Thursday, March 22, 2018

Intro To Comic Craft- Planning and Workload

Knowing your comic creation pace and what type of schedule you can reasonably keep is an important part of comic planning.  Whether a webcomc or a print comic, a mini comic, anthology entry, or longform story, knowing your pace and how you can maintain it and your sanity are key to the regular production of comics.

I don't have any perfect solutions for your comic- planning comes from experience, and if you want to gain experience quickly, I recommending making lots of mini comics, trying out differnt styles, finishes, and processes.  But I can share my own planning timeline, tips, tricks, and tools that have helped me plan and plot, and tricks other creators use to help keep the schedule rolling.

This post was made possible thanks to the generosity of my wonderful Artnerds on Patreon!  Patreon is a site that allows you to support the creators whose work you love, all for little more than $1 per month.   Patreon funds go to paying for art supplies to review, paying amazing guest creators to create posts for this blog, and paying for equipment upgrades.

Finding Your Groove:

Red is for Youtube.  Blue is for Blog.  And Green means I worked on comics that day.

I learned how to judge my pace based on mini comics, anthology submissions, and maintaining this blog and my channel.  Working on mini comics for various anthologies, with various needs has given me the experience necessary to judge for a variety of projects.  A watercolor comic (uninked) needs a different timeline than a digitally coloreed comic, and working with a writer requires a different schedule than winging it alog.

The trick isn't just to figure out how fast you can work when the pressure's on, but also to know how fast you can sustainably work, and what workload is reasonable for you.  This varies for everyone, and only experience and practice will help you find the pace that's right for you.

My comic schedule:

Watercolor Comic:
Script- Approx 3 days
Thumbnails- 3 clean, final thumbnails per day, for duration of chapter
Roughs- 1 clean, finished rough per day, for duration of chapter
Pencils/Inks- 1 Page per day, for duration of chapter
Pencils for watercolors- 2 pages per day, for duration of chapter
Watercolor- 4 pages every 6 days, for duration of chapter
Scanning- 1 day
Color correction- 1 day
Digital corrections and lettering- varies depending on length of chapter

Finished tight script, printed with notes

Chapter 8 folder and outfit/layout sketchbook

Outfit designs for Chapter 8

Tight thumbnails on template

Inks (black and white):
Watercolor Comic:
Script- Approx 3 days
Thumbnails- 3 clean, final thumbnails per day, for duration of chapter
Roughs- 1 clean, finished rough per day, for duration of chapter
Pencils/Inks- 1 Page per day, for duration of chapter
I try to arrange it so I'm inking the previous day's pencils in the morning, when I'm fresh, and doing pencils for the next day in the evening, with accuracy is less important
Scanning- 1 day
Color Correction- 1 day
Corrections and Lettering- Varies depending on Length of Chapter

Planning Tools: 

Month view calendar
Colored Gel Pens or Highlighters to Color Coordinate
Carey Pietsch's Deadline Planner Calculator  (save as a copy to edit and use for yourself)
Knock Knock Themed Pads
File Folders
File Organizer
Post Its
Tabs and flags

Diary with brainstorming notes for old pitch

Month view planner

Outdated to-do list for weekend

Current to-do list for Japantrip prep

Intro to Comic Craft: Planning Cicada Summer:

Let's Make a Comic: Concept to Scripting to Thumbnails to Roughs: 

What's worked for me:

  • Working well in advance
  • Building up a buffer
  • Scheduling content using a color coded calendar
  • Pacing my updates so my buffer is sustainable while i work on other projects
  • Keeping logs of how long each type of project takes, so I can better predict my timeframe
  • Blocking out my timeframe using a calendar (useful for Cicada Summer)
  • Forcing myself to do short projects with quick turnarounds (but please, don't do this too frequently with longform projects, you'll burn out)
  • Filler is sometimes a necessary part of a long term project, so learn how to recycle content
  • Collaborating with other creators can give you additional content

What about When It Backfires:

Art Soundoff: Time Management

Dealing with Burnout

What if you give it your all, every single day, 10 hours a day, 7 days a week?  Well, you will end up with a whole lot of comic.  But you may also end up with a nasty case of burnout.

Burnout is something I frequently struggle with- I juggle so many things it's easy to take on just a little too much and have no motivation left the next day.

