Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sketching with Markers

Awhile back, I was introduced to the idea of doing an undersketch with markers from Amanda Lafrenais's tumblr (warning: not work safe).  I couldn't find the post that originally inspired me to try it out, but here's one demonstrating the technique.  I've gotten a lot better about not over working sketches while they're still in the blue-line stage (inking my bluelines in my sketchbook has made me a lot more decisive), but the marker is still nice for quickly blocking in shapes.

I didn't want to pull a regular Copic Sketch from my stash, and I'd hoped to modify the Copic to better suit how I sketch, so I opted for a Copic Ciao (cheap!  Doesn't look like the rest of my markers, so it wont get mixed in) and ordered some Medium Round spare nibs, hoping I could replace the chisel nib at the back.

I bought a B000 and a B02.

The Medium Round isn't flexiable and I thought it could give me a decisive line, but alas, the hole for the chisel nib is too small to accomodate the round nib properly.  I don't feel like hacking it either.

This left me with the Super Brush for sketching, since the chisel isn't particularly juicy and doesn't lend itself for easy sketching.  Reworked areas or areas where I applied too much pressure tend to be dark.  It would be easy for this to become an unreadable mush, I suppose I'm just not at the stage where I could go right to inks from here.

If you're lighthanded, you can do a fair amount of refining though.

The B02 is a bit too dark to be really useful for what I wanted, but would be useful for refining very large sketches.  It's probably as dark, if not a little darker than, my nonphoto blue lead.

Put into practice, underdrawing with the Copic's B000 serves a similar purpose to sketching with a color pencil for thumbnails.  It allows me to be fairly loose and get a gesture down, then refine it slightly, which is pretty much what I wanted it for.

The blue lead goes over the Copic marker with no difficulty, and erases cleanly for refinement.  I haven't tried  markering over this light application of blue marker, I suppose that will be happening soon.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Late November Through Mid December Sketchdump

I sat on that last artdump so long that it looks like there's going to be two back to back.  That's fine, it makes me look sorta prolific.

I actually have a lot more sketched in, but I need to finish it out before scanning.

I always seem to ride the fence about whether or not to offer fanart at conventions, particularly prints.  Here's some kid Sailor Scout doodles.

I managed to add my Upcoming Conventions list back to the sidebar, so you may have noticed that I'll be attending FWA this weekend.  I decided it'd be fun to whip up an anthro persona, sorta based on the design I came up with for my AC:NL villager, an axolotl.

A few Kara noodles while I work on Chapter 4.

 Expression Practice Based on Japanese Emoji

I've read that a good expression exercise is to interpret emoji as expressions.  I picked a few of my favorite to interpret.

Alex requested I draw a mountain goat person, so here's a girl and her younger brother.  Their clothes are based on those found in the Himalayas.

And a reindeer girl based on the Sami people that hopefully will become my Christmas card this year (somehow).

And lastly, a little doodle when I was feeling particularly loved.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art Marker Showdown: Copic Sketch vs. Pantone Universe Twin Markers

EDIT: If you enjoyed this review, please consider donating! Donations go towards the purchase of additional art supplies, which may include more markers for testing. If you found this review useful, please consider sharing it on your social networks- If you found this review useful, please consider sharing it on your social networks- a larger audience means I can afford to do things like Kickstart future projects and makes me more attractive to possible publishers.  There's also a handy pocket edition of ALL my marker reviews in a beautiful little 4"x6" photobook.  It's available for $3 in my Nattoshop, and proceeds go towards things like keeping the lights on and buying more markers to review.

As an artist who takes her materials seriously, it still manages to surprise me that people will often pursue 'cute' or trendy materials over those that are useful or effective.  In recent years, Pantone Universe has become a popular consumer brand, with products as far ranging as Christmas Ornaments  to cellphone cases.  Somewhere within this wide range of products exists Pantone Universe Twin Markers, alcohol based twin tip markers color coded by Pantone's exclusive system.  With a little research, I've found that these markers are on the wishlists of Pinteresters and come up regularly on Wanelo, but I have to wonder whether it's due to the merit of the markers themselves or due to the current trendiness of the Pantone Universe collection.

