Ask anybody and they will tell you…
Copic markers are expensive. It seems no matter where you look, the best price you can find for an individual Sketch marker is just over $5. The reason for this is that the Too Corporation, the company that manufactures Copic markers, actually sets the lowest retail price that any authorized Copic dealer can sell their Copics for. So $5.24 is the lowest price that you can get a Copic Sketch or a Copic Classic marker. (The Ciao style markers are less expensive.)
$5.24 is a lot for a single marker, especially when you compare it to the price of the other coloring materials that are out there.
- Copic Sketch marker – $5.24 each
- Spectrum Noir marker – $1.49 each (but you can only buy them in sets of 6)
- Prismacolor Premier marker – $3.68 each
- Prismacolor Premier colored pencil – $1.29 each
Note: All prices are current as of this writing and are prices listed for these materials on the Dick Blick website.
Copic vs. Spectrum Noir vs. Prismacolor
At first glance, it’s a no-brainer… Copics are the most expensive of the bunch. But… let’s look just a bit deeper and see what happens.
Of the coloring options listed above, only Copic markers and Spectrum Noir markers are refillable. That means for Prismacolor markers and Prismacolor pencils, you have to buy new every time you run out. So let’s compare the long term costs of Copic markers versus Prismacolor markers and Prismacolor pencils.
An individual Copic Sketch marker costs $5.24, and a refill for that marker costs $4.58. That’s a total of $10 for a single marker and a single bottle of refill ink. Now, a refill bottle will fill an empty sketch marker 9 times. So if we count the original filled marker as one, and add the 9 refills that we get from the bottle of refill ink, we end up with 10 full Copic markers.
With me so far? Good.
So you get 10 total marker fills for $10 when you purchase both a Copic sketch marker and the related refill color.
Now I’m not good at math, but if I use both hands and some of my toes, that seems to equal only $1 per full marker.
Now let’s look at the Prismacolor options… Each Prismacolor marker costs $3.58. There are no refills for Prismacolor markers, so the markers aren’t refillable. That means when your marker runs dry, your only option is to buy a new one. So to get the same 10 dry-to-full uses from a Prismacolor marker, you’d need to buy 10 individual markers of the same color at a total cost of $36.80!
The same principle holds true for the Prismacolor pencils. Clearly you can’t refill a pencil once you’ve used it all up and sharpened it down to a nub. So to get the same amount of color from a Prismacolor pencil as you would from a single Copic marker and a single refill bottle, you would need to buy ten individual pencils at $1.29 a piece, for a total price of $12.90.
Now again, I’m not great at math, but last I checked, $12.90 is more than $10.
When we look at the long term cost of a Copic Sketch marker versus Prismacolor pencils or Prismacolor markers, it’s easy to see that Copics are actually less expensive than either of the Prismacolor options.
Now let’s compare Copics to the Spectrum Noir line. To be honest, there’s no way this can be a fair comparison. The Spectrum Noir markers are unarguably of lower quality, with fewer color options, and are much more difficult to use. However, since they are a popular marker brand, let’s go ahead and compare prices to see where we end up.
Now, Spectrum Noir doesn’t sell their markers individually, so you have to buy them in packs of 6. A set of 6 Spectrum Noir markers cost $8.95. So just for the sake of simplicity, let’s divide that $8.95 by 6, and that gives us a price of $1.49 per marker. Like Copic, Spectrum’s markers are refillable. A single bottle of Spectrum refill ink, at $4.46 per bottle, will refill a Spectrum Noir marker 12 times. So if we add together $1.49 for a single marker and $4.46 for the refill ink, we end up with a total cost of $5.95 for 13 dry-to-full Spectrum markers of a single color.
Sounds good, right?
It would be, except for that pesky detail that you can only buy Spectrum Noir markers in sets… So for $13.41 (a set of 6 markers plus a one refill bottle) you get 13 full markers of a single color and 5 single markers of different colors with no refills. When those other 5 markers run dry, you either have to buy a whole new set for another $8.95, or buy refills for each of those markers at $4.46 each. The total cost to purchase and refill a set of 6 Spectrum Noir markers is $35.71.
All of a sudden they don’t sound so economical, do they?
Now if we’re being fair, we’d have to compare the price of 6 Copic Sketch markers and 6 related refill inks to the price of 6 Spectrum Noir markers and refill inks. When we do, we find that the price for the Copics is $60 versus the $35.71 price for the Spectrum Noir markers.
No matter how you slice it, Spectrum Noir markers are less expensive than Copic Sketch markers.
But if you’re concerned with both budget and quality, a more fair comparison would be Spectrum Noir versus Copic Ciao. Individual Copic Ciao markers cost $3.59 a piece. And remember, a single bottle of Copic refill ink costs $4.58. However, that bottle of refill ink will refill a Copic Ciao 15 times. So if we do the math, $3.59 plus $4.58 equals $8.17 for 16 dry-to-full Copic Ciao markers.
