Monday, December 29, 2014

Using Pinterest as a Reference Tool

Many artists, myself included, work from reference on a regular basis.  Even when I'm working on original comics with original characters, I still need to source reference- it can inspire the story, give authenticity to environments and characters and settings, and make my job as an artist a bit easier.  Over the years, I've amassed a huge collection of reference for different stories- usually squirreled away on harddrives, never to be used again.  Rather than hunt through reference hordes, I've started utilizing Pinterest to help me organize my images.

Pinterest can be searched (like an image search), uploaded to (by 'pinning' existing images on the internet, or uploading your own through the smartphone app), and organized (like a pinboard on your wall).  While Pinterest has a variety of uses to the artist, the one I'm going to focus on is utilizing Pinterest to organize your reference materials, negating the need for keeping them on your computer.  By using Pinterest to organize your inspiration and reference, you have access to your reference anywhere you have computer or smartphone access, making it easy to work on the go.  The more you pin, the more Pinterest can find things you might be interested in- every time you pin something to a board, Pinterest shows you similar boards to explore.  When you find something you want to explore further, but don't want to lose your original train of thought, simply right click and open it in another tab.  If you're interested in a blow-by-blow in using Pinterest for the first time, you can check out this Wiki How.

I've started using Pinterest to help me collect and organize reference and inspiration for 7" Kara.  I have image boards for individual characters clothes, the dollhouse Kara's family lives in, and even a general inspiration board.  Using Pinterest to help organize my images frees up space on my phone (I often screencap inspiration as I come across it while reading my feeds), and hopefully I can start clearing my hard drives of Kara stuff.  This central location for reference makes it easier for me to find what I'm looking for, or for inspiration to strike.

Not everything on my Pinterest boards was uploaded by me from my reference stash.  I also utilize Pinterest to find inspiration and reference.  While Pinterest is no replacement for Google and Google Images, it can be a great tool if you're looking for specific things.  If your search is on Pinterest, it's even easier to add inspiration to your boards, and it's easy to share your finds with others.  This can be done in a number of ways- adding a widget to your site, adding other users to your boards so they can pin as well, or simply emailing your pins to others.   For example, I set up a Paracord crafts board that both my mom and I can post to.  This enables us to easily send ideas.

For example, when creating a board for Naomi (a young teenage girl whom Kara befriends), I searched for things like:

"modest clothing for teenage girls"
"sundresses for teenage girls"
"stylish clothes for teens"
"natural hairstyles for girls"


This is the overview of my personal Pinterest, including all the boards I have, both secret and public.  Since it's on my phone, there isn't much of an overview for you guys, but you can see how I break things down.

The board for Kara's house inspiration includes dollhouses and miniature construction, as well as crafts and furniture I think would suit their home.

Meldina's inspiration board includes clothes and hairstyles.  Terms I used to seed this board included 'mori girl' and "Gunne Sax"

Overview of my character boards from my phone

Possible Uses for Pinterest As a Reference Tool

Creating Boards to Serve as Inspiration for Individual Characters
Consider including:
  • Clothing reference
  • hairstyles
  • physical appearance
  • poses
Creating Boards to Serve as Reference and Inspiration for Locations and Settings
Consider including:
  • Upload your own reference photos
  • Pin photos from Google
  • Searching Pinterest's travel board
  • Searching terms related to the location you have in mind
Installing the Pinterest button in your toolbar to make pinning easier as you search, so there's no need to even save the images to your computer in the first place.  I also use the Pinterest app on my phone to take photos of things I seen in real life and upload them to the intended board.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Card Showdown: Shutterfly Vs Snapfish


My Snapfish cards arrived in a sturdy, Snapfish branded cardboard box.

On top were two of Snapfish's cards- a print order card detailing the order and an advert card.

Underneath the adverts were my cards and their envelopes.  I'd ordered 55 Snapfish cards, paying 98 cents per card.

The interior of the cards are entirely blank with an untreated stock.

The back of the card includes my avatar and a little seasonal greeting, in addition to Snapfish's logo.

The cards are fairly large- 5"x7" and the print job is decent enough, although it skews a bit yellow.


