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World Creativity and Innovation Day

It’s World Creativity and Innovation Day so today’s post is a round-up of previous posts that I feel incorporated some outside-of-the-box thinking!

Ever need to transfer live stitches to waste yarn but can’t find your tapestry needle? No problem! Here’s an easy way to “knit” the live stitches over so you can keep working on your project.

If you find standard provisional cast-ons too difficult, here’s a super easy way to get your knitting started. No extra tools required!

Here’s a neat trick for making thin vines/ropes for use in decorating your cakes or cupcakes. They’re flexible, stretchable, and edible!

Here’s a hands-free way to hold your coloring books open!

Not getting the look you want with colored pencils in your adult coloring books? Here’s a great way to add more tooth to the paper.

Are your fondant balls/pearls coming out all different sizes? Here’s a super easy hack to get identical ones, every time!

Here’s a simple way to give a plain toy new life and make it work with your LEGO pieces.

Finally, for when you want to provide homemade, individual snacks, here’s a free & easy way to transport mini cupcakes by repurposing something you’ve probably already got on hand.


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Avoiding Chores with Coloring!

Did you know that today, April 7, is National No Housework Day? As a crafter, I’m ALWAYS looking for reasons to get more time in with my hobbies, so avoiding housework to spend that time doing things I love sounds like a FANTASTIC idea.

I can’t pretend this is the only day I’ve ever put off housework in favor of a project or seven though… Most recently I took advantage of a lazy weekend afternoon to do some coloring and try out a new background technique in a coloring book page. If you’d like to celebrate the holiday today by doing the same, read on for more info!

After going through my coloring book stash to see what fit my mood, I went with the super rad Like, Totally 80’s coloring book and picked a new page instead of working on one of the pages I’ve already prepped.

I wanted the quick satisfaction of using markers and this page had just the right mix of small details and elements. This book is single-sided which is great as you don’t have to worry about ruining an image on the back of the page.

To make things even more mindless, I gave myself a limited color palette. I found an 80s-inspired palette of these 6 colors:

…which I then matched in my Crayola SuperTips.

It was mindless, for sure, but I forgot that coloring is rarely quick! So I had no choice but to spend even more evenings avoiding housework.

Once all the small sections were complete all that remained was the background. It was too much to fill in with the markers so I reached for my Prismas instead.

First I filled in the entire background with a light gray (not shown). Then, using 3 colors that matched 3 of the marker colors, I went over the background again, doing large, irregular sections of color.

Next I went over the whole thing with a layer of black. My goal was to have the different shades give the black some dimension while subtly tying in the bright 80s tones.

The final step was to go over the entire background one last time, this time with my Derwent Burnisher. You can see the massive difference this makes in the image above – the background below the blue squiggle has been burnished, while the area above has not. There was no additional color applied; I merely flattened the layers of color using the burnishing pencil.

I really like how it turned out! It’s a silly, chaotic coloring book page but it was fun and I really enjoy the subtle depth the black background has by having the other colors underneath.

Looking back now I prefer the original background but at the time I’d felt it wasn’t bright enough to really SCREAM “80s”. I decided to outline everything (and also add random dots around the edge of the page for some reason…?) with a white Posca paint marker. These markers are great with colored pencils as they go over it beautifully without skipping, and once dry you can tint the paint with your markers or pencils.

To beat back the white glare I did just that. Using the same 6 SuperTips I went over the white paint to give every item an outline “glow”.

In the end I’m not mad at the final page (above), but I do prefer it pre-paint. That said, it was a lovely excuse to get out of housework for a bit and do something (relatively) mindless.

I hope you get to use today as an excuse to put down the vacuum or laundry and do something fun that makes you happy!

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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How To: DIY Super Mario Bros Banner

For my last post of Mario Month 2022, I’m going to show you how to make these DIY Super Mario Bros-themed banners:

I used them as stage runners for a Mario-themed skit, but they can also be hung as banners to dress up the decor at a Mario-themed party, photoshoot or event.

