I’ve been collecting professional artists’ markers for a while, but I’ve always been a little nervous to use them. Unlike digital art, traditional work – with paints, with pens, with markers – has no “undo” button. Yes, there are techniques to cover and incorporate mistakes; still, it is nerve-wracking for an artist who grew up with the safety net of CTRL+Z. So while I sketched these portraits in June, they remained only sketches while I thought about what to do with them. Leaving them as a sketch was no good, of course, so with a little nudging from Cloud, I finally sat down to ink and paint them last week. And if I messed up horribly, I could always re-do them digitally, after all. . . .
Luckily, I did not mess up horribly, so here they are!
The markers were a mix of Promarkers and ShinHan Touch markers (both alcohol-based) and a single pink Aquamarker (water-based). I found that the Promarkers and Touch markers blended quite nicely, and the Aquamarker layered nicely after the alcohol layer dried thoroughly. My Sakura Gelly Roll pen provided highlights – a real life-saver when you accidentally color over, say, the whites of the eyes, haha!
Time: 22 hours for both
Materials: mechanical pencil, Prismacolor Premier .05 pen, ShinHan Touch markers, Promarkers, Aquamarkers, Sakura Gelly Roll (white)
In this tutorial, we’re going to take a look at how to make these galaxy pictures in watercolor! They’re simple to make and look spectacular – my favorite kind of technique. :3 In only three layers of color, and only an hour or two from start to finish (including drying times!), these galaxies are quick and fun to make. Best yet, you can finish several in an afternoon!
Let’s get started!
For this painting, you’ll need a few supplies: paints, brushes, water to clean your brushes, and watercolor paper. There’s also a few things that make painting a LOT easier, like masking tape and paper towels. I’ve got them all gathered here:
Watercolor paint! You can use either pans or tubes of watercolor paint; here I’m using pans. The paint I’m using is the MALA line of paints from IKEA. They might be made for children, but I like them! They have good transparency, blend well, and are cheap – perfect for a beginner painter trying out new techniques. And this proves that you can make awesome art with cheap supplies.
Opaque white watercolor paint. Here I’m using a liquid: Rublev Colors in Titanium White. Any white will do, as long as it’s opaque, because this is how we’ll make the stars! You could also use acrylic paint instead.
Two cups of water, one to rinse brushes and one clean water for mixing colors.
Watercolor paper! Here I’m using a moderately thick 90 lb (190 g/m2) smooth paper from Strathmore. I prefer a smooth paper for the galaxies, but any paper will do; and the thicker the paper, the less chance of the paper rippling. And here I’ve taped it to provide a nice border & prevent it moving around as I paint.
Watercolor brushes! Here’s our entire collection, but for this tutorial, we’ll only use three: A round brush, a flat brush, and a toothbrush. What is the toothbrush for, you ask? You’ll have to wait and see~ (Picture of brushes below.)
A palette for mixing colors. Optional. Here I’m using it for the opaque white.
Paper towels for wiping off the brush between colors or blotting off excess color. Technically optional. It helps keep your dirty water less, well, dirty so you can use it longer. It also helps with testing colors and getting excess color off your brush before you paint.
Masking tape for securing your paper. Again, optional. I always tape as it helps the paper dry flat, and prevents it moving around. Here I’m using Frog Tape.
Here’s a close-up on the brushes:
The round brush is what we’ll paint with; the flat brush is for spreading water evenly on the paper; and the toothbrush is for making the stars! While you could technically even do this technique with just the round brush and flat brush, I found that the toothbrush makes splattering evenly so much easier.
A note before we begin: To make the stars, we’re going to splatter white paint. This can get messy! The paint goes everywhere! Before you start, make sure your work area is clear of anything you don’t want to get covered in white specks of paint, and that your table can be easily cleaned. Cloud and I have a dedicated art table that is easy to clean, so this isn’t an issue for us; if you don’t have a table that can get messy, remember to protect it first! Maybe lay down some cardboard or scrap paper first to protect your work surface – I don’t recommend newsprint as the water will cause the ink to run and might ruin your painting. Consider wearing a smock or apron when you splatter paint to protect your clothes.
Okay! Have you gathered your materials? Made sure you can splatter paint with no worries? Then let’s get painting!
Layer 1: The Base of the Galaxy
For this painting, I’m using five colors (plus white for the stars):
We’ll use them in this order:
Plus, white for the stars! But that will be the very last step.
You can use any combination of colors! I like a bright center with the blue space background, so I keep coming back to pink. I also want to use black or indigo for the space portion one day – unfortunately, the MALA set’s black is really more of a warm charcoal gray, so it doesn’t work so well. Luckily, I like the blue background too. ^u^ Play around with different combinations and see what you like!
