Copics markers are widely considered among the best art markers for professional artists and illustrators. On the downside, they are very pricey. Each Copic costs between $6 and $8. For amateurs and aspiring artists, this can put Copics out of your price range.
The good news is that there are a growing number of Copic alternatives on the market that may meet your needs without breaking the bank. In this buyer’s guide, we will review five of the best Copic alternatives and why they may be a great fit for you.
Selecting your Copic Markers Alternatives
What art markers to use? How many colors do I need to create a realistic picture? How to make my illustrations look better? These are the questions that are frequently asked by beginner artists. Sometimes it is not easy to find the proper answers to them but this guide will help you find them.
What do art markers consist of?
A highlighter is not a one-piece construction. They typically consist of the following parts:
- reservoir (ink or dye container);
Artistic pens may have either one or two tips, dependent on the type.
What types of markers exist?
Highlighters are divided into three groups according to what the ink is mixed within the reservoir. As a diluent mostly used:
Painters use them for different purposes, so let’s look at each of them closer.
In water-based paint markers, the pigment is diluted with glycerin or clean water. Some people hearing about water-based pens at once think about Crayola or any other markers that children use. This is partially true because schoolchildren indeed use them a lot, but artists can also utilize them.
Artists utilize them for calligraphy and other types of artwork.
Pros and cons. Water-based art highlighters are quite good if not compared to others. By the way, some people also might consider being odorless as one more advantage. Here are some pros and cons:
Artistic markers in which the ink is dispersed with alcohol are called alcohol-based. They are perfect for any type of professional illustration. Use them if you are not completely sure about your drawing skills because unlike water-based pens you can anytime mix them so there won’t appear many mistakes.
Pros and cons. Only your intentions define the advantages of something. The fact of fast desiccating is a questionable advantage. Although it provides the opportunity to use the layering painting technique without flowing through paper, in the process of painting you might get some streaks. As their composition is not fully natural, they might become one’s allergic reaction reason. Beginners may face the fact that these markers cannot be blended with water, and this is okay as the paint in them is not combined with it. You can stir them on paper with isopryl alcohol or any other marker with the fitting color.
But it is possible to point some of the most obvious benefits and downsides:
Highlighters with a solvent base are rarely picked out as the third type. In their reservoir, the dye is suspended in different chemical compounds. Because of these toxic ingredients in the composition, allergic reactions to them are not rare. Apart from a serious allergic reaction, they might cause a headache or labored breathing. It is not a great idea to draw with them right on the original artwork because sometimes they give an unexpected effect and smear the lines. Among all these disadvantages, they have some benefits such as it is a means that one can utilize on different surfaces. That’s the reason why crafters chose them for their projects.
What markers type to choose?
Which marker type to give preference to depends only on your purposes as an artist and your drawing skills, but one thing can be stated for sure: for working on a paper at home, do not use markers based on chemical compounds.
If you are only starting to draw and have never dealt with paint markers before, you’re going to practice for many weeks or even months. That is why buying cheaper markers (water-based) is an excellent idea: you’ll be able to practice as long as needed.
If you are lucky to have some basic skills in drawing already, you may use markers based on ethanol, as they fit more for professional illustrations.
Anyway, decide which highlighters are easier for you to use and give preference to them while purchasing. The best piece of advice that one can give is to try both! Only then, you’ll be sure about which ones you want to use in the future. However, art is freedom as they say, and you’re free to do whatever you want, so if you cannot make a choice, use both in your artwork at once.
Marker tip shapes
To diversify your drawings, purchase markers with all four tip types. In case it is not affordable for you, determine first, what nib type is significant for your drawings.
The basic tip shapes are:
But these do not have fixed sizes! Some manufacturers confuse tips’ names. Therefore, before purchasing, look at them yourself.
Brush tips. Highlighters with brush tips you should buy first as they are multipurpose. You can draw almost anything having only this type of markers: either fill with paint large areas or draw thin lines dependent on the angle of inclination. The price of brush tips is their drawback. Usually, they are high-priced.