Here’s a head to head comparison of
Copic Ciao and Spectrum Noir:
$8.95 for a set of 6 markers
$26.76 for 6 bottles of refill ink ($4.46 each)
12 refills per marker for a total of 72 refills
total cost – $35.71, or $0.45 per marker
$21.54 for 6 markers
$27.48 for 6 bottles of refill ink ($4.58 each)
15 refills per marker for a total of 90 refills
total cost – $49.02, or $0.51 per marker
Once again, when all the math is said and done, Spectrum Noir markers are cheaper than any of the Copic marker alternatives. But cheaper really is the operative word here. Cheaper and more limited. The Copic Ciao line consists of 180 colors. The Spectrum Noir line consists of 168 colors. Copic Ciaos are higher quality, easier to blend, available as singles, and more comfortable to use.
So I ask you… does the price difference of $0.06 per marker really justify using lower quality materials with fewer color options?
I think not.
Look, there’s no question that Copic markers are the highest quality markers on the planet. They also offer more color choices than any other line of marker or colored pencil. As I’ve shown above, they actually cost less than any Prismacolor product, marker or pencil, over long term use, and they’re even very comparable to the cheapest “serious” alternative out there. (My apologies to Sharpie lovers. Sharpies are pretty cool, but they just don’t offer the ease of blendability and color choices necessary to be a serious alternative to Copics.)
The bottom line?
When all is said and done, the math doesn’t lie. Depending on which marker you choose, Copic markers are at worst only $0.06 per marker more expensive than the lowest quality alternative, and they’re actually way less expensive over extended use than any other high quality brand. So do yourself a favor… get the best. They really aren’t that expensive. You’ll get better results and be happier with your work. Copics really are the best value of any marker brand available today.
Note: Copic marker tutorials is not an authorized Copic marker dealer. We do not get any kickbacks or any financial compensation from Copic marker or the parent company, Too Corporation. The truth is, we don’t make a penny if you choose to buy Copic markers. We recommend Copic markers over any other coloring medium because in our experience, they are of the highest quality and offer the best value for your money.
Are you surprised at these results? Sound off in the comments below and let me know!
How helpful was this post?
1 Star: Oh man, that sucked… 5 Stars: Good God, it’s brilliant!
After reading the article it is a no brainer as to which one to go with. Going to buy some Copic Markers right now. Thank you so much for all your hard work in doing this copic vs other markers…its awesome and yes it truly is brillant!!!! Gave you 5 and would have given 10 if I could have. Have a great day!
Thank you! I’m super glad you liked it :)
Fantastic article, love the math.
Been using Copic Sketch Markers for years.
I also use Prism pencils as they work well with the markers. They are wax base the penciles, not oil base. I use Shakur micron pens do to the ink quality.
Thank you again for the great write up.
Will you be at the San Diego Comic-Con this year 2018?
Just curious, there was one piece of the equation that you left out. How much ink does each pen hold, or what the volume of each refill bottle is. If you could refill a pen ten times, but it only holds half the ink of its competitor, that needs to be taken into account for your pricing equation.
I ask because I know nothing about the products, but I’m thinking about gifts for a daughter.
Thanks for doing the math for us, not my strong subject. On the other hand where can I buy Copic Sketch for $5.24 & refills for $4.58?
CarpeDiem art supply and I believe Blick Art Supply.
Send an email to [email protected] and Terry has even more amazing pricing ?
That’s great if you’re in the USA.. Canada, not so much. However, even though I don’t colour with Copics every day (or even every week) I do use them often enough and like them enough for the investment I’ve put into them. The best price I’ve found on markers is Michaels, IF they have the colour you want with a 40% off coupon ($7.99 CAD without). For more than the 60ish colors Michaels carries, the best prices I’ve seen are at onecrazystamper.com . Markers are $8.98 each, with refills being $10.75 each. If anyone knows of another Canadian site, I’d be happy to go check them out :)
Karen, I live in Canada and got most of my markers from Scrappin’ Great Deals who have a great online store. While their normal price for Sketch is a bit higher than Michaels, they have regular sales which bring the prices below Michaels. I just signed up for their newsletter and would watch for a sale. Each time, I’d add some more to my collection.
Icopic.com or dickblick.com
Karen G, depending where you live in Canada you should buy your art supplies from DeSerres (Canadian art store chain) not Michaels (American chain). They have lots of stores across Canada. Online they only have the Ciaos, but in-store they have the Sketch too, and lots of sets! The one here also would always price-match AND order in anything you want which they don’t have.
You’re welcome, Mary. All the prices in this article are from dickblick.com
Sketch vs Ciao, this always confuses me, which one should I buy??
I personally totally recommend the sketch markers (which was recommended to me over ciao).
It’s definitely been worth my money!
