Selecting The Best Copic Alternatives Can Be Tough! But…Read On To Save Time and Money!
Everyone loves Copic Markers! They are remarkably innovative and have features that up until now were unique to their brand. The price for those features is often too high for many people to enjoy on a large scale.
Here at VeryCreate, I love to show you the best Copic alternatives that might be great options for your preferences or needs.
If you don’t need replaceable nibs, brush tips or refillable barrels, please see my detailed breakdown and review of my favorite alcohol-based markers.
If you are in a hurry, here are my top recommendations for the Best Copic Alternatives:
- Spectrum Noir Illustrator <<Best Quality, Best Versatility
- Art-N-Fly <<Best Budget Alternative
- Kurecolor Twin
- Ohuhu set of 48 <<Best For Recreational Coloring and Crafting
- Dick Blick Studio Markers<<Best Mid Range Price
- Studio 71 by Darice
- Prismacolor Premier Brush
- Arteza Dual Tip Twi-Markers
- Touch Twin
- Winsor and Newton Promarker
Let’s identify what features are so particular to the Copic Brush Markers brand and that are essential for your needs. They are:
- Refillable – which ultimately can result in great cost savings overall, as you buy your pen barrel once, then refill your most frequently used inks over and over
- Replaceable nibs – much cheaper to change out the shape of your nibs or replace old ones as they wear down than to purchase an entirely new pen
- Brush tips for ease of painting, blending and versatility – once you use a brush tip, you will be sold on how it opens doors to great techniques and features
- Blendable– Copics inks layer and flow beautifully -with no granulation.
My goal at VeryCreate is to hunt down alcohol brush pens that fit some or all of those categories and hopefully are more budget-friendly. For this article, because a big part of what sets Copics apart is their wonderful brush nibs, I will only review alcohol markers with brush nibs and reputable manufacturers who specify their products are alcohol based.
Insider Tips When Looking for Copic Alternatives:
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself if you are uncertain of many varieties of features and how they are used:
- Do you want to paint or do calligraphy? Then you need a long, flexible (but not too flexible) brush nib.
- Do you want easier blendability? Then great ink quality will be a top priority.
- Do you want a fine tip option for coloring in very tiny spots? Then you need a super fine point nib that is almost like a gel pen in size.
- Do you want stripes or swaths of color? Then you might enjoy a chisel nib on the opposite end of the pen.
- Do you have one or two colors that you use so often that you need to purchase them often? Then you will love refillable barrels.
- Do you wear down the nibs of the pens before they dry out? Replaceable nibs will solve that problem.
- Do you want to use your brush pens mostly for coloring? Then bleedthrough issues will be a top priority.
- Each brand’s brush nib will vary from very soft (similar to a paintbrush), to hard with sometimes only the very tip of the brush being flexible.
- Do you want one pen, with one color, but hope for three or four different nibs to change out without having to purchase three or four different pens?
- If you enjoy very pastel colors, you will need a set of pens with the lightest shades you can purchase, as alcohol markers lay down vibrant and often very dark colors.
- Do you bullet journal or mark books? Pastel alcohol markers will be needed so that there are minimal bleedthrough and no buckling of the paper. The pages of most bibles are too thin to successfully use markers. (Try soft colored pencils instead or a thin wax-based colored pencil made specifically for marking scriptures)
- Since alcohol brush markers are all alcohol-based, if you select a brand that is capable of replacing the nibs, there is nothing to stop you from purchasing a refill bottle of a competitor’s brand from the most expensive brands and refilling your empty brushes with that!
The Best Copic Alternatives
Check out my test results at the end of this article to see what I discovered when I put five of my recommendations to the test! I was quite surprised by the results! Hopefully, I can save you some time and money by doing the leg work for you!
There are three categories: 1. Refillable with replaceable nibs 2. Replaceable nibs and 3. Not refillable and not replaceable nibs.
Copic Alternatives with Refillable and Replaceable Nibs:
Some of the brands in this category sell their inks for individual refilling, but all the pens in this category ARE refillable. If refilling is important to you, it is possible to purchase a comparable color of ink from Copic or Zig brand online and refill your pens in this category with those inks.
Spectrum Noir Illustrator – My Number One Recommendation For Copic Alternatives
Spectrum Noir Illustrator outperformed almost all the brush pens I tested. The lay-down of ink was smooth and flawless. There was no granulation in any test on any paper! I loved the flexible brush and how it felt so painterly when I applied the colors.
The feather blending was by far the best in my tests. I loved everything about these pens except the color choices. They only come in prepackaged sets of six or twelve, so you have to select what you are hoping you will need, instead of sampling from a larger set.
