My Favorite Art Supplies of the Month

November 2019

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a favorite supplies post! With Black Friday coming up this is the perfect time to add new materials to your holiday wish list and take advantage of upcoming sales. (I know Blick runs a lot of promotions!)

If you follow me on Instagram, you will see a lot of process videos pop up on my profile. Lately, I have been experimenting with acrylic inks, metallic mica watercolor pans, and a new dip pen on top of my usual watercolor inks (previous supplies post). Take a look and learn about the products I’ve been obsessed with lately!

Brushes and Pens

Dip Pen and Nibs

I am always excited to try new pens. I had been using this Speedball Sketch Pen set (Amazon) for a long time, but I wanted to try something new just for kicks. I found this blue grip Tachikawa pen on Amazon and love it! When you get new pens with metal nibs, it’s important to clean the protective coating off so your material sticks to the nib. I use a lighter to heat the nib then a paper towel to clean the surface. I pass the nib through the flame a few times. If your inks still don’t stick to the nib, repeat the heating and wiping process.

I use dip pens like this with a variety of media. If the substance can flow, you can probably try apply it with the pen.

  • Tachikawa Comic Pen and Nibs (Amazon)
Watercolor Brushes

If you have ever tried cheap packs of watercolor brushes, you know the pain of using inferior supplies. With acrylic brushes, you can get away with using really cheap synthetic bristles, but watercolor brushes are a little more nuanced. I haven’t gone too crazy with expensive brushes, but I did make a slight upgrade form a $7 pack of cheap AF watercolor brushes to these Utrecht brushes. They have synthetic bristles, and they hold their shape and quite a bit of water while working. They also don’t shed on your paper (yay!).

I use these brushes when applying traditional watercolors, watercolor inks, acrylic ink, and any other watery material when working on paper.

  • Utrecht 6150 R Size 10 Watercolor Brush (Dick Blick)
  • Utrecht 6150 R Size 4 Watercolor Brush (Dick Blick)

Metallic Embellishments

Finetec Artist Mica Watercolors

I cannot fully express how much I LOVE this product. I have worked with a lot of metallic art substances in my last 15 years of art making, and Finetec is my favorite metallic medium. FAVORITE. Why? Many reasons.

  • It looks amazing when applied as it catches the light beautifully.
  • It is super easy to work with. The pans are solid and you just need to wet the surface with water and a brush and rub until it turns viscous. Then you can apply it with a brush or dip pen (I deposit the mixture on my nib with the brush I used for stirring).
  • Since you can control the mixture with a pen or brush you don’t have to worry about metallic paint pens burping all over your paper.
  • It doesn’t smell like some oil based pens or liquid inks can.
  • Since it’s water-based, you could mix this into your watercolors for a tinted shimmer in your work.
  • When dry, it doesn’t smear or transfer any mica onto my hand.

I use this product on my paper surfaces only. I haven’t tried it on canvas or on top of acrylics.

Acrylic Ink

I bought this ink years ago and didn’t like it at first. Mainly because I didn’t really know what I was doing or how I wanted to use it. I put them in a drawer and forgot about them until a few weeks ago. Now I love this ink and want to go buy all the colors.

I love working with inks that are incredibly opaque. When I do fine lining, I don’t want my background colors to show through my line work. This acrylic ink has the opacity I prefer. You can apply it with a dip pen or a brush, but you can also use an airbrush or technical pen if you have it, making this ink versatile.

In the first video above, you can see this ink in action when I apply the blue lines. The white lines still use my favorite white ink, Dr. Ph Martin’s Pen White Ink (Amazon)

Paper

I use all of these products on paper surfaces. I like to keep things simple so I am still using the same Canson Watercolor paper as my base for most work. I cut my paper down to smaller sizes to avoid buckling and warping the paper, and I don’t overwork the surface so this budget option works great for me.

***

And that’s it! I hope you feel inspired to try some new products!

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

Digital Drawing with an iPad and Procreate

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

I am not a digital artist and I do not use my current digital drawing tools the their fullest potential. I am a glorified doodler. Though, achieving the crisp detail of my simple doodles in digital format proved to be more complicated than I thought when I started researching products to buy.

I spent months researching digital drawing pads. I wanted to find a way to create my crisp line work digitally with as much ease as I can with pen and paper. This has been a goal of mine for years, but I didn’t want to waste money on tech that I didn’t necessarily need. I tried to get away with cheap alternatives in the past, but ultimately wasted that money as the bargain products I bought were clunky and hard to use right away.

I wanted out of the box, intuitive, easy doodling. I finally convinced myself to increase my budget and buy a product that did everything I wanted (and more!). Through my researching, I binge watched all of this guy’s YouTube videos on digital drawing. Brad Colbow. He is super informative. If you are struggling with figuring out what digital drawing tool is best for you, his videos will help.

After all my research, I bought an iPad, Apple Pencil, and Procreate. My first ever Apple products.