Preventing Burnout:

  • Be kind with how much work you assign yourself each day
  • Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed, stressed out, or demotivated
  • Find ways to treat yourself
  • Plan one day a week to do something fun, so you have a goal to work towards
  • Don't push yourself too hard once you're tired
  • Find, and respect, your stopping point

Leave fuel in the tank for other days.  It might seem like you've got endless energy now, but save some of that for your later years.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Once You Have Burnout:
  • Take a day off
  • Leave the house- go for a walk, the mall, or the park
  • Play video games
  • Call a friend
  • Draw something not related to the project you're working on (if you HAVE to draw)
  • Read a book or comic you enjoy
  • Clean up your desk or workspace
  • Clean up your workroom

Where to get started when you have no spoons to give
And you have to get work done by a deadline
  1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.  Force yourself to sit down and work for that 15.  If you still feel miserable, you can quit after that, but you HAVE to work for that 15 minutes.  Usually you'll get pulled into th task.
  2. Make a list of everything, even minute details, that need to be handled.  Select the easiest task.  Do it.  Continue working on easy tasks until you've hit a groove.
  3. Work on something related that you're excited about
  4. Feeling discouraged?  Ask a friend who supports your project to give you three reasons why they like your work.  This usually puts a little fuel in the tank.

ADHD and Comic Art- Time Management

Recently I've started a series- My Life with ADHD, that focuses on the effect ADHD has on my career as a comic artist and illustrator.  It is with this in mind that you should read this post- these are things that work for me, and your mileage may vary.  Feel free to adjust to suit your specific needs.

My Life with ADHD- A Not So Brief History:

My Life with ADHD- Challenges

My Life with ADHD- Scheduling

For me, what works best is:

Work in batch, and complete batch before moving on.

Script comes from an overarching 7" Kara synopsis as a plotform paragraph
Fleshed out into a script that includes shot direction, character acting, and expressions, because I need to capture the moment while I have it fresh in my mind- I can't count on remembering it
Script is typed and created in Google docs, because it's free, auto saves, and I can easily share it with beta readers who can easily comment.  Once script is corrected, I print it out, one comic page per sheet of paper, and bind it together with a paperclip.

Print out thumbnail templates, enough so that I can draw every comic page and then also do revisions.
On the script, do layouts for the comic page, as many revisions as necessary until it feels 'right.  Draw the tight thumbnail on the template, this is the 'final' version (until revisions)
Scan entire chapter when done, send to beta readers using Google Drive
Print out or transcribe comments, go through and self critique
Working thumbnail to thumbnail, break up into individual 'pages', save in new folder (usually like Resized Thumbnails).  Resize thumbnails to 9"x6"
Working thumbnail to thumbnail, go through comments and make changes.
Convert to Grayscale, bump up contrast, convert to bluelines, save in new folder (Blueline Roughs)

Print entire chapter in batch, bind with paperclip.
Draw in panel borders on every page
I find perspective to be incredibly tedious, so I've found that if I have trouble starting on roughs, it's best if I go through and draw all the fun panels. This means I'm never really starting a page fresh- there's always some work done on it, and psychologically this is easier than starting a new page every day.  It's good to have thumbnails and notes handy for changes that aren't apparent in the printouts.
When entire chapter is finished, scan, saving in a new folder (Roughs or Roughs Scan)
Send chapter to beta readers
Self critique, and take notes
Work through the chapter and make necessary corrections digitally.  Save in new folder (Corrected Roughs)

Convert to Grayscale, bump up contrast, convert to bluelines, resize to fit 11"x14" Canson Montval save in new folder (Bluelines)
Print entire chapter
Pencil entire chapter, two pages at a time
Paint in batches- 2-6 pages at a time

I still do perspective by hand, but many friends say using the Manga Studio tools, or creating a background in Sketchup is easiest for them, so I recommend you do whatever method works for you, and experiment with new methods when doing mini comics or anthology comics.

Recently for the 7" Kara Q&A Bonus Pages, I've been experimenting with method.  Since these are easy pages, I do my thumbnailing and roughs digitally.


Create template pages ahead of time.
Select template you need to suit the page.
Letter page first (since it fits a specific format)
Sketch in around the lettering- loose thumbnails
Move lettering around as necessary to suit page
Tighten up
Convert to black and white, bump up contrast, convert to bluelines
Print on 9"x12" 300 series Bristol (smaller and cheaper than I normally do)
Convert to black and white, boost contrast
Drag lettering from original PSD, convert to black and white
Save as JPG
Release Online

For this system, I work on a page by page basis- how I assume most of my webcomic friends work.  To be frank, I hate this method- its more difficult for me to predict how long the entire project will take.  Working in batch allows me to set a strict schedule, and I still have some flexibility to introduce new pages.

