How to Decipher Copic Ink Refills: A Post for Alcohol Ink Artists
Updated: Apr 20
Hey ladies and gents! I hope everyone is making it through their week and staying safe and healthy. I apologize; it has been a LONG time since I posted something. I’m hoping to get back to posting regularly and providing you all with some valuable information.
This week I’m focusing on Copic inks and deciphering their labeling. I get questions all of the time about Copic colors. Mostly “what color(s) did you use” or “which colors would be good colors to purchase.” I’ll be super honest, with all of you, I hardly ever remember what color(s) I use in my art pieces. My memory is garbage, and I often don’t write down what I use. I’m not one for art journals because most of my pieces happen based on what I’m feeling that day, so I don’t plan anything out in advance. My art is representative of my emotions, and I keep it very fluid and spontaneous.
The other reason I often don’t remember what I used in my artwork is I have amassed a lot of colors from various brands (Copic, TREX inks, Ranger inks, Brea Reese, and Spectrum Noir) so sometimes I don’t always know what color I used without looking at swatches. Even then, because I mix in so many colors, my swatches are not helpful. BUT I completely understand why people ask about the colors, especially Copic because Copic ink refills (previously Copic various refills) are an investment, and there are so many options that it can be challenging to decide which colors to purchase.
THAT is why I decided it might be helpful to know more about the Copic numbering system and how this numbering system helped me select which colors I wanted to purchase. Now some of the information I’ve included in this post may be repetitive. Similar information is all over the web, but I figured if you’re new to Copic, this resource might be helpful.
The best way to select Copic colors is by understanding how the color labeling system works. The Copic labeling system begins with a letter (except the Blacks), and the letter denotes the color family.
The Copic color families are:
BV = Blue-Violet
V = Violet
RV = Red-Violet
R = Red
YR = Yellow-Red (Orange)
Y = Yellow
YG = Yellow-Green
G = Green
BG = Blue-Green
B = Blue
E = Earth Colors
C = Cool Gray
N = Neutral Gray
T = Toner Gray
W = Warm Gray
F = Florescent
*Some colors do not fall into “family categories” Those include 100 Black, 110 Special Black, and 0 Colorless blender.
The letter in the Copic numbering system lets you know at a glance what color (hue) you’re going to get with the exception of the grey family and E.
E stands for earth colors, and there is quite a bit of variance. Below is an image with E04, E18, E40, and E93 to show some of the variance.
Now, let's chat about the number system Copic uses.
The first number after the letter tells you the saturation or color purity of the color.
The first numbers can range from 00 to 9, with 00 being a super clean color, and 9 being a “dirty” color containing more gray. Remember, this number indicates color purity and has nothing to do with how light or dark the color will be.
B0_ is 100% blue. B5_ is 50% gray, 50% blue. B9_ is 90% gray, 10% blue.
For example here is B00 Frost Blue, B52 Soft Greenish Blue, and B93 Light Crockery Blue
You can see in the photo above that the B00 Frost Blue is more vibrant and clean where as B99 Agate is dirty with lots of gray.
As the number moves up the scale from 0 to 9, the color gets grayer but not necessarily darker.
The second number tells you how light or dark the color in the marker is. This number can range anywhere from 00 to 9. with 00 being very light, slightly darker than the paper, and 9 being very dark, closer to black.
BV23 is lighter than BV25 which is lighter than BV29
If you want to look at colors before purchasing, a full chart of the colors is available on the Copic website https://copic.jp/en/color/. BUT be warned that the colors shown are what the colors look like from the marker, not from the refill.
I’ve noticed the lighter colors in various inks have a different texture, almost ‘gummy’ compared to some of the dirtier colors.
Also, some of the inks have more tonal variations with some of the inks. For example, BV29 will have blue and pink undertones that will bleed out when isopropyl alcohol is added to the ink.
Copic has discontinued the old bottling and released new bottles with a slight change to the name. The bottles are now 12 mL of alcohol dye ink and are labeled as Copic ink refills. Here's a link to the Copic website to learn more: https://copic.too.com/products/copic-ink
I really enjoy using colors that have more grey in them or some of the colors that are in the middle range, which tend to be really pure.
I use the darker 5-9’s as main colors and the lighter options 0-4’s as mixing colors.
If you have a tight budget and could only purchase a few colors, I would buy B99 Agate, RV99 Argyle Purple, C9 Cool Grey No. 9, E04 lipstick Natural, R43 Bougainvillaea, and 100 Black.
I hope this information is helpful and if you have anything to add, please let me know. I love learning and hearing about what others know about Copic inks!
Have a great week!