Monday, December 05, 2016

Watercolor Studies

Throughout the year, I do referenced watercolor studies to keep my skills up.  While it is not necessary to be a proficient watercolorist to paint watercolor comics like 7" Kara, I find it helpful, relaxing, and useful to refute naysayers who cast aspersions as to my abilities.

These were painted using waterbrushes, Kuretake's pocket set, and Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper.  These studies were painted from life.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Hacking the Pentel Pocketbrush

The Pentel Pocketbrush.  Sleek, lightweight plastic body.  Nylon bristles.  Plastic cap with metal clip.  Cartridge fed.  If it's not the Pentel Pocketbrush, it's probably the Pentel Kirari, the slightly overpriced sister who comes in metallic colors like Sakura Pink. This brushpen is ubiquitous amongst comic artists.  Go ahead, look in your pencil case, I'll wait.  If it's not there, it's hiding in your keyboard shelf, on the floor behind your computer, tucked into a backpack.  Most sketchers have one, and they're sold almost everywhere- from certain Walmarts to Michaels, to DickBlick and Jerry's Artarama. 

There's a lot to like about these brushpens, but as popular as they are, we have to admit there's a serious drawback:  Those little cartridges hold so little ink.

A few years ago, I shared a tutorial on how to refill your empties with the ink of your choice.  This takes patience, a syringe, and you're still limited with how much ink you can carry in your pen at any given time. 

A slip up on Amazon priced Pentel Pocketbrushes at $2.01 for half a day, and of course, being the person who first that slip, I bought 5.  That puts me in the comfortable position of being able to experiment, being able to make an already great, affordably priced, commonplace brushpen even better by increasing it's ink capacity.

So today, I answer two questions:  Can a Pentel PocketBrush be used with an eyedropper conversion or a cartridge to hold the ink of my choice? 



Easily Refillable
Could be refilled with ink of choice\
Could travel with less chance of leaking than an eyedropper conversion

So many converters on the market, to find the Cinderlla's slipper might cost a lot of money
Would hold about as much ink as the cartridges

My fountain pen readers know that there are loads of converters on the market, all made to suit the wide variety of fountain pens.  Literally every major FP brand makes their own, there's some deviation between makes.

Fairly standard piston fill converter. Image Source

While thinking about the possibility, I Skyped Heidi to see if she knew of any options.  As a Jetpens employee, she has access to a library of their products, and she said she'd try a few out, but that I should email her so she could get paid for her efforts (if only that worked for me too, haha).

So I sent this letter off to my buddy:

Hi Heidi,

As a longtime artist and illustrator, I am a huge fan of the Pentel Pocketbrush.  It's portable, compact, and easy to use- the only downfall are those tiny cartridges.  I've refilled them with the ink of my choice in the past, but I'd love to know if there are any converters on the market that are compatible with the Pocketbrush, and given your large catalogue of fountain pens and fountain pen accessories, I figured you guys might be able to give me the answer.  I run an art supply review/tutorial blog (, and I know my readers would love to know this information, and I'd be delighted to share it with them, as well  as the source.  So any recommendations on converters would be a huge help!

Becca Hillburn

And Heidi replied:

Hi Becca Hillburn,

Thank you for your email!

Alas, I just went through all of our converters and none of them fit on the Pentel Pocket Brush. I'm sorry I could not be of more help!

I own the Kuretake 13 brush pen, which is compatible with the Platinum fountain pen converter:

Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns. Have a great day!

Best Regards,

So the answer for now is NO, there are no converters currently available that are compatible with the Pentel Pocket Brush. 

If you are looking for a refillable, non cartridge brush pen, Noodler's makes one with the Ahab body.   Looking at how the Noodler's brush fits into an Ahab body, and knowing that there are replacement brushes available, I'm curious about whether or not you could just put the brush tip into your existing Ahab once you've removed the feed and nib. This is an experiment I'd love to try once I own an Ahab of my own.  Please note that the 'brush' does not come to a point, so this functions more as a marker, and is probably intended for those fluorescents Noodler's makes.  Kuretake's No 13 brushpen apparently can take a Platinum fountain pen converter, and Platinum makes two brushpens (a fiber tip and a hair tip) that feature cartridges and are probably compatible with the Platinum converter.

