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Kansas City Cowl & Noro Kureyon Review

Over the last few years I have occasionally been reached out to by YarnCanada.ca and offered yarn to review. Unfortunately life got in the way and my projects and posts were delayed. Here, then, is the first of such reviews.

The yarn I was offered this first time was Noro Kureyon. I was familiar with it, having worked with it in the past when knitting my mom’s Booga Bag as well as for my Tasha Tudor shawl. (Remember when those patterns were huge?? I think EVERY knitting blogger was making them. Both are free patterns, and both are enjoyable knits. Here are the links to the patterns: Booga bag by Julie AndersonTruly Tasha’s shawl by Nancy Bush.)

I’d knit the bag in 2004 and the shawl in 2005 so I was curious if the yarn was still as good as I’d remembered.

As per YarnCanada’s description, “Noro Kureyon is one of their higher-end, “indie” yarns, known for its artistic colors and hand production process. It’s a hand-dyed, 100% wool that comes in variegated colors that self-stripe as you knit. A wide range of accessories and garments can be knit with this yarn.” I was offered my choice of color, which was a hard decision to make! As you can see below the yarn comes in a TON of beautiful shades, each more gorgeous and interesting than the last.

I wanted to choose a pattern before selecting a yarn, as the colors would be the prominent feature. The yarn colors do sell out fast, and in fact my first choice color at the time had sold out before I was able to decide on a suitable pattern! In the end I chose color 368, and they sent me 3 balls.

Note: it looks like this color is currently not available on their website. This is what it had looked like at the time:

And this is how it looked when it arrived.

Aren’t the colors stunning?? I was swayed by the contrast of the bright blues, greens, pinks and orange against the more muted neutrals.

(Disclaimer – the images in this post from here until the mannequin were taken a few years ago with an old iPhone 4 that had a cracked lens – hence the purple halo in most pics. I cropped out and tweaked what I could, but I can’t go back and account for bad composition or staging, unfortunately).

As mentioned, I’d selected a pattern first: the Kansas City Cowl by Kim Guzman. (Free on Ravelry).

I thought it would be really cool to see the colors stripe vertically while the dropped stitches ran horizontally. Being one who gets cold easily, I also liked the idea of having a versatile garment that could be a scarf when on the go but then be pulled down into a shoulder-warming shrug/poncho when necessary.

I hadn’t read the pattern details initially so it wasn’t until I went to get started that I realized I wouldn’t have enough yarn. The pattern calls for 338m and the Noro was labeled as “plus or minus” 50g to 100m. I figured I’d knit the middle size and hope I’d have enough, but then common sense took the better of me and I decided to wind the balls up and run them through my yardage meter at the same time so I’d know for sure. I was hoping there would be an extra yard or two in one of the balls and I’d find myself luckily closer to my desired yardage.

To my surprise each ball was excessively short. Each was supposed to be “around” 100m, but I didn’t get anywhere close. I even wound each ball twice – once to wind into a cake and then a second time into a new cake so there wouldn’t be tension causing any issues. When I saw there was a rather large discrepancy, I also weighed the 3 balls.

These were my results:

Ball 1 – 263 ft or 80 m – 50g

Ball 2 – 257 ft or 78 m – 46g

Ball 3 – 262 ft or 80 m – 40g

I have no idea why the last ball was so much lighter than the first one which had the same yardage. The yarn does slightly vary from thick to thin so it’s possible there were more thin sections. (Note: it’s not a slubby yarn… it’s just occasionally not spun as tightly in spots).

Now knowing I was pretty short on the 340 m yardage my desired pattern required, I riffled through my yarn stash buckets and find something that would match.  There was some brown wool left over from a Sylvia Olsen workshop that matched in look and color…except it was leftovers, so there wasn’t much.  I measured that to be sure and had 88 ft (26.75m).  Armed with that, I formulated a plan.

The pattern starts with the cabled center section, and then stitches are picked up from it to work the body.  So my loose plan was as follows: pick the ball of yarn that began with the colors I wanted for the cable.  Then divide my brown yarn in half, and work as many rows as I could with it, and made a note so at the end I could work the same number of rows with the remaining half so it would create a matching border on either side of the cable. Then, in between, I would work as many rows I could as possible with the Noro.

Happily enough, it worked!

I knit the cable with one skein’s purple-to-black transition and then pulled the same color section from a second ball but reversed it for black-to-purple.  As the yarn is 100% wool I split spliced all joins for a seamless knit.

Then I divided my 88ft of brown in half, and used one half to pick up the stitches on one edge of cable, picking up inside the edge stitch for a nice border.  I’d marked off the middle of the half of brown, and had originally planned to use a full half on each side but after the pick-up row and 4 more rows it was already pretty wide.  I didn’t want 2″ of brown on either side of the cable so chose instead to cut the yarn there, reserving the same amount for the other side, and omitting the rest unless I absolutely needed it.

Next I took the two balls I’d cannibalized the purple/black from and matched up their colors, re-winding one in the opposite direction so that the front would be mirrored. The plan for the third ball was to find its center and reverse half so the entire cowl would look like one long repeat that went from the cable to the center back then reversed to the other side of the cable.

It worked great for the first two balls. I wound them off exactly as described. The one with the working yarn I wound around the cable & needles to keep it neat and out of the way. The other end I wound into a ball starting with the added brown that would be the final bit of knitting, and wound in the reverse direction. These two balls happened to be #1 and #3 and had such similar yardage and colors that it was super easy to wind one from front to back and the other from back to front and get a nearly mirrored result.

The middle, shortest one, wasn’t so easy.

I spit-spliced one end of ball 2 to the free end of each of the 2 wound balls and tugged off a few yards from either the outside or inside of the cake and wound it up onto ball 1 or 3. Looking down into the wound cake of the middle ball I could tell it didn’t have the exact colorway of its brothers, but it seemed to have an even repeat – raspberry to teal then green then the dark blends, then back to raspberry to teal then green then the dark blends. I figured it would be easy enough to split it into two equal repeats then reverse one for the center mid point of the back. I wanted the brighter teal coming first because both wound balls already had dark tones near the joins. It worked… until I got near the middle.

