Monday, January 21, 2019

Choose Your Own Adventure- Watercolor Edition

One of the magic things about using watercolor for illustration and comics is that it's a bit like choosing your own adventure.  Do you want to use hot press or cold press?  Cellulose or cotton rag?  Do you want to dive straight in to watercolor, sketch with a pencil, print out bluelines, or ink?  Every choice can yeild a different results, and it's helpful to know what your options are.

Today, we're going to talk about different types of finish for your watercolors.  How you want to create your lineart (or whether you want a lineart at all!) can drastically change the end aesthetic of your comics and illustrations.  Below are a few of my favorite methods.


Graphite pencil, brushpen, then erase the graphite.  Paint.

Inks that Work:
Waterproof India Inks (make sure they say waterproof on the bottle)
Acrylic Inks
Pigment Based Inks
Ink Used:  Sakura Pigma Professional FB brushpen (pigment based)

End Result:

Other Examples of Inked Watercolors:


Printed bluelines, then tight pencils.  Paint.

Recommended Leads:
HB or harder

End Result:

Other Examples of Penciled Watercolors:

Graphite pencil sketch.  Paint

End Result:

Graphite Transfer.  Paint.  'Inking' with paint.

End Result:

Colored Leads

Colored Lead.  Paint.

Colored Leads that Work:
Color Eno Leads
Harder, waxed based color pencils

"Lineless" Watercolor Style:

End Result:

Other Examples of "Lineless" Watercolor:

Inking After Painting:

Method:  Sketch illustration.  Paint.  Ink accents.

Any ink will work with this method, so long as you aren't adding water again.

End Result:

Other Examples of Inking After Painting:

Straight to Watercolor

Process: Sketch directly with watercolor, focusing on mark making and shapes.

See:  Chinese watercolor, Japanese sumi-e, loose floral watercolors

I hope this has inspired you to try various methods of 'finish' with your own watercolor art and illustration!  If you're looking for more inspiration, make sure you check out my Watercolor Basics series, here and on Youtube.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Getting To Know: Traditional Comic Materials

What's In My Pencilcase-2018 Edition

Every artist has their preferred tools, but some basics are pretty common from artist to artist.



White Stroke eraser, Color Eno (Pink), Color Eno (Soft Blue), Mono Knock Eraser, Pentel Icy (HB lead), Pentel Graph Gear 1000 (B lead) Clear, gridded acrylic ruler, Prismacolor Color Pencil
From left to right: White Stroke eraser, Color Eno (Pink), Color Eno (Soft Blue), Mono Knock Eraser, Pentel Icy (HB lead), Pentel Graph Gear 1000 (B lead) Clear, gridded acrylic ruler, Prismacolor Color Pencil

Prismacolor Pencil Sketch

As an artist, you will eventually develop your own preferences, but hopefully this post can get you off to a strong start!


Pentel Graph Gear 1000 with Staad Pencil Grip, Pilot Color Eno
Pencils used to pencil thumbnails and roughs-Pentel Graph Gear 1000 with Staad Pencil Grip, Pilot Color Eno

Pencils and Erasers used for thumbnails and roughs stages of comics
Pencils and Erasers used for thumbnails and roughs stages of comics

Generally, I prefer mechanical and drafting pencils to wooden, as I hate taking time to sharpen my pencil, and I hate dull leads!  I prefer Japanese brands to American brands, as Japanese stationery brands tend to be better designed and better built.  However, you can find many Japanese brands even at your local Walmart- Pentel, Zebra, and Uni are all commonly carried.

The exception in my preference comes down to sketching and warmups- for warmups and doodles, I prefer using colored pencils, and frequently use Prismacolor pencils in warm earthtones such as terra-cotta.

What's the difference between Drafting Pencils and Mechanical Pencils?

Mechanical Pencils:

Mechanical pencils can be made from a variety of materials (wood, plastic, metal), and frequently, but not always, feature refillable, replacable lead.  They may feature back, side, shake, or even twist advancement of the lead.  Mechanical pencils provide a consistent lineweight without need for sharpening.

