Copic / Marker Coloring and Lining Tutorial




Introduction: Copic / Marker Coloring and Lining Tutorial

About: Hey there! I'm ZephyrAryn. I don't have much to say about myself other than the fact that I'm a nerd that does artsy things. I hope some of my dabbling can at least help a few people out.

Hello once again! This time I will be making a tutorial about marker art, specifically copics in my case, although the same principles will work with other marker brands as well. As a disclaimer before I begin, I will mention that this is how I do my coloring, and this method may or may not be for everyone. Feel free to branch out and try your own techniques as you get the hang of using them. I was also never taught how to use these, so I'm largely self-taught. I am also not a professional artist but rather a hobbyist and I do this sort of thing for fun. I know my art isn't the best but I'm not getting paid for my skills. Lastly, the image I am using for this tutorial was drawn for someone on another site that was looking for some character design help, and they gave specific examples of what sort of clothing they wanted their character to wear. Anywhoo, let's get on to the tutorial, shall we?

This tutorial is going to focus on coloring with markers as well as how to do the line-art to finish it off. (You didn't think I was going to leave you hanging now, did you?)

Things that you will need:

  • Markers! (...well duh...)
  • Sketching Paper
  • Printer with a Scanning Function (semi-optional, you'll find out why later)
  • Photo Editing Program (also semi-optional)
  • Cardstock Paper
  • Lining Pens
  • White Gel Pen
  • Patience
  • Artitude

Step 1: Draw Something!

In order to have a picture to color, you may need to draw something. If you don't feel like you can draw, find some nice lineart online and skip this step and print it onto a piece of cardstock. (Feel free to look at the next step even though you won't be following most of that either. It's mostly to see why I like to color with markers on cardstock as opposed to copy paper.)

If you do enjoy drawing, I would advise you to clean your sketch up a bit and erase as many of your guidelines and skeleton shapes as much as possible. Try to make the lines clear without too much scratching around them because you'll be inking on top of your sketch. If you prefer to clean your sketch on the computer and do lineart in an art program, that's fine too. In any case, you will need something to color, no matter the method!

Step 2: Make a Copy on Cardstock

First and foremost, modern technology is a blessing- and it's not cheating! It's a legitimate tool and it is there for you to use if you wish. (I won't force you.) If you are using a different method to get lineart worth coloring, you may want to know that I'm ultimately going through all this work just to get my sketch onto a piece of cardstock.

  • You will need to scan your sketch and get it uploaded to your computer.
  • Open your sketch in a photo editing or art program. In case you're wondering, I am using GIMP. It's a free program similar to Photoshop. If you would like me to elaborate further on how to actually use GIMP itself, please let me know! At the moment I'm just assuming you have some basic digital art knowledge because this tutorial will focus more on the marker coloring.
  • Do what you can to clean up your sketch. Play with the eraser tool, contrast, saturation and brightness until your paper is as white as it should be and your sketch is the desired darkness you're looking for. I tend to darken mine up a little bit just so I can see the printed pencil lines when I'm coloring with darker colors.
  • Print your cleaned lines onto a piece of cardstock.
    • Why cardstock?
      • It's thicker so it won't allow the marker to bleed as much as it will on a piece of copy or sketch paper.
    • Why bother printing what you already drew? Why not just draw your sketch on the cardstock?
      • Through trial and error, I have found that the particular markers I use will smudge pencil lines and have them bleed into what I'm coloring, and the same goes for pen. However, they don't react to printed lines at all so I can color freely without worrying about getting gray smudges mucking it up. As an added bonus, if I don't like the way I colored it I can always print out another copy and try again! Praise modern technology!
  • You should now have something to color on a piece of cardstock
  • This isn't really a step, but hopefully you have a decent printer that doesn't leave nasty ink marks on your paper like mine does. It makes me want to cry sometimes. (So does the fact that I can't get the bullet point after this one I'm writing right now to go away. Aren't you happy you didn't skip this step now?)

Step 3: Pick Colors and Lay Down Some Flats

I almost always start coloring my skin areas first. It's generally a good principle to start with the skin unless you have a dark-skinned character wearing very light-colored clothing. Ultimately you will want to color the lighter areas first before you do the darker colors because they will blend and bleed together a little bit and the darker colors will get pulled into the lighter color you're working with and end up in places you weren't intending for it to go. Eew.

  • If you are able, have a few shades of the color you want to use and figure out their light-to-dark order. Feel free to use a scratch piece of paper just to figure out what the colors look like. They will rarely look exactly like they do on the cap!
  • Start with the lightest marker and color all the parts that you want in that color. (Optionally, some people skip coloring the lightest parts with the most hard-light shine and leave the white of the paper exposed. I don't do this because it's not how I do things, but I'm just letting you know it's a legitimate method.)
  • Remember that the longer you leave your marker in contact with the paper, the darker it will get! If you look closely at the neck on the last picture, you can see where I let my marker sit on the paper as I took pictures. (oops) At least it's a great example of what can happen, so take it for what it's worth.
  • The larger the area you're filling, the more likely it is that you will leave streak marks showing the strokes from your marker. It's generally a good idea to color in the same direction in wide areas, but normally you can get away with coloring in whatever direction you want for smaller patches of color.
  • Do your best to stay within the lines! Some styles don't require you to keep within your lines and that's entirely up to you, but if you're religiously following this tutorial you will want to stay within the lines due to the fact that you'll be inking over this.

Step 4: Add Some Depth With Shading

It's time to begin shading and making flat colors look like they have some dimension to them. It's advisable to choose the direction and intensity of the light source in order to give your shadows some degree of credibility. Seeing as this was a frontal shot that is focused more on the character's clothing design, (or lack thereof, seeing as I still don't know what to think of it myself), I went with a simple light source from the front. If you have a good handle on lighting and want to challenge yourself more than this, by all means go ahead!

