I like using magic markers for drawing. They’re fun for me because they offer instant color. With paint or watercolor I have to wait for them to dry so the color isn’t as instant. I still use paint but I’ve been using a lot of marker over the last six years. When I started using them the main challenge I had, besides figuring out a technique for them, was choosing which markers to use and then building a set of them.

The choosing was fairly painless but took some time. I started out buying some cheap markers and developing a finished art technique with them. First I bought many a Sharpie marker and ended up with about thirty different colors. I even bought a set of twenty Bic Mark-It markers that are Sharpie-like. Being that Sharpies and Bics are cheap I probably didn’t spend more than a dollar a marker on that set. Sharpies are limited though. The tips available and type of ink really doesn’t allow for a lot of different techniques. Though they gave me many ideas before I moved on to more expensive art markers.

The second method I tried for building a marker set was to go cheap and only buy one color. I had worked some stuff out with the Sharpies but still didn’t have a full grasp on a finished technique. What I mean by that is I had always used markers for color sketches and things like that but I had never used them as I would paint to make a finished piece of art. Markers were for working drawings and not the end piece of art. That is a totally different mindset. So I bought a bunch of blue ShinHan Touch markers that were on sale. I only spent about two bucks a piece on them. They had a chisel tip on one end and a fine, round tip on the other. I kept it monochromatic because I wanted to work on technique without worrying about getting the color right. It took a while and I ended up with about twenty different blue markers. That was still a pretty cheap set.

My next step was to get some color markers. I wasn’t 100% sold on the ShinHan Touch markers I was using but I ended up getting more of them because, once again, they were cheap. ShinHan was discontinuing this set of sixty markers and I got it for under a hundred dollars. It was a good buy and helped me nail down the finished technique I was looking for but I learned a lesson about marker sets. The lesson was that about a third of the colors in a pre-made set are ones I’ll never use. They’re just not the right colors for me. That’s a high rate of failure. I guess the same would apply for any set of colors but paint sets aren’t usually sold with that many colors in them.

After I finished figuring out my technique I went on to sample more types of markers. Sometimes I’d buy cheap sets of markers but soon found that was generally overkill. Since I was no longer concerned with technique I found the best way to sample markers was to buy four of them. Black, red, yellow, and blue were my choices. The primary colors and a black. The choices are pretty obvious. I even skipped the black every now and again because I normally use black ink with all my marker drawings.

After trying out lots of different brands I settled on the one that was generally considered the best. Copic markers. Copic Sketch Markers to be more specific. The sketch ones have a chisel tip on one side and a brush tip on the other. I almost alway use the brush side. I’m a brush guy and that works best with my technique. The second thing that sold me on the Copic markers is that they are refillable. You can buy ink for them and when the marker runs dry you can put more ink in them. But they’re not cheap. A marker is about seven dollars and the refill ink is about seven dollars. The ink refills the marker about ten times which brings the long term price of the marker way down but the upfront cost is still there. Plus with the Copics you can replace the marker tips too. The extend the life of them even more and keeps the cost down.

So how did I build my set of Copies? One piece at a time. Or maybe a few pieces at a time. It all depends on how much money you have but you can start with just three makers. Blue, red, and yellow just as I said before. Make them a medium blue, red, and yellow too. After that add one each of the secondary colors: green, purple, and orange. Don’t even buy any refills yet. Make sure you like the colors and they work for you and then buy the refills once you’re sure you like them. Purchase number three is skin tones. I’d go with four or them if possible. From pink to dark brown. That’s a good range.

So now you have ten markers and maybe ten refills. That’s about $150 worth of supplies but spread out over time it’s not so bad. Sometimes you can catch stuff on sale too. I’d spend about $20 at a time to get three markers and it took me a couple of years to build my whole set of about eighty markers. So be patient.

The next thing on my list is three shading markers. These are neutrals or light colors that I can use with most of the other colors. A light blue, a yellow ochre, and a light grayish purple. With these I can make all the other colors work a little bit better.

So there you go. Thirteen markers. If you got that far into building you marker set then maybe you really like them. If so add more markers over time. The best way to do that is with lighter and darker versions of the original colors you bought. A dark, medium, and light blue will serve a lot of you blue needs. Same with every other color. Goal number two is to turn one color into three colors. That takes some doing so buy one light blue, see if you like it, and then go buy a refill for it. Or maybe a couple of colors at a time and save the refills for next time. No need to rush.

After you have three versions of all six of your basic colors you’ll have about forty markers. That’s a pretty big set. After that you can try new markers out. There are lots of browns and earth colors to try, all sorts of greys, plus various one-off colors that don’t quite fit in but can be useful.

I’m going to leave you with this list of Copic markers. If you don’t like that brand then look for these colors in another brand. They work for me as a pretty good starter set.

Primary Colors:
Red – R29 Lipstick Red
Blue – B04 Tahitian Blue
Yellow – Y18 Lightning Yellow

Secondary Colors:
Green – G07 Nice Green
Purple – V17 Amethyst
Orange – YR68 Orange

Skin Tones
Skin 1 – E15 Dark Suntan
Skin 2 – E21 Baby Skin Pink
Skin 3 – E27 Africano
Skin 4 – E97 Deep Orange

Pale Blue – B91 Pale Greyish Blue
Grey Purple – V95 Light Grape
Yellow Ochre – Y28 Lionel Gold