Yes, I am literally going to write a blog post about paper, which is very Dunder-Mifflin of me, I suppose. But in my determination to make a simple hobby like coloring far more expensive and time-consuming than it needs to be, I’ve tried a few things out, so I might as well share.
Right when I started coloring, I knew I wanted to work with alcohol markers, and the paper used for coloring books is a no-go for those. Alcohol markers are very watery, and the paper disintegrates right away. So, I hopped online and did some research about good papers for alcohol markers, and after some trial and error I finally landed on this card stock as my favorite option. The main things I consider are the smoothness and the weight of the paper; for alcohol markers it is best to choose a smooth paper that won’t tear up the marker nibs (unlike using watercolors, which work better on rough or highly textured papers), and it should be heavy enough to prevent bleed-through or feathering. This paper is 100 pounds, but I have read of people going as low as 65 lbs and still being satisfied. I also had to be sure that the cardstock would run through our printer, and this does the trick. It’s probably my most-used paper so far, and I often use it when working with gel pens also as I like the durability of it, and since I frame a lot of my pages I feel like it frames up nicely. But, because I bought several different papers before landing on this one, I do have others I try to use when I can.
This was another paper that was recommended for alcohol markers, and while it is very smooth and colors really pop when using it, I found it couldn’t tolerate the amount of shading and layering I do without it starting to break down. I will say this paper really is bleed-proof, even when I get the paper pretty wet, but it’s not one I use often. It’s fine for gel pens, though, so I try to remember to use it for that purpose (even though I generally prefer the cardstock for my gel pens as well as my Copics).
Neenah papers come highly recommended for all sorts of coloring and crafting, but as you can see if you click the link in the image, it’s expensive – plus, I didn’t buy a heavy weight so it isn’t very useful for me. This is unfortunate, because I bought an entire ream and I haven’t used much of it at all. I try to remember to use it for my gel pen coloring, but it can still break down and bleed a bit even with gel pens. This was my first paper purchase, so it was a learning experience for me, albeit an expensive one.
I’ve mentioned before how convenient it is to copy coloring pages before using them, because you don’t ruin an image you wanted to work with (make a mistake, just re-copy) and you can choose better papers than what the original was printed on. Obviously, you need a copier to be able to do this, but since Doug and I have both worked from home for years we have a decent one that can handle copying on heavy paper. So, every image I’ve colored still has an original that I keep in a folder (I do tear the pages out before copying them as that makes it easier for me to make a straight, non-wonky copy) so I can re-color it whenever I want. It definitely makes paying for coloring books more cost-effective, and even if I was just using regular paper I would copy the images to save the originals.
Since I have time and space here to do so, I’ll go ahead and mention some other tools I’ve discovered and have found really useful.
I would be NOTHING without this thing. My husband mentioned such a contraption to me shortly after I got started coloring, and I scurried over to Amazon to buy a magnifying lamp right away to assist my 51-year-old eyes. I love it, and use it for other purposes besides coloring – it makes a great ring light when I am using my camera on Zoom, and it helps me when I do my nails to see what I am doing without having to push my nose right up against my hands. I don’t have anything else to say about it because, I mean, there it is – but I have really appreciated having this thing on my desk and use it every time I color or use Zoom. It’s a seriously bright light too – in fact I can’t aim it right at my face unless it’s really far away for webcam use, so I just turn the light around and bounce the light off the wall instead, which is much softer.
OK, I just bought one of these a few days ago so I haven’t tried it out yet, but it seems straighforward enough that I can go ahead and recommend it. I can’t tell you how many times I would smudge a coloring page by laying my hand down on the paper where the ink was still wet, so I finally got the idea to hop online again and research what people do to circumvent that issue. It’s called an artist’s bridge, and you place it over your workspace so you can place your hand on it while you color without touching the paper. Hopefully this thing will be as useful in reality as it seems to be conceptually!
I picked up this idea when searching YouTube for tips on blending alcohol markers. I don’t like using colored pencils as a primary medium; I enjoy the flow of working with wet materials like gels or alcohol pens. However, colored pencils can be used with alcohol markers to add more drama to blended areas of a page – after using the markers, you can go back to areas where you want the shading or blending to be more pronounced and dramatic, choose a colored pencil that matches the darker shade, and color over the marker blending with the pencil. It will look very scratchy if you leave it there, though, so using a solvent like Gamsol (which is odorless and as non-toxic as any solvent can be) to break down the colored pencil and make it blendable will create the desired effect. The paper stumps are what I use to distribute the Gamsol; I dip the stump in the gamsol and then apply it to the penciled area of the page, then blend out the pencil marks and scratches to create a softer appearance. This photo is an example of where I used a lot of this colored pencil technique to make my blending more dramatic and pronounced:
I may not have explained this technique well, but you can search YouTube for demonstrations on how to use Gamsol and colored pencil and tons of videos will be available to you. I have found this doesn’t work at all with gel pens, though, and even though I can shade and blend with my gel pens when I want to, it’s pretty inconsistent as far as the results go, so I don’t do it very often.
