How Long Do Copic Markers Last? 6 Factors To Consider

Copic markers can last anywhere from a few months (for heavy professional users) to 18 months for casual users.

Other things that can reduce or increase the marker’s duration are:

Copic Marker Capacity – Different types of Copic markers have varying ink capacities. For example, Copic Classic holds 2.5 ml, Sketch holds 1.8 ml, and Ciao holds 1.4 ml of ink.

Type of Paper – If the paper is not designed for markers, it may actually suck out more ink than needed, draining it faster.

Color and Area Coverage – The extent of color coverage and the specific colors used can impact how quickly the ink runs out. Large areas of color, especially with darker tones, will make the ink run out faster​.

Storage & Maintenance – Left unused with the cap properly on and stored as directed, Copic markers can last for years.

Frequency of Use – The ink might run out in a few weeks if used frequently, such as by professional artists (or kids going nuts). The markers can last much longer for casual or hobbyist users, even for several months to a year​.

I went through two boxes of expensive Copic markers over the past 12 months. The users were myself, and my two kids (3 year differences between the two). I found that there were 6 key factors that impacted the longevity of Copic markers.

6 Factors to Consider when Using Copic Markers

#1 Duration of Use Before Refilling:

  • Duration is influenced by a bunch of factors which determine how long the markers can be used before requiring a refill:
  • Frequency of Use:
    • Regular vs. Occasional Use: Professional artists or frequent users might find the need to refill their Copic markers every few weeks due to heavy usage. In contrast, hobbyists or occasional users might only need to refill their markers once or twice a year​​​​​​.
    • Type of Use: The way the markers are used also matters. For example, if an artist uses Copics primarily for sketching without blending, the ink lasts longer than if they frequently blend colors​​.

#2 Capacity Influences Longevity:

  • The longevity of Copic markers is really influenced by the ink capacity of some of the different types of markers in the Copic range. Each Coic type is designed with a specific audience and use case in mind, and this is reflected in their ink capacities. Here’s a breakdown of the different types and their ink capacities:
  • Copic Classic:
    • Ink Capacity: The Classic markers have an ink reservoir of approximately 2.5 ml.
    • Target Audience: These markers are often favored by professionals and those who require a broad range of colors.
    • Longevity: Due to their larger ink capacity, Classic markers tend to last longer before needing a refill compared to other types, making them suitable for extensive, regular use​​​​.
  • Copic Sketch:
    • Ink Capacity: Sketch markers hold about 1.8 ml of ink.
    • Features: They are known for their oval body and flexible brush tips on one end, making them popular for both professional artists and hobbyists.
    • Usage: While they have a slightly lower ink capacity than the Classic markers, their design is optimized for blending and versatile art applications. The Sketch markers strike a balance between capacity and functionality​​​​.
  • Copic Ciao:
    • Ink Capacity: Ciao markers have the smallest ink capacity among the three, holding about 1.4 ml of ink.
    • Design and Audience: These are designed as entry-level markers, more affordable and slightly smaller in size compared to Sketch markers.
    • Application: Given their smaller size and lower ink capacity, Ciao markers are ideal for beginners or those who do not require frequent, heavy usage. They are also a popular choice for those who want to try a wide range of colors without a significant investment​​​​.
  • Copic Wide:
    • Ink Capacity: The Copic Wide markers hold the most ink, around 3.57 ml.
    • Unique Feature: As the name suggests, these markers have a very wide tip, ideal for covering large areas quickly.
    • Specific Use: They are less commonly used for detailed work but are excellent for backgrounds or large color fields. Due to their high ink capacity, they are well-suited for projects that require broad strokes and extensive coverage​​.
  • Understanding the ink capacity of each type of Copic marker is important for artists and users to know so that they can pick the type best suited to their needs.
  • The capacity of each type of marker directly impacts how often the markers need to be refilled and can guide users in selecting the right type of Copic marker for their art style and frequency of use.

