Thursday, November 30, 2017

Watercolor Gift Guide for Young Artists Ages 9-13

This guide is designed to help a non-artist parent navigate watercolor supplies for a young, aspiring artist.  I have provided links to outside resources, reviews, and tutorials when feasible, and explanations of commonly used terms that may cause confusion. 

If you aren't familiar with watercolor, I recommend you read through the paper, brushes, and paints sections of my Watercolor Basics series for more detailed explanations behind my recommendations.  If you still have questions or would like a customized recommendation based on your child and their needs, please email me.

If I haven't covered the age or experience level you're shopping for, please keep an eye out for more Holiday Gift Guides, coming soon!

This post is sponsored by my Patrons on Patreon, and all recommendations are my own, based on decades of experience and my own reviews.  If you'd like to help support what I do, please purchase using my Affiliate links when feasible, and please considering joining my Artnerd community on Patreon.  You can also tip me through my Ko-fi! For convenience, most items are sourced from Amazon, for easy one stop shopping.

Nattosoup's Holiday Gift Guide for Young Artists

art supplies for kids, artsy kids, kids' art supplies

This gift guide is designed for young, gifted and motivated artists from the ages of 9-13.  For older artists, please keep an eye out for upcoming watercolor gift guides!


Dye vs Pigment

Most children's grade watercolors, such as Crayola, contain dye.  These dyes are easier to wash out than pigments, hence 'washable' watercolors, but do not perform as well as pigment based watercolors.  For an aspiring artist, dye based watercolors can be frustrating to use- so the recommendations I give in this post are for children's grade pigment based watercolors. 

affordable watercolors, watercolors for beginners, watercolors for kids
Top Left to Right- Yarka Student Watercolors, Koi Field Set
Bottom Left to Right- Lukas Aquarelle Studio, Kuretake Travel Watercolor Set

Yarka  Rama Watercolors (distributed by Jack Richeson)
For the price, these are some of the best cheap watercolors I've reviewed, but even if you buy the largest set available, your child will still have to learn to mix colors.  This makes for a stronger artist in the end, but not great for impatient kids who want all the colors now.

Sakura Koi Field Set
Perfect for kids who think they need ALL the colors.  These colors are bright and brilliant, and you get a wide range, but care should be exercised when mixing and layering, as too many layers result in muddy paintings and lifting colors.

Adult watercolors:

Keep in mind that watercolors aimed at older artists often use toxic substances such as cadmium, and should be used with caution and supervision.

For Serious Young Artists:
Lukas Studio Travel Set of 12
This pocket set is afforably priced and performs comparably with other adult-student grade watercolors- a bit better than Winsor and Newton's Cotman, in my experience.  Colors are saturated and bright, but may present some of the same difficulties as the Sakura Koi set.

Kuretake Travel Set
I use this set on my travels too!  This compact little set includes a waterproof pen and a waterbrush, in addition to a great collection of mixing colors.

Pans Vs Tubes

For younger artists, pans are low mess, low fuss, and are what I generally recommend.

Tubes are more economical than pans, and if you don't mind a little extra hassle (or have multiple artists in a household), are a good way to invest in a young artist's future.

Recommended Colors: 
Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Red Hue
Burnt Sienna
Lamp Black
Dioxazine Violet
Cadmium Yellow Hue
Lemon Yellow
Pthalo Blue
Ultramarine Blue or Cobalt Blue
Hooker's Green
Sap Green
Yellow Ochre

Inexpensive, Student Grade Tube Watercolors: 
Grumbacher Academy
Blick Artist Watercolors

If you're buying tube watercolors, you're going to need half pans and a palette, or at the very least, a palette, to put them in.

Top Left to right: Mijello, Honbay
Welled Pallete, Flower Palette

I recommend the Martin Mijello 18 Well Airtight watercolor palette- its airtight, has a gasket seal, plenty of room to mix paint, and shatterproof.

The Honbay 12 Color Artist Palette is more like a traditional travel palette, and also a great choice.  It comes with 12 empty pans to fill with tube watercolor.

Other Types of Palettes:

For beginner artists, I find working with welled palettes to be most intuitive and easiest to achieve the desired color mixes.   Plastic palettes are quite affordable, and I have a few favorites for illustration and comic page painting.

