Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Small Business Saturday

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This Thursday is Thanksgiving, and I know many of you who celebrate it will be spending it with your family and loved ones.  Following that are Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, which I'm sure at least a few of you also 'celebrate'.

For many, small business means the local mom and pop shops in our towns, stores that have been around for decades, and that's great.  But small business ALSO includes digital storefronts such as mine.  If you've made a vow to shop local, please don't disclude online shops- check (or ask) for location information.  Many of us cannot afford a physical storefront of our own, and many brick and mortar shops aren't willing to pay fair prices for our work without extreme markup on their end. Some aren't willing to carry our work at all, even those that advertise that they sell locally produced items! The only real option for selling our work and making a living is through is a digital storefront.

If you love giving unique gifts, purchasing from an artist's digital storefront is a great way to give something that's one of a kind.  From Christmas commissions of kids, pets, couples, and more to hand bound mini comics assembled with love, or unique prints to deck the walls of a teen's room, taking your Small Business Saturday shopping online can really land you something special.

Some notes on buying from online shops:

If you want a commission, please order it BEFORE December.  Every year, I get a couple last minute Christmas commissions the week before Christmas, and in the past, I've ruined my visit with family by trying to juggle last minute Christmas commissions with Christmas shopping and spending time with my family.  While the thought (and the money) are both very appreciated, I would appreciate it even more (and save both of us the overnight shipping costs) if orders were placed in the last week of November, or the first week of December, and I think many of my artist friends feel the same.   This gives us time to do a wonderful job on your custom art, send it off, and for you to receive it so you can wrap it up for your winter holiday gift giving.

 Regular shop orders are a little different- up until I leave for Louisiana in mid December leaves me plenty of time for me to pack and ship your order to you, and I don't mind mailing copies of 7" Kara up into Christmas week, as I leave copies at my mom's house.

If You're Buying in Bulk, Please Email the Shopowner Beforehand

Some creators don't necessarily keep a lot of stock on hand at any one time, some need advance notice in order to make enough for a bulk order.  Some are willing to do reduced or wholesale rates, and some may need to make shipping arrangements.  If you're buying in bulk (lots of grandchildren, nieces or nephews, stocking stuffers, gifts for teammates or co workers), please let the shop owner know ahead of time what you have in mind.  Many are quite happy to accommodate your requests!

Your Shopowner/Artist is a Person Too!

We wear many hats as small businesses- creative team, production, promotion, site maintenance, inventory, and mistakes sometimes happen!  If we fail to respond within a couple days, it's alright to send us another email or message, sometimes emails end up missorted into the spam folder, or sometimes your message may not get delivered the first time.

If you're a reader of this blog, now would be an EXCELLENT time to peruse my shop.  You can take advantage of my Small Business Saturday coupon code for 20% off (thinkdigital)   or my Cyber Monday code for 30% off (shophandmade)  and your order not only helps to support this blog (as always) but it helps me purchase airfare home to visit my family for the holidays, it keeps my cat in kibble, and it enables me to continue to produce content and art for you to enjoy.  By ordering now, I have plenty of time to lovingly package your order and send it out to you so that it can arrive in time for Christmas, with no need for rush shipping.

Due to a combination of untimely hand injury and website maintanence, I'm still getting everything updated, but the shop should be good to go by Saturday.

Mini comics and Ashcans:

Favorite Fictional Femmes
Magical Girl March
Artistically Challenged (2014-2015 sketchbook)
Another Year of Watercolor (Hardbound watercolor collection from 2014-2015)

7" Kara (comes with your choice of wooden Kara charm)
Chainmail Bikini

Wooden Charms (available 3 ways- phonecharm, keychain, or necklace)

Red Panda
Sabertooth Tiger
Kara with Acorn
Kara head

Sassy Buttons:

Bored with Boys
Cuties Makin' Comics
Just Nope
Don't Touch
Shonen Hero
I'm Not Your Baby
Go Away
Shoujo Heroine
You Don't Know Me
Don't Wanna
I Got This
Former Shoujo Heroine
Never Not Cute

Stickers and Sticker Sets

Mini Prints

Dino Mini Print Set
Cowgirls Mini Prints
Individual Chibi Mini Prints

Original Art


For detailed commissions, or commissions with multiple characters, please email me in advance for a quote.

8"x8" Mini Watercolor Commission
10"x14" Watercolor Commission
Copic Marker Illustration

Physical Stores that Carry My Work:

Hastings (Nashville, TN)
Brainfreeze Comics  (Nashville, TN)

Less than 100 Pop Up Shop (New Orleans, La)

Other Artists and Creators

I'm not the only artist with a digital storefront who could benefit from your support this holiday season!  Check out these other fantastic artists and crafters, and make your holidays a little more handmade.