Letraset Pantone Tria vs. Pantone Universe Twin Markers

Pantone Universe Twin Markers isn't Pantone's first foray into the world of alcohol based markers.  Previously, I tested Letraset's Pantone markers, which were also coded on the Pantone Color System.  There isn't a lot of information available about Pantone Universe markers, and I'm assuming that Pantone and Letraset ended their partnership when Pantone decided to start producing their own markers.  Letraset's Pantone Tria markers and Pantone Universe markers are very different in appearance, although fundamentally they serve the same purpose- both are art/illustration markers with alcohol based ink available in a wide range of colors.  Both sets are based upon the Pantone Color Guide, which includes a numerical designation as well as a color name, and in theory, the old Letraset Tria Pantone markers should correspond with the new Pantone Universe Twin markers.

There are some very basic differences between the two Pantone marker iterations.  Letraset's Tria marker is a round, twin tipped marker with a chisel nib and a bullet nib, the Pantone Universe marker has a bullet nib and a brush nib similiar to Copic's Super Nib.  There's a lot of information available about Letraset as a company, and a lot of people have already reviewed Tria and Promarkers.  Tria and Promarkers are refillable and feature replacable nibs, I haven't found any information online as to whether or not Pantone Universer markers are refillable, but I would hazard a guess to say they are not.  Both Promarker and Tria are cheaper than most Copic options, but are still more expensive than the Pantone Universe markers.  I dare say the Pantone Universe Markers will be the least expensive professional art markers I've tested yet.

This inexpensiveness doesn't excite me.  There are plenty of cheap markers available- a stroll through the school supply section at Walmart offers a variety of options under $10.  Cheap does not equate quality when it comes to professional grade markers.  When purchasing markers intended to create quality illustrations, I want markers that provide uniform results, blend well together, and result in as minimal streaking as possible.  In my experience, cheap markers don't promise these results.  That doesn't mean I think that spending copious amounts of money on a marker collection is necessary or even advisable.  It just means that I'm skeptical when it  comes to a low price tag.  Affordablility also doesn't mean ease of access- I've only see the Pantone Universe markers available online.

Pantone Universe Marker Twin Vs. Copic Sketch


Pantone Universe Twin Marker
Price per Marker $1.98 (DickBlick, on clearance  I recommend reading the reviews  before purchasing)

Available individually and in sets
Not refillable
Non-replacable nibs
Not particularly comfortable
150 available colors
Pantone Designations and names
Correspond to other Pantone products, could be used for layouts easily
Color coded cap
'Super' brush
Availability: Amazon, DickBlick (online)
Alcohol based


Copic Sketch
 Price Per Marker: $7.29

    Replacable Nibs
    Comfortable in hand
    358 available number of colors
    Color Name and Family on Cap
    Color Coded cap
    Super Brush
    Can mix own colors, blank markers available
    Availability: limited availability at Michaels, many art supply stores, Dick Blick, Jerry's Artarama, Jetpens, Amazon   
    Available in individual and color themed sets
    Alcohol based
    React to rubbing alcohol and 'blender' fluid
    Can be blended

The Comparison

 This test is my standard for all alcohol based marker comparison tests, and you've already seen it with my Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premiers, ShinHan Twin Touch, FlexMarkers, and Pantone Letraset Tria tests. I test the marker's compatibility with a variety of technical pens (Sakura Micron, Copic Multiliner, Pitt Pen, the waterbased ink found in Akashiya brush pens, the gel ink in Pentel Technica rollerball pens), as well as it's ability to blend and layer (shown on the sphere) and it's ability to mix with the other marker (show in the boxed area).  I also test blender compatibility with the Copic Colorless Blender.

The Pantone Universe Twin Markers left me very unimpressed.  Out of the six markers I ordered,  one arrived dry.  For unused markers ordered directly from a website, this is unacceptable.  I strongly hesitate to blame DickBlick.  When purusing their reviews for the Pantone Universe Twin Markers, I found that a lot of customers receved dry markers, even from sealed sets.  To me, this means the producer of the marker is at fault.

