Friday, July 13, 2018

Budget Watercolor Recommendations

It's World Watercolor Month and to celebrate, I wanted to recommend some of my favorite inexpensive watercolors to help get you guys painting! These are all products I regularly use, or have reviewed, and can recommend, and are great for practicing skills. When applicable, I've linked the reviews, if you're interested in more information.

All of these supplies perform well, can be personally recommended, and are quite affordable. They aren't always the best available, and some may prove a false economy as your skills progress, so keep in mind that as your skills develop, you should consider investing in nicer watercolors.

Other Watercolor Gift Guides:

For Young Artists 9-13
Watercolor Gift Guide- Michael's Craft Store
Paper: Canson Montval (cellulose based)- $8.45 for 10"x15" (review) Fluid EZ Block (cellulose based)- $3.82 (4"X6")-$30.68 (18"x24") Blick Premiere Cotton-Rag Watercolor Paper (cotton rag)- $14.25 (7"x10")-$52.33 (18"x24")
Fluid 100 Cottonrag paper (cottonrag)-$4.48-$57.19 (review)
Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro (cottonrag)-$21.69-$29.39 (pads) (review)

I really recommend you try painting on at least one cellulose paper and one cotton rag paper, because the two handle fairly differently. Cellulose tends to be much cheaper than cotton rag, but can't handle many of the techniques that cotton rag excels at. Experimenting with both will help you decide which to focus funds on.

Canson Montval

Fluid EZ Block
Blick Premiere
Fluid 100

Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro


Pan Watercolors:
Yarka Student Set - $10.08 (review) MozArt Komorebi Watercolors- $26.99 (review)
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors-$13.30 (12 color)-$30.21 (36 color) (review)

The Yarka Student Set is a children's grade watercolor set that packs a punch. It utilizes pigments rather than the dyes found in children's watercolors and can be a great, affordable option for watercolorists who want an effective but inexpensive option. Prang watercolors are also quite affordable and perform well, although not as well as Yarka Student watercolors.

Komorebi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors are both Japanese watercolors and may handle a little differently from Western watercolors, but I heartily recommend either.

Generally, you want to avoid inexpensive watercolors that utilize optical brighteners to create brilliant, inexpensive colors. So if it looks too tempting to resist, and the price is too good to say no, you should probably walk away, or Google around for reviews.

Komorebi Watercolor Set on Fluid 100 Paper

Yarka Children's Set on Fabriano Medeovalis

Kuretake Gansai Tambi on Arches watercolor paper
Tube Watercolors:

In the long run, tube watercolors are generally a bit more economical than their pan and half pan counterparts. I find I can get about three half pan refills from a 15ml tube of watercolor, some brands deliver more. I recommend test and mixing sets as they're an inexpensive way to get high-quality watercolors. Although you can mix almost any color you need with just ten colors, you may opt to add pre-mixed convenience colors as necessary.

Recommended Starter Colors
Cool Yellow
Warm Yellow
Cool Red
Warm Red
Cool Blue
Warm Blue
Burnt Sienna

You may also want a yellow ochre and a tube of white gouache.

Daniel Smith Essential Six- $32.07 (review)
Sennelier Test Set-$12.89 (review)
M Graham Basics- $37.30 (review)

Holbein HWC 5ml tubes set of 12-$24.30 (review)

Daniel Smith Essential Six
Holbein HWC

Brushes: Creative Mark Mimik (black/faux squirrel) (synthetic)-$1.25-$27.99 Creative Mark Rhapsody (Kolinsky sable)-$9.49-$239.99
Creative Mark Squirrel Brushes (squirrel)-$.99-$7.99
Blick Master Squirrel Brushes-$5.59-$86.06 Cotman Mop (synthetic)-$6.22-7.76

Sumi brushes:


Hake Brush

Left to Right: Cotman Mop, Creative Mark Mimik, Blick Master Squirrel, Blick Master Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Rhapsody, Utrecht Red Sable, Wolf Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Weasel Sumi Brush
I personally recommend a mix of synthetic and natural fiber brushes in any watercolorist's collection, as both can serve valuable purposes. For artists on a budget, I recommend reserving the nicer natural hair brushes such as Kolinsky for just one or two brushes and using squirrel or sumi brushes for the rest of your natural brush needs. A nice brush is an investment and will last for years if well cared for.