Comics and Art

Fine Sometimes Rain
Altar Girl
Vanessa Satone
ZambiCandy (also has a lot of homegoods and apparel!)
Bekyoot (another shop with homegoods and apparel options!)
Chromatic Press (small comic publisher)
Paragon Ketch
Cowboy House (comic subscription service!)
Mike Freiheit
Goni Montes

Gumroad- mini comics, Photoshop brushes, and other downloadables

Fiber Arts

Merry Manias

Household Goods

Angles and Dangles
Kimchi Kawaii (phone cases and boxes)

Plushies and Kid's Toys

Giggle Tree
Gentle Moon Bell (custom plushes)


Knot Fade Away (knit goods)
BriAbby (knit goods)


Kristin Made Stuff! (acrylic charms and earrings)
Aimee Petkus (I know her site looks SUPER professional, but I assure you, it's a two person operation, one Aimee and one Greg)
Beth Cyr Jewelry
C'lay La Vie (clay jewelry)

Indie Games
2 Player Productions
The Dream Machine
Brian Wolf (Tabletop games)


The Color Hug

 Small Business Saturday isn't just for your local brick and mortar mom and pop shops.  There are lots of fantastic small businesses that do the majority of their business online.  These online shops are artists, skilled crafters, designers, and programmers who are all trying to make a living from their digital small business.   By purchasing directly from their shops, you're ensuring that these people get the majority of the profit for their hard work, rather than the much smaller margins that selling wholesale to local retailers often demand.  Your order is often one of a kind and customizable, and it may not be available in any physical storefronts or in mass quantity.  When you want to shop Small Business, please also remember to consider ONLINE small businesses, especially during the holidays.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Alcohol Markers for the Aspiring Artist

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I think MOST of my readers have found this blog while searching for information on alcohol based markers like Prismacolor, Spectrum Noir, Copic, and Shin Han Twin Touch.  While I've covered a wide variety of brands individually (check out my review section!), and I've done gift guides for young artists (link) in the past, I had yet to do a marker guide, let alone a marker gift guide.  Whether you're a teenager or an undergrad asking for markers as a present this upcoming holiday season, or a parent or relative trying to purchase markers for someone new to alcohol markers, I hope this post, which is mostly a list with some explanation, is useful to you.

There are a lot of items on this list, and while I recommend all of them individually, don't let the length intimidate you.  Where applicable, I explain when items are duplicates, or perform similar functions.

Most of my links in this post are to DickBlick and Amazon.  Whenever possible I tried to link to DickBlick, as I regularly buy my art supplies from them, and I think they're fantastic overall- cheap prices, lots of openstock options, fast shipping, good customer service.  When that is NOT possible, I do provide my Amazon affiliates link, although you may be able to find those products in person in craft and hobby stores like Michaels, or brick and mortar art supply stores.  DickBlick and Amazon do pay me a percentage for sales, money earned from that goes to blog upkeep, purchasing supplies to review, and minor reimbursement for time spent writing.

How to Use This Gift Guide

I recommend right clicking links and hitting Open in New Tab, as there are A LOT of links.

If you are the giftee:

I recommend you make wishlists on Blick and Amazon, and share those with your 'gift'er' so they can easily purchase your present.  By creating a wishlist, you can share your selections with several people, which is perfect if say, your parents and your younger siblings are all chipping in to buy you markers.

If you are the gifter:

Sites like DickBlick offer bulk savings for many of the brands they carry, so make sure you take advantage of that if possible.  They also offer free shipping once you've hit a certain price point, so you may want to take advantage of that as well, especially for heavier items.  You can do both of these things by making your purchase in one lump sum, if possible.  DickBlick takes credit cards and Amazon Payments.

If you are buying for yourself:

I recommend you make a wishlist, and any time you're shopping at either site, you pick a couple items from the list.  This way, you can spread the cost of your purchase across several months, slowly collecting markers and finding out which ones you still need to buy, based on your needs as well as my recommendations.

Back when I lived near a DickBlick, and had access to openstock Copics (all the stores around here lock them up), I'd buy myself a new color every time I visited the store.  Now that I have most of the Copic colors I want, I've started filling in the color gaps with Shin Han Twin Touch markers, Blick Studio Brush markers, and Prismacolor Premier markers.  I like to buy Prismacolor markers openstock- one or two every time I buy something from DickBlick, one or two every time I visit my local Pla-Za or Jerry's Artarama.  While I may spend a bit more by purchasing openstock, I am getting colors I know I need, rather than a set of colors I may find difficult to use.

Why Alcohol Based Markers?  Aren't Waterbased Good Enough?

While there are many FANTASTIC waterbased markers out there, the short answer is no, not really.  Waterbased markers are prone to tearing up your paper, are difficult to blend, and work best on very specific types of paper.  While they are often much cheaper than alcohol based markers, they have a high learning curb, and you usually see your best results after years of practice, or after learning how to use alcohol markers.

Alcohol markers on the other hand are quick drying, do not abrade paper surfaces, come in a wide variety of colors, and are often refillable.    These days, alcohol based markers are available at a variety of stores, from Michael's to your local art supply shop, with two of the biggest and most common brands being Copic and Prismacolor.

You may think (or you may have been informed) that Copic is the end all, be all for alcohol based markers.  While Copic markers are fantastic, there are plenty of fantastic alternatives available, and even amongst Copic brand markers, there's a degree of variety.  Although Copic, as a whole, has a huge variety of colors to choose from, not every model of marker offers all the colors, so if you're planning your colors ahead of time, it pays to check and make sure that the colors you want are available in the markers you can afford, or plan to purchase.