Further Tips for Working Traditionally:

  • Always have extra printer ink handy and stored closeby
  • Always have extra cheap copy paper handy (buy it by the box and store)
  • Always have extra Comic paper handy- I buy multiple pads at a time, and restock after I've printed my bluelines, not when I'm starting the next chapter.
  • For ink comics, I make sure I always have fude pens, bottles of the preferred ink, gentle erasers
  • For watercolor comics, I make sure I'm starting the chapter with refilled or new pans, and make sure I have tubes to refill.
  • Always a lot buffer time in production to allow for illness or other unplanned circumstances
  • When creating a traditional media webcomic work WELL in advance- a HUGE buffer (one year in advance) is best if you want regular updates.  If you don't mind whether or not you update on a set schedule, work at your own pace.

Additional Resources:
Intro to Comic Craft: Step by Step: Brainstorming and Character Development

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Top 5 Alcohol Markers

My Top 5 Alcohol Markers 

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to review dozens of alcohol markers.  I've formed distinct tastes, and have a cadre of favorites I reach for time and again.  But I've found, in the myriad of reviews I've created, my actual recommendations sometimes get lost, and sometimes change, so I thought 2018 was a great time to revisit my Top 5 Alcohol Markers!

alcohol markers, Prismacolor markers, Copic markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers, Shin Han Twin Touch markers

Marker Rec Number 1: Copic Sketch Markers

Copic Sketch Markers

Copic Sketch- Super brush, larger ink compacity, available in empty
Total Number of Colors: 214 Colors in Family
Brush Type: Foam rubber
Refillable- Yes
Replaceable Nibs- Yes
Easy to Find- Very
Where to buy:
Most art supplies stores will carry Copic markers
Jerry's Artarama

Marker Rec Number 2: Copic Ciao Markers

Copic Ciao Markers

Copic Ciao- Sketch's cheaper baby sister.  Also refillable, replacable nibs.  No empty bodies available.  Color name and family not on the cap.  Available in a much smaller range of colors.
Total Number of Colors: 180 Colors In Family
Brush Type- Foam Rubber
Replaceable Nibs- Yes
Easy to Find- A bit rarer than Copic Sketch markers
Where to Buy
Jerry's Artarama

Marker Rec Number 3: Blick Studio Brush Markers

Blick Studio Brush Markers

Blick Studio Brush- Non refillable, CHEAP, available in sets or openstock, a great Copic dupe
Total Number of Colors:  97 including blender
Brush Type: Foam Rubber
Refillable: No
Replaceable Nibs: No
Easy to Find: Only available through or in DickBlick
Where to buy:

Marker Rec Number 4: Prismacolor Markers (Brush Tip)

Prismacolor Markers

Prismacolor- Those Neons, true purples, blues, and bluegreens.  Fills holes Copic leaves in the collection
Total Number of Colors: 200 Colors
Brush Type- Foam Rubber
Refillable- No
Replaceable Nibs- No
Easy to Find- Very
Where to buy:
Most art supply stores carry Prismacolor markers
Dick Blick
Jerry's Artarama

Marker Rec Number 5: ShinHan Twin Touch Markers (Brush tip)

ShinHan Twin Touch Markers

Shin Han Twin Touch- A little harder to find than Copic, slightly cheaper, all the features of Copic markers (refillable, replacable brushes) in a different body.
Total Number of Colors- 204
Brush Type- Foam rubber
Refillable- Yes
Replaceable Nibs- Yes
Easy to Find: Not necessarily
Where To buy:
Flax (San Francisco)
Where to buy refills: MarkerPop
Note:  There are A LOT of Shinhan Twin Touch knockoffs out there- on Amazon, Ali Express, Wish, Ebay, ect.

Honorable Mention: Crayola Blending Markers

Crayola Blending Markers

Honorable Mention- Crayola Blending Markers- Super cheap, even sold at Walmart.
Total Number of Colors: 15 counting blender
Brush Type: Fiber
Refillable: No
Replaceable Nibs: No
Easy to Find: Increasingly so
Where to buy:

The below illustrations were completed with a variety of alcohol markers and inks.