I did this Frazetta study with them, they blend amazingly! :)
This looks awesome, Vince! Thanks for sharing! :)
Mary, all the Copic markers regardless of style use exactly the same colors and exactly the same inks, so from a quality standpoint there is no difference at all. The sketch and the Ciao both have exactly the same nibs as well.
The four main differences between the two are the price, the number of available colors, the shape of the barrel, and how much ink they hold (the sketch hold more than the Ciao.)
Since there’s absolutely no quality difference between the two, you can mix and match as you see fit. If you’re on a tight budget, start with the Ciao, otherwise go with the Sketch :)
i prefer the ciao because i just find it easier to hold.
This is great Chris!
Just by using the copics you can ‘feel’ the quality in the brush and blending ability, they are by far the best feeling markers I’ve tried! I wouldn’t even ‘waste’ time on anything else if you’re going long term with markers and using them constantly, (although it is good to try different things as everyone has personal preferences).
But like you said the best quality for your money is definitely copics!
I pay 5 € for ciao marker and out ragione 33 € for the refill!!!
Math is not an opinion, but that’s reality not math!!!!
Tell me WHERE i can buy the marker and the refil for 10 us????
Holy cow! That’s crazy! Unfortunately, the parent company for Copic regulates the prices and forbids retailers from selling outside their own country. I’m sorry, that sounds rough. Nice painting by the way, thank you for sharing :)
Thanks man :)
I mean OTRAGEUS*
Thanks for doing that, I learned a lot! It sure makes a lot of sense
You’re welcome, Karen. I’m glad you liked it!
Let the real test be between Copic and Chameleon pens!! I want to know where copies stand there!!
Hi Gay, I actually have the 22 pen deluxe set of Chameleon pens, and while the ink quality is good, in my humble opinion, they are nowhere near a suitable replacement for Copics. The problem for me with Chameleon pens lies in the limited color choices and automatic blending feature. The blending feature in particular is troublesome to me since you hand full control over to the marker and it times itself out whenever it pleases. As an artist I want full control over my blends, and the Chameleon pens, while cool, just don’t offer the control I’m looking for.
Have used Sakura pens versus Copic pens?
This is a fantastic article, I feel so much better about my copics now… I wonder what the quality difference between the ciao and the normal copics is though? I actually prefer the ciao, just because I really like the brush tip rather than the felt tip of the normal copics.
Thank you, Caitlin. I’m glad you liked it. And you should feel good about your Copics :) There is absolutely no quality difference between any of the Copic marker types. The all use the same high quality color and ink. So if you love the Ciao, stick with those! Their quality is the same as any other Copic marker.
This is great to know, thank you! I know what’s going on my birthday wishlist… :-)
Both the Ciao and sketch have the exact same tips when purchased. The sketch has an option to buy a different tip as an advantage over the Ciao.
So, if you find the tip is different right out of the box, it’s not a real Copic.
Always be careful of the knock offs on sites like Wish who claim they are selling Copics or Prisma brands. They are fakes and if you look closely you can see variations in the printing on the side of the marker, pencil, and or packaging.
Thank you. I usually get so confused when people throw out numbers. You explained it well. I actually understood it. Yay!
Thank you, Nancy! I’m so happy you liked it :)
I love copic sketch markers but I can not find them online or in any of the art stores! Everywhere I go and when I send emails, its the same story back ordered and no idea when they will be in stock :(
I am ready to give up and use other mediums
ScrapbookPal.com has a great supply of Copic Ciao markers available right now for $3.59 each and refill inks for $5.89. Their shipping is $4.95 up to $25, and then free if over $25. They will ship to Canada but international shipping costs apply. I received terrific service from them. I own both Sketch markers and Ciaos, and don’t find any difference in them except the Sketches hold more ink. The marker ends are exactly the same. I don’t know why, but they seem to be the only place that still has Copics in stock.
Hi, the problem with supply that you’ve been experiencing is due to the parent company growing too fast in too many markets. To meet the new demand, they’ve increased the size of their production facility in Japan and they swear that the supply problem will soon be fixed. Last I checked, more and more online retails were getting their stock back in :) I hope that’s the last time we have to deal with a Copic shortage!
This is a great article! Thanks for doing the math…I wouldn’t buy anything other than Copics Sketch, but it’s good to know it’s because I’m just so darn savvy.
You’re welcome, Kim. I’m glad you liked it! I’m curious though, how does it feel to be so darn savvy? :)
I’ll be sure to let you know if I ever actually feel that way. I wouldn’t hold your breath awaiting a response. ;-)
Love Copics and there is no comparison to the quality of Copic vs. Spectrum Noir. However, have you compared Copic to ShinHan? I like those too. They have a hard nib vs. the paintbrush like nib of the Copic…but the colouring and blending are good too. Not sure how many colours in ShinHan, a lot though and they too can be purchased individually and refilled too.
