Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Card Showdown: Shutterfly Vs Snapfish

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My Snapfish cards arrived in a sturdy, Snapfish branded cardboard box.

On top were two of Snapfish's cards- a print order card detailing the order and an advert card.

Underneath the adverts were my cards and their envelopes.  I'd ordered 55 Snapfish cards, paying 98 cents per card.

The interior of the cards are entirely blank with an untreated stock.

The back of the card includes my avatar and a little seasonal greeting, in addition to Snapfish's logo.

The cards are fairly large- 5"x7" and the print job is decent enough, although it skews a bit yellow.


My Shutterfly cards arrived in an orange cardstock Shutterfly envelope, similar to what my shopping bags came in a few months ago, but unfortunately I neglected to take a photo of it.

Like the Snapfish cards, they came with an order card which doubled as an advertising card.  The Shutterfly cards are a bit smaller by a quarter inch top and sides.

 The big difference between the cards (besides sides and price) is that Shutterfly allowed for an interior image as well.  I opted to do the sketch from the cover.

 Like the Snapfish cards, I was able to put my avatar and a seasonal tagline on the back of the card.  Also like Snapfish, I don't have the option of skipping out on Shutterfly's logo, nor did it give me a discount on the final price.

Head to Head Comparison

Snapfish cards are to the right, Shutterfly's to the left.

 Snapfish cards- 98 cents each, Shutterfly cards- 60 cents per card.  Snapfish cards are larger, in this instance, the Shutterfly cards were more true to original colors. 

 Snapfish cards are entirely blank inside.  Shutterfly cards allow for interior images, but have a slightly glossy finish on the inside.  If you're writing with a gel pen, give it a minute to dry.

 For both brands, the back of the card allows for a small image and a tagline.  Both brands put their logos on the back, with no option to skip their logo for your own.  I personally dislike this, as people not familiar with your work might assume Snapfish/Shutterfly provided you with these images.


NOTE:  Both sets of cards were purchased using email deals.  In general, I think both companies are too expensive to purchase from without a discount or deal.  If you're interested, check out SlickDeals or consider signing up for their emails.

Snapfish- 5"x7", Printing on front and back, Snapfish includes their branding,- 98cents per card,55 cards total

Shutterfly- 4 3/4"x 6 3/4", Printing on front, left interior, and back, Shutterfly includes their branding -60 cents per card, 10 cards total

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mixing Copic Marker and Watercolor

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I'm attending a craft fair in New Orleans this Saturday at the Main Branch Library on Loyola.  Since it's a craft fair, not a comic or anime convention, I wanted to make sure I had some general interest pieces on the table.  I've been making little floral watercolors off and on for about a year now, and I thought this would be an excellent time to do another batch.  I really enjoy being able to offer affordable original art, and these little pieces serve double duty- I make stickers and buttons from the scans, and can sell the originals.

For these I utilize Copic markers and traditional pan watercolors, as well as white gouache for highlights.  I render the base colors of the flower first in Copic marker, adding in shadow and additional color with the watercolors.  Since Copics are much more vibrant and saturated than most watercolors, this results in vibrant, clear pieces that aren't muddy.  I don't have to worry about the red in the camellia reactivating when I shade with greens or blues, nor do I have to worry about the green of the leaves bleeding into the red if both are wet.

Working with both Copics and Watercolors is fairly easy.  I ink pieces with Bombay Ink or Sol K ink and allow them to dry for 24 hours.  Bombay Ink is waterproof but not necessarily Copic proof- a heavy application of ink will reactivate once the alcohol based marker passes over.  Sol K is Copic proof, but not necessarily waterproof- again, heavy applications of ink will reactivate.  However, if you let them dry fully, the reactivated ink smears will be minimal, and easily hidden once you apply color.

After the ink has dried and I've erased the pencil carefully (leftover pencil will smear once you go over it with Copic, and can ruin your marker's nib), I start applying the Copic.  Whenever I work with Copic, I try to work from light to dark, applying a base layer of color down to prevent streaking and to saturate the paper.  Watercolor paper like Fluid takes marker really well, but it's thirsty and can dry your markers out.

