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Copic Tutorial - Coloring Red with Copic Markers

By Colleen Schaan

In this issue we're focusing on coloring red -- a topic that has many color artists seeing red. Here, you'll learn two different techniques and I'll share tips and tricks for tackling some of the challenges you may encounter.

Coloring Option #1

Light to Dark

In the last issue of CardMaker, we focused on basic blending, and I explained the easiest and most common way of coloring with Copic markers -- light to dark. This is the way I typically color, fully saturating the paper with the base color to allow additional shading layers to blend easily.

When coloring with red, you will need to adjust your technique a bit when coloring light to dark to avoid oversaturating the paper and causing bleeding. For these Copic tutorials, I am using a Santa image with the light source in the upper right corner.

Step 1: Paying close attention to the light source, begin flicking the lightest red (R22) Copic marker from the highlight area toward the shadow area. Leave the area that will be darkest white (Photo 1).

Copic coloring red Photo 1


Note: This is the opposite of how I typically apply the base layer.

Step 2: Begin building up the mid-tone area with a medium red (R24) Copic marker. Apply the ink by flicking from the middle toward the highlight and from the middle toward the shadow. Note: I like to flick from side to side in a swinging motion. Do not apply the mid-tone completely over the highlight or the darkest shadow areas (Photo 2).

Copic coloring red Photo 2


Step 3: Add the dark shading with a dark red (R29) Copic marker. Flick from the white shadow area toward the mid-tone area. Do not cover all of the mid-tone. At this point, no blending has been done and you should have visible dark, medium and light values (Photo 3).

Copic coloring red Photo 3


Step 4: Blend together using the medium value Copic marker to smooth the area from dark to medium and the light value to smooth the area from medium to light. Note: This is the same process as traditional light to dark blending (Photo 4).

Copic coloring red Photo 4


The key to this method is to leave the darkest shadow area white to begin with. This keeps the paper from becoming oversaturated when layering colors and helps avoid bleeding or feathering ink.

Coloring Option #2

Dark to Light

Applying color and blending dark to light is another, less common, method of Copic coloring. While it is more difficult to get a smooth blend, it is a technique that comes in handy when working in small areas or with tricky colors like red. I've used the same Santa image with the same light source (upper right) for this Copic tutorial.

Step 1: Paying close attention to the light source, begin flicking the darkest value (R29) Copic marker from the shadow toward the highlight area (Photo 5).

Copic coloring red Photo 5


Step 2: Begin building up the mid-tone area with a medium red (R24) Copic marker. Apply the ink by flicking from the middle toward the highlight and from the middle toward the shadow. Create a smooth blend from dark to medium. Leave the highlight area white (Photo 6).

Copic coloring red Photo 6


Step 3: Add the highlights with a light red (R22) Copic marker. Flick from the highlight area into the mid-tone area to help create a smooth blend (Photo 7).

Copic coloring red Photo 7


The key to this method is to work the ink by flicking to help the values blend together. It takes a bit more effort and ink than coloring light to dark, but the edges of the image are typically not oversaturated and therefore limits the amount of bleeding and feathering.

Make It Pop
Another common problem people encounter when working with reds is a lack of contrast. Most often, it is necessary to go back and add darker values after blending to enhance the contrast and make the image more visually appealing.

Whether you have colored light to dark or dark to light, you can create more contrast by adding flicks of a darker red (R39) Copic marker to the shaded areas and use a different Copic color family (RV69) for the cast shadows (Photo 8).

Copic coloring red Photo 8



Note: By flicking the color in, you shouldn't have to re-blend the image.

Tips, Tricks & Troubleshooting

  • If you have tried the two Copic coloring methods above and still encounter bleeding or feathering, you might want to try a different paper. Softer papers tend to bleed more than denser ones.
  • Make sure to use an absorbent paper underneath your coloring. This will help soak up any excess ink instead of allowing it to feather and bleed.
  • Don't color up to the lines. Know that reds will travel along the paper fibers quickly. Leave a tiny gap between your coloring and the edge of the image. It will fill in as the ink feathers.
  • Let each layer dry slightly before adding more ink or blending. It will be a bit more difficult to blend, but it allows the paper to soak up more ink before becoming saturated.
  • Be quick -- be light! Use a light hand when coloring red and color quickly to avoid fully saturating the paper.
  • Always color the red areas first. It's often the most challenging.
  • Do not use the Colorless Blender to fix mistakes in red. If you make a mistake in red, embrace it and use it as an opportunity for embellishment. If you attempt to use the Colorless Blender to “erase” the stray mark, it will only make it worse.

Don't be afraid of coloring red. It is a challenging color to work with, but it's well worth the extra effort to master it (Photo 9)!

Copic coloring red Photo 9

This Copic tutorial was first published in the November 2012 issue of CardMaker magazine. To get more information on Copic marker techniques:



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