This is the only place, not counting reversing direction or adding in brown, where I’ve played with the colorway as dyed, and I’m telling you this so there are no questions as to why my colors don’t match any skein you might buy (though if this color is discontinued by now this won’t matter). Clearly the colors don’t make a repeat that I can just reverse, so I ended up cutting and spit-splicing to make my own sorta-repeat that I was happy with, that would form the middle of the cowl back.

Planning out the colors was by far the hardest part. Once my yarn was turned into one large frankenskein the project practically flew off the needles.

I did stop often to admire the color transitions. Noro yarns truly are gorgeous, and I’m always charmed by the interplay of colors I wouldn’t have thought to pair together.

The cowl is knit in stockinette with stitches dropped at the end before you seam the BO row to the opposite side of the cable. Besides the color play, the only modifications I made were to knit my length based on how much yarn I had left, and to not apply the pattern’s suggestion of slipping the first stitch of every row as I found it made the edge way too tight for my liking.

I couldn’t wait to try on the cowl as soon as I’d finished weaving in the ends! You can tell how long ago this pic was taken by the color of my hair at the time 😉

Because of my camera limitations at the time I’ve scrapped my other images and took new ones to do the project and yarn justice.

Here is the finished garment. I love the blend of colors so much!

One of the really cool things about Noro Kureyon is that you get these gorgeous color transitions but, because they’re 100% wool, you have the option of changing things up if you want to.

For example, instead of having a mirrored transition like I did here, if color blocking is more your style you could splice the balls together lengthwise, matching up the colors like with like, so as to end up with only one wider section of each color.

I couldn’t resist a detail shot of these vibrant jewel tones. There’s no color editing at play – this is just the yarn in all its glory on a sunny day.

For transparency, as mentioned above this brown section on either side of the cable is the only yarn not part of the Noro Kureyon skeins. It is very similar to a brown that appears within, and is also 100% wool, but is slightly thicker.

I haven’t knit more with Kuryeon over the years. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the price factor? At $10.95CAD per ball I simply haven’t had a project that I thought worthy of spending the money on. Not for myself at least, and the gifts that I make typically have had other requirements, like needing 100% cotton for dishcloths or superwash for baby garments that can be thrown into the machine. However knitting it with it again has reminded me just how much I enjoyed it.

Yes it’s 100% wool, but this is not scratchy stuff. It is soft and quite lovely. Sure you can use this for felted bags and slippers as it felts beautifully, but this is one of those few wools that I think is welcomed even against the skin.

I definitely recommend using it for your knitting or crochet projects. The only con would be the short yardage as mentioned above, but as long as you prepare and buy enough for your project, I don’t think it should deter you from trying Noro Kureyon for yourself. Also, this review is based on yarn received in 2017 so it’s possible that this is no longer an issue.

Stay tuned for a huge announcement from YarnCanada.ca coming later this week!

If you would like to pick up some Noro Kureyon for yourself, please visit YarnCanada.ca here. You can also find their full selection of Noro yarn here. All orders ship from Canada to within Canada only (sorry to my US and International followers!), with free shipping on orders over $85.00!

*Note: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest, unbiased review


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Flipboku Molecularis Paper Test (& New Kickstarter Announcement!)

Almost 2 years ago I backed a Kickstarter with an interesting premise: part coloring book, part magic trick, it promised to provide 6 completely different coloring book-style flip books in one tidy little package.

They even had a 2nd book – Blanko – for people who wanted to draw their own. I backed at the level where I got just the one already-illustrated book – Molecularis – and when it arrived I can say with complete sincerity that I was absolutely delighted.

The flip book comes in a snug little box/case to keep it clean and protected, and there’s even a neat little secret hiding inside-

A handy little page separator to put between the pages as you color! It appears to be made of the same sturdy cardboard as the cover, which is great as it will help prevent depressions from going through to subsequent pages and causing ghost images to come through.

The book actually contains 6 individual flip book animation sequences, with a different one visible depending on how you hold/flip the pages. The secret is in how the pages are cut, similarly to those “Now it’s empty! Now it’s illustrated! Now it’s fully colored!” ‘magic’ books magicians use. The illustrations are so fun and playful and I couldn’t wait to pull out my coloring supplies and dive in.

But I hesitated. You see, the book is reversible, in the sense that there is a different illustration on the back of each page, which will be used in a completely different animation. What if I used the wrong media? What if my markers bled through? What if water-soluble products warped the paper? The page protector is a wonderful inclusion, but it will only stop staining from going through to the following pages. It cannot prevent bleed-through onto the back of the page being worked on.

So I did something that’s perhaps a little unorthodox. I contacted Flipboku through their Facebook page and asked if they had any extra paper, of the kind they’d used in Molecularis. A full sheet… scraps off the cutting room floor… anything, in any size, would work as long as it was the same paper quality, which I could then test with a range of coloring supplies.

Perhaps because they’re a little unorthodox themselves, they agreed (thanks Julie!), and a little while later I received a thin, flat package in the mail. I’d expected scraps, perhaps narrow little trimmings from when they cut the pages to size, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find two good-sized sheets of the Molecularis paper, as well as a couple of pages from the Blanko book as well.

The first thing I did was figure out how many products I was going to test, and then draw a grid on the sample papers to delineate each implement. For the Blanko paper I kept the grid small enough to only use one sheet, because it’s regular paper and I was pretty sure I knew how the different media would react.

On the Molecularis paper I went for a bigger grid, using most of one sheet so I could save the other for future testing if necessary. Since the coloring images in the flip book are mostly all small-ish, ovoid shapes, I drew a little squished circle in a similar size so I could see if coloring a contained shape would cause more bleed (from going over and over the same area to fill it in). I also kept a few sections wider for testing water-activated media like Inktense, watercolor pencils and Neocolor II water-soluble crayons so I could see if the paper would warp after getting wet.

I ended up testing 26 different coloring tools, focusing mainly on wet-based media. I didn’t test crayons because I knew they would be fine, though I did include colored pencils just so I could see if the pressure they required would indent the paper at all.