Depending on the size of your paintings, I recommend:
Kolinsky Sable brushes Round Size 4, Size 5
Squirrel Round- Size 4, 6
Synthetic- Round Size 8 and larger
Synthetic- Round Size 1 and smaller (details)
Accessories: Disposable cups Paper Towels Salt
Wax Crayons or candles
Blue painter's tape or white masking tape Large Binder or Bulldog Clips
Chipboard backing from used sketchbooks
Half and whole pans or plastic bottle caps
Altoids tins or other small boxes
Inexpensive baby shampoo (for cleaning)
Inexpensive hair conditioner (to occasionally condition your brushes)

Outside Resources and Second Opinions:
Yarka Student Watercolors-Unbox and Swatch Cheap Art Supplies from Amazo! MozArt Komorebi Unbox and Swatch Colorful Succulents- MozArt Komorebi Etegami Fieldtest Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper Field Test Ya Betta Swatch Yaself- Swatching Demo- Fluid 100 and Fluid EZ Block
Perfecting a Travel Watercolor Palette
Prepping New Watercolor Brushes for First Use

Monday, July 09, 2018

Tips for Finding and Tabling at Library Hosted Conventions

Why Table at Library Cons?

I've really grown to enjoy tabling at small, local library shows.  It's a great laid back way to earn extra income on a Saturday and has proven a fantastic way for me to sell copies of 7" Kara to an audience interested in children's comics.  Library cons are often free (or very inexpensive!) to table at, free for the public to attend, and are a low stress tabling opportunity for artists and self-published creators.   If you're a comic creator who prefers to sell comics over other types of merchandise, library conventions are a perfect way to attract a literature-loving audience, and can be a wonderful first convention opportunity for newer artists.

For me, library conventions offer another bonus- I get to meet and chat with librarians who are interested in children's books and children's comics.  I get to serve as an advocate not only for my own work, but for other kidlit creators who deserve recognition but may not have the opportunity to make such connections.

Shorter hours
Less of a financial commitment- tables, admission, and parking are usually free
Great for first time tabling artists
A mix of people from a variety of backgrounds
More laid back

Generally smaller shows
Often not well promoted outside the library
Usually only last one day

How I Find Out About Library Cons:
Talking to attendees at other area shows- as what shows they're attending this year
Talk to other artists- at what conventions they have lined up
Check out local art stores, local coffee shops for fliers
Ask around!

Mostly families with small children, older adults, teens with a Saturday to kill

Tips for Tabling At Library Cons:

Don't expect to make a lot of money
Have items at a variety of price points- $1 and up
Have stuff for kids
Have a few freebies-mini comics, stickers, business cards, ect
Have stuff to trade
Make friends with the librarians
Be patient!  Con staff is usually volunteer, or librarians who do have other duties
Bring a smaller setup than you would at anime cons
Can be great for networking

Keep in mind:

Usually free to the public
Often free tables for artists
Great as a first con opportunity
Low risk
Great for audience building in your local area

Example setups:


Putman County Library Indie Comic Con, 2017

NOCAZfest 2017

Destrehan Comic Con
Want help?  I'm available for table consultation-$55 per table design!

A Few Library Con Recaps:



2017 Recap



Destrehan Comic Con

Friday, July 06, 2018

Potential 2018 Charm Designs



Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Cause of Many A Muddy Water-Optical Brighteners and Watercolor

Pebeo watercolors
Pebeo watercolors.  Manufactured in China, purchased on Wish.
Muddy paintings, despite using high-quality papers and brushes.  A weird white coating on colors that initially seemed so vibrant in the pan.  Colors lift, or refuse to layer, or paintings lack contrast, despite careful planning.   It's frustrating isn't it?  You might even blame yourself.  But before you get too upset, consider that it might be the paints you're using.

Optical brighteners are frequently added to papers and paints to make colors more vivid, bright, appealing.  They're added to printer paper for better, more vibrant prints, they're added to watercolors to entice you to buy with a beautiful rainbow of color.  But what's great for sales is rarely great for art, and optical brighteners may be fighting your painting every step of the way.

What are they used for in watercolor:

What are optical brighteners: 

For Paint
"Optical brighteners are designed to brighten colors or mask yellowing in lacquers, paints, inks, plastics, photo-processing solutions and fibers. They work via a fluorescent mechanism, absorbing light in the UV spectrum and emitting it in the blue range of the visible spectrum, resulting in a brighter, fresher appearance. "

NOTE:  Some high quality watercolors do have semi-transparent, semi-opaque, and opaque properties.

Tube watercolors are made of about eight different components- water, dispersant, extender, humectant, plasticizer, binder, pigment, and the brightener (referred to in this post as optical brighteners).  The brightener contains white or transparent crystals that lighten the color value to increase the chroma of dried paint, making it appear more saturated and intense.  The proportions of these components vary from brand to brand. (  Pigment load in a tube of paint also varies- some colors such as dioxazine violet have to be diluted for the chroma to be noticeable.