My Shutterfly cards arrived in an orange cardstock Shutterfly envelope, similar to what my shopping bags came in a few months ago, but unfortunately I neglected to take a photo of it.

Like the Snapfish cards, they came with an order card which doubled as an advertising card.  The Shutterfly cards are a bit smaller by a quarter inch top and sides.

 The big difference between the cards (besides sides and price) is that Shutterfly allowed for an interior image as well.  I opted to do the sketch from the cover.

 Like the Snapfish cards, I was able to put my avatar and a seasonal tagline on the back of the card.  Also like Snapfish, I don't have the option of skipping out on Shutterfly's logo, nor did it give me a discount on the final price.

Head to Head Comparison

Snapfish cards are to the right, Shutterfly's to the left.

 Snapfish cards- 98 cents each, Shutterfly cards- 60 cents per card.  Snapfish cards are larger, in this instance, the Shutterfly cards were more true to original colors. 

 Snapfish cards are entirely blank inside.  Shutterfly cards allow for interior images, but have a slightly glossy finish on the inside.  If you're writing with a gel pen, give it a minute to dry.

 For both brands, the back of the card allows for a small image and a tagline.  Both brands put their logos on the back, with no option to skip their logo for your own.  I personally dislike this, as people not familiar with your work might assume Snapfish/Shutterfly provided you with these images.


NOTE:  Both sets of cards were purchased using email deals.  In general, I think both companies are too expensive to purchase from without a discount or deal.  If you're interested, check out SlickDeals or consider signing up for their emails.

Snapfish- 5"x7", Printing on front and back, Snapfish includes their branding,- 98cents per card,55 cards total

Shutterfly- 4 3/4"x 6 3/4", Printing on front, left interior, and back, Shutterfly includes their branding -60 cents per card, 10 cards total

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mixing Copic Marker and Watercolor

I'm attending a craft fair in New Orleans this Saturday at the Main Branch Library on Loyola.  Since it's a craft fair, not a comic or anime convention, I wanted to make sure I had some general interest pieces on the table.  I've been making little floral watercolors off and on for about a year now, and I thought this would be an excellent time to do another batch.  I really enjoy being able to offer affordable original art, and these little pieces serve double duty- I make stickers and buttons from the scans, and can sell the originals.

For these I utilize Copic markers and traditional pan watercolors, as well as white gouache for highlights.  I render the base colors of the flower first in Copic marker, adding in shadow and additional color with the watercolors.  Since Copics are much more vibrant and saturated than most watercolors, this results in vibrant, clear pieces that aren't muddy.  I don't have to worry about the red in the camellia reactivating when I shade with greens or blues, nor do I have to worry about the green of the leaves bleeding into the red if both are wet.

Working with both Copics and Watercolors is fairly easy.  I ink pieces with Bombay Ink or Sol K ink and allow them to dry for 24 hours.  Bombay Ink is waterproof but not necessarily Copic proof- a heavy application of ink will reactivate once the alcohol based marker passes over.  Sol K is Copic proof, but not necessarily waterproof- again, heavy applications of ink will reactivate.  However, if you let them dry fully, the reactivated ink smears will be minimal, and easily hidden once you apply color.

After the ink has dried and I've erased the pencil carefully (leftover pencil will smear once you go over it with Copic, and can ruin your marker's nib), I start applying the Copic.  Whenever I work with Copic, I try to work from light to dark, applying a base layer of color down to prevent streaking and to saturate the paper.  Watercolor paper like Fluid takes marker really well, but it's thirsty and can dry your markers out.

Once I'm satisfied with the Copics, I start watercoloring.  I basically just watercolor in shadows- complimentary colors to neutralize, indigo or violet hues to cool things down.  If a color isn't intense enough, I'll add additional layers with watercolor, since the waterbased pigment wont reactivate the alcohol based pigments/dyes.  Once I've finished adding watercolor layers and they've dried, I can add highlights and details with gouache.

The shadows on the crocus were originally applied in Copic, and reinforced with purple and indigo watercolor.

 Watercolors can also be used to apply a glaze over lots of colors without risking the colors bleeding.  The yellow orchre tint in the background of the bottle was applied in watercolor after the Copic markers had dried.

