock up on those light colors and their refills.
For my final image today I used this beautiful Autumn Leaves stamp by Gina K. Designs and I colored it using only markers that end in a 3 or less. Very subtle, but easy to get blends between different color families, and my final image still looks nice and vibrant.