10 Welled Round Palettes

Flower Palette

Butcher's Tray 

Watercolor Markers:

Crayola Supertips
Crayola Supertips, which are dye based, waterbased markers, can easily be used as waterbased markers!  Check out this tutorial on how to do it!

Watercolor Pencils:

Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils
I'm not a fan of watercolor pencils, but they can be really helpful for tightening up details or doing smaller illustrations.  Watercolor pencils can be frustrating to use as your sole medium, so I recommend mixing them up with regular watercolors.


Sketchbooks just don't cut it when it comes to watercolor!  You'll need something tougher, thicker, and designed to handle water- regular sketchbooks buckle, pill, and pool.

Great All Rounders: 

Mixed Media Paper
Mixed Media paper is a great solution for artists who love to dabble with a variety of media.  Markers, watercolor, inks- mixed media papers can handle them all!

Canson XL Mixed Media Paper
Available at Walmart, Michaels, and most art hobby stores.  Canson XL Mixed Media paper has a bit of tooth, which makes it great for color pencils too.

Strathmore 300 Series Mixed Media Paper
Strathmore makes several grades of artist papers, from 100 (for young children) to 500 (very nice professional grade).  The color of the cover often denotes the quality- the 300 series has a yellow cover,

Watercolor Paper: 

Cellulose Vs Cotton Rag

Cellulose paper is made from woodpulp, and unless it's marked Acid Free, it will degrade over time (about ten years, less if displayed without protection).  Cotton rag paper is generally considered artist quality and has properties that cellulose papers lack- more absorbent, often more forgiving.  For young artists, cellulose paper is a great inexpensive start!

Cold Press Vs Hot Press

With cellulose papers, it really boils down to paper texture- smooth vs slightly textured.  I find that for my work, slightly textured absorbs water better, and results in smoother washes and less streaking.

Top Left to Right: Canson XL Watercolor, Strathmore Visual Journal in 140lb Watercolor
Canson Montval Sketchbook, Fluid EZ Block watercolor

Canson XL Watercolor Paper
Spiral Bound
Tape Bound
Great for practice, inexpensive, available just about anywhere, Canson XL Watercolor paper is great for practicing

Canson Montval Watercolor Sketchbook
Spiral bound
Slightly higher quality paper while still affordable.  I use Montval for my watercolor comic, 7" Kara.

Strathmore Visual Journal 140lb Watercolor
While Strathmore's watercolor papers are some of my least favorite for detailed paintings, they're great for sketching, doodling, and practicing.

Canson Montval Artboard
No need to stretch or remove from a block!  Artboards provide plenty of internal support for your paintings- they should not buckle or warp from water.  This is great if your child wants to paint something for display, or for a gift.

Fluid EZ Block Watercolor Paper 
A watercolor block, such as the Fluid EZ block, holds your paper tightly in place while you paint- no need to stretch the paper!


Even a child watercolorist needs a handful of brushes to get the job done!  There are several types of brushes available, some of the most commonly used in my studio are:


Synthetic Vs Natural

Synthetic brushes are usually made from nylon or Taklon, and can be white, black, or 'natural' colors.

Natural hair brushes materials include squirrel, goat, pony, and even boar bristles.  The finest natural hair brushes are made from Kolinsky Sable, which can be quite expensive.  Fortunately, if you're buying gifts for wee artists, this is many years in the future, and not something to worry about now.

Synthetics are much more affordable than most natural hair watercolor brushes, and are what I would recommend for most young artists.  They're more durable than natural fibers, and can take wear and tear that would destroy a natural hair brush.

Recommended Brushes: 
Size 4 Round
Size 10 Round
Size 2 Round (for details)
Size 0 Round (for the finest details)
3/4" Flat (for washes)
1/2" Filbert
16mm 5/8 Mop (for washes)

Natural Hair Brushes:

From Left to Right: Blick Sumi Brushes, Yasutomo Student Hake Brushes, Blick Pointed Scholastic Round, Blick Master Squirrel

Sumi Brushes

Sumi brushes are a very affordable way to purchase natural hair brushes in larger sizes.  Sumi brushes are often sheep's wool surrounded by pony hair, and hold A LOT of water.  These can be great for small artists who like to paint big.

