SHOW+TELL: A Look at the Letterpress

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With the weather turning gloomy it’s becoming less practical (and pleasant) to work outside, but I have had more chances to work more with my lovely letterpress. It dawned on me (while I was listening to the clunking and whirring of the machine) that I haven’t ever shared my adventures with this 126-year-old guy, even though he takes up a huge space in my heart (and my bedroom.)

I thought I’d show you a couple of behind the scenes shots, and talk about my printing process.

An old etching of the letterpress model I work with, in the amazing American Wood Type book my mom passed down to me. Synchronicity?

There are a lot of great resources for learning about the history of printing (I’ve listed some resources below) so I won’t get too much into a subject that I’m learning more about all the time.

My first experience printing was at the University of Texas, on a Vandercook press using antique wood type (from the Rob Roy Kelly collection) and modern polymer plates. I eventually acquired a small table-top platen press (a Craftsmen Imperial) and started printing greeting cards and more using the same method I use today on my floor-standing platen press.

Nearly two years ago we moved the one-ton California Reliable into a corner of our bedroom, and it has become a my go-to for printing with love.

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Polymer plates before they are aligned on the aluminum base for printing.

While I still use lead type and wood type occasionally, I mainly print with polymer plates on an aluminum base. I draw up the artwork, scan it, clean it up and prep it for the plates, then send the artwork out to have plates made. The plates are somewhat similar to the clear sticky stamp sheets some people use with a clear block; however the material is much harder which allows for much more detail and lets it stand up to the high pressure of the letterpress. The height of the material has to be just right to bring it up to type high on the aluminum block and allow for the ink rollers to roll, and the printer to print.

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Hand carved linoleum blocks being printed on a small tabletop press.

Occasionally I get a wild hair and print from hand-carved linoleum blocks. There’s less perfection in this mode, but you can end up with really great results with lots of character. There’s a trick to raising the blocks up to the right height, but it’s definitely possible.

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There’s a long list of things I love about letterpress printing, but color is at the top. I love how each color I print is one solid color instead of being made up of a pointillistic nightmare of Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black. (There’s no room in my blue for little pink dots.) Each color on a letterpress print is printed separately; each color has its own plate. I’m a somewhat inexact ink mixer, but I always seem to end up at the right color (and I try not to get ink everywhere.)

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Printing the first color of a leafy card.

Alignment (registration) is something that has taken a little getting used to, but I’ve come up with a method that works great for me. Here you can see a couple of polymer plates on my aluminum base, printing the first color of a two-color card.


The opening and closing action on this Gordon-style press is powered by a flywheel and a foot-powered treadle. There is a single magical dance that inks the rollers on the ink plate, rolls them across the printing plate, then presses the paper into that plate to make a print. (I’m learning a little more all the time about the mechanics of this magic, but the first lesson was DON’T LEAVE YOUR HAND IN THERE.) I’m responsible for pumping with my foot/ankle/hip and feeding paper.

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Printing on paper handmade from the scraps of other cards.

One of the nicest things about the letterpress is that with a little ingenuity you can print on just about anything flat. Most of my pieces are printed on thick cover stocks, often 100% cotton. I’ve started printing more and more on sheets of handmade paper that I make from the trimmings of those other cards. I love the texture and softness of the paper I make, and I adore the fact that it means I’m contributing less to the landfills. (Want to know more about making paper? 1 2 3)

I’ve also just started to experiment with printing on fabric…. I have ideas….

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So that’s my old guy. Our love is still new, but I think it’s made to last.

Time will pass– I will get more ragged and he will get less, and he’ll always have new things to press.
I’ll keep learning.