My personal preference are Copic Sketch or Copic Ciao.  When I first started collecting Copic markers, Copic had not released their Ciao line, but over the years I've written about alcohol markers, I've purchased a few Ciaos to test, and I've found them to be nearly as good as the Sketch markers.  All of Copic's markers are refillable, and feature replaceable nibs, which makes these markers a longterm investment.

As Copic markers are on my recommended list, and they're both commonly available and offer a confusing amount of options, I'm going to briefly go over the major types.

Copic Original

  • Comes with a bullet nib and a chisel nib
  • Nibs are replaceable, wide variety of nib types to use

Image Source

Copic Original Colors Available

Copic Sketch

  • Comes with chisel nib and super brush nib
  • Nibs are replacable, variety of replacements available
  • Largest color selection available
  • Most popular type of Copic

Image Source

Copic Sketch Colors Available

Copic Ciao

  • comes with Chisel and superbrush
  • replacement nibs available
  • great way to affordably start a collection

Image Source

Copic Ciao Colors Available

Copic Wide

  • Comes with angled chisel nib
  • Replacable nibs, only a couple nib options
  • Smallest color family available
  • Useful for covering large areas of color

Image Source

Copic Wide Colors Available

Various Inks- Used to refill your markers, but you can also paint with it if you wish

Image Source

Various Ink Colors Available

Copic Wide, Copic Sketch, and Copic Original also come with blank markers, so if there's a color you like that's available in Various Ink, you can fill your own markers.  I do this with Copic Wides, to make the colors I need for alcohol ink washes.

Copic Ciao Markers- refillable markers with replaceable nibs

Absolute Must- Necessary for Maintaining Your Marker Collection

Copic Ciao Colorless Blender- $3.59 on DickBlick
Colorless Blender Refill- $6.29 on DickBlick (will refill your Colorless Blender marker several times though, so it's definitely worth the investment)
Replacement nibs-  $7.39 on Amazon Prime (free two day shipping)
Copic nib tweezers- $8.12 on Amazon with free shipping

Recommended Sets

Skintone Basics- Pick the one you feel will best suit your needs.

Image Source

Doodle Pack- People - Includes 5 markers, and 2 Copic-proof Multiliners, black and dark brown- $23.93 (DickBlick)
Copic Ciao Markers, Skin, 6 Pack (just markers, includes )- $32.94 (Amazon)

Basic Starter Set: 

Image Source

12 Piece Basic Set (Includes Blue Violet, Violet, Shock Pink, Lipstick Red, Cadmium Orange, Yellow, Yellowish Green, Forest Green, Blue Green, Ultramarine, Burnt Umber, and Black. ) - $43.11

Additional Useful Colors for Skin (openstock from DickBlick) $3.59- Augment as you see necessary, or discover a need.


Colors for Blending, Shading, and/or adding details to skin:
Openstock Ciaos are $3.59 each at DickBlick, select those that seem relevant to your needs.


If you'd like to purchase a single set that should cover your basic color needs for the first couple years of using alcohol markers, and you don't want to purchase markers piecemeal openstock every time you visit an art store (it's how I collect markers, btw), I recommend

Copic Ciao 36 marker set D, 36 slot wallet included- $109.98 on Amazon

Keep in mind that when buying multiple sets, there are repeat colors, so you will end up with duplicates.

Blick Studio Brush Markers

I highly recommend you read my review (link) on Blick Original Studio Markers, Blick Brush Markers, and Utrecht Design Markers, but if you're short on time, take the fact that I'm mentioning these markers in this Holiday Gift Guide as an endorsement!

Blick Studio Brush markers are not refillable, and you can't replace the nibs, but the brush nib is almost as good as the Copic Super brush nib on Copic Ciao and Copic Sketch markers, and they make a fine compliment to your marker collection.
Image from DickBlick

Image from DickBlick

If you want to buy many alcohol based markers at one time, and you'd like to do so affordably, Blick's Studio Brush markers are a great way to build up a collection.  I recommend you use these markers to augment your Copic Ciao collection, and replace Blick Studio Brush markers as they run out with Copic Sketch or Copic Ciao, both of which are refillable.

Studio Brush Markers tend to be a little less saturated than Copic or Prismacolor markers, so I recommend staying away from very saturated colors like purples and reds if you can afford them elsewhere.

Recommended Colors:

List price is $2.99, cheaper if you buy in bulk (12+ markers) or in sets.

Basic Gray:
Apple Green
Coral Pink
Ink Blue
Warm Black
Yellow Ochre

Warm Gray:

True Blue
Brick Red


Prismacolor markers come in two styles- Prismacolor Double Ended Brush Tip Markers and Prismacolor Double Ended Art Markers.  Don't let the name fool you- for artists and illustrators, you will probably want the Brush Tip Markers over the Double Ended Art Markers, but I do wish Prismacolor would mash up the best of both worlds, and offer a brush tip marker that ALSO has their chisel tip, as it's the best I've ever encountered.
Prismacolor Double Ended Brush Tip Marker- Photo from DickBlick

Prismacolor Double Ended Art Marker- Photo from DickBlick

Like Blick Studio Brush Markers, Prismacolor markers are not refillable, and do not have replacable nibs.  They tend to shine at saturated, intense colors such as yellow greens, yellows, and purples, areas where both Copic and Blick Studio Brush markers fall flat.

