Saturday, January 5, 2008

Before Running Off and Buying the Copic Markers or Prismacolor Markers: Read My Review

Since writing this review, apparently the Ciao markers now have replaceable nibs. You may want to visit the Copic website for more information on their markers. They now have a blog site. They are still building it up but there's a lot of great technique tips on the site!

Hi Everybody. . .here is my review of the Copic Markers. I know Copic markers have been praised by a few and cursed by others. . .the following is my personal opinion using the markers as well as my recommendations. I am, by no means, an expert on Copic or Prismacolor markers. My review is based on my own personal expierience with the markers. As in the case of any major purchases, be sure to do your research and read as many reviews as you can and make your final decision based on what you've learned. I will be doing a part 2 of this review on a later date. . .there are a few more things I want to discuss but I'll save it for another time.

Okay. . .first of all. . .if you already have the Prismacolor markers, I recommend that you "practice" with those markers first before you commit to buying the Copic Markers. Why? Well Copic is nearly twice as expensive and the results are basically similar to the Prismacolor Markers. The popularity of Copic is due in part to a few people who probably never used Prismacolor Markers and have blogged about how good Copics are; design teams promoting the product; and the fact that Copic has removable and replacement tips, ink refills, and air brushing capabilities which Prismacolor Markers don't currently offer as options.

There are 4 types of Copic that I know of but I will only be discussing 2 of them extensively. . .the "Original" which is similar to Prismacolor markers and the Sketch markers , and briefly on the Ciao. The Ciao is the only Copic markers that don't have the option to replace the nibs (tips) and it is the cheapest of the three types. You also can't airbrush with it. It also has the least amount of color variations. (Please review the product spec provided)

Sketch/Ciao vs Original Copic Markers

I have mixed feelings about the "Sketch" markers. Here are several issues that I have encountered. The Copic Sketch has both the "brush" and "broad" tips. The color distribution of the the brush tip (which most stampers are familiar with) is very hard to control. Because stamped images are usually small or medium sized, it's really difficult to color within the lines with the brush tip. I don't like using the brush tip for small or medium size images because the need to carefully control the amount of pressure and strokes in order to stay within the lines makes the job of coloring a bit annoying. I'm the type that likes to color my images quickly and with authority (meaning lots of control) which I can't do with the "brush" tip. You may disagree if you are an illustrator or artist but for the average rubber stamper out there. . .trust me, it can be annoying to color with the brush tip.

I prefer the "broad tip" on the Sketch marker because it is easier to color within the lines on small to medium size images which most stamped images are. For large images, the issue with control is insignificant because you don't really need a lot of control when coloring large images.

Just as a note, the Prismacolor markers have the broad tip similar to Copic but have 3 angles as opposed to one angle as in the Copic markers which is an advantage. Prisma basically has 4 tips on one marker (the 3 angled broad tips and the single fine tip) and Copic has two for each type of marker: Sketch/Ciao (brush and broad tips) and Original (fine and broad tips).

The "Original" Copic has the broad tip similar to the "Sketch" markers but also has the "fine" tip which is fabulous for coloring detailed stamped images and overall is easier to control when coloring. Luckily I have both the "Original" and the "Sketch" markers. I can change from one tip to another.

Know the differences between alcohol-based markers (Copic and Prisma) and water-based markers (SU Markers, etc.). They are completely different animals.

Copic and Prismacolor Markers are alcohol based markers. They are not "water-based" like the SU markers or any other water-based markers. You cannot blend them with water or the regular SU blender pen.

With the alcohol based markers, the results when coloring on coated cardstock such as the SU Whisper White or any glossy cardstock is horrible. The alcohol interacting with the coating for some reason results in a patchy appearance of the colors. When coloring with alcohol-based markers, regular white 110 lb cardstock works just fine. You don't need to buy any "fancy" type of cardstock. You can find 110 lb white cardstock at Walmart or even Target at a really cheap price.

Using regular cardstock has its disadvantages. The alcohol-based markers tend to dry quickly on regular cardstock; therefore blending may be less effective but a colorless blender can be applied to "re-activate" or wet the area to be colored so blending can be achieved. I heard that the color may be a little lighter with regular cardstock and there are specialty papers that work with alcohol based markers with more vibrant results but my DH already spent big $$$ for the markers, he is not about to cough up the money to buy me specialty paper.

The advantage of alcohol based markers compared to water-based markers (SU markers) is that the alcohol dries quickly; therefore, you retain the color of the marker regardless of how many times you color over it, making blending the edges of two similar shades possible. The colors are not compounded meaning when you color over it with the same color it won't get darker unlike water-based markers like SU markers, streaking occurs because the colors are compounded with each layer causing it to become darker each time you go over it with the same color.