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Resources and Links

Briar Press: A never ending resource for letterpress parts and printers
Letterpress Commons: Developed by Boxcar Press with articles and resources
Boxcar Press: My usual source for polymer plates and some other materials and supplies
Reich Savoy: One of the papers I print on.
Van Son Rubber Base Plus Ink: My preferred ink

TOOLBOX: Fiskars Titanium Rotary Cutter Review

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I recently decided to treat myself (and my t-shirt rug project) to a 45mm cutter. For the past several years I have tried to make do with an 18mm cutter, but I was a fool. (All those days re-cutting fabric that the dinky little blade didn’t cut through…)

Even though our local craft store carries a limited supply of anything related to sewing, they had a wide selection of hand-held rotary cutters. I could choose between Fiskars and Olfa, and have my pick of safety features, shapes, colors, weights– too many options, really.

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I picked the simplest looking one- the Fiskars 45 Millimeter Titanium Rotary Cutter took it home, and started cutting.

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45mm paper cutting blades fit in the handheld cutter. The possibilities!

Things To Love

  • Since it is a simple, symmetrical design it works in my left or right hand, which is important.
  • I have an old rotary paper cutter from Fiskars, and an assortment of awesome 45mm paper blades which all work in this hand-held cutter. I’m excited to try out some of the decorative blades in a more freeform way. (Watch me scallop everything like I round corners.)
  • Cuts through fabric (even multiple layers of knits) like butter. When I put in the paper blades, they cut through paper just as easily. I attribute this amazingness to the blade itself.

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Things to Hate

  • The blade is quite far from the plastic guide of the holder. It means there’s a bit of excess “wobble” if you tilt your hand. It also leaves the blade even more exposed when open, threatening to cut you or to break.
  • The whole thing feels so light weight and hollow that you have to apply a lot of downward pressure to to cut through a thicker fabric.
  • To replace the blade you remove a basic screw from a plastic nut, but then a tiny washer pops out at you. I’m betting it will work just fine when that little washer escapes for good.
  • The safety mechanism has a child-safe button that you have to push down with your fingertip while sliding the lever. That’s well and good, but the problem is you have to push that same tiny little button to close the guard back up. I have learned the hard way that it should be dead simple to close/cover/or otherwise protect yourself from sharp objects. Bleeding on a project seldom makes it better.

 

Does this seem like an overly complicated safety feature?

Does this seem like an overly complicated safety feature?

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Things to Be Confused By

  • The screw that keeps the blade in the casing has markings for “light” and “heavy” with helpful directional arrows. But, what does it mean? Light? Heavy? Is there something I’m missing? Heavy fabric? A heavy hand? A setting for those special days when it feels like the weight of the world is upon you?  The heavy setting tightens up the screw, making the blade roll more slowly/difficultly. The light setting lets the blade roll with less resistance, but there is even more play in the blade. I haven’t found reference to this setting on the packaging or online. Anybody know the thought behind it?

To Summarize

Fiskars 45mm Rotary Cutter Blades= great!
This particular blade holder= meh. Functional but meh.

Have you worked with one you like? Or is this just another case of “settle for what you’ve got”?

Toolbox: Drawing with Gouache and a Nib

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A while back I took a calligraphy class from Tara Bliven, and it opened up a whole new world of drawing tools. Not only did I get to try out new tools and techniques, it was the first time a pen and nib really worked for me. (Sometime I’ll give my whole “It’s tough being a lefty” rant.) As a lefty I need to use a special Oblique Pen Point Holder to write left to right– but with a little practice I learned to use a plain pen and nib to draw with gouache.

All the dark blue lines on this piece were done with a pointed pen, the rest is watercolor.

What’s so great about drawing with gouache?

• You can draw any color you can mix, for cheap. Instead of buying half a million different markers, buy a primary set of gouache and mix the colors you love.
• Gouache colors are opaque, which means you can do light lines on a dark background.
• Skinny paintbrushes are a pain. Although some people *ahem, Rachel* seem to be able to make magic with a brush, I have no luck doing fine lines with a paintbrush. A pen works much better.
• Gouache mixes wonderfully with your watercolor projects (#diycraftchallenge)
• The quality of line you get with a pointed pen is awesome.
• You look like a total bada** when you’re using a pointed pen. Trust me.