Pack of Three Wolf Hair Sumi Brushes

Blick Bamboo Brushes- Sizes 2, 4, 6

Hake Brushes:
Perfect for laying down washes and covering large areas fast.  Soft natural fibers make this perfect for glazing, and hake brushes are very affordable.

Blick Hake Brushes

Yasutomo Student Hake Brushes

Traditional Western Watercolor Brushes:

Camel Hair:
One of the cheapest natural hairs used for watercolor, often included in children's watercolor sets.  Camel hair brushes do not draw to a fine point, and may be frustrating to use.

Blick Scholastic Camel Hair Brush

Squirrel Hair:
A much better option, squirrel hair is pricier than camel, but will last for years with proper care and storage.  Squirrel hair brushes hold plenty of water/paint, come to a fine point, and if well cared for, create lines both thin and thick.

Blick Master Pure Squirrel Round Brush
Recommended Sizes:
Round 4
Round 6

Kolinsky Sable:
Technically a type of squirrel.  For young artists, these are not necessary, as synthetics, sumi, camel, and squirrel will get the job done nicely.

If you must:
Princeton 7050 Siberian Kolinsky
Creative Mark Rhapsody

Mixed Hair Brushes:
Often have the best properties of higher quality furs at a lower price point, and a great buy for beginner artists.

Blick Pointed Scholastic Round

Synthetic Brushes: 

From Top Left to Right: Princeton Snap! Synthetic Brushes, Princeton Neptun Synthetic Brushes
From Bottom Left to Right: Mimik Synthetic Brushes, Waterbrushes

When purchasing synthetic brushes, make sure you buy brushes for watercolor!  Synthetics are made for oils and acrylics as well, and each type has different properties best suited to the media you're working with.

Synthetics are perfect for larger brushes- large rounds (8 and up), your mops, filberts, and flats.

Cotman Watercolor Brushes


Princeton Watercolor Brushes



Mimik Synthetic Brushes


To the uninitiated, waterbrushes, which are self-contained watercolor brushes, are very tempting.  Waterbrushes can be a great addition to your art supply collection, but are not a replacement for traditional brushes.

Waterbrushes are great for travel or quick watercolor sketches, but are not necessarily suitable for more detailed or layered illustrations.

Most brands perform fairly equally, so there's no point in busting the budget for nice waterbrushes.  There are decent knockoffs of popular styles available that will get the job done.

Meeden 6 Piece Waterbrush Set
Trasfit 6 Piece Waterbrush Set
Arteza 4 Piece Waterbrush Set

Other Materials

Cups- Any type will do

Paper Towels- Whatever is on hand is usually fine

Masking Tape- I prefer blue painters tape, but regularly white masking tape works fine.  This is used to secure paper that is liable to buckling- either through stretching, taping the edges down on the pad, or just taping it to a support.

Bulldog Clips

Clear Wax Crayons (or clear candles)
Useful for wax resist techniques

Crayons, assorted
Useful for wax resist techniques

Waterproof Pens

Top to Bottom: Copic Multiliners, Sakura Microns, Sakura Pigma Brushpens

Copic Multiliners

Sakura Microns
These are available at Michael's and most hobby art supply stores in the art and scrapbooking sections

Sakura Pigma FB, MB, BB
These three brushpens provide a variety of lineweights and are alcohol marker and waterproof.  I use these in many of my videos!

Pens for Watercolor and Markers at HobbyLobby

Watercolor Instruction:


Watercolor Basics
A free watercolor course designed for illustrators and comic artists- and you already know the teacher! 