Copic Marker, Marvy LePlume Small Brush, Ranger Adirondack Inks, Blick Studio Brush Marker
Copic Marker, Marvy LePlume Small Brush, Ranger Adirondack Inks, Blick Studio Brush Marker

Copic Marker, Blick Studio Brush Markers
Copic Marker, Blick Studio Brush Markers

Ranger Adirondack Inks, Copic Markers, Prismacolor Markers
Ranger Adirondack Inks, Copic Markers, Prismacolor Markers

Copic markers, Prismacolor Markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers
Copic markers, Prismacolor Markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers

Prismacolor markers, Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers
Prismacolor markers, Copic Markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers 

Copic markers, Shin Han Twin Touch Markers, watercolor
Copic markers, Shin Han Twin Touch Markers, watercolor 

Left to Right: Prismacolor Markers, Shin Han Twin Touch Markers, Blick Studio Brush Markers, Copic Ciao Markers, Copic Sketch Markers, Crayola Blending Markers 

Top to bottom: Prismacolor, Shin Han Twin Touch, Blick Studio Brush, Copic Ciao, Copic Sketch, Crayola Blending 

I hope this post inspired a couple new favorites and perhaps helped inform future buying decisions.

Oh hey!  Today is my birthday!  If you enjoyed this post, do me a favor and share it with your friends on social media- help others find this blog!  If you want to help make more content like this, head on over to my Patreon and join the Artnerd community to not only help support this blog, but gain access to comics and early access videos! 

And if you enjoy my art, why not check out my all ages webcomic, 7" Kara, free to read at or ?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Guest Post: Panda’s Top Tips For Advertising Comics

Hi there!

I’m ServerPanda. My job as a professional Graphic Designer, 3D designer and advertising specialist has taken me to a lot of places over the past 8 years. I’ve worked in newspaper offices, print companies and currently I’m making my way into the employment of a large scale construction company as their lead designer and advertising specialist.

Today, however, I’m honored to be here to teach you all a little inside knowledge about the advertising industry and how it can apply to webcomics.

Advertising a webcomic outside the circles of fellow creators has proven a daunting and almost impossible task for many. Solutions seem magical and hard to pin down. Few really know what they’ve done correctly even after they have achieved it. Many attribute it to luck.

Luck may play a role. Careful planning and determination can take you much further, however! Which is why right now in this article I’ll be dissecting the how and why advertising works and teaching you to apply it to new sources: taking it outside your comfort zone and into a bright, new world! You can do this!

Did that second paragraph sound fancy and make you excited? Was it a little corny too? That’s what advertising does.

They’re called ‘Ad Words’: Words meant to be persuasive, powerful and kickstart viewers into clicking your advertisement to find out more. Usually quick and to the point, these words are made to excite people. Below I’ve assembled an image of a few of the most popular Ad Words so that you can see them. Apply some of these to your advertising campaigns (or think of a few more yourself!) and I can guarantee that people will click your work (see what I did there?).


Next we’ll dive into a category format. I’ve had my fun with you all! It’s time to work.


The timeless battle of genre vs. age. Sometimes people combine the two. They do it in popular media all the time. A perfect example is any Disney animated classic: usually Fantasy for children. There isn’t inherently anything wrong with that when the audience is worldwide. Except… in webcomics an issue does unfold. The problem with us following that format when advertising outside of our comfort zone is that we sadly cannot afford to. Webcomics are already a niche: a small bite of a much bigger market. The more a creator limits their audience when they try to reign in new readers, the less success they will have. So therein lies a choice: pick between age or genre when advertising. My strongest advice is to pick the one that will offer you the highest potential readership. How will you know? Market trends! We’ll cover that one next.


Stats are the most important and most ignored tool available on advertising and social media sites around the world. I can’t blame people. They’re a line on a graph or bars going upwards at best. Maybe some numbers underneath. At the same time, these can become your saving grace if you keep an eye on them. If they’re low to non existent, chances are it isn’t that your webcomic is bad, it’s that there’s something ineffective about the ad. Or perhaps the chosen advertising location is a poor one. Fluctuating numbers depending on the day mean that certain days draw more people than others. On average, weekends are actually a poor choice to advertise since people are busy doing other things. The best day? Monday! People are most likely to slack off at work and check the internet at the beginning of the week! Top Tip: Keep an eye on your click throughs! You can get more if you use well placed Ad Words on your shiny graphics!


This is a hard habit to break. Even I didn’t want to do this. I mentally grumbled. I sighed. I rolled my eyes. We all want to advertise on each other’s sites and on social media exclusively, and I do understand the personal appeal to it as an idea. Growth, however, dictates that we do otherwise. Sites such as Project Wonderful have categories like: Art, Books, Film, Games, etc. It’s a good place to start to get your feet wet. Alternatively, place ads in online magazines and newspapers if you have the funds for it (which not all of us do, and that is quite fair). Other free methods can include taking a physical advertisement for your comic to game and comic shops in your local area and posting it up on their advertisement board. Or even utilizing multimedia. Streaming art has found huge success and YouTube is a great place for that. Or Twitter’s Periscope. Top Tip: I’ve had the best success with Periscope! The viewers on there come from all walks of life AND they love to comment, interact and give you lots of likes. It will also stream direct to your Twitter feed!


