September 26, 2014

Watercolors for the Scrapbooker- Comparison-Part 2

Hi there! I'm back with some more info about other watercolor brands I own and use. check out part 1 for reviews on Artist's Loft, Simply Art, Studio Calico Mr. Huey's, Peerless watercolors, and Zig Kuretake Gansei Tambi sets.
In this part I'll talk about Twinklin H2O's, artist grade watercolors and Ecoline fluid watercolors.

Colourarte Twinkling H2Os-
These watercolors are shimmery (and come in cake form), and that's their selling point and attraction, as they contain mica. They come in dizzying 200 colors, small (called mini twinklers) and large jars, as well as sets of 6 or 12. You should spritz some water on them in order to activate them about 5-10 minutes before using them.
On the company's website a large jar costs 4.30$, small jars 2.30$, all other prizes can be found there as well. I own 2 sets, each contain 6 colors. You can find some at Simon Says Stamp. Here's how a set looks-
These colors are very shimmery, as promised, and that creates a unique look. Personally, I find I prefer the matte look for backgrounds on my scrapbook pages, though this is a fun product for altering embellishments or coloring stamped images, for example. If you like shimmer, these are worth checking out. The pigment content is high, so the colors are bright (the ones that are supposed to be, there are also pastel and other very subtle colors) and vibrant. There are also many videos and project ideas online. Here's a nice review on YouTube, and another video with some techniques.
These can be sometimes tricky to find, I ordered mine from Simon Says Stamp, but compared to the color range and different sets the company shows on their website, the variety available to me as an international customer (that doesn't want to pay a fortune in shipping and taxes) is rather small. Another problem I have with these is the packaging. I don't know how the large or single mini jars come, but the sets of 6 that I got are little plastic containers that feel rather cheap, and are annoying to open and close. One lid is completely stuck (of course of my favorite color) and I can't get it open. But maybe that's just me. All these little jars are rather annoying flying around, and I wish they came in a palette or a tube where you could build your own palette. In the video I linked to there is a palette but that is not something I can get cheaply outside the US.
These are not crazy expensive, but they are not cheap either. If you really love shimmery watercolors, use them a lot and feel you want a large variety of colors, I highly recommend reading about color theory and color mixing, as this knowledge will help you create you own beautiful colors and will probably save you money. I will talk a little more about this later in this post.
At the end of the day, yes, they are really pretty, but personally, I don't use them often. If you really want the shimmery look but not buy extra products, you could just use regular watercolors and then add shimmer (like with the Wink of Stella markers, or perfect pearls, or shimmer spray, just to name a few other options).

Ecoline are transparent fluid watercolors, they come in little 30ml jars as well as huge bottles (I really wish I had a project that required a huge bottle of beautiful watercolor...). I'm not sure how easy they are to get in the US, but here in Austria I can find them in my local art supplies store, as well as in online European art supplies stores. They are manufactured by Royal Talens and are available in 46 transparent colors plus 2 opaque- white and gold.
Now be warned. If you get excited about a product watching awesome videos or looking at beautiful pictures online (like me), this is the product that might get you to order some fast. But I advise you to read my short review till the end and then decide.
These are incredibly bright and vibrant and beautifully transparent. The color choice is great, and I think the price is reasonable for what you get here. In Europe I can get them for about 3-3.5 euros (around 4-4.5$) for a 30ml jar. These are amazing for splatters (like with a straw, or a brush), and are really easy to use when you just want pure bright color, as they are already fluid and you don't have to add water. They are also great for creating even washes and of course you can add water to lighten them, the same as with other forms of watercolor.
I find these less convenient to use because I have to be careful not to contaminate the whole jar of paint with a dirty brush (a brush with other colors on it). In order to really play with these and not just use them pure out of the jar (even though they really are so pretty just like that) you should pour some into a palette using a dropper/ pipette. Also then you should make sure you pipette is clean before moving on to the next paint. I found a set of 10 plastic pipettes at my local craft store for 2 euros (less than 3$). All this is not that complicated, but for me, playing with my palette of pan and from a tube watercolors is just easier. I do use these, but I wouldn't recommend them as your only watercolors. Also, they are relatively (or very?) unfamiliar to the scrapbooking community, at least the one I'm a part of, and the YouTubers I follow, which means there is little info about techniques and layouts done with these out there. I find it inspiring to see what other people create with products, so this might deter some who need this guidance and inspiration to use new products, even though these could be used like mists (mists have been used a lot lately in the scrapbooking universe as fluid watercolors anyway). For the average scrapbooker, who probably owns mists, or can get his/her hands on mists easily (although mists are not cheap), you could do pretty much everything Ecoline watercolors do with your mists.
Just for fun, watch this amazing video:)