This said, I'm a stubborn woman, and will probably try to fit converters as I purchase them for my fountain pens, just in case one went remiss.

Eye Dropper Conversion

Rubber gasket (I actually used an unused orthodontic rubberband)
Ink of choice (not acrylic or shellac based)

Could hold A LOT of ink
Could hold ink of choice if cleaned
If you find the Pentel Ink to be too gray, could use a heavier/more opaque ink ink
Can select ink based on properties you find useful- waterproof v waterbased, color, shading, ect.

Most likely to leak in transit
Not idea for everyday carry
Can also use a waterbrush filled with ink- but I've tried this in the past and have had numerous issues.

Experiment 1:
Ink Used: Platinum Carbon (pigment based fountain pen ink)

I disassembled my Pentel Pocketbrush and applied the silicon grease to the threads on the brush tip and on the body using a clean q tip.  I squeegeed away extra silicon grease using the q-tip, as I did not want it to contaminate the ink.

Using the eyedropper, I filled the body of my Pentel Pocketbrush with ink, and screwed together the two pieces. 

Storing the pen vertically with the brush tip down allows the ink to flow into the brush as it would with a cartridge.

 Once the ink has entered the brush, I've ensured that there are no leaks, and the pen writes, I go ahead and label the pen to prevent any accidental unscrewing.  At first, I tried masking tape, but ended up using an oil based, opaque Sharpie (gold) to write that it's an eyedropper pen, and to write the ink.

Notes:  Platinum carbon ink is VERY gray when applied to a field of color, so I would like to find a darker black for use in eyedropper converted brushpens in the future.

Experiment 2: Colored Ink

Ink Used: Dr Ph Martin's Radiant Concentrated Liquid Watercolor (dye based ink diluted for use as watercolor) in Cherry Red.

I used the same procedure as above, but as the liquid watercolors have eyedroppers, I just used the one that came in the bottle.

Notes:  The undiluted Radiant Watercolor is a little bit gummy in the pen- may need to be watered down a bit.  Very water-reactive (this was the plan). 

In the future, I would love to try shading inks like some of the Noodler's fountain pen inks in a brushpen.

Enjoyed this tutorial?  Learned something new?  Make sure you share this post with your friends and fellow artists over on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or even Instagram!  You can use the handy social sharing buttons below, or good ol copy an' paste-either method is great.  Sharing this post helps me out a lot, as does giving credit, so do me a solid and spread the good word.  Want to do more?  Head on over to the Patreon to find out how you can help sponsor future content like this and get early access to videos and more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Will It Work: Blick Studio Brush Markers and the Copic Airbrush System (Guest Post)

Huge thanks to my arty friend Sam (@kibou) for writing about their experiments with Blick Studio Brush Markers and the Copic Airbrush system.  If you enjoyed this post, make sure you check out Shooting Stars, Sam's site.  Sam is a member of Manga Apps on DA, and makes loads of amazing digital art resources that you should check out as well.

I was recently introduced to Blick Studio markers, which really are a good, cheap alternative to Copics.  I bought them with the thought of experimentation, because it doesn’t seem like anyone really had tried them with the airbrush system.

Why would I want to do this?  The Copic airbrush system has a tendency to cause markers to dry out more quickly than normal use.  So, if you can get something else to do the same job for cheaper, it’s a better deal than whatever you’re paying for a single Copic marker, right?

I decided to give them a shot, fully expecting one of the three following possibilites: I could potentially wreck the markers, destroy the air grip, or it simply wouldn’t fit/work at alll.

Here’s my supplies:
1 Copic Airbrush System with Aircan
Blick Studio Markers
(Copic Marker for comparison)
One inked illustration (masking suggested)

In this case, I used a piece of paper and masking fluid to protect my drawing from errant sprays of the markers.  Some people use frisket film, which also works.

In any case, let’s start by comparing the sizes of Copic and Blick markers to see what we’re up against.
So, right off, it’s really important to note that the Blick Studio markers are just a touch shorter than the Copic Sketch markers.  They’re also a little bit wider, which means fitting in the air grip might be tricky, but not likely impossible.