Drafting Pencils:

Often drafting pencils fall into the category of mechanical pencils, but not always.  Lead holders, which are a type of drafting pencil, are not mechanical pencils, and are desigend with a clutch mechanism to hold larger leads (1mm-2mm).

'Drafting pencil' often refers to a metal bodied mechanical pencil with a back advancement.  Popular materials include brass and aluminum.  Drafting pencils often have knurled metal grips, which can damage your hands, and have no give in the body, which can lead to arthritis over time.

Drafting pencils feature a metal lead sleeve, which protects the lead when it's advanced, and prevents breakage.  Many drafting pencils also feature a spring mechanism that acts as a shock absorber- a handy feature for those of us who are heavy handed.  Many drafting pencils also include an eraser cap, and a lead indicator, which can be manually changed depending on the lead used.

Lead Holders: 

Lead holders hold larger leads (1mm-2mm) that may require sharpening with a lead pointer.  Lead holders are all clutch mechanism (a jawed pressure clamp that holds the lead in place), and are typically metal bodied.

I'm Using:

Pilot Color Eno Mechanical Pencil (.7mm, soft pink and soft blue, used for underdrawing)
Pentel Icy (.7mm, contains HB lead, used for sketching)
Pentel Graph Gear 1000, with a Staad pencil grip (.7mm, B lead, used for tight pencils)

Muji Mechanical Pencil, Pentel Red Lead, Pentel Graph Gear 1000, Pentel Ain B lead, Pentel Icy, Pentel Hi Polymer H lead, Pilot Color Ino, Pilot Color Eno Soft Blue Lead
Mechanical pencils paired with the leads used in them.  Left to Right: Muji Mechanical Pencil, Pentel Red Lead, Pentel Graph Gear 1000, Pentel Ain B lead, Pentel Icy, Pentel Hi Polymer H lead, Pilot Color Ino, Pilot Color Eno Soft Blue Lead

If you're using mechanical pencils or drafting pencils, then you're also going to be using leads.  Many pencils come with refills, but as an artist, you may wish to branch out and find your own preferred materials.

Why Non Photo Blue?

Non photo blue (and other colored leads) are frequently used by artists for underdrawing and sketching.  Sketching in a colored lead makes it easy to differentiate between construction and details you wish to keep, and you can pencil over these colored leads, ink, or even go straight to watercolor or alcohol marker.

Originally NPB would not scan or photo copy (hence the non photo part).  These days, scanners are much more sophisticated, and will pick up NPB, but it's easy to digitally drop light colors such as pink, light blue, and especially yellow.  I have tutorials on this blog on how to drop the blues.

I'm Using:

Pentel Hi Polymer HB Lead
Pentel HiPolymer B Lead
Color Eno Soft Blue Lead
Pentel .5mm Red Lead

Colored Pencils

Commonly Used:

Palomino Blackwing Pencils
Palomino 602
Palomino Blackwing Pearl

Col-Erase Colored Pencils (light blue)
Caran d'Ache Sketcher

I'm Using:

Prismacolor Color Pencils- Terra Cotta 

 Pentel Clic Erase, Tombow Mono Knock Eraser, Tombo Zero Eraser, Creative Mark White Stroke
Left to Right:  Pentel Clic Erase, Tombow Mono Knock Eraser, Tombo Zero Eraser, Creative Mark White Stroke

When selecting erasers, I want erasers that will:

  • Not Tear Up My Paper
  • Not Cause Ghosting with My Ink
  • Don't Smear

I've tried a lot of erasers over the years, and while I rotate what I use, I do have some favorites that I hope you guys will check out!