Student and Artist Grade Watercolors-
This is a whole world, and I am really not qualified or experienced enough to review different brands and quality as there are so so so many out there, and I'm just a scrapbooker, not a watercolor artist (well, in my dreams I am...).
I do want to share some thoughts, as a scrapbooker who uses watercolors on her pages often, and getting more into using them also outside the scrapbook. I think this information will probably be helpful also for people who are just starting out with watercolors, scrapbookers or not. I will share my process, so maybe you can avoid some of my mistakes:)

To start off with, there are two major questions.
Should you get student grade or artist grade?
Pan or Tube?
Well, student grade is cheaper. It also contains less pigment, which is usually the expensive ingredient.
If you want the best, the clearest brightest cleanest most vibrant strong pigmented color, go for artist grade.

I have enough cheaper watercolors, so I decided to go with the artist grade. I don't do a lot of sketching and studies and even though I have some projects that don't make it into a finished layout, I don't feel the need to try out things many times before going for the 'real thing'. If you do a lot of prep work before your projects, then you might consider getting some student grade watercolors for those.

I would say this-
If you think watercolors are a medium you would like to further explore,
and you want the best quality
and you want to be able to mix as many colors as possible
and you have a budget-
Then you should build your own artist grade watercolor palette.

Student and artist grade watercolors mainly come in two forms, pan (cake) and tube.
Pans come in half and full size, in sets and singles-

Tubes also come in different sizes, sets or singles.

Which one should you go for? As always, that depends:) Here are a couple of helpful links, about this old dilemma:)
In general, pans are ready to go, just open your palette, wet them and paint, but they can be rougher on your brushes (cause you have to do some stirring to get the paint going as it is dry to begin with). They are easy to travel with. You can get a set in a nice palette, or buy an empty palette and create your own with singles.
Tube paint can be used directly from the tube, even pure for the most intense color. It's great for large washes or just large paintings when you need a lot of paint. It's already moist and blends easily with water. Many crafters and artists use dried tube paint in their palettes. They fill the empty pan in the palette, let the color dry and rewet it when they want to use it. Then it becomes similar to paint that comes in a pan.

There is a lot of information about creating your own color palette online, and this is a very wide subject that goes way way way beyond the scope of this post.
Personally, I have a mixture of both pans and tubes in my palette currently. For my uses the half sized pans are a little small, so if and when I get more paint I'll either go for full size pans or tubes.

What brand to get?
I'm not even gonna try to answer that!
I have some Schmincke, Windsor& Newton and Daniel Smith and they are all great. The names of the colors can differ from brand to brand.  

What colors to get?
Now that's a great question. Tough one:) There are sooo soo many colors out there. But if you decided you want to invest in the best quality, and like most people do not have an unlimited budget, I advise two strategies.
Don't do what I did. Don't go to the art store and buy some pretty colors. I mean, you could do that, it's really fun (unless you're very indecisive, and then don't go just before closing time) but the more you paint, the more you'll see that you need the 'right' colors. And what I mean is that you need certain colors in order to be able to create many many more other beautiful colors.I love pinks and aquas, and purples. I don't feel like buying boring primary colors... No offense to the primaries. But the thing is, once I started using those beautiful paints, and this is also true to other media, like acrylic paint, I noticed how limited i was with those colors. I want to paint with many colors, even if I am 'only' creating a background for my scrapbooking page. So for that it's best to learn some color theory and color mixing. Unless you can afford to buy all the pretty colors you want:) But also then, I promise you you'll want to mix them up anyway:)

So one strategy is to do your research and choose some colors.
The second is to buy a palette that already has a variety of colors and shades, most companies offer those. I know Windsor& Newton (just notice that Cotman is their student grade brand name) and Schmincke Horadam offer half and full pan sets in different sizes, so this is another way to try out some colors and see what you use the most. If you're anything like me, you might think the colors in those palettes are not your favorites. But chances are, you could probably mix every color imaginable from those colors.