Recommended Sets:

If you'd prefer to buy your grays as a set, French grays are a lovely alternative to warm grays (or addition, if you do a lot of architectural work), and can be used to shade skintones, or to stretch a limited range or skintones.

French Grays, set of 12 - $26.69 on DickBlick

At DickBlick, Prismacolor's Brush markers are listed at $3.19, but the first bulk pricebreak starts at 6 markers ($2.98), and the second discount starts at 12 ($2.87)

Note:  I have not tested the entire range of Prismacolor markers, and my recommendations are based on my general familiarity with what the markers excel at, my familiarity with the shortcomings of Copic Ciao and Blick Studio brush markers, and Blick's flawed color chip representations on site.  If you've already ordered a number of Copic or Blick Studio Brush reds, hold off ordering Prismacolor reds until you know for certain whether you really do need more.

Recommended Open Stock Colors

Crimson Red
Green Tea
Mineral Orange
Parma Violet
Parrot Green
Pale Vermillion

If You Like Neons-

Neon Blue
Neon Green
Neon Orange
Neon Pink
Neon Yellow
Neon Yello Green

Marker Accessories

Cover of Copic Swatch Book.  Photo from DickBlick

Interior of Copic Swatch Book.  As you acquire markers, you use the chisel nib to fill in the appropriate square.  I apply my Blick Studio Brush or Prismacolor markers to a piece of sticker paper, and apply that in the appropriate color family.  Keeping track of your markers lets you know which you already own, and where you need to focus your buying power.  Photo from DickBlick

Marker Cases and Storage

Travel case

Alvin Prestige Marker- Case holds 48 markers- great for a mixed set of Prismacolor, Blick Studio Brush Markers, and Prismacolor markers.  Sized to hold larger markers like Prismacolor. $21.77 on DickBlick
Spectrum Noir Marker case- holds approx 36 markers, depending on what you have $3.93 on DickBlick

Box storage

ArtBin Marker Storage Satchel-  Holds up to 64 markers, $19.57 on DickBlick

Display storage

Spectrum Noir marker storage trays- six tray set holds 72 markers on display.  For use on desktop.  $19.99 on DickBlick

Correctional Accessories

Everyone makes mistakes, and while you should always wait until the end of the project to make your corrections, these opaque white art supplies are also great for adding highlights and sparkles to hair, eyes, jewelry, metal- basically anything with a shine.

White gouache- $5.09 on DickBlick. Water this down just a smidge, and apply with a fairly stiff bristled brush.
Copic Opaque White- $8.67 on Amazon Prime.  Water this one down a smidge as well, stir until it reaches a consistency you can work with, and apply with a synthetic brush.
Signo white gel pen- $8.96 on Amazon Prime for 5, used at the last stage for spot corrections, adding white highlights or details.

Inking Accessories

Note:  You don't need to buy all of these immediately, and some are repetitive- both Multiliners and Microns are alcohol proof, waterproof technical pens that are a mainstay for many young artists learning the ropes.

Sailor Mitsuo Aida-The only brushpen I've found that is both Copic and waterproof.  Twintipped with a small fude brush, and a large fude brush.  You can read my review here. $4.45 on Jetpens (note:  Not an affiliate link)
Kaimai Sol K Ink  $11.00 on Jetpens (Note:  Not an affiliate link) (for brushes, dip pens, or to refill your Pentel Pocket Brush cartridges.  Copic-proof, not waterproof)

Copic Multiliners- Set of 9, includes sizes 0.03 mm0.05 mm0.1 mm0.3 mm0.5 mm0.8 mm, and 1.0 mm, Brush Small, Brush Medium on DickBlick   $25.09

Copic Multiliners, Openstock, Recommended Sizes- $2.79 each on DickBlick
Brush Medium

Sakura Microns
Set of 8, various tip sizes, all in black $16.16 on DickBlick


Note:  You don't need to buy all of these, you'd probably be just fine buying a ream of cardstock, but these are papers I use when I create marker illustrations, and I vouch for their results.  For artists who are still learning, I recommend the ream of cardstock and the XL watercolor paper, as they're the most cost efficient while still producing nice results.