I was able to get the brush tip to fit with a fair amount of force.  It certainly takes more effort to get it in than the Copic would, and you have to push it until you hear a pop.  It wasn’t until later that I noticed why it pops, though:

The blick markers are wide enough that they force the air grip apart slightly.  It doesn’t affect the function of the airbrush, but it does raise some concern because this COULD cause damage if you force it apart too hard.

In any case, let’s get to the interesting part.  DOES IT WORK?


I don’t have a camera stand, so please don’t mind the cell phone shakycam.

Once you get the marker in, it works pretty much exactly like a Copic.

You can also use the chisel tip of the marker. I’m wary about doing this as you need significantly more force to insert and remove it from the grip.  Since the Blick Studio alcohol markers aren’t quite a perfect fit, there will be some minor damage to the marker’s body.
It isn’t severe, but it is something you need to keep in mind.

I did try pulling out the chisel tip further to see if I could work with it without damaging the grip.  I used my tweezers to help get a better grip.

That didn’t go very well.  I tried pulling it out further, and didn’t get very predictable behavior out of it.  So, I resigned myself to just working with the chisel tip as normal.

Once the marker is in firmly, its behavior and performance is fairly predictable for those familiar with the Copic airbrush system.

In the end, you CAN use the Blick Studio markers as a substitute for Copics in the airbrush system.
They’re not perfect -- but they’re definitely a great starter point if you’re low on cash and don’t feel like potentially trashing your Copics. Just remember that you might need to apply a little extra force to get a not-so-round marker body to fit in that very round Copic airbrush grip.

If you’re interested in my artwork, you can find me on deviantArt as Kabocha:
Alternatively, you can visit my website as well:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Small Business Saturday

Last year, I made it my mission to remind people that artists are small businesses, and deserve your support on Small Business Saturday.  Many of us create handmade, one of a kind items that make perfect gifts for loved ones, but we are so small that we cannot afford brick and mortar shopfronts.  Many of us also have difficulty getting the small businesses in our local area to take a chance on our work, so you may never see our work for sale in local shops, despite their promises that they carry locally made products.  Last year's Small Business Saturday post not only covered these bases, but also included a list of wonderful artists and crafters who sell their wares online. If you're interested in supporting micro businesses like my own, I highly recommend you revisit that post.

In that light, I'd like to announce that this year, I'm hosting another

Small Business Saturday Sale!

Coupon Code:  SmallBiz
Good for: 20% total order, including comics and original art
When:  Today until Sunday, Nov 27th

Original Art, listed just in time for the holidays. We accept all major credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin.  All pieces are priced to be affordable- I would rather they go to good homes than sit in my portfolio collecting dust.

Not sure how original art or commissions fits into the lives of you or your loved ones?  Check out this Art Soundoff on Art as a Service:

All New Listings:

Favorite Fictional Femmes Original Ink Illustrations
Ink, Brush on Watercolor paper

To purchase, please visit the painting section of the shop.

Gizmo Grandma: A Twisty Tale
A children's novel with watercolor illustrations.  Written by Lenore Salazar, with illustrations by me.

Includes 43 watercolor illustrations by me.  $15.  Purchase here.

31 Days Under the Waves
My 2016 Inktober mini features loads of merfolk in fun situations
32 underwater illustrations.  $4. Purchase here.
31 Days Under the Waves is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

31 Days Under the Waves Coloring Packs
10 images printed on artist quality marker paper using toner based inks.  Compatible with waterbased and alcohol based markers.
$6 for the 10 sheet pack.  Purchase here.
These images are also available as a Print It Yourself download via Gumroad.

2016 Black and White Sketchbook- Let Sleeping Cats Lie...
An ashcan is a collection of sketches and studies compiled into a small, self bound booklet.
This year's black and white sketchbook, Let Sleeping Cats Lie..., is a collection of daily figure studies, fashion studies, facial expressions, and doodles.  It's perfect if you're interested in a peek into how my mind works, or if you have a young artist you'd like to encourage.