These pens are from a company in England and their tutorials and selection of all kinds of markers are out of this world. I especiall love the variety of pastel shades as most alcohol markers are super garish.
Multiple tips are available, as well as multiple lines within the brand for every need. Individual bottles of ink for refilling are also available! Here is a video review and demo:
Kurecolor pens are manufactured by Zig in Japan. The company was established in 1902 and has a stellar reputation for making quality products.
These pens do not come with a brush tip, but brush nibs can be purchased separately from the company, as well as other tip styles for great versatility, so we included these in our tests.
We were impressed with Kurecolor, but the price point is still quite high. The fact that they are refillable with so many brush tip options to purchase separately is what sets them next to Copic. They sell their inks for refilling individually, but they are somewhat difficult to find.
Expensive – used by illustrators and professionals for daily use. These pens hit all the best points of Copic, but frankly, the price point is the same, if not higher, so for our purposes, we’re not going to recommend them as a substitute for Copic. However, if price point is not a factor, these are superb markers and definitely worth your consideration! Brush nib on one end and chisel on the other. A beautifully made storage box keeps the pens upright. Sets of 24, 36, and 48. Replacement inks are difficult to find online.
Art-N-Fly – Our Best Recommendation For A Lower Price Point
A great budget option! The price point of Art-N-Fly is one third the price of Copics! It will be a great substitute for the high-end brands if you don’t intend to do a lot of two-color blending. Once the markers did multiple or heavy layers or two-color blends with multiple passes of color, our tests showed the pigments start to granulate. If you are able to get the color saturation you want with three or fewer passes of color, then these are a great buy! They come in a sturdy box that stores them upright. They are clearly numbered and labeled for easy identification. The brush nib is long and flexible for a painterly application that is smooth and responsive. They sell their own ink for individual refilling as well.
Here is a video demon of Art-N-Fly markers:
Here is a how-to video demonstrating how to replace a felt nib in the Art-N-Fly pens and refill the barrel with their alcohol inks.
Copic Alternatives with Replaceable Nibs, But Not Refillable With Their Ink
Brands in this category do not sell their inks for individual refilling, but if refilling is important to you, it is possible to purchase a comparable color of superior quality ink from Copic or Zig brand online and refill your pens in this category with those inks. For example here are Copic Inks:
>Check Price On Amazon<<
and here is Spectrum Noir Inks
Ohuhu – Our Number One Pick For Recreational Coloring
The selection of colors is very good, however, we found the absence of very light colors disappointing. (With alcohol markers, you often need more than one layer to get the coverage needed or to make it look smooth, and with each additional pass of color, it gets darker and darker. So, if you want a very pale skin tone or sky color, you must start with a very, very pale color to begin with).
We also love that the pens are individually numbered.
The combination of the superfine point on one end and a chisle on the other end is a nice combination. These pens would be ideal for coloring unless you want lots of pastel shades.
There was very little to no bleed through on bristol or marker paper, so these would be ideal brush pens for coloring books with heavier paper. Make sure you do a test page before using though, each coloring book has different papers that react to markers in their own unique way.
Copic Alternatives That Are Not Refillable, Nibs Not Replaceable
These markers are manufactured to be disposed of once the ink is dry in the barrel, like a ballpoint pen. Sometimes, if the product has sat on a shelf in a warehouse or in a retail store some of the pens can arrive with very little ink. Hopefully, the price point reflects the temporary nature of the pens, but shockingly, that isn’t always the case.
If you are gifting for a child, then this is a great category! Can you imagine the mess potential trying to teach a child how to refill ink chambers? Or swap out nibs? Bwahaha, not in my house!
If you are a casual user of brush pens, then this is also a great category. Why invest in refillable or replaceable nibs or industry excellent inks? There are some really fun and outstanding options here!
Blick Studio Alcohol Markers -Best Mid Price Choice
For a much cheaper price, these markers by the art supply company, Dick Blick are a great alternative! We love that you can replace 95 individual colors or buy them in sets. The Studio Markers are nip, chisel or brush end! Highly rated by users. Each marker is numbered.
Owners rave about these markers. Comes in 48 colors or smaller sets. If you don’t need an ultra-fine point nib, this chisel end set might fight the bill for you. Each end cap is numbered and sets come in units of 6 to 48. The brush end is quite stiff.
Le Plume manufactures several sets of brush pens, but most are waterbased, not alcohol. This set is alcohol-based. It appears that only 24 colors are available in this line.