Watercolor Playlist
Designed to accompany my Watercolor Basics course, I demonstrate materials and techniques on camera to provide real time instruction

Care and Basics: 
Prepping Watercolor Brushes For First Use
Watercolor Basics Stretching Demonstration

Watercolor Marker Workshop with Nattosoup
Brusho Background Mini Tutorial
Winter Satsumas in Clean Color Real Brush


My Favorite Watercolor Techniques
Wax Resist

Top Techniques for Watercolor

Watercolor Basics: Step by Step: Glazes
Easy Blends and Fades

Detailed Chibi Watercolor Tutorial
Over the Garden Wall Watercolor Tutorial
Watercolor over Fountain Pen P1
Watercolor over Fountain Pen P2
Delightful Cosplay Couple From Start to Finish
Dots for Eyes Chibi Watercolor Tutorial

Planning Your Watercolor Illustration
Stretching Tutorial
Blocking In
Adding Shadows
Adding Details

Step by Step Illustration Walkthrough: 
Watercolor Basics Pencils
Watercolor Basics Stretching Demonstration
Blocking In Color
Adding Shadows
Refining Your Image

Planning Your Watercolor Illustration
Stretching Tutorial
Blocking In
Adding Shadows
Adding Details

Panels and Workshops
MTAC Intro to Watercolor

Monday, November 27, 2017

APE Post Mortem Recap

This year, a handful of artists have taken a stab at roasting the Alternative Press Expo on Twitter.  While I appreciate that they're willing to share their experiences with others, I wish they were doing so on a more archival platform- by the time people are Googling APE next year, their tweets will be long lost to the sands of time.

For the most part, I've stopped writing formal recaps- they flat out aren't worth the time investment on my part.  I've switched over to video recaps, and I feel they better capture shows as a whole, but I have some amends to make, so I thought a hybrid was in order.  I recorded video before, during, and after APE to try and capture the whole experience and give a well rounded idea of the show.

Before the show, there was no buzz about APE.  In prior years, you'd see artists talk about prepping for APE at least two weeks before the show, if not a month.  This year, not a peep.  The artist friends I mentioned it to were surprised APE still existed- it'd all but fallen off the map.

APE Saturday Morning

Saturday Afternoon Walkabout

Sunday Recap

Not mentioned in the videos:

Writers and Visual Artists (WAVA) Meetup- not affiliated with APE:  Fliers were passed out on Saturday for the WAVA meetup on Sunday.  The fliers mentioned agents, writers, editors, and artists, but it seemed to be mostly artists with a smattering of writers.  It was still a fun experience, and a good opportunity to meet other artists, although time was extremely limited.  Historically, these events have never resulted in anything for me, but are still fun to attend.


This year's APE was awful- one of the worst 'large' indie shows I've done, and I did TCAF the year they installed a Children's Sauna for the kidlit artists to stew in.  I've done some awful shows, and APE was one of the worst- certainly the worst show I've flown to attend.  And I feel partially responsible for that- I'm one of the few convention artists who regularly shares recaps, and I was a bit remiss in last year's.  I feel like I gave the impression that APE was a better show than it was, fueled by my own decent experience there- we met a lot of awesome artists, had a lot of great chats with customers, I sold $600 worth of stuff, won best table (and a free table for 2017) and sold out of 7" Kara at the show last year.  The warning signs were all there- slow sales with a brief uptic on Saturday, no publicity or buzz, annoyed artists, but I neglected to mention that.  I wanted to give APE a chance to turn around.

APE Post Mortum

Last Year's Video Recap

After APE 2016, Heidi and I attended the after party at Bar-tiki.  It was a sparsely attended event, and it gave us an opportunity to talk to Dan Vado, APE's current owner, candidly about APE, our experiences, and what could be done to improve.  Although he didn't take notes at the time, he did seem open to our suggestions- we experienced none of the hostility some artists have experienced.  We followed that meeting up with a list of the changes we discussed- easy and inexpensive ways to promote the con via social media, fliers, and local outreach, and Heidi even volunteered her time if he were willing.  We wanted to give Vado time and a chance to turn the con around, as indie cons in general are increasingly difficult to get into, and we wanted to see the situation improve.  Nothing we suggested was followed up on, and Heidi's generous offer was left unclaimed.