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For this piece, I put down a dark blue background in watercolor, then used gouache to add the white words and flourishes.

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There is a little learning curve when you’re working with a pen and ink, and practice makes perfect. I like to do little doodles on scrap paper to practice my lines, play with color, and generally mess around.

Supplies

• Gouache– like this Winsor & Newton set.
• A pen holder– like this one from Speedball
• A pointed pen nib– I used a Nikko G pen for this project, but Tara also recommends the Brause EF 66 which is better if you’re not as heavy handed as I am.
• A dropper of distilled water.
• A couple of ratty paintbrushes for “ink” application, mixing, and cleaning.
• The rest of your usual painting tools– a paint tray or plate, a jar of water, paper towels, paper, pencil, etc.

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To start, I put a drop little bit of gouache into my paint tray…

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and add a couple of drops of distilled water. I add just a little bit of water to start, because it’s easier to add more water to make the consistency I want.

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I mix my water with my paint until it’s consistent (using a cheap kids paintbrush). I like to play with different degrees of “wateriness,” more water means that the “ink” will be thinner and less opaque. Typically I used a mixture that’s about 3 parts paint, 1 part water.

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To apply the paint/ink to the pen, I saturate a paintbrush, and slowly slide it against the backside (concave side) of the nib. The ink will cling to the nib and seem to fill it partially. When it seems full (this part takes some practice) I will gently point and shake the pen downward towards the tray to get any extra blobs of ink out before I start drawing. In some cases (like today), I will actually drop the extra bits of paint onto my paper, for fun.

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Then it’s time to draw. I place the nib gently again the paper, concave side down, at an angle. Then I slowly pull the nib along, rather than pushing like a lefty with a ballpoint. (If you’re having trouble, check out one of the amazing tutorial videos on youtube- like this one.)

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Unlike a normal pen or marker, a nib like this will need to be refilled rather frequently (using the brush method above.) I try to keep an eye on how much ink/paint I have in my nib so that I don’t run out in the middle of a line. When you’re using the nib, you’ll notice that the tip is made up of two pointed pieces. When there is enough ink, it looks like one point on the end, but when they start separating, I probably need more ink.

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Periodically, I stop to rinse and scrub my pen. I dip it in my jar of water, and use a clean brush to scrub any dried bits of ink/paint off of it. Then I dry it gently with a rag or paper towel, reink, and go back to work.

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For this doodle, I had both white gouache and blue gouache in my paint tray, and I went between the two when I was reinking.

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Can you see why I like drawing with gouache? The possibilities!

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I was inspired to pull out my gouache today by the April DIY Challenge: Watercolor. We’d love to see what the theme inspires in you, so pull out your favorite medium and tools and share with us!

SHOW + TELL: Watch Ali Draw Words


I think that it’s one of life’s small miracles that no one has to listen to all the noises that go on in my head while I’m working. The cajoling, the reassuring, the brainstorming, the problem solving, the bickering, the promises, the compromises… you get it. It’s noisy, but generally productive (“What were you thinking, Ali?” “You can do it, Ali!”) That’s my process.

Since this month’s craft challenge is all about LETTERS, and so am I, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the sketching steps of my lettered pieces.

img_6405I showed you my travel kit of supplies, but my sketches rely on just a few tools. A mechanical pencil, a ruler, a compass, clipboard, lots of erasers, and some thin white card stock.

img_6411I usually have a concept that I’m trying to convey in words. Often it’s one of the mantras I repeat to myself while I’m working (which makes the whole process very meta.) I will write down a bunch of phrases, and think about…
• Priority of words (Visual Hierarchy) – The most important words should generally be biggest and easiest to read to reinforce the message of your piece. I like to think that if you only read the big words, it would be like a summary of the whole statement. As fun as it is to make a really big and elaborate THE, it doesn’t make much sense. (THE message gets hidden.) You can also use visual hierarchy to hide a message and make people really look.
• What shapes I can use in the phrase: Is there a representative shape I can work into the overall form of the lettering? If I’m writing about lemonade, should I make it fit into the shape of a glass?
• What kind of typography would best represent the words? – Some words want to be formal (“Typography”) and some want to be flourishy (“Passionate”). Sometimes it’s fun to mix those up.