OK, I feel like these pens merit a dedicated blog post, but I feel like discussing them here so we’ll see if I ever go more in-depth on them later. These come across as pretty gimmicky, and they get mixed reviews from artists, but the concept is a cool one and with a LOT of practice I’ve found the best ways to use these for my own purposes. The first thing to understand is that the whole reason I love using alcohol pens is because of their blending abilities. On the right paper, you can blend the living shit out of the colors once you get them onto your paper, and create beautiful blending and shading. But even with my regular Copics, this takes practice and patience, unless you’re just a natural drawer and shader, which I most certainly am NOT.
So. The gimmick of the Chameleon pens is that they have the ability to be fastened to a solvent “cap” to make the blending process easier and more effective. With regular alcohol pens, you need to choose 2-3 colors very close in shade and tone to blend – you lay down the darkest color, then blend with the medium one, and then use the lightest one at the edges of the ink to create the faded appearance. As I said before it takes practice, and thank g-d once again for YouTube for helping me figure this out; it took me a solid week or two of shading circle after circle before I got it right. With a Chameleon pen, however, what you do is take the color you want, pop the blender off the back of the pen, attach it to the tip of the colored nib, and wait a bit for the blending agent to seep into the nib. This waters down the color so that when you start to shade, the ink comes out very light, and as you sketch that solvent fades off the nib until you return to the original shade, creating that ombre effect.
This is a cool idea, but as a lot of the criticism about them points out, it’s not really necessary. Copic markers are excellent for blending, and while this idea might speed up the process a little, it isn’t exactly laborious to start with, and there is actually a lot less control over the amount of blending you get with these pens. The biggest problem I had with them was that I blend from dark to light (which is just a preference, a lot of people work from light to dark, or start with a middle color, etc) and the only way to use these pens was to shade from light to dark. I just never could get a handle on how to work with these – I would have to estimate where I wanted the darker ink to “end up” on the page and then start coloring somewhere above that to get the fade, and it was just non-intuitive and annoying. So, I had chalked these up to a specialty pen I’d probably only use every once in awhile until I came across these little Chameleon pen accessories:
So, these little pen tops replace the “cap” on the original pen that just had blending solvent in it. They pop onto the ink nib just like the solvent cap does, BUT they seep another COLOR onto the nib, instead of just soaking some solvent into it that lightens the original shade.
Now THIS is useful! Using regular alcohol pens to blend and shade is fairly easy; you just choose 2-3 pens that are close in color from light to dark and blend them together. It takes practice, but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. However, using regular markers to blend two colors together that are NOT close in shade or color is a real bitch, but these color tops make it a snap! Once I discovered Color Tops, my Chameleon pens went from my least-used to my most-used alcohol marker. You have to buy the color tops in separate packages of four each, so that can get pricey, but you can pick and choose which colors you want to use and add to your collection over time. As some have pointed out, you could just as easily take one colored pen and smoosh the nib up against another one and get the same effect, but the distribution method with the color tops works much better, and to me that is worth the money.
I will say though, that at first I had a habit of pushing the color top really HARD onto the nib of the other pen, and I’ve damaged a few nibs that way. So, I’ve learned to use a lighter touch. Also, the Chameleon pens come with a few replacement nibs for just this purpose, and like Copics you can buy more nibs online if you need them. Chameleons are also refillable like Copics are, which really help justify the cost. Also speaking of cost – while a set of 52 Chameleon pens costs about $180, that is child’s play compared to what a 52-set of Copics would cost. So when you think of it that way, you could consider these a cheaper option that has a lot of flexibilty and ways to add to the value of them over time. I don’t think the nibs on the Chameleons is as good as those on the Copics, but since there are replacements that doesn’t bug me too much.
Whoo! I think that’s enough for now. But I am still uploading a COVID-365 pic a day here, so that will be coming soon. Stay safe everyone!
As I may have mentioned previously, one of my bright ideas I had about getting into coloring pages was to use my own photos as pages to color. However this turned out to be much more challenging than I expected.
So obviously, this doesn’t work. Coloring greyscale images is actually a thing, but it’s not my thing at all. One of the coloring books I bought was in greyscale without me realizing it, and in researching online how I could color the pages I discovered greyscale coloring usually is done with colored pencils, which isn’t a medium I enjoy working with at all. It can be beautiful though:
Since I wasn’t interested in that process, I started thinking of ways I could create a more typical coloring page out of my pictures. I did some research online and found a few different techniques, but none of them really created an actual coloring page with clear lines. Every suggested process I tried ended up looking something like this:
My next big idea was to convert the image into this rather messy format, print it out, and then trace it keeping only the lines I want. This seemed to be a decent solution, but for some reason it still wasn’t working for me:
It’s OK, but it still didn’t satisfy me, plus I found the whole process boring. From transforming the photos in Photoshop to figuring out what lines to trace, it just wasn’t any fun and I still didn’t feel happy with the results.
