Thursday, December 31, 2015

November Watercolors

For a long time, I was so busy working on Gizmo Grandma, blog stuff, and convention prep that I found it difficult to find time to work on larger personal pieces.  Of course, it's important to MAKE time, lest you start forgetting your reasons for making art in the first place, as it certainly started to feel for me.  

These two pieces are buffer art for Volume 2- pieces that help accommodate double page spreads, help with chapter spacing, or could be used as section title pages.  When assembling Volume 1, I ended up creating a lot of assets like these last minute, so while working on the chapters that will be published in Volume 2, I've tried to also create additional art.  While I know some comic readers don't care for the inclusion of additional art (it's been referred to as padding), some really appreciate the inclusion, and I tend to fall into the latter camp.  So many self published comics feel a bit anemic compared to the price (due to the high costs of self publishing), I'm happy for any additional comic-related content the creator throws in.

These were painted on Arches Cold Press watercolor paper with Winsor and Newton, Holbien, and Daniel Smith watercolors, using natural hair watercolor brushes.

Below is the design for this year's Christmas Card.  If you'd still like to receive one, albeit post Christmas, please fill out this handy Google form!

Below the cut is a mish mash of painting process!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Target Art Supply Review: Up and Up Watercolors

I've already reviewed Target Up and Up's washable Supertip markers, with interesting results, so it's time to compare and review another Crayola contender- Up and Up's washable watercolors.  These were the only watercolors the Kenner Target offered.  I've checked a couple other Targets since purchasing these, and still haven't found anything other than what Up and Up or Crayola offer, and certainly not anything aimed at a hobbyist or professional artist.

  • 8 Colors total
  • washable
  • dares us to compare with Crayola

The Paints

Up and Up washable watercolors come in a plastic case/palette very similar to the one Crayola's washable watercolors came in.  It includes a brush, but unlike the Crayola case, there are no individual palette wells on the clear plastic top of the case.  The package comes with a paper insert with the product details that's probably intended to be disposable.

The back of the Up and Up washable watercolors case has a sticker that covers washing instructions, a disclaimer that these watercolors were not manufactured by Crayola, the Target promise, a mailing address, and a barcode.

The washing instructions are:

Wash with warm water and mild soap.  Prompt laundering removes stains from cotton, acrylic, nylon, polyester, and blends of these fabrics.  Do not use prewash or bleach.  Repeat if necessary.

The colors included in this set are Black, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, and Brown.

Top:  Crayola Washable Watercolors
Bottom:  Up and Up washable watercolors
 This set is basically just the reverse off the Crayola set, in terms of color order.

Top Brush:  Target Up and Up
Bottom Brush:  Crayola Washable Watercolor 
 The Up and Up watercolor set includes a synthetic brush that has a crimped metal ferrule and a plastic handle.  The brush is really poorly balanced, and is brush end heavy.

Top:  Crayola Watercolors
Bottom:  Up and Up Watercolors
As with the Crayola washable watercolor set, the plastic tray that holds the poured watercolor cakes is removable from the case.

Since Up and Up dares us to compare with Crayola, I've pulled out my 8 color Crayola Washable Watercolor (link) set from the Walmart Art Supply review series.  Already I can see that the pans in the Up and Up set are much smaller than those in the Crayola set, and the colors are in a different order.   The brush comes with a protective cap, and synthetic bristles.  The bristles are held in place with glue or gel, so it'll have to be washed out before using.  The brush looks like it's a size 1, too tiny for little hands.  Honestly, you want to work with as large a brush as possible for what you're doing, and only move down to a smalelr size when you need to put in details.  Working with small brushes from the start not only takes forever to get anything done, but also leads to muddier paintings. The plastic case doesn't have dividers on the lid like the Crayola case has, making it more difficult for young artists to use it as a palette.

The Swatch Test


I did this swatch test using the tiny brush included in the Up and Up set.

