Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mechacon 2018 Announcement

This weekend, I'm going to be set up at Mechacon's Colonial Bazaar (artist alley) as part of their Artisan Market.  I'm going to have all sorts of goodies for sale, including

  • 7" Kara, my watercolor, all ages comic
  • Various minicomics, including Lilliputian Living, Favorite Fictional Femmes, and Cicada Summer
  • Handpainted wooden charms and laser cut wooden charms
  • Stickers and miniprints
  • Commissions
  • Mini Watercolors

New Watercolors for Mechacon

Uchako fanart

Bakugo fanart

Sylveon fanart

Espeon fanart

Vaporeon fanart

Other Goodies to Check Out: 

Laser Cut Wooden Charms

Original Comics

Cute Accessories

Handpainted Charms

Monday, July 23, 2018

Foiling with a Laminator

Kabocha here again!

So, first things first: What’s fusing foil?

Basically, it’s kind of a foil overlay you can bind to paper using an adhesive. Usually that adhesive is toner, but of course, you can use glues and specialty adhesives with a heat gun.

This may be sold in craft stores as Deco foil or Thermal foil.

In this post, we’ll be going over a quick tutorial of using this material to add foil to a printed illustration.

Table of Contents

Further Testing & Ideas
Further Reading

Materials You Need

Thermal Foil 
Therm-o-Web Deco Foil, Minc, and other brands should be fine. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m using Minc, but only because it was on sale.
I'm aware of ColorFoils' offerings and tutorials, however, I have not yet had a chance to use their product. If you're curious, you can find them online.

The AmazonBasics Laminator is sufficient and approaches an appropriate temperature for basic foiling in my experience.

Toner Printer
The Printer I use is a Brother HL-3170CDW -- but I would strongly suggest using a monochrome toner printer for foiling illustrations.

Smooth Cardstock
My go-to at the moment (because it was on sale for like, super cheap) is Recollections' Cardstock, which you can find at Michaels.

Washi Tape
You're going to need to hold the foil against the paper somehow and prevent it from crinkling up too much in the heat.
Basically, anything low-tack and not made of cellophane ought to do.


Have your image ready to print.  For this test, I created an image with a couple of text areas, an illustration (with thick lines) and one of my free Photoshop brushes.
Everything was done at 300DPI, and fits easily on to an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

Print your image.  If you're using cardstock, you may need to manually-feed it through your printer.  Get your toner foil handy!

 If your paper curls up, no worries!  You can also set your printer to do less curling in some cases in the printer settings.

Cut out your chunks of foil.  Your foil should be slightly larger than the image you're laying it over.

Lay down your foil. Make sure to do this with the colored side facing up!! If you're using pigment foil (rather than metallics), the matte side should be down.

Tape down your foil! Yes, tape it down so it's very flat.  You may need to uncurl your paper, or hold it down to do so.

Turn on your Laminator, and let it warm up. When it's ready to go, the "Ready" light will shine green.  I usually leave mine on the 5ml setting.

Feed your paper through the laminator. If you have a transfer folder, use that.  If not, eh, just run the paper through.  Sometimes I'll fold a sheet of printer paper to sit on top of the transfer foil, but... It's not necessary.

Once your paper finishes through the laminator, peel off your foil sheets and tape!  Your image should be foiled and ready!

If you find areas need cleaned up, you can use a VERY, VERY low tack post-it note to pick up bits that aren't stuck to toner.

If you're feeling particularly fancy, you can use alcohol markers to color in your illustration.

Further Testing and Ideas

There are still several things left to test, ut fall outside the scope of this post.
First and foremost -- it is rumored that you can print over the foiling, so if you, say, produced a color illustration, you should be able to print around the area where you did not foil.  Care would likely be necessary when running the paper through the printer, and minor offsets can occur.  Therefore, it would likely be recommended to expand the size of the area you are foiling to cover any potential offset, but keep the "blank" area in your color image the original size.

Finer temperature control on a better laminator would likely yield better results, as would working with a printer which had finer control over the toner output.  Darker prints on a toner printer produces more "glue" and would likely work better.

Other materials, such as the application fluids sold with Minc and Deco foil, as well as toner pens, are frequently available. I have not yet tested how these are used, or if they are meant to be used in the laminator, or simply using a heat gun.

Glue can also be used, with varying results.  A small glue pen can provide a level of precision for small details, but can be troublesome as you will need to gently press on the foil to ensure it is consistently stuck to the glue. This often results in smudging, which may be an undesired result.

I need to experiment further with pigment foil for a comparison to the metallic foil used here. At the moment, I have Minc's white foil, but its reliability is questionable in comparison to the metallics. Pigment foil may require a darker coat of toner. On my printer, this may require setting the print quality to "fine" when going through the properties dialog in Photoshop.

