Friday, April 22, 2016

Copic Markers: Paper Testing

I know I promised a review of Copic's markers, and I will get to that sooner rather than later, but I'm going to get the ball rolling with the results of some paper comparisons that I just finished.

You don't need special paper to use Copic markers, however, the paper can make a big difference.  You can use your cheap copy paper or standard coloring pages, and the markers will work just fine, however, you won't get the same results as you might with a heavy card stock or quality marker paper.  Some paper accepts multiple layers of ink better than others, some will bleed past the lines on just one.  Other papers will bleed through (which is not necessarily a bad thing), while the ink just sits atop certain types.  Your preferred paper may not be the same as mine; it will depend on what look you want to achieve and what you plan to do with your final result.

I purchased all of these papers myself, locally or through Amazon, and this is by no means an all inclusive list.  I haven't seen many of these papers tested elsewhere.  Don't overlook a paper just because someone else didn't have good results with it; look at their test results and see why they didn't care for it.  If they had a lot of bleeding past the lines, then it's probably best to look past it, but if they dismissed it for other reasons, it's worth considering if you should test it for yourself.

My testing process mostly follows the method described by Marianne Walker on her blog, I like Markers.  I used YR61 and YR68 for my tests.  I don't use oranges very much, so I don't have to stress about using up colors that I use regularly.  I don't have perfect blending groups for every color, so this allows me to see how well I can blend two colors that aren't side by side on the chart.

The Process:

  1. I make a 1" circle using a template and a Copic Multiliner . (I'll talk about Copic safe inks at some point in the future.  Sakura Microns are great as well and much easier to get.)
  2. After the ink has dried for at least 10-20 minutes, I fill the circle with a light color, going up to, but not over the line as much as possible.  If you go over, make a mental note of where you did, so you don't fault the paper for bleed over in those spots.
    Oops! I went over near 4 o'clock.
  3. While the ink is still wet, I layer a darker color over the top and feather it out towards the circle to add depth and see how well it blends at this stage.  This is the point that some of the papers start to show substantial bleeding/feathering*.  If the paper can't handle multiple layers of ink, then it will be difficult to blend while staying in the lines on an actual image.
    Harsh lines, means the ink doesn't feather into itself as well without help.
  4. Again, while the circle is still wet, I use the light color again to blend out the darker color as smoothly as I can.  For me, this is the most important result.  I want to see a smooth blend with little or no bleeding past my line.  If I can't get a smooth blend, but the paper doesn't bleed out, then I can use it for flat coloring or simple blending or shading.  If it bleeds a lot at this point, then it is probably only good for quick projects without this many layers.
    Almost looks like a fruit.
    Now I want a peach smoothie!
  5. Last, after the ink has had a few minutes to dry, I use the chisel tip of my colorless blender to test how well it will push the ink.  I first press and hold (lightly) for approximately three seconds, then I pick it up, move to a different place in the circle and simply press it to the paper and lift.  The two marks give me an idea of how much the blender will affect the ink on this paper with different amounts of effort.  Most papers will show some result if you put enough work and time into it, but I don't want to use an entire marker full of blender solution on one image!

*When I say bleeding, I do not mean bleeding through the page unless I specifically say so.  What I am referring to is the bleeding past the line; some people call it feathering, but I prefer to save that term for the blending method of the same name.
I've noticed that the bleeding/feathering looks worse on the high resolution scans than it does in person.  These circles are one inch diameter, so you are seeing them zoomed in quite a bit.  Keep that in mind as you look at the results.

The Tests:

I've tested several different papers, ranging in price, weight, tooth, and type. **
Office Depot Multipurpose Bright White (20lb)
Strathmore 200 Skills Sketch
Strathmore 200 Skills Drawing
Strathmore 200 Skills Mixed Media
Strathmore 200 Skills Watercolor
Strathmore 100 Youth Marker Pad
Bee Paper Pen Sketcher's Pad (70lb)
Canson XL Marker
Canson XL Sketch (50lb)
Neenah Exact Index (90lb)
Copic Sketchbook/ Mini Pack/ Art Paper Pack

Office Depot Multipurpose Bright White :

This is our regular, every day printer paper, just to show you that paper cost does not directly correlate with how well it performs.  This paper barely bled past my circle, and blending wasn't great, but it is definitely possible with some effort.  The colorless blender shows up very well, leaving crisp lines with only a light touch.
Who says you need fancy paper to use Copics?

Strathmore 200 Skills Sketch:

I love it for sketching, but this paper is awful for Copics.  One layer bled past the lines before I could even finish saturating the paper.  I didn't bother testing beyond that.
Uneven coverage and it looks like I didn't even try to stay in the line.

Strathmore 200 Skills Drawing:

Also very prone to bleed out.  Blending is possible, but takes a lot more work with this paper than others that I tested.
Probably good for drawing, not so much for marker.

Strathmore 200 Skills Mixed Media:

After testing the other two, I was surprised by this paper.  I still wouldn't recommend it, but it's not terrible.  It didn't bleed past the circle nearly as bad as some of the other papers, and blending was actually decently easy, but the colorless blender effects aren't quite as crisp or clear.  It also has more tooth than the other papers I tried, which made the markers feel like they snagging on it.
I really did use the blender.