Great tip to tip two-color blending! In our tests these pens accomplished this technique the best! Very little to no bleedthrough on Bristol or Marker paper, which was a total surprise.
One would think that the superior quality ink brands would have the best bleedthrough, but that is not the case according to our tests. There is a good ultra fine-point tip on one end for tiny detail work and a small semi-flexible brush on the other end. This set would be great for smaller coloring areas, not for big swaths of coloring.
Our tests showed the inks did not blend unless using the tip to tip method. The inks had granulation on marker paper and on bristol and tended to dissolve the paper when stroked more than three times on the same spot. Yikes!!
However, this would be a great set for basic coloring as the color options in the 100 set are wonderful. The pens are very slender, like a pencil in diameter and have clear cap ends.
Each pen is color named and numbered for easy identification. The box is not durable and the plastic trays are very flimsy, but we compensated for that by just drawing each tray out of the box about one-third of the way to take out and reload the pens, and it worked fine.
Good zip-up carrying case included. Barrels are large and the caps can be difficult to take off. The pens are a brush on one end and short nib on the other, no chisel. The round barrel will not roll on the table because of the shape of the caps. However, many owners report that the caps are so very difficult to remove that they can’t get them off.
Each pen color is individually numbered and named. Some owners say that they do not blend as well as other brands. For the price point, you may find that the above options of being refillable and having replaceable nibs to be more cost-effective.
Soft brush and chisel ended markers. Up to 48 vibrant colors available, but very little to no pastel light colors. Customers report difficulty in removing the caps. Sturdy box for storage that keeps the brush pens upright.
Flexible fiber brush on one end and a medium sized chisel nib on the other. Individual colors are available. Some users report that they dry out too quickly in the barrel.
Great quality ink that performs with the best on the market and they blend easily. If these had refillable ink and replaceable nibs they would be our number two recommendation. Alas, these are not options. Very pale colors are limited. Some sets come with a great carrying case. Soft brush on one end and chisel on the other end. Barrels are round and will roll easily on a table surface. Individual colors are available at Dick Blick.
Copic Alternatives Sample 1
We were pretty surprised at the results of testing our Copic alternatives brush markers on paper created specifically for markers. All of the markers did not perform as well as they did on Strathmore Bristol paper 100 LB weight!
All of the markers except Spectrum Noir Illustrator granulated like crazy. Arteza and Ohuhu actually dissolved the binder in the paper and started to lift up wads of paper fiber! However, the Arteza and Ohuhu markers did not bleed through to the back of the paper. These would be ideal for coloring in a sturdy coloring book with heavier weight paper.
The results were so odd that we switched our tests 2 and 3 to just Strathmore Bristol paper. Also, we used similar blues in each set, but we didn’t have the exact same hue of blue, so please keep that in mind and judge each brand by their ink, not the color hue.
Copic Alternatives Sample 2
The Spectrum Noir Illustrator pens and the Kurecolor Twin performed wonderfully on bristol paper with Art-N-Fly coming in a close second. They blended well, layered flawlessly and had no granulation until they were blended over and over (six or more layers). Then the Spectrum Noir Illustrator set themselves apart with excellence.
The Arteza and Ohuhu brush pens did not blend at all, and they also had granulation issues.
Copic Alternatives Sample 3
For the tip to tip blending test, we stroked one swipe of the blue hue and one swipe of the minty green hue side by side, then we loaded the blue hue onto the brush tip of the green pen and did one stripe swatch. The Specturm Noir Illustrator or the Kurecolor didn’t perform this test well. However, the feather blending was such a great success that you probably wouldn’t need to use
the tip to tip application method at all.
Feather blending was a disaster with the Arteza and Ohuhu brands. These two brands shine the best in one color coloring and artwork, and they are a great price point. Good to know!
Tip to tip and feather blending techniques on Bristol 100 LB paper feather blending is a technique for blending two colors with alcohol markers. It only works well with alcohol brush markers.
There you have it, multiple choices, multiple price points and options to choose from! I hope you find your perfect Copic alternative and have many happy hours creating!
Have You Looked Into Watercolor Brush Pens?
If you are not familiar with watercolor brush pens, please check out my review of the best watercolor brush pens and several of my tutorials about how to use watercolor brush pens and an article about using watercolor brush pens.
I just love using watercolor brush pens, and for the money, they are much more versatile than alcohol markers. They are not refillable, however! And the brush ends are not replaceable.
If you think you’d like to try doing some landscape painting with your markers, you might enjoy giving watercolor brush markers a try. But DO use real watercolor paper for the best results!