Another technique of applying foil using a toner printer exists -- however, I don't like to do it.  It does not appear to harm the printer, but it is wasteful of toner.


Why not the Minc machine thing?
Costs a lot more than the AmazonBasics laminator.  You want me to recommend it? Buy it for me, and I'll test and document it.
The Minc machine costs $50 [entirely too much money] (usually closer to $70 with coupon at my local stores) compared to the AmazonBasics Laminator, which I got for $20-something.

Why don't you use transfer folders?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I live dangerously.

Why toner?
Toner is “fused” to the paper it’s printed on using heat. A laminator will re-melt the toner and make it sticky enough for the foil to adhere to.
You could use glue or other adhesives, but if you’re looking to mass produce illustrations to foil, toner is the way to go.  (Also, do NOT use inkjet ink. It just won't work, and you will cry.)

Why monochrome?
It’s a waste of toner to use color - when it comes to heating things, up, color toner melts just the same as black toner.

Why smooth or coated cardstock?
The foil won't apply evenly on other forms of cardstock, I noticed.  The toner settles in divots on the paper's surface and well...  Then you get an uneven and speckly sort of appearance.  If that's what you want, that's fine though!

Further Reading

Transfer Foil to Paper With a Laser Printer
Color Foils: Techniques
How to Foil: Live More Worry Less Metallic Gold Wall Print
Foil Tech Q&A

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Advice For Tabling At Nashville Conventions

A Caveat:  There's a plethora of convention opportunities in the Greater Nashville area.  I haven't tabled at any of the horror or sci-fi conventions, nor am I eligible to table with TACA given the nature of my work (comics are not considered fine art in Nashville).  I also have not shown in any of the competitions, as none accept comic art as a submission.  So there may be opportunities available to you that are closed to me.

I moved to Nashville in 2013, after graduating from SCAD.  I was eager to begin my professional life and felt like Nashville had a lot to offer.  Although Nashville was not a place of opportunity for me or my art, many of the shows in the Nashville area proved otherwise.  During my time in Nashville, I have found the attendees of most shows to be friendly, warm, chatty, and very interested in the comics I have to offer.  It's exciting to engage an audience who are open to what you have to offer and seem to believe in the work you're doing, and are eager to learn more about the process.  I have done shows all over the country, from San Jose to New Orleans, but feel that the attendees of the anime cons in Nashville are the most excited about my work.

I am a co founder of the convention resource How to be a Con Artist and frequently share con recaps to my Youtube channel.

Who am I?

A kidlit/YA comic artist with a manga-influenced style.  I work in bright colors both digitally and in traditional media.  My table has some fanart but is also full of original art, original designs, comics, and minicomics.  I am very involved in the local convention scene, and have produced several workshops and panels for the greater Nashville area.  I am energetic, engaging, and love talking about comics with anyone interested.

My tables are attractive, inviting, and designed to provide a pleasant experience.  I describe my table as 'happy picnic'.  I utilize bright, happy greens, eyelit lace, handmade elements, and lots of pastels.  I also use lights to help draw the eye.

My table uses wire mesh grids, S hooks, photo frames, and magnets to display original art.  My signs have been designed to not only display prices but serve as a bit of promotion for my comic, 7" Kara.  I have various organizers on the table, from file holders (to hold finished commissions) to pie plates and small shelves, and I try to keep the table as hands-on as possible.   I utilize organized zones to make content easier to parse.

Conventions I Have Tabled At (Nashville area):
MTAC (anime)
GMX (geeky media)
Akaicon (anime)
Free Comic Book Day (comics)
Cherry Blossom Festival (family event, outdoor)
Handmade and Bound (books and bookmaking)
Firefly Artisan Fair (outdoor, craft fair)
Taigacon (anime)
Nashville Comic And Toy Day (geeky media)
Putnam County Library Con (comics)
Imaginacon (Gallatin) (comics)

Note:  Nashville does not have a coherent comic-making scene so solidarity and support can be hard to find at times.  I also refuse to do Wizard-run comic shows.

At all of these shows save for Taigacon, the attendees were upbeat, excited to be there, and eager to engage with the work I produced.  I tend to give away a lot of business and postcards as well as promotional stickers for my webcomics, and free copies of Pickin' N Peelin, a short minicomic.  The response at-con is great, but the follow up is generally pretty terrible, even from people who purchased mail in commissions.  I find this to be about the same for shows across the country.

How Do I Find Out About Local Cons?