  • Take the next-darkest color and add your shading. As a general rule of thumb, things will be darkest when they have something overlapping or overhanging them.For example, your chin juts out over your neck. It will cast a shadow on your neck, and therefore that area will appear darker.
    • If you are having problems trying to visualize shadows, take a moment to look around you and observe the shadows. (Is it just me, or am I starting to send some yoga instructor vibes?) ...Ahem... Anyways, if you're still having trouble after this go online and look at stock images focused on showing shadows. The internet is a truly wonderful resource!
  • If you do not happen to have a darker marker in the desired color for shading, you can color over the shaded areas with the same marker that you used for the flat coloring. It won't be as dynamic, but sometimes you just don't have the color you want. (I know it sucks, but you can't always get what you want.)
  • Continue to shade all the colored areas.
  • Once you have finished shading, you may or may not want to take an even darker color and do extra shading in the darkest spots. This will really help you to add even more dimension to your art.

Step 5: Add Highlights - We're Talking Chiaroscuro Here, Not the Salon!

After attaining your desired shading, you're going to want to add some highlights. I didn't have you skipping patches of color in order to do this even though that's a legitimate method as well, but if you're still with me for some reason this is the point where you're going to want to use a white gel pen. I like the control it gives, and you can even blot some of it away with your finger directly after applying in order to tone down its harshness.

Step 6: Keep Repeating Steps 3-5

Keep coloring until you can't color anymore! Remember to keep up with shading and adding highlights to each different section of color, and add the colors in a light-to-dark fashion. (Notice how I did the lavender next after the skin, and then I moved onto light blue, then purple and brown.) Don't forget to shade a little on top of the eye just under the eyelid. Shade will gather in little spots like that too!

Once you're done with the coloring we can move on to the line-art, also known in some circles as "inking".

Step 7: Inking, Everyone's Favorite Part

(Okay, maybe I'm lying a little with that title...)

  • It's good to have a variety pack of inking pens. Honestly, they make the job a little easier when you're looking to add a little line variation.
  • I like to start by using a thicker outer line, and then I switch to a finer pen to outline the inner details.
  • If you look closely at the two head images, I drew over the lines with the pen and then I added slightly thicker pen lines in the corners where shade would gather. I also did a little black shading with the pen at the top of her neck, just under the chin.
    • Feel free to go hog-wild on black shading with the pen. Mine's a bit more on the conservative side, but if you're looking to imitate a different style of art they may do a lot of black shading. (For example, just look at typical comic book art. Don't be afraid to experiment, especially if you are working off a copy of the sketch and are able to make more copies.)
  • Continue to use the pens until you have finished inking.
  • If you have areas of color too dark for the black pen to really show off your lines, you may want to whip out that white gel pen again and draw some lines in white. Ultimately, use your own discretion.
  • Technically you're done now, (YAY!), but I'm adding a bonus step about uploading your marker art to the internet!

Step 8: Bonus Step! Get Your Art on the Internet!

First and foremost, I will advise caution about uploading your art to the internet. On the one hand you will be able to show your mad skills to more people than just your mom, but on the other hand art thieves do exist. You will want to sign and/or put a watermark on your work (as I have done) if this thought upsets you. Many an artist has had their art stolen and, without their consent, been sold by another party. This utterly saddens and sickens me, but by marking your work that makes it easier for you as the artist to take legal action against them. I won't walk you through that mess especially as I haven't had to resort to that seeing as no one really wants my crappy art when there is better art out there, but it's a precautionary method nonetheless.

  • Scan your newly-finished art and open up an art/photo editing program. You will notice that the image on your screen often looks washed-out in comparison with your hard copy.
  • Do everything within your power to make the colors on your screen match the physical copy of your artwork. I would suggest adjusting levels, saturation, contrast and sometimes the hue because that can change when you play with the light and dark values. Screaming and crying may be necessary for this step.
  • Compare your art with the art on your screen, and when you feel like it is finally worthy, double-check! Sometimes you may need to use the eraser tool in order to scrub off paper wrinkles or shadows that would distract from your white background. (If you colored the entire sheet of paper, you have less to worry about.)
  • Save the file when it finally meets your standards and upload it to your favorite image-sharing or image-storing site. You're ready to share some art!

Rainy Day Challenge

Participated in the
Rainy Day Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Lighting Challenge

      Lighting Challenge
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Puzzles Speed Challenge

      Puzzles Speed Challenge

    8 Discussions


    4 years ago



    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you very much!


    4 years ago

    I have a problem finding an outline pen that doesn't cause streaks when markers are applied. Like the nudge tool in photoshop, only in real life and very annoying. Any advise?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Well, like it shows in the tutorial, I color on a printed copy of my sketch because at least the markers that I use don't react to printed ink. Then I ink over the top of my coloring after it's done. If you still prefer inking and then coloring with your markers you could still probably ink as normal and then try printing it. Then color the printed copy.

    There might be a pen somewhere out there that will allow you to color over it with markers without smudging, but so far I haven't found one. I'm not made of money so I'm not about to run to the store and buy every single pen set I can find and then test them all! That's kind of silly. The Staedtler pen set that I have has also lasted a ridiculously long time so other than that set, I have only used a copic brand pen set.


    4 years ago

    Your artwork is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your tips on shading.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you very much! There's still room for improvement but there is no improvement without practice! I hope it was at least somewhat helpful.


    4 years ago

    I'm always so crappy at inking my work and I don't even know how to go about it. This helped a lot. Thanks! Cheers~


    Reply 4 years ago

    I'm glad to have helped at least a little bit! Happy arting!