Once I'm satisfied with the Copics, I start watercoloring.  I basically just watercolor in shadows- complimentary colors to neutralize, indigo or violet hues to cool things down.  If a color isn't intense enough, I'll add additional layers with watercolor, since the waterbased pigment wont reactivate the alcohol based pigments/dyes.  Once I've finished adding watercolor layers and they've dried, I can add highlights and details with gouache.

The shadows on the crocus were originally applied in Copic, and reinforced with purple and indigo watercolor.

 Watercolors can also be used to apply a glaze over lots of colors without risking the colors bleeding.  The yellow orchre tint in the background of the bottle was applied in watercolor after the Copic markers had dried.

I wasn't pleased with the sanguine I applied in Copic, so I went over the area with a scarlet pigment for a richer, redder orange.

The 'water' was applied with watercolor, as were the blue shadows.

The next time I do a batch of Copic and watercolor illustrations, I'll make sure to take some process shots to share with you guys! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Neopiko4 Brush Marker Review

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Although I use pan and tube watercolors for the vast majority of my illustration, from the ultra portable Sakura Koi for convention watercolors to my carefully assembled palettes for my larger pieces like 7" Kara, Gizmo Granny, or larger commissions, I'm still very much intrigued by the idea of self contained watercolor markers and brush pens.  I've recently reviewed Winsor and Newton's watercolor markers and really liked them, but when I saw a photo on Twitter of a friend's beautiful watercolor illustration with a Neopiko 4 waterbrush, I was very intrigued.  I've reviewed other offerings from Neopiko in the past (the alcohol based marker, Neopiko 2), and I wanted to see how the Neopiko 4's differed from Neopiko 2.

Watercolor Pens I've tested:
Akashiya Sai
Letraset Aquamarker
Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers

Background on Neopiko

Deleter is a Japanese art supply company that specializes in manga making tools like technical pens, sheets of tone, and markers.  Neopiko is Deleter's marker brand, and there are several types of markers available under the Neopiko banner.  This includes:

  • Neopiko Color- an alcohol twin tipped marker similar to a Chromatic marker.
  • Neopiko Line 2- a technical pen available in a variety of colors
  • Neopiko 3- Waterbased pigment ink, waterproof pen.  Light stable.  I have yet to test these.
  • Neopiko Line 3- Revised Neopiko 3 with several improvements
  • Neopiko 4- Deleter's watercolor brush offering.
Neopiko 4's are very comparable to Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brushes in terms of size, construction, and function.

I ordered 4 sets from Amazon, sets A-D, which is the entire Neopiko4 color library

 Colors Available in Neopiko4

Set A
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Powder Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Green

Set B
  • Sky Blue
  • Indigo
  • Fresh Green
  • Navy Blue
  • Brown

Set C
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Ultramarine
  • Purple
  • Dark Brown

Set D
  • Carmine
  • Purple Red
  • Viridian
  • Silver Gray
  • Black

 My Neopiko4's arrived in sturdy plastic cases with a snap closure, and were inserted cap end down.  Each box lists the colors on the front, and shows the entire range available on the back of the box.

Both ends of the brush are color coded, with the brush having a clear plastic cap.  Colors appear very vibrant, and I was worried that the colors would separate once water was added, which is what happened with the Akashiya Sai marlers.

Swatches proved my fears to be mostly unfounded.  Colors remained brilliant and dispersed readily with the addition of water.  Some colors required a little scrubbing to get going, but most flowed freely.

For the most part, the colors were true to the box and the cap.

Neopiko 4 Swatches

Most of these brilliant colors stayed true even with the addition of water, but a few did separate into the base pigments.  Purple and navy blue were the worst offenders, and I was surprised to see that dark brown, purple red, and 'green' stayed true even with the addition of water.  Neopiko4's blend easily with one another (see swatch at top) and layer well.  Once the colors have dried, they can't be easily reactivated with water, which means pieces that utilized layered colors don't turn into a muddy mess.

