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Use sandpaper to improve the tooth of coloring book pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Making a Pitfall: The Lost Expedition cake, day 02

Most of the cakes I make are a 2-4 day process.  The final 2 days are always baking 2 nights before the party (so Friday for a Sunday cake) and then decorating on the day before the party (Saturday for a Sunday cake).  I add a few more days prior if I need to make fondant decorations or anything that requires drying time.  This Pitfall cake, for as detailed as it looks, took 3 days.

Day 1: Thursday

When I got home from work I prepared the base stand to get it to look like a brick wall with a cave by covering it with fondant and scribing a brick pattern to match one from the game.

Day 2: Friday

pitfall lost expedition night 1 07

In the morning before leaving for work I gave the stand a quick wash of color.  I needed to fill in the grout lines and give it time to dry before I got home.  In a small cup I mixed together 1 drop of black Americolor food gel, 1 drop of brown gel, and 6 ml of water.  I used a food-only paintbrush to apply the wash to the fondant, not aiming for any sort of pattern, and allowing the color to drip and run a bit before smoothing it around.  I let it set for a minute or two then dabbed at it with a paper towel to remove areas of excess, and then used the same brush with only water to remove even more color.  The goal was not to paint or finish the brickwork but to allow the dark color to seep into the etched lines and provide some aging. 

At this point it looks like a dark, muddy mess.

When I got home from work I rushed to bake the 2 cakes I’d need.  I knew I’d have plenty of time for them to cool before I planned to ice and decorate on Saturday, but I often use the oven for storing fondant bits overnight and didn’t want there to be any residual heat left inside it.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 01
pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 02

When the cakes were cooled some I wrapped them in saran wrap to set aside for the night.

Then I prepared the table for getting down to some fondant painting.  These are the supplies I prepared: in the lid of my color box are a smaller box of Americolor icing colors and a bottle of Wilton White-White, then the contents of the case itself is my collection of Wilton icing gels and some regular, grocery-store-type food coloring.  I brought down some cotton balls thinking I might use them for blotting, but testing on a scrap of fondant revealed it stuck terribly to the wet sweet, and I quickly got rid of them.  I’ve got a measuring cup of water for rinsing my brushes, a small cup of water and syringe for adding clean water to my colors if I need to thin them any (the syringe gives you way more precision when working with tiny amounts of color than dropping by spoonful or pouring), and a small cup of the leftover dark wash from the morning that I’d kept moist in a tupperware for the day.  I’ve got a few sizes of food-safe paintbrushes and some paper towels for blotting, and finally at the bottom is my standard palette, left over from an old pack of hors d’oeuvres.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 03

That’s the palette I use most often, and it works great with larger quantities of color, like when tinting icing sugar/water for the fondant toppers I make.  However when using tiny bits and blending a lot of shades I find it’s not as practical, and I eventually switched over to an artist’s style palette with small dabs of the gel colors on it, and a small styrofoam tray for blending.  The colors bead up on the tray so I don’t lose any to absorption.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 04

I prepared the stand by putting it on my lazy susan., These things are SO useful with decorating and crafting! I’ve actually got three – one wood, one glass, and one plastic, depending on my project needs.  I stuck a tub of icing in there to help weigh it down.  The stand is pretty heavy, especially with the fondant, but that was a precaution.

The first thing I did was to mix up a color that approximated the bricks I was trying to copy.  In the game they look like this:

pitfall lost expedition bricks

Now that I had the general shape scribed in and the darker grout lines, I needed to lighten the bricks to a faded, creamy, beige-ish color.  I began to mix up a color, testing on the paper towel until I had something that looked right.  You can see at the bottom of this next pic where I’d tried out a color that was too pale, and I had to darken it up a bit.  In the end I used some Wilton White-White as a base, then some brown and black Wilton gel colors, a touch of Wilton lemon yellow, and some of the morning’s dark wash water to thin it out.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 05

I painted small dabs of the resulting mix onto each brick individually, blending and smoothing until I got rid of the brush strokes and had something that looked like an old brick wall.