Social media is a long haul commitment. This method requires forging bonds with people. Those bonds are worth it, however, and your readership coming out of this method will be the most loyal. The more time you put into something, the more you get out of it. Out of all of them, I’ve found Twitter to be the most effective with Tumblr coming in as a far back second if you use the hashtag system to its most effective abilities. That said, I could write a full article alone on how to use Tumblr hashtags in order to get noticed. Twitter is easier and provides the opportunity to interact with readers on the fly. Use your social media to advertise updates, talk about WIPs, post art streams and just be a generally nice person! It also doesn’t hurt to do a little promotional event once in a while. Top Tip: Do a contest! Have folks like and share your comic to be entered to win a little something! An online gift card, some art, etc.!


Advertising as a whole is a long term job. It goes hand in hand with making your comic and should be part of the process. Success at advertising won’t come overnight. Persistence is the key to this endeavor and there’s actually a logical reason for that! On a website advertisements are second to the content. That is a known fact in the industry. Readers will skim them at first glance and without a second thought. Because of that, one time or even twice is not enough. Repeated showings are the key to easing potential ‘customers’ into noticing your product. It’s the same as when a brand promotes to you on a social media site based on your online purchasing history. You see the ad several times. Over time it wears you down and sticks in your head, doesn’t it? You contemplate the product, or at least remember it. Our goal here is ultimately the same. We want people to remember webcomics in the same way as we all remember product ads. We want people to have our comics come to mind when they think of specific things. Persistence and persuasion are powerful tools.

In conclusion, let’s summarize everything you’ve learned today:
Ad Words: Short, powerful words made to excite and persuade.
One Not Both: Pick an age range or genre when advertising. Don’t use both.
Follow Your Stats: Stats and trends are important! Monday is the best day to advertise.
Other Methods: Use places other than comic sites to advertise on. Stream art. Use physical advertising.
Social Media: Slow and strong. Use it for contests to promote your comic!
Don’t Stop: Persistence is the key! Persuasion is powerful.

Right then! Get out there and put what you’ve learned into practice! Don’t be scared to experiment. Advertising is half figuring out trends and half keeping up with the actions themselves. Experimentation will be the best teacher in this field. On the other hand, I’m also available on Twitter to answer any questions you may have!

Twitter: @ServerPanda , @InkUnder


Stock images are from

Monday, March 12, 2018

Creating Stickers with Cricut for Fun and Profit

Hello again! I'm Kabocha, taking up your valuable time here on Becca's blog.

Let's say you're looking at doing a convention, and you need some inexpensive merch. You decide to make stickers, because that's fun and popular!

You don't want to ship it off to a third party manufacturer because then you have to really worry about shipping deadlines or print time, or their pricing if you have to reorder.

Sounds like you might want a die cutting machine! The initial cost is high, but once you have it, you're really only paying for replacement parts here and there!

Full disclosure: The only die cutter I've used is the Cricut Explore Air 2 - so I can't speak to how you would go about this process using a Silhouette or other machine.


First and foremost, you're gonna need some supplies to get started. I'm going to throw my personal recommendations at you. Feel free to change up things as you want.

Canon Pixma TS6120
I strongly suggest an inkjet printer. Toner printers are expensive, and their color accuracy isn't too great. The Pixma met my requirements for stickers and a variety of other things, without being an irritating device to maintain.

Printable Sticker Paper
Don't buy the Cricut paper. It's overpriced for the quantity you get -- and the Online Labels paper is actually quite good!

Duck Peel N' Stick Laminate
Yes, I realize this is sold with shelf liner. It's acid free and should last a good while. It's easy to cut through! Alternatively, You can pick this up at Wal-Mart or someplace similar for under $6 with sales tax.

Other types of laminate (such as holographic) can sometimes be found at your local craft store, or online. I don't recommend buying through Alibaba unless you're ready to deal with that.

Die Cutter:
Cricut Explore Air 2
This is the expensive part. But lemme tell you, this thing is kind of nice. You'll want to get a few add-ons for it to make your life easier, though:
Spatula and Scraper
Spare Standard Grip Cutting Mat
Spare Fine-Point Blade

Other supplies:
  • Scissors
  • Guillotine Cutter (optional)
  • White vinegar (for removing adhesive from blades)
  • Photo editing software

Preparing your Files

So, you have all the things you need to make stickers?  OK, good.