Cardstock- Neenah 110 lb cardstock, 8.5"x11", $15.99 for a ream on Amazon
Canson XL Watercolor Paper- 9"x12", 30 sheets, $6.21 on Amazon
Strathmore 500 series Plate bristol- 14"x11", 15 sheet pad, $15.46 on DickBlick
Copic PM paper- Size A5, lowest price is $12.22 on Amazon
Strathmore 400 series Mixed Media Paper- 9"x12", 15 sheets, $5l94 on DickBlick

Other Places to Purchase Markers

Carpe Diem Markers

Other Resources


Copic 101 (From the actual Copic site)

Printable Blank Copic Color Chart (fill this in as you collect your markers.  I recommend getting this printed at Office Max/Office Depot/through a copier machine, as toner ink can resist alcohol marker applications)

What Copics to Start With?  And Where to Buy Them? -- Baylee Jae

Blending Copic Markers by Baylee Creations-- Copic Marker

Copic Markers 101- Animetalchick

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alcohol Based Markers Mini Review- Concept and Fab

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So while going through my archive and comparing it to my swatchbooks and the markers I have in my stash, I've found a few brands I purchased, tested, but never reviewed.  In my Blick Studio Marker review, I covered the original Blick Alcohol Markers, Blick's new Studio Markers, and Utrecht's now defunct Design Markers, but there are a couple other brands I purchased and tested, but never reviewed.

I can see how this happened.  With cheap alcohol based markers, there isn't much to differentiate between brands, especially when brands use the same bodies.  It can be difficult to write post after post about marker brands that basically perform the same- same bad tips, same smelly inks, same poor blending, same body save for the printing. This is the case for Concept Markers, which I purchased in person at Jerry's Artarama a couple years ago, and Fab markers, which are made by Fabscraps, and were purchased a couple years ago off Overstock.  Jerry's still sells Concept markers in addition to Copics, Charpaks, and Prismacolors, so unlike the Utrecht Design Markers, Concept may still be relevant to you.  Fab markers, however, are harder to find as Overstock no longer sells them, but I found a set on Ebay  (which will probably be long gone by the time you see this post).  The set I found on eBay is the same set of 7 colors that I purchased on Overstock, which leads me to wonder if Fab made any other colors.

No one has ever written in to ask about Fabscraps or Concept markers, and I could have skipped them without anyone complaining.  Chalk this up to me being a completionist when it comes to art supplies (gotta catch em all) and the fact that I'm buying these supplies out of pocket, so it feels like a waste for them to sit in my closet, forgotten.

Concept markers

  • Bullet and chisel nibs
  • Currently on sale for $1.29  openstock on Jerry's Artarama website, sets are less 
  • New marker bodies look to be a bit different from the ones I have
  • Promises 4 different linestyles in 1 body
  • Easy to hold barrel
  • Nylon nibs
  • 72 Different Colors
These markers make a lot of promises that I'm not sure they can keep.  According to the Jerry's ArtaRama website

Concept Markers were designed with the discerning artist in mind. All Concept Markers offer a distinguished, high-quality, permanent ink, that evenly and effortlessly streams through both tips, at any angle. The construction is notably impeccable. Beginning with their barrel, it has an ergonomic shape, making it easy to hold and less likely to roll off of a table. Each end of a Concept Marker features a different tip. One end has a flexible fine tip, for applying details or thin outlines to artwork. The other end contains a chisel-shaped tip, that can draw up to three different line widths depending on the angle it is held. Both tips are made of nylon and are created to withstand frequent use and a range of pressures. 
The color and style combinations available with Concept Dual-Tip Markers far exceeds other competing brands. With a line of 72 colors currently available, as well as a blender marker included in every set or available by itself , mixing colors has never been easier with markers, whether you're looking for fine detail or a broad wash.
Concept Alcohol based markers have a lot of stiff competition from Copic, Prismacolor, Letraset, and even Blick.  All of these companies are currently making vibrant alcohol based markers that work well together, are easy to blend, and are well built.  Given that Fab markers use the same bodies and seemingly nibs as the Concept markers, one can assume that many of these claims should extend to the Fab markers as well.

The Packaging

For the purposes of accurate testing (and probably because they weren't available openstock at the time) I purchased a set of 12 basic colors.   My set of 12 came in a clear plastic box, which is pretty common for generic alcohol based markers. 

Colors in set:

#15 Red
#24 Orange
#45 Yellow
#59 Green
#55 Green
#65 Blue Green
#76 Blue
#72 Blue
#85 Purple
#98 Brown

Text reads:

Each of these high-quality markers feature 2 nylon tips that are packed with vibrant ink!  One end is a brush tip, for soft line detail.  The other end contains a chisel tip, which can draw 3 different controlled line widths.  The ergonomic barrel of Concept markers is comfortable to hold and will not roll off of the table.

Side by side comparison of Concept and MEXPY marker boxes.  Same box, except the MEXPY box has handy dividers at the bottom to help hold markers in place.  The Concept box lacks these dividers.

In between when I purchased my Concept markers, and when I actually managed to get around to writing this review, a new color palette was introduced for the body of Concept markers, so the markers you see in stores will differ visually from the ones I'm reviewing here.  

New Body

Image from the Jerry's ArtaRama site.  Although the colors of the barrel have changed over the years, the features are identical.
Image from Jerry's ArtaRama Site

Image from Jerry's ArtaRama site
Without owning any of the new Concept markers, and just going by the photos from Jerry's, it doesn't look like much has really changed about the Concept markers, especially not the nylon nibs.

Edit (9/21): I went to Jerry's Artarama today in Nashville, TN, and they have the old body Concept markers for sale in their openstock display, with the newer ones being sold in sets.