#3 Refilling and Cost:

  • The cost of refilling Copic markers varies depending on the type of marker and the cost of the ink refill. Here are the cost estimates for refilling each type of Copic marker, based on information from various sources [“]:
  • Copic Sketch Markers:
    • The cost for refilling a Copic Sketch marker is approximately $0.80 per refill​​.
    • This estimate is based on the ink volume and the average price of Copic ink refills.
  • Copic Ciao Markers:
    • Refilling a Copic Ciao marker costs about $0.70 per refill​​.
    • This calculation takes into account the smaller ink capacity of Ciao markers compared to Sketch markers.
  • Copic Classic Markers:
    • The cost for refilling a Copic Classic marker is estimated at around $1.10 per refill​​.
    • This higher cost is due to the larger ink capacity of Classic markers.
  • These cost estimates are derived from the ink capacity of each marker type and the average price of Copic ink refills.
  • It’s important to note that prices may vary based on the retailer and geographic location. Buying ink in larger quantities or in sets might offer some cost savings compared to individual purchases.
  • The cost-effectiveness of refilling markers, as opposed to buying new ones, is a significant consideration for many artists, especially those who use their markers frequently.
  • Refilling reduces the cost per use and is more environmentally friendly than purchasing new markers each time.

#4 Drying Out Without Use:

  • Copic markers do not dry out without use, assuming they are capped correctly, as the cap is airtight.

#5 Reviving Dry Markers:

  • Reviving Copic markers that have dried out or are running low on ink can be done with one or more of the following steps:
  • Using Copic Ink Refills:
    • Identify the Needed Ink: Make sure you have the correct color refill for your Copic marker as not all Copic types have the same ink.
    • Refill Process: To refill, remove the marker’s nib using tweezers or small pliars. Then, slowly add ink directly into the marker body. Be careful not to overfill; usually, a few drops are sufficient. Replace the nib after refilling.
    • Allowing Ink to Absorb: After refilling, give the marker some time to allow the ink to be absorbed evenly. This might take a few minutes. You can gently shake the marker to help distribute the ink.
  • Reviving with Alcohol for Temporary Fix:
    • Method: If you don’t have a refill handy, you can use rubbing alcohol as a temporary solution. Place a few drops of alcohol on the marker’s tip and wait for 10-15 seconds. This can help to dissolve any dried ink and improve ink flow temporarily​​.
    • Cautions: This method is more of a short-term fix and might slightly dilute the color of the ink. It’s not recommended as a permanent solution.
    • Desperation Hack: I have been known to use methylated spirits in small quantities when I have not been able to get hold of alcohol. Just a few drops down the nib does the short term trick.
  • Replacing the Nib:
    • Worn or Damaged Nibs: Sometimes, the issue might be with the nib itself, especially if it’s frayed or damaged. In such cases, replacing the nib can restore the marker’s performance.
    • Replacement Process: Copic nibs are replaceable, and you can purchase them separately. To replace, simply pull out the old nib and insert a new one.
  • Proper Storage:
    • Preventive Care: To reduce the chances of markers drying out, always store them horizontally and ensure the caps are securely fastened after use. This maintains an even distribution of ink and prevents drying out​​​​.
  • Regular Usage:
    • Keep Them Active: Regular use of the markers can also prevent them from drying out. If you have a large set of markers, try to rotate their usage to keep the ink flowing.
  • It’s important to note that while these methods can extend the life of your markers, they may not be as effective if the markers have been left to dry out for an extended period. Regular maintenance and timely refills are the best ways to ensure the longevity of your Copic markers.

#6 UV Sensitivity, Storage and Temperatures:

  • UV rays and other environmental factors can significantly impact the longevity and performance of Copic markers. Understanding these factors is important for maintaining the quality and lifespan of the markers:
  • UV Light Exposure:
    • Fading: UV rays, whether from sunlight or fluorescent light, can cause the dye-based inks in Copic markers to fade. This fading can occur both in the artwork created with the markers and potentially in the ink within the markers if they are stored in an area with strong UV exposure.
    • Preventive Measures: Storing markers away from direct sunlight and using UV-blocking storage containers can help mitigate this issue.
  • Temperature Effects:
    • Heat: Storing Copic markers in hot environments can lead to the evaporation of the alcohol solvent in the ink, which can cause the markers to dry out faster. Additionally, high temperatures can damage the plastic components of the markers, affecting their structural integrity.
    • Cold: Extremely cold temperatures can also be detrimental. While they won’t cause the ink to dry out, cold can affect the ink’s consistency and flow.
  • Humidity and Dry Environments:
    • High Humidity: In very humid conditions, moisture can affect the paper used with the markers, altering the way the ink behaves and is absorbed. Also, excessive humidity can promote the growth of mold and mildew, which might affect storage cases and potentially the markers themselves.
    • Dry Conditions: Very dry environments might hasten the evaporation of the alcohol in the ink, especially if the markers aren’t capped tightly.
  • Air Exposure:
    • Cap Security: One of the most common reasons for the markers drying out is prolonged exposure to air. This usually happens if the caps are not securely placed after use. The airtight seal of a properly closed cap is crucial for preventing the alcohol-based ink from evaporating​​​​.
  • Storage Orientation:
    • Horizontal Storage: Copic markers are best stored horizontally. This storage orientation helps in maintaining an even saturation of ink throughout the nibs, ensuring consistent ink flow and preventing one end from drying out.
  • Remember:
    • The best environment for storing Copic markers is in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and UV exposure.
    • Ensuring markers are capped securely and stored horizontally will also help preserve their longevity and performance.
    • Proper storage and care are essential for getting the most out of these markers and for ensuring that the artwork created with them remains vibrant over time.

