The Colorless Blender’s alcohol-based solution is the base of all Copic inks. The Colorless Blender is actually an art tool on its own and should not be thought of as just a blending tool! In fact, the name 'Colorless Blender' may be misleading because the marker doesn't really blend colors as much as it moistens the marker dye so it can be manipulated. This clear solution lightens Copic inks by pushing color through the back of the paper. To the left you can see a list of other applications for the Colorless Blender. If stored properly -- out of direct sunlight and away from extreme heat or cold -- a bottle of Colorless Blender will last for many years.
The Colorless Blender is a great tool for lightening an area that is too dark. In the example below, look at how the circle on the left has a very flat and solid color quality. To lighten this circle, simply add your Colorless Blender. In order to create crisp edges, allow the ink to dry between colors. If you desire softer edges, work while the ink is still wet.
To add highlights, start in the middle of the lightest area. If the base color is dry then it may need to be soaked with more ink. In this example, the blender was started in the middle of a rounded edge of the circle.
Push the darker color outwards in the direction where the highlighted accent will be. In this case, the color was pushed out parallel to the edge of the circle. If the highlighted area needs to be lighter, let it dry a little and repeat.
If only a small area needs to be lightened instead of the whole object, then feather the blender solution outwards. This prevents harsh lines of dye from building up. This effect takes practice, and is much easier to do on a picture while it is still wet.
Color circle with BG10. Then add BG13. Blend BG10 back over the BG13. Add BG15. Repeat blending step. Add Colorless Blender to highlight.
The Colorless Blender is great for adding highlights, but it is also very useful for fading any color to white or making it look weathered.
You can add Colorless Blender solution to your projects to achieve a transparent look. This fading technique works easiest with light colors, but will work with darker colors after some practice. An interesting quality of Copic ink is that ANY light color can push out darker colors if saturated enough.
To get the most out of your Colorless Blender, carefully test papers before use, as the key to good technique comes from using the proper tools. It is much easier achieve these blender techniques on thinner paper, simply because it takes much less ink to soak than a thicker paper. Using these blender techniques on softer papers will cause the colors to feather and run into each other and will not provide strong, crisp edges. Likewise, if the paper is over soaked with blender solution, the edges will lose their crisp definition and bleed.
The fading technique makes larger objects look weathered and uneven. If your marker shade is too dark and the whole area needs to be lighter, try pre-soaking the paper with blender solution. This is a lot like painting a wall with primer before you paint. Any color applied over the wet blender area will be much smoother and require less ink.
1. Apply the blender solution first. Avoid going over the lines, as the color will want to flow wherever blender solution is added.
2. While the blender is still wet, add color over the top. The paper won't have to be soaked as much to get smooth coverage, and the colored area will be slightly lighter.
Copic Chisel nib, no blender vs. paper pre-soaked in blender
It is easy to use the pushing qualities of the colorless blender to fix mistakes. Don't forget to test the paper as some will work better than others.
Color from the outside and push the color back into the image using the Colorless Blender. Don't color over the line, instead color up to the line. The dye builds up in front of the blender and creates a small ridge of color. The trick is to hide this ridge under the ink line.
Let it dry completely and repeat as necessary. Be sure to keep clean, absorbent scratch paper under the work to catch any stray ink that is pushed through.
Some colors will be easier to erase than others. After two or three repeats there may still be a faint trace of color left. This can be very easy to hide in the background. If a faint ridge inside the inked line does appear, simply color back over the whole inner area with the original color. Although it will hide the small mistakes, this will make the whole picture darker.
Soft vs. Crisp Texture
If an image is too wet and looks soft and washed out, there are a few things that can cause this problem:
Softer papers will not give crisp definition. Absorbent papers can be used to achieve fades and special effects. The Colorless Blender can be used to fully erase work if used on vellum or tracing paper.
Base colors may need more time to dry before adding texture, particularly on thicker papers.
Too much Blender can cause a bleeding effect. Either temper how much Blender you apply beforehand, or allow the paper to dry a bit more before trying again.
This tends to vary with paper type. Test and practice to see how long the marker needs to be held in place to achieve the look you desire.
Be sure to use clean scratch paper when trying this technique. It may also help to place a paper towel underneath, instead of scratch paper, to soak up excess ink.
Patterns can be added to colored areas simply by touching the tip of the Colorless Blender to a DRY colored area on uncoated papers. If the base color isn't dry the shape will be fuzzy. Also, if the tip is held in one place too long the spot will get over-soaked and become round and blurry.
The Colorless Blender solution is perfect for adding texture to otherwise flat areas. This technique works better on papers with fibers that are not too soft. Test a few paper types until you achieve the effect you desire.
Anything absorbent with a nice texture will work for this technique. Below are a few examples of textures that you can experiment with: