Copic Logo

If you’re an artist or a crafter (or even if you aren’t), you may have noticed a new brand of marker popping up in craft stores lately. Or perhaps you are a Japanophile and are already familiar with the brand name “Copic.” If you have noticed these professional-grade pens, you’ve probably also noticed how expensive they are. And at about $8.00 apiece, these are no Crayola markers. But why are they so expensive? Do they really possess special qualities that make them worth their exorbitant price tags? The short answer is, yes, depending on what you are using them for. Needless to say, investing in a set of Copics is a big (and potentially pricey) decision, and one that can be confusing and difficult to make. As a Copic user myself, I’m here to break down the types of markers (there are several), their uses, and whether or not they are the right option for you as an artist or crafter.

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It’s from Japan, everything Japanese is automatically nerd approved, right?!

Copic is the highest quality marker brand on the market, and is frequently used by professional artists. If I had to compare the markers to a more familiar medium, I would say that they are in some ways similar to paint, as the application is very smooth, the ink doesn’t bleed, and the colors blend well. They provide the coverage of paint with the accuracy and convenience of colored pencils. If using a high quality paper, it’s even possible to put down several layers before the paper starts to resist the ink (I prefer Deleter brand comic paper). “But they’re just markers,” those unfamiliar with the medium might say. Well, if used by a skilled artist, they can have incredible results.

Feast your eyes on Copic perfection.
Feast your eyes on Copic perfection. Art by Takeshi Obata.

Understanding the different types of Copic markers that exist is also important before making a purchase, as each type has a different use and price. Copic Original is a basic marker with a broad tip on one side and a fine tip on the other, and is more or less like most markers you’ve seen. This type is much better suited for basic crafts than it is for complex drawings. Copic Wide is exactly what it sounds like: a marker with a very broad tip. While great for backgrounds and large areas, these markers suck up a lot of ink, and color options are limited.

The most popular style by far is the Copic Sketch, which, like the Original, has a broad tip on one side, but features a brush tip on the other. These are ideal for fine art, and are the choice of most (if not all) professional artists adept in the marker medium. Copic Ciao is in essence a cheaper version of the Sketch. However, it does not hold as much ink, is not available in as many colors, and cannot connect to the Copic airbrush system. Ciao markers also are cylindrical and therefore less comfortable to hold, and they do not have color names printed on top (you have no idea how convenient this becomes). Although, if you need a rarely-used color or want to take some Copics for a test run, Ciao is an acceptable and economic option. But if you are looking for the best longterm investment, Copic Sketch is the way to go.

From left to right: Copic Original, Copic Ciao, Copic Wide, Copic Sketch.
From left to right: Copic Original, Copic Ciao, Copic Wide, Copic Sketch.

What many people do not realize (probably because it isn’t widely advertised in the States) is that Copic markers are reusable. It always makes me cringe when I see artists with multiple pens of the same color, as it is completely unnecessary to purchase more than one. Refills are made in every color, and there are even little kits you can buy to help you siphon the ink into the marker. So there is no need to go out and buy a brand new $8.00 pen when you can buy a refill that will save you a lot of money in the long run. Even the nibs on either end of the marker are replaceable! Unfortunately, however, these gadgets and refills are not widely available in the US, and at times I have had no choice but to buy a brand new marker out of desperation. The internet is probably going to be your best friend when it comes to refills, which brings us to the matters of vendor choice and price.

Copic markers blend exceptionally well, and the Sketch brush tip makes it easy to make color gradients. Credit: jilli-bean.tumblr.com
Copic markers blend exceptionally well, and the Sketch brush tip makes it easy to achieve color gradients. Credit: jilli-bean (Jillian Lewis)

Put simply, Copic markers are too expensive in the US. Charging more than $6.00 for a single marker should be a crime (I’m talking to you, Michael’s). I understand that they need to be exported from Japan (where things are more expensive anyway), but in the US they are easily double the price, even when accounting for exchange rates. In Japan, when bought in bulk, the markers average about $3.00 a pen, and can be bought individually for as little as $4.00 each if you find them on sale. It probably won’t surprise you, then, when I say I nearly had a heart attack when I returned to the US and saw the price of a 6-pack. I guess exceeding the weight limit of my carryon bag by stuffing it full of Copic markers and supplies paid off after all.

I don't think the flight attendant was too happy when she had to help me load these babies into the overhead compartment. I felt like I was smuggling drugs.
I don’t think the flight attendant was too happy when she had to help me load these babies into the overhead compartment. It felt like I was smuggling drugs.