Things We Suggested:
Fliers in coffeeshops, comic shops, tech company campuses, around the city
Outreach to other conventions
Ads on radio, tv
Revitalize APE social media- Tumblr features for attending artists, Instagram, Twitter engagement
Reduce admission for attendees
Reduce table costs for artists

So now, all I can do is strongly recommend that if you're reading this, skip APE.  Indie cons have gotten increasingly difficult to get tables at, attendance at most is so high that many artists see poor sales as customers can't discover new content, so APE might seem tempting.  Instead, attend a local indie comic con- you're more likely to meet other artists, make new friends, and not break the bank doing either.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What Art School Actually Did For Me

Right now, a lot of people are dismissing the benefits of an art school or art focused education.  It's easy to dismiss- an art education has many risks, often a delayed reward if any.  However, I do not regret my pursuit of formal art education, only the lack of fairly compensated oppportunites for artists, and I've done my best to make access to art education accessible to others regardless of income.  Over the years, I've have freely shared information I acquired online as well as through art school, I promote other online art educations, especially those who teach comic process at an accessible level, and we've even given away a $1000 art focused education scholarship this July to help one artist pursue their dreams in any capacity possible.  I genuinely love art education, in all it's forms, and encourage everyone to seek what they can- from books, Youtube, blogs, courses, or workshops.

I do not regret my choices in pursuing formal art education, and I'd like to share what this pursuit has actually added to my life, in hopes of presenting a realistic alternative to the naysayers, and provide an alternate opinion.  This said, I will share one salient piece of advice:

Do not go into debt for an art education.  It will never pay for itself.

If you're interested in purusing art education and cannot afford to attend schooling, keep an eye on the blog for a follow up post sharing affordable options to pursue art education.

My Art Education History

Education: Self motivated, self directed art study for almost a decade, at a time when such information was scarce and I lived in an art poor area of the country.

I've regularly written, thumbnailed, and drawn comics since I was thirteen- art school did not make me draw comics.  I am self motivated, but lacked access to information, and needed guidance and critique that self study cannot provide.

Education: Bachelors of Art from a small university in Louisiana- the University of New Orleans.  Digital art, painting, illustration courses at my local university- full ride scholarship, left with no debt and a degree.  Minor in Earth Environmental Science.

I attended a small local university- the University of New Orleans, after hearing the painting professor speak about the new illustration department, which would focus on watercolor.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina destroyed these nascent plans, but I was stuck at this university and had to make the best of it.  I opted to major in Digital Media as our options were limited to Digital Media, Painting (acrylic), Photography, or Sculpture, and UNO's digital media focus was on video effects and editing.

Education: SCAD- wanted that MFA as well as an art school experience that actually catered to illustration and sequential art as legitimate artforms. Partial scholarship- academic.  Rest was paid out of pocket, by the inheritance money my father left after dying of lung cancer.   Graduated with an MFA with no debt.

Continued to pursue art, this time my passion, comics, at an accredited art university- the only one at the time to offer an actual legitimate masters degree in sequential art (comics, storyboards, children's books).  An MFA is 90 credit hours, an MA is 45 credit hours, but an MFA in sequential art is a terminal degree, meaning I am qualified to teach at any level, including undergraduate and graduate.  During my time at SCAD, I completed two student teaching internships and one TAship, teaching comic craft to students ranging from elementary school to undergraduate. 

What Art School Did For Me

  • Structured lessons, objections, and classwork in such a way that I could make measurable progress extremely fast.
  • Gave everyone an even playing field education- we all had a basis of knowledge- vocab, books, ability
  • Opportunities for structured, intelligent, and educated critique based on drawing skills and storytelling
  • Classes in concept design, storybuilding and scriptwriting, storytelling for comics, maquette creation, hand lettering and more-specialized and taught by people who had worked professionally in the field
  • Access to professionals- artists of all types at Comic Art Forum, Editors through Editors Day, professors who had worked in the comic and animation industries
  • COURAGE to pursue portfolio reviews, additional critique, and to defend my choices
  • STRUCTURE although I never lacked for this, having someone with an experienced eye guide my work and studies helped me improve greatly and fast
  • Network of other artists 
  • My first two good job opportunities were because I was a SCAD kid- working at Doodle Studios-doing contract work for Lego, and doing bit and piece work for Viz Media
  • First opportunity to have work in an anthology (SCAD Travel anthology)
  • I learned what comic process worked for the type of comics I wanted to make, and I learned my own limits and how to set schedules trying to pull everything together before finals
  • Professional mores and values
  • Tabling at conventions regularly and professionally because I met Heidi through SCAD, and to be honest, without SCAD leveling the playing field between us, we probably would never have gotten past our initial biases to become real friends
  • The grace to respect the differing experiences and educations of others around me and learn from them
  • Multiple student teaching and TA opportunities, giving me the chance to regularly teach art and comics to a variety of age groups from elementary to undergrad
  • That MFA piece of paper.  Although it hasn't worked for me here in Nashville, I am qualified to teach art at a college level.  I worked damn hard for that paper, and am very proud of my efforts.  
  • Confidence to record and share my journey

