Friday, February 05, 2016

Sketchbox Vs Art Snacks February 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.  If you would like to see me review a SketchBox premium box, please consider gifting a subscription.

  If you enjoy these reviews, and would like to help support this blog, leaving a comment, sharing to your social media, contacting companies on my behalf, or even donating are all ways you can really help me.  If you REALLY want to do something nice, a gifted to Scrawlrbox, another art subscription service, would be fantastic, and I could offer three way reviews.  Contacting Scrawlrbox on my behalf would also be a huge help.  I've also recently launched the Patreon to support this blog and the YouTube channel, so if you enjoyed the February review, or found it helpful, please consider backing my Patreon to help unlock future unboxings.  The Public Unboxing/Review goal is $15 a month, so let's hit it together!

These Sketchbox Vs. ArtSnacks reviews are created in a hurry- I want to make sure my unboxing videos, reviews, and challenges are online as fast as possible, so I can get as many hits as possible.  This requires enormously speedy turnaround time- as soon as both boxes are in, I need to record the unboxing video, review and research the included products so I can explain them to my viewers and readers, come up with original material for TWO subscription box challenges, record that video, and have everything edited as soon as possible.  On top of the Youtube side of things, I need to take photos, do research, and type everything up for the blog post.  While it's a lot of work, I find it exciting and fun, although it's not the sort of challenge I'd feel up to on a regular basis.

These quickfire reviews put my drawing skills, years of art education, and decades of art experience to the test.    If you enjoy my written reviews, I strongly urge you to please watch the video reviews as well, if you can.  They include content not shown or covered on the blog.  If you're interested in tutorials, then you definitely should check out my Youtube channel, because that's where they're going to be.  

Previous SketchBox Vs. ArtSnacks
January- Winner: ArtSnacks

SketchBox Basic: $25mo/$240 yr (Monthly subs include an additional $5 for shipping)
ArtSnacks: $20mo/$200 yr (shipping included)

February Sketchbox Basic Includes

  • Set of 5 Irojiten colored pencils (light pastels)
  • 3 openstock Irojiten color pencils
  • Tombow Mono Sand Eraser (missing from my box)
  • Kum Wood Cutter dual hole pencil sharpener

February ArtSnacks Includes

  • Sample size of Stonehenge Kraft 100% Cotton paper
  • Winsor and Newton Promarker (Berry Red)
  • Sakura Gelly Roll (White)
  • Zig Posterman waterbased marker (metallic light blue)

Sketchbox Vs ArtSnacks Comparison Unboxing


This Months Artsnacks Brands Are

Winsor and Newton
Legion Paper

The Unboxing


The Card Reads:

Grab the Monet and let's Gogh!

Here's what's on the Menu for February

Winsor and Newton ProMarker
$5.00 retail

New marker alert!  The Winsor and Newton Promarker is a newly released, double-ended marker with the ability to write on ink-resistant surfaces such as glass, plastic, and wood.  The high-quality pigments create streak-free dimension in any of your illustrations and come in 148 different colors.  What color did you get?

Sakura Gelly Roll Classic White Gel Pen
$1.50 retail

This month, we've fallen in love with the science behind the Sakura Gelly Roll Classic White Gel Pen.  Invented around the 1980's in a labratory (sic) in Osaka, Japan, the gel pen is known for its even ink flow.  Gel ink has a unique property called thixotrophic action (pronounced thicks-o-tro-pick). Thixotropic means that when gel is distributed, it becomes thinner and easier to use.  Where a ballpoint pens' (sic) ink moves around in the barrel of a pen, gel ink stays put until used on a surface.  Thixotrophic action takes place when the gel pen starts moving across the surface, making the gel pen ink flow consistent for the life of the pen.  Try out this pen on your Kraft Stonehenge Paper by Legion Paper

 Kraft Stonehenge Paper by Legion Paper
$17.14 retail for 9"x12" pad

Staff Favorite Get ready for a super cool and unique paper:  Kraft Stonehenge Paper by Legion Paper.  Stonehenge paper is  made of 100% cotton, right here in the United States.  It gets the 'kraft' title from its high tear resistence (sic)  and the smooth yellow-tan finish on each sheet.  The best part about this paper?  You can use it for everything from letterpress printing to pastel drawing.