My Struggle With Apple Products

I am frugal AF. If I can get away with a cheaper version of a product, I’m going to do it. Which explains why I have avoided Apple products most of my life. I bought a Zune instead of an iPod. I’ve always used Android instead of an iPhone. I’m Windows OS all the way. But, when I started playing with different drawing tablets, I couldn’t deny how perfect the iPad and Apple Pencil were at accomplishing exactly what I wanted.

I was torn between a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and the iPad (Check out Brad’s video on the Tab S4), but Procreate is only available on Apple products and after testing it out at Best Buy (because that’s what Best Buy is for now), I had to go Apple all the way.

The Products I purchased

  • Apple iPad Pro 11 inch, 64GB (Amazon)
  • Apple Pencil 2nd Generation (Amazon)
  • Procreate (You can buy this from the app store when you have the iPad)

Why I LOVE my iPad with Procreate

I have been using my iPad for around 6 months now, and I love it more with each doodle I make with Procreate. Here’s why:

  • It’s user friendly. Once you have Procreate installed and your Pencil synced, you can start doodling right away.
  • The 11 inch screen is a great size and I can rest my hand comfortably on it while drawing.
  • The Pencil mimics hand to paper perfectly. I draw a lot of lines, and I need a digital product that won’t lag. I also need the digital pen to make marks where it’s supposed to. If you try using cheaper options, you’ll notice how the line you draw can be a millimeter or more away from where you’re actually holding the utensil on the screen. That really messes with my line work. I have no issues like this with the iPad.
  • In Procreate, you can easily zoom in and out with two fingers and turn your canvas when needed. No shortcut clicks, no scrolling on a screen. It’s super intuitive and allows me to work like I do with physical pen and paper. I can go with the flow.
  • When finished, I can easily export jpeg files to my Google Drive and move to other devices.
  • When you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can export your file from Procreate and open it in Photoshop or Illustrator on a different device. I sometimes switch between my iPad and my laptop when working on a file.
  • Procreate records your process while you work. You can export time lapse videos easily. This was one of the first things I did with my iPad in Procreate to test the recording feature:

There are a lot of other perks about the iPad and Procreate, but those options were most important to me and my drawing style.

Now–Here are a couple of things I don’t like:

  • The battery drains when in sleep mode. I usually get distracted and don’t use the iPad every day, so I always find a dead battery when I go to doodle. I should probably just power it down between uses…
  • My hand sometimes sticks to the screen, but I fixed that with wearing this weird half glove from a Huion tablet I bought a while ago. Works great!
  • The price. Yup. Like all Apple products, the price is inflated. You could buy an older model or try a generic digital pen to buy–but I just went for it and called it an early birthday present for myself. You could also explore the Android route or wait for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals.

What I use my IPad with Procreate for:

  • Doodling on the go- it’s hard to make a messy art process portable, so when I travel, I bring my iPad with to create art when I’m away from the studio.
  • Mock-ups for clients- Instead of sending over pictures of a rough sketch on paper, I can create detailed and colorful mock-ups for commissioned work. I like to take pictures of a client’s space and then Photoshop the mock-up into the photo. See the example below:
  • Mocking up my art mid-process- Sometimes I get stuck on a piece and don’t know where I want to take it. When that happens, I take a picture of my work with the iPad, import it into Procreate, and experiment with a couple of different directions. It takes away the pressure of “screwing up” a piece.
  • Finished digital works of art for licensing- if you work with companies to get your art printed on every day items, you often need a very large file to preserve detail during printing. Creating digital works that are already hi-res or in vector form allows you to scale to much larger printing formats. (You can create vector work with Adobe Illustrator.)
  • Designs for sites like Society6– I’ve recently been adding digitally created images to my Society6 shop to expand the products I can offer.

***

An iPad can be used for a crap ton of tasks. I bought it as a drawing tablet, but obviously it is so much more than that. Even though I will always prefer working with physical art supplies more than digital, using Procreate on an iPad has helped give me a new perspective on my creative process, and opened up new possibilities for my work.

Feel free to ask me more questions if you’re thinking about buying any of these products. I’m happy to share more of my opinions. Reach out through email or Instagram DMs.

If you want to learn more about the tools I use in the studio, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creations on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

View other products I recommend on Amazon.

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading:

How to Photograph Your Art to Make Prints

A little over a year ago, I bought myself a pigment printer to make prints of my artwork at home. I shared all of the supplies I use in this post, but I only glossed over how to actually photograph and edit your photos for printing. And after getting a request for a more detailed blog post on the topic, I figured it was about time I share more details of my process. (I love when you guys ask me questions and give me ideas for future posts. Keep ’em coming!)

Now, I am not a photographer. I do not know everything about camera settings and perfect color correction in editing, but I’ve done a fair amount of trial and error and have a system that works for me.

If you are considering making your own prints, there are quite a few things to think about. Like–

How Big Will Your Prints Be?

I stressed out about this a lot before I started making prints. I wanted to know how big I could make my prints without losing quality. There are a lot of resources online to do pixel math, but this link has a pretty clear way of explaining the print sizes you can get depending on your camera’s megapixels.