You really shouldn't encourage someone to compare your brand to the national standard if your brand is sorta crappy, at least when it comes to these watercolors.  Before slapping on that challenge, did they actually HAVE anyone compare Up and Up washable watercolors to Crayola washable watercolors.  Surely I can't be the first, so let's Google it! (link to google search)

Anyway, when swatching straight from a dry palette, I find the colors to be poorly pigmented and very soapy.  I'm hoping that allowing the water to soak in a bit will result in better pigmentation, as it did with the Crayola washable watercolors.


Pigmentation is a little better, but paint is goopy and soapy.  I am not excited about the field test.

Colors blend very muddy.


What Up and Up and Crayola have in common:

  • Poor pigmentation
  • Soapy as all get out

Where Crayola Excels:

  • Slightly nicer, bigger brush
  • More color
  • Slightly better pigmentation
  • Better color blending

Side by Side Swatch Test (since Up and Up dares us to compare)

Left: Up and Up washable watercolors
Right: Crayola Washable Watercolors

Left: Up and Up washable watercolors
Right: Crayola Washable Watercolors

Colors were applied with brush that came in set.

Although they LOOK about the same in terms of saturation, please keep in mind that I used the Up and Up synethtic fiber brush for the Up and Up watercolors, and you can really gob on the paint with this brush.  The Up and Up green is pretty underwhelming, and the yellow already looks like it was contaminated with green paint (it wasn't).  The brown is very light for a brown, and the only way you can really mix it to get a darker color is to mix black in it.  Both brands are soapy, but you do get more paint with Crayola, and that is actually important, as it takes so much paint to mix colors using water.

The Field Test

Confession: I dun goofed- I grabbed the wrong palette.  Rather than starting all over though, I'm just going to keep working with what I've got.  My apologies.

I am going to use the Target Up and Up watercolors to mix and swatch a skintone on another piece of watercolor paper, since that's an important element of these tests.

It takes SO MUCH paint to mix up any sort of saturation.I keep glopping in more paint from the cakes (its so soapy!), and it hardly changes the color that ends up on the paper at all.  The brown is pretty lackluster too.

Like Crayolas, these paints take forever to dry, so if you're doing your own tests at home, prepare to wait around.

I tried to use the Up and Up skintone mix to darken Kara's skin, and like so many cheap watercolors, instead of layering properly, it made everything look chalky.  I'm going to switch back to Crayola for skintone stuff for this review to prevent that from happening again.

Mixing Skintones from Crayola Washable Watercolors and Up and Up Washable Watercolors

Originally I'd accidentally mixed Kara's skintone with the Crayola washable watercolors, mixing a bit of yellow, brown, and red together (top swatch and Kara's skin).  Since I'd goofed, I wanted to see if I could mix skintones with Target Up and Up washable watercolors as well.  The colors are far less saturated, and it takes a lot more paint to mix colors correctly.  You can mix skintones with the Up and Up washable watercolors, but it's harder to do.

I'd allowed my paints to evaporate a bit overnight, hoping that with less water, the colors would be more saturated.  They are a bit more saturated, but really, what kid (or adult) is going to be patient enough to wait for water to evaporate?

This field test ended up taking much longer than it would have for better brands of watercolor, as the glycerin in the watercolors made the water take a long time to evaporate.  I can only imagine this resulting in frustrating, muddy messes for budding artists.

It's harder to achieve layer delineations with the Up and Up washable watercolors, so if you're trying to build up color, these are not the watercolors for you.

The Verdict

Left:  Target Up and Up Washable Watercolors
Right:  Crayola Washable Watercolors

I feel like I shouldn't have to tell adults that purchasing a set of Up and Up washable watercolors will probably only lead to disappointment if you intend to use them to attempt to paint seriously.  I've heard people say that cheap art supplies are like training wheels, but that's only true if your training wheels are attached to a bike you can actually ride.  Kid's grade art supplies are more like those bike/scooter hybrids you scoot with your feet- you THINK you're learning how to ride a bike, but you're still just sitting and scooting.   I'm not sure what you're hoping to learn with these, but you're possibly better off just saving your money for a little longer and getting a set of watercolors that actually perform like watercolors.