I'm Using: 

Pentel HiPolymer Eraser
Mono Eraser
White Stroke Eraser
Moo Eraser
Mono Knock Eraser
Pentel Ain Eraser
Mono Zero 
Pentel Click Erase

Everyday Carry

This just refers to the case you use for your daily use art supplies!  This is going to vary heavily from artist to artist, and I have several great recommendations in my 2018 Comic Artist Gift Guide.  I'm using a Nomadic pencil case that doesn't seem to be commonly available anymore.

So those are my basic, everyday comic supplies!  Keep an eye on this blog for more detailed, deeper dives into my comic artist supplies!

Resources Used:
Mechanical Pencil (Wikipedia)
How A Drafting Pencil Works
Ink and Graphite- What is a drafting pencil?
Cult Pens: Guide to Mechanical Pencils
Jackson's Art:  Why Use a Clutch Pencil

Monday, January 14, 2019

Promoting a Class or Workshop

I've talked about my Making Comics class a fair bit in the past couple weeks.  I know those of you not in the greater Nashville area are probably a bit tired of the promo posts, so I thought I would talk about it in another way- today I'm going to chat about the promotional aspects of recruiting students for a class.

I'm not new to workshops or panels.  I've taught workshops and panels, in various formats, since my SCAD days back in 2010.  And for every workshop or panel I host, I have to promote the event- usually through this blog, my Tumblr, Twitter, occasionally through Facebook, and increasingly through Instagram.  When I'm promoting a panel that's tied to a convention, often I just need to tag the convention in those promotional posts for a quick reblog.  Attendees often check the con's hashtag to find out about events- so much of the promotion is done organically.  Conventions don't have a minimum number of attendees as a prerequisite for hosting a panel, so I don't have to worry about registration or filling the room.

Panels and workshops for libraries can be a bit different.  These do require a bit more promotion- after all, a full class shows the library that comic content is worth hosting, and some libraries are more reticent than others.  Depending on the area I'm teaching in, I'll start posting about it to my Facebook, particularly if I'm hosting a workshop or panel in an area where I've tabled before.  Historically, my promotion has been entirely online, and without use of paid advertising.

Building an audience, and audience retention, are two areas I've always struggled with.  For some reason, repeat business has never been robust enough for me to relax a little- every event- be it a workshop, a panel, or a sales event- requires my A game.  Promoting my second iteration of Making Comics required me to up my A game another level- my AA game if you will.  This came as a bit of as shock to me, as my first iteration- Making Comics and Zines, hit the minimum number of registered students quickly, and continued to fill from there, whereas I'm ten days away from class starting, and I only hit my minimum number this morning.

However, hit my minimum I did, and with ten days to spare, so today, I want to share my process for filling a class when the stars are not in your favor.

Last Semester:

  • Wrote a blog post for Nashville Community Education's Blog
  • Recorded an interview for their Youtube channel, based on provided questions
  • Participated in an Instagram 'takeover' of the NCE Instagram account
  • Created a graphic and shared it to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
  • Created a Facebook group for the class
  • Tabled at NCE's Open House event- an outdoor event that coincided with a farmer's market, on a beautiful late summer day, handed out copies of the class syllabus
  • Tabled at Handmade and Bound and handed out fliers to interested parties

This Semester:

  • No tabling events where I could promote my class in person- I think this is why I struggled to get students enrolled
  • Have not had the opportunity to participate in an NCE Instagram takeover, but have been mentioned in their Stories a few times
  • Wrote a blog post for NCE's blog

Promoting the Class:

Generally tried to think outside my usual social media audience, most of whom don't seem to be in Nashville or New Orleans, and tried to better connect with my local scene.

