Monday, April 16, 2018

Sparkle Supplies: An Overview by Kabocha

Hey friends!  Kabocha back, this time with a topic near and dear to my heart- sparkles and all that glitters!  Over the years, not only have I made sparkle-tastic brushes for use in Photoshop and CSP, but I've dabbled and doodled with glittery paints and pigments.

Everyone loves to add a little shine to their work, and it's no surprise that you, too, might wonder, "How can I get my work to sparkle in the sunlight?"
(Or maybe you don't. That's fine too.)

Now, before you start saying, "But Kabocha! You didn't include my favorite supplies!" -- this list is primarily from my own experience and research. When I work with traditional media, my primary supplies are watercolor and alcohol markers, with some papers.

I'm considering this a curated list, so this isn't going to contain everything under the sun. Just so you know. If there is further information, I'll include links for you to further explore.

So, without further ado...


✨✨ ✨✨✨
I regret using this. Haven't used Eh. It's okay. It definitely sparkles YES

Disclaimer: Ratings are subjective and are based on my experience, if applicable.  Some items might be included because they're on my wishlist or something.

Jump to...

Pens | Pigments & Powders | Mediums | Paints | Inks


Zig Wink of Stella

Rating:  ✨✨ (2 sparkles)
These pens are water and glycerin based. They're nice! I honestly wanted to love them.
I have a hard time getting them to feed, and then when I do get glitter to come out, they drip.  Maybe I just have crap hand strength from carpal tunnel, so when I apply some, I apply too much?
Either way, they're perfectly acceptable glitter content.

I swatched these in December 2017, and have observed no serious yellowing over time, unlike the next item I'll talk about.

Spectrum Noir Sparkle

Rating: ✨ (1 sparkle)
These are not archival safe.  These pens yellow. They glitter, but they're not great for something you intend to keep long-term.
I did swatches of them on some Union Square mixed media paper in early 2017 -- and after about 6 months, they started to yellow.
Why?  Glycerin, after time, just... yellows. It's part of how it breaks down in reaction to oxygen.  So, this is great for short term projects, or maybe mixed in with paint -- but on its own?

Uni Ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Pens

Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
So, in the interest in full disclosure: I've used the Uni Ball Signo Rainbow pens. Which were available in 2002/2003, if memory serves.  I still have my set, but my main complaint with them is that they clog.  A LOT.
Are the Sparkling pens different? Hell if I even know.  After my experience with the Rainbow pens (and other glittery gel pens), I'm not inclined to give them another chance.

Sakura Gelly Roll Pens

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 sparkles)
I like these. I would recommend these.
Sakura's pens write pretty smoothly, and I've very rarely had any problems actually using them.  I tend to use these for writing notes to folks!
If you DO get these, store them point-down or on their side.  Just a warning.

atyou Spica

Set A | Set B
Rating: ✨✨ (2 sparkles)
I am indifferent to these.  Heresy, I know. The nibs are TINY, which is okay for detail work, but there's not anything larger!  They sparkle, they don't clog... But... I can't bring myself to care. The colors are all right, but if you try to layer them, you're going to bite into your paper a fair bit.
They are pigment based, and resist water pretty well.
As much as they were hyped, I feel like they're not as good as people made them seem.

Further reading: Guide to Metallic and Glitter Ink Pens and Markers (Jetpens)

Pigments & Powders

Pearl Ex Powder Pigments

 Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 sparkles)
There are smaller sets of this to buy, of course!  You can also get larger bottles of Pearl Ex pigments. (Pay attention and don't pick up the dyes if you're aiming for sparkly stuff!)
I've mixed the Pearl Ex pigments with Gum Arabic and water to create watercolors.  If you're looking to make  your own iridescent medium? I'd say use the Macropearl, which is more along the lines of the pigment size found in Winsor & Newton and DaVinci's' iridescent mediums.
The other colors are a little harder to mix, But overall work out decently.
Since this is a powder, you can mix it in with other types of media, such as acrylics or oils.

Sennelier Dry Pigments: Iridescent

Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
Out of all their dry pigments, I really could only find one which was iridescent. Sennelier is, in general, a very expensive paint brand, but a little bit does go a long way...

Colourarte Pigments

Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
 I... have no idea how good or bad these are, but the color variety alone is enough to make me want to test these.  They're mica-based, and look all right.