I’ll also start looking at the way a word is structured so I’m sure to give it enough space per letter.

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When I have a general idea of the shapes I’d like to play around with, I’ll build myself a make-shift grid with the ruler and compass. I find that I like to make mostly symmetrical pieces, so I’ll map out the middle of the page and go from there. I end up with a lot of extra reference lines, but that’s fine.

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Then I will start very lightly penciling in the skeleton form of letters. I do A LOT of erasing, so light lines are important. Usually while I’m working on the basic structure of the letters, I will start to think about the shape they will take in the end.

img_6421I am constantly working to find the center of a word or phrase. I can count letters in my head, but nothing beats a quick jot down of the phrase. I’ll then count (including spaces) and mark the middle. (This is also helpful because if a word has a lot of skinny letters – like Ilif – it will be much shorter than one with fat letters – MmNn)

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(More penciling.)

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At some I will inevitably get a “better idea” and shift a bunch of letters to work better. In this case I shifted my grid up, erased and re-lettered.

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Practice makes better.

One of the best consequences of lettering practice is that I’ve started to think of writing as “drawing letters” which makes it sometimes possible to write backwards or sideways. This helps with lots of things including spacing words from the center line (see above). It is also SUPER handy when you’re a lefty who loved to drag your hand through wet ink all the time.

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When I have the skeleton of the letters basically where I want them, I will make decisions about how to flesh them out. My first inspiration was the word “Letter” which reminded me of a typeface I love in my very precious American Wood Type book. (We’ll be showing our favorite lettering books later in the month!)

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I love to keep printed samples of type on hand to look at. I used to try to look at inspiration on a screen, but it never translated right in my brain. I’ve started saving all sorts of printed materials (filed by style) to look at when I’m lettering.

img_6435Again using a light touch, I will start to add details to the letter using my inspiration pieces. Sometimes I make little changes in a letter form to better fit my space (hey, I can do what I want!)

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Sometimes the skeleton of my letters will have to move to allow for more space for some letters

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and sometimes the letters stretch outside of my borders.

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Once I’m happy with the general form of everything, I’ll start erasing the extraneous pencil marks.

IMG_6443Once they are gone, I will sometimes look at the whole thing and decide to make changes.

img_6501Like for instance, I might change the phrase itself.

But that’s okay- it’s just a sketch. If I love it I’ll take it to the next level with paints and ink, and if I don’t love it I’ll put it away to inspire me another day.

 

What’s your sketching process? Is it anything like mine?

TOOLBOX: Shredding (or Fringe) Scissors are too much fun.

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My Christmas list is getting kinda boring. Well, not boring to me, but maybe to anyone who wants to get me something other than a book (on making stuff) or a tool (to make stuff with.)

This year I got a big ole pair of Shredding Scissors.

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Also called “Fringe Scissors” in the crafting/scrapbooking community, these suckers are basically 5 pairs of scissors bolted together. Practically, they can be used to shred documents (without using an electric shredder). Less practically you can (and will) turn anything…

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into confetti.

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I got them for the ability to fringe paper quickly and consistently for my crafty projects. (Example coming soon.)

Things to love

• It’s pretty easy to get a consistent fringe by eye.
• Turns colorful trash paper into a craft supply!
• Gives you more control than a paper shredder. Plus it’s smaller, quieter and easier to store. (I’ll be using these to shred paper for paper making.)
• They seem pretty heavy duty, and the blades line up almost perfectly.
• The sense of power you get from using 5 sets of scissor blades at once. Also, Edward Scissorhands themed imagination trips.