ZIG Posterman Medium Bullet Tip Marker
$3.99 retail

Step outside of your coloring comfort zone with the Zig Posterman Medium Bullet Tip Marker.  Whether you're creating Valentine's Day cards or quick doodles in your sketchbook, this marker has the look and feel of chalk without the mess of chalk dust.  The bullet tip is perfect for creating details on a variety of surfaces.  Shake the pen, and press down to get the ink flowing.

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

Editor's Notes

Promarkers aren't a new product- they were originally Letraset Promarkers, and were on the market for decades.  When ColArts, Winsor and Newton's parent company, acquired Letraset, the product was moved onto Winsor and Newton's label.  I think ArtSnacks may be confusing the Promarkers with Pigment Markers- both are now owned by Winsor and Newton, but only the Pigment Markers are actually use, and use pigment.  Promarkers, as well as Brushmarkers, use dye based inks.  

If you're interested in learning more about Promarkers, Brushmarkers, or Pigment Markers, make sure you keep checking back, because I have reviews for all three coming up in the next couple weeks!

ArtSnacks promises full size art supplies, and while the Stonehenge Kraft pad is absolutely adorable, it is A: A sample size, and B: Too small to actually test for letterpess, watercolor, marker illustration.  I refuse to attribute the full size price to this sample, so I'm assuming it's worth approximately $4.00 retail.  Perhaps it would have been better to include a rolled full size sheet in the box?

Zig Posterman markers are very similar to POSCA markers- both in the look, how they handle, and how they can be used.  These are water soluble until they dry, so that can be used to your advantage as a blending technique.  These don't handle anything like chalk- they're just opaque waterbased markers.  There ARE chalk markers on the market that are dust free and easy to use, but the Posterman is not one of them, and should not be used in chalk applications.

Testing out the products.  The Stonehenge paper takes a surprising amount of water without buckling- it just bent a little.  If this were a larger pad, simple bulldog clips would be the only things necessary to prevent the paper from buckling.

The Zig Posterman performs a lot like POSCA markers- it put out a lot of ink, which meant the ink stays wet a bit longer, making it easier to spread with water.  When diluted with water, the Posterman ink gives a gentle shimmer.  In general, the ink handles a lot like the Zig Wink of Luna I reviewed in last month's ArtSnacks.

The Field Test

Artsnacks Challenge Video

I'd wanted to use everything that came in my February ArtSnacks box, but unfortunately the Stonehenge Kraft paper pad was too small for me to comfortably use.  Instead, i opted to grab some Crescent Rendr Paper, a product I'm in the process of reviewing.

Inks were completed with my standard- the Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen.  This double sided brushpen is alcohol and waterproof, and I use it for almost everything.

The products at the top right are those that came from my ArtSnacks, those at the bottom are ones I supplied myself.  If you're interested in finding out how I created this piece, please watch the above video!

The Breakdown

Stonehenge Kraft Paper (sample size)- $4.00 (estimate)
Sakura White Gelly Roll- $1.40 (Jetpens)
Winsor and Newton Promarker- $4.19 openstock (Dick Blick), $2.75 from a set of 24 ($65.98 on DickBlick
Zig Posterman- $2.62 (

Total Value


My Thoughts

The February ArtSnacks seemed a bit light- only three full size products and one sample.  The Posterman seems very similar to Uni's POSCA markers- water soluable until the ink dries, then permanent, same type of nib and pump action, even similar bodies.  I don't mind though- I like POSCAs a lot, and a larger metallic is a welcome addition to my collection.

The inclusion of a Promarker wasn't that impressive-I personally prefer brush tips to bullet tips, and compared to the Brushmarkers I also used in my ArtSnacks Challenge (her skin and chocolates) the Promarker was very frustrating to use.  

The Sakura Gelly Roll also failed to impress- a lot of other manga influenced comic artists love it, but I still prefer the Uni Signo white for performance.  I still thought it was a nifty addition to the box, especially since the sample of paper was kraft colored.


This month's Sketchbox brands are

The Unboxing

Unboxing Video Here

SketchBox February
Basic Box

This month we're featuring colored pencils for all those who love to add color to their work.  Inside this month's basic box you'll find a set of Irojiten colored pencils, a few extra Irojiten Pencils to round out the set, a Tombow Mono Sand Eraser, and a Kum double-holed wooden sharpener to keep you on point.  "Irojiten" is Japanese for "color encyclopedia" and with these beautifully color crafted pencils, it's obvious why.  These pencils spread evenly and cleanly over almost any paper.  The outside is coated with an enamel finish and each color pencil is made from premium materials that won't break during use.  These pencils are known the world over for their smooth delivery of color, unique pigments and tonal range.