If you're an adult purchasing these watercolors for a small child, I recommend you skip these and either get the Up and Up Paintmarkers, which have better pigmentation, or get regular Crayola watercolors.  Neither of those products will perform like the real deal, but if you're a kid who's covering reams of paper with color, performance isn't your priority.

If you're a teenager who's eyeing these because these are all you can afford, or because your younger sibling has a set they aren't using, I recommend you try washable markers instead, and check out my Crayola review, where I show you how to use them like watercolor markers.  Not all brands work for this technique, but so far I know Crayola and Up and Up will.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Target Art Supply Review: Up and Up Washable Markers

Up and Up is Target's 'value basic's' brand- similar to Equate or Great Value for Walmart.  The brand has been around for a few years- it's a redesign of Target's bulls' eye logo, and while I usually avoid store brands for art supply reviews, I thought it'd be wise to explore what Target uniquely offers, especially since my focus during the Walmart Art Supply review series (link) was away from Walmart's store brands, and more on brands I recognized like Crayola or Daler Rowney.

When combing the Kenner Target for art supplies, I had a difficult time checking off all the marks on my checklist without resorting to Crayola.  Target isn't much for art supplies, but there are a few hidden gems I think you guys should check out.  The Up and Up washable markers are one of those.

The Packaging

Information on the back of the package is almost as sparse as the front.  Up and Up dares us to compare their markers to Crayola Washable Classic Markers (but not the more comparable Crayola Supertips, for some reason), promises classic colors and a super tip, as well as vibrant color quality, and provides us with washing and care instructions.

Totally not reusable, the cardboard box is super thin, and was falling apart when I bought it, and has only gotten worse.  Inside is a three tiered plastic tray that does a decent job of holding these markers in place, better than the tray included with the CraZArt markers.  Up and Up's packaging is super generic, but that shouldn't bother me too much- as it's a store brand, generic packaging and boring, repetitive design help keep prices low.

Inside the flimsy cardboard is a three tiered plastic riser.  The plastic riser is a lot more sturdy than the cardboard box, and even a few months later, my markers are still held securely in place, despite me quickly discarding the cardboard box.  While this packaging is far from ideal, you can easily purchase better packaging that can be used long after these markers have run out of ink.

The Markers

Left:  Crayola Supertip
Right: Up and Up washable marker

Top: Up and Up washable Marker
Bottom:  Crayola Supertip

 Up and Up markers are a little shorter than Crayola Supertips, but the barrel size is about the same.
Top:  Up and Up Washable Marker
Bottom:  Crayola Supertip

Top:  Crayola Supertip
Bottom:  Up and Up washable marke

The body screening looks a LOT like the CraZArt markers I reviewed not so long ago during my Walmart Art Supply Review Series.  Cap doesn't post securely on the back, has strange ridges near the edge, probably to help you wedge the cap off the pen.  Up and Up's 'super tip' looks a lot like Crayola's Supertip, and the Up and Up washable markers are shorter than Crayola Supertips.  Big surprise, there are no color names on the markers or on the package, although body screening does match cap color.  In practice, caps can be a bit hard to remove, so the ridged part near the edge of the cap does help in removal, especially given how slick the rest of the cap's plastic is.  With or without cap, markers are very prone to rolling.

The Swatch Test- Up and Up Sketchbook Paper

Surprisingly low streaking, while these markers aren't especially juicy, they aren't dry either.

What's REALLY surprising is that the 'peach' is a pretty decent Caucasian skin tone, far better than Crayola Supertip's peach OR the beige included in the 8 pack of Crayola Multicultural Colors, here's hoping the browns are just as good.

Row 1:

Row 1:  Ink colors are all fairly accurately reflected by cap color.

Row 2: 

In Row 2, I found a pink that also works fairly well as a skintone, or as a blush or shadow to a skintone.  So far, that's two more pale skintones than Crayola has.  And there's another, so that's three, but it looks like there's only one pink, and it's rather fluorescent.