I acknowledge this access to education put me in a place of privilege- that's why I share it every chance I can- on this blog, on my YT channel, through workshops and panels that I generally produce free of charge, with materials I've purchased out of pocket. 

People assume learning through the resources made available online counts as 'self-taught'- it does not.  This is self motivated, self directed informal art education, and I champion it because it's a fine way to learn the ropes without breaking the bank, but to insinuate that you taught yourself without outside assistance diminishes the work of those who freely shared their knowledge and experience with you.

If you can't go to art school and need to pursue art informally for awhile, that's ok.  If you can afford to go to art school, or pursue a formal education in the arts, that's also fantastic.  Your journey is up to you- the only thing that makes you less is when you diminish the journey for others to lift yourself up.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Mailbag: October and November 2017

From now on, questions sent to the blog will be answered in Mailbag on a monthly basis!  This allows me to share information that might be interesting or helpful to many 


Hi, I'm trying to find a decent watercolor paper to use Penny Black brush 
stroke stamps with. I been using Canson and Strathmore 140. I use the Holtz 
stamp positioner so I can apply multiple colors over any spot  of the stamp 
and not 'loose' my place. But these have too big of a tooth. Is that how 
it's said? I need something a bit smoother and I was sold Ranger Distress 
watercolor paper. I was wondering what your opinion is of this watercolor 
paper and if there is a suitable paper available that's not quite as 
expensive as I have to do a lot of experimenting to find a combination of 
colors that sings to me. Nothing comes quick or easy for me. I don't know 
about others, but pulling inspiration into reality is a difficult process. 
But I love it. Thanks Cheryl Cunningham, Seattle WA.

Cheryl Cunningham


Hi Cheryl!

I think you're looking for a hot press watercolor paper- this would have a smooth finish with no tooth at all.  I can recommend Fluid EZ Block watercolor paper in hot press as an affordable hot press paper.   Union Square and Fabriano Studio Hotpress are also good choices.

Hot press watercolor paper will still take watercolor without too much buckling, won't require any additional stretching or support if you're just doing light washes, but it may blend different from cold press watercolor papers.  


Hi Becca, I have stumbled upon your website and enjoyed reading some of 
your posts! I tried the Copic Ciao (brush tip end) marker and loved it but 
can not use it due to the odor. Would you say that the Pitt Big Brush is 
the most similar in a water based marker. I loved the flexibility and 
sponginess of the Copic Ciao. It just felt so wet or something, maybe more 
like an actual painting brush than a hard marker tip (I would classify 
myself as a crafter rather than an artist so I apologise if my words are 
not right). Anyways I loved the way those markers felt and wondered if you 
knew the closest alternative in an odorless waterbased marker. Thank you so 
much for your help, Erika



Hi Erika!

I love the Super Brush used in the Copic Ciao and Copic Sketch too!  Those are foam rubber brushes- that's why it's so juicy and springy.  Pitt Big Brush pens use compressed felt or fiber for their brushes, and use India Ink, so unlike most waterbased markers, once Pitt Pen ink is dry, it's permanent.  Pitt Pens can still be blended while wet and on the right paper- Pitt Pen on Yupo is a lot of fun!

If you're looking for a waterbased marker with that same spring, Zig Art and Graphic Twin markers with the old nibs are perfect for that- their foam rubber nibs have lots of spring!  You can check out my review for those markers here.  I also really like Tombow ABT markers (not quite as springy, but easier to find) and Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers (these feature individual nylon bristle brushes, so they're even more like painting!)


My sister is allergic to the alcohol fumes, but she would like to use 
markers more like permanent BIC markers.  Do you have any suggestions?



