Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's in my Studio?

Who doesn't like to peek into someones workspace or studio?  I for one am VERY nosey in that respect, so I thought that I'd share a little bit of what's in mine and what I use to create my illustrations.
Bare with me as you may already know a bunch of this.  So just humor me for a little long while. LOL

While attending college I was a huge Prisma-Color pencil user, but for about the last six months or so, I have begun using these wonderful, richly polychromos colored pencils made by Faber-Castel. Can I just say I LOVE these pencils.  I think two of the MAJOR reasons that I like them so much is because the points DON'T BREAK even at their sharpest point.  And you also don't get the 'grit/imperfection' when coloring like you do with Prismas.  If you use Prisma-colors you know what I'm talking about.
Another reason I like them so well, is that they are super smooth when applying to the paper.  The colors easily blend all on their own, even without any OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits).  And when used with OMS they are just perfect for achieving that 'watercolor' look!!  It's like having two art supplies in one.

Ok, so maybe I love them for more than two reasons.  But they really are great!!!
I don't believe Michael's carries these, but some Hobby Lobby's do.  But if you are looking to purchase a few to try before investing in a set, make sure that they are the POLYCHROMOS pencils.  Or, if you're just going to take my word for it and want to purchase an entire set, I purchased mine from Dick Blick.
Here is a great comparison of the Prismas/Faber-Castells.

I LOVE watercolor pencils, and do use them a little on my illustrations,  but more often than not,  I stick mainly to the Colored Pencils.  I have a small set of 24 which is perfect because I always shade over the main color anyway, so I have never invested in a larger set. 

Now, I know it isn't the neatest little arrangement, but I DO love this caddy that I purchased from Michael's.  It houses all of my colored pencils and my Copics.
A customer of mine told me where she got hers when I saw it in one of her Show Me Thursday posts and I knew that they would be perfect for my studio.  I purchased two of them . . . .and I'd really like to have a third.  LOVE these little boogers.

Below my caddy, you see my Copic Color Chart.  I love having this thing handy while coloring.  And can I just say, for any newbies.  Use the SAME PAPER that you normally color on to make the chart as the ink is a little different depending on the type of paper that you are using.  Smooth papers will allow the color to stay more on the surface, while a more rough/toothy paper will soak up some of the color. It really does make a difference.  Trust me on that.
If you don't have one of these charts, you may download and print the blank 2012 chart here.

Here are the main instruments that I use when coloring the illustrations.  A Pentel white Gel Pen.  Perfect for details or 'dotting' the eyes.  That's what I use it mainly for.
A waterbrush.  I've shown the example here, but I don't use it much.  I have more control using plain old paintbrushes.
These are only a few of the sizes that I use, but I do suggest purchasing ACRYLIC brushes, because they have stronger bristles for blending and painting and don't wear out.  That's another reason I don't like the waterbrush.  The tip gets 'used' up too quickly.  I purchased my brushes at Michaels, using a coupon.  And no. . ..I don't buy expensive.  :)

OMS-Odorless Mineral Spirits, is FABULOUS for blending your colored pencils.  I also purchased this from the online Dick Blick store.  I like the larger size, b/c it's cheaper and since I use so much of it, it's great. I have an old KFC container that is perfect for using on my workspace.  Anything small with a lid is perfect.  The Dollar Tree would be a perfect place to pick up something like this.

And then we come to the papers.  There are ALL types of papers that you can use when coloring.  But here are a few that I prefer.  
In the top photo, from bottom to top:
Strathmore-Bristol-Smooth Surface-400 Series
Strathmore-Drawing Paper-Medium Surface-400 Series
In the 2nd photo from bottom to top:
Strathmore-Bristol-Vellum Surface-300 Series
Canson-Bristol (this paper is great b/c it is two sided.  Smooth on one side, rough/toothy  (on the other.)

These are all fine papers to use, especially if you are only using colored pencils and Gamsol to create, but if you are using Copics, they do bleed to the back.  That doesn't matter if you are just coloring something that you are going to cut out and past to a surface.  No on will see the back.  But if you're looking to color illustrations like I do, then I suggest using one of the two papers below.

Now these two are my preferred papers of choice, with my favorite being the Vellum surface because it is rougher/toothier.
Let me define rougher/toothier, or at least my definition.  A rougher surface will give you more texture and hold the color better instead of it 'bleeding' out.  Does that make sense?  Just think of coloring/blending on a piece of wax paper compared to sand paper and that will give you a good idea.  LOL

Listed from bottom to top:
Copics will NOT bleed or soak through to the other side.  That's why I like them so much.

Here are just two of the techniques I use when blending the colored pencils.  Shown at the top is the same color on the Strathmore-Bristol-Vellum Surface (100% Cotton)-500 Series.  Notice the texture.  Just below that is two blending techniques.  The first is a 'stroke' blending, meaning it's just like painting.  Short consistent outward strokes.
The second photo is a stippling/dabbing technique.  I touch the paper with an up and down motion, but do not move the brush from side to side. See how more of the color is 'unblended'. Hopefully you understand that.  :)
I have others, but this post is getting WAY too long, so I'm only sharing those two for now.

When my illustration is complete, I use Krylon Workable Fixatif to seal it so it doesn't smudge.  LOVE this stuff!!!  And regardless of what you have heard, DO NOT use hairspray.  YUCK!  This is much better and it lasts a LONG time.  You may purchase it at any local arts and crafts store.  I ALWAYS use a coupon!   

And FINALLY. . . . I bet you thought you'd NEVER get to the end of this post.  Here is my latest illustration using ALL of the 'crap' that I described from above.
Are ya tired from reading? I know I am!  I'm lucky you stayed with me until the end!
Thanks for reading!!!!

Comments or suggestions?  Email me or post a comment here.


  1. thanks, cheryl! that was very helpful!i'm going to give those pencils a try. and i love your new turkey boy!

  2. Hello!

    I am so late in visiting! I love your new blog and have it on my favorites to check every morning with your other blogs! I checked out the first two posts - wonderful stuff! I am going to absolutely love watching you create with your tutorials! I am happy to see you enjoying your caddy - yes, there are organized artists! :<) I am looking forward to your next posts! Love all that you do!

    Wishing you a happy day - I hope that you are getting settled in to your new home and life!


    Barbara Diane

  3. Love your new, very sweet, Turkey Noah! I have two little grandsons, so I am loving all of your little boys! (I had two daughters, so having grandSONS is a huge adjustment!) Anyway, I just read through your entire Blog and have a question that I believe no one has asked...Why do you use Copics AND colored pencils? I am not aware of others combining the two. You seem to start the process with the Copics, and then move on to the Faber-Castel pencils you love. Why not just use Copics, or just the pencils? Am just curious as to why you use both.

    I, too, love your caddy that you say you got at Michael's; however, I am told that they are no longer being made. Is this true? I have looked everywhere for one without any luck. If you know of a source, would you let us know?

    I look forward to following your new Blog and hope you don't mind my questions! Thank you so much for all of your wonderful illustrations, Cheryl. I have purchased several(smile:)and will certainly be purchasing more in the future! Phyllis

    1. I just saw this. Sorry for not replying. I just saw them at Michaels the other week. Hope you are able to find one. They are FANTASTIC!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your techniques. It's a wealth of information!

  5. Fantastic little peak into your creative world Cheryl. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this wonderfully informative post! xxx