I have a different type of post for you today. Colouring is all the rage so a comparison was in order. Copic vs watercolour vs 2 brands of pencils using the same peony image; Blooming Bunch by Studio Katia.
Here are all three version together. I tried to use similar colours but I did white emboss the watercolour version, gold embossed (after colouring) the pencil image with simple black stamping for the Copic flowers. This image is so intricate and detailed that no-line colouring would have been quite tricky given the size of the image. It was also quite tricky to edit this photo with the varying contrast! So for each colouring method below I’ll give you the pros and cons plus my overall impressions for my own colouring and skill level.
First up is the soft watercolour. This one is deliberately quite different than the others as I didn’t want to stay within the lines, define one petal from the next (except for the largest ones) or create realistic shadowing.
Pros: This is really fun! No stress, just paint mixing and slightly messily add the colour. Beginners can have a fun look quickly. Mid-priced paints, brushes and paper are easily available and work very well. There is something about painting that takes you back to being a kid in the best way possible! Results can vary from rustic to sophisticated to playful with not too much effort. Portable. They are simple enough to set up and if you know colour mixing, you can travel with a very small number of colours in a travel palette.
Cons: Not usually a realistic or smooth style unless you are pretty experienced. If that’s the look you desire, this may not be your best medium. Mixing colours can be intimidating for someone who isn’t used to it. If you have full-set syndrome or always like to buy artist quality, you could be set back quite a bit of moo-lah! Can look very flat if you simply paint in an area without any shading.
My Take: this was the easiest, least time consuming and most fun. I will definitely approach this type of image using watercolour over and over.
The second version uses Copic markers. I used the flicking technique which you can do doubt see in some places as I’ve been working on achieving contrast more so than perfect smooth blends.
Pros: This was the most realistic to my eye. From a distance, the shadows look the most realistic. I love having a ton of colours to choose from without having to mix. That being said, I did blend the flower on the right. I wanted a peachy-corally pink and Copic seems to skip from very orangey pinks to purpley pinks with only the dusty rose shades of R80s in between!
Cons: If a colour you want isn’t there you can’t just mix it on a palette. You can make your own marker, use glazing (working in layers, that’s what I did here), or blend on a palette and pick it up with one of your markers. The super smooth blending we all try so hard to achieve isn’t the most realistic for organic subjects. I especially noticed this in the top left flower. Full set syndrome costs a pretty penny!! To me, these are only semi-portable. I always need a lot of markers so they aren’t ideal. But many people travel with a case for their markers so it can be done.
My Take: I’m a pretty experienced Copic colourist so these feel at home in my hands. But I don’t think they are the best medium for organic shapes for me. Even with the flicks I didn’t blend, it still feels too perfect. I may experiment with adding some coloured pencil especially to the shadowed areas of the top left flower.
Last but certainly not least are the coloured pencils or pencil crayons (Can/UK). These took the longest for me for sure. Double the 60 min I spent Copic colouring and quadruple the 30 min I spent on the watercoloured version, yep, 2 whole hours!! I stamped this on in kraft and worked on it before re-stamping in Versamark and embossing in gold when I was done. I did this to prevent the pencil from chipping the embossing which has happened to me before.
Pros: Mid-priced pencils are very cheap. They work on almost any paper and can be used on dark or mid-tone papers too! Even expensive pencils are still less than $2 each which laughs in the face of the $8-10 Copic Sketch marker and $15-25 Daniel Smith watercolour tubes. (approximate and in CAN $) Pencils give you instant texture even if all you do is apply a single colour to an area. They are very portable with most sets coming in a reusable package or tin.
Cons: These take time to apply! Definitely the longest of the three mediums. You may or may not like the texture achieved by these. I prefer to blend them with either my lightest colour or a white, ivory or pale grey. You can also use a blender pencil. This is an extra step I’d rather not take. (It is possible I’d be happier with a smoother paper. I’m still experimenting.) Even with full sets, you may feel like you are missing some colours you’d like especially if you are used to the infinite colours of watercolour or a huge collection of Copics. With watercolours, there are many premium brands which are fairly easy to find so any are a good choice. There is really only one brand of premium alcohol markers. Deciding which pencils to buy is a bit harder. Different brands are more a matter of taste than anything else so someone moving from mid-priced to premium might have a hard time deciding which will best suit them.
My Take: I might have spent more time getting greater depth in the shadows but my hand and wrist had enough! This will definitely NOT be my go-to for quick cards unless the colouring portion is minimal but I will use it a lot for textured images like critters, tree back, dirt, rocks etc. I’m trying to get used to the pencil texture as I’m more used to the smoothness with Copics and watercolour as I use them far more often. Can you guess which is Polychromos and which is Prismacolour? First I’ll tell you why I used both. I struggled to get three distinct pink shades just like I did with the Copics. So after colouring two flowers, the two lower ones, I switched from Poly to Prisma. I still ended up with a shade that was close to the lower left flower but just different enough. Adding the little yellow flicks to some petals helped sell it as a different variety of peony.
I love all three of these in the end and I fully intend to use all 3! By doing this experiment and even writing this post out for all of you, I have kind of sorted out which to use and when. I’d never pick crayons or watercolour for a metallic image, Copics reign. They are also best for me for a complex image. Most of my flowers from now on will be watercolour likely with some pencil for the deepest shadows. When I want to take something with me, I’ll grab my pencils. For pure fun and playtime, watercolours all the way.
I hope this post helped you or inspired you to do your own experiment. I’ve been posting far more on Instagram than here on my blog. Head on over and follow me! BecCreates1