Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April 2016 ArtSnacks Vs. SketchBox Basic

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.

This month, I'm going to do something a bit different.  My Unboxing video will be available to the public to view, but only readers, subscribers on YouTube, and my Patrons should be able to access my other videos.  Hopefully this will cut down on some of the hit and run comments I've gotten the past three months.   If you have trouble accessing these videos, please let me know, as I value my blog readers and want to make sure the videos work for you guys.

Special March thanks to:

Andrew Benedict
C. Ellis
Wayne Norris


Previous SketchBox Vs. ArtSnacks
January- Winner: ArtSnacks
February- Winner:  SketchBox
March- Winner: ArtSnacks

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

April SketchBox Basic Box Includes

  • Pigma FB
  • Pigma MB
  • Pigma BB
  • Dr Ph Martin's Bombay India Ink
  • Prismacolor Brush marker (alcohol marker)

April ArtSnacks Includes

  • Kuretake Metallic Brush Pen
  • Marvy LePlume FineBrush Pen (alcohol marker)
  • Ironlak Striker Tri-Grip (alcohol marker)
  • Faber-Castell Jumbo 9000 in 8B (wooden pencil)
Read the rest of the post under the cut!
ArtSnacks Vs. SketchBox April-Becca Hillburn


This Month's ArtSnacks Brands are:

Uchida Marvy 
Faber Castell
Sakura of America

The Card

The Card Reads:

Where does a cow hang its paintings*

Here's what's on the Menu for April:

Ironlak Strikers Twin Marker
$3.99 retail

Your Ironlak Strikers Twin Marker comes to you all the way from Australia.  This refillable marker offers smooth ink application from its broad and fine points.  Its uniquely designed air-tight cap helps keep this marker from drying out.  The triangular barrel will keep this one from rolling away- but we doubt you'll be putting it down anytime soon!

Kuretake Metallic Brush Pen
$7.92 retail

Staff Favorite  We fell for the Kuretake Metallic Brush Pen at first stroke.  This Japanese import handles like a paintbrush and delivers a metallic mark with a subtle shimmer.  Use it to add highlights, or rely on it for rich color throughout your piece.

Faber-Castell 9000 Jumbo Pencil
$3.20 retail

This oversized Faber-Castell 9000 Jumbo Pencil is comfortable to handle, thanks to its thick barrel.  Notice how smoothly it lays down graphite; it's designed to be extra break-resistant.  The water-based varnish makes this a good environmental choice, too.

Le Plume Permanent Brush Pen
$2.60 retail

"Plume" is French for "feather", and the name suits this soft, delicate Le Plume Permanent Brush Pen.  Use a soft touch for finer applications, a firm touch will lay down more color.  The brand, Marvy Uchida, produces this pen in a staggering 144 colors!

Koi Coloring Brush Pen by Sakura
$2.50 retail

The first thing you'll notice as you try out the Koi Coloring Brush Pen by Sakura is the unique handling of the tip.  It offers the softness of a brush pen combined with the firmness of a marker tip.  Use your new pen for outlining, coloring, or both.  This versatile tool will quickly become a go-to for your ink projects!

*Answer: In a mooooseum.

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.

Like a product?  Order more.

The Price Breakdown

Marvy LePlume Fine Brush 

$1.39 on Jerry's ( openstock
$51.69 for the set on Jerry's (
On the Marvy site, $71.74 for the 36 color set (
$74.99 on Jo-Ann's (

Ironlak Strikers Tri Grip Twin Marker
Series 1 (20 piece set) $65.00 on the Ironlak site for the set (
$9.43 on Amazon for openstock, with Prime (
$3.50 on the Ironlak shop (
$58.00 on the BombingScience shop (

Kuretake Metallic Brush Pen
$7.23 on Amazon (best I can find for US, no listing on the Zig site) (
Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen
$2.49 on the Sakura of America site (
$1.99 openstock on DickBlick (

Jumbo Graphite Pencil
$2.25 on DickBlick (

Total:  $16.86

Box Cost $20- shipped

The Supplies Inside

Marvy LePlume Fine Brush
The Marvy LePlume Fine Brush markers only come in 36 colors, not 144 as listed on the card.  This is a little disappointing, as I was REALLY excited about these, but in the end it was a bit of a blessing, as I could afford to order all 36 from Jerry's ArtaRama.  The brush nib is fine and flexible as a Pitt Artist Pen, but it may be prone to becoming mushy, as it's fiber, not foam.

