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First Attempts at Background Washes in Coloring Books (FAIL)

I follow a number of incredible artists on YouTube and their work has inspired me often over the years. One such time was when I discovered the wonderful art done by Dede Wellingham. I’ve binged many of her livestreams and she’s as sweet and funny as she is talented (which is a lot).

The first video of hers that really got me revved up was “Color Washes in Imagimorphia AdultColor book by Kerby Rosanes Pt 1 of 3“. Adult coloring books were starting to become a big thing in the creative world (back in 2016) and something I’d come to late since I usually focused on fiber- or food-based arts. It hadn’t occurred to me to mix media in the ways Dede demonstrated and I could NOT WAIT to try it out. And I… well to say I missed the mark would be an understatement.

It started out so promising! I collected an assortment of my coloring books, some acrylic paint, my Neocolor II watercolor crayons and my Inktense water-soluble pencils (neither shown in pic).

Problem # 1 – using the wrong materials

Dede uses a number of media in her books, including pan pastels, paint, pencils, markers…but in particular the video that inspired me was based on using acrylic paint to drop in washes of color onto your pages. This has a two-fold effect: 1) it gets color down on the page and fills in the tiny detailed areas, making it easier and less intimidating (and faster) to color in with other media later, and 2) it creates an incredible base for colored pencil as adult coloring books are usually printed on paper that’s relatively smooth but pencils benefit enormously from a paper with more tooth. The acrylic paint gives the paper the missing tooth.

Unfortunately neither the Neocolor IIs nor the Inktense are acrylic paint.

Neocolor II dry in imagimorphia
Neocolor II wet
Neocolor II dry in imagimorphia
Neocolor II wet
Inktense dry in imagimorphia
Inktense wet
Inktense dry in Doodle Fusion
Inktense wet
Neocolor II wet in Doodle Fusion

Looking back, even though I like some of the colors I’d chosen, I’m not happy with the results. I don’t like how all my random scribbles show because I hadn’t put the color down evenly, and I’m disappointed that I completely messed up on the entire “adding tooth” benefit.

Problem # 2 – using the right materials the wrong way

The remaining pages that I’d painted were all done with acrylic paint. That means they must be good, right? No, actually. Not at all. Some of them (the underwater ones in particular) look better in person than in the images below, but none of them are “good”, because I missed the mark again. I was so focused on getting a spread of color onto the page that I didn’t think I had to try and do it nicely. I’m embarrassed to admit it really didn’t occur to me that that it was more than a matter of simply splashing water into paint and wiping it across the page a few times. In most cases below I did a horrible application, and in the one or two that aren’t too bad, I used too much water and so the resulting color doesn’t have the tooth either. (And in the final case, I’d used much too much water and caused the marker on the reverse to completely bleed through).

Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in Doodle Fusion
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
(the next page that bled through to the one above)

Problem # 3 – choosing the wrong pages

I think this was the worst mistake I made out of all of them – I chose the wrong pages. With one exception, I’ve never really wanted to color ANY of the images above. Rather than pick pages that I looked forward to, instead I thought I could “cheat” my way into getting pages “done”, and done “faster” by slapping color down to make the final coloring quicker and easier. Instead I now have pages I still don’t want to do, just now they have some color on them.

So why am I bringing this up now? Well Dede’s videos have come back into my recommendeds and I’ve begun binging again, and once again am completely hooked. On THIS TIME I’ve learned from my mistakes!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Following Sarah Renae Clark’s “5 Easy Tips to Improve Your Coloring (Instantly!)” Video

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I personally don’t believe in waiting for a special day to start the changes we want to make, and numerous times I’ve made a public declaration of “this year I’ll ____” only to have my interest, enthusiasm or time dwindle until said thing is forgotten completely. My track record the last few years is spotty…I’ve completed a full year of the Create This Book challenge with Henri in 2020, but failed miserably at both my “19 for 19 WIP-to-FO” challenge in 2019 and my daily doodle self-promise in 2021.

So this year I’m not setting a resolution, but rather I’m choosing to make time for the things I want to achieve. In particular this year I want to focus on improving my drawing & coloring skills, so instead of forcing myself to do a set routine daily (which can become a chore) I’m going to simply allow myself to enjoy the process by doing what excites me.

Just before the holidays I’d discovered the YouTuber Sarah Renae Clark, thanks to a collab she did on Jazza’s art channel. I enjoyed their joint challenge so popped over to her page to take a look and wound up binging a ton of tutorials, one of which prompted today’s post.

For those who don’t know, I do have a background and education/experience in drawing, painting, sculpture and the like as one of my degrees is in Creative Arts. Because I have a “professional” education I often get stuck in practice… feeling like I can’t just color something (for example) without “doing it right” and making sure it’s an accurate representation of my skill. It can be rewarding when the result matches my intent, but it sure puts a lot of pressure on when all I really want to do is chill on the couch with a cup of coffee and an adult coloring book! I’ve shown some pages I’ve colored here on the blog before but even those often feel inadequate for what I know I’m capable of, so improving my techniques in a way that makes them feel more natural has been a long-time desire.

And then I watched Sarah’s “5 Easy Tips to Instantly Improve Your Coloring Pages” video and an idea quickly formulated.

I decided to follow the 5 steps myself, not as an abstract concept but in actual practice. I would select 5 coloring pages, designating one for each of the tips, and hopefully come out of the process feeling like I’d levelled up… even if only a little bit.

I rewatched the video and took notes on each step (although the same information is also in her related blog post) and set about choosing pages that would be ideal for this purpose.