Thanks for giving us comparisons, things to think about and projects to practice. :)
Thank you for the comment, Joanne. I’m kind of a marker hound and have tried nearly every brand I can get my hands on, but I’ve never heard of the ShinHan. Now I’m super excited… something new to play with :)
I believe they are made in Korea and should be available in Art Supply stores.
I do have a question, something that wasn’t covered in what is a very good article. If all types of markers were used to do identical work, e.g. they were attached to a test machine so they all performed the same task …. would each marker perform for the same length of time as all the others? I don’t use markers because I’m afraid that on one side, I have poor quality, and on the other side, high cost. But you can only truly compare the cost if the coverage of each marker is compared to the others. Same as comparing domestic wall paint … different product gives different coverage.
Hi, Judy, what an awesome comment! To the best of my knowledge no one has ever performed such a test across the various marker brands. Controlling the parameters would be interesting. You’d have to be sure that the test machine applied exactly the same pressure, that the various nibs had exactly the same surface area, and that the absorption of the substrate was precisely the same, which would be virtually impossible considering most substrates are composed of condensed fibers.
It would still be fascinating. It seems to me that the only way to perform such a test would be to remove the ink from each of the marker brands and place that ink in a test marker so that the reservoir capacity is precisely the same. However, at that point we are only looking at coverage as you’ve suggested, and there are so many other factors that go into making a quality marker. For example, the quality of vehicle and pigment, the particle size and distribution, the quality and longevity of the nibs, just to name a few. For me, these are the qualities that are most important since they are the ones that directly effect my ability to produce quality work. Honestly, I’m not sure coverage is the best barometer to judge the quality of a marker.
Thank you for your reply Christopher, you raise a number of very valid points. I think you have made my marker investment decision easier, and I will just have to save a little here and there so I can afford to buy a few at a time, rather than settle for less than the best. :)
If there are any australians here, the best place to buy copic markers is http://www.studiocopic.com.au
They have amazing prices.
The price for the sketch are great for an Australian store I have seen the refills cheaper elsewhere, but price increase could be due to $ downturn… http://www.craftonline.com.au/shopping/copic-ink-refills.asp I actually bought a lot of mine off eBay because we can’t get the awesome deals like they can in the US. I got lucky and actually purchased an almost full set of Ciaos (one or two missing and one broken) for around $330au that someone didn’t want anymore as well as an almost full set of wides. I am slowly transitioning to Sketch as the roll factor of the Ciaos drives me nuts when I want to work other than sitting at a table lol.
Yeah craft online are amazing! Between there and studio copic I’m pretty set. When my tax return comes in I’ll be using some of it to invest in a 72 set of sketch markers. Just trying to decide which set to get ?
Thank you! I’m in Australia and was about to search for an affordable supplier. Grateful you’ve done this and have a recommendation. :)
It affirms my thoughts completely. ..better invest in some good markers than waist money on cheap alternatives which in the end don’t give you the best results and you will end up spending more money because you will buy the better markers anyway…which seems not expensive as you thought. Lol
Yep, Miranda, my thoughts exactly :)
Thanks for this ^_^
I bought the full set of Spectrum Noir markers not long ago as my first set of ‘serious’ alcohol markers. They’ve been great; and I’m learning a lot with them.
But I think once I’m more confident with alcohol markers in general, I’ll be buying some Sketch’s here and there to fill in gaps and eventually replace them :)
Hi Ali, thank you for the comment. I’m glad you’re getting lots of enjoyment from your Spectrum Noirs. I think probably if I had started with those instead of Copics, I too would have a deeper appreciation for them. They’re really pretty good markers. I guess I’m kind of spoiled… once you get used to Copics, everything else seems not quite right. I think you’ll enjoy them once you start adding them to your collection! :)
I would agree with your math except that I know of a sore online that sells both markers and refills individually for spectrum noir.
Thank you, Rachael, that’s good to know! All the research I did suggested that they were only available in packs. Thank you for correcting me
Carpe Diem sells them individually and the re inkers. But there is a no return policy for it.
I think another major point about prismacolors is that you assume that you get to use the whole pencil. This is usually not the case. Every time, I spend more time sharpening, cursing when the tip snaps for no reason, and resharpening the pencil than actually using it. I’ve bought a brand new set of prismacolors and while the pencil from the outside looks good, they’re shattered internally. I actually bought a electric sharpener because it sharpens the prismacolor better than I can
Durability is a major point…if you drop a new prismacolor on the ground, you probably shattered the lead inside (leading you to have a fun sharpening meltdown). As for copics…I accidently left one on the floor, and my mom’s dog chewed on my Ciao marker (RIP E00…) and it’s still usable (though with teeth marks now…will be replaced by a E00 sketch soon).
I went for broke and I bought all of the copic ciao colors, and I’ve never bothered to touch my prismacolors again. Pretty soon I plan to get the ink refills so I can get to making custom colors myself.