Holographic Nail Powder

 Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 sparkles)
Wait. What?  Why am I including Nail Powder?
This stuff, sparkles like you would NOT believe.  Also, you can mix it with gum arabic and create a suspension that can be applied to illustrations. I haven't tested this long-term to see how it holds up, but to be honest? It's cool for the short term effect!
I mixed this with Qor's watercolor medium.  The pigment does clump up a bit, so I suggest going for a light application.


Winsor & Newton Iridescent Medium

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
This was my introduction to sparkly art supplies. Before this, I'd expected that if you wanted anything to sparkle with your paints, you'd have to go for crafting supplies, or look in the children's section. Man, was I surprised when I saw A.C. Moore had this. So I bought it.
It mixes very well with watercolor and water-based materials, but I wouldn't recommend it for anything like acrylics.

DaVinci Iridescent Medium

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
I picked this up as a recommendation from my friend Sammi. This comes in a jar, rather than a bottle. It's... Kinda like sparkle goop. Highly effective sparkle goop.
I like working with it - since its got a higher viscosity than the Winsor and Newton medium, you can really pick it up with your brush and spread it around thickly if you need.

American Journey Iridescent Medium for Watercolors

Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
From what I've heard, the American Journey line of art supplies is really quite good -- I just haven't had a chance or reason to buy from Cheap Joe's in a while.


Artist's Loft Fundamentals Pearlescent Watercolor Pan Set

Rating: ✗ (Nope.)
Honestly? I didn't like these at all. In my experience, these dried with kind of a chalky finish -- which I will wholly attribute to the base pigments having filler to them. Unfortunately, I don't personally have any swatches of these, but I do know someone who swatched them...

Finetec Coliro Metallic Paints

Rich Pearl Set
Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
These paints look lovely, but I honestly haven't had a chance to play with them! I should get my hands on them, as they're highly recommended by Becca.

Also available openstock from Paper and Ink Arts.

Zig Kuretake Watercolor Palette

Rating: ✨✨ (2 Sparkles)
Firstly: These paints are super similar to the Jacquard Pearl Ex Watercolor CD set I picked up in 2012.  These are SMALL cases, but holy crap, they go a long way!
These paints are best layered over another color
The only reason these get 2 out of 3 sparkles is because of the size -- they're too small to pick up a lot for a wide wash (unless you're stubborn), but great for small details.  Would recommend picking up.

Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor

Rating: ✨✨ (2 Sparkles)
You can find these all over at Michaels, A.C. Moore, and other craft stores!  They're not bad, especially for the price.  The paints are somewhat transparent, and also work very nicely on their own as opposed to layered on top of another color.

H20's by Colourarte - Shimmering Watercolors

Rating: ✱ (Haven't used)
Formerly: Twinkling H20's Shimmering
I used these in their circular jars back in 2012.  I was rather harsh on them -- when made wet, they didn't entirely dry, and stayed gummy for a long time. I also wasn't fond of how they separated when exposed to a lot of water.  They are extremely sparkly, and you get a lot of pigment with them.  They're re-releasing them as pans (and perhaps with a different formulation), so I must mark them as "untested" as I don't know how these changes will affect them.

Daniel Smith Luminescent Watercolors

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
These are GREAT.  The duochrome colors are some of my favorite -- their iridescence produces a color shift.  Many colors have a base pigment to go along with the mica sparkles (such as electric blue), but they do have plain interference colors.
My only complaint is sometimes, older tubes separate out into gum arabic and pigment, but... eh.
I would link Daniel Smith's site, but it is unbearably slow.

Turner Acryl Gouache

Rating: ✨✨ (2 Sparkles)
The colors you're looking for in Turner's line are the "Lamé" colors. These are acrylic based, so please don't go into this expecting that they will behave like watercolor. I've tested these by brushing them over marker and watercolor pieces -- they work very nicely! The glitter's a little big, though, so it feels slightly clumpy.  If you're an artist who uses acrylics or gouache, these will probably be quite pleasing.


This is a section which is very, very broad. There's probably too much for me to cover, so I need to stick to a few tried-and-true favorites. You can find more shimmery inks over at Goulet Pens, though!

J. Herbin Inks

1670 Anniversary Ink Series | 1798 Ink - Amethyste de L'Oural
Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
I love these inks! They're great to work with, in any color. My favorites are the Ural Amethyst, Emerald of Chivor, and Cypress Carob. Several of the colors express shading characteristics as well as being shimmery, and are great for washes (as well as writing and drawing).

Diamine Shimmering Inks

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
There are a lot of colors of these inks -- and they either come with a gold or a silver sparkle, which you can tell based on the cap color. I enjoy playing with these, especially since most of the colors shade very nicely.