Convention Scene
Talking to Other Artists- Ask what shows they've got lined up, make friends, and then ask what shows they would recommend
Talking to Patrons at Shows- kids, teens, and parents generally have some idea of other shows happening.  Talking to librarians and teachers, and expressing an interest in workshops has opened up doors to further small conventions
How to be a Con Artist- This isn't where I find out about shows, but I do share my con recaps there, if you're interested in learning more about a particular Nashville area show.

If you're in the Nashville area, you should check out my Youtube channel- I post con recaps for all the shows I attend, including local cons, where I discuss demographics, what sells, and what the artist alley looks like.

Who is my Demographic?
Online: 18-34 year old women, by an overwhelming margin (but this reflects the blog, my Twitter, and my Youtube channel, rather than the comics I make)
At Cons:
Anime Cons: Primarily teenage girls, although a lot of younger boys enjoy my comic as well.
Library Cons:  Primarily parents with younger kids.

Where Do I Find Them?
I find much of my audience at anime conventions such as MTAC or Akaicon, as well as at the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I've had some success at Handmade and Bound, although that can be hit or miss, as that show is primarily bookbinders.  I've had a fair amount of success selling books at library shows such as Imaginacon (Gallatin) and the Putnam County Library's convention.

What Do I Sell/What Sells for Me?
7" Kara (all ages friendly watercolor comic book)
Minicomics (all ages friendly, themed)
Laser cute wooden charms
Handpainted wooden charms
Miniprints (original art and fanart)
Original art (watercolor and alcohol marker)

By far, my biggest seller in Nashville is commissions.  I find Nashville to be an avid art community that is underserved by government art projects or public school art classes.   Copies of 7" Kara, as well as wooden charms, sell well too. 

What Works?
Be friendly and approachable- Nashvillians love to chat
Design your table the way you would design your art- make sure your books are up and visible, utilize clear, attractive signage, and sell more than just books!  A variety of products appeal to the Nashville area
It takes awhile to build a fanbase, so do several shows in this area, and try to consistently
If you're tabling at MTAC, do your research!  Many of the artists in that alley have tabled at numerous shows, and know how to catch the audience's attention.  Design your table to go up, rather than just a flat tablespace.

Con Recaps: 

Handmade and Bound 2016:

MTAC 2017:
MTAC 2018:

Free Comic Book Day 2017:

Cherry Blossom Festival 2017:
Cherry Blossom Festival 2018:

PCL CCAF 2017:
Imaginacon 2018:

Firefly Artisan Fair 2018: 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Thumbnails Vs Roughs Vs Finished Pages- Watching Art Develop

It's always interesting to see how comic pages develop.  Every artist has a unique process, and sometimes that process varies from project to project. 

I've discussed my own comic process in depth in the Intro to Comic Craft series.  This post isn't an in-depth exploration of my watercolor comic process, that is covered extensively in Watercolor Basics.  Rather it's a brief overview of how pages develop and change throughout the process.

I think younger artists don't always realize to what extent comic pages evolve during the comic creation process.  Pages should evolve and develop as the creator spends more time with the story, and sometimes significant revisions occur between stages.  For artists who enjoy working with editors or beta readers, these natural opportunities for critique are an ideal place to make necessary changes and seem to work best for those who work in batch.  Working in batch gives proofreaders a chance to consume the whole chapter in one go and present meaningful critique and suggestions that don't just reflect the needs of the page, but the needs of the chapter.

My Comic Craft Stages: 
Print non-photo blue bluelines
Pencil bluelines, make further adjustments
Color pencil details and gouache
Digital color correction for accuracy
Digital borders with a digital color pencil brush
Digital Lettering with a custom font
Word balloons utilizing watercolor paper scans and the digital color pencil brush

So today I'm going to share a bit of my comic process, sharing the stages side by side so you can see how it develops over time.  I've also included some videos where I flip through stages such as script and layouts and discuss development in a bit more detail.

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Comic Development Process- 7" Kara Chapter 7 Flip

Chapter 8:

💬Comic Process- Development for 7" Kara Chapter 8💬

I hope this brief walkthrough of my comic process has helped you understand the comic creation process a bit better, and has shed some light on how a page develops through various stages.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Budget Watercolor Recommendations

It's World Watercolor Month and to celebrate, I wanted to recommend some of my favorite inexpensive watercolors to help get you guys painting! These are all products I regularly use, or have reviewed, and can recommend, and are great for practicing skills. When applicable, I've linked the reviews, if you're interested in more information.

All of these supplies perform well, can be personally recommended, and are quite affordable. They aren't always the best available, and some may prove a false economy as your skills progress, so keep in mind that as your skills develop, you should consider investing in nicer watercolors.

