This week on Art Supply Posse we talk about back-to-school rituals, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and do a little follow-up about the A-word. It’s not our most art supply-centric episode – we’ll be back in our 1-subject notebooks next week. Also, we had a little recording issue so if the sound quality is a little off, that’s why. Our apologies, just grab your sketch tools and doodle through the episode and you won’t notice a thing!
A little bit worse from the road wear, Heather and I are back for the final installment of our series on colored pencils this week on Art Supply Posse. I almost couldn’t remember where I was! I was so tired last night! We cover a little news and follow-up, do our drawing for our first giveaway, yawn a couple times and talk about the colored pencil weirdos — the misfits, and the ones that defy category. I like all colored pencils, even the weirdos.
Hope you like the episode and next week we promise to be awake and ready to discuss the heady topic: calling yourself an artist. If you have a comment or question or your own story, please let us know. We’d love to share it on the episode. Thanks!
Story Supply Co. released their first Working Artist Series Sketchbook — The Mike Hawthorne Edition this month and its notable for a lot of reasons. First, the 2-pack volume is an oversized booklet at 5.25″x 7.5″ inches. Its also filled with thicker 70# Cougar natural smooth paper. Third, the covers are wraparound illustrations by the awesomely talented Marvel Comics artist, Mike Hawthorne and feature two unique storied illustrations on the covers. On one is characters prepared to go into battle and the other, the same characters celebrating symbolic of the phases of creativity. Oh, and the last… its costs just $14 for the pack.
The covers are printed on a classic 100# kraft stock and Mike signed and dated the covers in white pen as this series is limited to 5000 packs. Sales of each of these packs allows one sketchbook to be donated to a young artist in York, PA with his or her own story to be told.
On the inside covers, Mike included his tutorials on how to draw a face. I used the steps to draw my own face. Not quite up to Mike’s graceful line quality but the tutorial is a classic that any fledgling artist should try.
I tested out a lot of different tools on the paper which is super smooth. Brush pens, markers, fineliners and pencils seem best suited to the paper. I definitely treated it like a sketchbook on these tests using materials I’d use for drawing. In other words, I totally forgot to test out my arsenal of fountain pens! But I will put some photos on Instagram later with some fountain pen tests soon.
I could certainly apply watercolor but the paper was not really designed for it as it did cause the paper to curl quite a bit. I used the Sailor Fude fountain pen to create the pattern along the side and my Platinum Maki-e for the lettering and neither feathered, Both pens dried quickly as well.
From the reverse, there was a little showthrough but minimal. I do stuff like this to purposely test paper limitations. You can clearly see ho much the watercolor curled the paper so I wouldn’t have wanted to draw on the reverse of this page anyway. My instinct is to recommend using watercolor pencils to add color with a semi-dry waterbrush or using watercolor markers if you want to add color to black line art on this paper. I think the effects would be pretty good with a lot less curl. Plus, colored pencil looks great on this smooth stock.
I really enjoyed using this paper for mark making. I’ve been playing with patterns and the smoothness of the paper lends itself to a black pen, pencil, colored pencils. Its definitely smoother paper than you’ll find in most commercial sketchbooks so it creates a different experience. The size is perfectly portable and not so large as to be intimidating or overwhelming. Mike’s awesome cover art, however, is a lot to live up to!
Overall, I love this book. I love the size, the heavier weight paper and I love that Story Supply Co. is exploring a working artists series. And as a comic book geek, I love that they are working with Mike Hawthorne. I can’t wait to see who they will work with next. Not to sway Story Supply Co., but I’d love to see them work with a female artist — young girls need heroes too. Keep up the great work!
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Story Supply Co. for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
I know there was a lot of hullaballoo about the Blackwing Volumes release this summer of the #56 Joe DiMaggio release. But then just a week or two later, they very quietly released their Blackwing Colors Coloring Pencils collection (set of 12 in presentation box for $19.95) and I couldn’t click the Buy It Now button fast enough.
The set includes 12 colored pencils, produced in Japan. Each pencil is hexagonal and the barrel is completely painted in the color of the lead color (thank you!). The end cap is metallic silver and the logo name is imprinted in metallic silver on each pencil though the color name is not. This no-color-name isn’t a huge issue in a same 12-color set but in low light it can be a bit hard to tell the brown, purple and black pencils apart. Also, it suggests that there aren’t plans for more colors where it might be helpful to clarify between various tones and hues which is a disappointment. But maybe if there is really good feedback and response, other editions will be produced and more colors will be added with names stamped on the pencils for clarity.
From a purely presentation standpoint, these pencils, like all Blackwing products, are flawless. The finish on the pencils is beautiful and silky. The hex shape feels good in the hand. The cedar wood gives them and almost wood chime-like sound when they clink together in my hand. For looks alone, its worth it to have a set of these pencils. They cost the same as a box of Palomino Blackwing 602s, so what are you waiting for? The rest of the review can wait until you place your order…. go on.
Okay, now that you’ve ordered some, what can you expect in terms of quality? The Blackwing Colors are SOFT, creamy colored pencils. I put these pencils up next to Derwent Coloursoft and Prismacolor Premiers and in terms of color and softness, they were right on par. One notable thing about the Blackwing Colors set is that rather than include a white pencil as the last color, they chose to include metallic silver instead. While I find this to be a fun add, if you plan to do any blending, you may want to go out and purchase a white, cream or colorless blender from Prismacolor or Coloursoft to add to your set to help with blending and burnishing.
I did contact Palomino to ask if the pencils were wax- or oil-based colored pencils but I did not get a reply back. Based on this side-by-side comparison with two other wax-based colored pencils, I’d guess that the Blackwing Colors are wax-based but its just a guess. If anyone here’s a definitive, please leave a note in the comments.
As with Prismas and Colorsofts, on textured stocks the Blackwing Colors would wear down quickly because the leads are soft. They did sharpen very easily. I used a Staedtler sharpener which gave a fairly sharp point which is not always recommended for soft colored pencils. I got a little crumbling at the tip because the point was so fine, not unlike an over-sharpened Prisma, but the point of the Blackwing Colors did not break.
I was testing the pencils on Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which has a bit of tooth to it which is why the paper is still showing through on all the color swatches. Later in the day I switched to testing in my current daily notebook (my new Quo Vadis Forum refillable with blank refill, review soon!) which has very smooth paper which is not normally conducive to pencils and the Blackwing Colors worked great. This was a surprising turn of events for me.
I wanted to include what the pencils looked like with examples of blending and burnishing so I did some real quick examples this morning and shot them with my iPhone. The colors aren’t as clean as the other images but you can at least see the effects that can be achieved. I used the red and blue pencil to blend and create purple. Then used the red, pink and orange to blend a lovely sunrise effect. And finally, I blended the bright grass green and yellow together to create some lime-y hues. They all blend well, actually better in person than they look in the photo. And they will also blend well with Prismas, Colorsofts, Derwent Artists and other wax-based pencils. The little bit of smudging you see was from me running my hand over the loose particles rather than blowing them off. The pencils don’t actually smduge.
As for burnishing, I applied a heavy burnishing of white Prismacolor over the background of my drawing and it worked beautifully with the Blackwing Colors creating a more impressionistic look and softening the overall pencil marks. So, the Blackwing Colors are burnish-friendly.
I am absolutely thrilled I purchased the Blackwing Colors colored pencils. They are leaps and bounds better than the Palomino Colors. They are currently only available in the set of 12 so if you burn through one particular color like I seem to be doing with the red and blue pencils, you may want to refer to my Coloursoft and Primsacolor comparisons for open stock replacements. They will certainly not be as pretty a pencil but they are comparable on the inside. Hopefully, Blackwing will get the hint and offer open stock soon as well as more color options. I want turquoise, parma violet and some ochres ASAP!
This week on Art Supply Posse we talk about a topic near-and-dear to my heart and one that’s truly not to Heather: colored pencils. Listen to me try to woo her over to the not-so-dark side with the rainbow that is colored pencils. I try to entice her with ridiculously expensive Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils. Am I convincing? Decide for yourself.
(This week’s feature image provided by the awesomely talented Dan Bishop of Design Concussion and Karas Kustoms. He’s so rad he’s got a gold box of Prismacolors. Seriously!)
The Uni ArtErase 12-color Colored Pencil Set ($33) is considerably more expensive than the Prismacolor Col-Erase set I reviewed a couple weeks ago but when I saw it, I knew I had to try them. Uni Mitsubishi makes such amazingly high-quality graphite pencils and I love their red/blue pencils that it seemed worth considering the possibility that their erasable colored pencils might be worth the investment.
First of all, the ArtErase pencils come in a lovely tin box compared with the paperboard box that the Prismacolor Col-Erase were packaged. Not that I want a lot of fancy packaging, nor am I inclined to keep my pencils in a tin, but from the standpoint of the pencils being protected in transport and, having a useful and potentially reusable box, clearly Uni has the lead here. Uni also included a foam/plastic eraser in a hard plastic sleeve with the set which, while being only a couple dollars additional investment, is also a mark in their favor. And, it actually works. As opposed to the useless pink erasers on the end of the Col-Erase pencils, which are so useless I don’t think I even mentioned them in my review of the Col-Erase at all. I think those pink eraser top erasers are included on the Col-Erase pencils are for decorative purposes only.
The ArtErase pencils are absolutely beautiful as pencil objects alone. I’ve come to expect this from top-tier Japanese brands but it should be mentioned, especially in contrast to the Col-Erase. The finish on each of the ArtErase pencils is lacquer smooth with perfect foil stamping, gold foil rings and a sparkly metallic, gold-dipped end that gives it a clean, sophisticated finish. The core of each pencil is thicker than the Col-Erase though I do not have a caliper to provide specific measurements. The ArtErase pencils have the look and feel of a Faber-Castell Polychromos rather than a Prismacolor Verithin, if that helps give you a better idea.
Once applied to paper (in this case, a Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook paper) it becomes clear how rich and creamy the leads on the pencils really are. They are much softer and creamier than Col-Erase pencils of comparable color. It’s most notable with the black pencils. The ArtErase black is considerably darker and inkier in color than the black Col-Erase. Where some Col-Erase pencils can feel scratchy on paper, the ArtErase pencils feel velvety. Even with how smooth and buttery the ArtErase pencils are, the only colors I could smudge with my finger was the black, brown and red. I could smudge the same colors in the Col-Erase plus the blue. The water solubility tests were also pretty comparable though the ArtErase, since the colors were richer, were prone to a bit more color spreading when wet.
Overall, the ArtErase pencils are richer, creamier and more luscious colored pencils when compared to the Col-Erase. They erase a little bit better than the Col-Erase and have softer, thicker leads. They are a bit more water soluble and are about as smudgeable as the Col-Erase. But the ArtErase are considerably more expensive. Presently, I have only found them through JetPens in the 12-color set so should you find that you like a few colors in particular, there are not open stock sources to replenish those. That said, the ArtErase are not at all scratchy like the Col-Erase and generally perform more like traditional artist’s grade colored pencils than the Col-Erase.
If you’re looking for an alternative for base drawings for animation, storyboarding, preliminary artwork or even everyday sketching and artwork, I think these pencils are far more versatile than the Col-Erase even with the more limited color range and the lack of open stock options. But they are more expensive. Buy once, cry once?
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
This week, on Episode 7 of Art Supply Posse, we host our first interview with artist, illustrator, and educator, Maura Cluthe. Meanwhile, Heather recovers from camping crud and Ana works too much. Enjoy!
I was really excited to be able to purchase the handmade watercolor pans from Pfeiffer Art Supply. They are listed as non-toxic and come in either half- or full-pans. Half pans are currently $6 each and full pans are $12 which is a very good price. There are currently 14 colors available in their line-up, each named after a bird. I purchased eleven out of the 14 colors as a few were sold out and I decided to skip the Crane White as I don’t often use white when I watercolor. Otherwise, I purchased almost the full range and I’m really glad I did.
The pans came filled to the top and can have a strong magnet included on the bottom if you add a note in your order. Pfeiffer uses small disc magnets that are a bit thicker than the flexible sheet magnets I normally use on my watercolor pans but are much stronger magnets. It did make the Pfeiffer pans uneven in my watercolor kit with my other pans as a result though. If you plan on using this set independently it wouldn’t make a difference but since I ended up adding the Pfeiffer pans to my everyday watercolor set, the Pfeiffer pans ended up sitting a little higher than the others which I found a little distracting. In the future, I think I will have Pfeiffer send me pans without the magnets and I’ll use my own sheet magnets so all the pans sit at the same height.
Now, let’s talk about the colors. The colors were actually quite bright and vivid. While the pans were dry, they wet easily and the colors mixed well. I was able to use just two colors in the palette to produce several additional colors I was concerned were missing from the pan like a more warm yellow, an aqua and a more indigo blue very easily while I was swatching colors.
The colors on this smooth paper had some light granulation. I have since used the paint on some more textured paper and its just as nice.
In painting, the paint also re-wets easily making it easy to rework areas. I love the Heron grey. I don’t normally like black watercolor paint but this light neutral helps with soften and mute the brilliance of the colors to create more subtle tones. The Heron grey is great for doing a simple tonal sketch too.
I painted this sketch using a combination of Pfeiffer watercolors and Schminkes and used the Heron grey for the shadows. This was painted on Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor paper which is a cold press watercolour paper so you can see a bit more of the granulation and pooling of the colors.
Pfeiffer watercolors also mixed nicely with my other watercolors so its easy to add one or two colors to an existing palette if you don’t want to invest in a full array of colors. I’d recommend trying a few, maybe even whole pans since the prices are so reasonable. I really like the Macaw Blue, Cardinal Red, Goldfinch Yellow Ochre and Motmot Green as well as the Heron Grey if you’re looking for colors to start with.
After appearing on the Eraser episode of the Erasable podcast, I decided to fully test all the erasers (and then some) that were in the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise eraser pack as well as some of the erasers that were mentioned on the episode. Some were long time favorites of mine and others were new-to-me goodies so I thought it was time to do a side-by-side comparison.
The first phase of this experiment was to test each eraser on the smooth, everyday paper. I chose Leuchtturm1917 which is a warm white, smooth paper. I wanted to test three “everyday pencils” as well as three colored pencils that might be used by people who might want to add color, sketches or more creative elements to their notes or everyday notes.
For regular graphite, most of the erasers were acceptable. The Koh-i-noor Thermoplastic Hexagonal “throwing star” and the Kohi-noor Pebbles were the least effective on the Leuchtturm1917 but for daily writing, they were acceptable. The Staedtler Mars Plastic, the Tombow, the Sakura and Pilot Foam and the Campus Plastic all performed above expectations for graphite erasing.
What was most surprising to me was that the Foam erasers by Sakura and Pilot usurped by beloved Staedtler for the best eraser when erasing the colored pencil markings from the smooth Leuchtturm paper. And the unusual and rare-as-a-coelacanth pink Campus Plastic Eraser also did a better-than-average job of erasing both graphite and colored pencil too. Not that I’m biased against pink erasers but it was pink and scented or at least swee-smelling so I wasn’t expecting it to be a top-performer too. The Koh-i-noor Pebbles did a good job of erasing the Col-Erase on the Leuchtturm which was a bit of a surprise.
In an effort to be completely thorough, I also decided to test the erasers on the toothier Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook paper which allowed some erasers to really shine where others had a lot more challenges. The Pebbles struggled on the textured surfaces but the Tombow Mono, Campus Plastic and Staedtler Mars Plastic all did well. The Sakura Foam and Pilot Foam erasers did quite well too.
This week on Art Supply Posse, Heather and I discuss surviving bullying, being brave, making art, Sketchbook Skool and a backlog of follow-up. And we still didn’t get to it all!
This week’s artwork was created by my lovely co-host, Heather Rivard using her new Schmincke watercolors. Pop over to the web site to listen to the whole episode, get the iTunes subscription link and leave feedback about the episode. Thanks!
While researching other artist’s recommended drawing tools, I found several who recommended Prismacolor Col-Erase and since I tend to favor the Prismacolor Premiers but had never used the Col-Erase, I thought I’d see what the appeal was.
Most artists mention a preference for the Col-Erase, not because they actually erase very well but because they do not smudge so the lines they put down stay where they put them and the lines are light enough that if they ink over them, when they photocopy or scan their artwork, the original pencil marks don’t usually show up if they use a light color like light blue or non-photo blue.
Generally speaking, I found the pencils to be very smooth to use while they also maintained a point quite well in use. Some colors were harder and required a little but more pressure to show up than others. For example, the Carmine Red was much softer than the Vermillion. Why? I don’t know. But for laying some underlying sketches, these pencils didn’t smudge like a graphite pencil does.
With a standard white plastic eraser like a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, I was able to erase some of the marks but not all of them. The eraser included on each pencil is a pink rubber eraser which worked abysmally. Its purpose was clearly to look classic only.
The pencil marks made by Col-Erase are also water soluble so if you plan to use the pencils in combination with watercolors, the marks will move but depending on the colors you choose, it could enhance your artwork rather than muddy it like graphite might.
The Col-Erase pencil marks did not smudge as much as graphite. Certain colors were more prone to smudging like the black, dark blue and brown but the lighter colors did not smudge without serious effort or a burnishing tool.
These little drawing were done along the margin of the page after I did the eraser tests so the heads are no bigger than small coins so the sharp points of the Col-Erase pencils do allow for fine details and quick doodling.
Did I mention that the 24-color box I purchased was acquired on Amazon for $10.96? Cheap. Hard to resist at that price. Its actually cheaper to purchase the whole box than to buy these open stock. Most art supply stores sell these individually for about $1 or more per pencil. Even Dick Blick sells the 24-pencil set for $11.50.
If you’ve never tried the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils, the price point is low enough that a box of 24 is well within most pen-and-pencil addicts’ range. Their good point retention and loyalty by the comics illustrations and animation industry should be reason enough to peak your curiosity.
This week is part two in our on-going series on markers. We discuss brush pens — the whys, the types and the what-fors — plus Heather gets her first “big girl” pan watercolor set and we try to figure out the difference between pigment, dye and ink.
Enjoy! And now you can leave comments on the Art Supply Posse site too! Don’t forget to jam out to our new theme song.
After doing the Art Supply Posse podcast last week about sketchbooks, I stumbled into my local art store, Artist’s and Craftsman, and found the smallest spiral sketchbook samplers so I grabbed all the varieties that had in stock to try out. Borden & Riley makes my beloved-but-discontinued favorite 100% Cotton Rag Rough Marker Paper that we used for lettering so I was interested in trying out some of their other papers. I picked up the #880 Royal Sketchbook($3.84), #234 Paris Paper for Pens ($2.33) and #15 Tuppence Sketch Bond ($2.33, size not shown on web site). Each book was spiral bound at the top of its diminutive 2.5×3.5″ size. The Royal Sketchbook (90lb) and Paris Paper for Pens (108lb) had 20 sheet and the Tuppence Sketch(70lb) included 50 sheets.
For each paper test, I used the same assortment of pens, pencils and markers on each paper to get a comparison to how they performed and then did a doodle specific to the type of paper. Let’s go!
The Royal Sketchbook was the book I had the most hope for because it had thick, creamy stock with some texture to it. The paper was warm white, almost ivory and reminded me immediately of the many multi-media sketchbooks I’ve tried like the Canson XL mixed media, the Strathmore mixed media and the Stillman & Birn Alpha paper. I immediately wanted this paper in a larger format. It was worth the $3.84 test to determine I wanted more of this paper.
I’d always heard mention of the Paris Paper for Pens as a good option for calligraphy, dip pens, lettering and such so I was definitely interested in seeing how this paper felt. Its a very smooth, bright white stock. Its touted as being bleed-proof and I got no show through on the back of the stock except with the teal blue Spectra Marker which is an alcohol marker like a Copic. So, I wouldn’t recommend this paper for Copic-style marker drawings but it held pen, fountain pen and flex nib line work cleanly. The smoothness of the stock was really interesting too. I look forward to experimenting with it more and trying a variety of brush pens. I Was able to add some water to my watercolor marker color and pencil but it did not move as easily as it did on the Royal Sketchbook paper. It did create some interesting effects though.
These were some additional fountain pen tests on the Paris Paper for Pens. Some standard writing with a fine nib Franklin Christoph as well as some flex writing with my Waterman.
And the last book I tried was the Tuppence Sketch which had the lightest weight paper. Once I’d tried the other two, I knew that the Tuppence was definitely the budget/dry media paper of the three. The grey PITT brush lines showed through a bit to the back and even some of the black pen from the “#” was starting to show through so this is definitely lightweight budget paper. The watercolor pencil did not move at all and the paper started to warp when water was added. When I did the larger sketch, I started to give up because the W&N watercolor brush markers didn’t move as smoothly as they do on more receptive paper so I kept adding more water which just made the paper buckle and the show through on the back is really bad. I pretty much abandoned the drawing at that point. Were I more inclined to do straight pencil sketches, I think this paper would be just fine. There’s a nice tooth to it — not so much that it will chew up your pencils but enough to hold some pigment and color. I might go back and try some colored pencil and graphite drawings on this paper to give it a second chance but I tend to prefer paper that can take at least a little bit of water media.
Borden & Riley is not one of the larger artist paper producers but they make good products so its worth checking with your local art supply shop to see if they carry them. I’m hoping that Artist & Craftsman will get a wider selection of their products in stock soon. I’d love to have a full sized Royal Sketchbook and a goodly-sized Paris Paper for Pens pad to use as well. Can never have too much paper, right?
The Crescent Rendr No Show Thru Sketchbook 3.5″x5.5″ ($10) was something I wanted to try in hopes of finding a good multimedia sketchbook. I got the small size to sample at first before investing in a larger version. Crescent also claims that the sketchbook lays flat as show on the wrap included with the book.
The sketchbook has a flexible, soft touch paperboard cover and a perfect binding. In looking closely at the pages, the paper looks like there is a black core in the middle of the white sheet to create the bleed-proof quality.
Was the paper bleed proof? Yes, but any wet media, including watercolor markers, liquid ink applied in any volume, brush pens filled with liquid acrylic or ink, caused the paper to buckle and curl severely. I tried adding water to Winsor & Newton watercolor markers to blend the color and the color wouldn’t move. So there is another aspect to this paper that changes the property of some materials as well. The watercolor marker absorbed into the paper and made it impossible to manipulate those markers with water. I got a little movement with water soluble pencils like a Stabilo ALL but mostly, I found the paper frustrating. Sure, most material didn’t bleed to the reverse but the curl and buckle was so bad I couldn’t really use the other side of the sheet anyway so bleed through didn’t really matter by the time I finished a page anyway. At least for the types of art materials I use.
As for the claims about lay-flat, I found in the small 3.5×5.5″ size, the book did not lay flat at all, even after trying to bend the pages and cracking the spine. I ended up having to use a clip or hold the book with my hand. Maybe the larger book lays flat more easily but the small pocket-sized book did not lay flat and then after I used it, it did not close either.
Overall, I found this particular product quite frustrating. I looked online to see if anyone else had reviewed it. Notebook Stories agreed with my findings: bleed proof but curls with wet media. On Amazon, I found reviews that suggested that if you use a lot of alcohol-based markers like Copic Markers, then you might have a better experience with this paper but that fountain pens feather terribly. So, this is definitely not for fountain pen users or watercolorists. If you do a lot of marker illustrations, I would be more inclined to recommend traditional marker paper which is translucent but designed to withstand alcohol markers. If you want to use a wider range of mixed media (from pens to ink to graphite) and wet media (watercolor, markers, etc), I’d recommend Strathmore Mixed Media, Canson XL Mixed Media, Stillman & Birn or one of the artist’s sketchbooks from Seawhite of Brighton. I’ve written reviews about the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal and the A5 Starter Sketchbook pack if you’d like more information.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
After my positive experience with the Seawhite of Brighton Starter Sketchbook, I decided to take the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal out for a test drive. This is their best effort to replicate a better Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook and they did it. First of all, its a true A5 size. Second, on Amazon, its priced at $12.50. Third, the paper is 130 gsm cartridge paper. And it has 128 pages.
While the Moleskine Artist’s Sketchbook claims to have heavier weight paper, it repels most liquid media making it entirely unusable for me since I like to add watercolor to my sketches. So… after quite liking the 140 gsm paper in the Starter Sketchbook, I was willing to accept a slightly lighter “cartridge paper” to have a light water-receptive paper for sketching at a reasonable price.
The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal cover is a slightly flexible hard cover like the Moleskines and the rounded corners too. Its not a stiff cover which makes it firm enough to support your writing or drawing but not overly stiff. I have other sketchbooks with stiff covers and square corners that could double as weapons. The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal also has a sewn binding and will lay flat with a little training.
The paper in the Artist’s Travel Journal is a warm white which is quite pleasant compared to the bright white of the Starter Sketchbook. I immediately went to it with pen and ink and watercolor and while the paper did waffle a little bit, it did not resist the paint nor did it pill. WIN.
I tested an assortment of fountain pens with good luck as well, though the paper did absorb the ink a bit more than Rhodia or other paper more specifically designed for writing. I didn’t have any issues with splining or feathering except with a rollerball and then only very minorly. Felt tip and fine tipped fountain pens behaved well on the paper making it a good book for art journaling, mixed media and dry sketching with light wash or ink. Its definitely not watercolor paper but it can withstand a little bit of water and wet media. Enough to be a big step up from the Moleskine Sketchbook.
The Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal includes a ribbon bookmark and a gusseted pocket in the back for scraps and momentos as well so all the details are still there. And there’s the vertical elastic. To the untrained eye, no one will know its not a Moleskine unless you tell them. And I would because this book is just better.
I did a second round of testing because I was feeling it… and with ink, watercolor and colored pencil, I was still thrilled with the overall performance of the paper. Yes, I got a little waffle after it dried but nothing terrible, all things considered. I slapped the elastic around the cover after everything was dry and hopefully that will help flatten things out over time.
And in my second round of pen tests, I added in more everyday pens like Fineliners, a Pilot G2, some gel pens and a Pilot Precise. I guess I was worried I was feeling too cocky about the sketchbook being good for me but maybe not right for someone else.
Now, I feel fairly confident that if you’re looking for something MORE than just writing paper — that you want more than a Leuchtturm 1917 or Rhodia Webbie because you want to sketch or do some pen and ink or markers or watercolor, the Seawhite Artist’s Travel Journal is a good option. Its not the top tier. Its the everyday sketcher. Its a notebook that doesn’t make me feel like I’m messing up the “good notebook”. Its a “work” book. It good enough to get the bones of a sketch or idea down, capture my everyday adventures and get banged around in my bag. Does that make any kind of sense?
On the neverending hunt for the “perfect paper” for a notebook or sketchbook, I will try just about anything I stumble across on the internet. One such find is the Seawhite of Brighton A5 Starter Sketchbook set which I found on Amazon. The small set of three A5 booklets with simple black covers and 40 pages of 140gsm (approx. 80lb) “cartridge paper” were too good an option to pass up. First, they fit perfectly into my Chic Sparrow Creme Deluxe A5 Black Beauty Traveler’s Notebook cover. “A sketchbook in my planner/notebook kit? Yes, please!” And second, the paper was listed to be heavy enough weight to withstand ink and light washes which is my sweet spot for day-to-day sketchbook needs. So I invested the whopping $10.95 for the set and waited impatiently for the books to arrive.
From the exterior, the booklets feel like Moleskine Cahier or other small cardstock cover cahier. The black cardstock cover is not super heavyweight but is enough to provide protection and add some stability to the paper inside. The paper itself is a crisp bright white and the weight seemed like a good option for pen and ink with enough tooth for pencil and other materials.
I did a little research to determine what exactly “cartridge paper” is, a term not familiar to most folks in the US. Cartridge paper is a heavyweight paper originally used for making gun cartridges and later used by artists and printmakers and they kept the term. Its often compared to Bristol board though maybe not quite as thick. So, in the future, if you hear the term “cartridge paper” you have an idea that the paper is meant to be a bit more upscale than standard copier paper even though it doesn’t sound like it.
Because of the small size of the sketchbook, I was actually able to basically use a whole book before writing up a review rather than just a few small pen tests so I feel like I got a particularly good feel for the paper. In standard writing tests, I didn’t discover any problems. Gel pens, felt tips and fountain pens all seemed well-behaved with minimal bleeding or showthrough. If you like to use a wide nib pen and don’t mind blank pages (you can always use a guide sheet to keep those lines straight!), the Seawhite of Brighton paper might be a nice addition to your stationery cupboard.
Viewed from the reverse of the writing sample, the only show through was the Pilot Envelope pen and a bit of the panda drawing but it was not enough to keep me from drawing on the back side of the page later.
What I really wanted to test was when I introduced more art making tools like watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, which are my favorite portable media. What I came to discover is that “light wash” was the key with watercolor or the paper did start to buckle a little bit but it did not pill. So, by the time I had filled the booklet, the paper was a little waffly but there was not any bleeding of color through to the reverse from the watercolors or anything like that. Just potential puddle spots because the paper waffled a little bit.
I used the book to do a lot of color tests with some new watercolor sets that I’ll do lengthier reviews about in the future but it was nice to have a small book to keep all the swatches together and be able to flip back and forth and see color depth and granulation differences quickly and easily.
I still prefer a little bit heavier weight paper in general for my mixed media sketching but its the trade-off point between cost, portability and need. Some days, I’m just scratching out ideas, doodles and color chips and I don’t necessarily need 200gsm watercolor paper for that. The Seawhite of Brighton 140gsm paper is definitely a step up from the standard paper found in most black art sketchbooks in US art supply store that is usually closer to 65-70lb (96gms+) and much less conducive to any sort of wet media like ink or watercolor or even juicy markers.
To that, I’d like to add my own personal experiences, though I don’t have nearly Liz’s experience and authority from the drawing perspecitve.However, if you are hoping to do more drawing and sketching with your fountain pens or wanting to purchase (or set aside) a pen in your collection specifically for drawing, these are my recommendations. You don’t need all of these, one or two will more than suit. You may want to have one filled with a waterproof ink and one with a water soluble ink or one with black ink and one with brown or blue ink or your favorite color for sketching.
What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the best sketching fountain pens are not necessarily the most expensive fountain pens. You may already have several of these in your collection that have been set aside as your collection has expanded and repurposing these pens as “sketching pens” may give them new life and new purpose, and you, a new hobby.
Pens Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (or Sailor Desk Pen)
The Platinum Carbon Desk Pen ($9.60) is available with a super, fine Japanese nib and ships with one cartridge of Platinum Carbon Black ink which is waterproof. I used my PCDP almost daily and it took almost six months to run through the first cartridge. Because of the fine nib, it uses ink very economically. I even used it to fill in areas, write notes, doodle and sketch but since the lines are so fine, the cartridges last a long time. So, this sub-$10 investment will last you quite awhile.
Because of the fineness of the nib, the pen performs on almost any paper stock from lightweight sketching paper to heavier weight watercolor paper without a lot of feathering or bleeding issues. I occasionally ran into issues on toothy paper as the fine nib can pick up fibers in the tines. This causes some momentary clogging but a wipe with a tissue will usually remove the fibers. This usually only happens on cold press watercolor paper, at which point its best to switch to a felt tip pen or wider nib that is less likely to catch on the fibers.
The PCDP was designed to accommodate the waterproof ink and its a budget-priced pen so if it did get clogged beyond repair, it would not be the end of the world. So far, mine’s been a little trooper and it really is the one pen that is almost always in my bag.
The longer length of the pen is a little challenging for portability but I’ve seen that some people have trimmed down the length a bit and filled in the end with epoxy or putty. The cap was not designed to be a long term solution so its an aesthetic mismatch but the functionality of this pen outweighs its looks.
I also have a Sailor Desk Pen which is similar in design with a weird, peachy cap that doesn’t match as well but was also designed to be used with Sailor’s Nano permanent inks. The Sailor Desk Pen is harder to find these days but if you already have one and were wondering what to use it for, it would make a great sketching pen. Sailor Nano cartridges are available packs of 12 ($10) in UltraBlack and Blue-Black which could potentially last you six years if you draw as often as I do, maybe only three years if you’re more prolific. Or you could buy a whole 50 ml bottle of the Nano Ink for $33 just be sure to grab a converter too ($8.25) because Sailor also uses a proprietary cartridge and converter system.
The Rotring ArtPen ($21+) was one of the first modern fountain pens I ever bought. I found it in an art supply store and used it for years before I knew that there were other options available. I just kept going back and buying the Rotring black cartridges and using the pen to draw and write with until it ran dry. I still have it and I still fill it regularly since it takes standard European cartridges and converters. I’ve filled it with both water soluble and permanent inks, I’ve let it sit for months so inks dried in it and then soaked it for days to try to resuscitate it. It has continued to survive for decades now. It has proven much heartier and durable than all the Rapidographs and Isographs I’ve had put together.
It has the same long tapered shape as the PCDP so it has that arty “paint brush” feeling. Mine has the EF nib making it great for sketching and probably is responsible for starting me on my love affair with fine nib pens but its available with a variety of nib sizes including calligraphy nibs.
The cap has a firm click to close it and was actually designed to be capped unlike the PCDP and the Sailor Desk Pen so while its a bit more expensive, its a fully thought-out pen. The Rotring is probably the most universally usable option since it take standard European cartridges and/or converters and the nib sizes are based on the European measurements with the widest range of nib sizes available of all the options I’ve listed.
The last option on my list of traditional fountain pens is the Lamy Joy ($28) available in white and black. It too has the long tapered shape of a paint brush but can only be purchased with a calligraphy nib (1.1mm, 1.5mm or 1.9mm) initially so it you like the look and feel of a classic Lamy Safari but would like to have a long, tapered shape for sketching, you’ll have to purchase a separate nib (approx $11) making the Lamy Joy the most expensive option.
Lamy also requires either proprietary ink cartridges (none of Lamy’s inks are waterproof) or a Lamy LZ24 converter ($4.70) in order to use bottled inks. If you’re like me, you have a stash of Lamy Safari fountain pens and can probably liberate a converter but if you’re planning to use waterproof inks in your Joy, you may want to be sure not to mix the converter you use with the Joy with the one you use with your Lamy 2000 with the 14K gold nib… just in case.
I recently purchased a Joy and replaced the calligraphy nib with an EF steel nib and filled it with Platinum Sepia Pigment ink. I purchased the still-available, limited edition white model from last year but its also available in black with a red clip or a slightly higher priced black with aluminum cap.
I had not been a great lover of the Safari in the past. Its a good solid pen but not one that made my heart palpitate. The Joy, however, touches me on another level. I think the longer length gives it better balance and weight in the hand making it feel a bit more substantial and using it more like a drawing tool than a writing pen made me less bothered by the grooved grip. I find the Joy more comfortable to draw with than I’ve ever found the Safari to write with. I may go back to the Safaris and consider them as drawing pens at this point. Honestly, I haven’t touched another pen since I started using the Joy. I want to buy another one just to have two different ink colors loaded up simultaneously. I have never felt this way about a Safari before. I am a changed woman.
Inks Platinum Inks
Platinum Carbon Ink has become my go-to ink for permanent black ink I’ve been using my PCDP almost every day for six months and found the Carbon ink to be a well-behaved, dark black. I had little issues with it drying in the pen, even with the fine nib and it being tossed around in my bag, used on all sorts of paper stocks from copier paper to toothy cold press watercolor paper. I had more issues with the pen getting jammed with paper fibers on toothy papers over waxy pencil or other materials than I did with the ink drying in the pen. I’ve gone ahead and purchased a bottle of Platinum Pigmented Sepia ink which is also permanent and I think will make a lovely alternative to black for drawing. As mentioned earlier, Sailor’s Nano Inks are an excellent alternative as well if you are looking for cartridges to match a Sailor pen or find a good deal on the Nano black bottled ink.
DeAtramentis Document Inks Liz Steel is very fond of DeAtramentis Document Inks for the range of colors available and she has had great success with flow in some of the less expensive pens using the DeAtramentis Document inks so they are definitely worth a look. Jane Blundell has some amazing mixing charts using DeAtramentis Documents Inks that make me want ALL THE COLORS. I’m hoping to try some of them out and pick up a few bottles when I’m in Atlanta.
Several other brands make permanent inks worth experimenting with if you have some around. Diamine has their Registrars ink and Noodlers has several Bulletproof inks. Though I’ve read through some blogs that have found the Noodler’s inks to be troublesome in some instances for drawing. But if you’ve got some, why not give them a whirl?
Any water soluble fountain pen inks
For everyday sketching, any standard (water soluble) fountain pen ink will work on just about any drawing paper. Most sketchbook paper starts at about 60lb and should handle a F or XF fountain pen nib loaded with just about any fountain pen ink just fine. On slightly heavier mixed media papers like Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media, Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook or similar paper that is labelled for ink, light washes or mixed media, you can add a little water to your drawing and move some of the water soluble ink around to create some wonderful watercolor-like effects without a lot of tools. Citizen Sketcher has some amazing examples of this in action and totally makes me want to try this myself.
I was super excited to try the new Winsor & Newton Watercolor markers ($4.50 per marker, 6-color set for $27 and 12-color set for $51). I have loved the Sai Watercolor Markers so much I basically have two sets: one for work and one for home so I was definitely ready to try a different brand. It was time to get professional!
Physically, these are chunky pens, comparable in size to a Design marker or other larger professional marker. They are smooth cylinders but the bullet cap on one end has a notch to keep the pens from rolling off the table. It’s recommended to keep these markers stored flat to keep the ink inside evenly distributed between the tips so I’d recommend if you are inclined to own a set of six or more, to keep them in a pencil or cigar box to keep them flat and less inclined from rolling away.
The advantage of the Winsor & Newton line of Watercolor markers is:
The markers have two tips: a fine bullet tip on one end and a flexible brush tip on the other.
Most of the colors are true lightfast watercolors in marker form. I found this chart on the W&N site. Since the marker colors are numbered on the cap to align with the professional watercolors, all of the markers receive either an AA or A rating for lightfastness. By W&N’s ratings that is “permanent or extremely permanent color”. I enjoy using the Sai watercolor brushes for sketchbooks but I do not know the lightfastness and therefore do not use them in artwork or pieces that might be exposed to light nor would I recommend them to other people for work that might be displayed.
The W&N watercolor marker colors are super pigmented which means they can be blended and toned with water or blended with each other to give a wider range of color options.
The pigment colors in the markers are the same as those used in W&N watercolors so the markers can be mixed with the paints and vice versa. The colors will blend, mix and combine seamlessly.
The brush tip end is definitely my favorite. It is great for brush lettering styles and painting. Its a great way to get some quick marks on paper for making art on the go. You can even touch the tip of a waterbrush to the tip of the marker to lift color from the marker and transfer it to the waterbrush for softer color and a more washy, color effect.
I tested the Winsor & Newton Watercolor markers on Strathmore 500 mixed media sketchbook paper . The first swatch on the left is straight from the marker brush tip, the next swatch is one stroke with the brush tip. I let is dry for a minute or so and then I went back with a paintbrush loaded with water to see how much I could move the paint around. As you can see, some colors moved more than others. The hearts were done by touching a waterbrush to the marker tip and transferring the color to the waterbrush for a lighter color. The final dot was done by dabbing one dot of color from the marker onto a wet water circle for a wet-on-wet effect.
I found out, after I did my samples, that the markers can be rubbed into a non-porous dish like a white plastic, ceramic plate or mixing tray and then mixed or thinned with water to create additional colors and values. I’ve been playing around with this to get a wider, more complex range of hues and make the markers a fun way to play.
Even though the photo above shows a palette of pan watercolors, all the color was actually done with W&N watercolor brush markers, I just forgot when I took the photo. Oops!
The W&N watercolor brush markers are an interesting addition to any art kit. I wouldn’t say that they would ever replace or usurp my pan sets but I like carrying one or two colors with me for line work or quick sketching. They are definitely good for travel and portability.
TO ENTER: Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite watercolor paper or brushes to use If you’re new to watercolor, tell me your dream set-up. One entry per person.
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your real email address in the comment form (not in the comment!) so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US readers only this time.
DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.
First, as far as I know, there is no podcast but I think someone should remedy that situation ASAP. And then invite me to come talk about stuff regularly. Let’s nerd out about watercolor paper, water soluble markers and acrylic high flow paint!
As for blogs, there are lots of options out there, some more current than others and some tailored towards more specific types of art making than others.
If you’re into watercolor/street/travel/portable painting, then definitely check out ParkaBlogs. He keeps an extensive set of reviews of watercolor pan palettes, sketchbook reviews, book reviews and lots of videos. Extremely extensive. Another great resource for travel/life/street painting is Liz Steel. Again, she focuses on a lot of portable supplies but she has a penchant for fountain pens and inks so she’s definitely “our people”.
Roz Wound Up is a great resource for an assortment of supplies for travel/portable drawing and sketching materials. She has a great list of links to people she likes along the lower lefthand side of the blog as well which is worth a click through.
Rob’s Art Supply Reviews has not been updated in awhile but he has a lot of standard materials listed like pastels, Neocolor crayons and papers that are still entirely relevant and available. Broke For Art on Tumblr used to be quite active but its got more Q&A nowadays. There’s still a lot of good content to peruse though if you’re on the hunt for something in particular.
Fellow pen bloggers Biffy Beans and Inkophile both keep tags for their art supplies reviews so they are good resources for some products as well. I have a tag for art supplies as well for any occasion when I review something that leans more “art supply” than everyday writing or office supply.
And of course, there are tons of videos on YouTube to peruse as well if there’s a specific product you are considering someone may have made a video trying it out. Don’t forget that sometimes Amazon reviews, or reviews on individual online art supply shops can also be helpful. Good luck and leave a comment if there’s a specific product you’re looking for information about.
Upon request, I decided to come clean about one of my other obsessions: travel watercolor sets. I’ve been compiling sets for about a year, not including super budget (sub-$20) sets, and have included the picture above as proof of my collection addiction. I just love watching the colors bead off a brush onto paper. And those little individually-wrapped pans of watercolors are like candies to me. I can’t resist them.
However, I sort of hit the “watercolor set overload” this fall and I didn’t do much with them for a couple months. Then a couple weeks ago I got a wild hair and bought a new set. Why? Buying a new travel set of watercolors is not unlike buying a new fountain pen, and sometimes its just the pick-me-up I need to get me back into the habit of using the ones I already have. I bought a relatively inexpensive Van Gogh 12-color set (approx. $25 from my local Blick art supply shop).
The Van Gogh set comes in a locking, white plastic box that is about 4×6″ in size and maybe an 1.5″ thick. Its a bit larger than the more commonly used Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box but what I discovered once I started using the Van Gogh kit was that it contained, not one but, two layers of mixing trays.
The paintbrush that comes with the kit is a pointed #6 synthetic travel brush which I originally dismissed as likely to be an inferior freebie brush but it turned out to be a very good little brush. The point is quite good and makes it easy to get a good crisp edge. Also the end of the brush can be used to wrench out the mixing tray to reveal the open well below.
The end of the brush can also be used to wrench out the individual pans of watercolor should you wish to remove them or need to replace them. That alone is reason to keep the brush, even if you are not inclined to use it for painting. I ended up loving how much water it held and how fine a point it has maintained. I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts.
In swatching the paint colors I was quite pleased to see how clean and vibrant all the colors were. The twelve colors included really are quite sufficient for most painting needs. I love that the set includes an opaque white for mixing and adding highlights. I know adding white to watercolor is heresy but sometimes its the shortest distance to the color I want. I also love that the set includes Payne’s Gray instead of a black.
Towards the bottom of my swatching, I did some color mixing in an effort to test how cleanly the Van Gogh paints would mix and what range of other colors I could get. I was actually quite pleased at how easily I was able to make many of the colors, often mixing just two colors together. I do plan to do further practicing with mixing and color theory but I think the nicest thing about the Van Gogh set was that it is not overwhelming. I like trying to mix my own colors and the Van Gogh set does the mixing nicely.
After doing some successful painting with the Van Gogh set, I was ready to pull out the whole mess of watercolors again to see what else I have and figure out if less is more or if more is more.
So I spent some time swatching out every pan and palette of watercolor that I had to see what I had. I have an array of Daniel Smith, Sennelier, Winsor & Newton (pan and tube) and Winsor & Newton Cotman (student grade). I also did some research online about what more experienced artists recommend for we are more novice with watercolors. In the end, I’ve decided to put the Sennelier paints aside for the moment as the colors tend to be darker and, when I swatched the colors, they looked almost opaque and a little streaky sometimes which I think would frustrate me as I’m painting, especially being as new to watercolor as I am. The Daniel Smiths, while lovely, are a little funky (some have sparkle or will dry two different colors so they are probably a bit too experimental) so I shelved most of those colors for later as well.
In the end, I pulled out a few of the additional Winsor & Newton colors like the Opera Rose, Permanent Magenta, Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Green Gold, and Burnt Sienna plus a black, and a couple Daniel Smiths and made my “supplemental palette” to have some additional colors to play with. I’ll probably keep these on my desk to experiment with in the coming weeks and depend mostly on my Van Gogh palette to get me practicing with color mixing. I have gotten so spoiled working on the computer over the years that I feel I’ve forgotten a lot of my color mixing and color theory skills. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to mix that Opera Rose.
If you’re considering a foray into watercolor painting, I think the Van Gogh set is a great option. The combination of good colors, a good assortment of palettes and a good brush make it a perfect starter set.
After going off the deep end last year about Magic Pencils, I pretty much bought every variation I could find of the multicolor lead pencils. I’m just fascinated with this sort of pencil. One of the items I purchased was the 24-Color set of Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone Colored Pencils ($29.47 on Amazon). Each of 23 pencils in the set features three different colors of colored pencil “lead” to create a tonal effect and then there is one blender pencil in the set to help blend the colors into a more subtle tonal variation, should you prefer to do that.
The set comes in a nice tin though I tend to put all my pencils into jars immediately and either recycle the tins or store them because I find that art supplies that stay in tins don’t ever get used.
I thought this pencil set would be particularly appealing for coloring and sketching as it would provide a lot of color variation in a small set.
The pencils included a nice array of colors with a few shades of blues, greens, reds, yellows, oranges and some unusual ones with names like “ember,” “summer storm,” and “volcano.”
The pencils are not as soft and blendable as my go-to Prismacolor Premier but if you’re looking for a fun little set to travel with or to share with your kids, this might make a good addition to your collection. We keep ours on the kitchen table for doodling, notes and random scribbles.