Ironlak Strikers Tri Grip Twin
Also availablbe in a round barrel brush tipped twin tip markers (  Bullet and chisel nibs.  160 total colors.  Alcohol based ink.

Kuretake Metallic Brush Pen
Not to be confused with Kuretake's Metallic Fudebiyori, or Kuretake's Wink of Luna.  Japanese important.  This brushpen is very similar to the Wink of Luna, but the barrel seems to hold a lot more metallic ink.  The ink is water soluable, and can be used for inkwash.

Sakura's Koi Coloring Brush Pen
Astute readers will remember that I reviewed these waterbased brush pens not so long ago on the blog.

Faber-Castell Castell 9000 Jumbo
This large, soft leaded jumbo pencil would have been ideal back in my undergrad salad days of graphite illustration.  These days, I reach for mechanical pencils when I want graphite, but the pencil is still appreciated.

Supply Overview and Demonstration:

ArtSnacks April 2016 Unboxing-Becca Hillburn

ArtSnacks Challenge

April ArtSnacks Challenge-Becca Hillburn

After completing the demonstration and overview portion of my ArtSnacks review, I was able to use the swatches created as a palette to help me decide on a subject to draw.  I wanted to stay as faithful to both boxes as possible- using everything I could in each box, and only augmenting a little.  It's difficult for me to only use the  materials in the boxes sometimes, but I feel like the challenge is beneficial and forces me to think creatively.

I sketched a cat-stronaut on Fluid watercolor paper (not included, but I figured it would be able to withstand almost anything I threw at it) and inked with the Pigma MB and FB included in my SketchBox, as I knew those pens would be alcohol marker and watersafe.  I allowed my inks to draw for 24 hours, so the ink could cure.

I used my Tim Holtz Craft mat as a palette for my Kuretake Metallic BrushPen and Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen.  I scribbled ink from both pens onto the mat, and was able to create washes using this ink with a Derwent waterbrush (not included in the box).  I'd really hoped to be able to build up a darker sky, but I hit my limit early- colors just weren't increasing in saturation after a certain point.

 I switched to adding flicks of iridescent starlight by using FW's Pearlescent acrylic ink (not included in the box) and flicking it with the Simply Simmons synthetic brush from my April SketchBox.

Getting caught up in a phonecall, I neglected to take step by step photos, but I filled in his ears using the Marvy Fine Brush alcohol marker, and his eyes with the Ironlak Striker. I applied the Sakura Koi to my Tim Holtz craft mat, using it as a palette, and painted the gray fur on in layers, allowing each layer to dry so I could build up contrast.  I shaded his suit using the same technique. 

Once everything dried, I pulled out t he Faber-Castell Jumbo 9000 pencil to add some shading.  Truthfully, I preferred the cleaner look before shading, but I wanted to use everything that came in this month's box.

I added white highlights using Copic's Opaque White and the Simply Simmons brush that came in my April Sketchbox Basic.

This month's ArtSnacks didn't disappoint- it definitely felt like it was made just for me.  Two alcohol markers, a waterbased marker, and a waterbased gel pen- these are all things that are right up my alley.  Although I'm not personally feeling the Jumbo 9000, this has more to do with the fact that I don't really work with pencils as sketching tools anymore than with the quality of the pencil itself.  When I was in undergrad, I did realistic graphite illustrations, and I probably would have loved the Jumbo then.