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Things to Hate

• They do seem to get plugged up pretty easily. Most of the pieces can be pushed out by closing the scissors all the way, but a few will have to be pulled out with your little fingers.
• Cutting with 5 sets of scissor blades takes as much force as cutting with five pairs of scissors. My hands got tired pretty quickly. They are also pretty heavy to hold in your delicate artist hands for a long period of time.

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All in all, they are a hit! I love having another multifunctional compact tool to use, and I’ve already got another tutorial headed your way.

TOOLBOX: Dremel Micro Review for Glass Etching

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I have a secret. I’ve been hoarding glass bottles… and jars. Sure, I’ve been drinking out of a set of 6 jars, but what no one knows is I have a whole box of them in my closet.

Shoot. Now you know.

The big plan was to use etching cream to mask and etch them into glass masterpieces– but something always stopped me. It may have been that the first time I pulled out the etching cream, Safety Husband insisted on reading the ingredients and warnings. He then set out a strict list of suggestions for using the DANGEROUS stuff I got from the craft store. I followed the suggestions once, but lived in fear of getting out the cream ever again. “Wear gloves. You don’t want it eating through your skin… to your bones.

We live in a world of excess caution, over here.

Safety Husband recommended safety goggles and a respirator- talked down to spectacles and a dust mask.

For Dremel Etching, Safety Husband recommended safety goggles and a respirator- accepted spectacles and a dust mask.

The box of glass lived to taunt me. Sitting in there, instead of going to the recycling bin where it belonged; until I got the bright idea of looking for alternate etching options. There are a lot of great, videos, but the one from Dremel sold me. It was time to replace our old rotary tool, so after some shopping I decided on the…
Dremel Micro, which is cordless.
•I bought two diamond bits, but I’ve only got around to playing with the one that looked most useful, the Dremel Diamond Wheel Point Bit.
** UPDATED 12/14 – I’ve since started using two different diamond bits with more success. 7105 Diamond Ball Pointand 7103 5/64-Inch Diamond Wheel Point

Experiments

I tried several different ways of getting my initial artwork laid out, including drawing the design on with a Sharpie, as well as using masks that we had made with the intention of using the etching cream.

Tara Bliven drew and cut out this beautiful mask for me.

Tara Bliven drew and cut out this beautiful mask for me.

We drew and cut these masks out of contact paper, but you could also use masking tape. They are a great way to start out, because the mask will help you learn to control the tool. If you jog out of the lines, the mask material will shred before you mark the glass, giving you one chance to screw up without consequences.

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The mask is definitely the most time consuming and tedious way to go. I’ve moved on to freehand patterns, and occasionally use paper templates that taped to the other side of the glass. (More on that later.)

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Tips

•Higher Speeds (controlled with a button on this model) work much better for etching glass. I usually use the second to highest speed. The highest works even better, but the sound is skull-splitting, so I only use it when absolutely necessary.
•Using the bit I’ve listed above, you will mainly be making thinnish lines, so plan on going over your artwork a couple of times. It works best to hold the bit as close to parallel with the surface of the piece.
•Make a jig for round items. I took a couple of wood scraps and made a kind of rail for the glasses to lay in. (See in the photos above.) Make sure it’s small enough to move around, as you will want to be able to approach your piece for all angles. After my experiments, I sprayed the whole jig black so I could see my work more easily.
•Wear Protective Gear… or you’ll get in trouble. I found a dust mask and glasses worked for me, but it might be good to start out with even more coverage. Remember that your glass could shatter at any time.
•Start with thick glass pieces, and don’t grind too much in one place. This is not a tool for drilling, so you’re more likely to shatter your pieces than cut cleanly through.
•Start with trash pieces you’re not afraid to throw away. There’s definitely a learning curve.
•Hand-wash any pieces, to make sure you’re not shocking the thinned glass with hot water.
•Work outside. You’ll be generating a ton of dust. While I haven’t had any sharp pieces (yet) it’s nice to let nature get rid of the dust.
•This is a no-distraction project. Don’t plan on watching TV while you work with power tools.