I went with 5 pages in my Daler*Rowney Art Therapy: Utopia book. I have 4 of these little books and they’re quite cute. I’ve worked in this book quite a bit already and while the subject is a bit quirky, I like that the book is small enough to not make each page take forever. (It’s only 5.75″ wide by 8.25″ high). Also, the pages are 1-sided, so I could use media that might bleed through. Bonus- this book series has a built-in page protector (the back cover folds out to go under the page you’re working on) which came in incredibly handy during this process.

The first of the 5 steps Sarah lists is to incorporate shading and blending. I focused in particular on using shading to create depth, and so chose this “slide” page as I thought it would be easy to darken the lower layers and give a sense of perspective.

My plan was to give each page an underpainting with Spectrum Noir alcohol markers and then go back over it with Prismacolor Premiers for the shading and details.

With that in mind I colored the page. I started with bright colors for the slides to help bring them forwards visually and tried to pick darker ones so the background would recede. I also tend to default to using the same colors so I tried to pick ones I rarely reached for (which is why it’s so chaotic!).

In my head the lower levels would be full of shadows from the upper tubes and I was hoping it would get super dark, to where it almost looked like a really long drop. Unfortunately this was a case where I was unable to execute my vision.

This was after my first pass with the colored pencils. I quite like the shadows I added under each figure…but that’s about it. I don’t feel that any of the other shadows really work. I was able to make the teal tubes look round but I don’t get a sense of depth with any of the others, and I don’t find that the slides look concave at all.

Rather than continue to fuss with it in frustration, I took a break and moved on to coloring the under layer of the next image – the orange scene below. I was still intending on finishing all of the pages in pencil, but by the time I’d started coloring what was meant to be an underpaint on the 3rd image I realized the paper was handling the alcohol markers REALLY well, and that I was enjoying using them. I don’t reach for the Spectrum Noir’s too often because they bleed through most books (and most aren’t one-sided) so having an opportunity to put them to work was really enjoyable. There’s also a really big instant gratification difference in seeing large areas of color completed in minutes vs hours.

At this point I decided to come back and give the page one more go with my markers. This is the final result. Am I happy with it? No. Am I happier with it? Yes.

Mostly I’m happy that I tried. None of the 5 tips are particularly hard – in fact they’re called “easy” right in the title. And for the most part none were ones that I didn’t already know. The point of this exercise, to me, was to actually put them into practice. I did many art theory classes, I know light theory and shadow values and the difference between form shadows and cast shadows etc. But since I rarely apply those principles I don’t have the muscle memory to use them in the way I’d like (unlike something like knitting where my hands just know how to do things without much thought). Tip #1 showed me that this is something I need to work on, which is great because it gives me somewhere to focus and one day see improvement. 🙂

Tip #2 (actually tip 3 in the video but I worked out of order) is about incorporating black into your coloring pages. This can be large areas like backgrounds or by using a fineliner and adding details or extras to the page that weren’t there to begin with, like dots or designs in the background.

I admit I cheated a bit with this one! I forgot to take a pic before I started coloring, but except for the oranges, this is what the image looked like before I started coloring. The Matrix-esque dots in the sky were already there, and the city silhouette was just asking to be a solid black, so it didn’t take much work or thought on how to incorporate black into this image. Still, I liked it, and chose it for this particular challenge.

The circles felt like oranges to me so that’s what I went with for coloring. I used the same gray on the robots (androids?) as for the previous pic, and a Sharpie for the city. My markers are old so there was a bit of dry-down causing patches of lighter areas (especially visible in the green and blue areas) but it didn’t bother me enough to do a second layer.

Finally, I added a bit of shading (pulling in Tip #1) in the areas the oranges and branches overlapped, as well as some (failed) shading on the robots. I’m not happy with some of the placement nor how blocky it looks. I added a neon glow off the tablet and around the radioactive oranges, and boosted the black background with some colored pencil. The final touch to include a bit more black was to add fine Micron dots to represent the pitting in orange peels, and some faux screw-heads in the tree’s bumpers.

Overall I’m happier with this one than the previous, though I don’t think it has anything to do with the tip or my follow-through. I really do love the idea of not being afraid to make changes to your books, though, and hope to get comfortable enough to add characters and designs of my own to some of the pages with lesser detail.

Tip #3 (really tip 2 in the video) is to add white for highlights. I’ve used this technique a bit but always been afraid to push it too far. So I chose this fish page deliberately so the bubbles in the water would give me plenty of reflective services to which I could add a shine.

Once again I forgot to take a pic before starting to color, oops. The jellyfish were quickly colored in shades of pink and for the fish I copied a color scheme I’d used on another occurrence of the same fish in the book. Trying to keep working the shading tip, I did add a slightly darker green on any of the intersections between layers of seaweed, but I’m not sure it’s visible in the finished image.

I wanted to give the background a gradient from lighter, closer-to-the-surface water up top down to murkier depths below. To achieve this I colored the background with 2 shades of gray; the first, darker one was applied to about 1/2 the page, and the second, lighter one filled in about 2/3 of what remained. I left the top 1/3 of the water area uncolored. I then went over the entire background with blue, coloring in small overlapping circles.

I outlined each bubble with a colorless blender. It didn’t remove the color completely but just enough to give each bubble a slight halo.

Finally I added highlights to the bubbles, jellyfish and fish with a Sigma Uniball UM-153 white gel pen. I don’t think the fish normally would have highlights but in my head they’re robotic just like all the people in the book. I also added some extra little white dots for oxygen bubbles coming up from each fish’s mouth as well as in the tangle of jellyfish legs.