FW Pearlescent Acrylic Inks

Rating: ✨✨✨ (3 Sparkles)
These acrylic inks trend from sparkly/iridescent to more metallic, with pastel colors leaning towards sparkle.  Some colors, such as Birdwing Copper, include an interferance color note, making thm slightly iridescent.  These are acrylic, so while they can be mixed with other media, such as watercolor, once they're applied they're permanent.  (Note: Added by Becca)


If you're looking for digital supplies - I strongly suggest you check out my FREE Photoshop brushes. Because, y'know, I make sparkly things.
Alternatively, you can check out my webcomic, Linked.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nashville Cherry Blossom 2018

This Saturday is Nashville's Cherry Blossom Festival, downtown at the Nashville Public Square!  The Festival is hosted by the Japan-America Society of Tennessee, Inc, and is part of Japan Week, which begins with MTAC and ends with the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Highlights include the Cherry Blossom Walk, activities for kids of all ages, suit sumo wrestling, the Pups in Pink Parade, and a cosplay contest, as well as vendors and artists selling all sorts of food and goods!

Due to the success of last year, I'm going to have a tent at the Festival!

Last Year's Setup (Look for something similar to this)

New this Year!

Handpainted handfans to keep you cool while the weather heats up!

Cherry Blossoms

Plum Blossoms
And I'll have one more design finished by Saturday!

I'll also have:

Copies of 1001 Knights, a lady knight anthology (Volume 3)
7" Kara
Lilliputian Living
Favorite Fictional Femmes
31 Days Under the Waves
Magical Girl March

Cute things!
Handpainted wooden charms
Mini prints

This is a free, all ages event open to the public, so if you're in the area, you should swing by!

For more information about the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, check out their homepage.

Interactive Directions: 

Nashville Public Square is located at 4508 Price Circle Rd, Nashville, TN 37205

Monday, April 09, 2018

Blending, Layering, and Glazes for Pages- Watercolor Basics

The majority of time spent on a watercolor comic page is spent applying layers, blending, and applying glazes.  These three techniques are very simple to learn, and while they do take some practice to master, can yield impressive results with just a short amount of study.  Blending, layering, and glazing results can vary with the paper you use- for best results, I've found 100% cotton rag papers to be your best bet, but you can achiever fairly masterful results even on inexpensive cellulose papers.

We utilize these techniques in standalone illustrations as well as individual panels to develop interest, establish lighting, and build contrast.

The order of operations for best results on cellulose watercolor papers are:

  • Blending (wet into wet)
  • Layering (wet over dry)
  • Glazing (wet over dry, color over final layers)
In today's post, I have a selection of short tutorials that demonstrate these techniques.  If you would like to see any technique covered in more detail, either as a video or as a post, please let me know via the Contact Form on the left hand side of this blog.  The example comic pages are from Chapter 7 of 7" Kara.

The materials for blending, layering, and glazing are pretty straightforward

  • Clean Water
  • Soft Brushes
  • Paper towels or sponges


Illustration painted on Canson Heritage 140lb cotton rag cold press paper. 

Blending is a wet into wet technique that works best when the paper is damp and receptive, but not saturated.  Blending techniques can result in paper buckling if you're working with unstretched, unsecured paper.  For multiple layers of blended techniques, or larger scale blends, I recommend working with papers that are 140lb or heavier.

Quick Wet into Wet Watercolor Techniques:

Painting Seagrass- A Wet into Wet Painting Tutorial:

Painting a Starry Sky in Watercolor:


Illustration completed on Fluid 100 cottonrag paper.

Layering is a wet over dry technique that works best if the paper is dry before the next layer is applied.  If the paper no longer has a surface sheen and is not cool to the touch, it's dry enough to layer.  Even if the surface is somewhat cool to the touch, unless the paper is saturated from prior layers, you can probably layer.  Layering techniques work well on cellulose and cotton rag paper, and are a commonly used technique to develop depth, color, and volume.

The Eyes Have It- Blends and Layering in Watercolor:

Let's Paint a Succulent- Watercolor Tutorial

Negative Painting Demonstration:

Developing Lighting and Color Through Layering:

Basic Lighting and Contrast:

Basic Lighting and Contrast: Painting a Cube:

Basic Lighting and Contrast: Lighting a Sphere:

Basic Lighting and Contrast:  Lighting a Cone:

Basic Lighting and Contrast: Lighting a Cylinder:


This illustration was painted on Union Square Cold Press watercolor paper, a cellulose paper.

