Colleen Schaan shares her technique for testing paper to determine what type will work best with for different artistic style. She tests out 19 papers and divides them into Sketch & Drawing paper and Marker-specific papers. Follow along and find out which papers sound like they'd work best for your artwork. Enjoy!
While Copic markers are an exceptional art tool, some people can find them challenging or downright frustrating. The good news is that it’s not you or the markers… it’s probably the paper!
There are a variety of art papers that range in weight, density, content, and thickness. Each of these variables affects the overall look when using them with Copic markers. While we may say some papers aren’t compatible, it’s really about learning how a paper reacts to Copic inks and what techniques work well (or don’t work well) with them.
So how do you know what paper is best? Test them! I recommend testing a lot of papers. Raid your stash and test out every paper you can get your hands on, even if you don’t typically think of using it with markers. You never know what you will find.
In this video, I show how I go about testing papers. The things that are important to me are:
How smoothly does the ink lay down?
Does layering the same color create deeper shades?
How much ink does it take to saturate the paper and cause feathering?
How easily does it blend? Overblend?
What kind of special effects can I achieve with the Colorless Blender?
Sketch and drawing papers are not typically recommended for use with markers because they are generally soft papers, but you might be surprised to find one you like.
Rough surface creates a lot of drag
Dramatic darkening with layering
Poor saturation point (feathers on the third layer)
Extremely easy blending (can overblend quickly and loose contrast)
Colorless Blender creates little to no effect
Overall Thoughts - The rough surface and the quick saturation make this a paper that I would not use with my Copics.
Smooth ink laydown
Noticeable darkening with layering
Great saturation point (feathers on the seventh layer)
Extremely easy blending (can overblend quickly and become mottled)
Colorless Blender creates crisp and bright effects
Overall Thoughts - I love the way the marker glides across the smooth surface and the blending is almost effortless. Great blender effects!
Overall Thoughts - Due to the quick saturation point of this paper, I would not use it with my Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - I like the feel of this paper with the markers, but the fact it saturates so quickly makes it one I wouldn’t use with Copics.
Similar to sketch and drawing papers, bristols are generally soft. The variation in surface treatment gives a number of options, so make sure to add them to your testing list.
Soft surface creates a slight drag
Noticeable darkening with layering
Okay saturation point (feathers on the fourth layer)
Extremely easy blending
Colorless Blender creates soft and light effects
Overall Thoughts - I like the blending ability of this paper, but the fact that it saturates pretty quickly makes it one I would not use with my Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - While this paper is a bit softer than I prefer, I love the blendability. I would recommend this paper with Copics with the note to be aware of saturation point.
Overall Thoughts - If this paper could hold more ink before feathering, I’d love it. The blendability is wonderful and the Colorless Blender effects are nice. This may be a good choice for someone who doesn’t use a lot of layers.
Overall Thoughts - This paper feels much softer and absorbs ink more quickly than the Strathmore smooth surface. The immediate blending makes controlling color placement difficult, so I would not use this paper with my Copic markers.
I knew going into this test that the mixed media papers probably wouldn’t be a favorite. They were made to handle a lot of different mediums and layers, so I wanted to add them to my test list anyway.
Overall Thoughts - This paper has a very low saturation point and the difficult blending make it a paper I would not use with my Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - While this paper gives easy blends, the very low saturation point makes it one I would not use with my Copic markers.
Marker papers are generally thinner, denser papers than sketch or bristols. Some marker papers have a right side and a wrong side. On these, the markers will react differently on each side.
Overall Thoughts - This is an excellent paper for use with Copic markers. Care needs to be taken when layering darker shades as the ink sits on the surface and may turn shiny or sticky.
Overall Thoughts - I love this paper! I am used to card weight, so this is much thinner, but it reacts much like the softer paper I’m used to. I love the blending and the unbelievable saturation point.
This category is a mix of marker-type papers and the heavier weight card-type papers.
Overall Thoughts - I like the saturation point of this paper and the final blending results. With effort, this paper works with Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - This is not a paper I would use due to my blending style, but if more traditional marker rendering techniques are used, this is an excellent paper to use with Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - With practice and patience, this paper can be used successfully with Copic markers.
Overall Thoughts - I love this paper! It’s heavy like a bristol, but smooth and tightly woven so the saturation level is higher. The ease of blending and Colorless Blender effects make this a paper that is top on my list.
Overall Thoughts - I would not use this paper to do my normal marker coloring. BUT, this surface can be used brilliantly with Copic markers and inks with a different approach.
Overall Thoughts - This is my number one paper! I love the blendability, the Colorless Blender effects and the high saturation point. (The super smooth surface is a plus too.)
Overall Thoughts - I would not use this paper to do my normal marker coloring. BUT, this surface can be used brilliantly with Copic inks for painting or directly out of the bottle.
Remember, these are results from my own testing, using my own inking and blending style. To find the papers that are best for you, I recommend that you do your own testing with a variety of papers and brands. I’m sure you will quickly find the ones that support your technique and style.