Am I happy with it? Yes. I could have done better on blending the background and I wish my markers weren’t so old that the alcohol evaporated in patches causing the streaky look, but overall I’m quite happy with it, especially the shine on the fish. I could still use some practice though, and I think getting better at where to put the highlights will come hand-in-hand with getting better at where/how to place shadows.

Tip #4 (but actually #5 in the video) is to use a color palette when deciding what colors to pick. This is actually something I’ve struggled with sometimes, as I gravitate to the same colors that I like, and when I stray I can land in some weird territory (see: the slide pic above). There are many online color palettes available but Sarah offers her own and on a whim I decided to spring for it. I do so many different types of crafts, cakes, coloring, etc that having help for what colors look good together will only be an asset.

Once again I forgot to take a “before” pic until after I’d already started.

Her palettes are really well organized into clickable PDFs that you can search by keywords, themes or specific colors you want to use. I’d chosen this beach-looking scene as a test page, so I searched by “beach” keyword and decided to use palette #9 since it gave me options for the sand and water along with pops of color I could use for the umbrella and beach chair.

Something really fantastic about the Color Catalog is that she not only gives you the hex, RGB and CMYK color codes for each color in the palette, but there are also companion charts available that will tell you exactly which color she’s mapped to each from many of the most popular brands of pencils and markers. I was able to use the Spectrum Noir companion chart to find the exact SN color numbers and pull my markers without having to manually compare swatches to the samples. It’s really great!

This page probably took me the least amount of time to work on, but felt like the longest when coloring in each individual cell in the umbrella. Overall I’m pretty happy with this page. I didn’t add any white highlights and I’m not sure my laptop glow is in the right shape, but I am happy with the umbrella’s shadow on the ground and cutting across the stand (though looking back now I probably should have had the circle continue on the other side of the chair as well). Still further proof that my shading needs work. This seems to be a running theme!

Finally, step 5 (the 4th step in the video) is to add textures to your page. I chose to use this telescope page for a very specific reason: it would give me a chance to practice with this texture book I bought SPECIFICALLY to help me color more realistically.

The book is fantastic, showing you how to replicate each texture in short, step-by-step blocks. The only problem was it didn’t include brass, which is the look I’d wanted for my telescope. D’oh! (It has hammered brass, but that’s not quite the same thing). I could have used the references for silver or pewter and simply changed the colors, but instead I decided to find a reference image.

I could not find any telescope images in an upwards angle like the coloring page so I made one myself! I found a sample image of the exact antique brass look I wanted to go for, and saved it to my phone.

I then used my phone’s built-in photo editing tools to flip it and skew the angle until it was as close as possible to what I needed. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely close and was a really big help as a reference.

I was really nervous about this one because I had such a specific idea in mind and I’ll admit I was worried I wouldn’t be able to execute it. I almost gave up and was going to pick a page to try out one of the other texture ideas (eye shadow) instead but I’m really, REALLY glad I didn’t. I LOVE how it turned out!

In fact, I was so happy with it that I decided to pull all 5 tips together into this one final image.

I went back to the Color Catalog to find a color palette that would work with the copper/bronze/brass colors I already had, and this one with the bright pop of pink really charmed me.

I really tried to make sure I used all 5 tips in this one. Texture? Check. Adding white? Yup- I added highlights throughout including some shine in the brightest areas of the telescope. Adding black? Oh yes – I added extra lines in diminishing circles in the planet to try and give it a sense of depth, with the lines being more concentrated closer to the viewer and moving further apart the further away they got. Color palette? Sure thing – I used only the colors listed. And finally for shadows I got creative and added the shadow from the telescope, although I wasn’t paying proper attention to the actual shape of the telescope and didn’t do the best job.

This was the finished result…and I just did not like it. I actually put it aside for a few days to think, because I was so happy with some parts but couldn’t help thinking it looked so incomplete. I debated adding some darker grays to the sky so they’d still be in the same family as the palette, but wasn’t sure I wanted that look. I was stumped. I’d followed the rules, and yet I wasn’t happy with the result. So what did that mean?

It meant that sometimes, it’s ok to break the rules. There are no coloring police! Plus Sarah’s tips are just that – tips and suggestions on how to improve your coloring results, that you are free to incorporate (or not) but they’re not hard and fast rules. She’s not saying “this is the ONLY way”, she’s saying “if you’re stuck, why not try this? It couldn’t hurt, and it might help!” And they did.

And not being limited meant I could come back to it later and add completely new colors into the background, to give it a sort of galaxy look that I didn’t even know I wanted until I’d achieved it and it was just perfect.

I went over the original gray with two shades of purple, blending them together where (I imagined) the planet’s light met the night sky. I also blended the main purple into the pink halo off the edge of the planet. I then traced over every start and (bubble? pearl?) with the white gel pen to remove their black outlines, and deepened the telescope’s shadow and refined it as best I could.

I am SO happy with the finished result! I’m really proud of this one, and really, really glad I embarked on this challenge.

I’m really glad I took the time to go back and rework something I wasn’t happy with. This makes me feel excited and hopeful about doing more coloring and testing and learning. And having gone through this exercise I can now pinpoint which areas need more refinement, and seek help for those things specifically (like improving my shading!!).

I think this was a great project to start off my year. If it’s something you might like to try for yourself, here are the links again to Sarah’s video and blog post. She’s got a TON of other videos and posts, and whether you’re a beginner, average or expert colorist, if you’re interested in adult coloring I definitely recommend checking her out.