Chisel tips. Chisel tip is popular among artists because similarly to brush tips, you can get different results using different sides of the tip. It is perfect for painting over big areas. However, you can get a thin stroke with a chisel tip as well. But with a fine or brush tip it will anyway be thinner.
Bullet tips. It is not versatile at all, because it fills large areas slowly and it’s almost impossible to get thin lines with. If you don’t possess highlighters with other tips yet, don’t start with this one.
Double-ended markers. Highlighters with two tips are easy to use and provide many possibilities. The two tips of such markers share a common container with dye. Typically, there are brush and chisel tips on two sides. But sometimes, it differs.
One big disadvantage of artistic markers is, you can’t blend them as easily as you would do with watercolor, for example. That’s why the color range is so important. To get smooth gradients, you should have all the shades of this gradient: you cannot mix red with blue and get purple. With highlighters, you’ll just have to buy the purple one. So, even if you’re a beginner, you’ll need at least 15 markers to start.
Size of nib
Sizes of nib vary from type of tip. For bullet tips it’s usually about 2.5 mm, for brush tips, it’s 1.4 mm, for chisel tips it’s 8 mm.
In simple words, the process of getting rid of streaks is called blending. The right paper defines the quality of blending. For example, markers on the ethanol mix well on marker paper, but you cannot blend them at all on printer paper. Same with markers on water. You can mix them, but only if you use proper paper.
Water-based markers are more difficult to blend than the ones on alcohol, and the results are not always predictable as the water is not easy to control. But if you have enough practice, you’ll be able to get smooth gradients even with water-based markers.
Even though alcohol-based markers dry fast, it is still much easier to blend them, than water-based ones. Also, because alcohol-based markers have transparency, you can always add more ink to some areas to get a darker tone. So, alcohol-based markers are more appropriate if you want to see smooth gradients in your artwork.
Best Copic Alternatives on the Market
The following comparison chart will help you make your decision on which marker works best for you based on your needs. No two artists’ needs are the same, so it’s important to you to review the qualities that are most important to you.
|Ohuhu Alcohol Markers|
Best Choice Overall
|Winsor and Newton ProMarker|
|Shinhan Touch Twin Tip|
|Tombow Dual Brush Pens|
Alcohol Ink Starter Set
|Berol Prismacolor Premier Markers|
All of the markers above are great options for artists looking for alternatives to Copics. Each has its own unique features, as well as pros and cons. Regardless of your skill level or needs, one of these markers is guaranteed to meet your needs.
Also, be on the lookout for updates. Many of the art marker brands now offer brush nibs and Ohuhu is about to release a 200 pack set, drastically increasing their shade range. This is bound to continue as interest in art markers and brush nibs continue over the coming years.
1. Winsor and Newton Promarkers − Best Quality Alternative
Winsor and Newton Promarkers come highly recommended as a great alternative to Copic markers with similar if not better quality. They are also a great option for artists looking for smooth gradient blending results.
Unpacking and First Impressions
Winsor and Newton ProMarkers, formerly Letraset ProMarkers, are very high-quality alcohol markers that are affordably priced. This set comes with a really nice case that folds out and allows you to pop up the markers at a 45-degree angle. This makes them easy to view from virtually any height or angle.
The label in front of the case is actually not just a label. It’s also a booklet that gives you helpful instruction on how to use the markers and their nibs, about working on paper and other surfaces, blending, etc.
The case also has a list of colors on the back, as well as some basic information about the pens. There are 48 dual-ended highlighters in this set, each with a fine bullet nib for sharp detailed lines and a broad chisel nib. The bullet tapers down to a very fine point, making it a good alternative to a brush nib’s fine tip. The nibs have really good quality and look a lot like Copic original nibs.
The quality of these markers is exceptional. They have a beautiful, sleek design and are very well-balanced to allow for comfortable use. The plastic doesn’t feel cheap.
The barrels are round, but a stopper on the bullet nib cap prevents the barrel from rolling on a flat surface. The chisel nib end has a tapered cap which can be difficult to remove due to not being able to grip it well but it is not as difficult to remove as the Berol Prismacolor markers. Since you are more likely to use the chisel nib, it is nice to have a stopper on the cap of the bullet nib end to prevent the marker from rolling.
