Monday, January 04, 2016

SketchBox Vs ArtSnacks- January 2016

Thanks to Denise Hillburn (my mother) for the gift of ArtSnacks for the year!  SketchBox Basic subscription purchased by me out of personal funds.  If you would like to help support this blog, and continue posts like this, please consider donating to my Paypal, or contributing to my Patreon.  Future unboxings and reviews will be unlocked to the public at the $15 level each month, but backers have access regardless of funds raised.  If you would like to see me review a SketchBox premium box, please consider gifting a subscription.

A couple years ago, I purchased an ArtSnacks subscription to review here for you guys.  I am a sucker for blind boxes, and an even bigger sucker for art supplies, so I couldn't resist checking back in with ArtSnacks to see if they've changed over the years.  Of course, I had to up the ante, so I added SketchBox to the roster as well.

As a Christmas present, my mom kindly bought me a year's worth of ArtSnacks (thanks Mom!), and I purchased a year's worth of SketchBox Basic for myself.  This first comparison review is free, but subsequent reviews will be unlocked only after my Patreon has hit the very modest goal of $15 a month, so if you enjoy this kind of content, please become a subscriber.  By subscribing to my Patreon, you not only unlock content for other readers, but you'll receive backer only reviews, tutorials, Livestreams, and more.  Your subscription helps me purchase additional supplies for review, funds tutorials, and goes towards helping me earn a living wage for my efforts.  If we can't hit $15 in a month, then subscribers will have exclusive access to that month's blog post and video reviews.

When determining the value of the boxes, I do not factor in promotional materials (stickers, postcards, cards) or the cost of the 'snack' as these are items used for promotional purposes of the boxes, and are not art supplies.

At the time of posting, this post is still missing the videos of both field tests.  The videos have been recorded- just waiting on editing and uploading.  While you wait, why not check my Reviews tag for the other ArtSnacks unboxings?

SketchBox: $25mo/$240 yr
ArtSnacks: $20mo/$200 yr

January SketchBox Basic includes:

12 piece Art Alternatives watercolor pencils and brush
2 Derwent Aquatone woodless watercolor pencils
1 Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor Brushpen

January ArtSnacks includes:

Wink of Luna
Marvy LePen Permanent (alcohol based)
Krink Acrylic Dauber
Faber Castell Poly Matic

SketchBox Vs. ArtSnacks January 2016 Comparison-Nattosoup


This month's brands are KRINK, Marvy Uchida, Kuretake (Zig) and Faber-Castell.

You can learn more about Krink
You can learn more about Marvy Uchida
You can learn more about Kuretake, and Wink of Luna here
You can learn more about Faber-Castell here

The Unboxing

ArtSnacks Unboxing January 2016- Nattosoup

Artsnacks, art box
My January 2016 ArtSnacks subscription box
 My box is a bit marked up, as I'd written down product prices and websites for easy reference.

From left to right:  Informational card, promotional vinyl stickers.  Faber-Castell Poly Matic Mechanical Pencil, Zig Wink of Luna, Marvy LePen Permanent, KRINK K-60, DumDum (snack)

 On the card:
Here's what's on the menu for January:
Faber-Castell Poly Matic Mechanical Pencil
$8.49 retail

Kick off the new year with the perfect mechanical pencil!  The Faber-Castell Poly Matic Mechanical Pencil guarantees a comfortable drawing, sketching, and note-taking experience. Its body holds 0.7mm lead and a twist-out eraser at the top of the pencil.  You can't miss the Poly Matic's colorful textured body when searching for the right pencil- this one is a winner.

Wink of Luna by ZIG
$9.00 retail

Staff Favorite The Wink of Luna by ZIG has left us in awe at how innovative brush pens can be.  Uniquely designed to resemble a cosmetic product, the Wink of Luna will make your artwork pop on any paper.  You'll fall in love with the metallic finish and soft nylon brush tip.  To get the ink flowing properly, remove the safety ring from the middle of the pen, then recap.  Shake the pen to loosen up the ink, then lightly squeeze the white part of the body.  Ink will gradually flow through the flexible brush tip.

*Please note:  The Wink of Luna is NOT a cosmetic product and should not be applied to the skin.  (It looks so much better on paper anyways.)

Le Pen Permanent by Marvy (Uchida)
$1.50 retail

Illustrators, designers, and doodlers UNITE!  We've got an awesome new pen for your imaginative drawings!  The Le Pen Permanent by Marvy is made for everything: fine line work on finished drawings to writing on tough surfaces (think plastic and metal objects).  This pen will work perfectly alongside the lines created by the Wink of Luna or the KRINK K-60.

Becca's Note:  This is an alcohol based permanent pen, and will not properly work with alcohol based markers.

$15.00 retail

Developed by an alternative street artist in San Francisco, the KRINK K-60 holds pure paint pigments and a whole lot of attitude.  Known as the world's quickest growing art supply line, KRINK has become a global brand for emphasizing your style, no matter what kind of artist you are.  The K-60 is KRINK's best-selling marker, due to the iconic drip effect it creates when dragged across a vertical surface.  This paint marker is capable of writing on multiple types of materials, rough or smooth, while still providing a thick paint flow.