But most people (including me) can’t just hop on a plane to Japan to snag some Copics for reasonable prices. So if you live anywhere besides Japan, what are your options? The internet is one, of course. Craft or art stores tend to mark up the prices of the specialized goods they carry, and prices of individual markers or even sets can rack up in price quickly. Amazon and Ebay are options as well, but be careful–Copics have a shelf life of about 3 years. The last thing you want is to open up your markers and find that they don’t work! Carpe Diem Store and Oozak are popular options, selling individual Sketch markers for $5.24 apiece. Still expensive, yes, but nothing compared to the $7.00+ you’ll end up spending in a retail store.

Copics provide a wide range of color, from natural tones to those vibrant and striking.
Copics provide a wide range of color, from natural tones to those vibrant and striking. Credit: consultingdinosaur (Amy DuPont)

If you’re serious about using Copic markers for art, you won’t be disappointed with the results once you get the hang of them. If you’re a newer artist and aren’t sure what medium you’re comfortable with yet, you might want to check out professional colored pencils first, such as Prismacolor or Faber-Castell. These are still a good option for coloring but are much more affordable. Casual crafters? You’re probably better off using a cheaper brand. But if you use markers often and want some that will last a lifetime, you can’t go wrong with Copic.

48 thoughts on “COPIC 101: Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Best Marker”

  1. Nice blog about copic markers.. Once i went into the journalingarts.com for copic markers.. its very reasonable price compare to others.. i recommend to buy from there.

  2. Nice blog about copic markers.. Once i went into the journalingarts.com for copic markers.. its very reasonable price compare to others.. i recommend to buy from there.

  3. Just wanted to let you know Hobby Lobby sells copic markers (in store and online), the open stock is still a wee bit high (but cheaper than Michael’s surprise surprise). However I picked up 4 of the 6 marker sets for about 23.00 after a 40% coupon. The everyday price is 39.99..not ideal I know but still beating out Michael’s for their 54.99 or whatever absurd price tag they have. Gotta love them coupons

  4. Just wanted to let you know Hobby Lobby sells copic markers (in store and online), the open stock is still a wee bit high (but cheaper than Michael’s surprise surprise). However I picked up 4 of the 6 marker sets for about 23.00 after a 40% coupon. The everyday price is 39.99..not ideal I know but still beating out Michael’s for their 54.99 or whatever absurd price tag they have. Gotta love them coupons

  5. Thanks so much for the recommendation of Oozak.com, they were the best choice for me, to be able to pick individual exact colors. Sets just won’t work for me. On Oozak they also show what’s in stock right as you put it in your cart (so you can pick another similar color right next to it if that will work for you), or you can get notified if you want to know when it’s back in stock, and $50 orders get free shipping. I opted for a Priority Mail upgrade for only $7+ for an order of 25 markers. Not bad at ALL for a custom order of individual markers! I made sure to mention that I was referred from your site 😀

  6. Thanks so much for the recommendation of Oozak.com, they were the best choice for me, to be able to pick individual exact colors. Sets just won’t work for me. On Oozak they also show what’s in stock right as you put it in your cart (so you can pick another similar color right next to it if that will work for you), or you can get notified if you want to know when it’s back in stock, and $50 orders get free shipping. I opted for a Priority Mail upgrade for only $7+ for an order of 25 markers. Not bad at ALL for a custom order of individual markers! I made sure to mention that I was referred from your site 😀

  7. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement
    account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we communicate?

  8. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement
    account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we communicate?

    1. Hey Rahul! I don’t know much about architectural rendering, but I’d say it really depends on the colors you usually use in your art. Set A has a lot of grays and blues, but it also has a lot of yellows. I wouldn’t recommend B, since it’s mostly primary colors. C could be a good option with a lot of blues, greens, and browns, whereas D is mostly lighter pastel colors. It really depends on your preference, but no matter which one you choose, keep in mind that the 72-set is meant as a foundation, and you will in all likelihood need to buy some individual markers to fit your individual needs. It’s a great investment–let us know what you end up choosing!

    2. There is a specific architectural set with about 45 colours in it, I believe, which OPUS canada sells. I don’t know where else it is available.

  9. Snag yourself a 40% off coupon for Michael’s! Even better when they offer the odd 50% savings! I am going this weekend to buy a set or two for half off! Beat them at their own game: muwahahahahaha!

    1. The problem with Michaels is that they are terrible with restocking, and have none of the colors I ever want. They even have trouble restocking them online. It’s sorta pathetic.

    2. That’s how I built up about half of my copic collection. I spent about 6 months stalking all the local michael’s stores (there are 5 within 40 minutes of me) and buying one marker from each store (sometimes more if the cashiers were lenient) with those 40% coupons. The other half came from blick sales across the border and buying ciaos for colours I don’t use often from DeSerres.