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Glow Effects with Gel Pens

Today’s post is a little tip on how to use gel pens to get a special effect in your coloring book pages. In honor of Walt Disney’s birthday this week* I’ve used a page from my Art of Coloring: Disney Villains coloring book.

This is the original page. It’s slightly warped because on the back is a page I colored fully with my Inktense pencils and it was saturated over and over. While I do keep this book clipped shut (as shown in this post with my hanger tip) I’m still impressed at the thickness of the paper in this book. It’s definitely better than most of my coloring books!

As with many of the coloring books based on movies and tv shows, the scenes in this book are often pulled directly from a still from the original source material. In this case you can see the above image is nearly an exact copy of the second image from the movie, below. It looks like the book artist added a background detail and the mist with the llama above in order to make it more interesting as a coloring page.

While I did use the still as a reference for the characters, I took creative liberties with the color of the potion as I wanted to see if I could achieve a glowing affect and thought the contrast with a yellow glow would stand out more than pink.

This is a super easy effect to achieve, and takes materials you’ve probably already got on-hand! All you really need is a gel pen in your desired bright color! I’ve also used a water brush for convenience, but you can swap in a regular paint brush and small cup of water and get the exact results.

You have to work fast so I wasn’t able to pause and take a step by step. Outline the area you want to have the glow, and then immediately while the gel pen ink is still wet, use a water brush or water-dampened paintbrush to blend out the gel ink.

The glow areas in this image are too large to do all at once as the gel would dry before I could get to it. So I worked in small sections, tracing just inside the lines of the swirl and blending the wet ink inwards. For the glasses and potion bottle I only traced on one side so there wouldn’t be too much ink. I then scribbled some of the ink on a piece of scrap cardstock (the shiny kind like used in consumer packaging) and diluted it with water to make a paint for the glow around the bottle.

That’s it! That gives a really cool glow effect that you can achieve super-simply, in almost any coloring project. To see the glow really pop, let’s finish coloring the page!

Switching to my beloved Inktense, I outlined the misty sections with a few shades of green. I didn’t record my colors but there was definitely #1400 (Apple Green) and I believe some #1520 (Hooker’s Green). If you look in the mist closest to the llama, you can also see some #0100 (Sherbet Lemon) to amplify the glow and pull the yellows into the mist.

With Inktense the rule is always “a little goes a long way” so I only needed the barest of color application to get the light wash you see in the image on the right. To blend out you can use a water brush or regular paintbrush with some water and moisten the drawn lines just like those old coloring pages in kids’ activity books.

Next I did the same for the background behind the mist, first filling it in with a super-light application of #2020 (Indian Ink) and then deepened up the borders with #2200 (Ink Black).

The main background first had a layer of the same Indian Ink followed by #750 (Dark Purple) since purple is the complementary color to green (opposite on the color wheel).

The last step was to finish the characters with a bit of #1800 (Baked Earth) and #1740 (Saddle Brown) for Kronk and #760 (Deep Violet) for Yzma, and #1210 (Dark Aquamarine) for the teal bits.

I love how this page came out! I’m continually impressed at the paper quality of this book. Having now done a fully water-saturated coloring on both sides of this same page, I’m amazed that there is no bleed-through or tearing. I love the bright glow of the gel pen against the ink, and especially the reflected glow in the goggle lenses.

I hope this tip helps you use your gel pens in new ways!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.

*December 5th


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Easy Jughead Cosplay

There are 4 more sleeps until Halloween, and that’s plenty of time to make most of the costume and prop tutorials I’ve been sharing over the last few weeks. Today’s post is so quick and easy that you can make it in under an hour and probably have all the materials you need already!

Back in 2019 Henri couldn’t wear his actual Halloween costume to school because the Neighbor outfit (from Hello Neighbor) had a mask. It didn’t take any time to come up with a school-safe alternate idea for my little brunette food-machine – Jughead! Henri’s a voracious Archie comics reader and we joke that his favorite food is “food” so combining the two was a no-brainer.

The costume is really simple because you can wear any school-appropriate outfit that a teenager would wear. The main key to get the look is Juggie’s trademark hat, and then as a bonus you can include a burger to really sell it.

We went with the comics version, not the Cole Sprouse version from Riverdale, mostly because I didn’t feel like knitting the whoopie cap.

Step 1: A burger. If we’d had a toy or squishy burger I’d have used that, but since we didn’t I went with an easy thought bubble because Mr Jones is always daydreaming of his favorite food.

You can find free clipart online and prepare the image in any software that will allow you to manipulate images. My preference is Excel but you can also use Word, BeFunky, Photoshop, etc. You can also draw the image digitally in something like Procreate or draw it outright on cardstock and color it in with any art supplies you have already. You want to scale your final image to fit as large as possible on a single sheet of paper (if printing it) or can go as large as you like if drawing it on something larger like a Bristol board.

I’ve included the image I used here as a free download. For best results print directly onto cardstock or print onto computer paper and then glue it onto cardstock or cardboard. A panel from an old cereal box or shipping box from the recycling bin is perfect.

To finish the prop and protect it, laminate it with packing tape! I like to cut the image out first so when I laminate I can have a thin edge of tape just past the paper, so no moisture can get in. Cut out your image and lay strips of packing tape evenly across the front of the image, smoothing down any bubbles as you go. Next, flip the image over and repeat the process. Use your fingers to make sure the seal around the edges of the image is tight, and then trim away the excess tape. Finally, tape a stick of some kind to the back. I used a wooden chopstick from takeout sushi that I covered with white electrical tape.

