Mandala Experiments

What makes Copic different from, let’s say, Sharpie??

Oh I’m really not the person to ask, as I just bought some recently based on suggestions from forum members. I’d heard of them before, and based on the couple of quick/minor experiments that I’ve done with them, I’d agree that they’re of high quality. But I don’t have much info beyond that.

@cynd11, @cynzu, @jbv or @Kallisti have more experience with them, and may be able to give you more info :slight_smile:

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Copics are alcohol based, made in Japan, blendable, refillable, have replaceable nibs, and come in 358 different colors.
Sharpies are partially alcohol based, made in Mexico and Tennessee, are sort of blendable, not refillable, don’t have replaceable nibs, and come in 39 (?) colors.
Sharpies are cheaper, disposable, and can be branded with your company name.
Copics can be reused, and there is a snap-on air-brush system available.

I have piles of both. The sharpies get tossed into every tool bag, backpack, folding kit, etc.
The copics live in their case next to my work table.

I just ordered the copic airbrush attachment, so I can give my impression of it soonish, but @cynd11 has one and she says it works great.


It does, although I haven’t used it much. My husband stole my compresser to use for a different purpose. He did the same thing with my Genesis paper trimmer, so I bought him one of his own. I don’t have room for the compresser in my work room anyway.


How about a miniature compressor?


Uh… is that leather from cows?

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Cute! I guess you could wear it on your belt. A bit pricey though. Tiny things always cost more.

So I’ve been thinking a bit more on the copic/leather thing, and I still have some reservations as to their longevity with this medium. Don’t get me wrong - they’re definitely high quality markers - but I’m not convinced that they’re the right tool for this job. Hopefully the following photos will help to illustrate why that is.

So here’s a little scrap that I hit with three different types of color - alcohol dye (made for leather), alcohol ink, and copic marker:

From the top view, you can see that the two alcohol colors have deeper saturation, while the copic color is paler and more translucent (almost like watercolor). That’s not necessarily a bad thing - I’m pretty sure it’s the desired effect/style of copic color, and I do think it’s quite pretty - but the side views hint at a potential problem.

This is the alcohol dye (made specifically for leather), which I swiped on ever so lightly with a dauber. Note how the color seeps through the top layer of the leather, down about 1/2 way through the fiber:

The alcohol ink had similar results … though this ink is a lot more expensive than the leather dye, and it did not saturate quite as nicely:

The copic marker barely saturates. It sits on the top/surface layer, and does not penetrate down into the fibers at all. I retested this on another piece of leather, going over it multiple times with the marker, and had the same effect:

So over time as that piece of leather flexes and stretches, I suspect you’ll start to see holidays in the color. I also get the feeling that you’ll see a bit of fading with these. You might be able to minimize fading simply by sealing it well, but just based on experience (and many, many failures along the way) I think these colors will fade and/or skip over time. I could be wrong - and I sincerely hope that I am, because they’re beautiful colors - but I just don’t think they’re ideal for leather. I know some amazing leather crafters, and I’ll run it by them and see what they think. But the fact that I don’t see many established leather pros selling work done with these markers raises a red flag for me as far as long term durability.

YMMV. Perhaps they just haven’t been discovered by many old school leatherworkers yet. They may last beautifully - and depending on the project, it might not even matter. If it’s just an experiment or a one off gift for someone close to you (so you can touch up the color if it starts to fade) no biggie. I certainly had fun playing with them, and I do like the results … but personally my scrap experiments will sit in a sunny corner of my studio for some time before I consider selling leatherwork colored with these.


Thank you for doing this! It kinda confirms what I suspected. Copic markers were what I had on hand when I did my (one and only) leather piece, but if I were going to pursue more leather work I think I would want to use what was designed for that purpose. I think Copics are just not concentrated enough–they are designed to penetrate much thinner layers of substrate.


That’s my gut feeling as well. Just posted the question to some of my LW friends, to see if they have any input or experience. Will see what they come back with.

Your earrings were done on lightweight leather, correct? Like 1-2 oz? The copics might work better with that.


Yes, it was the thinnest Proofgrade.


Wow, that is not a subtle difference. I suppose you might want the other effect, and I suspect on really thin leather it wouldn’t make a difference, but wow.

Can you explain the difference is the dye vs. ink depths? The dye looks like a straight line while the ink seems to be variable? I’m sorta leaning towards dye if I need it…


I’m not sure. Though I’m wondering if the application method is a significant factor? The dye was applied via a dauber, so even with a very light/quick coat, there was enough to penetrate down into the fibers. Alcohol ink was applied via a fine dropper and the copics use a marker tip. Now I’m wondering if the copic air brush attachment would deliver enough of the ink to actually saturate past the grain layer? The marker is just sitting on that top layer, whereas the other two are sinking down into the split/corium.

^ That image comes from this site, which goes into more detail about the different layers.


I don’t want to pop your bubble but I don’t think the Copic airbrush attachment would get you deeper penetration of the layers. When used with paper it really results in less ink being used vs the transfer from contact with a wet marker tip.


@cynd11 and @Drea, maybe you guys could put together a leather working/coloring tutorial for us leather ignorant users? I engraved some leather, but that’s pretty basic stuff, after seeing the stuff coming out now, I realize I know absolutely nothing about leather, and even less for lasering and then post-processing leather…


It’s gonna have to be @drea I’m afraid. My leather experience is limited to that one pair of earrings I made (I think I got lucky that they turned out well). I do know a little bit about Copic markers though.

Oh, and don’t forget our other leather lady, @morganstanfield.


Let me think on this. I might be able to put something simple together … or at least find some good blogs/tutorials that cover the basics (why reinvent the wheel if it’s already out there?). Will give it some thought in the next few days.


Thanks @jbv and @cynd11, that give me an “excuse” to justify buying Copics :grin:

I did mine with a fridge compressor and a fire extinguisher as a tank. It’s pretty silent and hold way more than 100 psi (usually I paint just with 30 psi)

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Question about the results. Did the inks really soak in through the leather or simply overflow over the side and soak in the cut edge? You would have to slice the leather in an inked area to know for sure. I knelt bring this up because it happens to me when I paint or stain wood.


Can’t speak to the alcohol ink, but I know without question that the alcohol dye/leather dye definitely soaks down below the top grain.