The supplies tested are:

  1. Sharpies – regular (fine) point
  2. Sharpies – neon [I was curious if the brighter pigment would be “juicier” in a way that would be more likely to cause bleed-through]
  3. Sharpies – chisel-tip [same rationale as for the neons, except due to the amount of ink transferred from the wider nib]
  4. Sharpies – metallic [I wondered if the metallic ink was a different formula from the regular one so would behave differently]
  5. Sargent Metallic Ink Markers
  6. Studio Metallic Ink Markers (from Dollarama)
  7. Micron fineliner – 0.5 size
  8. Copic multiliner – 0.8 size
  9. Bic Mark-It! fine tips
  10. Bic Mark-It! ultra-fine tips
  11. Stabilo 88 0.4mm fineliner markers
  12. Staedtler Triplus 0.3mm fineliner markers
  13. water-based dual-tip markers (Soucolor & Feela) – fine tip end
  14. water-based dual-tip markers (Soucolor & Feela) – brush tip end
  15. Crayola Supertips
  16. generic highlighter
  17. Faber-Castel Polychromos colored pencil
  18. Spectrum Noir alcohol markers
  19. Gel pens (assorted brands)
  20. Gelly Roll gel pens (assorted colors)
  21. Glitter paint markers
  22. Derwent Inktense water-soluble ink pencils
  23. Koh-I-Noor Mondeluz Aquarelle watercolor pencils
  24. Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayons
  25. Wink of Stella clear glitter brush
  26. Studio Roller Pen

Here’s my testing grid after doodling. I deliberately picked purples & blues as those dark colors tend to bleed through more frequently than yellows and greens, etc.

I have to say that coloring on the Molecularis paper was a WONDERFUL experience! Nearly every product I tested glided smoothly over the paper without effort and left rich, even color with minimal strokes or feathering. Only a few products bled over the shape outlines, but they were all Sharpies which are alcohol-based and often have a bit of overbleed. The paper handled the wet media column on the right like a champ, thick like a cardstock so there was no warping, but with just enough texture to get mileage out of the watercolor media. It’s also lovely with colored pencils, having just enough tooth to take color well, leaving me certain it would also be great with charcoal & graphite.

The Blanko paper handled just like regular paper, because that’s what it is. It is smoother than the Molecularis paper, much thinner, and much more of a bright white.

Ready for the results? I was! I deliberately didn’t peek at the back at all while swatching, and had left the paper overnight in case any seepage would occur as the inks dried. The next day I turned the papers around and-

The results 100% blew my expectations out of the water!

I’ll start with the Blanko paper. As it is regular paper, there were no surprises there. The alcohol-based products bled through as expected, the very wet gel pens bled through as well, as did the water-soluble ink of the Inktense pencils (though that was likely due to the water saturating the paper). As for the other markers, while they didn’t bleed as much as the first ones mentioned, most of them had significant ghosting and shadowing through the thin paper.

What really surprised me, however, was the Molecularis paper. There was almost NO bleed-through! I found myself double-checking to be sure, but really- this is it. I numbered the back to make the areas easier to check, and the only one that had anything close to bleed-through is #20 – “assorted Gelly Roll”. Specifically the ones that bled are their Gold Shadow line, which is a two-tone ink that leaves a colored outline with a gold fill.

The alcohol-based Sharpies and Bics didn’t bleed. The Spectrum Noirs didn’t bleed – which means Copics won’t. The water-soluble medias didn’t bleed nor warp, even with a significant amount of water used (I activated all the wet-media with my Derwent waterbrush).

It’s not completely perfect, of course. If I LOOK for issues while the paper is flat (above), I can see slight ghosting in cells 3 (chisel-tip Sharpie), 9 (Bic Mark-It fine tip) and 17 (black colored pencil, applied with firm pressure to fill in the shape). However I don’t believe these are issues that would affect the intended use of the coloring flip book.

I’m blown away, I really am. If I hold it up at an angle, allowing a bit of light to get underneath, there is the slightest ghosting where I colored in the other blobby shapes, with still only the cells referenced above having the most visibility (the Sharpie and Bic showing not only the coloring-in but also my doodling as well).

I’m really impressed. I’ve used many coloring books where I’ve had to make a conscious choice about what page I wanted to color, knowing the image on the reverse would be ruined. Obviously with a book meant to be reversible the company had to consider this, but it almost sounded too good to be true, which is why I had to test it for myself.

Since their original launch Flipboku has expanded their flip book range, with not only the Molecularis and Blanko books (or a bundle with both!) but also fully-illustrated flip books designed in collaboration with different artists. If you’re into history, sci-fi, or even romance, you’ll find an animated book that leaves you in awe of the magic in the tiny printed movies.

You can visit their website here to shop their really cool products, or click here to access their brand new 2-volume Kickstarter that officially launched yesterday.

The first volume of the new Kickstarter, Dots, is a flip book with 6 different animations (also called sequences) created by internationally renowned animators. Each side of the flip book contains 3 different sequences made up of 36 pages. Once you have connected all the dots in one sequence, all you have to do is flip it to discover what is hidden behind the dots.  After that, you can even grab your favorite coloring pens and color the animations, so in fact you have a dot-to-dot flip book and a coloring flip book, all in one!

For the second volume, Lines, they have selected some of the most puzzling optical illusions and turned them into animation. Most of these sequences are based on the dot-to-dot technique as well. They work in a similar way to the ones featured in Dots, but in addition, once all the dots are connected and the pages are flipped, the animations produce mind-boggling optical illusions. Ranging from astonishing to downright weird these sequences include impossible figures, geometrical illusions and visual paradoxes that will play awesome tricks on your eyes and mind.

Note- The above text and gifs are taken from their Kickstarter. While some of the product links above are affiliate links (Amazon) this post is not sponsored. I ordered and paid for Molecularis on my own and Flipboku hasn’t done anything for me beyond send me the paper samples at my request. I just thought it was a unique variation on a coloring book that my readers would enjoy. Happy coloring!


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A New Year = A New Challenge!

Last January I set up a challenge on this blog- to celebrate 2019 I would convert 19 long-languishing WIPs (works in progress) into FOs (finished objects).

This year I’ve set a new challenge for myself, one with a bit of a lighter workload since I’ve got so many other things on my plate.

We’re big Moriah Elizabeth fans in this house (the sprinkle song is our jam!) and while I’ve managed to distract Henri from wanting his very own Pickle plushie, I did cave and buy him Create This Book for Hanukkah.  

I ordered volume 1, and when it arrived I realized I’d accidentally put 2 copies in my cart.  We took a quick household vote and instead of returning it, we decided to keep the second copy for me and Jakob to use.  Thus starts the first monthly segment of our Create This Book v1 adventures.

It’s the 2020 Create This Book Monthly Page Create-a-long!