My camera takes 24mp photos, and I want to print at 300 dpi (dots per inch) for the best quality. I only make prints as large as 11″x14″, but I could go as big as 13″x19″. I could go even bigger if I was okay losing quality, but I like to put my face about 3 inches from the print and still be able to see crisp details, because I’m a fricken weirdo.

The site I linked above has an easy formula to see how big you can print. Simply take the width and length in pixels of your photo and divide each by 300 dpi. My latest print file is 5318×4044 pixels. So 5318/300 is 17.72″ and 4044/300 is 13.48″. That’s as big as I should go with that particular print to maintain a 300 dpi quality.

I’ve been very happy with my print quality so far. (Also, I stick to 11″x14″ or smaller to make shipping cheaper and more convenient.)

The Equipment I Use:

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thanks for clicking and buying stuff! You don’t even have to buy the items I recommend in order for me to earn a commission. Just click a link and buy things you need. (Sweet!)

DSLR Camera:

I used to use a Canon Rebel T3i, but I upgraded to this Canon Rebel SL2 in December 2018 because I can take bigger photos with more detail. Any high quality camera will work for you depending on the size of print you want to make. Just look at the megapixels and compare to the Designs215 link to determine what’s right for you. I use the standard 18-55mm Canon lens.

Tripod:

You can hold your camera if you have a super super steady hand, but to eliminate any camera shake, I use this tripod.

Diffused Light Soft Boxes:

You do not want harsh light on your work when you are taking photos. Especially if you work with glossy materials. Last year, I bought these Geekoto soft boxes, but they appear to be unavailable at the moment. I haven’t tried this Mountdog soft box, but it could be a good alternative.

Basically, get two soft boxes that use daylight bulbs (5500k).

Flatbed Scanner:

When my work is 9″x12″ or smaller and not glossy, I simply scan at 600 dpi using the scanner on my Brother 3-in-1 printer. If you are going to buy a scanner, do some research. Mine isn’t by any means the best, but since I already had it at home, I figured why not use it.

How I set up my equipment:

This piece of art is 36″x48″ inches and I need to make 8″x10″ and 11″x14″ prints for my November Patreon rewards. (Have you looked at my Patreon page yet? There are open spots for prints!)

For any photo shoot for prints, here is how I set up my area:

Position your lights- Place your lights on either side of your work at 45 degree angles. You do not want to put the lights directly in front of the work. When you angle the lights, you reduce/eliminate glare from light bouncing off of textures on the surface.

Place your camera- Put your camera directly in front of the art and position the lens so that the piece fills as much of the viewfinder as possible without cropping your work.

My Camera Settings-

  • I do not use flash. (Glare is the enemy!)
  • I set the camera to auto (because I don’t know cameras at a photographer’s level).
  • I set the camera to take the largest jpeg photos. (I do not shoot in RAW–again, because I’m not a photographer and suck at editing RAW photos.)
  • I set the 2 second timer. (Holding and shooting increases the chance of a blurry photo.)
  • I press the button (or touch the screen on this camera), step back, and then wait 2 seconds for the camera to shoot.

I usually take 5-10 photos just to be safe and them pop the SD card into my laptop for editing.

How I edit my photos:

I use Adobe Photoshop. I don’t use most of the features Photoshop offers, so I bet you can get away with using different photo editing programs. Even when you have great lighting and equipment, you’re still going to have to tweak your photos for printing. You can see my unedited photo on the left and my final print file on the right below to see how I had to adjust the image.

Before (Left) and After (Right)

When I open a photo in Photoshop, I start by cropping using the Perspective Crop Tool. If my camera wasn’t in the perfect position, this tool makes sure I retain every bit of the art as I can in the photo.

Next, I make a few edits by adding new Adjustment Layers. First, I tweak the exposure. Then I amp up the brightness and contrast. Since images don’t look the same on paper as they do on screens, I find I have to brighten things up more than I’m comfortable with in order to get an accurate print. (This is especially true if you print using the Canon Pixma Pro 10 like I do.) Then, I tweak hue and saturation to make sure my colors are as vibrant as the original piece when viewed in daylight.

Next, I export the file as a jpeg. When you are exporting, you can resize the image and make it bigger where Photoshop’s software will add more pixels according to what it thinks new pixels should look like. It’s not perfect–but it could be a solution to going big without access high megapixel camera.

Next, I run a 5″x7″ proof on my printer to see how I did. If you don’t have a printer and plan on sending files to a print shop, I really encourage you to get proofs made. After over a year of making prints, I usually tweak my proofs at least once before printing my full run. When I was still figuring out my printer, I easily went through 5-8 proofs before being happy with the final file.

Every computer screen will look different and every printer handles ink differently, so don’t expect perfection immediately. Once I’m happy with my image file, I print, sign, package, and put the prints in my shop.

Easy peasy 😉

***

I hope this post was helpful. If you are considering making prints, definitely read my full printer post for more advice and things to think about.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: