Monday, August 4, 2008

FAQ- What colors should I start with?

It's time for more questions that people are always asking me, or things that I think will be useful to you before you ask me. This is probably the question I get asked MOST often. While I don't really mind answering it once in a while, you can see where 10 requests a day for the same thing can really bog me down because this is not a straight-forward question to answer.

Q. I'm just getting started with buying Copics, I know which style of marker I want, but what colors should I choose?

Easy Answer: I don't know, I'm not you.
Real Answer: I don't know, I'm not you, I don't know what you'll be coloring.

The actual color families you choose to start with depend on what you'll be coloring.

I know this sounds obvious, but everyone has different goals in mind when they start coloring. If you ask me what color to start with I can give you my opinion, but that won't be best for everyone.

Picking individual colors:
For whatever you color pick at least 2 colors in each color family that fall into Natural Blending Groups. Remember that vibrant colors are going to be in the 00's and 10's, while more earthy, muted colors are going to be in the 70's, 80's and 90's with the last digit being how light or dark within each little group. I know it's hard to start, but discuss it with friends, look at things online that you like the colors, find colors that match your favorite inks, and take the plunge with a couple colors. Remember, there are no BAD colors, just colors that are Less Useful to you.

So if you find yourself frequently coloring any of the below, you might want to start with some colors to match.

People: skin colors, hair colors
Plants: get two general greens, either bright and springy or muted and natural. browns for wood. Browns/pale warm grays for the ground
Blossoms: choose a color family (like RV or Y) and get two colors in that family
Bears, dogs, deer, etc. Again, two browns in a color family

You get the idea... Most times it helps if you have one picture you want to find colors for, then build your collection from there. Or, if you have a swatch of paper or an ink you like and you match your colors based on things like that.

Generally Useful Colors:
These are colors that almost everyone should have, since they are so versatile
Really pale blue (B000, BG10, or B21) for sky, water etc.
Really pale buttery yellow for rich, subtle sunny backgrounds & highlights (Y000 or Y21)
Pale Gray- C1 or C3 for cool shadows, W1 or W3 for more earthy, natural things


Picking Sets:
If you are coloring a lot of different things and know that you'll need one of each color family you can start with one of MANY beginner sets out there. Just about everyone has their own assortments of colors that they like- some have been picked to match specific color palettes, this line of paper, that line of inks, others are picked to color one specific style of images. Most of these are built as 12 or 24 pc. sets, usually with one or two colors from each color family.

In general, pick colors about a shade lighter than you think you'll want them. It's easier to go darker, but it's harder to go back to white. I don't reach for dark colors as often as I do the pale colors.

Also, know that the Natural Blending families are just a guideline, not a LAW. You'll have beautiful leaves if you blend a light YG with a darker G, even though it breaks out of the Blending family. When you find these combos that work for you add them to your swatch book. If you look at the sidebar on Debbie Olson's blog you'll see some good suggestions, many of which do not follow Natural Blending groups.

If you feel that you need to follow the Natural Blending families, then you can pick a beginner set and build from there- i.e. If the set comes with G17 then eventually add a G14 and G12. If it starts with B00, then you'll want to add B02 and B05. Do you see how that works?

Many of the pre-built sets that we at Copic sell are intended for very specific audiences. We have Manga Wallets, Fashion Design sets, Papercrafting assortments, etc. Each set has colors picked for very different reasons. If you color stamps of plants all the time, you might like our Landscape Architecture colors, even if you're not a landscape architect. Just look at the colors offered in each set and think what you will be coloring most.

The nice thing about pre-built sets is that they do include colors you don't think you'll need at first but many times you'll find yourself reaching for them as they become your new favorites.

If this helps, the first large set of Sketch I chose was the 72 B. This was perfect for ME. Why? Because I draw a lot of comics and people. This set had about 6 skin colors I liked, plus it came with the colorless blender, and lots of muted pastels that were more useful to me than the primary and dark colors in the A set. I also needed the cool grays, but didn't need warm grays, since at that time I drew more metal than dirt.

I just have to warn you that whatever markers you choose to start with you'll end up wanting more. I still walk out into the warehouse and get excited seeing all the pretty markers and I think "Oh, I need that one!" when I probably have a dirty old one on my desk already.


Ria Zonnestraaltje said...

Thanks for the helpfull hints and tips :) I have not started to color with markers yet but I am reading as much as I can about it :)

hugs Ria

Rach said...

Thank you so much for the tips you have on your blog...I have bought all the colours in the sketch markers and was feeling a little lost...I am sure that i will be back to your awesome blog time and time again..
hugs rach.xx

Nicole said...

Hi Marianne! I would like to add something for those wonderful paper-crafters/card-makers out there that are about to initially invest in a set.

Ellen Hutson has worked with COPIC, from what I was told, and put together an awesome set ('gotta have it all' set) that she sells on her site at ( The colors seem to be figured around those popular Stampin'UP! colors that we all see a lot online. While SUP! does have a set of markers, they are waterbased, so I was excited to see color-suggestions on Ellen's site when searching for my initial investment of COPICS.

As you suggest, Ellen's set does incorporate light, medium and dark shades of most of the colors and are fabulous to start your COPIC adventure. Not to mention, that she has awesome prices, too!

I hope everyone looks at this set first before investing, if they are stampers like myself. It is a great set to consider!

Have a great day!

Candice said...

Great info, Marianne!! I love your little drawing too - she's adorable - they should make her into a stamp - LOL!!

Heidi said...

thanks for the tip- and oh, I can only imagine what it would be like to walk out into the warehouse and see all those colors! How exciting for you girl!

Sandy C. said...

I am also enjoying your Blog -- great tips. I have a question for you...I have some Sketch markers and I love the brush tip...but rarely use the chisel end. Can I replace that with a fine point tip? Will I need to purchase the reinker?

Will you be having any classes in the Portland/Vancouver area?


marianne walker said...


You can replace the chisel with our Medium Round nib. This will probably be more useful for you.The fine point is not available for Sketch.

You can find lots of places to purchase the inks as well. HTH!


Jodie said...

Yes I agree they are addicting......I have almost evry color and I really reach for all of them at one time or another