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What is the difference between Copic markers and sketch markers?

Copic markers and sketch markers are both popular choices for artists and crafters. While they share some similarities, there are key differences between the two types of markers that impact their performance and best uses. This article will examine the differences between Copic and sketch markers in depth so you can determine which is the better option for your artistic needs.

Introducing Copic Markers

Copic markers are alcohol-based markers manufactured in Japan by Too Corporation. They were first introduced in 1987 and have grown into one of the most popular and respected brands of markers for artists and crafters. Here are some key features of Copic markers:

  • They contain high-quality, extremely blendable, alcohol-based ink.
  • The ink is acid-free and archival-safe.
  • They are available in 358 gorgeous colors, including extensive skin tone options.
  • The markers feature a chisel tip on one end and a brush tip on the other.
  • They are refillable with Copic ink bottles.
  • The markers are organized into color-coded groups based on hue families.
  • Empty Copic markers can be refilled with new colors.

Copic markers are beloved by artists and crafters for their ultra-blendable, vibrant, acid-free archival ink. They are excellent for coloring, lettering, illustration, crafting, manga, comics, and more. However, they also come with a premium price tag, typically costing $8-$10 per marker.

Introducing Sketch Markers

Sketch markers refer to any type of marker with a brush tip designed for sketching, drawing, lettering, and coloring. They contain water-based ink and are lower-cost than premium alcohol markers. Some popular sketch marker brands include:

  • Prismacolor Premier Brush Tip Markers
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pens
  • Arteza Real Brush Pens
  • Ohuhu Brush Markers
  • Shuttle Art Brush Markers

Key features of sketch markers include:

  • Water-based dye or pigment ink
  • Brush tip on one end, fine tip on the other
  • Vibrant colors
  • Affordable price point, usually $1-$5 per marker
  • Can blend and layer to mix colors
  • Self-cleaning nylon brush tips
  • May bleed or ghost when wet

Sketch markers offer a versatile, vibrant, and budget-friendly option for creative projects. However, their quality and performance varies greatly between brands. They also lack the blendability and permanence of premium alcohol markers.

Key Differences Between Copic and Sketch Markers

Now that you know the basics about Copic markers and sketch markers, let’s dig into the key differences between these two popular options:

Ink Type

The most significant difference between Copics and sketch markers is the ink type:

  • Copic: Alcohol-based ink
  • Sketch markers: Water-based ink

Alcohol-based Copic ink contains vivid, highly blendable pigments dissolved in alcohol. It dries permanent, acid-free, and non-toxic on paper. Water-based sketch marker ink uses dyes or pigments suspended in water-based solutions. It is more prone to bleeding and ghosting.


The alcohol-based ink in Copics allows for unparalleled blendability. Copic colors seamlessly fade and blend into one another, allowing for stunning gradients and shading. Sketch markers can blend and layer to mix colors. But the blendability is not as seamless, and colors will eventually turn to muddy brown when blended extensively.


When dry, Copic ink is extremely permanent and waterproof on paper. It will not bleed or transfer when touched. Water-based sketch marker ink remains soluble after drying and can reactivate and bleed, especially with watercolor washes or humid conditions. Copics offer much longer-lasting results.


Copics have very little bleed-through onto the opposite side of paper. Sketch markers are more prone to bleeding and ghosting, where ink soaks through the page. Using appropriate paper and technique can help reduce bleeding with sketch markers.


Copic markers range from $8-$10 each retail. Some Copic sets cost over $300! Sketch markers range from $1-$5 per marker, with sets generally under $50. Clearly, sketch markers are the budget-friendly option for beginners or casual crafters.

Color Range

Marker Type # of Colors Available
Copic Sketch 358
Sketch Markers Varies by brand, usually 100-200

Copic offers the largest color range of any marker brand, with 358 mixable options. Sketch markers offer 100-200 colors in most brands, still vibrant but less extensive mixing potential.

Tips & Nibs

Copic markers feature a firm, durable, chisel tip (C-nib) on one end and a flexible brush tip (B-nib) on the other. Sketch markers have a brush tip, but nibs vary between brands in flexibility and durability.