Choosing which lines to keep and which to leave out was tricky; I always felt like I still had too many lines and they got in the way when I was trying to color. And the lines all felt ‘weak’ and rickety and difficult to color within for some reason. Compare my attempts to one of my coloring pages that has a similar image:
I even found some free sites online where you could upload a picture and the software claimed it could convert it into a coloring page, but guess what – all those sites used the exact same processes I had used on my own and disliked. So I pretty much gave up and decided I just wasn’t going to be able to color my own photos. No big deal – I had plenty of other stuff to work with. But a few weeks later I thought perhaps I could find someone on Etsy who had the capacity to covert photos; lo and behold I found the perfect person! It’s an artist with a shop there called MGSCustomArt, and she hit it straight out of the park!
See how much more satisfying this is? I swear to God I never could have done this and I’m still amazed at how good this artist is at it herself. I sent her three photos the first time, and it took about two weeks to get them back, which was fine. I just ordered another print from her today and sent it along to her as well.
She charges $10 a page, which I know sounds like a lot when you can buy a whole coloring book for $6, but to me having my own photos looking like real, actual coloring pages with exactly the right lines and clarity while STILL looking like ME is totally worth it! She has a lot of positive reviews at her Etsy site with uploads of other people’s pictures, so you can go there and see samples of other photos she’s transformed. Lots of people have had more personal photos than these turned into coloring pages – pictures with family, friends, or pets – and they all look great!
So, if this is ever something you’ve been interested in doing, give MGSCustomArt some love because she is the best I’ve found. I have never seen anything even close to what she can do!
Hello my fellow homebound, hopefully healthy hopefuls! I am here with some more ramblings about my coloring obsession, and anything else that comes to mind while I’m writing about that, so let’s get to it.
Coloring Tools – Gel Pens!
I should probably start by talking more about gel pens, since it’s related to the title. I still love coloring with gel pens, and I am learning to do shading and blending with them – although that has been a challenge, and one I am just beginning to master after weeks of experimenting.
After working with some different brands, I’ve decided that my favorite set is actually the inexpensive Fiskars 48-pen set I mentioned in my last post. While the Gelly Roll Pens offer the smoothest coloring experience, the set of them I purchased just has so many pens in it that I find useless and icky, which is a bummer considering the high price point, so it’s actually the Fiskars set that I’ve used the most, and have already had to repurchase because I’ve completely used up many of the colors.
Still working on this one, obviously – but it has all the elements I enjoy, both color-wise and image-wise.
In general I’ve learned that I prefer the opaque gel pens in either pastel or neon colors, with the glitters close behind. I really loathe metallic gels, and that Gelly Roll set I purchased has a TON of them, which is one of the reasons it’s a big letdown for me. Out of the six different styles of gel pens included in that set, three of them are metallics, so, ugh. I tossed the card included with the set that listed how many of each style there are, and since I’ve broken the set down and scattered them all to the winds, I wasn’t going to hunt them all down and count them, but I can say that the Fiskars set only has about nine pens total that are metallic, and that is WAY less than I got stuck with from the Gelly Rolls. Plus, the Fiskars pack has some specialty pens that are actually cool, instead of the Gelly Roll set that only has a handful of specialty pens and that are, as already mentioned, metallic.
These are what Fiskars calls “color changing pens” – a description that’s a bit misleading, and that has led to a fair amount of negative reviews about these particular pens in the set. Most people don’t like them because they don’t change color quickly, and if not used properly the different inks will blend together into an unpleasant muddy gray. For some reason, I never had problems using these pens, probably because my style of coloring works well with what they can do. I think a lot of people use gel pens to write, and these would be a real disappointment in that case because you need to cover large swaths of space to get the color-changing effect out of these. For example:
OK now – this was an experiment page that I didn’t color too carefully, and I made some weird choices here because, again, I was just messing around; but you can see how these pens WILL change color over time, just not right away. And once the pen color has changed, it’s not going back to the previous color, which is also an expectation people have that disappoints them, I think. It takes a LOT of coloring to get the colors to change, and when they do the change is gradual, so since buying my first Fiskars set in May I have already completely used up most of these (there are only 5 in the whole set, one each in yellow, orange, green, purple, and blue). In fact, it was primarily these 5 pens that prompted me to re-purchase the entire set; Fiskars doesn’t sell any smaller sets than this one, and I figured since I don’t plan to re-purchase a lot of Gelly Rolls and most of the colors in that set that I like are represented in the Fiskars package, it made sense to re-purchase another one . They don’t flow quite as smoothly as the GRs, but they do have a variety of different nib sizes, which helps. For coloring, the medium and large nibs work better for me as I find fine points too scratchy, but I am learning to work with them since so many colors I like are only available in fine point.