Row 3: 

Row 3 colors are fairly true to cap.

Some of these colors are really weird, and it's a bit hard to pop them in and out of the tiered thing.  There's also an almost-orange in row 2 that could be used for darker skintones that tend to be neglected.  Some of the caps are almost impossible to snap back on, and take a lot of force.  Given that these are marketed at kids, yours may have a hard time recapping these markers.

The Swatch Test- Pacon Marker Paper

There isn't much difference between the Up and Up sketchbook and the Pacon marker paper, in terms of swatching.

The Swatch Test- Canson Biggie Watercolor Paper (Woodpulp based)

Row 1: All of these colors react well to water.
Row 2: All these colors react well to water
Row 3: The black seperates out into grey, red, and blue, the lighter brown seperates a little bit

But as these aren't designed to be watercolor markers, and aren't even intended to be used by adults for illustration, these are minor quirks.

Even when allowed to dry fully, markers are fairly reworkable.  The above swatch was allowed to dry for one hour before water was applied.  The below swatch was allowed to dry a fully 24 hours before water was applied.

Blending out with Tombow ABT

NOTE:  All of these tests were done on wood pulp based, cold pressed watercolor paper.

Works surprisingly well, but applying marker over ABT feels a little greasy?  These will stain your blender's nib, so make sure you clean it off on a clean piece of paper or paper towel.  Even without a blender, these markers can be blended together fairly well.

Blending with Marvy LePlume II Blender

The Marvy LePlume II Blender is generally drier than the Tombow ABT colorless blender, so it may be more difficult to blend.  The LePlume II colorless blender also blends these washable waterbased markers, although since the brush is drier, the paper is more prone to pilling.

In general, the paper (Canson Biggie Coldpress Watercolor- cheap woodpulp watercolor paper works well for waterbased markers, I've found) is less prone to pilling than with

The Field Test

Used as Watercolor Markers

The first peach is very faint when you apply it, it's hard to build up saturation with just one color.  Fortunately, I have a selection of colors that work well as peaches.  These don't work quite as well as the Crayolas as a cheap substitute for watercolor markers, but they aren't bad.  If you want the most saturation, you can apply the marker directly to the paper once the paper has dried, but it may be hard to get that marker to blend out entirely.

Used as Waterbased Markers with Tombow ABT Blender

Since the Tombow ABT blender works decently well with these markers, and since the Up and Up 30 piece set includes some decent skintones, I'm going to do the unthinkable- I'm going to color Kara's skin by applying the marker directly to the paper, rather than cheating like I did with the Crayola test and using the Crayola markers as watercolor markers for Kara's skin.

For some reason, even though the Mitsuo Aida ink has dried for 24 hours, the Tombow ABT Blender smears the ink a bit when I try to blend out the skintone.

Since these markers are much less prone to pilling the paper than the Crayola washable markers, it's very easy to overwork the paper.  You forget that you're working with waterbased markers that require time to dry, and soon you're trying to do layering techniques you'd normally avoid, and you can't understand why things aren't going the way you planned.

None of the blues are light enough to be used to shade the whites of the eyes, and can't be blended out light enough using the Tombow ABT colorless blender.

Even intense colors like red are blendable- apply your first layer of red, blend out into the white using the Tombow ABT colorless blender.  When your first layer is done, you can start laying in shadows with the same red for more intense color.

The darkest shadows can be added in with the darkest red, and blended out using the last red you applied, or using the Tombow ABT.

These markers blend and layer surprisingly well, better than the Crayola Supertip markers do.  Like A LOT better.  I have to assume the ink is made out of something different, it feels a little greasy, and the tip seems to just glide over areas I've already applied color to.

Field Test on Pacon Marker Paper

Pacon's marker paper hasn't performed well with waterbased markers up to this point, and I wanted to see if these magical Up and Up markers would handle any better than their competition did.