Take the ArtSnacks Challenge!

Use all of the products in your box to create an original piece of art.  Snap a picture of your artwork and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram with the hashtag #artsnackschallenge
Insert unboxing video

The Field Test

Insert field test video

A little playing around shows that the Marvy Le Pen Permanent is not alcohol-marker safe (not surprising, given this permanent marker is alcohol based).  The Wink of Luna is opaque but somewhat water soluble, and if you add water fast enough, you can even use it for a neat ink wash effect, which I'll demonstrate in the field test

While transcribing the included card, I discovered that artists like the K-60 for it's drip effect, and I knew I had to play around with that.  This caused me to rethink my color scheme entirely (originally I was going to use spot pink details, and use the green Wink of Luna as inkwash all over).  Getting drips is very easy, but the acrylic will take awhile to dry.  I'd set my Strathmore Visual Journal watercolor sketchbook in front of a fan for about an hour, and the paint still hadn't dried entirely.  The K-60 also has a very strong smell, stronger than any of the alcohol based markers I've reviewed, so if you have a sensitive nose, please be careful and work in a ventilated area.

I believe the KRINK K-60 has alcohol as a drying aid, as it reactivates the Marvy LePen Permanent.  This isn't a huge deal, I can tighten up the lines after the piece is entirely done.

NOTE:  Due to the fast turnaround on this post, I'm still waiting for the ArtSnacks Challenge process video to be edited and uploaded.  My apologies.

The Finished Piece

The Breakdown

Wink of Luna- $9.00 on Jetpens
Marvy LePen Permanent (alcohol based)-$1.20 on Jetpens
Krink Acrylic Dauber (K-60)- $15.00 on the Krink site
Faber Castell Poly Matic- $9.95 on Amazon

Total Value:  $35.65

Note:  ArtSnacks has started including a retail value for items on their included information card.  All of these items were either spot on, or within 30 cents of the value on the card.  Much appreciated move, ArtSnacks!


This month's brands are Art Alternatives, Derwent, and Sakura.

You can learn more about Art Alternatives here
You can learn more about Derwent here
You can learn more about Sakura, and Sakura Koi here

The Unboxing

Sketchbox January 2016 Unboxing- Nattosoup

SketchBox, subscription art supplies
My January 2016 SketchBox Basic subscription box
 The card reads:

SketchBox January Basic Box

We asked you what you wanted in a box and watercolor was the first choice, so we hope you enjoy this month's box!  It's all about making watercolor (a typically difficult medium) much more approachable.

Inside this month's basic box you'll find a full set of Art Alternatives watercolor pencils, two Derwent Aquatone woodless color sticks, and a Sakura water brush.  Art Alternative's watercolor pencils can be used on canvas, board or paper.  Use them like colored pencils to get a level of precision that's difficult with normal watercolors.  The kit includes a regular brush, but we wanted you to try out Sakura's water brush as well.  This brush has a water resovoir (sic) and allows you to be very precise about the flow of water to the brush tip.  We also included two Derwent aquatone woodless color sticks.  Similar to the watercolor colored pencils these allow you to lay down vivid color and blend with water.  Derwent is a more premium brand and we wanted to give you the opportunity to test the two against each other.  Have fun and remember to tag your art with #SketchBoxJanuary if you'd like to be included in our monthly contest- the winner gets their art printed on a future box lid!

If you received SketchBox as a gift, and this is your last box- please sign up at to keep your boxes coming!  Use coupon code 'COMEBACK" to save 10% on your order.

Becca's Note:  SketchBox needs to hire someone to proofread their information cards before sending them out.  Spelling errors, repetition, and grammatical issues are left as is.

This month's card art is by Julie Edwards

The card reads:

Featured Artist
Julie Edwards

My work is nothing short of a journey into the otherworldly, where even reason and common sense do not have to apply.  Fairy Tales are a huge inspiration for me in their relentless wonder and inviting nature.  I think it's important to not take structure too seriously.  Nothing can be more dynamic and flourishing than art that holds the very pinnacle of what may be, not just what already is.  Experiencing something with as much free reigh as art is like a loophole in life, it should be enjoyed.  I always do custom illustrations!  Visit my pages to learn more:

We're thankful for the talent that Julie shared with us, if you'd like to get your art featured, email an example of your work to us at

Becca's Note:  Spelling and grammatical errors were left intact.

Art Alternatives watercolor pencils, and their included brush.  At top- my swatches

Derwent Aquatone woodless watercolor pencils and Sakura Koi waterbrush.  At top- my swatches

As a watercolor artist and watercolor comic artist, I have used watercolors, and watercolor pencils for years.  Although I haven't shared any watercolor pencil reviews on here (yet), I have tested several brands, and the only brand I've ever liked is Derwent's Inktense pencils, which are fantastic but permanent after water has been applied.  This Basic Box isn't the best introduction SketchBox could make, and the inclusion of Art Alternatives watercolor pencils is an invitation for harsh criticism.  I'm very curious as to what the additional $10 for the Premium box buys those subscribers.