As my first set of color-changing Fiskars started to run out, I searched Amazon for alternatives, and it turns out this concept is fairly common. Most brands refer to them as “swirl” or “marble” pens, and most of them get fair to middling reviews. There are tricks to using pens like this that, for some reason, I am able to figure out easily; again, from reading the negative reviews they mostly come from people who use them for writing, and I can see how these wouldn’t work well for that purpose. After reading and researching a ton of different brands, I landed on these Geddes Swirl Pens – primarily because I could get 50 of them for a decent price; I can’t recall any other reason that prompted me to choose these over others, except that most swirl pens come in small sets of 4 or 5 and I figured, as much as I use these things, I should just get a shit-ton of ’em.
All the shading iou see in the teal here was done using a combination of copic markers and colored pencils, BTW
As you can see, these function differently from the Fiskars, but if you don’t use them properly they will muddy up. I always color using a circular motion with both my gel pens and my alcohol markers, and this seems to work well with swirl pens, but ONLY when I use a really, really light touch – I barely press down on the page at all; these have a medium point so a light touch still deposits a good amount of ink. Also, these pens sputter out different colors in little spotches and spurts, so I pay close attention to that, and do my best not to swirl the little pops of unusual color together too much, so they stand out. You can really see the pen strokes this way, but it’s the only way I’ve found to capture the different inks, and overall I like the effect. I do feel like the “blue” swirl pen is pretty dark and muddy (it’s the portion of the mandala that looks purple and green; even though the occasional pop of blue comes out it tends to get drowned out by the more dominant colors) so I use it more sparingly than the others, but overall the effect is really quite cool. Thank God, because I have a buttload of these to use up!
Now let’s talk about my favorite colors – pastels and neons!
As I mentioned earlier, I have broken down all my sets into different categories rather than keeping them in their original packaging (one tray for pastels, another for neon, etc.) and have banished all but a few of the metallics to a pencil holder stuck on a shelf in my closet, along with my first cheapo set of alcoholic markers that are already busted and useless and a set of Chameleon color-changing felt-tip markers that are total crap (more on that later). I also have a tray of glitter pens that I love, but the glitter ink didn’t show up in the photo so I figured why bother. I trust that you all know what glitter looks like, so you know, use your imagination.
For whatever reason, I don’t use the primary and “basic” colors too often, even though I have a ton of them from all the different sets. I really should make it a challenge to try and color at least one mandala or something using nothing but basic colors, but I’m fairly certain I’d get bored and never finish it, just like I did the time I challenged myself to color a mandala in nothing but grays and browns (ugh, why?). I just gravitate towards the pastels and neons, and end up using the primary colors as accents, or as darker shades to use when blending.
Recently, I decided to add some earth tones to my collection, something that I found more challenging than finding swirl pens for sure. There aren’t many options for earth tones, and most of the smaller sets didn’t include the olive green I definitely wanted. I ended up buying a pretty cheap set from a brand that has several interesting sets with a variety of tones – a set of cool tones with a big variety of blue shades, and a warm set with just about every variation of red and yellow you could want. However, these sets also had a LOT of metallics, but since their vintage set was the only one I found with some of the greens and different shades of brown I wanted, I went ahead and made the purchase. The set also came with refills, which I thought was a good deal for 24 pens at $15.
Tons of browns and greens! And also, sadly, MANY metallics that have already been banished.
Most of these pens really aren’t good quality. The ink doesn’t flow well, and they’re pretty scratchy due to the fine points. But I have already ordered two more refills for this set for two BIG reasons – namely, two of the pens in the set that are a color I can’t find anywhere else.
I freaking ADORE these colors! They also don’t deposit ink smoothly, but I am learning to work with them because I can already tell these two pens are going to be a staple in my artwork (can I call the pages I color from coloring books artwork? Well I just did so there you go). That beige is an amazing neutral that is great for “filler” in mandalas where I want to balance out some of the brighter shades, and that other pen is actually cream, not yellow, which is REALLY hard to find anywhere else – meaning, I’ve searched the whole wide web and not found another cream or ivory colored gel pen anywhere!
You can see the beige in the background of the rectangle with the circles, and that half-triangle at the top of the uncolored, stripey triangle is a blend of the beige with the cream (the cream looks more yellow-y in the photo than it does in reality, but you get the idea). This set came with two of the cream pen, and only one of the beige, so I have already ordered more refills of the entire set so I have several of them in case the company stops making them in the near future – the company not only includes one pack of refills with the initial set, but also sells refills separately, which is a nice touch. I am pretty sure these two colors are going to make it into almost every page I color, so I really want a stockpile of them! The rest of the colors are just OK – some of the options are great, like the aforementioned olive greens and deeper browns, but unfortunately the ink is runny and uneven. They can be worked with, but will probably only be used as accent colors due to the poor quality.
Lots of the earth tones used in this one, but also other pastels and neons worked in.