Step 2: The whoopie cap. If there’s ANY key piece for a Jughead cosplay, it’s his unique hat. Cut a strip of cardboard the height of the cap, and long enough to go around the wearer’s head with about an inch of overlap. If you want to paint it gray do that now, though we didn’t bother. Cut the top into points and then try it on the wearer again to make sure it fits and that the points line up where the seam will be.

Draw or paint on the iconic buttons Juggie always has. I used permanent markers and White-Out. Finally, staple or tape the edges together.

That’s all there is to it! So quick and easy it can be ready for school the next day without keeping you up into the late hours of the night.


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Use sandpaper to improve the tooth of coloring book pages

Today, September 14th, is National Coloring Day. Of course coloring isn’t limited to coloring books, but over the last few years they’ve definitely become more prevalent! Whether they’re your preferred place to apply color or something you only do with kids, you’ve likely noticed that the paper quality can vary greatly. From thick cardstock to what’s basically printer paper, the type of paper will affect everything from what media you can use in the book to if you can actually color both sides of the same page.

On average, most adult coloring books use a slightly thicker-weight white paper that can handle all dry media as well as water-based markers, with some bleed-through if you press too hard or go over the same spot repeatedly. Crayons and colored pencils will lay down pretty evenly as the paper has little-to-no tooth, but if you’re the kind of artist who prefers to work with a more textured paper, here’s a tip that can help transform the books you already own – sandpaper!

I’ll demonstrate this in my copy Archie’s Coloring Book (and there’s a video demonstration at the end of the post).

This is a great book that is jam-packed with tons of images of Archie and the gang, showcasing everyone from the core trio to side characters (Dilton, Moose, Cheryl, Sabrina, Josie and the Pussycats, Miss Grundy, Mr. Weatherbee), to the ‘Lil Archie gang. Even Jughead’s dog Hotdog appears in all his shaggy glory!

I first thought about this back in 2017 after watching one of SuperRaeDizzle’s videos on dollar store art supplies. If you don’t follow her you really should – she’s a fantastic artist who does a lot of art supply reviews and draws/paints with incredible realism. In the linked video she uses a sanding block to rough up a sheet of inexpensive Bristol board to give it a better drawing surface.

I thought it was really cool but didn’t think it applied to me – until I started wondering if the same technique would work in what I was using a lot of at the time – coloring books. In theory it seemed like it should work but with the paper so much thinner than Bristol board I didn’t know if it would work. Would it tear the paper? Would it destroy the printed outlines? Would the ink bleed?

I had to try it for myself. To make the results as clear as possible I chose a page that allowed me to clearly divide the page into two halves.

I left the Veronica side of the page untouched and sandpaper I had on-hand to lightly rough up the Betty side of the page.

Here you can see the before (left) and after (right). There’s no obvious distress to the page though if you look closely at the black line of Betty’s shirt near the guitar you can see faint striae where the ink was removed.

To hold the book open while I worked I used my pants hanger hack. Still highly recommend!

I then set about coloring the page with Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. I was careful to color in both girls the same way, using the same colors and applying the same amount of pressure.

Right away you can see a difference! Coloring on the Veronica side was exactly like coloring with colored pencils on computer printer paper (though I think this paper is slightly thicker). It’s super smooth and flat without any tooth or texture at all, and the colored pencil glided over the page really easily. On the Betty side I could feel the roughened-up surface of the page and it gave the colored pencil something to grab to, making coloring a very different experience.

It’s difficult to put the feeling into words but coloring the Veronica side felt like I had to concentrate more, because my natural tendency was to use more pressure to get more color payoff, whereas on the Betty side the same amount of barely-there pressure gave a richer color payoff.

Coloring on the super-smooth side made me very conscious of trying to not color too hard because it took more work to lay color down. On the flip side, coloring on the textured side of the page made color application a breeze, to the point where I had to concentrate on not applying too much and losing any highlights.

Both sides are colored the exact same way, using different colors for shading. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy because this was only a test; it was more about seeing if the sandpaper would ruin the book or any attempts to color vs me trying to get a professional-looking result.

I’d sanded the guitar evenly down the middle and thought there would be a more obvious difference between the two sides but I’d say it’s pretty subtle. Again- the sanded side has more depth and more color payoff while using the exact same pressure as the unsanded side.

I was also curious if sanding the paper would affect marker application, so decided to fill in the music notes with a mix of sparkle and metallic gel pens, in black and charcoal. I was really happy to see that there didn’t seem to be any effect on how the gel ink applied, and that both sides had the same amount of glitter and shine in the light.

Finally I wanted to see if there would be any issues coloring on larger open areas, so I picked two colors and experimented with blending them to each other. In my first layer of color (2nd image from the left) you can see that both sides are streaky but the funny thing is it’s for different reasons!

Veronica’s side is streaky because I struggle with laying down barely any color…though I probably didn’t have a proper point on my pencil, which didn’t help. Whereas Betty’s side is streaky because that’s the grain from the direction I’d sanded. You can see it better in the image below (though I sort of like the streaky look on her jeans because it makes them look more like real denim LOL)

The last test that I did was to compare the difference that burnishing would make on either side. I went over both sides of the guitar with my beloved Prismacolor Premiere colorless blender and really tried to smooth any grain down and move the color to fill any remaining white areas. I have the page open in front of me as I type this and while my fingertip can tell the difference between the two sides it is SLIGHT, and definitely not as much of a contrast as the rest of the page halves.