Testing Neopiko 4

I wanted to test out a variety of painting techniques I utilize often- using water to soften hard edges, using water to achieve lighter tones, mixing on both the paper and on another sheet of paper.  To do this, I prepared a little sketch on Fluid cold press watercolor paper and inked it with Winsor Newton Bombay ink, letting the ink dry for 24 hours before testing.

Harsh edges were easily scrubbed and softened into gradients.

To apply a light blush, I used Carmine on a sheet of cardstock, picking up color with my clean wet brush.  This may have been more effective if I had used a nonabsorbent paper like Yupo as a palette.

When I wanted sharper shadows, I simply applied another layer after the first had dried.

Since Neopiko4's don't reactivate once dry, I was able to blend successive layers of the same color without scrubbing out prior layers.

And since Neopiko 4's browns stay true, you can add water to achieve lighter colors.

I attempted to shade the skin with Purple Red (which is what I'd do when watercoloring), but it was a little too hot to effectively shade.

The Verdict:

On Amazon, a set of 5 Neopiko4 brush pens go for $11-$15, which isn't bad.  They are non refillable, and feature a filament brush, rather than a rubber or felt 'brush' tip.  The filament brush is similar to Pentel Pocketbrush tips and has a lot of snap.

While there is currently no watercolor marker available that completely replaces the need for pan and tube watercolors and palettes, they make an excellent addition to an illustrator's collection, and are often capable of colors and techniques not easily replicated with traditional watercolors.  The Neopiko 4 watercolor brush pens would make an excellent low mess option for the travelling artist, as they don't require much mixing, do not require any more water than a waterbrush holds, and have a shorter drying time than traditional watercolors.  Artists can achieve some mixing directly on the page, or can utilize another sheet of paper (possibly a synthetic, non absorbent paper like Yupo) as a palette.  I do wish that Neopiko offered a blending brush, but clean water and a regular brush worked just fine.  Pigment is not easily reactivated once fully dry, so layers can be achieved without creating a muddy mess, which often happens to me when I overwork a painting.

All in all, despite how similar Neopiko 4 and Akashiya Sai are, the Neopiko 4's perform much better than the Akashiya Sai.  Both were swatched in the same Moleskin Watercolor book (the same swatchbook I use for ALL watercolor swatches, regardless of brand, including pan and tube watercolors), although I did do the demo illustrations on different paper (albeit both were watercolor paper).  I may revisit Akashiya Sai in the future to see if my opinion has changed and to see if I can combine the sets for a wider range.  I hope to utilize Neopiko4's in conjunction with Copic markers and traditional watercolors in the future as well.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Cute Things Come to Those Who Wait: Nattoshop's Cyber Monday Sale

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Since it's Cyber Monday for many holiday shoppers, I've got a couple treats to share!

I've got a coupon code for my shop for 20% off your total purchase from the Nattoshop, including the already on sale 7" Kara Volume 1.   Just type in the code mailincoupon at time of checkout!  I have free download codes for Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 if you'd like to give Kara a test-drive before you buy, and this blog is full of information about Volume 1.

7 Inch Kara, 7" Kara, children's comic, comics for kids, all ages comics, great comics for kids

The Basic Stats:

  • 112 total pages
  • The book is 11x8.5" tall
  • Written for children ages 5 and above, but it's intended to be read together with a parent.
  • 72 pages of comic
  • 2 Never before seen chapters
  • Lots of concept art and world-building notes

I've also updated the shop with lots of goodies from this year, all of which can be bought with the 20% off coupon code.  Goodies include:

Nattosoup's Sassy Feminist Buttons, Sassy Feminist Buttons, Sassy Buttons
My Sassy Buttons- lots of glitter, plenty o' sass

Sailor Moon, kawaii, sailor moon ribbon badge, Sailor Moon's Ribbon
Adorable Sailor Scout Ribbons, available in an assortment of Sailor Scouts

Hana Doki Kira, American Shoujo, Shoujo Anthology, American Comic Artists, Female Comic Artists, Comics for Women, Comics for Girls
Hana Doki Kira- the American Shoujo anthology

And lots more adorable things and the code's even applicable towards all levels of commissions!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Post Con Season Watercolor Sale

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Now that my convention season is officially over, it's time to update the Nattoshop.  In the past, I've created individual watercolor listings in the shop, but I'm going to do something hopefully more efficient.  I'm going to list available mini watercolors on the blog, and interested parties have the option to Paypal me or request a custom listing in the Nattoshop if they'd prefer to use a credit card.  Once a watercolor has moved, I'll remove it from the overall listing.   Please contact me first for a total and include your name and mailing address, regardless of whether you're going through Paypal or would like a listing in the shop, and state your preferred form of payment. 