SketchBox Basic

The box reads:

Artist:  Megan Clarke
Instagram: @clarkepaperandknife

Made with materials from the February Box

This Month's SketchBox Basic Brands are:

Prismacolor (Sanford)
Dr Ph Martin's 
Simply Simmons (Daler Rowney)
Sakura of America

The Card

The Card Reads

Basic Box

This month is a unique take on ink! We included Dr.Ph Martin's Bombay India ink- this ink can be used with a brush to create vibrant washes of color.  You'll also find a Simply Simmons round brush to dip and paint with the ink.
To add color beyond the India Ink we included a Prismacolor brush marker.  These markers are highly saught (sic) after for their flexible nib that allows you to control the size of your strokes simply by adding more or less pressure.  They also have a fine nib for detail work.  You'll also find all th4ree sizes of Sakura's Pigma Professional Brush Pens!  These durable brush nibs were specifically developed to provide fantastic bounce and memory over long periods of use.  They respond to instant changes in pressure or direction with a silky smooth, accurate, and consistent ink flow.  The deep black, archival-quality Pigma ink won't smear, feather, or bleed through most papers.

Have fun exploring your new supplies and remember to tag your art with #SketchBoxApril if you'd like to be included in our monthly contest-the winner gets their art printed on a future box lid!

The Card Reads

Featured Artist Nikki Laxar

Hi!  I'm Nikki Laxar.  I was born and raised in the beautiful, eclectic state of Vermont.  I've always had a fascination with the animal world and anything artistic.  Most of my work involves combining the two in a very whimsical way.  I'm a self-taught artist who enjoys learning new ways to bring my vision to life, through every new piece.  I primarily enjoy working with watercolor and ink.  I really love the process of bleeding color onto paper and letting it trail off with just a little guidance.  Layering ink on top of the paint allows me to really express my vision and stitch more detail into the overall piece, letting the paint strokes guide my pen.  Aside from my watercolor illustrations, I enjoy working with my clients to create realistic pet portraits, logo designs and tattoos.  I'm into anything earthy, natural fibers and texture, thrift stores, repurposed art, kitty snuggles, the moon and many things that most people find odd and creepy.

Check out more of NIkki's work at

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

The Price Breakdown

Prismacolor Brush Marke
r $3.99 on DickBlick (openstock), $2.95 for 6-11 markers, $2.79 for 12+ markers
$3.54 on

Pigma FB- $3.67 on MarkerSupply
Pack of 2 $7.80 on Jetpens

Pigma MB
$3.67 on MarkerSupply

Pigma BB $3.67 on MarkerSupply

Dr Ph Martin's Bombay India Ink

$4.25 on Dr PH Martin's site
$3.09 on CheapJoes

Simply Simmons Size 4- $2.99 on DickBlick

$3.99 at Michaels

Prismacolor Brush Marker

$3.54 on MarkerSupply

Total: $20.63

Box Cost:  $25+ $5 shipping

The Supplies Inside

Sakura of America Pigma Brushpens

I reviewed the MB pen a few months ago here on the blog, but I hadn't had an opportunity to compare all three.  The FB is tiny- smaller than most fude pens, the MB tends to get worn out really fast, and the BB is perfect.  For years I've dreamed that someone would put the Copic superbrush together with a waterproof and alcohol marker proof ink, and it seems like Sakura of America has done just that.  I highly recommend the BB.

Prismacolor Brush Marker
If you haven't yet, you should check out the Prismacolor site- they have a lot of neat things going on, including an interesting color picker that recommends supplies in that shade.  I've started augmenting my alcohol marker collection with Prismacolor markers recently, as Prismacolor makes intense purples and yellows that aren't really available in the Copic Sketch collection. 

Simply Simmons
'Value Priced quality brushes'
Only available in North America.  A line of brushes for students, amateurs, and professionals.  These are synthetic brushes that don't hold much water.  While not ideal for watercolors, they work well for liquid acrylics and applying stiff bodied materials like Copic's Opaque White.  In the challenge video, I demonstrate how to use brushes like this for splatter techniques.

Dr PhMartin's Bombay

India ink is waterproof once dry (but not alcohol marker proof ever- the alcohol solution will reactivate the shellac), and I recommend allowing it to dry for 24 hours.  Bombay is available in a range of vibrant colors, and while I have a few myself, the Tangerine ink sent by SketchBox Basic was a new one to me.