Coloring Books and Pages
After playing around with a lot of different types of coloring pages, both content and style, I am starting to figure out what I like best. I am a huge fan of coloring pages with black backgrounds, and have purchased several coloring books from Amazon with black pages. Here are a few that I’ve tried, in no particular order:
100 Amazing Patterns: This is the first coloring book I bought, and it is still a favorite. Patterns, particularly mandala patterns, are one of my favorite subjects to color, because the focus is really on the colors and not much else. As a photographer, I have always been obsessed with color as its own subject matter, more or less, and color considerations factor greatly into my choices through that medium. Coloring is no exception to this, and to be able to focus on color without having to consider realism or restrictions due to subject matter is probably the most relaxing and rewarding experience I can have. Based on some of my other choices, I realize I really got lucky with this first book – the patterns are intricate without being too busy, and the lines are strong without being overpowering. Also, I’ve come to realize that 100 pages is a lot for the average book, and there are only a handful of pages I don’t like. So this one is highly recommended, and I can only imagine other books by this same artist would be great also.
F*ck Trump: OK, look. I loathe our current president. But I am not interested in fighting about that, or ranting about it, or judging anyone who doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, I would have left this book off the list entirely except that it has some artistic flaws that helped me narrow down my preferences – even though initially I found the images empowering as a means to creatively express some of my disdain for the man, as coloring pages these just didn’t work for me. While I really enjoy coloring text, sayings, and slogans of various kinds, I found the backgrounds on these slogans to be too busy and rather illogical. And the text font is the same on every page, which gets old quickly. In fact, there’s very little variation throughout the book, and quite honestly it has the feel of something that was created using coloring book software rather than an artist’s drawings. Even the lines aren’t quite right – they’re too thin to be useful as a guide for placing color, and there’s no helpful detail at all. Overall the images on each page just feel – insubstantial, I guess. And the choices often make no sense. For example, one of the pages said, quite simply, “Fuck Trump,” and had a background of – mushrooms? Why? Is that supposed to be a penis joke? I mean, I guess it could have been – but they weren’t appealing, or interesting to color – they had strange horizontal stripes on them and were surrounded by a background of vertical stripes, which, ugh – and then there were random swirly lines floating about, and the occasional stem-less flower thrown down for good measure. Another page had the phrase “Our Country” (using the same font of course) against a background of fish. If there’s a joke there akin to the possible penis reference, I’m missing it. So what I learned from buying this book was that subject matter is important, but if the images aren’t carefully created by someone who knows what they’re doing, well, all the political slogans in the world won’t make it fun for me to color. I ended up only coloring two pages from this one before I got bored. But as I said, it did help me learn what I do and don’t want from the books I buy.
Southern Sayings and Sass/Creative Haven Chalkboard Art: These were the first two coloring books I bought with black backgrounds, and I enjoyed both of them – for a while. An issue with slogan books in general is that they can get repetitive, and there will be a handful of slogans I really love and then a bunch I either don’t care for, or have already seen and colored in other slogan books. Of these two, I found the Creative Haven one to have more pages I really wanted to color due to the slogans being ones I wanted to work with; the Southern Sayings one has some REALLY busy backgrounds that I can’t imagine wanting to tackle, but it did have ONE page that is still one of my favorite pages ever:
If you are not from the US South, you probably don’t even know what “mums” are, and I am too lazy and it is too late at this point for me to explain it to you. But trust me, Homecoming mums are the most Southern thing ever, and as a high school teacher it always tickled me every year when students who were new to the area tried to acclimate to the whole weird tradition. So I love this page, enough that it ended up framed, which doesn’t happen to most the pages I color. By the way, I totally intended this gal’s blush to be softly blended, but I totally screwed it up and had go overboard to salvage the picture. Which reminds me I need to talk about paper later. Oh lord. There’s no way I’m going to get to talking about paper in this post. Moving on.
Beautiful Dresses: Fun! Some of the images in this book are of women wearing lovely gowns, but most of them are of dresses on hangers or mannequins, which is really unique. Up above, I have another picture showing one of the pages from this book I framed, which doesn’t include a dress, interestingly enough – it’s the photo of the jeans, top, purse, and shoes. Such a cute idea, and it really looks great hanging on the wall (my husband referred to it “paper doll clothes,” which he thought was really cool).
This book also has some bustiers in it, too – two of which I colored using alcohol markers and hung in my bathroom:
Many of the pages in this book, I feel, remind me of cute framed pictures you might get at a home decor store or something; they lend themselves nicely to framing and using for decoration. I like that they are not all images of people wearing the dresses, as I find that to be a unique presentation of the subject matter. I really love almost all of the pages in this book also.
Salty Bitches – Vintage Ladies Talking Trash: Oh. My God. Y’all. This book is hilarious. Almost every page is hysterically funny. The problem is, it’s not a typical coloring book. It’s really not much of a coloring book at all. And I really, really wish it was. The images in this book are reprints of classic paintings, and the sayings added to them are an absolute scream – and completely inappropriate. I have sent many photos of these pages to my friends, and every single one is funnier than the last. I really don’t like photographing and uploading un-colored pages as that seems to be unfair to the artist or publisher of the work, so I’m not going to do that here, and I don’t have much to share with you as far as pages I’ve colored because, I’m sorry to say, that coloring these pages SUCKS. They are printed in grayscale, which is a totally different coloring experience, and it’s not one that I enjoy. Really the only way to color on grayscale that works is colored pencil, and I just don’t enjoy using that medium. I’ve tried with several of these pages, but I do not like the results, and I just don’t enjoy doing the work. It’s really too bad, because while there are a TON of so-called ‘naughty,’ curse-word laden coloring books out there, most of them are not particularly original or consistently funny. But THESE are laugh-out-loud hysterical.