Just a reminder:  Any sales from the Nattoshop or through this blog go towards going back to Louisiana for the holidays and buying Christmas presents for family.  If you enjoy this blog, or have found the content useful, now might be an excellent time to show that support.

All mini watercolors come wrapped in a protective sleeve to ensure no damage during transit.  Watercolors larger than ATC size will come in a kraft bubble-wrap mailer, individual ATC purchases in an envelope.  Multiple ATC purchases will ship in a bubblewrap mailer.

Artist Trading Card Size (2"x3", cold press watercolor paper, signed and dated on back). $7 each, 2 for $10, 4 for $20. 


Froak, Lileo, Helioptile
Froakie, Lileo, Helioptile


Pikmin Watercolor
All 4 for $20


Kiki's Delivery Service, Jiji, Kyubey, Madoka
Jiji (Kiki's Delivery Service), Kyubey (Madoka)

Sailor Moon, mini watercolors, ATCs
Luna and Artemis set, $10

6"x6" Watercolor

succulents, copic, copic and watercolor,
Succulents.  Copic marker, watercolor.  Original art for succulent stickers.  $15 each or both for $25.

6"x8" Watercolors- $12 each, contact me for deals on multiples.

Fez, watercolor
"Fez" from indie videogame Fez

Tsukimi, Princess Jellyfish, Kuragehime, watercolor
Tsukimi watercolor from Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Donnie Watercolor
Donny from new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Available with Leo for $20

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leo Watercolor
Leo from new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 
8"x8" Watercolor- $15 unless otherwise marked.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Sakura
Sakura from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.

Fez watercolor Illustration
Fez with block and frog from the game Fez-$20

Super Smash Bros for WiiU, Smash Bros
Princess Peach

Card Captor Sakura
Sakura and Kiro from Card Captor Sakura.
8"x10" Watercolor- on Arches Cold Press, nicer quality watercolor pigments, more time spent on painting

Aurora watercolor illustration, Child of Light
Aurora from Child of Light


Sale Watercolors

Reduced by at least $2 from original price (often reduced more), and very willing to give deals on sets/multiples

4"x6" Watercolors- $6 each

ANCL, Agent S, Animal Cross, Animal Crossing New Leaf
Agent S- Animal Crossing New Leaf

Shin Nohara, Crayon Shin-chan, Shin-chan
Shin-chan from Crayon Shin-chan

Watercolor illustration of Ai from Crayon Shin Chan
Ai from Crayon Shin-chan

Penny from Crayon Shin-chan
Penny from Crayon Shin-chan

Hina from Crayon Shin-chan
Hina from Crayon Shin-chan
Whole set-$15

6"x6" Watercolors- $8 each

Shoujo-style Headshots

Sakura from Card Captor Sakura
Sakura- Card Captor Sakura

Sailor Jupiter watercolor headshot
Sailor Jupiter

Sailor Venus Watercolor Headshot
Sailor Venus
Sailor Scout Babies

Baby Sailor Saturn Watercolor
Baby Sailor Saturn
Baby Sailor Moon watercolor
Baby Sailor Moon

Baby Sailor Jupiter Watercolor
Baby Sailor Jupiter
Contact me about buying multiples-  I offer deals!

6"x8" Watercolor- $10- CLAIMED

Sulky Chibi Squall Watercolor
Sulky Little Squall- FinalFantasy VIII
8"x8" Watercolors- $12

Satsuki from Whisper of the Heart
Satsuki- Whisper of the Heart

Sailor Mercury watercolor
Sailor Mercury- Sailor Moon