Strathmore 200 Skills Watercolor:

I've seen some people who like to use Copics on watercolor paper, but I feel like I'd use up so much ink.  The paper just sucked up the ink so badly that it took forever to get clean coverage.  I suspect that this is the same reason the blender didn't show up very well unless I held it on the paper for a very long time.  The only nice thing I can really say about this is that it didn't bleed through as much.
The bleeding is much less pronounced to the naked eye.

Strathmore 100 Youth Marker Pad:

This paper is a bit of a hidden gem.  I picked it up from a local Joann Fabrics with a coupon for something like $2.50.  The brush tips glide over the paper very smoothly.  There is very little bleeding, but unlike some "marker" papers, it does bleed through instead of holding the ink on the surface of the paper.  The ink blends smoothly and easily, and the blender works very well.  The only real negative I found with this paper is that it does get a slight speckled look when you really saturate the paper.  It's probably not best for all final products, but if you don't mind that, or you are just practicing, this is a surpsingingly great paper.
Don't blame the paper for my lack of a steady hand.
It didn't bleed out nearly as bad as it looks.

Bee Paper Pen Sketcher's Pad:

This paper also feels really good with the markers.  It's very easy to get smooth coverage, and there is little to no bleeding.  The blender leaves very pronounced effects, but it's a bit hard to blend because the ink seems to dry faster on this paper.  Still, it is possible to blend, and this paper is otherwise very good.
Nice, clean white, and feels nice!

Canson XL Marker:

I believe this paper is coated to help keep the ink on top of the paper, rather than letting it soak into the fibers.  There is virtually no bleed out because of this, and it didn't bleed through onto the paper I had beneath it, but you can see the ink on the other side.  It takes layers of colors very well, with the most pronounced effect of all of the papers, getting darker with each layer of the same color.  If you use the most common blending techniques, this paper probably isn't for you; it tends to just push the color around more than mixing them.  I use this mainly to put underneath what I'm actually coloring since it's thin and stops the ink from bleeding through to my surface unless I practically force it.
Maybe I was cold when I colored this one.
I'm not usually this bad at staying in the lines...

Canson XL Sketch:

Another really great paper, I was pleased by how well this paper performed, especially for the cost ($10 for 100 sheets at my local Hobby Lobby, then 40% off).  There was little if any bleeding past my circle, it blends very easily, and the blender works well.  It does have a bit of the speckling that I also saw in the Strathmore 100 YA Marker Pad, but it's not nearly as noticeable, and I wouldn't have a problem using this paper for something final.
Or, maybe I'm worse at staying in the lines than I thought.
The left side more accurately shows how the paper performs.

Neenah Exact Index (90lb):

Most Copic artists recommend the Neenah Classic Crest Solar White card stock, but when I looked at the test results, I noticed that almost everyone had trouble with the ink bleeding past their line.  Upon further research, it seems like a lot of people prefer this paper simply because it's the one most of them learned on, so they're used to how it handles.  I didn't feel like spending $40 or more for 250 sheets of a paper that I didn't think I'd like, so I decided to try this, knowing that my husband or I would use it for something else if it didn't work out.  It's good that we use card stock a lot, because I won't be using this for coloring with Copics. It was one of the worst papers for bleed out that I tested. One layer was fine, but as soon as I started blending, it just soaked out past my circle like it was on fire.  I did like how well it blends, and the blender works well.  Perhaps in the future, I'll pick up a sample of the Classic Crest for testing, but I don't see myself buying a full ream any time soon.
Maybe the ink just wanted to explore?

Copic SketchbookMini PackArt Paper Pack:

This is my favorite paper of all of these.  It's very easy to blend on, has virtually no bleed out or speckling, and feels very nice to color on.  The blender works very well, but it's a bit hard to erase mistakes once they're allowed to dry completely.  I tested the Mini Pack, because it was available at Hobby Lobby for $4.99 before my 40% off coupon, but you can also find it in sketchbooks up to 11"x14" with a black cover or 9"x12" with a white "writable" cover and in packs of 25 loose 8.5"x11" sheets.
This is what a nicely colored circle looks like.

My Conclusions:

My preferred paper is the Copic Sketchbook paper.  It was the easiest to blend on, and the final result looks great.  It's a bit pricier per page than some of the others, and if you plan to print on it, you'll have to either cut it to size, or pay a bit of a premium for the pre-cut loose leaf pack.  However, it's still not a bad price for premium quality card stock, and you can try the Mini Pack before investing in a bigger quantity.

Honorable mentions go to Bee Paper Pen Sketcher's Pad and Canson XL Sketch, both of which are decently priced.  If you are specifically looking for a card stock, these won't suit your needs, but if you want an affordable paper that you can color or draw on, either of these should do the trick.

I'd also like to highlight the Office Depot Multipurpose paper.  I really didn't expect this to work nearly as well as it did.  It's very inexpensive, especially if you buy the large boxes, and you can find it at most Office Depots.  If you just want something cheap to try that you don't have to worry about wasting, pick some up!

**I use affiliate links where possible.  What this means is that I get a small commission for any purchase you make via those links, and it costs you absolutely nothing.  This allows me to afford more neat stuff to test and review!

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