There’s also a volume 2 but we’ll be starting with the first book and working our way forwards.

Henri picked this page to start with in his book, so to catch up I’ll be making that my January page as well. My goal is to do (at least) one page each month. 12 pages doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ve got a TON of stuff going on this year and don’t want to over-commit.

I have six days to come up with an idea, draw/color the page and then post it to the blog. The idea hasn’t come yet but the supplies have been decided- I’ll be coloring the page with my adored Faber-Castel Polychromos. I can’t help but hear Mike Myers in my head when I use them because they color so smoothly that it’s just like butter.

By the way – if you’re always in search of new, better pencil/pen cases like me, I can happily recommend the Thornton case pictured above. I own a lot of colored pencil sets with 100+ colors and quickly outgrew the 32, 48, 56 and 72-pc sets I’d invested in years ago. Last winter I did my research and bought a few larger cases in different styles then spent a cozy snowed-in winter weekend reorganizing all my pencils. (Yes, it’s the little things that make me happy LOL). Now I have enough room to store the full 120pc pencil set plus additional tools like a fineliner, stick eraser, my favorite blender pencil, and a white marker*.

Note- in Canada at least, the listing for the empty case itself seems to be sold out. The exact case full of 150 of their own-branded colored pencils, however, is available here.

*Money-saving tip: There are a LOT of white markers out there for adding highlights to your drawings and coloring. Sakura Gelly roll white pens are great, Sharpie paint markers can be fantastic, and many other brands have good ones too. But my favorite white “pen” is 100% the Liquid Paper or Wite-Out corrector pens. They give the most opaque, solid coverage because that’s literally what they’re designed for, and can very often be found in the stationary aisle of your local dollar store. (I get mine at Dollarama).

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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The Princess Bride Coloring Book: the Grandfather and Grandson double-page wip

…aka the Fred Savage/Peter Falk double-page spread.

Sometimes I like mindless projects like stockinette stitch knitting or coloring where the resulting image can look like anything I can imagine.  Other times the challenge of replicating something existing is what thrills me, like Henri’s Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake that had to look like a scene from the game, or my (full posts still outstanding) Skylanders Sprocket cosplay that had to look like the character from the game.  After a more casual take on the first few pages in the Princess Bride coloring book I was really eager to tackle something detailed and specific, so I was really happy to turn the page and see one of the the Grandfather/Grandson scenes from the movie’s framing device.

princessbride-wip-011

For reference, here’s a still from that scene in the movie:

princessbride wip 015

Just like with the Kaa/Mowglii page in the Art of Coloring: Disney Villains book, the Sherlock coloring book, the Doctor Who one, and others, I think some of the more photo-realistic pages start with photoshopped stills that are then cleaned up and refined by the artist.  In this case the only real differences between the book and the movie are a different jumble of toys and books on the headboard and the altering of Fred’s jersey, both changes likely due to the trademarks involved like the Bears, the Cheetos, and the He-Man figures, etc.

princessbride-wip-012

I don’t have progress pics from before this point because I was so into the coloring that I forgot.  I’d started with the lamp… for no real reason other than I’d wanted to.  After that I started thinking about how the Inktense pencils behaved: while they’re supposed to be permanent, if not fully activated they’d bleed into the surrounding areas.  So, for example, if I laid down a lot of pigment making his hair dark brown, and missed some stray bits near the outline, that dark color would bleed over into the white headboard/shelves if I got too close with my wet brush (which is why I’m leaving that, among other areas, for last).

I spent waaaaay too long on the bedspread.  Even after choosing the colors I spent more time than necessary figuring out if there was a repeatable pattern I could copy.

princessbride wip 016.jpg

(Go figure I didn’t find THIS pic until I was done that part.  Sigh.)

Once the stripes were done I tossed in a bit of shading, then did the pillows.  Next up was the skin (within which the shadows look a little exaggerated at the moment, but I plan to smooth it out with some colored pencil at the end).

princessbride-wip-013

I broke my own ‘dark colors’ rule in doing the jersey next (it’s the exception that proves it, right?) and then the shadows along the wall/shelves/head board.

princessbride-wip-014

And this is the point I’m at now.  I’ve started tossing some color into the books and comics and toys other odds and ends strewn about.

Oh- I wanted to say something excellent about this book: while it’s not made to hold heavy applications of water, and will definitely never stand up to alcohol markers, I’ve put this page so far through a lot.  After working some areas, like the jersey, it was with a lot of trepidation that I turned back to the page before to check for bleed-through.  The page on the other side of this one is the ownership page, so with only the smaller scollwork/flowers in the center of the page, there is a LOT of blank area for ghosting and bleeding to show through.

There’s none.  Nada.  Zilch.  In fact, I took the pics in my previous post after already coloring this far, so you can see for yourself that there aren’t even traces of ghosting to disrupt the background.  🙂


You can find more coloring-related posts sorted by material or book at the Coloring tab in the header above, or click here for more posts about The Princess Bride Coloring Book.

Other pages from this book so far:

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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Coloring Mowgli and Kaa in The Art of Coloring: Disney Villains with Derwent Inktense Pencils

For my birthday Yannick got me this excellent coloring book called The Art of Coloring: Disney Villains.  I’ve completed a few pages in it so far, as well as have some in progress.  This is one half of a two-page Kaa spread (from The Jungle Book) that I recently finished.

trust-in-me-wip-collageThis is the left-side page, that’s still in progress.  I’d begun coloring it in November with my Inktense in Sun Yellow, Lagoon, and Mallard Green to best match the coloration of Kaa’s hynotic eyes.

photo-2016-11-19-12-21-32-am

I did all the writing and then got a little bored LOL and moved on to the facing (right-side) page.  While Googling to find the accurate colors for Kaa and Mowgli I found further proof that a lot of the images in the book are based off of stills from the movies themselves, as it is often quite easy to find reference images in nearly the identical scenarios.  Case in point: Kaa’s face above…photo-2016-11-19-12-04-03-am…combined with Mowgli all wrapped up… become the coloring page in the book.