Hi Christina!

If your sister is allergic to alcohol marker fumes, Bic Mark Its are probably not the solution you guys are looking for.  What properties is she interested in?  Is she looking for waterfastness?  Permanence?  Blendability?  Lightfastness?  Luminance? Brilliance?

POSCA markers
Liquitex or Molotow Acrylic Markers

Pitt Brush Pens and Pitt Big Brush Brush Pens

These are blend while wet but are permanent when fully dry.

Non Waterproof:

Brilliant, blendable color (dye based):

Dr PH Martin's Liquid watercolors
Ecoline Liquid Watercolors
Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers
Fountain pen inks like Diamine Flowers or Music sets (you can also order samples from Goulet and Anderson pens) in waterbrushes

Spectrum Aqua Watercolor Markers
Ecoline Watercolor Markers

Waterbased Markers: 
Zig Brushables
Zig Art and Graphic Twin
Tombow ABT
Zig Clean Color Real Brush

Up and Up Waterbased Markers with a Tombow ABT blender 
Crayola Supertip Waterbased Markers

Pigment Based: 
Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers

Here's a whole playlist of waterbased and watercolor marker tutorials!

All of the links used in this post link to reviews, tutorials, or field tests that demonstrate these products.  I hope this was helpful for your sister- please write back and share the results!

This concludes the October/November Mailbag!  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me using the contact form in the left hand sidebar! Future questions will be answered in Mailbag features.  Google comments don't work reliably using Google +, so if I don't respond to comments, it's because I'm not seeing them.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Guest Post: Mharz and The Angel With Black Wings

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the years of doing art is that it’s an endless experimentation. It’s fascinating how each artists have their own sets of principles, and methods of doing things. Today, I am happy to share my very own comic making process in this nice little blog post!

First off, a bit about me. Hello my name is Mharz and I’ve been doing webcomics since 2014. Prior to that, I was working in animation industry since 2012. I never went to art school and all the knowledge I have in art is based from my experience working in the industry and self-learning. I currently have three webcomics: The Angel with Black Wings, about the friendship between a human boy and a guardian angel; CHAMPS, about an MMA’s conquest in the octagon and in love; and The Robonoid Fan about different kinds of adults. In addition to that, I’m also currently doing pencils and inks for Donathin Frye’s I, Necromancer. I know… I have many stuffs to do.

I also do occasional drawing tips based on my experience in animation. Anyway, enough about the intros and let’s get this process started. I kinda have like a wide variety of methods but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just gonna discuss my comic making process for The Angel with Black Wings.

For starters, I’m gonna divide my process into three phases. This is something I have adopted in animation production: Pre-production, Production, and Post-production.


This is the phase where I outline, plot and thumbnail the story. I usually do it every 5 chapters so I won’t burn out. This is the most gruelling phase for me and really requires me to use too much mental power.

I am very old-fashioned when it comes to writing and I really prefer to write in paper because (1) I get tired easily if I sit in the computer for too long and I can write on paper while I’m lying down, (2) I can bring them anywhere in case I unexpectedly thought of something, I can write it without the need of gadgets and internet.
I like to keep notebooks for writing. WP_20171104_002.jpg

Here’s one of the pages of the notebook scanned. I deeply apologize for my ugly handwriting. XD

written story sample.jpg

As you can see, I prefer writing in prose than in script format. In this stage, I’m not thinking of the panelling and layout just yet and my priority is to just the story flow. I’m not that smart to think of so many things at once. So I continue this process until I finished five chapters before proceeding to the next stage which is thumbnails/storyboard.

Now this is the stage where I start to think of the story as a bunch of comic page. My thumbnails are really just a bunch of very rough sketches. I also do this in paper as well.

I have worse sketches than this, trust me. I usually sketch very fast on this stage so that the momentum and my brain won’t slow down. Bear in mind that this layout is not set in stone. If I thought of something better in the production phase, I’d definitely roll with that but it’s nice to have a clear visual reference. Once all five chapters has been fully thumbnailed, it’s finally time to move onto the next phase.