Just before we move on, I feel the need to write this, boldly:)
This is a very general overview, and I highly recommend further research before committing to artist grade watercolors.
Now we have to get to some color theory. This is actually interesting stuff. But who has the time to read all this? I just want to make a layout in the free couple of hours or less that I have... Yeah, what can I say, only that I think it'll be worth your while.
This is a good place to mention, that you can do all the research in the world, sit for hours online surfing the web, search for other people's opinions, color choices, recommendations etc. And while this is helpful and definitely invaluable information, there's no substitute to painting, mixing, playing, trial-and-error-ing for yourself.
But there's still some important stuff to read and learn and keep in mind before shopping.

Besided colors there are other things to keep in mind, like opacity (watercolors can be transparent, semi opaque or opaque), lightfastness, staining. I'm not going to go into all this here, so just in a few words.
I prefer transparent watercolor for my purposes.
On my scrapbooking pages I don't really care about lightfastness.
Generally, on my projects and scrapbook layouts I try to use non staining watercolors so I can correct my mistake more easily. But I admit I mostly go for the pretty color, staining or not:)

If these terms are unfamiliar to you, here a great link with some simple examples and explanations.

OK, back to color choices.
Start with the primaries. Yellow, Red and Blue. But that's not that helpful when choosing watercolors, since there are dozens of each. Colder reds, warmer and so on.

This is a good link for deciding which primary colors to get.
This is another good link with a color wheel to help you better understand color in watercolor. There are also some great (and short) info about which colors to get and why.
Here's a quote from that site,

''Each one of the primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — is biased, meaning that it leans toward one of the other two primary colors. When mixing watercolor paints to get a secondary color — orange, green, or purple — use two primaries biased toward each other. Otherwise, you get a gray, muddy color.
For example, to get purple, be sure to mix a blue biased toward red such as ultramarine blue and a red biased toward blue such as alizarin crimson. When mixing colors, refer to the following list:
  • Reds with a blue bias: alizarin crimson, carmine, crimson lake, magenta, opera, rhodamine, rose madder, scarlet lake
  • Reds with a yellow bias: cadmium red, chlorinated para red, chrome orange, English red oxide, fluorescent red, Indian red, light red, permanent red, perylene red, phioxine red, red lake, red lead, sandorin scarlet, Venetian red, vermillion, Winsor red
  • Yellows with a blue bias: aureolin, azo, cadmium yellow lemon, cadmium yellow pale, Flanders yellow, lemon yellow, permanent yellow light, primary yellow, Winsor yellow, yellow light
  • Yellows with a red bias: aurora yellow, brilliant yellow, cadmium yellow medium and deep, chrome, gallstone, golden yellow, Indian yellow, Mars yellow, Naples yellow, permanent yellow medium and deep, raw sienna, Sahara, yellow lake, yellow ochre
  • Blues with a red bias: brilliant, cobalt, cyanine, indigo, mountain blue, ultramarine blue, verditer blue, Victoria blue
  • Blues with a yellow bias: Antwerp, cerulean, compose, intense blue, manganese, monestial blue, Paris blue, peacock blue, phthalocyanine blue, Prussian, Rembrandt, speedball, touareg, turquoise, Winsor blue''
Note**** Many recommend the shade Aureolin for a primary yellow, but it has been found to fade to brown or grey, so consider avoiding it.

Check out Jane Blundell's page. This is an amazing webpage with so much information about watercolor color choice, beware. Check the links on the right for great color comparisons.

This book by Stephen Quiller has some great information about color. It's called ''Color Choices - Making Color Sense out of Color Theory''. 
I really wish I read it before I bought anything, but better late than never:) Google 'Quiller Wheel'.

OK, this is WAY longer than I intended... Hope this was helpful, I'm working on reviewing also other water soluble media for the crafter/scrapbooker, so hopefully I'll post that in the near future. And I always wanted to say this, I have some exciting things happening next week, so stay tuned:)
Have a lovely weekend and please leave me a comment if you have any questions!
Thanks for visiting!