Supply Overview and Demonstration

SketchBox Basic Aprll 2016 Unboxing- Becca Hillburn

SketchBox Challenge

April SketchBox Basic Challenge-Becca Hillburn

For this challenge, I opted to use Fluid watercolor paper as my base, as it  can handle mixed media fairly well.

I inked both challenge pieces with the Pigma brushes included with my April SketchBox Basic.

The Pigma MB started to get mushy as I inked, and the Pigma FB often grayed out on long lines, but the Pigma BB was a total dream- it's like someone put a Copic Superbrush in a pen designed for Copics+Watercolor, and I love it.  

I used the Simply Simmons 4 round to apply a wash of Mijello Mission Gold in Turquoise (not included). The Simply Simmon's brush is pretty awful- can't hold water, can't apply washes, and the bristles are starting to bend out of shape.  Normally I would NOT use this brush to apply washes, but I'm trying to stay fairly true to the challenge this month.

Once the wash dried, I began applying the koi's scales in the Prismacolor's Canary Yellow.

Since alcohol marker dries almost immediately, I could begin working over it quickly.  I created a wash with the India ink- adding a few drops to a small bowl of water.

And after that layer dried, I applied Bombay directly from the bottle.

Once that dried, I mixed my Turquoise wash darker, ad reapplied it to the background.

And flicked some FW Pearlescent ink into the wash while it was still wet, so it would disperse in certain parts.

Once that wash had dried, I went in and added some black details with the Pigma pens.

And flicked some Copic Opaque white onto the background for bubbles.

For me to enjoy this SketchBox, I had to introduce other elements- paper, watercolor, white inks.  While it's true I had to introduce many of these elements to my ArtSnacks challenge as well, I felt like my ArtSnacks box had a wider range of flexibility in terms  of each tool being usablbe for multiple roles.  There's also the fact that SketchBox costs more than ArtSnacks (at least $10 more for the Basic Box), but it always feels fairly empty to me.  I would rather have one of each goodie then ten of the same, but this is personal preference, and you may prefer to quickly amass a range of color.

The Premium Box

April Sketchbox !!- Horrorwolf19

April SketchBox Review-TheBonBon3272

Do you receive a Premium Box?  Interested in having your videos shown in the post?  Please let me know.  Due to a desire to get my reviews up ASAP, I often go with the videos that are available, which tend to be slim early in the month.

Inside the April Premium Box

Simply Simmons Watercolor Brush- $3.29 on DickBlick
Daler Rowney Calli Calligraphy Ink- $6.24 on DickBlick
Krink Paint Crayon- $8.79 on DickBlick
Kuretake Kurecolor Marker- $3.45 on MarkerPop
Staedtler .5 and .7 mm Pigment Fineliners- $3.59 each on DickBlick

Total: $28.95

Box cost:  $35.00+$5.00 shipping

The Verdict

This month, ArtSnacks really impressed me with materials I'd seen online, but hadn't had the chance to try out.  The Kuretake Metallic Brushpen, while almost identical to the Wink of Luna sent out in the February Box, is still novel enough to appeal to my art supply reviewer's heart.  

The only downside is that I wish ArtSnacks kept track of which colors were sent to people over the course of their boxes.  I have two Tombow Irojiten pencils in Kingfisher Blue from ArtSnacks, and now two waterbased Kuretake metallic brushpens in the same shade of green.  This is a fairly minor quibble, but it makes it difficult for me to utilize ArtSnacks as a way to fill out my studio.

SketchBox continues to fall short of the monetary value, although SketchBox rep Jon has pointed out that they can't finagle the deals that companies like DickBlick can, he didn't enlighten me further.  I would love to interview SketchBox (I have interviews with both ArtSnacks and Creative Box coming up) at some point- perhaps an interview would answer the questions and issues artists have with this subscription box service.  