Blog Content:

Learn How to Tell Stories Visually with Becca Hillburn
Exciting News for Making Comics and Zines

Other Promotion: 

Posting regularly to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
Created a Facebook Event
Posted to Next Door Neighbor, and created an Event for the class
Posted about class on LinkedIn

Creating Videos:

Making Comics Class Preview:

Exciting News about my Nashville Comic Class:

Comic Cuties- Sketch and Inks:

Distributing Fliers and Handsouts:

Jerry's Artarama
Starbucks at 2525
Starbucks on West End
PlaZa Art Supplies
Rick's Comic City
Wake Up to Comics (at The Groove)
Nashville Public Library- Downtown branch and branch near the Cohn School
Three Brothers/Cumberland Transit

*Nashville Public Library (downtown) branch originally resisted putting up fliers, as the class has a cost, but I pursued the matter until it was resolved.  Since my class is through Nashville Community Ed, another Metro department, and since it's held through a not for profit organization, we eventually worked something out.  If you're promoting a class through community ed, don't be afraid to pursue it.
** Library near Cohn School was eager to put out the fliers, and excited about the class.  Don't let one library's reticence get you down

*** Cost goes to reimbursing NCE for materials, and reimbursing me for materials.  Nobody's really making a profit on this class.

Requesting a Signal Boost:

Emailed one of the professors at Watkins School of Art regarding the class.  She organizes Handmade and Bound, and said she'd tell her students/make sure the ad got in the upcoming newsletter

Asked Nashville Scene, NashvilleFun, NashvilleTN and various other Nashville Twitter accounts to retweet the information.  Only MTAC responded- and they were generous enough to retweet it to their audience.  Don't be afraid to nag- many outlets make their bread and butter talking about local events (that's their news), but may balk at comics.  Ain't nothin wrong with comics, and don't let them tell you otherwise.

Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube Ads:

Facebook and Instagram- $1 day limit, shown to people ages 13 and up, men and women, within 20 miles of Nashville
Youtube Ad- Making Comics Class Preview

Note:  Neither Facebook or Youtube ads really resulted in any clicks (just one, with Facebook), but repetition and visibility are important.  They say someone has to see something seven times online before they'll click it once, so it's about building recognition.

So what worked?

Honestly, who knows.  If I had to put my money on it, I'd say getting out there and putting out fliers is probably what made the biggest impact.  I tried to select places carefully- places where comic people like to hang out, places where aspiring artists absorb the atmosphere.  Many of these fliers were takeaways- small, hand cut fliers they can take with them to remember to sign up, but quite a few were larger fliers.  Once the class starts, I'll ask them how they found out about the class, and use that to prepare my promotion for next semester.


  • Don't get discouraged!  Businesses have a right to reject your request, but many are happy to share information about local classes.
  • Get out there and paper the streets!  Hit up your local favorites- art supply stores, coffee shops, and ask if they'll put up fliers
  • It helps to buy- even something small, like a coffee
  • If a library says no- ask why!  Maybe the rational is solid, but sometimes the librarian you're talking to doesn't feel like putting in the effort.  If they wont help you, ask to speak to someone who might.
  • Many librarians are excited about comics- if the person you're talking to isn't into it, ask to speak to someone on staff in charge of teen reading, or in charge of the graphic novel section.  Find allies through common interests!
  • If you're promoting a class taught through a school, don't be afraid or ashamed to ask them for help and ideas as well
  • Don't rely on your online audience- who may be all across the globe- think local!
  • Be friendly when asking, explain the class, explain the organization hosting it, and be grateful when people say yes!  If they say no, you can either pursue it (like with the libraries) or shrug it off and thank them for their time (businesses).  Nobody owes you anything, but you owe it to yourself to do your best! 
Still interested in taking Making Comics?  There's still time, register today!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Exciting News for Making Comics and Zines

I'm super excited about Making Comics this winter!  I just had an awesome meeting with Nashville Community Ed and Wake Up To Comics, a local comic shop, and I have some exciting class developments to share!