Since we’re using a pan, it helps to set a drop of water on each color and let it soak in for a minute. So while it’s soaking, let’s put water on the paper to start the wet-on-wet technique.
Step 1: Water wash
For the galaxy, we’re going to use a wet-on-wet technique to make that nice, diffuse, blended look. Starting with your taped paper, go ahead and wet it down lightly with the flat brush:
Stroke the flat brush with water horizontally across the paper from top to bottom. This will ensure an even base! After you finish, lightly touch the paper: It should be damp, not dripping. But if you add too much water and the paper ripples, that’s okay! We’ll look at how to deal with that later on.
Step 2: Add the pink
Now that the water’s soaked into the paint, go ahead and load up your brush with more water, and then with pink! The more pigment, the better. Then use the brush to drop dots of pink across the center of the wet paper wherever suits your fancy! The drops of paint will spread out to make the base of your galaxy:
Leave a few white patches in the center, if you can. This will add depth later on. If it ends up covered in pink, that’s fine, you can lift off some paint later for the white patches!
Step 3: Add the purple
We need to work quickly before the paper dries, so as soon as you’re happy with the center of your galaxy, clean your brush. Protip: This is where the paper towel comes in handy! Wipe your brush before rinsing in your dirty water cup, and it will take less time and effort to clean your brush. Your water will stay cleaner too!
Now that your brush is clean, load up your brush with purple. Then use the same dabbing technique to add purple around the edges of the pink base:
Let the two colors bleed into each other for a nice, blended effect. Now they kind of look like clouds, right?
Step 4: Add the blues for the background
Now load up your brush with bright blue and add it around the purple. Let the bright blue and purple blends; you can even paint over the purple to change the shape of the galaxy. Leave a few blank spots at the very edges for the dark blue, and add it as soon as you’re done with the bright blue. Let the two blues blend a lot to add depth and variety to the background:
Step 5: Clean up the pooling colors
In the last photo, you can see that I have some dark blue pooling at the edges of the painting. Luckily, it’s easy to fix! Clean your brush well, then dry it on the paper towel. Using your slightly damp, almost-dry brush, gently touch the areas of pooled pigment to soak it up. Like so:
Your dry brush will leave little white spots, but never fear! As long as the paper is still damp, the pigment will diffuse again and erase the white spots. This is also the same technique you can use to make lift some pink from the center of the galaxy. Just let the paint dry a little first, so it doesn’t diffuse as much. Like so:
Now, step one is complete!
Let the painting dry completely. For me it took about 15 minutes. When dry, the paper should have little to no ripples, and be matte instead of shiny (as it is with water). The colors will also be somewhat lighter when dry.
At this point, if you like the intensity of the colors, you can skip to Layer 3: The Stars! If your painting is more faded or lighter than you would like, then join me as we add another layer of colors to brighten it up!
Layer 2: Increasing Intensity
For Layer 2, we’ll use the wet-on-wet technique again to add more color and definition to the galaxy.
Step 1: Wet the paper again
Because we already have dry pigment on the paper, we need to use a light touch with the water wash – or the paint will come up! So take your flat brush, wet it, and blot the excess water off on your paper towel. Then brush across the paper horizontally, from top to bottom:
Your previous layer may start blending slightly, or become a little more vague and indistinct. That’s okay! We’ll be covering it with more pigment, so you won’t notice it later.
Step 2: Add the colors
Now that our paper is damp again, we’ll add more colors in the same order as the first layer: Pink, purple, bright blue, and dark blue. Yep, same steps, same colors! Just like so:
Now, you don’t have to exactly follow the outlines you laid down on Layer 1. Feel free to play with the shapes of the galaxy. In part 2 of the picture above, you can see I added more purple on the second layer, changing and defining the shapes of the clouds.
Step 3: Clean-Up
In Step 2, above, I’ve made an effort to keep the white centers of the galaxy white, but it’s easy to paint over them. If you do, no worries! Just lift off the paint when the paper is semi-dry. Same with pooling: Use the dry brush technique to lift the excess paint off.
Now that Layer 2 is done, it’s time to let it dry completely! Wait about 10-15 minutes, then check if the paper is dry to the touch. At this point, you could go ahead and add another layer if you want. If you like how it looks, it’s time to add the stars! \(^o^)/
Layer 3: The Stars
This is the fun part! We’re going to take opaque white watercolor paint and splatter it across the paper. The toothbrush comes in handy here! Pour a small amount of white on your palette, dip your toothbrush in, and get ready to splatter!