With alcohol-based markers, each layer of color is retained meaning if you color over another color, it retains the last layer and the color do not blend together allowing you to shade and highlight without changing the tone or color completely into a different color. With water-based markers, it's like watercoloring, if you add a different color, it will mix together resulting in a completely different color, e.g., yellow over red will change the color to orange. This does not happen with alcohol based markers: red remains red, yellow remains yellow.

Coloring Results: Copic vs Prismacolor Markers

As for the coloring results, there are really no differences between the Prismacolor Markers and the Copic Markers. I've worked with both brands and I really can't tell much of a difference between the two. As a matter of fact, I blended the two brands together just to see if there were any distinguishable differences and I did not see any.

Here is another thing that you need to consider. There are ways to shade and blend with minimal amount of markers BUT honestly, the results won't be as nice as some of the images that you see on certain blog sites. You will need more than the basic or primary colors to achieve results that you'll be satisfied with. Again, my opinion.

If you don't buy several shades of the same color or shade, then the results will be flat. If the flat appearance don't bother you, then this is a dead issue. If you want depth and contour with highlights, you will need more than the basic or primary colors.

If you don't want the flat look to your coloring and the smaller sets , such as 12 or 24 markers, are the only sets within your budget, then you will need to learn how to blend, highlight, and shade using a blender pen (not the SU type). Copic and Prisma both sell the blender pens and you can use either one. (No, you cannot use the SU blender pen. . .it is a completely different animal.) If you are not familiar with coloring techniques, then you won't achieve the same results as those you see on some of the blog sites that are using the Copic markers. I recommend attending a class that teaches coloring techniques using markers or find online resources that will help you.

As I stated earlier, Copic is about twice as expensive as the Prismacolor Markers. You can only purchase the Copic online but you can find Prismacolor markers at any art or craft store. Regardless of what brand you purchase, you will need to practice coloring with the markers to get the results that you see on other blog sites.

Price Comparison: Copic vs Prismacolor Markers

If you shop around you will see that Copic 12 marker set runs about $56 on sale or about $70+ at regular price. The Prismacolor 12 marker set runs about $15.00 to $20.00 on sale and $30 to $40 at regular price. If you want a comparable priced Copic. . .purchase the Copic "Ciao" markers but remember. . .you will be purchasing the "brush" and "broad" tips with no "fine" tip. This is an important thing to consider before purchasing the markers. Furthermore, Ciao's nib is none replaceable and this is one advantage that the Original and Sketch Copic has over Prisma.

Do I like my Copic Markers?

It may sound as if I don't like my Copic Markers; the truth is I love them. There are several factors as to why I love my markers:

I didn't buy my markers just to color stamped images. I like to draw.

The markers are of exceptional quality but I wish they were less expensive.

I have ALL the colors of both the Sketch and the Original Markers to color my drawn images. Having all the markers gives me an advantage. I can shade, blend, and highlight with no problem on any type of image even small rubber stamped images. When using the markers with the colorless blender, blending shades and highlighting is possible with exceptional results. You don't need all the colors but it sure helps.

The nibs (tip) are replaceable and the inks refillable. The markers are a lifetime investment. I will never have to buy a completely new marker again.

I have the option to airbrush (which I still need to learn to do)

****I like working with different techniques and mediums; therefore, alcohol based inks such as the Copic or Prismacolor markers is just another medium to play with.

Review Summary:

Unless you are willing to pay over $150 to $200+ for a set of 36 markers, over $300 for the 72 marker set or over a $1,000 for ALL of the Sketch or Original markers. . .I don't recommend the Copic markers. However, if you find the price acceptable, these markers are well worth the money.

Between the Original and Sketch Markers, I recommend the "Original" markers because of better control and the fine tip which makes it easier to color small or medium size stamped images. ****remember, this is just my opinion*** Other people may disagree. It's a preference from one stamper/artist to another.

If you are on a budget, I would recommend the Prismacolor Markers. I have used both the Prisma and Copic and there's really no distinguishable differences, especially when coloring on stamped images.

If you are not good with shading, blending, or highlighting or if you already have the Prismacolor markers and you don't like the results, using the Copic markers will not instantaneously or miraculously give better results meaning you suddenly won't start coloring like a pro. Learn to color with markers before investing your hard earned money on expensive markers.

Finally, you need to understand the differences between alcohol based and water-based markers. The coloring techniques are not interchangeable between the other. Be sure to read as many review as you can before making a final decision.

That's it! See y'all later!


Lori said...

Wow Maria:
Thanks for your review. This is totally helpful.


Bonnie Weiss said...

What a fabulous review, Maria. You answered so many questions that I have had for a while now. Your review is a must-read for anyone contemplating the purchase of Copic markers, especially if they are not seasoned artists, familiar with colouring images. Thanks so much for taking the time to publish this review.

pescbrico said...

Thanks for taking the time to write all this!

Val said...