10%-20%- Strongly tinted pigments such as dioxazine violet, alizarin crimson, and phthalocyanines
20%-30%- Prussian blues, carbon blacks, red iron oxides, yellow quinacridones and other synthetic organic pigments
30%-40%- Yellow iron oxides, viridian, ultramarine blue, and violet, fine-grained cobalt pigments
40%-50%- weakly tinting colors such as cadmium yellow, cobalt violet, and burnt yellow and red oxides
50% and higher for cadmium orange, manganese violet and blue, cadmium red

Some brands may add one or more light refracting substances to brighten the color, traditionally including alumina trihydrate, micronized barium sulfate, and titanium dioxide, but there are more effective alternatives available.  Generally, the particle size and gravity are close to the pigment used in the color, so they do not separate out.

Too much brightener can leave a white or sparkly appearance to dried paint and can compromise the light-fastness or permanence of color.

Full shade is the pigment appearance when 100% of the light hitting the the paint hits a pigment particle and is either absorbed or reflected.   We often see the full shade of our watercolors when we use half pans- the paint in the pain represents the full shade (source). In higher quality watercolors, the full shade of many colors is dark and unappealing, in cheaper watercolors that utilize optical brighteners, all shades are vivid and appealing in the pan.

Paul Reubens watercolors
Paul Reuben's watercolors.  Manufactured in China.  Purchased on Wish.
In both the Paul Reuben's and Pebeo palettes, note how bright ALL colors appear, even darker colors.   This is due to optical brighteners making the full shade appear more vibrant.

For Paper
"Optical brighteners are additives that are used in paper manufacturing to increase the perceived “whiteness” of the paper. Their use results in a whiter and brighter appearance, which can be desirable for many paper types."

For papers, bright white papers, such as natural white, are considered optically dead, and remain consistently white under different lighting conditions.  However, papers that contain optical brighteners will shift depending on the light source, so if you're scanning your originals, you want to avoid papers that use optical brighteners.

Crayola Washable watercolors

Why are optical brighteners bad?

Optical brighteners aren't always an issue, and may even provide properties you enjoy.  Many artists use lower grade watercolors, full of optical brighteners, to make beautiful artwork- although Instagram shots may be deceptive.  Inexpensive watercolors may appear beautiful and vibrant when wet, only to dry dull and chalky.

Lukas Studio Aquarelle Watercolors
  • Dry chalky
  • Difficult to control color
  • May contribute to fading/reduce lightfastness
  • May lift up as layers are added
  • Color can visibly shift under various light sources
  • Change the working properties of the paint
  • May dry faster than other watercolors, which leaves less time for wet into wet techniques
  • Often dry patchy
  • Difficult to build up tone and shade- everything appears the same intensity
Prima Marketing- The Classics

How To Spot Optical Brighteners In Paints 
Typically used in inexpensive pan, half pan, and cake watercolors.

Alex watercolors- $1 for the set

  • Even the dark colors are vivid, easy to 'read' at a glance
  • Dry appearance with no gloss or sheen (no glycerin)
  • Muddy wash water quickly
  • Sediment out quickly when mixed
  • Leave a white, chalky residue at the bottom of mixing pans and water cups
  • Cake up on your brush when grabbing color
  • Occlude your lineart when dry, giving it a muddy appearance, reducing contrast 
  • Less visual 'bounce', colors lack translucency on the paper
  • Usually priced too good to be true

Jerry Q watercolors, purchased from Amazon

Brands That Use Optical Brighteners

Many Student grade watercolor sets use optical brighteners to make colors more vivid and appealing in store.

Alex watercolor swatches

Children's or Toy-Grade:
Artist Loft watercolors
Alex watercolors
Crayola Washable Watercolors

Student Grade Watercolors:
Lukas Studio
Sakura Koi (pans)
Paul Reubens

Jerry Q

Jerry Q watercolors 

Tiger (a European version of Dollar Tree) watercolors 

What can you do?
Adjust how you handle your paints- fewer layers rather than more.
Avoid glazes.
Limit how much water you use when mixing colors, as colors are already weak
Work with an inked lineart- the slight border it provides will help prevent feathering and bleeding into dry areas
Avoid temperamental papers- try to avoid cellulose papers, or stick to Fluid EZ block or Canson Montval
Adjust your expectations- introduce color pencils or watercolor pencils for detailed stages
Change wash water out frequently- it dirties faster with cheap paints

Optical Brighteners and Solutions to the Problems They Pose:

Artist Loft Watercolor Field Test

Jerry Q Unbox and Swatch:

Jerry Q Watercolor Field Test:

Lukas Watercolor Set Unbox and Swatch:

Bianyo Watercolor Teaser:

Prima Watercolor Confections: The Classics: The Classics:

Prima Watercolor Confections: The Classics: Field Test:

Tiger Watercolor Swatch Test:

Pieces Created from Products that Use Optical Brighteners:


Colors were fairly chalky and opaque
Obscured lineart

 Lukas Studio Aquarelle

Colors mixed poorly
Dark colors weren't dark enough- dried somewhat chalky
Colors were annoying to mix, caked up on brush
Did not handle like watercolor OR gouache, annoying to work with

Crayola Washable Watercolors

Just about everything.  
Watercolors were gummy
Tended to cake up on brush
Tended to cake up on paper
Glycerin sheen to finished piece
Like painting with soap
Difficult to blend out, difficult to layer, left a resist that prevented later layers from drying evenly.