Glazing is used in a variety of ways.  From adding shadows to adjusting color to lighting effects, glazing can be a helpful technique to know, but it requires discretion.

For glazing, I recommend you use a very soft brush, such as a squirrel hair brush.  Stiffer bristle brushes, including synthetics, can disrupt prior layers of paint.  I also recommend only applying a single layer of glaze to an area, as colors can quickly become muddy.

Glazing tends to work best on cotton rag papers with a fair amount of surface texture, but can work well on cellulose papers if handled with care.

Glazing Demonstration- Watercolor Tutorial:

I hope these tutorials and examples have been helpful for learning the basics of my three favorite techniques!  If you guys would like to see any other techniques covered in depth, don't hesitate to chat me up on Twitter or email me!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider joining the Artnerd community over on Patreon.

Artnerds make content like this possible through financial and emotional support.  In return, they get early access to Youtube content, as well as backer exclusives created just for them!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Our Artist Scholarship: NATTO (National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity)

In keeping with our goal to provide egalitarian art education, we're pleased to continue the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity scholarship. Sponsored by Joseph Coco, and hosted by comic artist Becca Hillburn, the NATTO scholarship will give three student artists a financial opportunity to fund their pursuit of art education.  Open to anyone interested in taking classes.

This year, we're shaking things up a bit. Last year, we received so many wonderful portfolios, it was difficult to pick just one winner. So we're going to give three aspiring art students—high school, college, or postgraduate students—funds to help pay for tuition, materials, or books. This scholarship is applicable to both in-person and online art education.

First place- $1000
Second place- $500
Third place- $250

You can apply for the NATTO scholarship here

art scholarship graphic, art scholarship, scholarship for art school, scholarship for art students

Last year's winner was Eliana Falcon, the creator of Cosmic Fish, a beautiful digital webcomic.  We asked Eliana to share a little about her experiences with the NATTO Scholarship

Because of the Natto Soup Scholarship, I’m able to continue my studies and improve my comic and freelancing career. Although I was greatly delayed due to hurricane Maria back in September, and only recently was able to get back on my feet, I’m still eager to finally be able to pursue continued education using online and local courses now that things have normalized. I genuinely cannot thank Becca and John enough for the opportunity, their understanding, and giving artists this push to continue to try harder and improve.

The funds for this scholarship were donated by Joseph Coco, who also handled the arrangements with Going Merry. Promotion, portfolio, and essay assessment will be handled primarily by me, Becca Hillburn.

"I set up a small scholarship fund (on behalf of +Becca Hillburn) called the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity. It's for any artist interested in sequential art (comics, animation, storyboards) who wants to study art in college (undergrad or grad). You can apply if you have an online portfolio before July 1st, and should expect to hear back sometime in July. You don't need to be the best to win, so if you're on the fence about submitting, please do and help spread the word if you have any artists in your life. College is too expensive, so here's hoping I can help an artist not go into too much debt."

Joseph Coco

What is Going Merry? GoingMerry is a new company which hopes to not only simplify and aggregate the process of applying for scholarships, but also to allow individuals and corporations to easily create scholarships. Its founders are courteous people who were fed up with the existing hunt-and-peck system of applying for scholarships and saddened by the number of students required to reject college acceptance letters due to financial concerns.

Who can apply? Anyone looking to return to school or resume education with a strong interest in sequential art—comics, children's books, animation, storyboarding.

What schools are eligible?  Any school with an art program, including online art courses such as Schoolism.
However, this is not for one off, inexpensive online education services like Skillshare. As an example of eligible schools, check this list. Applicable MoMa classes and SVA classes, as well as Watts Atelier would also be acceptable, as well as local community college classes.

What we're looking for:
A portfolio of work (hosted through a website, do not send us images) with up to 12 pieces of art.  Portfolio should include examples of sequential work, but this is not necessary for submission. Some example free portfolio sites include: DA Portfolio; Webflow; Tumblr.

A short essay of no more than 500 words on the type of sequential art you hope to make or to continue making in the future. Please mind spelling and grammatical errors when submitting through Going Merry.