I decided to try something a little different on this side, rather than do the lettering as I had on the other side.  First I colored in the background writing with a really sharp white colored pencil, then I did a light wash of Inktense pigment over those areas.  The wax from the pencil provides a resist, leaving the lettering white, while the background paper picked up the color.  It was a fun experiment to try, and I’m happy with the results… though I wish I’d used a darker color for the background – maybe a magenta or something – to make the white letters really pop, visually.
collage01

After that the coloring was straightforwards.  I colored Mowgli first, and then for Kaa I went in stages, starting from the lightest colors, to the darkest.  I colored all the sections of his underbelly, followed by his back, and then the spots were last.

kaa-mowgli-preshade

The image above is the page after I was done.  Technically.  But I found that it looked rather flat on the page, so I went at it one more time using a darker color for shading everywhere the snake’s coils overlapped.
kaa-mowgli-postshade
It was a fun page to color, from an excellent coloring book.  The entire page was done with Inktense and painted with my waterbrushes and as you can see, it’s not buckled at all.  I do keep the book closed with a binder clip when I’m not coloring to help keep any wet-media pages flat, but even still, the paper is thick enough to support moderate water use.  In fact, from my trials on blank areas in the back of the book, the only spots where I saw bleed-through were with my alcohol markers (of course) and one area where I’d colored with a red Inktense pencil and applied too much water.  I haven’t used much colored pencil in the book, but I have used the Inktense on a number of pages, as well as gel pens and fineliners, and it took them all beautifully.

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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Creative Coloring Througout the Year Gratitude Journal

I had an idea the other day that I’d love to share with anyone interested in coloring, journaling or scrapbooking.  It’s something I definitely plan to do over the upcoming year, and I’d be so happy if anyone else made it their habit as well.

One of the gifts I received at our family Christmukkah Day (Christmas/Hanukkah/Birthday) gift exchange this past weekend was this Creative Coloring Throughout the Year 2017 desk calendar.  It’s one of those ‘page-a-day’ type, like the knitting calendar I’ve had a pattern published in in the past.

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The top two-thirds of each page contains lineart to color in, below which is the date and a small lined section for making note of appointments, or birthdays, etc.  The images are detailed enough to have fun with but not too large so as to be daunting at the thought of ‘having’ to complete an entire one per day.  They’re sized perfectly for fineliners or sharpened colored pencils, though I found I was able to use the broader nib of gel pens in mine without too much fuss.

Now, when I first opened it I was initially really tickled at the prospect of a small bit of coloring I could look forwards to daily.  I even thought it might be fun to bring to work, to perhaps have a little something to scratch at with my ballpoint pens during lulls in the day.  Then it hit me- I don’t want to throw out something I’ve spent time and effort creating (and don’t let anyone tell you differently- coloring in is still creating).

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But what could I do with the pages?  Of course, being a crafty person, ‘scrapbooking’ was one of the first ideas that came to mind.  However one insanely expensive all-out scrapbook in the past was enough to convince me I am so not interested in scrapbooking, which my wallet is quite thankful for.  So keeping the pages merely for the sake of keeping them was out, especially since I’m trying to pare down this year, not accumulate more clutter. So I wondered: was there anything I could do to make them useful?

And then it hit me…an idea that’s simple enough for children to do and yet so sweet that I hope others will like and benefit from it as well: a gratitude journal.

The plan is simple.

After I color each day’s page I’m going to use the notes area to jot down something I’m thankful for on that day, or a few things that made me happy.   Then I’m going to glue them down into a scrapbook (in my case the 80-page sketch book from my local Dollarama).

I’m so excited about this.  At the end of the year at worst I’ll have a bunch of pretty pictures to look at and at best I’ll have some great memories to treasure.

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As you can see I’ve only got a few images colored so far, so I’m already behind, but my aim for coloring each day’s lineart is way more therapeutic than technical, so I’m not trying to create any mini masterpieces.  As such I’m planning to get through the outstanding days’ pages as quickly as I can so I can start properly and keep it current.

I would really prefer to have two days per page instead of three as shown above.  With four images per sheet (two on the front, two on the back) the 80 pages the scrapbook holds would only give me the ability to store 320 days…not quite enough for one full year.
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I’ve got more of these books, though, so at some point I plan to swipe the missing pages from another sketch book and ease them into this one so I can have the entire year together.
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Above you can see the days I’ve already colored, and here below is a sneak peek at January 4th.  The others were done using fineliners and gel pens, but this one I’m doing with colored pencils and using varying amounts of pressure to get different shades within the image.  For example, the frog was colored with only one pencil, pressing harder in some spots and lighter in others.  Same for the flower, and I’ll be completing the image the same way.

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As you can see it’s not about the media nor the execution, it’s merely about the process.  The act of putting color to paper while letting your mind wander… letting the day roll off your back and allowing yourself to focus only on the wonderful memories that you want to commit to paper.

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I do hope you liked this idea and if anyone plans to start their own coloring calendar journal please let me know in the comments, I’d love to see it!

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And here’s the full plan in an image for my fellow Pinners.


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Derwent Inktense ‘before-and-after’ in Kerby Rosanes’ imagimorphia

I haven’t talked about it much but I’m going to be having surgery in about a week.  I’ve actually been off work since mid-August, and this unexpected time at home has given me a lot of time to knit and color, and while I’ve been revisiting old supplies I’ve also been lucky enough to get some new ones.

My watercolor research back in August led me to discover Derwent Inktense and I went on a really long review and YouTube binge, learning everything I could about those amazing ink-pigmented colored pencils.  When my birthday rolled around in September I basically only asked for art supplies, and my parents were wonderful enough to oblige.

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Topping my list was the Inktense set.  I really enjoy the metallic watercolor pencils and the Spectrum Noir Sparkle set is just yummy for anyone who likes glitter (um.  yes.  me!  I like glitter!), but in this post I’m focusing on the Inktense which I’ve been using primarily with the waterbrushes I got with them.  I really love this waterbrush set because of the sizes, the tiny #1 tip is perfect for the small areas in coloring books while the larger sizes make doing washes of color or wetting larger areas a breeze.  They’re super easy to fill and I haven’t had a single leak, and I’ve been using them on a regular basis since September.

Now then, on to the Inktense!  I got the full set of 72 colors but they do come in smaller tins, and the pencils are available open-stock so you can definitely get a smaller set and then add to it as you go.

So what are Inktense pencils?  According to their site, “Derwent Inktense pencils are our best watercolour pencil ever! You can use them dry but mix them with water and WOW! the colour turns into vibrant ink.  Once it’s dry the colour is fixed and you can work over the top of it, and, because it permanent it’s great for using on fabric such as silk and cotton!”  They refer to them as ‘watercolors’ but they’re not, not really.  They’re ink pigments in colored pencil format.  You can use them as pencils and they’re nice, on the darker end of color ranges, but it’s when you add water that they transform completely.  And because they’re ink once they’re dry they’re permanent.

What does this mean for coloring and how does this compare to a watercolor pencil?  Let’s say you wanted to color a pink sphere, and you wanted to block in the rounded shading first, then go over it with a wash of pink, leaving a highlight area.  With watercolors the paint reactivates any time it gets wet.  So even if you let the gray shading dry, once you washed pink over top the gray would bleed out and muddy the pink and if you’re not careful you can make a real mess of your work.  Inktense are permanent when dry so you can block in your shadows, wet the pencil strokes and fill your darker areas, and then once that’s dry you can go over it with even the lightest shades and the gray won’t budge.  This is a horrible way of explaining that you can go overtop of previous layers without affecting them.

Of course the first thing I did when I got my set was to swatch out the colors so I could see what I’d be working with.

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Above are the pencils when dry.  The appear quite dark, and there are a lot of greens and browns for those who enjoy coloring books such as Secret Garden and other floral-heavy books.  The pencils apply well and it’s very easy to get a lot of color down.  Each pencils is marked with it’s color number and name, making it very easy to identify which one I’ve used…which is helpful because the colors on the ends of the barrels aren’t quite identical to the actual color of the pencil itself.

Okay, so they’re really nice when dry.  The real magic, however, happens when they are activated.

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This image barely shows the bright vibrancy of these colors in real life.  The pigments activate instantly with water, and I could have used the lightest of strokes and still had the same color payout as I got here.  I was blown away by my swatches and as soon as I’d added them to my swatch book I had to get started on a coloring page.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube coloring tutorials featuring Inktense pencils (PetaDede, Lindsay and Lisa are four of my favorites) and I know that the pencils are typically used in wet-as-you-go manner, coloring a section and then activating it, and so on.  However, making the swatches was so satisfying in a “wait til the end” surprise payoff, that I just had to try coloring an image that way: coloring the whole thing, and then activating the ink at the end to see the before and after.

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After testing the paper in the back of the book to make sure it would be safe to use (no bleed-through) I chose this image from Kerby Rosanes’ imagimorphia.

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I’ve been having a lot of tummy time (lol) and this is how I’d set myself up in bed.  A clipboard helped keep the book open as well as gave me a flat, hard surface to work on.  I had a sheet of card stock underneath this page to protect the ones beneath, and I had my swatch book open in front of me so I could accurately choose my colors.  My laptop was off to the right playing episode after episode of Welcome to Nightvale (soooooo weird and awesome) and the tin of colors was on my left within easy reach.  Finally, my flip-top Ott-Light was balanced on the bed casting accurate light over the picture for me, since lighting in my house is crappy at best.03_whale_imagimorphia_inktense_before_wet

This is my completed painting before activating the Inktense inks.  I colored pretty lightly, wanting to see how the pigments did on their own before adding any shading or depth.  (PS yes I know that’s supposed to be a whale and whales aren’t green LOL) Coloring with these pencils is like a dream.  They apply color beautifully even to paper that doesn’t have a lot of tooth.  It is really easy to apply just a hint of color without any pressure on the pencil, which is a good thing because it means you won’t have to waste a lot of the pencil just to get a good color payout.  In fact, these colors are so vibrant and juicy when activated that if anything, it’s almost too easy to add TOO MUCH color.

(For example, my son Jakob is addicted to these pencils too and is coloring an image in one of his books.  I was showing him how subtle applications of color give pastel-pale results and he tried it out for himself.  His three light strokes of Payne’s Gray, applying barely any pressure, provided enough color when activated to light wash a bunny butt around 3″ in diameter.)

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I took this image right when I’d started activating the inks.  I went slowly, enjoying watching the colors blossom into vibrant paint.  (Seriously, it’s addictive).  I activated each like section at a time, brushing off any excess pigment onto a paper towel to keep the tip of my water brush clean.  In this image you can begin to see the difference between the activated (water-applied) and pencil-only sections.  The orange and yellow fish on the right is still pencil, while there has been water applied to the one on the left.  The little fairy creatures have been wetted on both sides.  What really shows off some of the color payout, however, is the school of fish that crosses the tentacle.  You can see how little color I’d applied, versus how much blooms from the watered inks.

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And here is the completed painting.  I didn’t use very many colors, but even still the brightness and depth these inks have is amazing.  This picture is so much brighter and deeper in real life, showing subtle shading and contouring just from the way the ink moved like paint.  It dries faster than watercolor so you do have to go in sections and work quickly if you want to activate a larger area without dry lines showing, but there’s still a decent amount of time to move the paint around before it dries, allowing for things like the softer blues in the water froth being ink I’d swiped from the water sections.

I’ve very quickly developed an Inktense addiction, as have my kids, who have been getting to use Mommy’s special art supplies now that they’re a little older.  They don’t replace watercolors if that’s the type of medium you want, rather they’re a medium of their own, and are absolutely gorgeous to use.

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Can Marco Raffiné colored pencils be used as watercolors?

Can Marco Raffiné colored pencils be used as watercolors?

Yes.

No.

Maybe?

When I was playing around with my Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons I had my Raffinés next to me, as I’d just been working on the Egypt picture in the same imagimorphia coloring book.  I’d done a lot of research on them before purchasing, and one thing that had come up in people’s comments were how some of them had been able to use them as watercolors, though not everyone had that luck.  The Raffinés are oil-based colored pencils, not wax-based like Crayola and Prismacolor and most others, so they do color and shade and grip the tooth of the paper in a different way, but were they really so different that they could dissolve in water enough to be used as paint?

Let’s find out.

This is the page in the back of the book right before the hidden objects are pointed out.  I colored a bit of it with the pencils then used the same small brush and water pot as I used for the Neocolor IIs.

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Here’s a before-and-after closeup of the lower section of the page.marco raffine 02

The top image is the dry coloring, and the lower image is after I’d applied water.  At first I was happily startled to see that it did appear to work!  I had to double check the ‘before’ pic on my phone to be sure, but seeing them side by side it’s hard to deny that there’s a clear difference between the two.  The light pencil strokes in the worm (?) have blended outwards, as well as in the pink flower on the left and the green leaf in the background.  The orange puff ball looks exactly like a watercolor had painted it, and even the browns in the fox (?) and mushroom are more evened and fluid.

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I immediately checked the back of the page even though I wasn’t really concerned with bleed-through, but sure-enough there was none.

So if I think it sort of worked, why am I hesitant to say that outright?  Because while the colors did wetten and spread, once dried the strokes were still visible and retained the soft look of the oil-based pencils.  It’s hard to explain but it sort of looks like I’d done a light wash of watercolors over or under the pencils, as they’re both visible.

Since it was hard to compare the ‘after’ with the small image on my phone, I decided to do a definitive comparison test in the book itself.

The first image below (top left) is my initial coloring of the royal penguin on a skateboard.  I drew a line down the center to keep the division clear and then colored both sides with the Raffinés.  Then I wetted the left side only.  Did the pigment become a wash of color? Yes… there is a visible difference in the two sides, with the left side looking more even and ‘full’.  But I still wanted to see a bit more.

In the top right image I added a few more test things to try out.  On both sides I put a light shading of red and blue to see if it would be possible to blend them once wet, and I also drew a quick leaf and colored it with some light and dark shades to see if I could get blending on that.  Basically I was trying to mimic effects one would be trying to achieve in a coloring book or drawing.  marco raffine 03

The bottom right image is right after I wetted the left side.  I did my best to blend the red and blue together, as well as the colors in the leaf.  Those items are still wet, but the penguin is already begun to dry and look a little different from when wet – a touch less blended and spread, and a bit more colored-pencil-y (if that makes any sense at all).

Finally the bottom right image is after everything had dried, for a full comparison.  I’ve included a solo pic of that image here, so it can be viewed larger:

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So.  Do we really have “All the Answers”?  Did the blue and red blend?  Not really.  There was a bit of pigment bleed spreading the colors to one another, but no real blending of the two to become purple.  What they did do, was soften alongside each other.  In fact, that seems to be what all the colors did.  The pigments spread slightly, giving a bit more color to the background of the pencil strokes and softening the overall look of the colored image.  In real life the coloring looks very dry, almost pastel-y, and the pencil strokes are visible over the softened backgrounds.

I think the final answer is that they DO spread somewhat with water, but not completely nor efficiently to claim they would be an inexpensive comparable to true watercolor pencils.  What they DO do, is soften the pencil look.  I think they would be great used with stamps for cardmaking, where one can lightly shade the image then soften the pencil colors.  In knitting there’s a term called ‘fulling‘, where the yarn is plumped up and thickened while still retaining some stitch integrity (unlike complete felting), and that’s how I feel about adding water to these pencils; when wettened the color plumps and fills its space while still retaining the original lines and strokes.

TLDR: Do they watercolor?  No.  Does applying water slightly bleed and soften the colored pencils for a unique, almost delicate look?  Yes.

 
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Playing with Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons in Kerby Rosanes’ imagimorphia

I’d been researching watercolor pencils a little while ago, and while reading review sites I came across a few mentions of the Caran D’Ache Neocolor II watercolor crayons.  They looked interesting and were lauded for their bright, vibrant colors and creamy texture, so I made a note to look up more reviews.  In the meantime, I remembered that at some point during my creative history I’d owned a set of, what my memory told me, were kid’s-quality twist-up watercolor pencils.  I could picture the set, and knew there was only one place in my home-office they could be, so one morning I went downstairs and took a look.

I found the twist-up colored pencils right away… and was disappointed to see they were just that- colored pencils.  Nothing water-soluble about them.  It was frustrating to have been mistaken but I figured I’d just continue my research… and then I peeked through the rest of the drawer just to see what other drawing supplies I’d collected over the years and had forgotten about.

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What a discovery!  I think I squee’d out loud when I saw the white edge of the tin under an old pencil case of charcoal and blending stumps.  Not only had I forgotten I owned these but clearly I’d barely ever used them when I got them, because they were all still full-sized and touching the sponge strip running the top of the case.

Immediately I brought them upstairs to try out.  I’d been stuck in bed, resting my legs due to a really bad bout of sciatica, so I put together a little portable watercolor kit that I could use in bed without making a huge mess: a tiny tupperware of water, a fine-tipped paintbrush, and a folded handtowel for blotting and cleaning my brush, all contained within another small tupperware that I could close up and store with my craft supplies.neocolor 11

I made pages for them to add to my swatch book.  I didn’t want to use water in that pad itself because the paper is so thin, so I folded a sheet of cardstock in half and tore it into two papers that each fit on my swatch book’s pages.  I scribbled a little bit of each color onto the paper and then activated each with a tiny bit of water.  These colors are so rich and the crayons dissolve so easily that a SUPER tiny amount of water is all that is needed.neocolor 12

After the swatches dried I labeled them with the color names from the Caran D’Ache site and then used a glue stick to affix them into the swatch book.  Now- onto the coloring!

My first test was the inside cover page of Kerby Rosanes’ imagimorphia, which I have been loving lately.  I colored the page pretty quickly, not bothering to fully fill in all areas (like the cut area of the tree, for example) because I knew once wetted, the color would spread.  I did some minimal color mixing and shading on the leaves, deer and dino, all using the crayons as crayons to color.  Sadly they’re old enough that they became fragile, and two colors broke in half as I worked.  They’re still usable, but I was disappointed.  More evidence of their age is the (removable) white bloom on some of the darker colors, as well as how the lightest brown dried out to the point of looking like a Flake chocolate bar inside its wrapper.  😦

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The crayons applied color wonderfully but, as to be expected of crayons, they didn’t have points sharp enough to work into the fine areas of the image.  I was able to use the edges of the points to get into fine spots like the rays’ tails and such, but I didn’t bother trying to color the butterflies, knowing I’d just make a mess.  In some areas, like the pom-pom-looking little dudes, I only colored the center, planning to move the color outwards later, once I activated the paint.neocolor 03

The very first spot I activated were the clouds in this image.  I set a sheet of cardstock behind the page to protect it from any bleed-through or water damage, but it really took such a tiny amount of water that I doubted there would be any actual problems on the reverse-side pages.

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You can see in this enlargement of the lower edge what the clouds looked like before the water was applied, as well as the rough, uneven coloring job I did.  I’d cringe, except it was deliberate.  After seeing how vibrant the colors were and how much they spread, I didn’t want to waste any of the crayon filling in any more densely.

