Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tutorial # 12 - Copic Marker Commissions

This Tutorial has been a long time coming. I’ve been so busy getting the Comic Studio classes off the ground that I haven’t had time to compose a tutorial for the blog. Sorry about that! But I have made it up to you by giving everyone my process for using Copic markers. I so love Copics. And, I guarantee that once you try them, you will to. So, here we go.

Most of my commissions are Copic illustrations now. Since I discovered the joy of the markers, I haven’t been able to let a commission go by without splashing a little here and there. Now, I have to warn you, Copic markers are EXPENSIVE! So, if you are using them for commissions, you have to price your work accordingly. That’s why my free commissions will probably never have Copics added.

I first start out by lightly getting my pencils figured out. For this one, I wanted to draw Shianndrea Toshigawa from my upcoming series Kunoichi Hime. I knew I wanted her in a semi action pose with her ninjato. I just didn’t really know what that pose would be. After tinkering around a bit, I came up with this basic idea. 
(Side note: I was drawing outside in the elements on this one. It was pretty cold and I don’t recommend doing that unless you have to. I think my fingers are still frozen.)

After I got the general idea down, I changed her far hand from holding the scabbard to a high block. (Side note: This is one of the few times that I wished I listened to my first mind. I like her hand holding the scabbard better.) I then went in an planed my lights and darks. This is VERY IMPORTANT if you are going to be using Copic Markers. PLAN AHEAD, PEOPLE!

Inking this, I got a chance to break out the Japanese brush set that I hardly get to use. Using these brushes forces me to stay light, which, is good in the frozen situation I was in. I didn’t have the control to tighten up my inks in this situation. Inking with brush is a completely different technique than inking with a pen. (Check out Tutorial number 2 - Inking for techniques on inking with a pen.) I started out by working on my background blacks and let them creep into Shianndrea here and there. By use of the brush, being dipped directly into black India Ink, I managed to pull some very interesting lines and shapes off.

After I got my inking how I liked it, I started in with the Copic Markers. Now, with any markers, you have to work a little more quickly than normal. I try to keep the marker as wet as I can to avoid streaking (Unless you want the streaks.). I also try to move from medium tones to darker tones and leave white as the main highlight. Sometimes I may touch up the highlights after the fact with white acrylic paint and a fine tipped brush. With Shianndrea, I used warm, cool and neutral gray. (Side note: I mostly do my commission pieces in gray tones. If I add color, it’s usually a spot color with gray.) How I structure my gray usage is in terms of warm and cool colors. Where there would be cooler colors in the piece (blues, greens etc.), I use an array of cool grays. For warm colors (reds, yellows, oranges etc.), I use warm grays. I always try to keep in mind light source and shadow because that is where the magic is with Copic Markers. The markers play nice with one another and tend to blend easily. If you plan correctly and vary your time putting down different grays, you can get some awesome effects. (Side note: What I mean by varying your time is, Copic Markers can go on very wet. As it dries, it becomes more “fixed” in the spot. If you let your base tone dry a little more, you can get more dramatic shading when you overlay a darker tone on top of the base. On the flip side, if you lay a darker tone on top of a wetter base, you get more of a gradual shading effect as the two dry together.) This is where I have the most fun and it can last for a few hours if you want!

And here is the finished piece complete with sunshine. (Side note: As soon as I finished, the sun came out and it got warmer. Just like my luck!)

Feel free to share your personal process on line with us in the comments bellow. As well, join the talks on our Facebook page and learn other ways to illustrate a pin up. Let us know what you think!! See you guys next week!

Until next blog, keep the pencils moving.
Illustrator, Designer, Father, Husband


  1. Diggin' that natural lens flare.

  2. For someone on a budget, which markers would you suggest starting out? Or do I just need to suck it up and invest in a large set?

    1. I used prisma colors while at the UofM. They work well. But you'll have to work faster if I can remember correctly. They are cheaper. But copics can be refilled. I think of them as an investment. But if you're practicing, I think getting a few and working with them could be a safer bet.