Old Body (Kind I have)

The caps feature the color number (for color families, I presume) and the color name, which is handyl, as the body of the marker includes neither of these things.

Nowhere to be seen is the soft brush nib promised on the side of my Concept box.  No, that's a hard as rock bullet nib.

The plastic color chips at the top of each cap don't really do a good job indicating the color of the ink within.

The 'soft touch grip' is more sticky than cushy, and I've never had a problem with my hands becoming sore from using markers, so this solves a problem I don't think anyone's ever really had.

The Field Test

The Concept alcohol markers I received were reasonably juicy- several of the caps had ink in them, perhaps due to the fact that my markers may have been overfilled?  They were pretty comparable in terms of ink smearing to the almost empty Copic sketches I used in this review (dry markers, especially dry brush markers, are prone to smearing ink, no matter how well cured the ink is), but laid down ink smoothly (even if it was a pain in the butt to apply with the chisel and bullet brush nibs).  Concept markers react well to the included blender marker, and slightly less well to the Copic colorless blender.

The color chips on the top of the caps don't accurately reflect the color of the ink inside, so if you're going to use these markers, rely more on your swatches for accuracy, and the chips for just general color selection.

More About Concept Markers

Nine Reasons Concept Markers Will Change the Way You Draw
Product Spotlight: Concept Dual Tip Markers from Jerry's Artarama

Concept VS Fab

One of the problems I encountered repeatedly while writing this review was that I would put Concept photos in the Fab section and vice versa.  These markers are almost completely identical in terms of body and nibs.

Top: Concept
Bottom: Fab

Top: Concept
Bottom: Fab

Pretty boring, right?  There's so little to differentiate between the two brands, I can't help but wonder if Fabscraps just purchased a right to distribute the Concept markers under their own label.

Fab Markers by Fabscraps

The Packaging

This is not my photo, I tossed the packaging awhile back.  This photo is probably one of the official ones, and it was used for the Fab Markers eBay listing.
I'd thrown away my packaging for the Fab markers a long time ago, but the package hasn't changed from the above image.  My Fab markers came in a plastic box with a blender, two metallic markers, a blender, two browns, a gray, and a black.

The Markers

Compared to the Copic Sketch's Superbrush, the 'brush' on the Fab marker is really small and unimpressive, just like the Concept marker, and nothing at all like the nibs we were promised.  The Fab box makes it look like a fude nib, or even a Pitt Pen medium brush nib, not this hard little bullet nib.  The Chisel nib is boxy and sharp, fairly similar to Copic's chisel nib, and nowhere near as nice as Prismacolors Chisel nib.  I used this nib to color the circle in my field test.

The Field Test

These markers aren't as juicy as the Concept markers, and the hard nib caused some smearing of the cured ink.  The metallics are really unimpressive (but then, good metallic markers can be hard to find, especially non-pump action metallics), with the bullet nibs being very stingy with ink dispersion.   I can't find other Fab marker colors, and I wonder if these are all that Fab made/licensed.  If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the tip!

The Verdict

While neither of these brands are the absolute worst thing ever, they were pretty difficult to work with, even for a limited field test such as this.  Both brands are uninspiring to test, and I didn't feel like putting them through more vigorous paces- why bother when there are other brands that handle so much better.  The most disappointing were the Fab markers, with the promise of metallics that never panned out.  The Concept markers, with their ridiculously low price point, could be a decent contender if their brush tip wasn't flat out awful.  Jerry's, take a hint from Blick, and please introduce a super brush to your Concept markers, and I'd be happy to revisit the line.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Using Toned Tan Drawing Paper To Bring Sketches to Life

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Recently I purchased a 9"x12" Strathmore Toned Tan sketchbook from Strathmore's 400 series.   I'd seen artists on Instagram and Tumblr share their sketches, and I was always impressed by how nice things looked on toned paper.  I liked the fact that the paper served as a midtone, and that you could add highlights with a white gel pen, white gouache, white color pencil, white chalk, or even white Winsor and Newton pigment markers.  The paper is very smooth, perfect for inking on, and takes markers moderately well.  

My media of choice for this paper are Prismacolor color pencils, Derwent Coloursoft color pencils, Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpens, Copic markers (in warm grays!), colored Pitt Pens, and even Winsor & Newton Pigment markers.  You can find links to all of these products at the bottom of this post, if you're interested in checking them out.   It's really fun to play around on this paper, and the result is very finished and satisfying.

I highly recommend you purchase a set of Coloursoft color pencils, or at least purchase a white Coloursoft pencil, as these are some of the smoothest, buttery-est color pencils I've ever used.  While they're a bit too soft for my warmup sketches, they're great for applying fields of color evenly.  I plan on doing a post exploring them, and other color pencil brands in the future, but I think they're worth mentioning now.  I'm also currently working on a large Winsor & Newton Pigment marker post (waiting on my Winsor & Newton marker paper sample to come in, as well as my set of skintones), but if you have any questions about either brand, don't hesitate to ask!

While the paper takes markers decently well, they will bleed through, so I recommend putting a sheet of scrap paper beneath pages you plan on rendering with markers.  I also sketched my inked pieces with pencil first, and pencil erases very cleanly from this paper, leaving no scuffs or marks.  As always, I allow the Mitsuo Aida ink to dry 24 hours before I apply any water or alcohol based media on top, to prevent smearing.

Completed with Prismacolor pencils

Completed with a Sailor Mitsuo Aida pen, Copic Markers, and white highlights were added with a white Winsor & Newton Pigment Marker

Prismacolor pencils

Completed with Sailor Mitsuo Aidia, select Copic Warm Grays, and white Winsor & Newton Pigment Marker

Completed with Prismacolor Pencils and Derwent Coloursoft (white)

  Kara costume 1: Dandelion Completed with Sailor Mitsuo Aida, Pitt Pens, and Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers

Completed with Prismacolor pencils, Derwent Coloursoft, Recollections Opaque White Marker, and Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers

Kara costume 2: Dragonfly Completed with Sailor Mitsuo Aida, Pitt Pens, Copics, and Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers

Kara costume 3: Frog Completed with Sailor Mitsuo Aida and Winsor& Newton Pigment Markers

Completed with Prismacolor Pencils and Derwent Coloursoft

Completed with Prismacolor Pencils and Derwent Coloursoft

Completed with Prismacolor pencils and Derwent Coloursoft

Kara costume 4: Goldfish Completed with Winsor & Newton Pigment Markers.  Gold shadows were added with Pitt Pens

If you're looking to spice up your sketching, or want to give your art an interesting new direction, you should check out Strathmore's Toned sketchbooks, available in a warm gray and this tan.

Supplies Used In This Post

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alcohol-based, Waterbased, Watercolor-A Quick Overview

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In the past, I've briefly touched on the differences between alcohol based markers and water based markers in the post How to Know if a Marker is Waterbased/Waterproof.  At the time, I was testing A LOT of alcohol based markers, but had very little experience with using waterbased markers for creating art.  I made a lot of assumptions in that post based on research, but not based on experience, and now that I have a little more experience with waterbased markers, watercolor markers, and alcohol based markers, I wanted to revisit the topic.  I also wrote a post Alcohol Based Markers Vs Water Based, as I felt the topic could benefit from even more exploration.  I recommend you guys check out both of those posts if you need a background on waterbased and alcohol based markers.

Since writing those posts, I've become very involved in testing watercolor markers in addition to alcohol and waterbased markers, so I wanted to throw them into the mix and do a post that covers all three.

General Uses

Alcohol Based Markers

Examples:  Copic Sketch, Prismacolor, Spectrum Noir
Traits:  Sometimes refillable, nibs sometimes replaceable,
  • Stamping
  • Cardmaking
  • Professional Illustration
  • Product Design/Concept
  • Adult Coloring Books

Waterbased Markers
Examples: Crayola Supertip, Crayola classroom markers, CraZArt Supertip
  • Student work- classwork, class activities
  • Adult Coloring Books

Watercolor Markers
Examples: Tombow ABT, Marvy LePlumeII, Zig Art and Graphic Twin
  • Cardmaking
  • Stamping
  • Professional Illustration
  • Watercolor Illustration
Waterbased markers are a major category, like alcohol based markers, whereas watercolor markers are a subset of waterbased markers.

In stores, when you see markers advertised as waterbased markers (as opposed to watercolor markers), these are usually student grade markers.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't give them a shot, it just means you may have to stretch to find a good use for them.

Common Issues

Alcohol Based Markers

  • Expensive to procure a large enough set to fulfill many illustration needs
  • Only a couple common brands in the US are refillable, refills may be hard to get

Waterbased Markers

  • Not designed for professional illustration
  • Repeated application causes damage to paper surface, ruins eventual illustration
  • Difficult to make something that looks nice
  • Color selection is limited, largest set I've seen is 75 total colors
  • Most brands can't blend
  • Most brands can't Layer
  • Nibs are often awful
  • Difficult to apply color without it streaking

Watercolor Markers

  • Learning curve if using for illustration
  • Take getting used to
  • Previously difficult to find everywhere
  • Non-refillable
  • More expensive than waterbased markers

Finding The Right Papers

The number one thing I was curious about was cross blend-ability.  Can you blend alcohol based markers with water?  Can you use a waterbased colorless blender with waterbased markers?  Can you use water to blend waterbased markers?  I had pretty much all the tools I needed for some basic tests, so I dived right in one evening, taking photos along the way.

Test Subjects: 
Crayola Waterbased Markers
Zig Art and Graphic Twin Watercolor Markers
Copic Sketch Alcohol Based Markers

Top:  Crayola Supertip waterbased markers.  Bottom row:  Tombow ABT Colorless blender, Zig Art and Graphic Twin watercolor markers, Copic Ciao colorless blender, Copic Sketch marker, waterbrush filled with water.