(And truthfully I’m not completely convinced that I’d feel a texture difference there at all if I hadn’t sanded too hard in that spot, as you can see by the diagonal lines of indentation on the lower right of the guitar)

Here’s the completed page. If I didn’t know that one side had been sanded I would think that I’d colored harder on the right side, and possibly used a different color for Betty’s jeans and background, as I do feel that there’s a visible difference in this closeup.

I don’t find the difference is as obvious in this image, though I’m not sure if it’s because the black background is causing a distraction.

After trying this once I’m a convert! I have a large collection of coloring books and I think this technique opens up a world of possibilities for getting different effects and results with colored pencils, crayons, and pastels. The opportunities expand even further if you experiment with different grits of sandpaper!

Imagine coloring a fantasy scene and sanding a grassy area with one grade of sandpaper, bricks of a castle with another, and the bark of a tree with a third… you could get a whole range of textural effects within the image all before even laying down any color!

Other notes: in the video below you’ll see a little bit of ink smearing. That was due to pressing too hard with the sandpaper, so it’s avoidable but something to watch out for. I was happy to see that there was no consequence to the back of the sanded page, nor any texture transfer on the facing page.

Here’s a graphic for those of you who like to pin my posts, and as promised above, here below is a video showing this technique in action.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Happy Birthday Sweet Seventeen

Seventeen years ago, on September 7 2004, I started this blog. Yes, this creative passion project of mine is officially old enough to be in college and donate blood. It began on Blogger in the boom of knitting/craft blogs that fed blogrolls and Yahoo swaps and RAOK groups.  We’ve seen the onset of Ravelry and Worldwide Knit In Public Day, and welcomed pattern sources like Knitty, Craftsy, Twist Collective, St Denis Yarns and others before having to say goodbye to some of them.

With YouTube, Instagram and TikTok flooding the internet with video-based creative content, running a blog feels almost antiquated. I’ve been asked by friends and family why I don’t switch to another format but the truth is… I don’t want to. I love video tutorials. I follow a TON of craft-content YouTubers, and have saved a huge amount of “try one day” crafty TikToks to my favorites list too, so it’s not a critique of the other formats. They absolutely have their place, especially for some techniques or tutorials that can really only best be shown in video. That said, I still think there’s a place for blogs and photo-based project/pattern support.

My “blogaversary” this year falls on the first day of Rosh Hashana, which is the Jewish New Year.  I think that makes it perfect timing for a long-overdue blog restart. (I know, I know, I’ve said this before. Shhhh!) Coincidentally I was born on was erev (eve) Rosh Hashanna (we won’t say how long ago!) so Happy birthday to the blog, happy sort of birthday to me, and happy Jewish New Year!

To celebrate 17 years in the public craft domain I’ve scoured the site, my notes, folders, and metadata and picked 17 fun, interesting or long-forgotten items from my blogging history.

1-7

Numbers 1-7 are from the archives.  These are posts even I forgot about!  Some are helpful tips, some are free patterns/tutorials, and all are added to the How To section above.

8

Even when I don’t post regularly I get a steady stream of visitors (thanks!) and I’m always curious to see what search terms bring people my way.  So number 8 is my top referrer keywords from back in my Blogger days.  Funny enough it’s a tie between two completely random things that have almost nothing to do with my site: “cute japanese cartoons” & “hangman”.  I’m guessing the former is related to the time I knit a Japanese boy band, but the latter?  NO idea.

9

Number 9 is the results of my top search terms after migrating the blog to WordPress.  Unfortunately/fortunately Google has been encrypting the vast majority of search terms since 2013 so 9771 of my results are “unknown”.  Of the list that remains the top three terms are: “Toothless”, “pocketbook slippers”, and “pocket book slippers”, likely linking back to these two projects (Toothless, slippers).  Wanna know the lowest search result that brought someone my way?  “Long hair cut feet”.  I wonder how disappointed the searcher was to find my post was literally about a long hair transformation??

10

Number 10 is a really cool fact- I’ve had visitors from 170 different countries!  The majority are, unsurprisingly, from Canada and the United States, but rounding out the top 20 are the UK, Australia, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, Israel, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Argentina, Hungary and Denmark.

11-14

Numbers 11-14 are my the top 4 posts since switching to WordPress.  I had a hunch what these were because they keep Pinterest flashing up on my phone.  What I didn’t expect was that the top post would outrank second place by more than double!

15

I’ve spent the last few months poring over my unshared projects and planning out a blog schedule for the year.  For number 15 I thought it would be fun to look through my folders and see just how old my oldest unshared project truly is. There was a lot to wade through but I found it!  Coming in at over a decade old a crafty hack that you’ll see on the block next year dates all the way back to February 2010!

16

Looking through all those projects was a fun trip down a creative memory lane.  As number 16 here’s a little teaser of a post I can’t wait to share in full…

Any guesses?

17

And finally, for making down this far: number 17 is a picture of me at the same age as this blog.

Whether you’ve been here since day 1 or day 6204, thanks for being a part of my creative adventures. I run this blog for me, but I love sharing it with you. ♥

*All search terms and other totals above were accurate as of the date of preparing this post.


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Create This Book December Challenge – and Introducing a New One

It’s January, so that means out with the old, and in with the new… challenge. While I didn’t get as far as posting my backlog of projects and tutorials, the monthly posting (self-imposed) commitment did keep me going, and I’m going to take it a step further in 2021.