Although these markers worked well for the field test on wood pulp watercolor paper, I tried a different tactic for applying shadows for the Pacon paper test- the same technique used to apply shadows for my Crayola Multicultural skintones review.

With a shorter dry time than Crayola markers, you can add additional layers of the same color to build up shadow without tearing or pilling the paper.

Since the blue used in the other field test was too intense for the whites of eyes, I used an aqua that was a bit more subdued.

Pink is added to the cheeks, lips, and inside of Kara's elbows.

Since I knocked in all of her hair at one time, I decided to give it plenty of time to dry before adding another layer, and turned my focus to her shirt.

Once her hair was fully dry, I added another layer of brown, to show highlights.

Applying the first layer of brown to Kara's pants.

And a third layer of brown to Kara's hair, as well as shadows to her eyes and eyebrows.

I ended up blocking in the area I'd left open on the pants- there was too much contrast between the white and the brown to be believable as highlight and shadow.

Using the same aqua I'd used for Kara's eyes and teeth, I apply shadows to the white on her shirt.

As well as the dragonflies' wings.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Up and Up waterbased markers perform well even on Pacon's marker paper, perhaps due to (what I assume is) more glycerin in these markers.  There's some bleed through on this thin paper, but not enough to effect the page beneath, and the markers can be layered more than other waterbased brands.

The Verdict

Top:  Up and Up Markers were used as Watercolor markers (left) and as waterbased markers (right)
Bottom:  Crayola Supertip markers were used as Watercolor markers (left) and waterbased markers (right)  Both markers were used on Fabriano cotton paper for the watercolor marker test, and on Fluid woodpulp based watercolor paper for the waterbased marker test.

These aren't really a replacement to the Crayola Supertip washable markers (I recommend you splurge and go for the 50 pack, it's $7.99 at Walmart), but an addition to your collection as the Up and Up 30 count Washable markers have several colors that are very different from the Crayola set.  The Up and Up set has more colors that work as skintones, both as watercolor markers and as waterbased markers.

These markers aren't nearly as pigmented as the Crayola Washable Supertip markers, but they're far less likely to tear the paper up in dry applications.  They're a bit hard to use for watercolor markers, but they're much better at regularly coloring without pilling or paper destruction.  They layer well, and even blend a little bit, which is really surprising for waterbased markers.  When water is added (like for watercolor markers) they feel soapy and it takes a lot of ink to build up layers of color.  You can use waterbased colorless blenders like Tombow ABT or Marvy LePlume II to blend these markers a pretty significant amount, which is something I have yet to test with other waterbased markers.

Unlike with alcohol based markers, using a colorless blender with Up and Up washable markers spreads surface color to new areas, rather than pushing the color to the back of the paper.  This means you can't really use the colorless blender to lighten up dark areas so much as you can use the colorless blender to darken up light areas.

When I first purchased these markers, I assumed they would just be a Crayola Supertip clone, but these markers held many surprises for me, and I think they'll surprise you too.  Layering, blending, not tearing up the paper with repeated use?  Sounds more like an alcohol based marker than a waterbased marker, and while I'm positive these aren't alcohol based markers, I think there's something besides water and ink in these barrels.

If Crayola markers are giving you a hard time, and you've disliked other waterbased markers you've tried, consider giving Up and Up waterbased markers a shot- they're unlike any other kid-grade waterbased markers I've tested yet.  If you're a convention artist looking for a way to add color to your work without lugging around heavy, expensive alcohol based markers, and you want to skip the wait time of watercolors, these markers might be a great solution to your issue.  If you have a kid in your life who's been eying your alcohol markers, these might make a great, non toxic, very affordable introduction to markers for illustration purposes.  All in all, I highly recommend Up and Up's Washable Markers.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I went back and tested the Crayolas with Tombow ABT, and they work well too.  So if you'd like a little blending to your waterbased markers, consider picking up a Tombow ABT colorless blender.

Other Waterbased Markers I've reviewed

Walmart Art Supply Review- Waterbased Markers (CraZArt and Crayola)
Crayola Multicultural Colors