I did force myself to complete one entire page just to prove to myself I could do it. It’s not very good, I didn’t enjoy doing it, and I made weird color choices just because I didn’t much care. And I didn’t even choose one of the funnier pages because I knew I was just messing around, and even then it’s still really, REALLY funny:
It actually came out looking pretty good, weird color choices notwithstanding. I used colored pencil in graduated shades and followed the ‘map’ provided by the grayscale, and then I outlined everything with a black gel pen just because I felt it needed something extra. The background was black and textured and it really bothered me, so I sort of slopped a black background over it using one of my alcohol markers and decided I’d use a blue gel pen for the trim around the edges. I don’t know why. Then a few hours later I got my earth tone gel pens in the mail and decided what the hell, I’ll use them on those floral patterns even though they in NO WAY match neon pink and bright blue. So I guess overall it’s impressive that this doesn’t look a lot worse, all things considering. Maybe someday I will try harder with some of the others, and go for one of the more brutal slogans like the image of two Renaissance women standing next to each other under the slogan JUST STANDING HERE PRETENDING TO TOLERATE THIS B*TCH or the lovely portrait of a youthful, Rubenesque damsel with the slogan EAT A BAG OF D*CKS printed underneath. As far as humorous slogans, this book does it right – the contrast between the beautiful, angelic portraits and the COMPLETELY crass sayings hits just the right note, but the images themselves aren’t really made for coloring. It makes a great gag gift though, or a real conversation starter for the coffee table, which seems to be the way most people end up using this one.
Day of the Dead: Sugar Skulls: Although there are an absolute TON of sugar skull coloring books out there, I decided on this one due to the unique feature of having two versions of every skull – one on white paper, and another on black. How cool is that? I thought it might look cool to color both versions of one skull, in completely different colorways, and hang them side-by-side, but I haven’t yet had a chance to color any as I just got this book in two days ago. It’s promising though, and the lines on the artwork are strong and feel solid, just how I like them, and they are patterned without being too intricate. So I think this will be a book I like when I get chance to dig into it.
Mandala Design, Black Background Edition: It made sense that I would eventually get a book of mandalas on black backgrounds, but that’s the not the only reason I bought this one. The designs are also very different from my first mandala book, but in ways I still love. Both black-background mandala pictures I posted above are from this book – the images are smaller and more intricate than the first book, and they take up far less of each page. While in general I dislike super-small details, in this case the designs all really appeal to me – I think the black background helps, along with the fact that it is so different from the previous book I purchased. I also really like the symmetry and geometry of these designs – I have yet to find one single image that I don’t feel excited about coloring. I doubt I will be able to use my alcohol markers on any of these, unlike the first mandala book – black background pages (and in fact, coloring book pages in general) can’t tolerate alcohol markers, first of all, and these designs are too small and detailed for me to use the bigger, brush nibs on my copics or Chameleons. But all of these images are PERFECT for gel pens, as the opacity of my favorites really come alive against all that black, and those fine point tips I generally hate come in handy. Really excited about coloring more of these.
And just for the hell of it, here are some of the other coloring-book subjects I’ve seen that I have no interest in working with, but you might:
Animals in every configuration possible – cursing, farting, gallivanting, drinking coffee, or just being normal animals
Country scenes and rural landscapes
Pro-Trump books (felt I should throw those in there since I mentioned the anti-Trumps ones already)
Patterns of all kinds (geometric, art deco, etc.)
Forests and nature
Flowers and florals
Coronavirus – I suspect these to be more like the F*ck Trump book. I can’t say for sure, but these books would have been rushed into production rather than being created by an artist over time, and the quality may be lacking
Popular books/movies (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc)
OK dammit – I have been writing this post for about three hours, and I haven’t even gotten to talking about papers and accessories I use when coloring. And I haven’t had time to mention that since tapering off of Lexapro I have lost TEN POUNDS without even trying – that’s ten pounds in about three weeks, y’all. But, since getting on that medication, I’ve gained about thirty, so it kind of made sense that some amount of that would drop quickly. We’ll see how the next twenty go. And I have still failed to discuss my experiences learning to read Tarot cards (so fun!) and about a million other things. But I will say this real quick-like before I go: if you want to color for fun but you also don’t want to stress about messing up a really cool page while you do it, then do what I do and tear the pages out of the book and copy them onto a separate sheet of paper. I always do this and it has turned out to be a real lifesaver as I’ve made some serious errors on some images I really, really wanted to turn out well – it wasn’t a problem because I still had the original and could just copy it again and start over. The only exception to that has been black background pages, which I only copy if I am going to use alcohol markers on. The black really doesn’t transfer all that well onto another page, but if I want to use the markers I make it work. 😉 There are also better papers you can use – you have to use thicker, better paper for alcohol markers because the paper in the coloring books will just disintegrate, but even for gel pens there is often better paper you can use. I’ve learned about that too and have tried out many different kinds, but I am all out of steam for this blog post and will have to get into that later.