September 25, 2014

Scrapbooking with a Grid Design

Hi there! While I'm working on part 2 of my watercolors for scrapbookers post I thought I'd just share that I'm taking a class at Big Pictures Classes, Art and Design, taught by Wilna Furstenberg. Well, the class started today, it's 5 weeks long and there are 5 videos every week. I'm almost done with the content for the first week (like all of Wilna's classes, this one is also jam packed), and what can I say, it's lovely. Beautiful designs, beautiful pages, just a joy to watch and as always, so inspiring. So week 1 is all about grid designs. I use grids now and then on my pages, but it's not one of my go-to designs, I guess because I love layering and not measuring. I'm challenging myself to make my grid pages look more like me. I've already made one layout that turned out good, but it's cleaner and emptier than my usual style. I like it, but it's not completely me:). I'll probably post a process video making that page cause it was really fun, but for now here are some pages I've made using a grid design (or a variation of it).

Wilna's class at BPC is open for registration till October 1st BTW:)
Thanks for visiting!

September 23, 2014

Watercolors for the Scrapbooker- Comparison- Part 1

Hi everyone!
I thought I would share my thoughts and experience with different watercolors, especially considering it's such a huge trend in scrapbooking and card making lately. I hope this trend stays for awhile, cause I just LOVE watercolors. I might make a video that contains most of what I'm gonna write here, but for now, here's the written version. I own lots of watercolors and other water soluble media, and, as always, every product has its advantages and disadvantages. Watercolors can be very cheap and very expensive. I hope this guide helps you decide which ones are suitable for your needs. Needless to say there are many many more products out there that will not be covered here, but I can only attest to the ones I've personally tried.
I am going to focus on watercolors for the scrapbooker, since that is what I use mine the most.
So let's start!

Loew Cornell Simply Art Watercolor Cakes- 

This set costs less than 5$ on Amazon if you're in the US. That's where I ordered mine. There's a very similar version (that I haven't used) called Artist's Loft watercolor

Both sets contain 36 colors.  If you're in Germany or Austria, you can find this set at Scrapbook-Werkstatt for 8.90 euros.
I will be talking about the Simply Art set, cause that's the one I tried:)

Advantages- Price. This is definitely a budget friendly set, and I would say this is the greatest advantage. Yes, this is a great deal for someone who wants to try watercolors out without spending a lot of money.  The color choice is great, and the colors are very pretty. The lid has 36 little tubs where you can mix your own colors.

Disadvantages- These watercolors are chalky and opaque (the more water you add the less opaque they will be).   That could be the look you want, just know what to expect. BUT, and this is a big but, in my opinion, this set will not give you the best results, if you're after that luminous transparent vibrant watercolor look.
There is not a lot of pigment here compared to higher quality watercolors, so you will need to use more paint to get stronger brighter color. Because of the chalky consistency, if you use a lot of paint on your page, it will sit on top of the paper, and not sink into it, which can cause it to simply fall off once dry. That has happened to me several times. So when I do use this palette, it's for a very soft subtle look, with a light coat of paint.

There are some amazing scrapbookers that use this palette with really beautiful results, like the wonderful Wilna Furstenberg. So you can totally create beautiful watercolor looks also with this palette. With my style and the look I want when I use watercolor, I admit I rarely reach for this set.
Here's a link to a good review video of the Artist's Loft set- Prairie Paper & Ink.

Studio Calico Mr. Huey's Watercolor Set-
Studio Calico came out with this set at the beginning of the year, it contains 18 colors and costs about 4$. 

Great price, very affordable. The colors are pretty vibrant, definitely more than I expected for the price, color choice is nice with some trendy options (line green, almost fluorescent pink, warm radiant-orchid-like purple). Most colors are semi opaque. This is a really good choice for starting out with some watercolors, in my opinion, better than the Simply Art set, when it comes to color vibrancy.
Size. This palette is very small. So besides not getting a lot of product, I find it hard to use. If you use watercolor for small details with small brushes, then it won't affect you much. But I use a lot of water and bigger brushes, and I find this set inconvenient.