Lol, Scotty! My technical director, Rachel, is an avid Prismacolor colored pencil user, and she brought this point up as well. Thank you for saying out loud. You’re absolutely right, but that kind of thing is hard to quantify in a post like this :)
Yeah, it is hard to qualify, but I think if anyone’s used Prismacolor color pencils for a while, they’ve definitely had to have faced this issue one way or another. It gets pretty bad when you want to get the pieces done on a timely fashion. I know in my architecture studio class, everyone hated the Prismacolor projects because it took so much time to do with the extra sharpening time required.
I’m also a bit bitter because I worked hard to buy a set of 132 Prismacolors only to have some of the pencils half gone just trying to make the first tip on the pencil…
There are questionable ways of repairing Prismacolor cores though, one of which is baking the pencils at a really low temperature and watching them constantly. it worked for me, but if you mess up, you really can melt all of the pencils in one go (or melt too much wax and be left with dry cores).
I loved my Prismacolors and used to use them a lot (mostly because I didn’t have the funds to get Copic markers yet). However after using copics, it’s really hard to go back. I think one of the things I miss about color pencils is the sharp tips, but after finding your website and learning that I could just feed copic marker ink onto my paint brush set (especially the fine liner brush), I honestly have never touched my Prismacolors in over two years…
you know those markers are so cool I wish I had them but they’re too expensive but kids so who cares
I think a major factor your post didn’t consider is how often/much you use the markers; I’ve had the spectrum noirs for a year and I’ve yet to run out, I can’t imagine refilling them 13 times -ever- so Copics still seem way too expensive for me. I also agree with a previous poster…you can get spectrum noirs individually -Canuk Crafts, $3.95 CAN each. Also, for the Canadians here at least, Winners/Home Sense has the 6-packs for $6.99 instead of the $16.95 our official retailer has them for.
How frequently would you say you refill a marker (or would you suspect a heavy user would)? And, are the Copic vs SN refills the same volume? I know you mentioned how many times a sketch and ciao could be refilled, but where does the SN fit in there for how much it holds?
Hi Laura, thank you for the comment. It’s an interesting point you bring up, and you’re right, I didn’t consider it. For me, I end up refilling my most used markers probably once every couple of weeks. However, my commission drawings are generally large at 11″x17″ and I do a lot of commissions since that’s my primary source of income. So I may go through them faster than most. But you’re right I suppose, if you’re only coloring once every couple of months, Copics may not be the best investment for you.
As for how much the SN holds, a single bottle of refill ink will fill a SN marker up to 12 times.
Great article!!!! Love it!
By the way, I’m staying in Thailand, so here you can get copic sketch for 3,5 $ and copic Chiao for less than 3$. Another weird stuff here – Touch markers (Korean one) has a same price as copic has!
Those are awesome prices, Katerina! You should grab as many as you can! Thank you for sharing :)
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of Christopher’s and in no way is this intended to disparage his analysis. However, with nearly 40 years of engineering experience, math and rigorous analysis are second nature to me. While this is a good attempt at a fair assessment, there are some flaws which I’d like to address.
As Judy (above) stated the only OBJECTIVE bottom line that is open to is the amount of money per area covered, quality, ergonomics (while very important) is highly subjective and therefore not amenable to hard analysis. Since even coverage data is very unlikely to be compiled, breaking it down as Christopher has is probably the best that can be done.
However, I do believe that direct comparison can be made between Copic Sketch and Ciao markers, since except for ergonomics the quality is probably equivalent and the ink is the same. It seems valid to assume that one milliliter of ink will cover the same area for both styles. Therefore to cover the same amount of area, you would have to partially refill the Ciao with an additional 6 ml of ink. At $0.18/ml, that is about $1.10 of ink.
So, right out of the gate a Ciao costs $4.69 for equivalent coverage. To equate his 10 Sketch markers ($0.98/marker) to a Ciao for the same amount of coloring, we’re really looking at [$4.69 + 15/9 X ($4.58)]/10 = $0.77/marker. That’s due to the fact that we have to fill the Ciao 1.67 times per one refill of the Sketch. This is quite different than the $0.51/marker that Mr. Kerry calculated. As the number of refills increase, the difference in cost between the Sketch and Ciao markers would become smaller, yet.
As far as Spectrum Noirs only being available in sets forcing you to either buy an entire new set once a marker ran dry, or just buy a bottle of ink for the dry one doesn’t make sense. Just because someone chose to buy a 72 set of Copics doesn’t create a situation of possibly buying the set again once a markers goes dry. Refills work the same way in each case. And my local art store sells Spectrum open stock http://www.artsupplywarehouse.com/finelineDisplay.php?id=263360.
Additionally, including Prismacolor pencils in the comparison was a bit tangential, at best. Being a completely different type of medium, comparing them to markers has no validity. At that point, all color media would require inclusion, such as oil and water paints, pastels, ad infinitum. The choice of media is not always (or even often) driven by simple cost.