But first- let’s close out the current challenge. For the 12th and final time: each month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I chose a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us completed the page in our own books. Now the year has gone by, Henri will be 12 next week, and there’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For December Henri chose the “Create Art with Wax” spread on pages 52-53.

Instead of coloring with the crayons, he wanted to try a heat-and-drip method. He used regular Crayola and Cra-Z-Art wax crayons, and I decided to get “fancy” and go with the Crayola Twistables I’d used back in May.

Note- don’t do this. First of all, if you don’t twist the crayon out enough, you can start melting the plastic. Secondly, the glitter ones kept making strands (like when you use a glue gun). Thirdly, they don’t melt that great before starting to scorch, and finally – they burn. As in, like a candle. As in they hold a flame and now you’re just holding fire. I was able to time how long to heat them for, but I wouldn’t allow my kids to try to heat these. Stick to using them on paper.

We used the candle as our heat source and started playing around. Looking back at this pic I remember how well I thought it was starting. It wasn’t great by any means – they didn’t melt well and they dried super fast so I only got one dab onto the paper before having to re-heat… but it seemed like it would be ok…

<cough> …and then this mess happened. I have no words. Like, it’s just… ugly. I tried to embrace the “no rules, just go with it” but then also tried to do… something? The combination doesn’t work. These crayons for melting doesn’t work. Nothing you see here works LOL

In fact I like the blotting paper I kept on the side better than the actual “artwork”.

I even like the dusting page where we swept up all the wax bits better than the actual art!

So it’s no surprise that once again Henri kicked my ass!

Seriously. The kid made a freaking sunset over water.

How cool is that??? I love it. I’m tempted to give him a canvas and a lighter and ask him to make me one for my wall. (Kidding).

(Mostly).

And that’s a wrap on the year!

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

Final thoughts: this was a really fun experience to do all year. I loved having an art challenge with my child, and getting to see his creativity and the ways it can be similar or different from my own. I loved watching him hunched over the book or getting excited over an idea, and I love that I have the book as a memento of his talents at this point in time (and future ones as we keep filling in the pages).

Favorite page(s) of Henri’s: I love his February because it’s got so many weird and random elements (pooping apple?!?) that reflect his sense of humor. Speaking of which, I LOVE his September page! Not only the idea but the execution. Oh, and his July! He made it look like a full magazine spread!

Favorite page(s) of mine: I think March was my most “professional” page, so the part of me that feels like the art I present to the world needs to be reflective of skill, I’m proud of that one. April takes me back to my childhood, as a card fold I learned in an early art class when I was about 8 or 9 is one I still use today for fun “talking” cards, and this page will always remind me of 2020 and social distancing and quarantining and cuddling with my boys and giggling over cool TikTok videos. I also really like my October. I haven’t freehand drawn anything publicly (outside of Becket stuff) and it felt good to flex those muscles again.

Finally I think I like November for both of us. I created my first OC in years, and he wow’d me with the details and thought he puts into his drawings. He doesn’t miss a thing.

So now that 2020 is done, it’s time to reveal my 2021 challenge. It’s actually one I was looking into about a year or so ago, but then forgot about. When it came to mind on Jan 1 I knew it was a sign, because one of my current goals is to teach myself Procreate, and this challenge can be either physical or digital. I sprung for the digital version, and on January 1st 2021 I sat down and did my first square in the One Year Doodle Challenge by Jennifer (SeaLemon on YouTube).

My short explanation is that it’s a year (undated, so you can start anytime, any year) of doodle prompts, but you can watch her full explanation video:

I’m going to do my best to do one doodle per day and then post the full month somewhere in the first week of the following month.

As a little preview, here’s my January 1 square “balloon”. I was going to draw a regular balloon but went for a balloon animal instead. If I’d been sketching by hand on paper, I’d have put in the actual 3D perspective with the other legs and ear behind the ones shown. But I’m still learning layers and shading and didn’t want to have the extra elements to get me frustrated. As it was I should have used the function that smooths the lines, because my balloon would look way better without wonky edges, and the smudge function annoys me because it doesn’t smudge like I feel it should… Nonetheless I’m quite pleased with my little doodle and looking forward to seeing how far I come by Dec 31.

Happy New Year!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Create This Book November Challenge

As the year keeps slipping away, so do the days in the month. This challenge page WAS actually completed in November, but I wasn’t able to post it in time. I’d be upset but… it’s 2020. Really, in the grand scheme of things, a few days late is a total win. 😉

As you’ve seen every month this year, each month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I are choosing a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us are completing the page in our own books. There’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For this month Henri picked the “create a combo” theme on page 185.

As usual Henri’s creativity wow’d me. He decided to combine his favorite people (his family) and his favorite objects (video games), and game up with this detailed scene:

I didn’t even fully appreciate all the thought he put into it until I was taking close up pics for this post.

That isn’t just a shelving unit – it’s got a hinged door that’s open! The screen says “Press any button to start”!

In his dream world, his custom wall unit has one side that’s a full speaker sound system!

He thought through his image enough to include not only a virtual game and the PS4 up on the shelf, but to even have a PS4 game BOX with bar code on the front (does that make it a rental? LOL)

He even made his family game a WIKI PAGE where you can look up each of the game items and characters! Typos and wonky thumb placement (his words) aside, it’s clear he didn’t just half-ass this challenge but rather put in the time and details to make it as real as possible. And he did it in under 15 minutes.

This kid. ❤

When it came time to do my own page, I knew right away which 2 of my favorite things I’d put together. Ladybugs and snakes! They’re both special to me, and totems in their own ways, and as soon as I hit on the idea of a snake with ladybug markings I was sold.

