Ready to go to school? Today I’m answering a question that I get a lot: what’s saturation and why should I care? I’ll give you the Copic numbering system application – some swatches – and a scene incorporating saturation levels! Let’s get rolling!

Supplies for this project are linked at the end of this post. Compensated affiliate links may be used at no cost to you.

First: the Copic numbering system. There’s a letter, and that’s pretty obvious it’s the color family name. R for Red, B for Blue, etc. But the numbers are not PAIRS of numbers, they each mean something separately.

  • The first digit is for saturation. Low numbers (0,1,2) are high in saturation, very bright. High numbers (7,8,9) are low in saturation, they’re grayed out.
  • The second digit is for light/dark level. The 0,1,2 in this case mean it’s a light hue. The 7,8,9 means it’s a dark color.

Therefore there’s no “B Twelve” – it’s a 1 for saturation level, and 2 for lightness. There’s no “Y Seventeen” – it’s a “Y One Seven.” One for saturation, 7 for darkness. So if you’ve ever wondered why I speak their names that way – now ya know!

If you’d like to color some swatch sheets yourself, order up a set of free charts HERE.


While blues can mix with other colors to make a beautiful scene, I’m going to keep this at all blues. Well except for one gray that I turned into a blue later. But I’ll be using 3 saturation levels to accomplish this scene:

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A foreground is (in general) more saturated than a background. In this card, the foreground is not the *most* intense colors because the lighting is in the *middle* of the scene, so I used the B3 familiy. If the light source were behind the viewer (over your shoulder shining on the subject, that would not be the case.

The background is in the B9s – to push it further away by using more greyish colors. When looking off into the distance there are particles in the air between you and the subject – that’s why distant objects look pale or greyish sometimes.

The midground is where the light source is – so it’s brightest, using the B0 family.


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