There is also a sticker with the color and a code on the cap of the broad nib which is very handy. It’s really nice to be able to see the color from afar. If you put the markers in a cup with the pointed side down, you can easily see what color of the marker is and grab them out very quickly.
There is a pretty good range of 148 colors according to their website.
The ink in these markers flows evenly and smoothly. It is very opaque which allows getting a beautiful range of colors with no shading or blending required at all! As it dries, the color is not splotchy or streaky at all and very comparable to the quality of Copics.
The colors seem slightly brighter in person than they do on screen, so some of them really pop! We loved how bold these markers can get when applied heavily or for more extended periods of time.
If desired though, lighter applications can give very subtle effects as well without compromising color saturation or vibrancy – which is surprising considering their lightness compared to other brands’ darker shades.
The color does appear richer on certain papers, so it is a good idea to try out the marker on a spare piece of the paper you wish to use to see exactly how it will swatch before use.
The nibs on these markers are softer than Copic nibs. This is only important based on your personal preference. If you like a softer nib, you may even prefer this set over Copic Sketch markers.
The broad chisel nib gives excellent coverage on the paper. The bullet nib is extremely fine, but the tip is rather large. This means that your lines will be much thicker than you might expect if you are used to a brush-tipped marker.
The blendability of these markers is fantastic and they are able to achieve very smooth transitions, even on the darkest colors. The ink flow is consistent and there is no streaking or skipping when used on different paper surfaces.
The only big downside to these markers would definitely be that they are disposable and not refillable.
Pros and Cons
These markers are beautiful and affordable. This particular set comes with a nice variety of colors and is definitely one of the best for the price. The big downside for this set is that the nibs could be dry and are sometimes fragile. They are also not replaceable and the ink is not refillable. This means that if you plan to use them often or you are rough on your nibs, you will need to replace the marker more frequently.
2. Ohuhu Alcohol Markers − Best Cheap Copic Alternative
Unpacking and First Impressions
The Ohuhu markers come in a very basic carrying case. It’s nice enough to keep your markers in one place and can lay on its side, but it isn’t the best case on this list. The pens themselves are wrapped up nicely on the inside, but there is nothing protecting them from bumping into each other which could lead to damage of the nibs during shipping or storage.
This may not be a problem for most people when you learn that the markers average out to 50 cents each. It is one of the best cheap alcohol markers on the market.
The Ohuhus are oval in shape and have a color-coded cap but the caps do not have the color name and only have the color code of the shade without the color family. The cap color is also off, so swatching these markers is a necessity for accuracy and blending.
The caps are easy to remove and the markers have both a broad chisel and fine bullet nib. The bullet nib is not the finest on this list, but it is decent enough to add a good amount of detail to your artwork.
The markers have a really nice feel in your hand; not too fat or thin – just perfect! They do not look or feel cheap, which is important to point out when we are reviewing them since they are so inexpensive. In fact, these markers are very impressive. The ink flow is consistent throughout the entire pen – no skips or blotches here!
The 100 colors included in this set split evenly between dark and light shades from each of Copic’s six major color families. This makes them good for both beginners who want to learn how to blend multiple colors together as well as experienced artists. The set also contains a Colorless Blender Pen.
The odor of these markers is more prominent than some of the other alternatives listed above, but it is tolerable.
The Ohuhus apply rich, even color that blends very well and is comparable to pricier options. No, they are not as smooth as Copics, but if you use the right technique, you will be hardpressed to find a difference in the finished product. The color lays down very smoothly, but it isn’t too light or runny like some of the other cheap alcohol-based markers can be.
The tips are very sturdy. They do not require much pressure at all to get good color coverage, which is great for beginners or anyone who wants a quick and easy project without having to worry about too much precision. The downside is that they can be a little too pigmented at times.
The Ohuhu ink dries quickly on most surfaces (but test before use) so you don’t have to worry about smudging your work once you lay your marker down. It’s also a plus that they aren’t water-based if you need a permanent image – just let it dry overnight first!
These markers blend exceptionally well together without any harsh lines between colors, making them perfect for creating beautiful gradients. We were able to blend even dark tones without issue. If used on lower quality papers, the ink can become smudged so it’s important to be careful when coloring over previously drawn areas.