Deadline: June 30th, 2017

How to apply:
  1. Go to
  2. Click "Apply Now", enter your e-mail address and click "Notify Me"
  3. You will receive an e-mail shortly after from our host site, Going Merry. Please click on the invitation link in the e-mail.
  4. This will take you to a sign up page. Complete the information on there and click "Sign Up"
  5. Go to "Qualified Awards" and select the National Art and Trade Tuition Opportunity Scholarship.
I'm having trouble submitting:
Going Merry has a brief waiting list for account creation, but they have been responsive to any issues which arise. They can be contacted through email via

Monday, April 02, 2018

Recent Watercolor Illustrations

February and early March were busy months for watercolor!  Between Chinese New Year, celebrating the one year launch anniversary for 7" Kara, ALAC submissions, and a few field tests, I did a lot of painting late winter.  I don't share my art here often enough, so here are a few of my favorite watercolor or watercolor-esque pieces.

Chinese New Year Watercolor Illustration

This illustration was a gift to friends hosting a small Chinese New Year party.  I wanted something simple but cute to give as thanks for inviting us.

Check out the process!

One Year Launchiversary Illustration
kidlit art, watercolor illustration

For this piece, I asked my Artnerds what they wanted to see, and a resounding number voted for Pancake the kitten under a stack of pancakes.  The end result is undeniably cute!

Check out the process!

Launchivesary/Mijello Field Test

Check out the process!

ALAC Submission Illustrations

ALAC (a librarian conference) is going to be in New Orleans this year, so of course, I had to put in!  I really wanted to knock it out of the park with my auction submission, so I created two pieces and allowed my Twitter friends and Artnerds to vote on which they preferred.

Read to Your Pets
watercolor, kidlit art

Curled Up in a Good Book
Cajun Night Before Christmas, watercolor, kidlit art

Process videos coming to Youtube soon!

Holbein Field Test Piece
Holbein field test, Holbein watercolors, flowercrown, cute girl, watercolor

Process videos coming to Youtube soon!

Pentel Brushpen Tests

On Strathmore Watercolor Paper
Pentel Brushpens on watercolor paper

On Canson Mixed Media Paper

Process Videos coming to Youtube soon!

Sennelier Watercolor Field Test
Sennelier watercolor, kidlit art

Kabocha sent a small testing set of Sennelier Artist Grade watercolors as an early birthday present (as well as a lovely 8"x8" pad of Arches cold press), and I had to get field testing!


Full review and tutorial coming soon!

I hope you guys enjoyed my watercolor tour for late winter!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Con Announcement- MTAC 2018

Hey friends!  I'm going to be at MTAC this upcoming weekend, in Nashville, TN!

I'll have:
Copies of 7" Kara Volume 1
Preview Pages from Volume 2
1001 Knights Volume 3

Mini Comics:
Lilliputian Living
Magical Girl March
Favorite Fictional Femmes

Cute Stuff:
Mini Prints
Handpainted Wooden Charms

As well as mini fandom watercolors and original watercolors for sale.  I'm going to take commissions for Pencil and Inked Commissions until Sunday, and Mail in Commissions all weekend!

Brand New Mini Watercolors:
Deku, BNHA, Boku no Hero Academia, My Hero Academia
Deku- BNHA

Froppy, BNHA, Boku No Hero Academia, My Hero Academia

Bakugo, BNHA, Boku No Hero Academia, My Hero Academia
Bakugo- BNHA

Card Captor Sakura, CCS
Sakura-Card Captor Sakura

Magi Puella Madoka Magica, Madoka, Madoka Kaname

Voltron, Voltron fanart, Hunk, Hunk fanart
Hunk- Voltron

Keith fanart, Voltron fanart

Lance fanart, Voltron fanart, Lance, Voltron

Allura fanart, Voltron fanart, Allura, Voltron
Allura- Voltron

Pidge fanart, Voltron fanart, Pidge, Voltron

Shiro fanart, Voltron fanart, Shiro, Voltron

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lilliputian Portraits from Launch Anniversary

As you guys know, February 10th marked the one year anniversary for 7" Kara's webcomic debut.  To celebrate, I hosted a livestream on Youtube full of giveaways- including an opportunity for viewers to submit a photo or reference to have themselves or their characters drawn as Lilliputians in Kara's world.  Below are the resulting portraits- sketched in blue pencil and inked.  Keep an eye on my channel for the upcoming timelapse process videos!

Portrait from reference

Shelby, an adorable tiny

Kabocha's Aster and Fox, from the webcomic Linked 

Mharz's Big Sis, from the comic The Angel with Black Wings

Nisa's beautiful OC, Solas

Respheal's Conan, from the comic Galebound

Character from Toefield’s mini comic

Diane’s Nikolai

Huge thanks to everyone who sent in reference and hung out during the stream!  You guys made it a blast.