Copic markers can be refilled with Copic ink bottles to refresh dried markers or change a marker’s color. Sketch markers are generally not designed to be refilled or changed to new colors.

Performance Comparison

Now let’s compare the actual performance of Copics vs. sketch markers:


Both Copic and high-quality sketch markers lay down vibrant, saturated color. Copic colors tend to pop more due to their highly concentrated pigments. But good sketch markers can still produce brilliant tones.


Copics blend effortlessly, while colors from most sketch marker brands have more difficulty blending evenly. Copics create stunning gradients. Sketch markers blend best in small areas with limited layers.


Copic markers allow for endless layering without muddying or building up. Multiple layers blend beautifully. Sketch markers work best in a maximum of 4-5 layers before losing vibrancy.

Alcohol Markers vs. Water-Based Markers: Which is Best?

So should you choose alcohol-based Copics or water-based sketch markers? Here are some key considerations:

  • If your budget allows, Copics are the highest quality and most versatile option.
  • Copics are best for professional artists, illustrators, and designers requiring archival permanence.
  • Sketch markers provide excellent value for beginners, students, and casual users.
  • Choose sketch markers if you need portability for travel or outdoor sketching.
  • Copics work best on smooth, heavyweight paper that can handle alcohol ink without warping.
  • Sketch markers are great for use with mixed media, washes, and wet techniques that would cause Copic ink to bleed.

In summary, Copics are the ideal choice if you can afford them and want the highest quality results. Economical sketch markers offer a great entry point for beginners before investing in Copics. Consider your budget, experience level, and artistic needs when deciding between these two excellent marker types.

Best Papers for Copic and Sketch Markers

Using the right paper makes a huge difference when working with Copic or sketch markers. Here are some recommended papers:

Best for Copics

  • Copic Marker Pad
  • Strathmore Bristol Pad
  • Legion Stonehenge
  • X-Press It Blending Card

Best for Sketch Markers

  • Strathmore Mixed Media Pad
  • Canson XL Marker Pad
  • Artist’s Loft Marker Pad
  • Joanns All-Purpose Sketch Paper

Key factors to look for include heavier weight paper, minimal texture, and acid-free composition. Smooth papers designed for markers, mixed media, or Bristol illustration boards excel with both marker types.

Best Practices for Using Copic and Sketch Markers

Follow these tips to get the most out of your Copic or sketch markers:

  • Store markers horizontally to keep ink evenly distributed.
  • Keep lids on markers when not in use to prevent drying out.
  • Use a light touch; don’t press hard or drag the nib.
  • Work in small sections for best gradient blends.
  • Allow layers to fully dry between applications to prevent muddiness.
  • Use colorless blender markers to smooth and fade blends.
  • Start light and add layers for rich color; it’s hard to lighten over-dark areas.
  • Practice lighting, blending, and shading techniques on test paper first.
  • Clean marker nibs regularly with isopropyl alcohol or gentle wipes.

Creative Uses for Copic and Sketch Markers

Copic and sketch markers offer versatile options for creative projects including:

  • Coloring books
  • Hand-lettering and calligraphy
  • Manga, anime, and comics
  • Fashion illustration
  • Concept art and character design
  • Architectural rendering
  • Abstract art
  • Greeting cards and invitations
  • Posters, flyers, and prints
  • Scrapbooking
  • Crafting
  • Planner decorating
  • Face painting
  • And countless other possibilities!

Both marker types work wonderfully for vibrant finished art, color tests, preliminary sketches, and more. Match your marker to your experience level and budget to suit your unique artistic needs.


Copic and sketch markers each offer excellent, versatile options for artists, illustrators, crafters, and anyone who loves color. Copics provide unparalleled permanence, blendability, and a stunning spectrum of 358 colors. But they carry a premium price point that may not suit all budgets. Economical sketch markers allow beginners to explore colorful techniques without a huge investment. While not as blendable or archival as Copics, quality sketch markers still provide beautiful, vibrant results. Consider the ink properties, cost, creative needs, and your experience level when deciding between these high-performing marker types.