Things to Love

•It’s lightweight. Initially I was planning to use a flex shaft like they use in the video, but the cable is not very flexible, and I decided the lack of cord would be a benefit.
•It compact and easy to transport (although it does not come with a carrying case.)
•The battery lasts longer than I do. I haven’t had to stop what I was doing to recharge.
•I haven’t hurt myself (yet). This is always remarkable.

Things to Hate

•The “Lock” button sticks out just above the power button, and I have hit it accidentally a couple of times while the Dremel is running. It makes a terrible sound to tell me I’m killing it to death.
•It’s still a little clumsy. Even though the end is tapered so you can hold on to it, it’s more like trying to write legibly with a Squiggle Pen than an actual writing implement.
•It is quite tricky to get make a curve. A lot of this has to do with skill, and the kind of bit I’ve been using.
•The sound, especially at higher speeds. It makes a high keening when you’re using it on the glass. The birds have been complaining about this as well. It’s just life in the etching game.

Things to Try

•More bits. I tried scratching the glass with non-diamond bits with little result, but now that I’m hooked on the etchin’, I’m going to try everything. (If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.)
•More freehand designs.
•On flat surfaces, like plates, trays, etc. On mirrors.
•Make a set of matching glasses, with patterned numbers, using paper templates. That’s pretty specific, huh? I guess a DIY is in the works… but until then, have fun!

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TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
Art journaling has been a part of my creative process since high school. It’s the one thing I always come back to when I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed by life and is the one place where I can create intuitively, without a specific purpose or judgement. Just the act of doodling on a page or making a collage in my journal calms my nerves and helps me to reconnect with my true self.

Whenever I get the ‘itch’ to journal, I get out my art journal supply kit (which I often carry with me in my bag or purse) and get started.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit

My Art Journal Supply Kit Includes:

• Pens and markers
• Colored pencils and sharpener
• Glitter glue and gel pens
My travel watercolor set
• A small pair of scissors
• Glue stick
• Mechanical pencil and eraser
• Large zipper pouch (mine is handmade by Slide Sideways, now known as Year Round Co.)

I love to experiment and have fun when working in my art journal so I like using supplies I wouldn’t normally use when making art. I love adding a touch of glitter or using a white gel pen to doodle over a dark watercolor wash.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

My Favorite Collage Materials:

• Vintage National Geographic magazines
• Vintage postcards and other ephemera
• Vintage books
• Pressed leaves and flowers
• Any other bits I find and collect

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

You may have noticed that I use a old book as my art journal medium. There’s something about drawing inside the pages of a book that feels so satisfying. There are no blank white pages staring at me saying “this better be good” and I love choosing an old book with a title and cover that speaks to me.

TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies
TOOLBOX: Art Journal Supply Kit #artjournal #collage #supplies

Do you art journal? What are some of your favorite supplies or techniques?

DIY: Hand-Painted Mason Jar Mugs

DIY: Hand-Painted Mason Jar Mugs #marthastewart #glassware #paint

With summer in full swing, I’m looking forward to hosting backyard get-togethers. I’ve been on the lookout for some fun, affordable glassware to serve my homemade cocktails in and was excited to discover this fun DIY over on Soul Makes blog. I found mason jar mugs at my local Dollar Tree, which made for a fun, budget friendly craft project.

DIY: Hand-Painted Mason Jar Mugs #marthastewart #glassware #paint

Supplies:

• Mason Jar Mug (or other glassware)
Martha Stewart Glass Paint

I really loved using Martha’s glass paint. It’s permanent, dishwasher safe, and super easy to use, plus it comes in tons of different colors. You can draw your design on each glass quite easily. The directions say to let it air cure for 21 days OR bake in the oven.