$3 Purchase here.
Let Sleeping Cats Lie is also available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

2016 Full Color Sketchbook- ...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water
An ashcan is a collection of studies and sketches compiled and handbound into a small book.
This year, I completed so many color illustrations as watercolor studies, marker field tests, or YouTube tutorial demonstrations, I could put together a sizable color ashcan, ...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water.  Perfect if you'd like a taste of my color work, or are looking for inspiration for yourself or a loved one.
Full color. $6.  Purchase here.
...Or Else They'll Drink Your Watercolor Water is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Fairy Kei Plaques

One of a kind, handlettered sealed and decorated wooden sign that reads My Bae is 2D.  $20.  Purchase here.
One of a kind, handlettered sealed and decorated wooden sign that reads Livin the Kawaii Life.  $30.  Purchase here.
There are more wooden signs available in the shop, and signs can be commissioned.  Please email me for a quote.

New Original Watercolors
Available in a variety of prices, sizes, and subject matter

11"x15"- inkwash and watercolor on watercolor paper. $40 for the original piece.  Purchase here.
5"x8", Brusho, watercolor, ink on Fluid 100 watercolor paper.  $30 for the original piece.  Purchase here.
For more original art and illustration, please visit the shop.

New Mini Watercolors
8"x8" and 9"x12" mini watercolors that feature fanart as the subject.  Most are popular Pokemon in bright watercolors, but there are also Gundams and a few anime characters.  Check back frequently, as updating the shop is still in progress.

8"x8" watercolor of Magikarp, original piece available for $25.  Purchase here.
8"x8" watercolor of a Zaku, original piece available for $20.  Purchase here.
Make sure to check out the shop for more mini watercolors!

Convention Favorites:

Magical Girl March
31 Days, 30 Girls, 3 Boys
2015's March challenge. $4.  Purchase here.
Magical Girl March is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Favorite Fictional Femmes

42 of my favorite fictional femmes, all in glorious black and white.
  2015's Inktober sketchbook. $4.  Purchase here.
Favorite Fictional Femmes is available as a PDF download via Gumroad.

Print-It-Yourself Coloring sheets are also available for purchase in three packs- Ladies of Literature, Just Animated, and the entire collection of 42 femmes.

7" Kara Volume 1

7" Kara is an all ages watercolor adventure comic the whole family can enjoy together.  Follow Kara, a 7 inch tall girl, as she make friends and discovers that humans are more than just tall tales.

  • 120 pages,including a bonus story and concept art section to inspire young minds
  • Perfect bound
  • Includes Chapters 1-4 of this ongoing comic
  • For readers 8-12, although enjoyable for all ages
  • Beautiful watercolor illustrations keep the reader engaged
  • Comic format is very rewarding for young readers- strong correlation between content of panel and dialogue

$15 or $20 with a sketch and dedication in back of book.  Purchase here.

Lilliputians are tiny people who occupy the in-between spaces of our world. Sometimes, if you're careful, you can catch a glimpse of one. 7" Kara is a suburban fantasy comic aimed at young girls. Inspired by books such as "The Borrowers", "The Littles", and "Gulliver's Travels", 7" Kara follows the adventures of the 11 year old Lilliputian Kara. Kara lives with her parents in an old doll house that's been hidden away in the back of a neglected shed. Isolated her entire life, she has few Lilliputian friends her own age, and even less experience with the outside world. Everything she knows has been learned first hand or has been taught to her by her parents. Her life changes drastically when a human family moves into the house her family lives near. Will Kara make a new friend? Or is there something darker, possibly more dangerous in store for her?

Sample pages from Chapters 1-4

If you are only going to purchase one thing from my shop this year, I highly recommend it be 7" Kara Volume 1.  The project is nearest and dearest to my heart, and all of my efforts go towards promoting this comic.  If you enjoy this blog, the YouTube channel, or my art, please check this comic out.

If you've already read volume 1, the first chapter of Volume 2, Chapter 5, is available as a PDF from my Gumroad shop.  You can also purchase a PDF for all of Volume 1.

Your support of my comics, mini comics, originals, and merchandise not only encourages my work as an artist, but enables me to continue dedicating massive amounts of time to this blog and to the Youtube channel.  If you enjoy the content I create, and you cannot justify joining my Patreon, giving patronage to my online shops is a fantastic way to

Thanks for reading. Check out these products.