Peerless Watercolors... the self blending colors-
These are unique in their form. From the official website-
"The color sheet is a heavy film of highly concentrated pure color of intense strength and absolute solubility. The color is coated on one side of a special paper fabric that readily discharges when it comes into contact with water or any soluble mixture."

There are several packages.The Complete Edition contains 15 color sheets in a cool booklet with all kinds of interesting information about the colors and the product. The text has not been edited or changed since its first publication in 1902. These watercolors are hand made using the same process since the company was founded in 1885. This is a good package for those who want a basic color range. It costs about 15$ in the US.
The bonus pack contains 40 additional colors. It comes in a 2'' by 6'' size or a smaller size of 2'' by 2''. 

There are a lot of colors here. If you use these a lot, than this could be a good way to see which colors you like the most. These are very pigmented, and will last you awhile if you don't use them to color big areas. However, if you tend to use only bright colors, like me, there are a lot of colors here that will remain unused.

It's worth to check out two more options for these colors. There's the Joanne palette-

This package contains 15 colors, and I think this is a great choice for a set if you love bright colors. There's a good selection of yellows, pinks and blues, as well as some greens. I use this set often.
The bonus pack contains all the colors in the Joanne palette.
If you're a pink lover like me, there's also this set, called Pretty in Pink-
Which contains 6 fun pinks and purples. These shades are exclusive to this set and cannot be found in the other sets.
You can find more details and prices on the Peerless website. I got mine on Etsy, but they are sold also at Simon Says Stamp and Scrapbook Werkstatt.
There are also lots of videos on YouTube with reviews and tips on how to organize these.
The colors are vibrant, also when you use very small amounts. They are wonderfully transparent, and the color selection is great. They are also really easy to use, especially if you use a waterbrush, very mess-free. These are probably the 'cleanest' option:) A great option for traveling or water coloring on the go, which is probably not that relevant for scrapbookers, but if you're lucky enough to attend crops or retreats, then this is a good option.
I find it is difficult to mix colors with these, compared to watercolors that come in a tube or a pan. I am getting more and more into water coloring, and not just for backgrounds on my scrapbook layouts. And for that I feel I need the ability to mix my own colors. Also, these need a good organization system, to be able to access them easily, as well as color samples, since the pigment looks nothing like the actual color (the other side of the paper shows the color, but I recommend creating your own swatches.) If you love organizing than this might be a plus for you, but I really don't enjoy it, so this is a minus in my book:)
I think Peerless watercolors offer the scrapbooker (or card maker) a great affordable high quality watercolor experience. If you want bright clear transparent watercolor, that already comes in beautiful colors so you don't have to worry about mixing your own, this is a great yet still affordable option. Because of the strong pigment (which in general is always a sign of high quality paint, also in other media, pigment is usually the costly ingredient), you only need very small amounts of color. Considering that scrapbookers tend to use patterned paper and cardstock on most of their layouts (that don't handle lots of water as well as watercolor paper), this is a big advantage.
Here are some good video reviews-
Prairie Paper & Ink
Darlene DeVries
And here are some examples of these watercolors in action in my videos-

Zig Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolors-
There watercolors come in a beautiful box, and in different sized sets of 12, 18, 24, 36.
I couldn't resist and got the 36 set, because the colors are gorgeous, and it comes with gold! The pans in the set can be removed from the box, so you can pull out just the colors you need.  I'll be talking about the big set, but of course the details about the quality should apply to all sizes.
The colors are very pigmented and have a lovely creamy buttery consistency. Very fun to play with, and a little color will go a long way. On the lid of the box there's a color chart you can fill out, super easy and handy. Big plus for me (hate organizing!).
In the big set there are obviously more colors, but these are also the 'right' colors, and what I mean is, that you have an excellent variety, that lets you create basically every other color, should you need more:) You have primary colors (yellow, red, blue) with some cool and warm variations, as well as lovely secondary (orange, green, violet) and some tertiary colors (most of them actually). And then there are the 'specialty colors' sort of speak, that are harder to find in watercolors, like pearlescent white and gold. Some of the colors are opaque, some semi-opaque and some translucent, but they are all really pretty.