Although not all alcohol based markers feature a Japanese brush nib (or Super Brush, as Copic calls it), Copic Sketch and Copic Ciao come with them.  The large, soft, rubbery brush nib on the Zig Art and Graphic Twin is the closest I've come to a Super Brush on a watercolor marker- both brush nibs are able to give very delicate strokes.  The Super Tip on the Crayola isn't so super in comparison, it's very stiff and dry.  I have found a couple brands of waterbased markers that DO offer brush nibs- a brand sold at The Paper Source, and Sargent's Classic waterbased markers, both of which will be reviewed here in the upcoming months.

Although not all alcohol based markers are refillable, many are, and the Copic Sketch I use in this review is not only refillable, but you can replace both of the nibs easily.  You cannot replace the nibs on the Zig Art and Graphic Twin or the Crayola Supertips- these cheaper markers are intended to be disposable.

The Blenders:
Tombow ABT Colorless Blender
Copic Caio Alcohol Colorless Blender
Clean Waterbrush full of water

From left to right:  Pentel waterbrush, Tombow ABT colorless blender (waterbased), Copic Ciao Colorless Blender (alcohol based)
IN GENERAL: You can assume that waterbased markers can be blended by waterbased blenders or water, and alcohol based markers can be blended with alcohol.

HOWEVER:  Alcohol does affect watercolors while they are still wet, so I wanted to see what effect Colorless Blender would have on still wet waterbased marker and watercolor marker.

The Swatch Tests:

The Papers:
Swatchbook- Strathmore Watercolor Paper
Pacon Marker Paper

Strathmore Coldpress Watercolor Journal Paper

On watercolor paper, only alcohol based colorless blender (Copic brand, in this case) affects alcohol based marker (again, Copic).  Water and Tombow ABT colorless blender do nothing.

On watercolor paper, alcohol based colorless blender, Tombow ABT colorless blender, and water all effect Crayola waterbased markers to different degrees.

On watercolor paper, alcohol based colorless blender, Tombow ABT colorless blender, and water all effect watercolor markers like Zig Art and Graphic Twin.


On cardstock, only alcohol based colorless blender effects alcohol based markers.  Tombow ABT colorless blender and water do nothing.

On cardstock, Copic's alcohol based colorless blender has no effect on waterbased markers like Crayola, and Tombow ABT and water have limited effect.  Tombow ABT and water cause paper damage when applied over waterbased marker on cardstock.

On cardstock, alcohol based colorless blender has little effect on watercolor markers like the Zig Art and Graphic Twin.  Water and Tombow ABT's colorless blender have some effect.  Water causes paper damage on cardstock.

Marker Paper

On marker paper, only alcohol based colorless blender effects alcohol based marker ink.  Tombow ABT and water do nothing.

On marker paper, alcohol based colorless blender has little effect on waterbased markers like Crayolas.  Tombow ABT's colorless blender does disrupt the ink a little, but not enough to encourage blending on marker paper, and water disrupts the paper surface.

On marker paper, alcohol based colorless blender does cause the pigment of the watercolor marker to shift a little, but not significantly.  Tombow ABT's colorless blender has a better result, although not significant blending.  Water causes pilling, and ruins the paper's surface.

General Notes:

It seems like Crayola waterbased markers perform almost as well as the Zig Art and Graphic Twin watercolor markers for these preliminary tests.  Both react to Copic Colorless Blender (basically, alcohol), the Tombow ABT (which is a watercolor marker) blender, and regular water in a waterbrush.  Surprisingly, the Crayola I tested (a rich reddish brown, which tend to be prone to seperation) did not separate in these conditions, regardless of the paper.

Reworking waterbased and watercolor media with water and the Tombow ABT colorless blender causes the page to pill, so if you work in multiple layers (basically anything more than one layer blended out) cardstock and marker paper aren't good choices for water based and watercolor media.

On watercolor paper, all three blenders worked to some degree with watercolor and waterbased markers.  Not surprisingly, waterbased blenders had zero effect on alcohol based markers.  On the other two papers tested, waterbased and watercolor markers faired much worse, as the papers aren't designed to handle media with slow evaporation times.  Alcohol based inks and blenders did just fine on cardstock, and decently well on Pacon's marker paper, but that's because the solvent dries almost immediately, so layers can be applied without damaging the paper's surface.

Compatible Inking Products:
Sailor Mitso Aida- Compatible with Alcohol, Waterbased, and Watercolor, if allowed to fully dry
India Ink- Compatible with waterbased, watercolor, NOT COMPATIBLE WITH ALCOHOL BASED INKS
Memento Inks- Compatible with Copic (link)
Copic Multiliner- Compatible with alcohol, waterbased, and watercolor, if allowed to fully dry

If you're interested in reading more about alcohol based markers, check out these links!

Alcohol-based Markers vs. Waterbased Markers

If you're interested in reading more about watercolor markers, check out these links!

Watercolor Brush Pen Review: Docrafts Artiste Watercolor Markers
Watercolor Brush Pen Review: Zig Art and Graphic Twin
Mini Review: Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers
Watercolor Brushpen Review: Tombow ABT
Watercolor Marker Review: Letraset's Aquamarkers
Watercolor Pen Review: Marvy LePlume II

If you're interested in reading more about waterbased markers like Crayola, check out these links!

Walmart Art Supply Review: Waterbased Markers

For the Materials Mentioned in this Post

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