Finally, while the long term investment seems to favor Copics. No mention is made of the immediate cost required to get up and running for some meaningful coloring. For the serious artist and professional, Copics are a no-brainer. However, for the casual (or even avid) hobbyist, a lot more coloring capability can be obtained with Prismacolor pencils or Spectrum Noir markers for a given cash outlay.
I’m sure I’ve ruffled some feathers, which wasn’t my attempt. I just wanted to provide a little more rigor to what is an excellent thought exercise by Christopher.
Hi Milton, what an awesome comment! Thank you for adding your knowledge and expertise to the discussion. I assure you if any feathers were ruffled by your comment, they weren’t mine :)
Now to address your comment. I will respectfully have to disagree that the only objective consideration is coverage or amount of money per area covered, and will restate my comment to Judy that it’s my opinion that coverage is the least important consideration.
Allow me to illustrate my point using cadmium red artist’s paint as my example. A 37ml tube of student grade oil paint ($5.47) and a 37ml tube of professional grade oil paint ($24.97) under careful test conditions will, all things being equal, cover exactly the same sq footage of canvas. However, the professional grade paint uses higher quality ingredients, and therefore has much greater tinting strength, which means you use much less of it in mixtures. If you need 6 times the volume of the student grade paint to achieve the same intensity of color saturation as the professional grade, you end up using more and spending more on a lower quality paint, regardless of the initial coverage testing.
A similar phenomena can be observed with alcohol markers. In high quality markers, the vehicle is 77% ethanol, with the remainder being water and dye. The percentage of alcohol to water is important since it affects the open time, the absorption, the bonding of the dye to the substrate, and the intensity of color when dry. A lower priced, lower quality marker may have more water, and therefore less evaporation, and by extension, greater “wet” coverage. But if color adhesion and saturation are compromised, it may take several layers of ink to achieve the same color density. So, in my humble opinion, coverage only counts if you’re painting a wall.
As for “quality” being merely subjective, I couldn’t disagree more. High quality markers have vacuum seal caps that protect the ink from drying in the marker. Low quality markers do not. In addition, Copic in particular has strict quality controls in their manufacturing and guarantee their color formulas to match batch to batch and lot to lot. Lower priced markers do not. Further still, the nib that applies the color to the substrate must saturate fully and evenly and be durable. If it does not, and is not, it will apply the color unevenly and wear out, either rendering the marker useless or requiring a replacement at an additional cost.
So as you can see, quality isn’t simply subjective to the individual artist, and I will respectfully maintain my position that coverage as an indicator of value simply doesn’t tell the whole story or even the most important part of the story.
With regard to Spectrum being available individually, my local retail outlets and initial research suggested this was not the case. Clearly I was misinformed on that particular subject, and thank you for the information.
Finally, the comparison to Prismacolor colored pencils is important, since many of my readers opt for that medium to avoid the “high cost” of Copics. For that reason, I feel the comparison is not only valid, but accurate and necessary as well. As for the choice of media being not always (or even often) driven by simple cost, most of my readers would disagree with you strongly.
As you say, for the serious artist and professional, Copics are a no-brainer, but the whole point of this site is to empower the hobbyist to achieve a level of professionalism, and when you’re shooting for professional results, it is easier (if not absolutely necessary) to use professional grade materials.
The point of this post was simply to illustrate that over the long haul, Copics are more economical than most people think.
And regarding your comment, “a lot more coloring capability can be obtained with Prismacolor pencils or Spectrum Noir…” it is also true that more coverage and coloring capacity can be obtained with Crayola crayons than with any of the media mentioned in this post. Crayola crayons offer the most coverage at the lowest cost of any coloring media besides super cheap paint.
But, can you get quality coloring with them? If you can, you’re a better man than I :)
For me, quality always trumps coverage, and I will maintain my stance that coverage is one of the least important factors to consider when assessing the overall value of an art material. I’ll also stand behind the conclusions of this post. This is of course an opinion piece, and in my humble opinion, Copics are the best value for the money.
I have been a serious Spectrum Noir user until recently. You are wrong that they aren’t available as a single pen both Crafter’s Companion USA and Joanns sell single markers however they are around $2.99 per pen.
I have had problems with the pens coming apart and as I am now doing more coloring than I ever had was getting a bit exasperated by it. I contacted Crafter’s Companion to be told I was taking the kids off wrong – tried the way they suggested and still had the problem – they were also very kind in replacing the pens FOC.
However!!! As I am coloring more I decided to invest in some copics – I started with equivalent colors to my skin tones I use in Spectrums – and have not looked back, they are far more superior, I can color smaller finer areas than I ever could with my SN and they blend beautifully. I have since invested in lots more and yes this is hurting my wallet to start with but I see them as an investment so once I have a good collection they will be easy to maintain with refills. The brush nibs on copics are easier to use than the bullet on the SN – I have to admit I have never tried the brush nib on the SNs as they are too expensive to replace a decent amount of color blends – increasing the cost of the pen further therefore bringing them more in line with the cost of Copic Sketch.