I wasn't pleased with the sanguine I applied in Copic, so I went over the area with a scarlet pigment for a richer, redder orange.

The 'water' was applied with watercolor, as were the blue shadows.

The next time I do a batch of Copic and watercolor illustrations, I'll make sure to take some process shots to share with you guys! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Neopiko4 Brush Marker Review

Last year it was alcohol based markers, this year it's all about water and watercolor markers. If you enjoyed this post, please consider checking out my other art supply reviews in my Reviews tab above.  If you would like to purchase a set of Deleter Neopiko 4 watercolor markers for yourself or a friend, please consider supporting this blog financially by using my Amazon affiliate search link for Neopiko 4 markers.

As this blog is completely unsponsored, and I receive no financial compensation from companies to write these reviews, nor do I receive donations from manufacturers, I really depend on the goodwill of my readers.  If you benefitted from this post, please consider contacting Deleter with a link to this post (or any of my other Neopiko product reviews) and your thoughts.  I would also sincerely appreciate it if you sent me an email with your thoughts, questions, or thanks.

Although I use pan and tube watercolors for the vast majority of my illustration, from the ultra portable Sakura Koi for convention watercolors to my carefully assembled palettes for my larger pieces like 7" Kara, Gizmo Granny, or larger commissions, I'm still very much intrigued by the idea of self contained watercolor markers and brush pens.  I've recently reviewed Winsor and Newton's watercolor markers and really liked them, but when I saw a photo on Twitter of a friend's beautiful watercolor illustration with a Neopiko 4 waterbrush, I was very intrigued.  I've reviewed other offerings from Neopiko in the past (the alcohol based marker, Neopiko 2), and I wanted to see how the Neopiko 4's differed from Neopiko 2.

Watercolor Pens I've tested:
Akashiya Sai
Letraset Aquamarker
Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers

Background on Neopiko

Deleter is a Japanese art supply company that specializes in manga making tools like technical pens, sheets of tone, and markers.  Neopiko is Deleter's marker brand, and there are several types of markers available under the Neopiko banner.  This includes:

  • Neopiko Color- an alcohol twin tipped marker similar to a Chromatic marker.
  • Neopiko Line 2- a technical pen available in a variety of colors
  • Neopiko 3- Waterbased pigment ink, waterproof pen.  Light stable.  I have yet to test these.
  • Neopiko Line 3- Revised Neopiko 3 with several improvements
  • Neopiko 4- Deleter's watercolor brush offering.
Neopiko 4's are very comparable to Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brushes in terms of size, construction, and function.

I ordered 4 sets from Amazon, sets A-D, which is the entire Neopiko4 color library

 Colors Available in Neopiko4

Set A
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Powder Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Green

Set B
  • Sky Blue
  • Indigo
  • Fresh Green
  • Navy Blue
  • Brown

Set C
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Ultramarine
  • Purple
  • Dark Brown

Set D
  • Carmine
  • Purple Red
  • Viridian
  • Silver Gray
  • Black

 My Neopiko4's arrived in sturdy plastic cases with a snap closure, and were inserted cap end down.  Each box lists the colors on the front, and shows the entire range available on the back of the box.

Both ends of the brush are color coded, with the brush having a clear plastic cap.  Colors appear very vibrant, and I was worried that the colors would separate once water was added, which is what happened with the Akashiya Sai marlers.

Swatches proved my fears to be mostly unfounded.  Colors remained brilliant and dispersed readily with the addition of water.  Some colors required a little scrubbing to get going, but most flowed freely.

For the most part, the colors were true to the box and the cap.

Neopiko 4 Swatches

Most of these brilliant colors stayed true even with the addition of water, but a few did separate into the base pigments.  Purple and navy blue were the worst offenders, and I was surprised to see that dark brown, purple red, and 'green' stayed true even with the addition of water.  Neopiko4's blend easily with one another (see swatch at top) and layer well.  Once the colors have dried, they can't be easily reactivated with water, which means pieces that utilized layered colors don't turn into a muddy mess.