Thanks for an awesome review. I have been trying to decide if I should invest in the Copic markers...maybe I'll try with the Prismacolor Markers first!

Juliann said...

Thank you so much for a very good review!!! I haven't been able to decide what to buy, and Copics are quite an investment! I think I will try the Prismacolors first as well!!! Thanks again! (your coloring is always beautiful)

Sonya said...

Thaks Maria..Im sticking with my Prisma markers..I love those!

Tracy.H said...

Wow! Maria this is an awesome review. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out for everyone. :0)

Beth Norman said...

Well, you did it again, girlfriend. You pulled off another of "the best" tutorials around. May I suggest you contact Craft Critique (is that what it is called?) because I'm sure they would love to use your post. It is very thorough. I commend you for writing such a fabulous critique. I don't have copics or prisma markers, and do not foresee me making the purchase because my background is painting and I love my watercolour pencil crayons, Tombow markers, and prisma pencil crayons. Should I purchase markers I certainly will remember to come back to reread your critique. That said, it was an enjoyable readj and I do thank you for all the time it took to put it together.

Jen Young (Pearl City, HI) said...


Thank you so much for taking the time to write this review. It is totally appreciated. So nevah mind jumping on the band wagon cause I not missin' out - I should just use what I have for now, and be happy, ya? Eventually when my pens run dry then I can look at other alternatives, but the Prismacolors would probably be best to go with since it's 1/2 the price. Unless my hubby decides to buy it for me, too, ya?!

Question - Do you have to use glossy cardstock or using any type of cardstock works?

Thanks again - you've help me see the light!!


Lori said...

Thank you for the time spent reviewing these markers. I need to replace my markers soon but thanks to your help I have a better understanding of what is available.
Lori SBS2

Diane said...

Thank you so much for your "review". I was thinking about getting those Copics as well but am sticking to my Prismas. As always you are so very helpful.


Angel Wilde said...

I SO appreciate your review. Copics are SO hot right now and it seems like everybody has them. I had them on my wish list, and was purchasing them (I DID find them locally) ONE at a time as that is the only way I can afford them. However, after reading your review I see I don't really need them. Thank you, Maria! You are SUPAH!!

debbiedee said...

Hi Maria,
Thank you for doing this review. I have been on the fence about these and believe I will wait and just color with my colored pencils and gamsol for now.
I did want to mention that you can purchase these at Hobby Lobby. They have 40% off from time to time. They only sell them individually for about $5.99. I haven't done the math, to know if 40% off of this is a good deal or not, but did want to let you & your readers know.

JenMarie said...

THANKS for this ~ very helpful!!

Pat Huntoon said...

Very helpful review -- thank you! I will give mine another try -- I was ready to sell mine...

Ila said...

This is a Totally Aewsome review Maria!! informative.. I really enjoyed reading it.

Sarah Moore said...

terrific review! Did you know Craft Critique is having a call for reporters? I'd love to see you apply!

Monika/Buzsy said...

Great review Maria! TFS!

Savitri said...

This is really awesome. I read everything you wrote and I'm going to try the Prisma first and maybe buy a couple Copics later to try out.

Jennifer said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts into writing. I, too, wanted to jump on the bandwagon but couldn't afford it. I now see that I am not missing anything spectacular. Thanks so much!!

Wife2TJ said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am one who will not be buying copic markers due to cost, but I may look into the prisma color ones. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Multiple thanks, Maria, for this timely and extensive review of Copic and Prismacolor markers. Your insight has answered all of my questions regarding these products. Now, I know exactly which markers to purchase. I'll be back to visit your work often. You're extremely talented. Thanks, again!

malieta said...

You did an awesome job with your review Maria! I really wish that this review was around when I purchased my set(s) of Copic Markers. I have a mixed set..the first is Copic Ciao and the second set is the Copic Sketch. The Ciao Markers are fine, its just that the nibs aren't refillable. I wish I had known all of this valuable information prior to buying my Ciao set. *eyes rolling*

Thank you so much

Anonymous said...

the ciao nibs are indeed replaceable. dont believe me? check out copic's site the superbrush nibs which are for the sketch markers are compatible with the ciao's

Trisha said...

This has been very helpful to me. I really cannot afford to get all the copics that I would need for good results. I will check out the prismacolors. I am just learning how to color and blend and I should start at a much more reasonable price. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know your facts are not totally straight. First of all copics are not sold only online. I got mine at Blick art supplies,and they sell them at micheals, too. Not to mention, you can replace the brush nib on the ciao.

Anonymous said...

It was otherwise, a great review :)

Linda Rain said...

What is a minimum amount to start with in order to get decent enough images? Awesome and helpful review!

Anonymous said...

Great Review. I'm finding in 2014 that the Prismacolor Markers are just the same, if not more expensive than the Copic Markers here in the UK.

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