One downside to these markers is that they do not come with a refillable ink system; once the pen runs out of ink, it’s done for good. This may be an issue for some people who like to have more control over their coloring tools. However, if you’re looking for an extremely affordable set of alcohol-based markers, Ohuhus can’t be beaten!
Pros and Cons
These markers are extremely affordable and are great for beginners to professionals looking to fill in the gaps in their Copic collection. The quality is very nice. This set is a great option if you are looking for a very good marker at a great price.
The nibs are not replaceable and the ink is not refillable, but for the price point, it isn’t unexpected. If sustainability is important to you, these markers might not work best for you. Instead, opt for a refillable option.
3. Shinhan Touch Twin Tip − Best Refillable Alternative
Unpacking and First Impressions
When you first open this package, you will likely notice that the case in this set is very nice. It’s sleek, has a magnetic closure, and even includes a built-in stand for the pen tips to rest on so they don’t touch anything else and get dirty. It is designed so that you can keep each pen in order. That means that you will search less for the right shade.
You can also stand the case up for use and lay it on its side to store your ShinHan Touches away without flipping or folding the case, which is a really nice option.
The ShinHans are a nice matte black color with color-coded caps that are labeled with both the color family and shade on the end, making it fast and easy to find the shade that you need. The caps twist off easily and are very tight – no worries about them coming off in your bag.
The barrel is a rounded rectangle. The shape is ergonomic and fits well in your hand and won’t roll off of a surface if you lay it down. The markers have both broad chisel and fine bullet points and feel good in your hand. They do not look or feel cheap at all, which is great because they are more expensive than some of the other alternatives.
The tips are conical, which gives you more control when drawing detailed lines or lettering. They perform just as well as more expensive brands. The ink is rich and applies evenly, with no streaking or blotching.
The colors are split evenly between light and dark shades from each of Copic’s six major color families.
The markers have an odor but it is not very strong and dissipates quickly.
The first thing to note when looking at the performance of the ShinHans has to do with selecting a color. The case makes it easy to keep your collection organized, but the color swatch on the end cap is slightly off, and the color number and name rub off over time. This makes it important to create swatches for each shade.
The color range is excellent and there are enough colors to satisfy any artist’s needs – plus a few extra shades that most other sets do not include. These markers also come in a variety of different tip sizes which is great for blending and adding details.
The tips are replaceable and the ink is refillable! This makes them one of the most sustainable options on this list. You can also purchase replacement pens and inks directly from Shinhan if needed.
The ink flow is lower than it is with Copics. This means that the ShinHan is streaky with the initial application and you will have to blend out the streaks. The lower flow does have the advantage of giving you more control. If you are concerned about using too much ink, the pen will prevent that from happening and will allow you to layer on the pigment and build up to the desired intensity.
The Shinhan Touch Twin markers performed very well in the wet test. They did not bleed between lines, were easy to blend with water, and had a decent dry time for working on paper. When they dried, there was no smudging or fading of color – this makes them great for coloring books!
These are one of the best refillable alcohol marker options out there now because they have such even coverage.
Although there is more odor with the ShinHans than with Copics, it is tolerable. You shouldn’t have to worry about the fumes from this alcohol marker unless you are very sensitive to alcohol ink odors.
Pros and Cons
This set has a much larger package to purchase them for that price than the Prismacolor set. This means that your upfront cost is going to be higher than with some of the other sets in this list. It is also worth noting that the nibs are replaceable and you can also purchase ink refills, which could save you more money over time.
If you are looking to expand your collection without shelling out the cash for Copics, this is a very good alternative option for you.
4. Tombow Dual Brush Pens − Best Water-based Alternative
Unpacking and First Impressions
Tombow Dual Brush Pens are well known by hand lettering and calligraphy artists but they are also a great alternative to Copics. They offer beautiful blending, watercolor effects, and longevity.
The pens come with a desk stand and are packaged beautifully for ease of use. Although the packaging is intended to store your markers vertically, they need to be stored horizontally to prevent the nibs from drying out which will affect their longevity. This may be something you wish to consider when purchasing this particular set.