In general I was not impressed with the Pantone Universe Twin Markers.  Not only were they all a bit dry (as compared to the juiciness of a brand new Copic), but there's little way to remedy that as they aren't refillable.  I've read of some bloggers reviving old Prismacolors with alcohol, but that shouldn't be necessary for brand new markers.  Dry markers are difficult to blend, and it's hard to lay down an even field of color with dry  markers.  Pantone's boxy markers are uncomfortable to hold, although they won't roll off your desk, and though the super brush style tip beats a dry chisel or bullet nib, it isn't enough to salvage this twin tip in my eyes.

Pantone Universe Twin Markers are temptingly cheap, but I strongly recommend against giving in and purchasing them.  They don't play well with other markers should you decide to upgrade your collect, they often arrive cheap, and you can't refill them.  Pantone Universe may be trendy right now, but if you have serious intentions about quality marker illustration, there are better alternatives available such as the ShinHan Twin Touch or the MEPXY.  Copic Ciao, Copic's cheapest offering, is available for around $4 a marker, is refillable, features the super brush, and has replaceable nibs.  While it's double the cost of a Pantone Universe Twin Marker, they should last longer and provide more satisfactory results.

PSA: Donation Button

Over the years, I've tested and reviewed a lot of art supplies. It started out as a way to contribute to the comic community while practicing my art skills. When I started, there weren't a lot of blogs that tested art supplies, let alone comic supplies. Sure, individual bloggers might do occasional tests, but the majority of reviews were provided by pen and stationary enthusiasts. While these reviews were insightful, we were very often interested in very different results. I really enjoy reviewing art supplies, but it tends to be expensive to do comprehensive reviews, and my disposable income has dried up for the most part. Recently, money has been tight enough that the only reviews I can afford are Art Snacks reviews, especially since Nashville, TN doesn't have the most forward-thinking (or exciting) art supply stores for comic artists.

If you enjoy or utilize my art supply reviews, there are two ways you can help! You can purchase a commission, comic, charm, or button from my Nattoshop, or you can do a micro donation via the handy 'Donate' button to the right hand of the screen. I would love to do another large scale review similar to my alcohol-based marker tests, but I need the funds to do so! I currently have the materials to do a large scale high-quality eraser review, but I haven't found the time to set it up. Other products I'm slowly collecting for large scale testing include sketching fountain pens, and I'd like to continue testing white correctional inks. If there's a product you'd like to see tested, feel free to suggest it. Your donations could help make that review possible.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sketching with Pencil Colors

For someone who likes traditional media as much as I seem to, I don't really use pencil colors for much more than detailing on marker or watercolor pieces.  I sketch with a black Blick pencil color fairly often, but it rarely progresses farther than messy noodling.  I used Prismacolors fairly often during undergrad, but I was never really proficient with them.

I've upgraded to Caran d'Ache Pablo pencil colors since undergrad- they're clay based, not waxed based, and melt slightly when water is applied to them (really useful for watercolor).

I set up my Christmas tree yesterday, and thought a white Christmas tree on black paper might be easy enough to sketch with little underdrawing.

So I started with a very loose sketch, and began filling out the branches.

 Next came the star.  It's a tinsel light up star in turquoise.

 It has silvery tinsel on the outside.  After the star, I started sketching in the ornaments.  I sorta lamented how sparsely I decorated the three this year, since there wasn't a lot of variety in my ornaments.

Several steps get combined for this photo.  First I drew in my pom-pom garland--tiny little balls of color.  Then I added details to my ornaments- shadows and highlights.  Then I added the lights- first little spirals of yellow, then a dot of white in the middle.

Noodling with pencil colors was a lot of fun, and the darkness of the paper really makes the pigments pop.

In case I forget to tell you guys, I hope you all enjoy your wintery holidays!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Post Nekocon Sketchdump

Before I head back to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share with you some sketches done after Nekocon.  These are in no particular order.

EDIT:  WHOOPS!  This is kinda late, I got busy with work and lost track of time.