We also included a premium Tomobow (sic) Mono sand eraser.  Made from natural rubber latex and silica grit this eraser removes colored pencil and ink marks, including ballpoint, rollerball, and some marker.  It's one tough eraser, perfect for this month's box.

Finally we included a dual hole Kum wooden sharpener to make sure you can make the most of your new colored pencils.  We're really excited to see what you're going to make with this month's supplies- so don't forget to tag us with #SketchBoxFebruary on instagram to be considered for our monthly contest.  If selected the winner will get their art printed on our box lids.

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.

Editors Notes

I was very excited to see the Irojiten pencils- these beautiful pencils have been on my wishlist for a long time, and I'd recently purchased a 30 color encyclopedia from Jerry's Artarama.  Even better, there appears to be no duplicates between the set I'd purchased and the pencils that were sent to me.

I was less excited by the Kum pencil sharpener- don't get me wrong, I love the brand, and have used their stationary products for year, but I've gotten very spoiled by their magnesium pencil sharpeners, and a self contained pencil sharpener would've been nice. 

My sand eraser wasn't in the box when I opened it, Contacted SketchBox upon their Instagram suggestion regarding the missing Tombow Mono Sand eraser, and they promised to send one out to me as soon as possible.  They were polite and prompt, and I look forward to receiving my missing eraser.  Unfortunately, I think this means SketchBox really needs to step up their quality control to make sure all boxes have the necessary parts.

The Art Card: 

SketchBox February 
Featured Artist

Hi, I'm Hosio and I like to create things.  Since primary school I was always drawing something or use the things I've found around me to create things.  I never knew what my dream job would be, but I always wanted it to be something connected with drawing.  In my country (Poland) the word 'artist' is a rather pejorative term and associated with being poor, that's why I didn't want to be one.
I've decided to study architecture instead of fine arts.  Boy, was I wrong.  As it turns out, I had it all backwards, so I've dropped out of my studies and concentrated on self improvement.  Now I'm a freelance artist, and my ambition is to get a job in the game development industries.  You can see my progress on tumblr ( or follow me on instagram (
We're so thankful for the talent that Hosio shared with us, if you'd like to get your art featured, email an example of your work to us at

The Irojiten pencils weren't sharpened when I received them, which was fairly annoying, but it gave me an opportunity to put the Wood Cutter to work.  There were a couple snappages in the sharpener- but I think it's more to due to the brittleness of the leads than a flaw in the sharpener.

The box art is by Scott Werst, who was last month's box art as well.

The box reads:

Irojiten Soft Primary
Premium color pencils feature professional quality lead
Hard, dense lead for precise detailed illustrations
Strong pigment for deep color saturation, blending and layering
Blended colors stay clear with smooth, consistent finish
Crafted with hard wood for even sharpening
Learn more about Tombow:

 These color pencils are absolutely beautiful- the enamel finish is super smooth and comfortable in the hand.  They feel solid and well made.

The Field Test

Sketchbox Challenge Video here

I swatched all the colors sent to me on Strathmore 400 series Medium surface Color Pencil paper.  In the above video, I talk about blending- pencil to pencil, using an alcohol based colorless blender, and using a color pencil blending marker.  I thought the lead in these pencils was very hard, and a bit difficult to use, especially for blending or filling large areas.

I haven't used color pencils as a primary medium for many years now, so I'm definitely out of practice.  While I could have augmented this with my 30 piece Irojiten encyclopedia, I wanted to see what I could accomplish with just the colors sent by Sketchbox.

I found these colors difficult to layer- I had sketched with the light yellow, and it seemed to shine through regardless of how many layers I applied.  I tried to blend a bit with the Artist Loft color pencil blender, and while it did tone done areas of applications, it's not really a true blender.  I'm curious to know what solution is used inside, and if the wax content of the Irojiten might effect how well it works.
The Strathmore Color Pencil sample pad is my own- it was picked up at Pla-Za's Hands on Creativity a few months ago, from a Strathmore rep.  I figured this was a great time to break it in and see how I enjoyed the paper.