The pens have a slender, round barrel and two nibs; a brush tip and a fine bullet nib. They are sturdy and fit comfortably in the hand, but are longer than many of their competitors. This means that they may not fit in a standard pen bag if you wish to carry them in one.
The Dual Brush pens have a colored cap on the brush end, but no color family or color label on the ends, which can make choosing complementary colors for blending a bit challenging. Be sure to swatch your colors so that you know the exact shade of each pen before starting a project.
The Dual Brush Pens are small but versatile. They are very pigmented water-based pen that has many of the characteristics of watercolor paint. The colors blend beautifully via the self-cleaning brush tip, blending marker, or even a brush loaded with water.
The pens blend really well and can be used for both detailed work and larger areas. They are also water-based, so they can be blended with watercolor washes or other wet media very easily.
Similar to ShinHan Touch Twin Tips, Tombows have color-coded caps so you can easily grab the shade you need without wasting time searching through your collection. The caps also have a slightly firmer feel to the ink than Copics, which gives you more control over how much ink is applied with each stroke. The downside of this is that it takes a bit more time to build up the color intensity.
Once dry, the ink may reactivate to a degree but does dry down well. The colors range from subtle to very vibrant, making it easy to find one for any project you might be working on.
The colors are rich, but transparent, making them great for layering. The key is to make sure each shade dries completely before you overlap a color and be sure not to blend the top color over the color beneath unless you wish it to blend, blur, or smear.
One of the things you should consider about the Dual Brush Pens is the type of artwork you wish to create. The Dual Brush pens won’t bleed through most papers, however, if you need to go over an area repeatedly, the paper can pill and tear. Of course, this varies based on the type of paper you use and the amount of ink or water you use to blend.
The pens have an excellent ink flow and are perfect for both beginners and experienced artists alike. They also don’t have much odor, which is great if you are sensitive to smells or want to avoid them altogether when crafting.
If you are looking for an affordable set of markers with great performance, Tombow Dual Brush Pens should definitely be on your list. They come in a wide variety of colors, have excellent ink flow, and minimal odor. The only downside is that Tombows require a little more time to build up color intensity than Copics, but the results are worth it.
Pros and Cons
While the Tombow Dual Brush Pens are exceptional quality and have their own unique characteristics, if you are looking for a Copic alternative, you may wish to stay with an alcohol ink alternative. Alcohol inks stay wet longer, allowing them to blend more thoroughly.
The Dual Pens come in 96 different shades, which is somewhat limited, but decent. The pens are also not refillable and the nibs can’t be replaced. That being said, they are long-lasting. Many artists report using these pens for years before purchasing replacements.
The cost is another consideration. That is a staggeringly low cost when compared with Copic Sketch or Copic Ciaos. If you are looking for a great alternative at a low cost, this may be the set for you.
5. Berol Prismacolor Premier Markers − Best Alcohol Ink Starter Set
Unpacking and First Impressions
Berol Prismacolor markers are dual-ended and alcohol, dye-based. This promises to produce rich colors and a lot of flexibility for illustrators and artists. The brush tip can be used to create thin, medium, or thick lines and the fine bullet nib creates very fine smooth lines to add fine details in your artwork and illustrations.
This set of 48 Berol Prismacolor Premier Markers comes in a sleek, black a zip up carrying case. The markers are stored in two parallel rows and the caps fit securely on the end of the pen so they can’t roll away.
The case that can flip out and turn into an artist stand in seconds, making it easy to see your colors and access them, but keep them organized. When you are finished using them, it’s easy to fold the case back over and store them horizontally for optimal longevity.
The barrels are round and smooth with tapered caps. Each has a thick stripe of the color on the brush nib end and a thin stripe on the fine bullet nib end. The package has a color chart with the shade numbers that you can use to swatch and reference for easy color selection.
The Prismacolor Premier Markers come in a wide range of colors, including light flesh tones. They have a long life span as the tips don’t dry out quickly like some markers do, but they can be messy if you aren’t careful with them or your fingers. The ink is alcohol based which makes them blendable, permanent, and odorless. They also have low toxicity levels making them safer than some other brands of markers.