Now if you wanted to not only know how long a physical Copic marker lasts but also want to know how long does work produced by Copics last then keep reading!

How long does work produced by Copic Markers last?

The rule of thumb is, if you store artwork made with Copic markers in the right environment, away from direct sunlight and framed behind UV-protected glass, then your artwork made with Copic markers should last a few decades.

Remember, marker ink is not designed to last an eternity no matter what anyone says.

But let’s have a look at what Copic says on its website.

Copic reminds users that the work created by dye markers are not as long-lasting (archival) as that produced by pigment-based markers.

Dyes are susceptible to ultraviolet rays. Copic inks are a dye, and Copic images WILL fade under both direct sunlight and fluorescent light.

Sealing it with a UV blocking seal may help.

Other experienced of users have confirmed this, and all agree that over time a Copic Marker produced image will fade just as all other alcohol-based markers will also fade.

If you are looking to produce works of art to last for centuries, then Markers are not the medium to use. It is not what they were designed for.

Markers were created for short-term projects

The first users of Markers were graphic designers and creators of manga comics.

They cared very little about whether the drawings produced would last for any length of time.

It is only later that artists started using them and then complaining because they faded.

Copic and its core users do not care too much about this issue.

There are two types of artists, those who understand the media, who use Copic Markers for the purpose for which they were created.

The others are those who do not understand the media.

Markers were never intended for the final artwork, the kind of artwork you frame and keep.

Markers were created as a design tool. If we think about the design process in these various fields, we can see why it does not matter if Copic fades or not.

Architects

Architects are one of the biggest groups of users of Copic markers
Architect – Photo by Daniel McCullough (Unsplash.com)

Architects may use markers to illustrate how a project might look from street level.

They show those illustrations to the client who approves the plan, and the pictures no longer have a function.

Landscape Gardeners

The landscape gardener will use Copic Markers to show the layout of a project, and just like the architect, the project is approved, and the pictures no longer matter.

The Fashion Designer

Fashion Designer Sketch - Photo by Charlota Blunarova (unsplash.com)
Fashion Designer Sketch – Photo by Charlota Blunarova (unsplash.com)

The fashion designer will make drawings to show how the garments are constructed.

Once the designer has the approval of the manufacturer, then the images are no longer needed.

The Art Director

The Art Director in an advertising agency will plan an advertising campaign, then based on those plans, the illustrator will use Copic Markers to draw images of how the campaign will look.

Once the client of the agency approves, then these images no longer have a purpose.

Do you see what I am saying?

These professionals were the target market for the Copic Markers.

None of them had any expectation that somebody would be hanging their sketches on a wall in five years.

These were temporary images with limited usefulness.

This short term purpose is why Copic Markers do not need to be long-lasting.

Manga Comics

Manga comics - Photo by Miika Laaksonen (Unsplash.com)
Manga comics – Photo by Miika Laaksonen (Unsplash.com)

The other users of Copic Markers were originally manga comic artists.

They drew images that were copied and reproduced.

Other than perhaps as an object of interest to collectors, the original drawings had no further part to play in the process.

Then, Artists Adopted Markers

Later on, artists realized how useful markers could be, and artists like Charles Dana Gibson, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish began to create original artworks using markers.

But they did not sell the original, they used high-end copying equipment to reproduce those images, and they made limited editions of prints, keeping one copy of the print run as a master copy.

His master copy would last much longer than the original piece done in markers.

Unfortunately, some artists missed the point and started to produce frameable work produced in markers and then were unhappy because they faded.

Just as an Ice sculpture may produce wonderfully original work, he does not expect that the original will still be around for long.

High-quality photographs may represent the work, but the original will have melted at some stage.

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