Price. These are, especially the big sets, very very pricey. The 36 colors set will set you back 55$. They are probably cheaper than artist quality full sized pans or tubes, especially if you want 36 colors, but they are still expensive, especially for the scrapbooker who likes to dabble in other media and wants a wide variety of products without breaking the bank. You could of course buy a smaller set, but if you want to be able to mix more colors, I would consider checking out other options of creating your own watercolor palette, something I intend to touch (in a very unprofessional-intended-for-the-scrapbooker way) later in part 2 of this comparison.
Here's a great video review of these by one of my greatest enablers, Jennifer McGuire.
I hope you found this comparison useful, stay tuned for part 2 where I'll be talking about Twinkling H2O's, artist grade watercolor, Ecoline fluid watercolors, creating your own palette, and more things watercolor as well as my summary on the best options for the scrapbooker who wants to play with watercolors, in my humble opinion, of course.
Thanks for visiting!

September 17, 2014

Hip Kit Club Layouts+ Process Videos

Hey there! Today I'm sharing two more layouts I created using the July and September Hip Kits. The August and September kits just landed on my desk a few days ago, and I couldn't wait to play with all the beautiful goodies. I try to kill a kit before I move on to the next, but with the summer vacation I haven't had a lot of time so scrap, and being the impatient and new-goodies-lover that I am, I decided to just go with the kit that worked the best with my photos.
Here's the finished layout I created using the September Hip Kit-

I used mostly items from Crate's Notes and Things collection. I grabbed a few die cuts from the ephemera pack that came with the August kit, but the rest is from the September kit.

I thought the soft colors of the papers really worked well with the colors of the photo.

Love to add touched of gold to my layouts!
Here's the video-

The second layout I'll be sharing today was experimental also for me. I used the October Afternoon cut apart sheet that came with the July Hip Kit. I really like the vintage feel of October Afternoon, and I like their designs, but the colors are usually too primary or vintage for what I like to use on my pages. Here's the finished layout-

I applied a thin layer of gesso to the OA squares, thin so I could still see the design. Next I went over all the lines in the words and images with Micron pens in different sized nibs. It looked like this when I was finished-

Next I used my Peerless watercolors to paint the squares, keeping the shades similar to the original paper. And that was kinda it:) I printed my photos the same size, and used a simple grid design.

Thanks for visiting and I'll be back soon with more layouts and videos!

September 8, 2014

September?? Really?? New Layouts & Process Videos

How did September get here already?? How is it that my daughter just started her last year in kindergarten?? How did the summer pass so fast? Questions with no answers... Just that time flies. But enough about that. Here are a few new layouts I created using the June and July Hip Kits.  After making some layouts with the June kit, I just united the two kits together.
Here's the first one-

I used white cardstock and Altenew's Scribbled Flowers stamp set to create the background. I used Hero Arts Pale Tomato ink and Stampin' Up inks.

The rest came together quite quickly, with some paper layering under the photo and some lovely embellishment from Crate Paper's Open Road collection that came with the embellishment add on.

Here's the process video-

The second page was slightly trickier to create, just because I wasn't sure on the background. The photo I used was slightly paler, so I decided to use a sheet of vellum over some lovely light yellow cardstock that came in the cardstock add on kit. I have to say I was never really into cardstock, with all that gorgeous patterned paper everywhere... But since using more and more mixed media on my pages, and seeing those lovely colors every month in the cardstock add on, I'm starting to really like it, and actually using it more.
Here's the finished layout-

I love how dreamy and airy the vellum looks, and I was really happy that my sakura white gel pen didn't smudge when I used it on the vellum (it needs to dry for a few seconds though).

Don't you just love it when kits mix and match so well together? I know I do! Those acetate butterflies came in the June main kit, and they look so pretty on those Crate Paper chipboard frames that came in the July kit!

I felt like the vellum in the background needed a little texture, to add interest and help ground the main cluster. I used a stamp from Simon Says Stamp, it's a wide stripe background rubber stamp, super versatile, great for backgrounds and techniques. At the time of writing this post, that stamp is sold out, but any background stamp would achieve a similar effect.
And here's the process video-

Have a great week, I'll be back soon with more new layout and videos!
Thanks for visiting!