For the first time ever I took a short video of my process.  If you find it helpful and want more video tutorials, please let me know in the comments.  🙂

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 07

After the back was done I moved on to the front.  The small amount of mixed color that you saw in the video was enough to paint the entire back and front.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 06

The next step was to add some greenery.  I knew I’d have a lot of grass and vines and leaves in the cake, but wanted to add more depth to the bricks so I used more of the dark wash and deepened it up with Wilton gels (leaf green I think).

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 08

I used a messy brush to pounce the color in areas where moss would grow, mostly around the bottom of the back piece and around the top and sides of the front.  This is a great reason to keep those brushes that get all messed up, so you don’t ruin good ones!

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 09

As I added the moss I made sure to keep the brush from being too wet – the effect was supposed to be subtle – and I also periodically touched my brush in different areas of the mix where I hadn’t fully blended, sometimes picking up straight gel from the edge of the palette.  This gave me varying shades of green and a more natural look.

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 10

Finally I used some White-White and Americolor black and a touch of brown to get a nice varying gray shade for the rock cave.  Again I resisted the urge to overmix the color, so I could get depth to the wall.  Sometimes I touched in a bit more white, which lightened the grays, and then I’d go back in with a more liquid black, getting into the cracks.

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Here’s the finished support, set aside for the night.  The front (above) and the back (below).

pitfall the lost expedition cake day02 12
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 Make Minecraft Steve and Creeper Heads

Update: This tutorial is now also available as a downloadable PDF here. More details at bottom of this post.

It’s October!  That means it’s okay to start talking about Halloween, right?

It is according to Henri- when I woke him up for school this morning he gazed up at me sleepily and grinned “It’s October 1st.”  When I asked why that mattered he smiled even more adorably and said “Because now it’s almost Halloween.”

‘Almost’ is relative.  (He clearly gets his awareness of time from his father).  However his mention of it reminded me that I never showed last year’s costume.  So.  Now, with plenty of time to get ready for this year’s holiday… here’s how I made the boys Minecraft Steve and creeper heads, and how you can too!

how to make minecraft steve and creeper heads

The boys decided for Halloween they wanted to dress up as their favorite Minecraft characters.  They do sell ready-made cardboard heads in stores but they are expensive, and there are a ton of tutorials online.  I looked at a few, then worked things out with what I had on hand, and what I was able to find at the dollar store.

What you’ll need:

minecraft heads wip 01

1. Yannick came home with 2 small boxes he’d found somewhere.  Grocery stores often have ones you can ask for, or as a last resort you can buy boxes.

2. I used two-sided tape to tape the outer flaps to the inner ones (not shown) so the inner flaps wouldn’t drop down onto the kids’ heads.  Then I used masking tape to fully tape over the top seam, both to securely close one end of the box, and to make the seams less visible once they were painted.

3. I cut the lower flaps off the boxes and then used the same masking tape to cover the exposed edges.  It would gave a cleaner look, vs the rough look of cut corrugated cardboard, plus was less likely to catch and tear, which could potentially pull off the paint.

4. I divided the 4 sides and top into even grids.  I looked at pictures of the characters online and mapped out roughly how many squares per color/face, and then used a ruler to divide the front (face side) into the grid.  Once the face was set, I carried the markings around the sides of the boxes, and finally the top.  Because the boxes are taller than wide, the top has fewer squares than the sides do.  That’s not what the characters SHOULD look like, but I didn’t think the kids would mind.

minecraft heads wip 02

5. Once the boxes were plotted I used a cutting blade (also from the dollar store) to slice out the eyehole sections.  For Steve, only the dark pupil area was cut out.  For the creeper it made more sense with where Henri’s face was to cut out the larger nose/mouth section.  After removing those areas I covered the exposed edges with masking tape.

minecraft heads wip 03

6. Finally it was time to start painting.  The paints and brushes were from – you guessed it – the dollar store.  The advantage with the Minecraft characters is that if you have to custom mix your paints to get the right colors, it doesn’t matter as much as it would in most projects if you have enough to complete your painting or if you need to mix more and risk not matching quite right.  The goal is to have an assortment of shades, so blending colors works perfectly.

That said, if you prefer a more accurate version, I have compiled this tutorial into a downloadable PDF (linked at the bottom of the post) which includes full-color screen-accurate charts for both characters, including the hex codes for each color so you can color-match accurately.

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Here’s the four sides of the painted creeper head.  I set the boxes to dry on a paper towel roll to hold them off my counter until the lower edge was dry.  (I held them up the same way while painting too).

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Same goes for our buddy Steve here.  I’d only had three shades of brown paint on-hand to work with, so I blended them together with some black for the hair, and then lightened with some white and a touch of red for the face.  (I’d actually done the face/neck/ears first, so then I could re-use the same paints but darken them for the hair.  That avoided any waste and kept the same unifying overall color tone for the head.)

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I had them both on the counter while I cleaned up the dining room table of all my painting gear.  Couldn’t resist this dramatic shot.  Look out!  He’s behind you!

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7. The next step was to seal the heads with an aerosol can of clear sealant.  I didn’t know what the weather would be like on Halloween and didn’t relish the idea of my hard work being ruined by a few drops of rain or thick snow settling on the kids’ heads.  I moved the heads into the garage and set them on some newspaper to protect the floor as I sprayed, and did a few coats, allowing each one to dry for about 20 minutes in between.  If you have a dry, open area outside or good, even weather you could do this next step outside, but here there was nowhere I could leave them unattended, so I had my garage door open the entire time I sprayed, and then left it about a foot open during the drying time between coats.  Once they were properly sealed and dry to the touch I brought them inside and allowed them to dry for a full day before the final steps. 

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The last bit in getting the masks ready to wear was to block out the open areas.  I bought a gauzy sheer black scarf (also at the dollar store!) and cut off squares large enough to fully cover the open areas.

8.  Using the same double-sided tape I secured the black fabric down around the cut areas.

9. Finally I covered all the exposed edges of the cloth with masking tape, making it doubly secure and hiding any rough, cut edges so they wouldn’t catch or fray.

With that, the masks were complete!  The black gauzy fabric looks opaque from the outside but from the inside it’s so sheer that it’s quite easy to see through it, making it perfect for this project.

From idea to finished product this project took about 4 days.  Halloween was on a Friday last year and Yannick brought me home the boxes on Monday night.  Tuesday I did everything up to/including painting.  On Wednesday night I sprayed the clear coat, and then on Thursday night I stuck the black fabric in.

They were pretty darn excited!

Halloween night they posed for a quick picture inside…

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…then it was time to go trick-or-treating.

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Can’t you almost hear the tick…tick…tick…BOOM? The heads held up beautifully and the boys felt like mini celebrities as they walked down the street and people from all over, even in passing cars, yelled out “Steve!” and “Creeper!” and gave them high-fives.  The heads have now become part of our dress-up box and are still in great condition, and they wore them for ‘Halloween Day’ at their camp this summer.

*Update in 2020: the heads are still going strong! The boys outgrew them of course, but we keep them as nerdy shelf displays and they look exactly the same as they did back when I made them.

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I hope this post shows you how easy and fast it can be to make your own Minecraft Steve and Creeper heads!

You can adapt the tutorial to make any Minecraft mob, and I’ve got an assortment compiled for you here.

As mentioned above, if you’d like an easy-to-print-and-save PDF version of this tutorial, I have made it available on Etsy here. The 9-page PDF includes full instructions with additional details, clear photographs, as well as game-accurate full-color numbered charts for all 5 sides of both character’s heads along with their hex codes for perfect color matching.

————-

More Minecraft-themed fun:

How to make a Minecraft Enderman head and diamond block trick-or-treat basket

How to make Minecraft Lootbags

How to make Minecraft Mob fondant cake/cupcake toppers

How to make a Minecraft cake

Throwing a Minecraft birthday party

Minecraft Zombie Charts

Minecraft Jack-O’-Lantern Charts

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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yum

I like Saturdays.  Our store is open Tues-Sat, but because I don’t want to have to pay a babysitter for the day, I get to stay home with the kids.  We get up, I make breakfast, send Yannick off to work, and then have the whole day open to hang out with my two favorite boys (well, until 1pm, when both their butts have to get into bed).  Saturday is usually the day we do crafts that require more involvement than “markers” and “paper”, or we’ll go on errands, or we’ll all snuggle on the couch in the den, with the lights off “so it’s like a movie” (as per Jakob), and watch Word World, or Jake & the Neverland Pirates, or the Muppet Show.

It’s thanks to the Muppet Show DVDs that we get moments like this:

I got a chance to knit the last bit on my secret project, and then had another good part of Saturdays- take out.  Most nights I make dinner ‘cus Yannick is home too late to eat at “dinner time”.  But sometimes on Saturdays he’s home early enough, and will pick up takeout.

Because I got used to eating smaller portions, there are very few places that I enjoy eating at any more, because not everything is good as leftovers.  But there’s a place that has an appetizer that is the perfect size and the perfect taste for me these days- the tuna tartar from Portovino.  Mmmmmm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpRIYAYJjoc


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how to start the year off right

All of my boys and I stayed home New Year’s Eve ‘cus both kids had fevers and Yannick’s been on NeoCitran for a week. We all had a nice dinner together then the boys (Yannick included) invented a game with a blanket spread over the floor as “water”, and pillows to be “islands” to jump across. If kids missed a pillow and fell in the water, the Tickle Monster (that would be Yannick) GOT them.

And this ensued:

I think they’re all feeling better, what about you? 🙂


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2010-11-26

5 days?  Sorry about that!  I really have been trying to add my stash into Ravelry almost every free moment I’ve got.  I haven’t had much knitting time this week, and my DVR is filling up too fast with all the shows I haven’t had time to watch.  I’m almost done though…only 3 buckets left to go.  Those of you who are my friends in Ravelry (and if you’re not- feel free to add me!) can see the stash that’s currently in there.  All that’s missing is 2 bins of sock yarn and a bin of unknown fibers.

Henri’s learned a new trick!  Check out my 22-month-old in action:


Have a great weekend!  I know I will…I’m doing a workshop with Anne Hanson on Sunday!  😀


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no tapestry needle? no problem!

notapestryndlpin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYuydpcXbc4

The above is a video I made quite a while ago.  Some of you will recognize the project in my hands – it’s Kate Gilbert’s Papa Bunny that I had made to send to a friend’s daughter in 2008.

This video shows what to do when a pattern asks for a common technique – but you don’t have the right equipment with you.  The last row of the directions said to “thread the live sts onto the working yarn with a tapestry needle and pull tight to gather”.  The only problem was that I didn’t have a tapestry needle with me.  I didn’t like the idea of pulling the stitches open with my fingers so I could get the yarn through easily, as it would distort them.  I came up with this idea instead.  It might be familiar to some of you, or it might be new to you.  Either way, it helped me and I hope it helps you too!  If you’d prefer a photo tutorial (vs the video above) let me know in the comments and I’ll make it happen. 🙂


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i love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

I often take videos of my boys with the intent of posting them here, then I never get around to processing them for the blog, and too much time goes by and there’s no point.  (I also have some knitting technique videos I haven’t posted from, oh, a year ago?)

Today you get videos.  Let this distract you from the lack of knitting content, as I haven’t even touched yarn in a week.

First up: our little chatterbox Henri.  I remember posting a similar video of Jakob when he was around 3/4 months old.  Henri was exactly 16 weeks old when this was taken.

 Then we have Jakob, very eager to share his affection. 🙂 This was taken on his 2nd birthday.

Enjoy!


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cuteness knows no bounds- now in videogame format

I know I keep telling Yannick that we don’t need Playstation 3.  We don’t.  We really don’t, we already have a classic Nintendo, a Dreamcast, a Playstation and a Wii (not to mention the controllers and all the games from the Gamecube we used to have until we gave it to his nephews).  We DON’T need another game system.  Not even if it plays Blu-Ray DVDs.

But….if I were to get one…it would be so I could get the (upcoming) game Little Big Planet.  It stars Sackboy, in all his knitted glory, and you HAVE to check him out.

 

Did I tell you?  Did I TELL you?  How cute is he???

p.s. if the embedded video doesn’t work for you, you can view the trailer here.  Totally worth it!