Excellent comment, thanks for adding your knowledge to the conversation! :)
Brilliant post & made me so glad I have got copics!! Can I just add though that copics have brush nibs …. Way better!!!! & however with SN you can get brush nibs & change the current nib to a brush nib. However at the cost of purchasing the nib separately … If you factored this cost in it would change the 0.51 % more expensive to get copics, …. Too SN being the most expensive option ☺️ Xx
Thank you, Julia. That’s something I hadn’t taken into consideration.
Thankyou so much for the review I am a copic user not very good one and very slowly building ….. Have often thought have I made the wrong decision as I was also very interested in Spectrum Nior markers but never found any real information about except from lovers of them , as I had already started with copic couldn’t I really afford to disgard them ..I now have a reasonable collection and you have helped me settle on my copics and stop wondering about all the others…. Big Thankyou
Hi Lindi, I’m very happy to have been able to help. Trust me, you absolutely made the right choice :)
Thanks for your review. Excellent. No am just starting with the alcohol markers and have been stressing out over which ones to buy. SN or Copic sketch.
I knew Copic was more expensive but did not want to buy a cheaper marker and be sorry once I had started my collection. Your experience and explanation helped me make a decision. I am now the proud owner of Copic sketch and live them!
Thank you sooooooo much.
Hi Sandra, thank you for the awesome post. Makes me super happy that you picked up the Sketch and love them. Can’t wait to see what you do with them :)
If only … in the land of Oz (Australia) 1 copic cost nearly $9.00 and refills $10 *currently* – and that’s at the lowest possible price. Elsewhere they are much more expensive. Add to that the cost of delivery and the cost skyrockets.
At this stage pencils are still looking much more affordable and they last a very long time especially when working in lots of *light* layers and using OMS (for my own work).
I have a whole range of Polychromos, and Albrecht Durer, as well as Marco Raffine, some Inktense, and some Pablos (replacing Prisma with Pablos) and a few Luminance. What will I miss in the Prisma range – their beige’s. Only in Promarkers (not refillable) have I found an equivalent range of beiges, a neutral colour I find useful in so many ways. So for now, my range of Copics is extremely limited – mostly warm and neutral greys or greyed lavender. Much as I would like a range of Copics (because I do like them) they are just not affordable for me at any rate. I wish it were otherwise.
Hi Rosy, thank you for filling us in with the Australia prices. It is unfortunate that they are so expensive there, but it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good range of colors available to you :)
Good job Intel! Way to stick it to AMD.
Copic sure won by a landslide victory!
I love my Copics.They blend like a dream and the colors are so vibrant… Well worth every penny I have spent on them.
You should do a comparison of the Copic and Touch that have been previously mentioned. I currently live in Hong Kong and both the Copic and Touch markers by Shin Han are available here. The one thing that isn’t for some reason is the refills. Shin Han has no reason for that and in regards Copic I don’t know – haven’t asked. For that reason, and also due to the price factor, I got the Touch markers. As a newbie and because I was not sure if I wanted to go the expensive route for something I hadn’t tried I think that the Touch markers are more than suitable for me but I wish I had realised about the shading and the colour families because the set I bought is lacking some colours and I am hesitant to buy other sets because I don’t want to duplicate markers/colours.
I’m not sure when this article was written, but Joann’s sells the spectrum noir individually, so…guess what I own, you guessed it, spectrum noir, all 216 of them. I really like them, they recently released 48 new markers to fill in some color gaps, like vintage colours and greens. I’m a SN girl all the way now. I can’t spend that much on copics sorry.
Oh I forgot, thank you for the comparison, its is great and thorough, great job! And your tutorials are lovely. Beautiful work.
Hi Steph – thanks for the additional information. I’m happy you found a marker that you like :) And thank you for the kind compliment in your other comment.
I found Spectrum Noir 24 packs for $22.00 on sale from $24.97 with 30ml refill bottles for $3.50/bottle (no indication if on sale) good until 5/8/18 at
Since you can purchase SN refill bottles individually, there is no need to confuse the matter by calculating per refill. It’s just a per ml calculation.
I can get SN Markers on sale for less than $0.92/marker and refill ink for less than $0.12/ml at current prices and not significantly increased without sale.
Copic markers (using your above figures) are $3.59/marker which seems similar to prices on Amazon.
I don’t recall you stating where someone could get Copic refills for so cheap, but I found Copic refill ink is $5.72 – $15.00 on Amazon depending on color, so I will average those prices and even reduce it by $2.00 from average assuming that most refills are on the lower side of the average, so we will assume refill prices would be $8.00/25ml = $0.32/ml. You seem to have understated the cost of refills. I suppose this could be additionally decreased if the most used colors are less expensive.
So … Copic Markers compared to SN are 3.59/.92 = 390% more expensive and the refills are .32/.12= 266% more expensive. Quite a difference in initial cost, and an ongoing maintenance cost that is quite high.