To oven bake, place your painted mugs in a cold oven. Preheat to 350 degrees and set your timer for 30 minutes. You want to heat up the glasses slowly. After 30 minutes, simply turn off the oven and let cool completely. Set your glasses aside for another 72 hours and they are ready to go.

DIY: Hand-Painted Mason Jar Mugs #marthastewart #glassware #paint

TOOLBOX: Rachel’s Favorite Drawing Supplies

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing
After a recent trip to my local art supply store to stock up on supplies, I realized how much I love getting new pens, tubes of watercolor paint, and finding the perfect paper. Even as a kid growing up, I always looked forward to a new school year and fresh new pencils and notebooks. Since I’ve taken up illustration and making art for Camp Smartypants, I’ve found some favorite tools I use again and again. I’m always on the look out for new materials to try out, but I rely on these essentials for most of my drawing.

For Sketching + Drawing

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Spiral Bound Sketchbook

I prefer the spiral binding for my sketchbooks because my pages are able to lay flat at as draw and it’s easy to curl up on the couch with. You just have to be careful not to crush or bend a metal spiral, or you’ll be annoyed while working in it.

2. Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad

The perfect tracing pad you carry in your bag along with your sketchbook. Read more about how great this thing is in this post.

3. Mechanical Pencil

Mechanical pencils are my go-to sketching tool. I prefer these over a normal pencil because I don’t have to worry about sharpening, and I can get a consistent line weight as I use it. I don’t worry about using anything fancy, any mechanical pencil will do the trick.

4. Blackwing Pencils

I picked up a sampler set of Blackwing Pencils after taking a lettering class from Mary Kate McDevitt on Skillshare. I learned a lot about the drawing process from taking her course and now use a blackwing to draw over my sketches, making for a nice clean drawing.

5. Metal Pencil Sharpener

A good pencil sharpener is an essential tool. I use a Mobius & Ruppert Brass Pencil Sharpener. It’s something I picked up in college and have used ever since.

6. Staedtler Eraser

The Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser works great.

For Inking


TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Translucent Marker Paper

Another material I picked up in art school, this marker paper is great for ink drawings. You can achieve the smoothest lines with little bleed from your pen.

2. Ink Pens

I use Copic Multiliner pens. It’s one of many good brands (Fiber-Castell is another good one) and comes in variety of sizes. 0.3 and 0.5 are the two sizes I use most often.

For Watercolor

TOOLBOX: My Favorite Drawing Supplies #art #materials #drawing

1. Arches Watercolor Paper

A high quality watercolor paper. I use hot-press for watercolor and ink, and cold-press for watercoloring only. The difference is cold-press paper has a nice texture while hot-press paper is smooth.

2. Shmincke Watercolors

I first learned of Shmincke watercolors from Geninne Zlatkis. They were a big investment, but totally worth it. The pigment is bright, saturated and beautiful.

3. Paint Brushes

I use fairly cheap paint brushes. The brand shown are Princeton Snap and Loew-Cornell.

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TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

When I first read about the Sharpie Liquid Pencil on the Sharpie Blog I was pretty stoked. I am a fan of using pencils for my doodles- but I hate that they rub and fade over time. Sharpie’s Liquid pencil promises to write and erase like a pencil, and to be permanent after 24 hours (or more?).

Since I am also a Sharpie-aholic, I went ahead and bought a set at the office store to try out.

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

Overall it’s a disappointment. The pen[cil] does not write smoothly, more like a cheap ballpoint. When you do write with it, it leaves a relatively deep impression in the paper that makes it virtually impossible to erase completely. At the same time, the “liquid graphite” is very easy to smear, or “erase” with your finger or hand.

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The uneven quality means that it is not any good at the things I love doing with a pencil- shading, varying stroke weight, messing around. I’m really not sure that it is good at anything. I will check it out to see how permanent it is tomorrow.

Guess I’m stuck with my mechanical pencil fallbacks, and all my Sharpie pens (which I heart) and markers.

(If you want an even more thorough review, check out this one.)

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.