Stay safe y’all! And if you’re in the South like me, and your state or city is currently spiking at NYC-in-April levels, please social distance and stay home as much as possible. It’s bad out there right now.
Well hello there! How the hell are ya? Are you well? Are you safe? Are you stir-crazy? Are you wearing a goddamn mask when you leave the house and social distancing like you absolutely should be, you little shitbirds? 😉
Can you tell I’ve gained weight? Well I have. A lot.
OK, let’s get to it. So first of all, this goddamn virus. WTF, right? It was the week of our Spring Break in March when COVID-19 wormed its way into our American lives, and what a week that was. I had taken a little trip to a small Texas town with my sister, where my aunt owns a home, and on Monday the virus was barely a blip on the radar. By Wednesday when we left, we were glued to the news as a neighborhood in NY called New Rochelle went into lockdown, and hospitals in NYC started to overflow. By Friday of Spring Break, both of our school districts had decided to stay closed for a second week, and the Houston Rodeo had been canceled. I’d say it was a week later that most of the country went into hiding.
Extra weight or no, I am still fierce, so suck it.
OK so, everyone knows this story and has their own version of it, so let’s jump ahead to now. My husband has retired – and quite honestly he worked from home anyway – and we are both homebodies, so he wasn’t all that affected by the stay-at-home order. As for me, I completely lucked out in that I was able to transition to online tutoring without losing any of my students. In fact, in spite of my commitment to working less this year, I ended up picking up at least five more over the course of that miserable semester (miserable for the kids – at least some of them – not really for me except that I was super-busy) and didn’t lose any of my income. So, we’ve been ridiculously lucky.
Yep, I’m over it.
I really thought I would use all my new free time to take more photos, but the truth is, I’m simply bored with it now. I’ve taken every sort of picture I would ever have wanted to take; I’ve worn every wig and costume; snapped every airplane, and leaped every leap I ever wanted to photograph. I’ve levitated and drag-queened myself into oblivion, and there just isn’t anything more for me to do or learn, so after this one initial set taken in April I haven’t done any shoots. While posing for that last one it became clear the thrill was gone, and while I may come back to the whole endeavor once the well that’s run dry refills, I put my cameras aside for the moment and began searching for something new to do creatively, as I always need to be doing something that addresses my artistic side.
I purchased this beautifully colored hoodie while on vacation in Spring Break. My last shopping trip before the virus took hold. Ah, the memories…
I’d been toying with the idea of keeping some adult coloring books around for some time, but had never actually bought any, so I decided this was as good a time as any to take the plunge. Initially it was just going to be a simple little something to do to while away some time, but being me, it of course became an obsession almost immediately, and one that I had to master to the best of my ability. Oh sure, I bought some cheap-ass markers and colored pencils to start (does anyone else still call them map pencils like everyone did when I was a kid? My students have no idea what I am talking about when I use this term) but that satisfied me for about a day before I had all sorts of ideas for what I wanted my colorings to look like, and soon it was off to YouTube to watch a million tutorials and then to Amazon to buy a million different coloring tools. This started in April, and by June I was able to pull off some pretty cool tricks with this new hobby.
OK, this isn’t a great photo, because I snapped it with my cellphone, but you get the idea. Pretty quickly, I realized the cheap markers weren’t gonna cut it for me, because I wanted to be able to do all sorts of shading techniques and color blends, so I landed on Copic markers, which are NOT cheap, y’all, but they are refillable so they will last for what I am telling myself is forever to justify the cost.
Click here if you want to know what I paid. By the way, these are the “cheaper” Copics!
These are all taken from a coloring book called 100 Amazing Patterns that I got off Amazon, and while they are, yes, amazing, I had to figure out a few things as I got started on this coloring adventure. First of all, when using Copic markers, which are alcohol-based and function more or less like slightly less watery watercolor paints, the paper the images are printed on in the book are NOT gonna work. No way. No how. Aside from the fact that the wet markers will turn the paper into mush almost immediately, the paper in the book is also black on the other side-which is supposed to help with color bleeding when using other mediums, I think-but with the Copics, the black bleeds through and ruins the colors. Fortunately, we own a printer that doubles as a copier, so I was able to buy the right card stock and tear each sheet out of the book and copy it onto that. This has the added benefit of saving the original, colorless image in case I mess up and want to start over (and if you caught that little wait, so she spent money on special paper too?! detail, well, hang onto your shorts ‘cuz we’re just getting started).