(If you don’t have a spare toothbrush for painting, a flat brush or other stiffer brush could also work.)
Now hold the toothbrush above the paper. It doesn’t have to be parallel, a slight angle works fine. Then run your index finger over the bristles from top to bottom, “flicking” the paint off the brush and onto the paper.
Splattering creates a nice, random arrangement of stars to light up your galaxy! 😀
If your stars turn out tiny, or you’d like some variation, you can add some bigger stars with the round brush and the opaque white paint:
And now you’re done! Let the last layer dry. Once it’s dry, you can carefully pull the tape off of the paper!
Now that your painting is finished, you can seal it to preserve it and protect it from water. However, I personally have not sealed my watercolor paintings and have no experience doing so because I don’t have any sealer. Sealant is on my list of things to get next time I buy art supplies, though! If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments below!
Enjoy your watercolor galaxy! 😀
Hope you liked this tutorial! If you paint a galaxy, I’d love to see it! You can post it in the comments or use my Contact page to send me a link.
Special thanks to Cloud for being my patient photographer, even when I wouldn’t hold still long enough for her to snap the photo! You’re the best, Cloud!
And thanks also to Yureya, who kindly requested I make this tutorial! Thank you for encouraging me, Yureya!
If there’s any other tutorials you’d like me to make, let me know! I’d love to hear your suggestions! 🙂
And the mermaid sketches keep on coming! (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ Today we have Mermaid Nutmeg swimming with her yellow tang friends!
Last time Nutmeg appeared on Strike A Spark, she was a witch. This time she’s a mermaid. Fantasy just seems to follow her around, doesn’t it? She’s super cute as a mermaid, but I kind of miss her bunny ears. . . . TT_TT
Again, Cloud will be painting this piece, so please look forward to seeing the finished result! And keep an eye on her blog: Cloud’s World Of:
Welcome back to the fourth and (for now) final installment of What I Used for Inktober! Today we’ll be looking at the Sakura Gelly Roll Pen in White, a gel pen that I like to use for accents, outlines, and highlights, like I did in the picture above! (I also added a blue background using a Promarker – but that’s a review for another day! 😛 )
When I committed to Inktober, I was worried about highlights. In digital art, it’s easy to add a white outline or highlights at the end of a painting – just make a new layer! But with markers? o~o Luckily, with the Sakura Gelly Roll pen, it’s easy to add highlights and finishing touches after the main shading! At about $5 USD for a set of 3, these pens are budget-friendly. . . and, I would say, well worth the price.
The pen looks like this:
The pens are about the size of a pencil and very light. They are small in diameter, so not very ergonomic, but it would be easy to add one of those squishy pencil grips to make ’em comfier. ^w^
As the ink is white, it works well for highlights, and the gel formula means that it flows easily. It’s also a lot of fun to use on black paper, like on these sketchcards:
One thing to note is that the Sakura Gelly Roll White is slightly translucent. It’s an effect I like, but for a strong white line you may have to go over it two or three times – especially if the base color is dark. Here’s some examples:
In Row 1, I layered the Sakura Gelly Roll over black Tombow water-based markers. For some reason, the Sakura Gelly Roll appears more translucent over water-based markers, so you may need to layer more to have an opaque white. They also have a tendency to smear if the marker ink is still wet, so make sure to let it dry thoroughly before using the Gelly Roll. On each black square, I drew a white loop, increasing the number of layers each time. So left is 1 layer, middle is 2 layers, and right is 3 layers. (In the picture, “rep” is short for “repetition,” or layers.)
In Row 2, the same tests are repeated – but this time they are over an alcohol-based Promarker. Again, left is 1 layer, middle is 2 layers, and right is 3 layers. I am not sure why, but the Sakura Gelly Roll appears more opaque over the Promarkers. This doesn’t seem to change with darker colors; so it may have to do with the pigment composition of the Gelly Roll and how it interacts with water-based vs alcohol-based pigments. In any case, even the 1 layer example shows up well against the blue Promarker, and increased layers will create thicker and more opaque lines.
In Row 3, I laid down a wash of blue-violet Promarker, and just doodled! The Sakura Gelly Roll really shines with loose, fluid movements. The line is even and consistent. I’ve only had a Gelly Roll skip on me twice – which is amazing compared to the Papermate gel pens I use for writing. Each time, it was only a small break in the line, and easy to repair.
To recap, here are some things I’ve learned using the Sakura Gelly Roll:
Let the painting dry completely before using the Gelly Roll. This will prevent smears!
Go over the line several times to make it more opaque or thicker. Or, leave it at one line for a slightly translucent effect.
Relax a little! Loose, fluid movements help the gel ink flow smoothly and consistently.
Though there are other tools one can use for highlights, outlines, or the like, I really enjoy using my Sakura Gelly Rolls and would definitely recommend them! 😀
What do you use to create highlights in traditional media?
~ ~ ~
And this concludes the review series, What I Used for Inktober! Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed these reviews over the past month. Please do let me know what you think of this series, and if you’d like me to do more reviews in the future. 😀
On Twitter this week, I’ve seen a lot of people drawing mermaids for May (Mermay, get it?), so I was inspired to draw some, too! I won’t be doing one every day as I’m working on a few other projects right now, but I’ve had fun with these sketches. ^u^
These pictures are a collaboration with Cloud, who will paint them! Recently, Cloud has been enjoying painting with watercolors, so these sketches were drawn on watercolor paper. I really like the toothy texture – it picks up pencil well. We decided not to ink them to give a softer impression. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they look painted! (◕‿◕✿) Cloud will post them on her blog when she’s done, so keep an eye out! ,
Last year, I wanted to try coloring with markers after seeing so many amazing marker paintings on the Web and so many amazing speedpaints on Youtube. As a beginner, though, I didn’t want to heavily invest in a huge set of markers or purchase the most expensive professional materials (looking at you, Copics!) – or not yet, at least. So I chose to try the water-based Tombow Dual-Brush Pens after hearing that they are a good brand and (luckily) were on sale at the time. Better yet, they were reported to be durable, self-cleaning, and even blend well. Sounds good, right?
Long story short, yes, they’re great! I like them a lot, though I’m also using other brands these days. Tombow markers do have a few downsides, mainly due to the nature of water-based markers; but the water-based vs alcohol-based debate is a post for another day. Let’s get started!
This review turned out super long, so here’s the short version!
Tombow Dual-Brush Pens are a good introductory marker. There are a wide range of colors available, and I love, love, love the self-cleaning feature! Also, being water-based they don’t smell strongly like alchohol-based markers; so if strong smells bother you, you can rest easy with these. 🙂
However, Tombow markers will pill and ripple the paper if you lay down too much pigment, a common problem among water-based markers; though it isn’t as bad as the Crayolas I used when I was a kid, it’s still annoying. And while the blending feature is cool, Tombow markers don’t blend well on paper. 😦
I would recommend them for sketching, lettering, and for simpler coloring styles (like cell-shading, perhaps).
Wide range of colors available
Cool blending feature
Doesn’t have a strong smell – like alcohol does
Pills the paper
If you use a lot of wet-on-wet layering, the paper will ripple
Doesn’t blend well with color on paper
Prices tend to vary widely from $10-$25 USD per 10-pack
Now let’s get into the in-depth review!
The Packaging & Design
Tombow markers come in a pack like this, with nine colors and a colorless blender:
As the name says, the pens are dual-brush: They come with both a flexible brush tip and a fine tip:
This design makes these pens very versatile! The brush pen is perfect for lettering, filling large areas, and blending colors:
The brush tips are also durable, so you can bend, twist, and otherwise abuse them and yet they spring back into shape!
Can you tell how far the brush tip is bent in the picture above? It looks alarming, but it doesn’t hurt the marker at all. And you can bend it further than this with no issues.
The fine tip is great for inking / outlining; the only thing to note is that as these markers are water-based, coloring over an inked image with other water-based markers will cause it to bleed slightly. Here’s what the fine line looks like:
I also wanted to mention this cool design feature:
The large caps have a little ridge that keeps the markers from rolling around! Very useful.
Now let’s take a look at the markers that came with the Grayscale Palette:
It’s a little hard to read the numbers in the picture, I know! The colors included in the Grayscale Palette are listed below. (The numbers are the official Tombow reference numbers, while the descriptive text in parentheses are my own interpretation of the color for clarity.)
N00 (Colorless Blender)
N95 (Lightest Lavender)
N89 (Light Warm Gray – almost a light beige)
N75 (Light Lavender)
N65 (Warm Gray)
N60 (Purple-Gray / Lavender)
N55 (Dark Warm Gray)
N45 (Dark Cool Gray)
The Grayscale Palette includes both warm tones (N25, N55, N65, N89) and cool tones (N45, N60, N75, N95), making this palette very versatile. 😀
I’ve found that the colors of the caps are fairly accurate about 2/3 of the time. Even for the markers where the shade is different than the cap indicates, it gives you a good idea of the color’s value and tone. For example:
(Please note that these color tests are not quite the same as the in-person colors due to the lighting. They may also look slightly different on your screen. So while they’ll give you an idea of the colors, take ’em with a grain of salt!)
As you can see in the color tests above, the caps give you a good indication of the marker’s shade, but aren’t always exact. So it’s important to always test your markers before coloring! That way, you’re always sure of the shade. 🙂
I’ve used the Grayscale Palette for several pictures, mostly during last Inktober; and while I am no master of markers yet, I have figured out a few things during the 10+ hours I’ve spent with them.
First, I like the look of laying down two to three layers of color in a color block. Except for N15, which is a dense black, seam lines appear anywhere two lines meet. Going over the area with another layer helps to eliminate that effect. For example, you can still see darker seam lines in the picture above, but trust me when I say they are about 5x less visible with only one layer of color!
When shading, try to keep the dark and light colors within the same warm / cool color group. I’ve run into issues using, say, N95 (Lightest Lavender) over N55 (Dark Warm Gray). I’m not saying to only use warm or cool tones in a drawing (though that would be cool too), but rather, keep the color group in mind when shading a specific area (example: River’s vest in the picture above). This is one of those things that’s obvious – in hindsight, haha.
Finally, I’ve noticed that with my heavier 50-70lb papers, the Tombow markers don’t bleed through even with many, very wet, layers of colors! The paper will ripple before it bleeds. It seems that the pigment is inclined to stay on the surface of the paper, even if the water seeps through. For example:
Here’s the back of the painting in my sketchbook, along with the next page (the eraser test for the Caran d’Ache blue pencil review). There are a few places where the color is distinct, as if it’s begun to bleed through, and yet there are no marks on the next page! A definite plus.
Blending with Tombow Dual-Brush Pens
One of the awesome things about Tombow Dual-Brush Pens is the blending feature! “But River, didn’t you mention earlier that they don’t blend well on paper?” Well, yes, that is true. However, there is a way to blend colors with the Tombow Markers: picking up a darker shade with the brush tip! We’ll take a look at that in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at the blending performance:
What are we looking at? From top to bottom:
Using colors N25 (left) and N65, attempted to blend the colors on paper. First, I laid down a block of N25; then colored over it while it was still wet with N65. Looks good, right? Well, unfortunately, the block of midtone in the middle is actually a second layer of N65! I usually forget to blend on the brush tip, so this is how I shade!
Same method, without the second layer of N65 in the middle. So there’s one layer of N25 on the left, then colored over with a single layer of N65 while wet.
Using colors N25 and N00 (colorless blender), attempted to blend the colors on paper. Like example 1, first I laid down N25 then colored over it with N00. There’s a slight blurry line where the N25 bled, but it’s not very well blended. This would be good for softening the edges of a line or color block, to give a slightly hazy effect.
Again using N25 and N00, I picked up some N25 pigment with the N00 marker and then colored on the paper. This can truly be called a “blended” effect! Or perhaps “gradient” would be better. This is good for shading small areas, and gives a lovely effect on lettering!
Now, you may be asking, “How do I get the effect in the 4th example?” If so, I’ve included a short tutorial. 😀 (Or maybe you already know how, in which case, feel free to skip ahead.)
Tutorial: Blending and Gradients with Tombow Dual-Brush Pens
First, pick out the darker and lighter shades. In this case, I’ll use N25 and N00, for a dramatic effect. Then dispense some of the darker shade onto a palette, like so:
Then, pick up some of the darker pigment from the palette with the lighter color:
Don’t worry, the tip isn’t stained! Tombow markers are self-cleaning, so the N00 will bleed off the color as you work until only the colorless blender is coming out. Cool, huh? Now you’ll have a gradient effect:
I picked up a lot of pigment in these pictures, so it was a nice, gradual gradient. Try picking up more and less color to get longer or shorter gradients!
After the darker pigment runs out, the tip will look like this:
Honestly, the self-cleaning nature of the pens is my favorite part of using Tombow. Even if you accidentally brush against a different color, the tip isn’t stained; it’ll clean up with a few strokes on scrap paper! I just love it. ❤️
As I said in the TL;DR version, the Tombow Dual-Brush Pens are a great introductory marker. The few cons (will pill the paper, don’t blend well on paper) are just annoyances really, and the many pros speak for themselves. I especially love the self-cleaning feature! They work well with lettering, sketching, and simple coloring styles. I’d recommend them to anyone who wants to try a new brand of water-based markers.
See you all next week with the fourth and (for now) final installment of this series: Sakura Gelly Roll Pens!