I received the question via email “How long do Copic Markers last?”.
Which got me thinking, how do I answer this question? Does the questioner mean “for how long can a Copic Marker be used?” or does the questioner want to know, “how long does work produced by Copic Markers last?”
They are both very good questions, so I thought I would attempt to answer both.
For how long can a Copic Marker be used?
This question is an interesting one which I suspect has, at its heart, a query related to the value of Copic Markers.
Will the user get a lot of use out of this “expensive marker?”
To answer this question at its simplest level, I would have to say, “it depends on how much you use the product.”
Some people are using these markers every day in their professional work. Others may use Copic as a hobby and use them far less.
The next factor to consider when answering this question is
“What type of paper is the user drawing on?”
If the artist is using paper which is thicker and softer, then this paper will suck up the ink at a much faster rate than if the artist is using a quality, Bond Paper.
Another consideration is the style of the artist. Some people colour large areas of the page, with layer upon layer of marker ink applied.
Others may use a black pen and then apply lighter shades of ink over the top with a plain background.
The hidden question – How much use will I get per dollar?
I suspect that anyone who asks how long a Copic Marker will last in the context of how much use they will get from the pen is in-reality thinking about value.
So, I am going to explore how much use you will get per dollar.
In doing this, I also hope to explode the myth that Copic Markers are expensive as a bonus extra.
For this exercise, I am going to look at Copic Sketch, Winsor & Newton Brush Marker, and Spectrum Noir Markers.
These are three of the top five markers available today.
I am using prices shown on the dickblick.com website (a leading artist supply store) and the prices may vary over time but the value proposition will remain the same no matter how much the price will change over time.
The individual prices of these three markers is:
1. Copic Sketch (single) circa $5.85 each
2. Winsor & Newton Brush Marker (single) circa $5.24 each
3. Spectrum Noir Marker (set of six $9.70) circa $1.61 each
I have shown the Spectrum Noir six-pack as they are not available individually.
If we look at the prices shown above, it is fairly clear that the Copic Sketch Marker is by far the most expensive option.
But wait, both Copic and Spectrum Noir can be refilled. This facility is not possible with Winsor & Newton.
So with Winsor & Newton, you have to buy a new marker every time it runs out.
But I want to consider the long term price of using these markers so we will take a look at the refills as well.
The cost of refills is as follows:
Copic Sketch Ink Refill $6.75 (refills nine times) – Cost per refill = $0.66
Spectrum Noir Ink Refill $7.95 (refills twelve times) – Cost per refill $0.66
From this, we can calculate the price of ten full markers:
Copic Sketch ($5.95 + 9 refills) = $12.60
Winsor & Newton (ten markers) = $52.49
Spectrum Noir ($1,61 + 9 refills) = $7.55
We can see from this that a refillable marker has a far lower long term cost than a disposable marker (and is also environmentally better).
We also note that Spectrum Noir works out much cheaper than Copic.
Looking at most reviews that compare these two markers, Copic Sketch, and Spectrum Noir, the Copic invariably comes out as the superior marker.
This quality is why most professionals would use Copic rather than Spectrum Noir, despite the price difference.
I guess whether you buy Copic or Spectrum Noir depends on your need for quality, and your budget.
But one thing is absolutely clear, and that is that refillable markers work out far cheaper in the long run for professionals then disposable ones.
But How much coverage does one marker provide?
I searched around to find some destruction tests where markers were used until they were absolutely empty.
The average number of pages for all the markers was about six pages of usable quality.
That was covering a sheet of A4 paper completely.
I saw tests for Copic and two other brands, and there was no real difference in coverage.
It is hardly scientific because the tester was a lot harder on some markers than others, and quality was not as good on some.
In terms of pages good enough to use, I would say that six pages were the maximum.
The test did go on to nine pages, but the quality could not be used, so that was quite pointless.
A Copic Marker will FULLY cover about 2.1 pages of A4 paper. That works out at 60 cents per full A4 page!
How long does work produced by Copic Markers last?
We are moving on now to the second interpretation of the question. In this question, we are looking at how long work will last once it is created with a Copic Marker?
We will start by looking 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 originally 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 may use markers to produce illustrations of how a project might look from street level.
They shows those illustrations to the client who approves the plan, and the pictures no longer have a function.
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
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.
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.
So if you are asking “How long do Copic Markers last?” and are thinking about work produced by the markers, then really you should ask yourself if you are asking the right question to begin with.Please note, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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Joseph Colella is a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While he holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent style he spent years trying to get into various Art degrees from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), and failed to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. In his spare time, he writes for the this blog, WastedTalentInc, where he shares practical advice on art, making art, and art materials. Joseph’s art has been sold to collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art and copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
He also loves all things watches (ok it’s an addiction) so show him some love and visit his other website https://expertdivewatch.com