Van Gogh Watercolors

Tendency to become muddy
Prone to reactivation

Cotman Watercolors

Annoying to mix
Colors settle out of solution quickly, have to frequently remix
Limited saturation

Optical Brighteners- Strathmore
Preventative Care of Art on Paper for Artists
Handprint: How Watercolor Paints are Made
The Material Attributes of Paints

Monday, July 02, 2018

Guestpost: RebelVampire: Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics

Selecting and Using Fonts for Webcomics

Despite it seeming simple, lettering for webcomics is surprisingly elusive.  For many, it boils down to a simple lack of knowledge, both in the resources that are available and how to use the tools.  Even looking up a tutorial can get confusing, since technical jargon like “kerning” and “leading” are prevalent.  Especially for newcomers to webcomics, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

However, it definitely doesn’t need to be some grandiose obstacle.  In fact, a lot of lettering expertise comes down to one simple matter: knowing how to select and use a font.  Your font choice alone can make a world of difference for your webcomic, so it’s an important matter to consider.  To make the process easier, though, today I will walk you through my tips for selecting your font, and some of the basics on how to use them!

Where to Get Fonts:

First off, let’s tackle the biggest question any beginner has: where can you even get fonts?  Of course, there are your system fonts that come standard on any computer regardless of operating system.  However, these are inadvisable to use for two reasons: legality and a lack of character.  Fortunately, there are a ton of websites that have free fonts!  You can check out some of my favorites below:

  • Font Squirrel - My go-to site, as the tags make it very easy to find a font with a particular theme.

  • Google Fonts - A fantastic collection, particularly if you need a font you can easily embed into a website as well.

  • 1001 Free Fonts - A standard site with an intense amount of fonts; just make sure to check the licenses.

  • DaFont - Another one of the standard ones.

Note: Always make sure you’re protected from viruses when downloading things from the internet!

Considerations for Choosing and Using Your Font:

Below I have laid out a few choice things you should consider, both while picking your font and using it.  These matters will play a role in both aspects, so bear them in mind!

Legality- ALWAYS make sure that your font has the appropriate license for your use.  Generally, you’ll want something that is free for commercial use (usually things that are listed as Public Domain, SIL Open Font License, or CC0 Creative Commons).  The majority of fonts you can download from reputable sites come with .txt files that have this information.  Remember, just because you can download the font for free, doesn’t mean it is actually free to use commercially!

Readability- Readability matters more than anything else about a font.  If readers can’t read the text, they can’t really read the webcomic.  Make sure that you get a font that has a crisp and clear style.  Yet, also keep in mind what size you’ll be doing the font at, as not all fonts are readable at smaller sizes.  Rule of thumb: if it takes you more than a few seconds to read, it’s probably not a good font.

Theme- While you can go with a “comic” font, you can also choose a font that suits the theme of your comic.  You can use a more angular font for a science fiction comic, a more script like font for something fantasy, and so on.  A theme appropriate font can add a lot of character.

Padding- This consideration applies more to the using part of your font.  Your text should have padding and not touch the edges of your narrative boxes or dialogue bubbles.  Some fonts are a little unwieldy for this, so it can often affect choice as well.  Bear it in mind and experiment to make sure you can keep some padding for a professional, readable look.

Using Your Font:

Once you have your font chosen, you’re ready to use it.  However, there are a few nifty things you can do with a font to give it a slightly different aesthetic than its standard appearance.  Since this involves some technical jargon, I’ll walk you through what the jargon means and what it actually does.

Kerning- Kerning refers to the space between the characters of your font.  The more kerning you add, the more space there is between every letter.  You can also go into negative values to bring the letters super close together.

Leading- Leading refers to the space between lines of text.  Like kerning, the more leading you add, the more space there is.

Scale- Scaling refers to how much extra width or height the text takes up than is standard.  Unlike kerning and leading, scaling doesn’t add extra space.  Instead, it deforms the text.

To summarize, you can do wonders for your webcomic just by choosing a great font and learning how to adjust it to whatever suits your fancy.  Text has just as much of an aesthetic presence as your images, and it can truly give your webcomic its own unique character.  As webcomics are also half about the story being told, it’s also kind of important people are able to read the text smoothly.  Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to experiment and show your own unique voice via fonts!

Fonts Used in Examples:

If you’d like to stay up to date with me, you can check out my stuff via the links below~!