So this is all still the same: 
  • It's $69 for all six classes (so about $10 and some change per class) 
  • Classes is 6-9PM on Thursdays at the Cohn School in Room 112
  • Classes begin January 24th and continue until February 28th.  
  • Class ends with a minicomic and zine exchange.
  • You can register through Nashville Community Ed here.
  • NCE now has scholarships available!  Learn more

But now:
  • Wake Up to Comics is a Making Comics sponsor.  This means more and better class materials for registered students!
  • Bonus seventh class (the zine/minicomic exchange!) at The Groove, in East Nashville, home of Wake Up to Comics
  • Anyone 16 and older can take the class with parental consent, anyone 13 and older can take class if a parent is also registered for Making Comics.
Class six of Making Comics and Zines- the minicomic/zine exchange!

Minicomics and zines produced by students

Ok, so what can I expect?
  • Basic class materials- pencils, paper, pens- will be provided for you, but you're welcome to use whatever you're comfortable with!  
  • Instructor will provide brushes, nibs, inks, and various papers for students to experiment with
  • Expect to produce 8 pages of content- either a comic, a zine, or a combination of the two.  More is great, but we're aiming for 8 pages.
  • Expect to keep a sketchbook during class
  • Be prepared to share your work in class and online for feedback and comic/resource recommendations (if you are not comfortable doing this, please let me know.  You're still welcome, I'll just make a note not to ask you to share your work in class)
  • Access to a large library of zines, comics, and art resource books available to borrow
  • Instructor (me!) will handle printing materials, so you don't need access to a printer, but access to a scanner will be helpful.  No scanner?  Let me know- we can arrange something
  • Class ends with a Bonus seventh class- a zine exchange at The Groove!  Students will enjoy snacks, exchange zines, and enjoy one another's work.
  • Join the Nashville comic/zine community- students stay in contact after class has ended
How does this differ from Making Comics and Zines (Fall 2018)

While students are welcome to make zines during class, the focus is primarily on comic craft and making comics.

Low on funds but want to apply?  NCE has scholarships available

So now I have a favor to ask of you!  Please, please, please share this information- on Twitter, on Facebook, wherever you think it might reach someone who might be interested!  We're aiming for a full class.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Top 10 Art Products of 2018

Top 10 Art Products of 2018

Note:  These aren't necessarily products that were released in 2018, but rather my favorite products in 2018.

Qor Mini Palette
Qor Mini Palette in Packaging

Qor Mini Palette Open

Qor Travel Watercolor Palette
$59.99 on Blick

Da Vinci Mixing Set
Da Vinci Mixing Palette

Da Vinci Mixing Palette Open

Da Vinci Mixing Palette
$56.00 on Jerry's Artarama

Blick Studio Brush Markers and Refills

Blick Studio Brush markers and refill

Blick Studio Brush Markers
Starting at $2.96 on Blick

$3.99 on Blick

Paint Pucks
Paint Puck

Paint Pucks
$3.99 on Blick

Pentel Pigment Brushpens

Pentel Pigment Brushpens

Pentel Pigment Brushpens

Pentel Pigment Brushpens
$6.50 on Amazon

HomeAid Magnetic Watercolor Palette

HomeAid Magnetic Palette

HomeAid Magnetic Palette with paint

HomeAid Magnetic Palette
$10.99 on Amazon

Color Eno Colored Lead and Pencils

Color Eno Lead Pink

Color Eno Lead Pink

Color Eno Lead-Pink
$7.88 on Amazon
Color Eno Colored Lead Pack
$20.75 on Amazon

Pentel Dye Based Brushpens

Pentel Brushpen

Individual Brushpens
Prices vary on Amazon
Pentel Dye Based Brushpens
$99.90 for all 18 on Amazon

Blick Premier Watercolor Paper

Blick Premier Coldpress Watercolor Paper

Blick Premiere Watercolor Paper
Starting at $14.25 on Blick

Dr PH Martin's Bleedproof White

Dr PH Martin's Bleedproof White

Dr PH Martin's Bleedproof White

Dr PH Martin's Bleedproof White
$11.99 on Amazon

Honorable Mentions:

Ace Sleep Brace, Compression Gloves

Arthritis Compression Gloves:
$11.99 on Amazon

ACE Sleeping Wrist Brace:
$17.75 on Amazon