I’m thinking with a cost savings of buying SN rather than Copic, I can buy upgraded SN Nibs that will equalize Copic’s blending and “rollability”. I’m assuming the cost of SN nibs would be proportionately less expensive than Copic nibs, so that’s an additional savings regarding ongoing maintenance costs for the pen.
I am shopping for a 17 yo artist, so ensuring I don’t drop a load of money on markers that end up sitting in a closet after 1 year of experimentation is important.
I understand Copics may be totally necessary for a professional, but for a student or hobbyist, and admittedly I am a neophyte when it comes to art tools, I can’t rationalize the cash outlay for Copics for students and personal use, especially if you buy upgraded SN nibs.
Just my opinion after 2 hours of research on a topic I knew nothing about, I’m sure there are holes in my rationale but I feel I have touched on the primary issues, costs, and mitigation to increase quality of SN markers.
To read above comments on people not having money to buy a certain colored marker seems to defeat the purpose. Why have “amazing blending” and “rollability” if you can only do half your drawing because your pallet of markers is lacking due to financial constraints.
To iterate my point, it would seem you can have all the attributes of Copic using SN with upgraded nibs. The cost differential would quickly pay for those nibs and then some. Then the only difference would be how much ink each pen holds and perhaps ergonomics of the pen (once again this may be of importance to a professional who has them in their hand 8 hours/day).
Thanks for your article, I will be surprised if this comment actually gets published.
Will you be at the San Diego Comic-Con this year 2018?
There is one thing I’m still concerned about when it comes to the price calculation: Does a filled Copic Marker provide the same amount of ink as for example a non-refillable Promarker? I haven’t tested it, but if the answer is no, it can make a huge difference in the amount of ink you get per dollar/euro.
That being said, I still appreciate the sustainability aspect of refillable markers.
I have been a long time user of Spectrum Noirs…not anymore. They aren’t standing behind their product. Refills are nonexistent or always “in production and coming soon.” The Illustrator nibs for the line that is supposed to be Copics big contender can’t do a fine point. It’s too soft at the end. I have messaged Crafter’s Companion multiple times and searched every board I could find about refills. Instead of you being able to purchase a refill bottle, some people they are just sending a new marker to. The ink for the markers has also changed in every marker, so the original 6 pack marker sets will be a different color than when some bought them years ago. I just bit the bullet and bought the whole set of Ciao to start, which means I’ll probably be spending a lot of time here.
Thank you for your excellent article. Now I feel better about wanting to have the best! I am a cardmaker and color in my cards frequently. I have been “collecting” Copics for years. These markers last a long time! I have had a number of these markers for years and they are still going strong. I still don’t have the entire collection yet but that is my goal someday to have them all! I do not have the refills either but that will be my next step after I get my collection done. I have replaced a couple markers over the years and realize that I should have just bought the refills instead of replacing the marker..oh well live and learn. I have had SN markers and hated them. They just don’t blend as well as the copics and they dry out much faster. I have ended up throwing them all away. I do have some of the Shinhan touch markers and they work very well maybe not as good as the copics but very close.
Again, thank you for taking the time to do the article. Have a good day.
Im in the minority. I actually prefer SN. Not sure how old this review is but SN has the Illustrator brand of markers with the Japanese brush nibs and the Triblend markers which are 3 markers in one. There’s also 216 colors with the Illustrators and 144 for the Triblends. Have you used either one those?
Thanks a lot for such a great article. This article is an evergreen reference for art lovers. It helped my daughter to get a good start & to choose the right markers. She also found a website which has copic markers in sale, ordered herself and got them. https://www.artkitsstore.com/collections/flash-sale
I understand the long term aspect of the copic markers. But that’s because I moved to the States, where they are actually the recommend price for them. Where I used to live, Canada, most of the stores that stocked them priced Individual markers at $20-$50 CDN. And the refills and packs were just as bad, if not worse. They were barely touched because of that.
Correction. The packs were way worse
You’re right. Copic markers are so expensive but when I am using them, I understand. They are expensive but worth the price. Copics, when used properly, should last you a fairly long time. Once the ink has run out, Copic offers replacement ink refillers which is a great alternative to being forced to buy many new markers.
Copic markers are expensive but it’s worth the money. These are really some of the best markers around because of their ink quality. It also doesn’t hurt that the typical Copic marker set has replaceable nibs and refillable ink.
Because alcohol-based ink dries practically rapidly, marker pens with alcohol-based ink are ideal for shading. This allows you to effortlessly create and combine colors without leaving visible streaks. Aside from that, marker pens with flexible brush tips may provide smooth, uniform coverage and a variety of textures.
I live in the UK, so where would it be best for me to buy copic markers?
The first Copic marker you purchase could be confusing. You might become overly enthusiastic and consider the color sets, but you soon find there are several Copic marker types.