Once opened, it is best to use these within six months before the ink starts to thicken up too much for smooth coloring. Also keep an eye on any dried drips around the tip which can affect how smoothly they color.
The first thing that you notice is that the Berol Prismacolors are round, meaning that there is a potential for them to roll away if you lay them down on a flat surface. The barrels are smooth and the tapered ends are difficult to grip. This makes removing the caps very difficult.
Once the cap is off, you will notice that the brush tip is great for filling in large areas, allowing you to get into edges and adjust your position to easily create broad, medium, or fine strokes. The bullet tip comes to a very fine point, which will allow you to draw very fine lines and create details in your artwork.
The colors lay down smoothly with no streaking and minimal feathering on most paper types but the colors are not as rich as Copics. They are also lightfast and waterproof. The downside to this is that they are not refillable, so when the tips wear down, you must replace the entire marker.
These pens blend well and layer beautifully over each other without smearing or bleeding into one another unless exposed to water or rubbing against paper that has been touched by water first. You will need to go over an area in different directions in order to prevent streaking.
The nibs are quite firm and prone to breaking. The ink also tends to dry out much quicker than Copics and other alternatives. The fact that you can’t replace the nibs or refill the ink makes this a huge negative.
Pros and Cons
The low price point is a huge incentive to purchase this set. If you plan to use these frequently or are a professional illustrator or artist, this might not be the set for you. The inability to replace the fragile nibs or refill the ink is a huge setback to the Berol Prismacolor Premiers.
People Also Ask
Why are copic markers so expensive?
Copic markers are so expensive for several reasons. First of all, they are professional quality markers. They are also durable, chemical-free and odorless. They come in several different nib shapes and sizes and can be found in many different, unusual color varieties that other types of markers don't have. You can replace the nibs on these markers, and they make blending colors much simpler than when trying to use other marker types. However, one of the biggest reasons copic markers are so expensive is because they are refillable. Considering the markers cost about $5 each and the refills cost about the same, that seems expensive. However, you get about nine refills out of the refill tube, which makes the price seem much more reasonable when you consider you're practically getting ten pens for $10.
Are copic markers alcohol-based?
Yes, copic markers are alcohol-based markers. This is part of the reason they are so expensive since alcohol markers are far better than water-based markers.
How do you revive copic markers?
If your copic markers are failing or not working as well as they should, the best thing to do is to buy a new marker or a refill pack. However, if that isn't an option at the time, you can try to revive it. There are a few different ways to revive copic markers; however, the way we've found to be the most effective is this: Begin by pulling out the nib of the marker. It works best if you use tweezers, but you may find your own way. Once it's out, get some kind of alcohol product; we prefer rubbing alcohol, but denatured would likely work, as well. If you have a needleless syringe, use it for this next part. If not, you can use a pipette or a clean eye dropper. Using your chosen tool, drop a couple drops of the alcohol into the hole from where you pulled the nib. Return the nib to its spot and shake the pen thoroughly. Place the pen in a safe place overnight. By the morning, it should work almost as good as new.
What are copic markers used for?
Copic markers can be used for anything for which regular markers can be used. This includes coloring, scrapbooking and drawing. However, copics are especially great for manga and anime drawing, fashion design and cartooning. Copics are also excellent for blending and shading. They are definitely helpful to a budding artist who is still learning proper blending techniques.
What is the difference between water-based markers and alcohol-based markers?
The difference lies in the substance in which the color pigment is suspended. In water-based markers, the color pigment/dye is suspended in water, while in alcohol-based markers, the color pigment is suspended in alcohol. As a general rule, alcohol-based markers are much better markers. They can be used to blend one color over another. Water-based markers cannot be used in this way.
How long does it take for alcohol markers to dry out?
There is no hard and fast rule concerning the length of time it takes an alcohol marker to dry out completely. There are a few different factors that can contribute to this happening. If you leave markers uncapped, they can dry up fairly quickly. If you use certain colors more often than others, those colors may dry out faster. Alcohol markers don't dry out any faster than other markers, however, and actually last longer than some types of water-based markers.