Testing Neopiko 4

I wanted to test out a variety of painting techniques I utilize often- using water to soften hard edges, using water to achieve lighter tones, mixing on both the paper and on another sheet of paper.  To do this, I prepared a little sketch on Fluid cold press watercolor paper and inked it with Winsor Newton Bombay ink, letting the ink dry for 24 hours before testing.

Harsh edges were easily scrubbed and softened into gradients.

To apply a light blush, I used Carmine on a sheet of cardstock, picking up color with my clean wet brush.  This may have been more effective if I had used a nonabsorbent paper like Yupo as a palette.

When I wanted sharper shadows, I simply applied another layer after the first had dried.

Since Neopiko4's don't reactivate once dry, I was able to blend successive layers of the same color without scrubbing out prior layers.

And since Neopiko 4's browns stay true, you can add water to achieve lighter colors.

I attempted to shade the skin with Purple Red (which is what I'd do when watercoloring), but it was a little too hot to effectively shade.

The Verdict:

On Amazon, a set of 5 Neopiko4 brush pens go for $11-$15, which isn't bad.  They are non refillable, and feature a filament brush, rather than a rubber or felt 'brush' tip.  The filament brush is similar to Pentel Pocketbrush tips and has a lot of snap.

While there is currently no watercolor marker available that completely replaces the need for pan and tube watercolors and palettes, they make an excellent addition to an illustrator's collection, and are often capable of colors and techniques not easily replicated with traditional watercolors.  The Neopiko 4 watercolor brush pens would make an excellent low mess option for the travelling artist, as they don't require much mixing, do not require any more water than a waterbrush holds, and have a shorter drying time than traditional watercolors.  Artists can achieve some mixing directly on the page, or can utilize another sheet of paper (possibly a synthetic, non absorbent paper like Yupo) as a palette.  I do wish that Neopiko offered a blending brush, but clean water and a regular brush worked just fine.  Pigment is not easily reactivated once fully dry, so layers can be achieved without creating a muddy mess, which often happens to me when I overwork a painting.

All in all, despite how similar Neopiko 4 and Akashiya Sai are, the Neopiko 4's perform much better than the Akashiya Sai.  Both were swatched in the same Moleskin Watercolor book (the same swatchbook I use for ALL watercolor swatches, regardless of brand, including pan and tube watercolors), although I did do the demo illustrations on different paper (albeit both were watercolor paper).  I may revisit Akashiya Sai in the future to see if my opinion has changed and to see if I can combine the sets for a wider range.  I hope to utilize Neopiko4's in conjunction with Copic markers and traditional watercolors in the future as well.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Cute Things Come to Those Who Wait: Nattoshop's Cyber Monday Sale

Since it's Cyber Monday for many holiday shoppers, I've got a couple treats to share!

I've got a coupon code for my shop for 20% off your total purchase from the Nattoshop, including the already on sale 7" Kara Volume 1.   Just type in the code mailincoupon at time of checkout!  I have free download codes for Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 if you'd like to give Kara a test-drive before you buy, and this blog is full of information about Volume 1.

7 Inch Kara, 7" Kara, children's comic, comics for kids, all ages comics, great comics for kids

The Basic Stats:

  • 112 total pages
  • The book is 11x8.5" tall
  • Written for children ages 5 and above, but it's intended to be read together with a parent.
  • 72 pages of comic
  • 2 Never before seen chapters
  • Lots of concept art and world-building notes

I've also updated the shop with lots of goodies from this year, all of which can be bought with the 20% off coupon code.  Goodies include:

Nattosoup's Sassy Feminist Buttons, Sassy Feminist Buttons, Sassy Buttons
My Sassy Buttons- lots of glitter, plenty o' sass

Sailor Moon, kawaii, sailor moon ribbon badge, Sailor Moon's Ribbon
Adorable Sailor Scout Ribbons, available in an assortment of Sailor Scouts

Hana Doki Kira, American Shoujo, Shoujo Anthology, American Comic Artists, Female Comic Artists, Comics for Women, Comics for Girls
Hana Doki Kira- the American Shoujo anthology

And lots more adorable things and the code's even applicable towards all levels of commissions!