So, yeah, first of all – there is simply NO END to the variety of coloring-book subject matter out there, including some baffling topics such as farting animals and the people of Wal-Mart. I lean towards mandalas and cool patterns just to enjoy the act of coloring without having to consider anything else like color choice or shading patterns, but I am also partial to fashion and feminine imagery as well as fun slogans and blackboard books (which are coloring book with black pages that have “chalkboard” style lettering and drawing).
For those of you who caught that the chalkboard coloring pages can’t be copied onto cardstock (the print on them is white before you color it) and that therefore, I must be coloring on them with something OTHER than Copic markers – congratulations! You win the damn-she-spent-more-money-on-different-markers prize, which is the abandoned cheap markers I bought at the start of all this and have never used. You’re welcome.
Yep. Bought a lot of frames too, but I got super-cheap ones. I’ve bought two different kinds that you can find here and here. I like the second type better.
The two chalkboard coloring books I’ve used so far are here and here. I particularly love the Southern Slogans one, being from the South and all.
So, when it came time to work with the black coloring pages, I discovered gel pens. Gelpensssss!! They are so freaking fun to use, and way less expensive than the Copics. As with anything, there are varying levels of quality with these pens, and with the gels in particular there are absolute SHIT-TONS to choose from. My recommendations are:
#1: Gelly Roll pens. These are, I think, the gold standard. The gel ink flows so smoothly, it is like coloring with ice cream. Just really, really satisfying, especially with the thicker nibs. I started out buying a full set, but in the end there are several types of Gelly Rolls in here that I do not like At. All. So, I would not recommend spending this much for a set of them. The particular types of Gelly Rolls I prefer are the Classics, the Moonlight series (neon and other unique colors), and the Stardust glitter pens (LOVE) Unfortunately, this set also has tons of metallics, which I just do not like at all due to the way they deposit the ink – very streaky and sketchy with coloring lines you can clearly see and lots of skips and white spaces. And this collection has THREE DIFFERENT KINDS of metallics, so there are a lot of pens here I probably won’t ever use up. But if you like the metallics, well, there’s plenty for you to love about this collection.
Sorry for the reflections; this one is framed so it was tricky to snap. I used a combination of Copics (anywhere there is color blending) and gel pens on this mandala – you can see how opaque and smooth the gel pens are! Except those shitty metallic ones, which obviously I did not use. Because they suck.
#2 – My secondary recommendation for a more economical gel pen purchase would be this set from Fiskars – 48 pens for $18. Even though the ink isn’t near the smoothness of the Gelly Rolls, I actually like all the pens in this set. Even the metallics aren’t too bad, and it has some cool styles like swirl pens and pastels, which the Gelly Roll line lacks – and I LOVE pastels. Also, the nibs are smaller which I don’t care for, but overall, I like this set and will re-purchase it when my favorite pens run out.
Lots of the Fiskars pens in this mandala, and NO Copics, so you really can get a sense of how vibrant and opaque the gel pens are.
One other honorable gel pen mention here is the Pentel Milky Pop series. I do not think this set is still in production, so it may be hard to find eventually, but for now you can still find it on Amazon and some other places. This set is tricky; it is known for not having the smoothest ink distribution in the world, and the pens tend to dry out quickly (which can be fixed with a little heat applied to the nib) but they are the most lovely pastel colors I’ve found so far – even though there a lot of other options out there I haven’t tried so I can’t speak to any of those. A lot of gel pens that claim to be pastel end up looking more neon, so there must be something tricky about the gel pen formulation that makes true pastels hard to come by. A close-up of one of my chalkboard pages shows the colors well:
Again, sorry for the reflections.
The yellow and blue are Milky Pop pastels, and that yellow in particular is perfection. I’ve used other yellow gels that claim to be pastel, but only the Milky Pop so far actually comes out right, and it is really really lovely. However, both the blue and the yellow required me to light a match and hold it up to the nib for a bit to get and keep the ink flowing – but once that was done, they both colored nicely. You can see pen scratches and strokes here, but that is actually a quality of the chalkboard coloring page and not the pens. That bolder blue is a Gelly Roll and you can see how it looks like paint because it’s so opaque – and there are also some splashes of glitter pens in there as well, if you can spot them.
Oh my gosh, I have so much more to say, but this has already taken over an hour and I have shit to do, so it will all have to wait for later. Will she wait another year to post again? Will she update us on her Invisalign adventure? Why is her hair green (yes, it really was green)? Did she use YouTube tutorials to cut two inches off her hair and create a perfectly even blunt bob (yes, she did, and she is very proud of herself)? Has she ever taken her own photos and turned them into coloring pages (of course she has)? Is this all the spending she’s done with her coloring, or has she bought even more crap? How the hell did she gain forty pounds and what is she doing about it? Has her husband become a cooking fanatic since the pandemic has kept him indoors, and is that contributing to her weight gain? Has she tried to take images from her favorite horror movies and turn them into coloring pages (see below)? Has one of her besties started a travel blog that I should check out (yes, she has, and it is here). Does she still look fabulous although she is heavier (yes, of course)?
All this and more to come, friends. Until then, stay safe, stay socially distant, and wear your face mask. Cheers!