The Breakdown

Irojiten Soft Primary (5)- $11.00 (Jetpens)
Irojiten (openstock) (3) $2.42 (Dickblick- $7.26 total)
Kum Woodcutter- $2.55 (Utrecht)
Tombow Sand Eraser- $2.00 (Jetpens)

The Total

SketchBox Premium (February) Review

Unboxing SketchBox Premium February 2016 in ASL

Tin of Prismacolor pencils $10.06 (DickBlick)
Sketchbox Signature Marker (2)- For price, I'll compare these with Blick's Studio Brush Markers- $2.29 each (DickBlick $4.58)
Kum Wood Cutter Pencil Sharpener- $2.55 (Utrecht)

Tombow Mono Sand Eraser- $2.00 (Jetpens)

The Total (Premium Box)

It's difficult to find information about Sketchbox's Signature markers.  They've been around for awhile, and you can get a glimpse at a three pack in this unboxing video from January.  Although the SketchBox site has a shop, these markers aren't listed, so I'm not sure how I'll be able to get my hands on some for review purposes.  These are alcohol based markers, and appear to be twin tipped, and the bodies look like a white version of Shin Han's old marker body.  It seems like the Signature markers are chisel and bullet nibbed (whyyyy).  I have a premium box coming in March, so if I receive any of their markers, I'll be sure to write about them here.

My Thoughts

How on earth does SketchBox justify having the contents of the Basic Box be of higher value than the Premium Box two months in a row?  As an artist who's very familiar with Prismacolor Pencils, they're pretty much the baseline for 'good' color pencils in the US- not really the stuff of subscription boxes.  Yes, you do get MORE color pencils in the Premium Box, but the 5 piece Soft Primary set alone costs more than the 12 piece Prismacolor set, and is less well known.  And why did SketchBox include their own branded markers (which I can find NO information about at this time, and I'm incredibly curious about them) in a color pencil box?  A colorless alcohol blending marker I could understand- I used a Prismacolor colorless blender in my own review for the box, but from the videos and photos I've seen, they seem to be colored markers.

The Winner- SketchBox

Voting is entirely done by allowing my cat to choose the filler he finds tastiest.  Clearly SketchBox won.

I'd really like to say that BOTH subscription services lost this month- neither one were worth their subscription price (Artsnacks- $20, Sketchbox- $25+$5), and ArtSnacks broke their word regarding full size products by including a sample.  If the sample had been a bonus, that would be one thing, but they expect us to count this as part of the overall total.  Even with the sample, ArtSnacks was well below my target of $20 value, and SketchBox didn't fare much better.

In the end, I'm going to award the title of February Winner to SketchBox, mostly because Irojiten pencils are novel in the US, beautifully designed, and the box was more coherent than this month's ArtSnacks.

I'd thought ArtSnacks had really upped the quality of their boxes in the year I'd stopped reviewing them, but it seems like we're back to the status quo.  This box was anemic at best, with the Stonehenge Kraft sample and the Zig Posterman being the standout items.

This month's SketchBox could have had some real potential, with a little research.  I mentioned some additional products that could've been included in my video overviews- Gamsol, a mineral spirit used for blending color pencils, some blending and burnishing pencils (there's a difference), sample color pencil papers (including maybe a pastel paper with a bit of tooth), and an alcohol marker for blending.  The Basic Box sadly seems more coherent than the Premium Box, which is Premium in title only- the contents seem very mundane for any experienced artist or art supply aficionado.

If you're using my opinion to determine whether or not to subscribe to these boxes, you need to keep a couple things in mind.  1. I review art supplies, on here and on Youtube, ALL THE TIME.  I see a lot of things, so I prize novelty.  2. Art subscription boxes are not a good way to fill out your studio, you should take that money and spend it curating your collection.  Blind boxes are just that-blind- and you are liable to receive supplies you'll never use (like me with acrylics/oil painting supplies).  3.  Art subscription boxes are a luxury- they're expensive, they send non-essentials, they provide no art instruction, so if you're broke, art subscription services are a poor choice to spend your money on.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I feel like if you are asking me whether or not you should buy either service, you should also consider putting that money towards financially supporting artists who have taught you, who continue to teach you, and who inspire you.  Especially if those artists put out 'free' content.  I know it's probably not as exciting as getting a box of supplies in the mail, but the investment is still worthwhile- you're rewarding these creators for making content that has benefited you.

In the end, it's still difficult for me to recommend an art subscription service- perhaps if they hired an artist a month to demonstrate the materials and teach a series of small tutorials these services would be more worthwhile.

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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