When comparing the Basic and Premium boxes each month, I have to wonder what SketchBox defines as 'premium'.  Is it solely based on price?  In what world is the Kurecolor S, which is refillable yes, but the refills are difficult to come by, and only comes in chisel and bullet nibs, more premium than a Prismacolor brush tipped marker?  Is it the same world where Daler Rowney Calli ink, which tends to be thin with unimpressive coverage, more 'premium' than Dr. PhMartin's Bombay?  And if I had opted for the Premium Box this month, and received, yawn, Staedtler pigment fineliners instead of the fantastic Pigma brush pens, I would definitely feel annoyed and a little cheated.  If SketchBox utilized tutorials (as suggested multiple times in the past) to increase the value of their boxes, I would be willing to suspend disbelief (and annoyance) and let them learn me something new, but as it is, I can only go by what the included cards and the website tell me, and that isn't much.  

The Premium Boxes are a hefty $40- you could do real damage at an art supply store with $40 in your pocket.  Paper, pens, watercolors, pencil colors- believe me, $40 goes fairly far, AND you get the joy of going to the art supply store.  Even $30 is a fairly big chunk of change to relinquish monthly for a random chance box of art supplies.  This pricing, as well as the commonly available contents within, make me question who SketchBox sees as their audience.  Surely their target demographic is NOT "Art Supply Reviewers on YouTube".  It's been suggested to me that perhaps 'hobbyist looking for inspiration' is the demographic, but if that's the case, just wander into your local art supply store and pick up things that speak to you.  Most staff are more than happy to answer your questions.

Another issue with SketchBox is the fact that they don't pay their artists in money, they pay them in exposure, which is a dirty word in the illustration and comic art communities.  For all the promotion SketchBox gives their artists (which seems scant- I rarely see them give the illustrators whose work was featured on the box or the interior card more than a passing nod), these artists are providing SketchBox with art used to promote their service.  While this is between the artists who knowingly contribute their art for SketchBox's use and SketchBox as a company, I wouldn't claim SketchBox is positively contributing to the arts community by doing this.  Positive contribution would mean PAYING the artists, and would definitely raise SketchBox in the community, as they would become an employment opportunity, rather than just another company taking advantage of artists who may not know better.  As a fellow artist, I try to always make it a point to not only read the cards out clearly for my audience, but to transcribe them here.  If these artists are only paid in exposure, then that exposure needs to actually be able to do something for them.  If SketchBox won't promote their work properly, then as a fellow artist, it's my duty to try and have their (the artists') backs.

In the end, it's ArtSnacks that continues to shine by sending me fairly novel supplies that can be used in a variety of ways with a little experience and ingenuity.  I was most excited by the Marvy LePlume Fine Brush- an alcohol marker with a brush tip as fine as a Pitt Artist Brush (link)- perfect for tiny illustrations or miniscule details.  I ended up ordering the entire 36 color set through Jerry's Artarama, although I would have happily ordered it through ArtSnacks if their shop had carried these markers.  I also ended up ordering a 20 piece set of Ironlak's twin tipped brush markers for future review, so if this review piqued your interest in the Austrailian marker company, check back often.

Winner:  ArtSnacks


Due to the demands of my YouTube audience, I've taken the plunge and ordered a SketchBox Premium.  The site wasn't clear on whether I'll receive the April or May Box, but I hope it's the May so I can do a comparative review of the Basic and Premium boxes, and hopefully demonstrate my point that neither box is currently worth the price.  My dear readers know that I always dig up a Premium Box unboxing (usually the first one that gets uploaded) so I can show you guys what's inside both boxes, but my YouTube only audience is pretty insistent that I'm a cheapskate who doesn't know what she's missing out on (clearly if you pay more, it's GOT to be better, right?), so I figured I'd humor them. 

 If you'd like to help me defray some of the costs of this 'investment' (Premium boxes are $40, including shipping), you can Paypal me a one time donation in my sidebar, or if you genuinely enjoy this content, and would like to contribute towards funding it for future months, please consider backing my Patreon.  My little Patreon has grown a lot in the past two months, and it's only due to it blossoming so much that I was even willing to consider the scandalous luxury of ordering and reviewing both a Basic and a Premium box from SketchBox.

No comments:

Post a Comment