In case it’s been a while since you’ve seen what a Super Mario Brothers game looks like, this is the setting I was attempting to recreate on stage:

I’ve already made a warp pipe set piece, but to really give the stage a “Mario-world” look I decided to make banners/runners in the style of the iconic bricks, blocks and ground texture.

If you look at the screenshot it’s clear there are 3 distinct patterns – the bricks, the “?” blocks, and the ground sections. Before I can scale and print my templates I needed to know what dimension I could work with.

I used the same roll of recycled paper as for the warp pipe, and it is 36″ wide so the easiest thing to do was to cut the roll in half lengthwise, and base my measurements around that.

On my computer I cropped out one repeat section of each of the 3 patterns and scaled them evenly to be 18″ high.

I printed the templates and taped the sections of paper together to have exactly the pieces I needed. Then I cut my strips to the proper length. The floating banner (the one Mario jumps on/under) was cut to fit 6 blocks of my template wide to best fit the width of our band’s drum riser. For the ground-level banner, I wanted to fill as much as possible of my stage width, so I divided my total stage width (about 30′) by the width of the ground template, and made sure I cut my length appropriately to fit in the maximum number of repeats that would fit my stage.

This paper rolls up nicely which makes storage of both the materials in progress as well as the final banners a breeze!

As for the warp pipe, the whole project was done with inexpensive materials, including the acrylic paint. I started with the floating segment and marked off the width of each segment, then painted the brick sections brown.

I had just barely enough room to set it aside to dry so I could move on to the stage runner.

The stage runner was given a brown base coat along the entire length.

Due to space constraints, I set up my workstation to allow me to keep moving the runner to the right, while working from the left.

Luckily by the time I ran out of room to extend the far end, it was dry enough to roll up on itself.

The ground template would be getting a lot of use as I had to trace it over and over along the entire length of the runner, so I protected it with my favorite cheap lamination method – packing tape.

Then I set about tracing it over and over and over…

Carbon paper is fantastic for this as it provides erasable marks that are dark enough to be seen but light enough to be painted over. I used a ruler to be sure my lines would be straight, and a pen, stylus or chopstick/skewer would all work equally well for the tracing.

Once all the tracing was done it was time to paint the details. This required black and white paint, along with some extra brown to fix any mistakes.

I didn’t want any color bleeding, so first I worked my way through painting the white sections…

…rolling the work up as soon as it was dry enough to move forward…

…and then once the white was complete I moved it to the other side to start over, now painting the black ones.

It’s a long process, but very relaxing and great for podcast/audiobook listening!

With the ground painted and set aside, I returned to the floating banner and added a lighter brown base to the “?” block sections.

Just as for the ground, I traced my templates and then worked in sections to paint them.

First I did all the black and the bit of white highlight on the bricks…

…and then I went back in and did the remaining brown on the “?” blocks.

I love the finished result! It’s so easy and doesn’t take too long but has such a high visual impact for the stage or as party decor.

You can see how accurate the result turns out when you use a good, scaled template.

Once all the painting was done I gave the banners a few days to air dry to be sure there was no moisture left in the recycled paper, and then I set about laminating them.

If you’re only making a banner for a party or to stage a photoshoot, this next step is optional.

Just as for the warp pipe, these banners would be used in a stage show with multiple performances and incredibly quick set changes, and it would be a waste of my time and effort making them if they ripped during rehearsal or mid-performance.

Starting with a 1-2′ strip of tape, I lay it on one of the straight edges, overlapping halfway. Then I lifted the edge of the banner and folded the free half of the tape over, pressing well. This protected the edge of the paper from any moisture getting in.

Repeat the process on all edges. For a long banner like the ground one, you can do this in sections as you go.

Then, using more packing tape, work horizontally across your piece to laminate it. Overlap your strips slightly, again to make sure no gaps are left where moisture could get in. Once done, trim up your edges with a craft knife.

I chose to also laminate the back of my banners. While this does use up extra tape and is not visible to the audience, it provides an extra layer of durability and moisture protection. Also, as we were using velcro tape to quickly hang and remove the banners during each performance, I didn’t want to take a chance on being able to pull the tape off from the paper and damaging it.

The finished banner is now durable and reliable for frequent rough handling.

I then repeated the same process on the ground-level banner.

And with that, they are complete. The banners roll up easily for storage and transport, and applied perfectly to our stage pieces with heavy duty velcro tape. We had incredibly quick, rough set changes where the stage hands slapped them into place and then ripped them off while running off stage during the blackouts, and they held up perfectly!

Here’s how they looked on stage. The original plan was to have the drum riser get the floating banner and hang the ground runner off the front of the stage, but in dress rehearsals we realized that it would be too low to be seen by anyone in the audience except the very front, so we raised it up to run the length of the full band riser instead.

It was a really cute, fun skit/dance number, and definitely an audience favorite. I was so pleased that my stage runners, warp pipe, and all the costume pieces were an important part of that, and have held up to this day (4 years later).

All of this year’s Mario Month posts are from that skit, and next year’s will include instructions on how to make Princess Peach’s wand, Toad’s hat, and the Piranha Pete costume.

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

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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Tips & Tricks for Craft-Related Repetitive Strain Injuries

The last day of February is International Repetitive Strain Injury Awareness Day.  Whether you knit, crochet, color, sew, cross stitch, embroider, or enjoy other crafty pastimes like diamond painting or LEGO building, you’ve likely done repetitive motions while in pursuit of your hobbies.  I reached out to Alyssa Cape from Alyssa Massage for tips, tricks and helpful hints on ways to keep our mobility and flexibility healthy so we can continue to craft for many years to come.

Me: Hi Alyssa!  Crafters (like myself) have a tendency to sit for long periods of time.  We can be hunched over our desks during activities like coloring, sewing or diamond painting, or spend many hours cross-legged on the couch while knitting, crocheting or doing embroidery.  Do you have any posture tips for long crafting sessions?

Alyssa: I’d put a small step stool or shoe box under the feet so the knees are slightly higher than the hips. This helps the small curve in your back from pinching and then your neck automatically goes forward. This way when your feet are slightly elevated, the pelvis is tilted back a bit so you can rest your back on lumbar support or pillow and your muscles relax. 

I wouldn’t suggest sitting cross legged, however if you do, switch positions often. Get up to drink some water and to walk around to give your body a break. 

There are multiple videos showing how to be comfortable while doing crafts like knitting or crocheting, like this one: 

Me: Crafters can be prone to sore wrists, hands and fingers.  Sometimes this pain can shoot up into the arm.  Should we be doing exercises to keep our hands, wrists or arms in shape?

Alyssa: Here are 2 links, one shows 3 stretches for carpal tunnel and the other is self hand massaging.  I do these myself as well! They can also be used for computer/ desk work.

I would recommend not to over-stretch as you can pull on the nerves. Nerves are like dental floss, they pass through the joints. They don’t stretch like muscle, tendons and ligaments. So if you feel tingling or burning in your fingers, stop!

Me:   How hard should we be stretching?  How often should we do them?

Alyssa: Do the stretches gently so you feel a slight stretch/ resistance and then stop. You’ll see mobility, flexibility and strength will come! Seeing a physiotherapist is also a good idea as they can provide you with multiple exercises and stretches and suggest the frequency of both as it’s different for each person.

Me: What should we do when in pain?  Is that the time to stretch?

Alyssa: I don’t recommend when in pain to stretch and self massage. Rest hands as much as possible.  There are thumb/ wrist/ arm braces that can be worn while crafting and at night as well to help stabilize the wrist during sleep.  

Me: Do you recommend ice or heat?

Alyssa: You can alternate heat and cold compresses 15 minutes each. Heat allows for more blood flow which speeds up healing and cold reduces blood flow for swelling and inflammation.

Me:  Any other tips?

Alyssa: A warm bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts really helps de-stress the muscles and then you can apply cold on the specific location. Drinking lots of water also helps with muscle soreness and tension!

That said- always consult with your doctor before doing any stretches or exercises to make sure there isn’t an underlying issue!! 

About Alyssa: 

image.jpeg

Alyssa has been a registered & certified Massotherapist for over 12 years.  She is professional, dynamic and intuitive in her practices and completely dedicated to your overall wellness. You can enjoy the benefits of preventative and ongoing massage therapy for your health and well-being by visiting her here.

Disclaimer: I reached out to Alyssa on my own and asked for her professional advice to share here today. There was no compensation given on either part in exchange.


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Crafts with Kids: How to Make a Talking Card

Did you know that February 21st is “Card Reading Day”? According to Checkiday.com this is a day for reading and enjoying cards that you’ve received over the years, that you’ve held on to for sentimental reasons. Here’s a quick and easy card project you can make with your kids to give others something they can hold on to and re-read on future Card Reading days.

To make a talking greeting card you will need:

  • paper or cardstock
  • scissors (plain or with a creative edge)
  • bone folder (optional)
  • pencil
  • supplies of choice for decorating (markers, colored pencil, construction paper, glue, etc)

STEP 1- with your paper placed vertically in front of you (taller than wider), fold the top edge down to meet the bottom edge, then press fold flat

My kids decided to try out this project, so I talked them through it while making my sample and let them have full creative control over their own.

STEP 2- unfold your paper and this time fold it vertically, so the left edge goes behind and under the right edge.

I’d first learned this card at an art class when I was a bit younger than my boys are now, so it was cool to be teaching it to them now, and passing it on.

STEP 3- orient the card so the fold is on the right. Figure out where you want the mouth to be and make a straight cut.

Your mouth can be as high or low on the card as you would like, but remember that you will be folding the edges on the diagonal, so if you want to place it closer to the upper or lower edges, you will need to make your cut shorter. (So you don’t surpass the upper or lower edge of the inner card face – this will become clearer after the next step).

Henri and I used regular scissors for a straight cut, and Jakob chose ones with a pinking blade to get a zigzag edge to his mouth.

STEP 4- fold either side of the cut edges up, and press firmly. Repeat the same folds to the other side. If you think of the mouth as a bird’s beak, you are folding at the beak’s outer edges.

Our examples are shown with the folds at roughly 45 degrees but you can get creative with this. With a shorter cut you can fold at 45 degrees for a smaller mouth or you can fold at a narrower angle for a bigger mouth (with a small opening).

STEP 5- once you have folded the cut edges to both sides of the card, smooth them flat then fold the top half of the card down to the back.

This puts the 2 solid faces on the outside for the front and back of the card and the mouth on the inside.

STEP 6- use your fingers to tuck the mouth/beak folds outwards while keeping the card folding inwards. Then press the card flat and smooth over it a few times, to “set” that fold.

This is the mouth that will open and close as you open and close the card, making it look like your card is “talking”!

STEP 7- the final step is to use a pencil to lightly trace the inside mouth corners to mark off the boundaries of where you can put your “spoken” message.

You want to use a pencil for two reasons: 1) a pen or marker might bleed through your paper to the outside faces of the card, and 2) you can erase the border after creating your message, for a cleaner look.

From this point on you can decorate the card however you like!

We all ended up taking inspiration from the mouth looking like a beak, and created bird-themed cards.

Jakob and I went for sweet birthday messages…

…while Henri went a bit rogue!

Reinforcing how well he takes after his punny mom, Jakob made a cute BIRD-day card.

I think it’s really TWEET!

He was so proud he just had to CROW about it. (Ok I’ll stop)

I went for a similar theme with mine.

Because the inside of the card isn’t visible (except for where the message is) you can use alcohol markers or other media that might bleed through your paper. You can avoid the message area or glue in a clean bit of white paper after decorating the rest of the card, enabling you to get as creative as you’d like and not be limited to dry media.

I’m so glad I got to pass on this easy card-making method. I hope you (or your kids) make some cute, creative cards that can be someone’s sentimental memory to look at fondly in the future. ❤


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Second Attempts at Background Washes in Coloring Books

A few weeks ago I shared some very old attempts of trying background washes in adult coloring books. Since that point I’ve been watching more Dede videos and reevaluating my supplies and my goals with these coloring pages. To that end, I went through some of my coloring books and chose new pages to try, this time with deliberate intent. Instead of using the washes to help me muster the urge to work on a particular page, now I was choosing pages I wanted to work on, and colors that would help me be happier with the eventual results.

Oh – and I learned from my mistakes – I was for sure going to be using acrylic paint this time.

The best paint to use for this is cheap acrylic paint. It’s matte, opaque but also thins well.

Acrylic paint is a plastic, which means it dries solid and won’t re-wet. This means you can use the same palette over and over, by either pulling off the dried paint or simply working right on top of your (thoroughly) dried paint.

I’ve been using old yogurt and margarine lids but recently started keeping takeout lids for the same purpose. If you have a paint caddy like mine, you can also use the lid as a palette.

I started with my Colours of Comfort coloring book, from my local Dollarama. My kids bought it for me as my Christmas present/stocking stuffer by sneaking it into my cart then making me turn around so they could hand it to the cashier. They then held the bag in the car and carried it into the house so they could get it into my stocking without seeing what they’d picked. (They paid me back later lol)

First up was this mandala-esque page. I picture it completed with golds and jewel tones, so gave the whole page a deep yellow wash.

Next I chose this tea party scene. I was taken with the idea of trying to make the cups look like porcelain, and gave the cups a gray wash so I could layer white pencil on top.

I forgot to take a before pic of this next one. I’m not usually one for landscape drawings, but this one caught my eye.

I like the idea of using my textures tutorial book and practicing some natural textures like the stones.

I’ve had this next coloring book for years, and barely touched it. The Mason-Dixon Knitting’s A Coloring Book for Knitters came out back in 2016 and is filled with fun, crafty images to color. While it’s a cute idea, it suffers from the same paper quality issue as most novelty coloring books, so as my media of preference changed, it limited what I was able to use.

It’s not bad…but it’s not strong enough for alcohol markers and not enough tooth for a good job with colored pencils.

I was really drawn to this winder & swift page. I painted the background with silver paint, hoping to get a vintage “mirrored” wallpaper look in the end, and plan to copy my own swift and winder’s color schemes.

From there I grabbed two of my favorite books to flip through.

This Like, Totally 80’s coloring book gave me a chance to break out my neon paints.

I picked two pages that I thought would be fun to complete.

From there it I moved to Color the 90’s. It’s a really fun blast from the past by the same author as “Sit the F*ck Down and Color”.

This Easy Bake Oven page caught my eye!

I found a good reference image for the oven and think it’ll be a really cute page to color.

Finally, I turned to this Garden Fairy Alphabet coloring book that I’ve had for a really long time.

Just like landscapes, flowers and plants are not usually my go-to either. Using paint makes me eager to work on these images now, though, and I chose the letters that represent the children in our family.

J and H are for my boys, and L, J and C are for my siblings’ children. Inspired by them all I chose colors that represent the respective children’s hair colors. C has dirty blonde hair and loves blue, so I added the sky (which I later regretted, and did not add in any of the others).

I couldn’t NOT go for a Link-looking character for Henri’s H, since my son is obsessed with The Legend of Zelda.

Jakob’s Jonquil Fairy will be blond just like him…

…and just like my niece L’s blonde curls.

None of these are complete, and none have yet gone past the painting stage, but even at this point I’m so much happier with them than I was with the last batch.

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Retro DIY 3D Doritos Bag

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and everyone knows the best parts of any Super Bowl are the snacks and the commercials, right? (No? Just me?)

It’s been 24 years (!!!) since Ali Landry famously tossed 3D Doritos into a laundromat dryer in an ad during Super Bowl XXXII, and 1 year since she showed she’s still got the same moves for snacking. I had to recreate this vintage snack a few years ago as a prop for a skit that took place in the 90s, and today I’m going to show you how you can make your own. Whether it’s for a play, a costume accessory, or simply nostalgic feels, it’s a quick and easy DIY that doesn’t require many supplies to make.

Note: 3D Doritos were relaunched in 2021 and got Matthew McConaughey’s “FlatMatthew” ad during Super Bowl LV, but they redesigned the bag so we’re going to focus on the original.

Besides access to a printer, you’ll need a few other supplies:

  • paper
    • I used full-page sticker paper, but you can use regular printer paper as well. If using sticker paper make sure it’s white and matte.
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • clear packing tape
  • scissors
  • glue stick (if you used printer paper)
  • 1 bag of regular Doritos

Start with your bag of Doritos. Empty the bag (into a bowl… or your mouth… no judgements here) and then carefully wash the inside and outside with soapy water. You want to make sure there is no food left inside that could mold over time, as well as remove any greasy or oily fingerprints from the outside that could interfere with your glue/tape.

3D Doritos have a red background so I used a bag of regular nacho flavor Doritos as my base so the back of the bag would match the altered front. Allow your bag to dry thoroughly before attaching your image.

Find a source image online and print it to scale with your bag. There are a number of great image resources out there, so you can use your favorite. Just be sure to choose a the highest image quality you can find, for the best results when printing.

If your printer quality is lackluster, like mine, you can retouch your printout with markers or colored pencils. I needed my prop to be highly visible from stage to an audience of 200-300 people, so I chose to deepen some of the sections for higher contrast.

In the image on the left, you can see the difference in the retouched red (to the left of my marker) vs unretouched (the right side, which I’d already outlined with the marker). In the middle image you can see the yellow marker inside the D, and in the last image you can see the contrast between the first half of each word vs the paler second half.

Once you’re happy with your retouching, cover the entire image with clear packing tape.

Try to be as smooth as possible but if you get a few wrinkles (like I did) it isn’t the end of the world as we will be crumpling the bag later. The wrinkles won’t show from the audience so don’t stress over them.

Here you can see the vivid difference between the retouched, taped good copy and my first print that was slightly too small.

The final image is bolder and more vibrant, with higher contrast. It also more closely resembles the shiny foil of an actual bag of chips vs a printed piece of paper.

Trim your image to the size of your bag. If using sticker paper, peel off your backing and apply your sticker. If using regular paper, cover the back with stick glue then set it in place.

Use more packing tape to seal all 4 edges so your new chip bag front is fully secure.

Continue around the back, and fully cover the back, bottom seam, and open edges with packing tape as well. Foil bags tear easily and the packing tape will keep your prop from falling apart when handled.

We needed an open bag that an actor could pretend to eat from, but you could just as easily stuff the bag lightly with crumped paper and tape the bag shut, to recreate a brand-new, unopened bag of chips.

The final step after taping is to crumple the bag like crazy. For real! Squish it, scrunch it, really work creases into that tape! Real bags will fold and crease easily and stiff, straight surfaces will spoil the illusion so don’t be afraid to crumple it up into a little ball and squeeze well.

Dig in!

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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.

Neither the Neocolor IIs nor the Inktense are acrylic paint. Both of these can be used to add tooth to a page, but I’d diluted them so much that all I’d really managed to do was warp my paper and leave it remaining smooth once dried.

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!

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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 channel 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, and reviewed the extra info in her related blog post, then 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 & post 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/post) 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/post) 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). You can find basic versions of 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.

What a fantastic resource!

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/post) 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!

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*December 5th