I did a quick browse online and found a snake lineart in the appropriate derpy pose for what I wanted. I used it to make a quick sketch of the basic snake shape, and then looked up the proper ladybug markings.

All those eraser marks on the face show that I initially did what many people do and confused ladybugs with Asian lady beetles, and drew the classic “M”-shaped white head marking, as well as the large white shapes. Oops!

After I sorted out my sketch I did a quick fill in with my Feela markers. Nothing fancy, just some quick color sections and called it a day.

I think he turned out really cute! Kind of looks like a snake wearing a Red Riding Hood cloak that happens to have polka dots, or a snake in a dotted pj onesie. I haven’t created my own OC since I was in my teens, but this would definitely be my newest one. Ladysnake? Snakabug? Ladke? Snug? Whatever breed he is, I want a plushie of one!

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Create This Book October Challenge

October’s Create This Book challenge page was a fail from the start, because we should have picked a page we could complete with a Halloween theme. Fail #2 was not posting it within the actual month of October. But the page itself isn’t a fail, because I’m really happy with how it came out!

For anyone not following, every month in 2020 my 11yo son Henri and I are choosing a page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) and each of us completing the page in our own books. There’s a link to all past pages at the bottom of this post.

For this month Henri picked the “favorite cartoon character” theme on page 175.

Henri’s still on a Henry Stickmin kick and drew a few moments from the game. He traced a glue stick to get perfect circles for Henry, Ellie and Charles’ heads, and then freehanded the rest.

I love how easily he’s able to recreate what he sees freehanded (and often without reference photos), and I especially love the touches he added like the shadow under Ellie.

I was going to sketch up Harley Quinn but decided instead to go with my girl, Betty Cooper (from the comics, not the show). I found an image I liked online, and I’ll be honest- I was going to trace it. I was in the mood to color, but not to draw so I planned to take the easy way out.

And then I decided to draw after all, and accept however it turned out.

I started by sketching the outline of the face and then started blocking in the features.

Thickening the lines to match the widths of the comic really did a lot to make it look more accurate, though it did take me a lot of erasing and redoing until I got it to a point I was happy with.

It’s not quite perfect – her face should be longer so she’s a little squished between the nose and chin… but all in all I’m happy with my accuracy.

I filled in the inking lines with the brush end of my Feela markers. (There will be a full review on those coming soon, I’ve been using them a lot and really love them, especially for coloring book fans). Adding the black lines really helped me to see what worked and what didn’t. It still looks pretty good, but I can still see the shortened face.

The paper in this book is thin, and the water-based marker does bleed and ghost. But the page on the back asks one to “attach” something so I don’t think it will be an issue to cover in the future.

The next step was coloring, which I was really down for. I was watching the Big Brother 22 (All Stars 2) finale and it was something relaxing to do while enjoying the drama on screen.

Betty’s pretty simple, in terms of color. No shading, no highlights, just block color fills in the outlined areas.

I could have left the page as-is, but long-time blog readers will know I’m growing addicted to colorless blenders. I have a bad habit of “saving” things I like and not using them, and I’ve been trying to force myself to USE these things and not worry I’m “wasting” them by using them for their intended purpose. (Plus, it’s 2020. If ever there was a time for enjoying the little things, it’s now!)

Here you can see the difference before and after. Betty’s face was colored only with the Polychromos, but her neck has been gone over with the colorless blender. Just colored as you would normally, only instead of adding pigment, it blends the existing pigment together, smoothing it and filling in the white areas left on the paper. (Effectively, this burnishes the coloring, so you only want to do this after you’re done coloring, because it would be very difficult to lay down any more color afterwards).

Here’s Betty after I’ve blended the whole page. It really transforms the look! I find it makes it look more complete, and more professional. I’m always looking to improve my skills so these blenders are one tool I’m thrilled to have discovered.

Finally, I went back over some of the black lines with the brush end of my marker, to touch up areas where I’d gone out of the lines and the colored pencil showed on top of the borders.

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Create This Book September Challenge

September has come to and end, so now it’s time to share mine & Henri’s year-long challenge of doing one page from Moriah Elizabeth‘s Create This Book (vol 1) each month. There’s a link to all past posts at the bottom of this post. For this month Henri picked the “shared drawing” theme on page 88.

Henri went first and drew this for me to complete:

(The right page was completely blank, but I forgot to take a photo until I’d already started sketching). It’s a dabbing dude wearing a Henry Stickmin dabbing shirt. (The Henry Stickmin Collection has been all over YouTube these days as assorted gaming channels play through, and the boys have been enjoying watching their favorites find every fail).

For my side (the right) I did my best to copy Henri’s style and make it look like one complete image. I think I did pretty good! (And I can use the excuse of copying the style to excuse my horrible hand drawing LOL)

When it came to my page, I decided to make Henri have to think and be creative.

I drew an iphone and told him he could draw any app he wanted on it’s screen. He decided instead to draw the lock screen, and I love it!!

In keeping with the Henry Stickmin theme, he drew Henry doing the Distraction Dance… specifically the one at 0:49sec here:

He did so good! He put the time, the date, even the “swipe to unlock” at the bottom… he even remembered to put the little connection etc icons at the top! I love it.

He did so good I don’t even care that he used permanent markers that bled through the page. I’m always in awe of his talent and I’m really happy that I have this drawing in my book to keep. 🙂

And that’s our challenges for this month. He’s already picked out October’s, so we can get started on them early for a change.

Complete list of 2020 Create This Book Challenge pages:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.