Other Watercolor Gift Guides:

For Young Artists 9-13
Watercolor Gift Guide- Michael's Craft Store
Paper: Canson Montval (cellulose based)- $8.45 for 10"x15" (review) Fluid EZ Block (cellulose based)- $3.82 (4"X6")-$30.68 (18"x24") Blick Premiere Cotton-Rag Watercolor Paper (cotton rag)- $14.25 (7"x10")-$52.33 (18"x24")
Fluid 100 Cottonrag paper (cottonrag)-$4.48-$57.19 (review)
Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro (cottonrag)-$21.69-$29.39 (pads) (review)

I really recommend you try painting on at least one cellulose paper and one cotton rag paper, because the two handle fairly differently. Cellulose tends to be much cheaper than cotton rag, but can't handle many of the techniques that cotton rag excels at. Experimenting with both will help you decide which to focus funds on.

Canson Montval

Fluid EZ Block
Blick Premiere
Fluid 100

Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro


Pan Watercolors:
Yarka Student Set - $10.08 (review) MozArt Komorebi Watercolors- $26.99 (review)
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors-$13.30 (12 color)-$30.21 (36 color) (review)

The Yarka Student Set is a children's grade watercolor set that packs a punch. It utilizes pigments rather than the dyes found in children's watercolors and can be a great, affordable option for watercolorists who want an effective but inexpensive option. Prang watercolors are also quite affordable and perform well, although not as well as Yarka Student watercolors.

Komorebi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors are both Japanese watercolors and may handle a little differently from Western watercolors, but I heartily recommend either.

Generally, you want to avoid inexpensive watercolors that utilize optical brighteners to create brilliant, inexpensive colors. So if it looks too tempting to resist, and the price is too good to say no, you should probably walk away, or Google around for reviews.

Komorebi Watercolor Set on Fluid 100 Paper

Yarka Children's Set on Fabriano Medeovalis

Kuretake Gansai Tambi on Arches watercolor paper
Tube Watercolors:

In the long run, tube watercolors are generally a bit more economical than their pan and half pan counterparts. I find I can get about three half pan refills from a 15ml tube of watercolor, some brands deliver more. I recommend test and mixing sets as they're an inexpensive way to get high-quality watercolors. Although you can mix almost any color you need with just ten colors, you may opt to add pre-mixed convenience colors as necessary.

Recommended Starter Colors
Cool Yellow
Warm Yellow
Cool Red
Warm Red
Cool Blue
Warm Blue
Burnt Sienna

You may also want a yellow ochre and a tube of white gouache.

Daniel Smith Essential Six- $32.07 (review)
Sennelier Test Set-$12.89 (review)
M Graham Basics- $37.30 (review)

Holbein HWC 5ml tubes set of 12-$24.30 (review)

Daniel Smith Essential Six
Holbein HWC

Brushes: Creative Mark Mimik (black/faux squirrel) (synthetic)-$1.25-$27.99 Creative Mark Rhapsody (Kolinsky sable)-$9.49-$239.99
Creative Mark Squirrel Brushes (squirrel)-$.99-$7.99
Blick Master Squirrel Brushes-$5.59-$86.06 Cotman Mop (synthetic)-$6.22-7.76

Sumi brushes:


Hake Brush

Left to Right: Cotman Mop, Creative Mark Mimik, Blick Master Squirrel, Blick Master Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Rhapsody, Utrecht Red Sable, Wolf Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Weasel Sumi Brush
I personally recommend a mix of synthetic and natural fiber brushes in any watercolorist's collection, as both can serve valuable purposes. For artists on a budget, I recommend reserving the nicer natural hair brushes such as Kolinsky for just one or two brushes and using squirrel or sumi brushes for the rest of your natural brush needs. A nice brush is an investment and will last for years if well cared for.

Depending on the size of your paintings, I recommend:
Kolinsky Sable brushes Round Size 4, Size 5
Squirrel Round- Size 4, 6
Synthetic- Round Size 8 and larger
Synthetic- Round Size 1 and smaller (details)
Accessories: Disposable cups Paper Towels Salt
Wax Crayons or candles
Blue painter's tape or white masking tape Large Binder or Bulldog Clips
Chipboard backing from used sketchbooks
Half and whole pans or plastic bottle caps
Altoids tins or other small boxes
Inexpensive baby shampoo (for cleaning)
Inexpensive hair conditioner (to occasionally condition your brushes)

Outside Resources and Second Opinions:
Yarka Student Watercolors-Unbox and Swatch Cheap Art Supplies from Amazo! MozArt Komorebi Unbox and Swatch Colorful Succulents- MozArt Komorebi Etegami Fieldtest Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper Field Test Ya Betta Swatch Yaself- Swatching Demo- Fluid 100 and Fluid EZ Block
Perfecting a Travel Watercolor Palette
Prepping New Watercolor Brushes for First Use