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This is the final result.  I can’t get over the difference, and how smooth and rich the colors turned out!  I did manage to achieve some subtle shading and depth to the colors, and if I’d wanted to color over-top and re-wet I’m sure I could get even more effects.  The largest difference for me is in the tree, the deer and the dino, but I’m charmed by all of it.neocolor 05 back

I was super-pleased (but not surprised) to see that there was NO bleed-through on the other side of the page.  This means I can use these crayons throughout the book without worry, which makes me really happy.neocolor 06

Here’s a side-by-side to really compare the before and after images.  Besides blending out the patchy scribbles, the colors (which were pretty vibrant before) didn’t fade out and some became even brighter.  They blended beautifully and dried really quickly, but not too fast that I couldn’t move around soft watercolor washes.neocolor 07

For the facing page (above) I decided to try using the crayons in a different fashion, as if they were individual little sticks of paint.

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I wetted the brush, blotted most of the water off, and then dabbed it against the tip of the crayon, picking up some color, which I then applied to the image as paint, just as if I’d picked the color up from a palette.  You can see some of the peach on the tip of my brush, as well as on the face and hands of the little girl I’d just painted.

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This is the finished image after painting.  In contrast to the side where I colored first, I think this side has a softer, almost dreamier application.  However it is slower to keep re-dabbing the brush to the crayon, and it makes mixing colors more difficult as the paint dries much faster when using this method.  I greatly recommend it for areas where you need more control or a finer application than you’d get with the stubby crayon.

This method also made me realize that my broken crayons were not a loss, nor was my flakey, dried-out tan.  I can put a small piece of the color in one of my palette wells and activate it to use as paint, meaning that no part of these (expensive!) crayons will ever be wasted.  🙂

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Here’s the back, showing again that there was no bleed-through or ghosting.

I’m really glad I found these crayons in my stash, and I can’t wait to play around with them more in this and other books.  The colors are incredible and they activate so easily and beautifully, I really recommend them.  Mine have broken and dried out, but they are also over 15 years old (!!!) and still work as well as if they were brand new.  I would wholeheartedly recommend these.

 
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Coloring with BIC Mark-It Markers

The more coloring I did, the more I wanted to do.  I began looking for better supplies and looking up better techniques.  It is impossible to be interested in ‘coloring’ and not somehow, somewhere come across Copic markers.  For the uninitiated, Copics are alcohol markers, one of, if not THE premium brand, and are vastly loved by artists everywhere.

They’re also expensive as hell.

When I’d first heard of them, a few years ago, I immediately discounted them.  I had no use for new art supplies that weren’t integral to my passions at the time, and that kind of investment just didn’t seem worth it.  Lately, though… something was drawing me to them.  Maybe I’d outgrown Crayolas, finally, or maybe it was the appeal of being able to blend and achieve digital-art-style results with something I could control by hand.  I started finding reasons to justify them- I’d do more drawing, and finally open an Etsy shop… and they’re refillable, so over time the cost works itself out… and I’m an adult, and could treat myself to professional, adult supplies…

I was in.  Hanukkah was coming up and the ONLY thing I put on my wish list was a gift certificate to Curry’s Art in Ontario, the place I’d found with the best prices for Canadians.  The markers I wanted, Copic Sketch markers, are available locally at $8 CAD each.  The cheapest US price I could find online is $5.35 but any free shipping deals were US only, and there would still be a cost conversion, and the exchange rate these days is insane, so I ruled that out.  Curry’s has them for $6.50 each, and free shipping within Canada if you spend $75.  Perfect!  (Note: I found out about Curry’s by watching Baylee Jae’s videos on YouTube, thanks Baylee!)

Knowing I had some time to wait until we had our family gift exchange and I (hopefully) got what I’d asked for, I looked further, exploring more tips and techniques.  Along the way I found a number of videos and blog posts mentioning BIC Mark-Its as inexpensive alcohol marker alternatives, stating they could also be blended, had better colors than Sharpies, and worked with Copic or other brands’ blending markers.

All my Sharpies were old and dried anyways, so I ordered myself 2 sets of BICs, the 36-pack fine and the 36-pack of ultra fine.

When they arrived I sat down with the boys one Saturday morning and we did some coloring together.  They’d been watching me color lately and a few times I’d given them a ‘treat’ and let them use ‘Mommy’s good markers’.  They love my colored fineliners and both were in awe of the stained glass coloring pages, so I let them pick their favorite pages to color for themselves.  When I was ready to test the BICs I printed off some characters from one of our new favorite shows, Bravest Warriors, and we all colored together, with me allowing the kids to use the BICs as long as they were responsible with them.

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Jakob went for speed, coloring the characters carefully, but quickly, and getting distracted here and there by the tv that was on in the background.

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Henri did the opposite.  He took his time, trying to color-match as carefully as he could to the original characters.  He was SO thorough, in fact, that he drew in his favorite missing character – JellyKid (complete with toast!) and even added Pixel to Wallow’s glove!
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I didn’t have anything in mind when I colored mine except to enjoy the markers, the lovely colors, and the flow of the ink.  I didn’t attempt any blending or ‘Copic-like’ techniques, just colored and chatted with my boys.

Okay well maybe I did a teensy bit of shading… if you look carefully at Plum there’s some blue shading under her hairline and skirt.  But that’s it.

I loved the BICs and I am thrilled that they’re part of my stash- uh I mean my perfectly adult and mature collection of art supplies.  But my FAVORITE part of coloring with them was discovered after I was done.

The BICs, just like Copics and other alcohol markers, bleed through most papers.  Alcohol markers are designed to saturate the paper to get even blending and streak-less coloring.  With water-based markers like Crayolas, coloring hard over one section will leave blotchy, uneven patches of bled color.  With these, however…
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The bleed-through is so lovely!  It looks like a watercolor illustration!  I’m fascinated by how pretty the backside of this coloring looks and can think of so many ideas for deliberate reverse drawings, coloring one side while intending the back to be the later ‘front’.Photo 2015-12-19, 12 29 58 PM

Not that, but I was completely charmed by my discovery on the paper I was using to absorb the bleed-through.  It looks like pointilism!  Probably not really good for anything, technique-wise, but I like how it looks regardless.  🙂

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