The Field Test

NOTE: Due to the fast turnaround on this post, I'm still waiting for the SketchBox Challenge process video to be edited and uploaded.  My apologies.

Illustration before water was added.

Illustration after several layers of pencil color and water have been applied and allowed to dry.  Attempts to build up depth and saturation of color were disappointing, as these pencils are hard, and lack sufficient pigment.  The Derwent Aquatone pencils (used in the shadows beneath the flowers) perform much better.

The Finished Piece

The Art Alternatives watercolor pencils perform poorly- low pigmentation, inability to blend even with water, difficult to layer for deeper saturation.  If this were a normal review, I would say to skip these and save your money, as these are difficult for even an experienced watercolor artist to use, let alone a beginning artist.

The Aquatone woodless watercolor pencils handled much better, and I'm eager to continue researching them.

The Breakdown

Art Alternatives watercolor pencils- $9.99 on site and at The Writing Pen Store
Aquatone Watercolor pencils (x2) $2.09-Jerry's Artarama
Sakura Koi Waterbrush- $5.39 on Amazon

Total Value: $19.56

Note:  The SketchBox Past Boxes section only shows what comes in the Premium box, not what comes in the Basic box, so please manage your expectations.  I allowed myself to get suckered in by this in November, but make sure you read the fine print and reviews from people who have the Basic box, in addition to those with the Premium box.  The Premium box is $10 per month than the Basic Box.  It seems like most of the YouTube artists gifted with SketchBox subscriptions were gifted with the Premium sub, so please keep this in mind when viewing videos.

SketchBox Premium Unboxing Video (for comparison)

Smart Art Box Vs. SketchBox Jan 2016- My Serinity

Sketchbox Premium

12 Derwent Intense Blocks- $12.06 on Amazon
Langton Prestige Watercolor Trading Cards- can't find a price for these, Jerry's has them FREE if you buy a larger pad, so I'm going to use Strathmore watercolor ATCs as a price point-  $4.77 on Amazon
Sakura Koi Waterbrush- $5.39 (same as basic box)

Total for Premium Box: $22.22

  The Inktense Blocks are only a couple dollars more expensive than the garbage Art Alternatives Watercolor Pencils sent in the Basic Box, and perform so much better, so why include the subpar Art Alternatives watercolor pencils at all?

I can't justify the $10 price difference between the Basic ($25mo) and Premium ($35mo) boxes when the materials included in both total under $25.  My biggest complaint with Sketch Box (other than the intentional inclusion of a sub par art supply like the Art Alternatives Watercolor Pencils) is the same as my issues with ArtSnacks in 2014- as a company, they should have access to bulk orders, and thus, bulk prices, so there's no excuse for being so cheap with customers.

January 2016 Winner: ArtSnacks

Why:  In January, ArtSnacks was the better value for your dollar- lots of great, stand alone full size supplies.  Really enjoying the new Poly Matic mechanical pencil, it's not something I commonly see in stores around here.   ArtSnacks has drastically increased the value of the included products over the past couple years, and there are more stand alone products included in ArtSnacks than in this month's SketchBox, and ArtSnacks is $5 less than the Basic SketchBox.    Also, ArtSnacks includes a snack in every box, and boy, you don't realize how much you enjoy that snack until you get a subscription box that doesn't have one.

Honestly, I was a bit insulted by the inclusion of Art Alternatives watercolor in the Basic SketchBox, as Art Alternatives is not a brand known for its quality art supplies.  It's a fine brand for things like palettes, portfolios, and supply cases, and decent enough for small canvases, but I found their watercolor pencils severely lacking, especially compared to the Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils I've used for years.   I did like the Aquatone pencils included, I would have preferred no Art Alternatives watercolor pencils and more Aquatone pencils.   Although the card included in my January box talks about wanting to make watercolor approachable, poor quality watercolor pencils aren't a great start.  In general, watercolor pencils are considered to be difficult to master even by watercolorists, and poor performers may turn the unknowing further away from watercolor.

If you are interested in studying the basics of watercolors, I highly recommend you skip the watercolor pencils (especially the cheap ones) and focus on getting a good basic set.  There are many available on the market, including Winsor and Newton's field sketch sets, or you can assemble your own Altoids watercolor sketchbox.  If you have a friend who paints, they may be more than happy to share a spot of their favorite basics, so you won't even have to invest much until you know you enjoy watercolor painting.  And, as always, if you are interested in watercolor tutorials, why not fill out my tutorial form in the sidebar with a request?  I'd love to help you!

If you enjoyed this review, and would like to see more Sketchbox Vs ArtSnacks unboxings, please back my Patreon!  All proceeds to go continuing efforts to improve access to art education through freely available tutorials, reviews, and process posts and video, and helping me keep the lights on over at Nattosoup Studio!

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