  10. PLEEAAAASSSEEEE REPLY!!! i sadly complemtly broke one of my copic aniversary markers and im devastated do they sell them individually???

  11. Pfft,nyou think $7 a marker is bad, in Australia we’re paying closer to $12 a marker

  12. Also a tip for everyone, if you want buy on Amazon go to the Japanese Amazon site it’s a lot cheaper.

  13. Hi! Where did you buy copic in bulk for around $3 each? Like, the specific place or shop? I am spending my holiday in Tokyo and I really want to buy copics here. Thanks in advance.

    1. Have you made your trip to Tokyo yet? If not, there is an art store in Shinjuku, I believe called Sekaido. The store has about four floors of art material.

  14. Reading your article made me appreciate living in Japan and being able to purchase Copic Sketch Markers for about $ 3.00 individually. I just started using marker and ink as mediums.

  15. Are copic markers acid free? Light fast? Sorry if this has been asked before and I have missed it. I am very interested in this product…beautiful results

  16. I swear when I checked into it, Copics were excluded from the Michael’s 40% coupon. I pieced together a giant set by cruisin’ ebay for about a month. My favorite thing to do is look for people that had a bright idea to learn a new craft, they buy ALL of the stuff plus more, and then only try it once. Then they go to ebay to sell it all in one huge lot…LOL… I was able to get 160 Copic with NO Ciaos (I don’t care for them, their shape allows them to roll around on the work surface, the Sketch do not) all for maybe 300 total. That includes shipping from the 20 different sellers I went through also. I bought 4 here, 18 there, and just gathered them when I would see someone listing a few. The large lots go for too much on ebay so I look for under 10 or so. People want many, so they tend to overlook smaller lots.

    Also, since they are refillable and the nibs completely replaceable, it doesn’t matter about the shelf life, really. Unless you step on one and break the barrel completely, it can all be made to work like new with a refill and nib change. I didn’t receive a single non-working marker in all the ones I bought from ebay though, so it shows how quality they are! The multi liner pens are excellent also for doing your outlines. I can’t sing enough praises about Copic markers!

  17. If you want cheaper copics in the U.S., head to your local Hobby Lobby and use their weekly 40% off coupon. Their markers run about $7 normally, but w/ the coupon you can get them for around $4.20, compared to $4.80 at Michael’s. Yes, it takes a while if you’re buying them individually, but it’s worth it! (And I think that they have a better selection than Michael’s too)

  18. Well Micheals is great but it’s hard to find every single color I am looking for when I need them. After looking around I actually ended up going to carpediemmarkers.com because they had very low prices for Ciaos that I did not see anywhere else online and they have free shipping all the time for orders over $35 bucks. Not just that man I even found that they offer free shipping coupons every so often from their facebook. I managed to get practically all of my colours in one swoop move hehe!

  19. Just wanted to let you know that you can get markers that are basically the exact same as Copic, but for half the price – they’re called Kurecolor. They’re literally made on the same block in Japan, and they are made of the same materials – it’s just that Copic has done a better job with branding. The Kurecolors are half the price of the Copics, and they do the exact same thing. I get mine at Marker Supply: http://www.markersupply.com/kutwsma.html

  20. I plan on buying a grey set when I complete my other tasks. Own a set of Copic markers and there is a little sense of taken seriously considering you can atleast create half decent art.

  21. I have been buying mine from MarkerPop.com. $5.24 per pen. Plus $6.50?S/H.
    And when available, Michael’s using coupons.

  22. The answer to this is a seller on Amazon from Mercado, Japan, who sells the 36 set at a 40% discount. 5 star rating out of over 150 reviews. It takes a while to come in but it’s worth it and there is a very pricey expedited shipping method.

  23. Another place for cheaper copics is Wish.com, i use to buy mine there and they work great

  24. just went to Michael’s for Copic Maker never use them before after watching Anime Mange & Comic Book Artist use them on Youtube Video & ask myself what the Differance so went my way to buy set that was on sale so they give me half price off whoa great deal on my first buy at Michael’s went to buy few more then went back home i start using them man they work awesome better then regular plan maker those Band Name are fer better then the maker i use & why Didn’t i see this year ago Copic Maker are the best they no best or cheap Copic maker they all the same make they no Differance Between Cheap & Inexspensive go & buy yourself a set & Band Name paper that can handing Maker & Paint Bush & ink combined ok

  25. What do you mean when you say they only last 3 years? I was going to buy the complete set, but not if they only last for 3 years.

  26. I build up my collection by buying 1 Copic at a time using the 40% off coupon from Michaels, Joann Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby.

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