This is the phase where I really draw the actual page. It’s finally time to go digital because I prefer drawing in digital. Before I start of the actual page, I do the backgrounds first. I’d be the first one to admit to you that I don’t have much patience in drawing backgrounds especially buildings so to make up for it, I’m gonna use my good ‘ol buddy, Sketchup.

For those who don’t know, Sketchup is a 3D software. It’s definitely not the best software around but I chose it since it’s fairly easy to use (at least I think so) and also the myriad of 3D models they have in 3D Warehouse. (I usually just use the most generic looking 3D models)


This particular model was made from putting some buildings I made in addition to pre-made models I’ve downloaded from 3D warehouse. Another reason why I prefer using sketchup is they have this setting where the models look like they’re 2D lineart as seen on the image and I’m heavily utilizing it. This way, I don’t really have to spend extra time lining them. (Of course, I can make it work since my setting is modern day.)

Anyway, let’s just save the more elaborate explanation and usage of sketchup in a future post. We still have a lot to discuss.

After I picked the proper camera angle for the background, I exported it as a PNG image and now it’s time to move onto the pencils (but I really just refer to it as rough sketches).

I’m using Medibang Paint Pro for pencils and inks, by the way. I just love how tight their stabilizers are and it’s really compatible with my hand strokes. The paper size I use is A4 at 300 dpi since it’s a pretty common size in our country and it’s also directly proportional to my intended print size which is A5.

With my thumbnails as the guide, I do these in order, sketch the panel border, paste the backgrounds, draw the character constructions.

I usually add the background first so that I can figure out the perspective and the footing of the characters. I do the construction in red lines out of habit really. If you look back from the thumbnails you’ll notice that I made some last minute changes at the layout of the last panel. I realized that one panel where Ray is looking from behind is pretty redundant so I took it down and shifted the bottom panel to be wide.

Now I can add details or what we normally call in our studio, tiedown.

I use blue lines for this one so I won’t confuse it with grays/black once I start to ink. These steps are very essential to me since I tend to flop at drawing without doing these steps. Once I finished the tiedown I can finally do inks/clean-up.

I almost forgot to mention what brushes I used for the sketches. Anyway, I only use Medibang’s default pencil and pen brush. No fancy mumbo jumbo there.
Now using the same pen brush, I ink the lovely characters.


I’m gonna clean the backgrounds and remove the lines that should be obscured in a bit but first I’d like to point out something first: When I do the inks I make sure that the lines are aliased. For those who aren’t familiar of the term, aliasing is the sharpness of the lines. Example:


Aliased lines are more sharp and crisp albeit jagged when zoomed-in. The reason I picked aliased lines when inking is because it’s easier and cleaner to flat than anti-aliased lines and since I’m drawing at 300 dpi, the jaggedness won’t be that obvious. Although I wouldn’t recommend it for lower resolution drawings.

After all the inking. Medibang’s job is now complete and I’m gonna jump onto a different software: Good ‘ol Photoshop. I actually just use an old CS2 because I can’t afford the monthly ones.

I added the legit panel borders and cleaned up the unnecessary lines and viola! Time for do the tones!

When adding the tones, I select the areas I want to fill with the magic wand tool. Here’s my settings:
magic wand.png

I expand the selection so the grays will go slightly underneath the lines and won’t have those strange white gaps. To do this go to Select > Modify > Expand like shown in the image:

After some doohickey, the grays and blacks are now added. I separated the grays and black in different layers. I just use gradients on the backgrounds. I only add shading if I need to emphasize on the lighting so most of the time I only have flat and gradients on the pages. I also added some noise filter so the tones have texture and not plain looking.


This is the end of the production stage.


In animation, this is the phase where you add fancy effects. In my comic making process, in addition to adding effects when necessary, this is where I do the texts as well as the final edits. I added the text first before adding the speech bubbles. If you can afford it, get an editor. Sadly I’m a poor sap who can’t afford to pay people so I have to do everything on my own.


And it’s done! I usually export it for print size before shrinking it down for web uploads. I usually do Production and Post-production in a per page basis. With this method I can finish 1-2 pages per day. The 3D backgrounds helped considerably in my production time. This is the method that worked for me but like I said at first, every artists have their own set of principles that worked for them so be sure to constantly experiment to find what’s suitable for you!

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