Let's say you have a super cute illustration ready, and it's been set up at the size you want.  For stickers, I typically go no larger than 3 inches x 3 inches at 300DPI -- so that means the max dimensions should be 900px in both directions, including any borders you have on the edge of the image.

If my image file's a little larger - that's fine.  I'll usually resize the largest side down to about 2.9 inches (~870px).

After that, I change the canvas size to add on extra space and add on a 25px white border to the image.

The white border is necessary to make sure the Cricut doesn't destroy my illustration when cutting.

Since I usually add the border as a layer effect, I then merge the layer with the border down onto an empty layer, and manually smooth out the white border for an easier cut.

You can see how the image was smoothed out.

I then crop the image to fit with its actual size and note what the dimensions are.
After this, I export the image with transparency so I can import it to the Design Space.

We know the actual dimensions will end up being a max height of 3.067 inches.

Preparing to Cut

The Cricut Design space is pretty simple.  If you have a Cricut machine, you can use it at

I am assuming your Cricut is connected to your computer, but that you have not used the Design Space.  First-time users will be prompted to download the Cricut Bridge software.

When you get into the Design Space, open up a New Project.

Once a new project canvas is opened, click Upload to upload your file.

The upload screen is pretty straightforward -- you can upload your own images to use for free, which is exactly what we're doing.

When you upload your image, you'll be presented with a few options.  For simplicity's sake, choose "Complex" and hit Continue.

Unless you made a mistake when exporting your image, you don't need to mess with Select & Erase.

Hit Continue again.

On the last screen, you'll have options as to what kind of image you'll be using, and what you want to name it.

Since you uploaded something you want to make into stickers, save this as a Print then Cut image. Consider adding some tags, too, just to save yourself trouble.

Once you've got that all done, hit Save.

You'll be taken back to the upload screen, where you can insert your recently uploaded images.

Click on your desired sticker(s) to select it, and then click Insert Images.

Here's why we needed to know the dimensions of the sticker before.

The Cricut Design Space doesn't recognize that you might have set a specific resolution for your image.
This is mildly annoying, but workable.

Select your image on the canvas, and change the size to match what you expected it to be.  (Otherwise, you're going to have some monstrously large images.)

Resized, it looks MUCH better!

If you're only doing one sticker, click Make It in the top right corner.

If you're adding other stickers, follow the same process to upload them.  If you're going to do sheets of the same sticker, duplicate it.

From past experience, I know I can fit about six 3inch stickers on a sheet of 8.5 x 11 sticker paper -- sometimes I can fit as many as 9.

When you click Make It, you'll get a preview of your print output so you can decide if you want to fit more images on the same sheet of paper.  Cricut ONLY handles 8.5 x 11 Print then cut projects, for reference.

The Design Space will automatically adjust your images for the best fit with the paper you've given it.

If it all looks good, hit "Continue" and load your paper into the printer.

When you send your file to the printer, you can adjust your settings using 'Advanced' (I suggest doing this) -- here's my settings for my Pixma.


Unfortunately, you'll need to do this EVERY TIME YOU PRINT. (Unless you set it as a default setting, but... ugh.)

Applying your Laminate


Now that your images are printed, you'll need to apply the laminate.  Notice how there's a black border around the space the images occupy -- this is the bounding box the Cricut uses to determine where to cut.

Figure out how wide and how tall that is -- you want your laminate to stay within these borders, but not overlap onto them.

Why?  The Cricut scans these borders.  If there's laminate on top of it, you may get an inaccurate cut due to the reflective nature of the material.

To keep it inside the borders, we'll cut a chunk of laminate approximately 7 inches wide by 8 3/4 inches tall.

Once I have my laminate cut, I start applying it by peeling a corner and placing it in a corner of my paper.  Then, I very carefully peel, making sure to run my hand over the areas the laminate will now lay as I peel.  This helps prevent bubbles.  This video also goes over a similar process, burnishing while applying.

I typically lay the backing of the laminate over the area I just adhered it to, and run my scraper over the laminate after it's been applied to make sure everything is flat.

Once your laminate is applied, it's time to cut.


Cutting Your Stickers

If you've not used your Standard Grip mat before… You might want to roll a t-shirt over it or something because the adhesive is likely to destroy your paper.  Just de-stick the thing.

Now that you're good to go, put your stickers in the top corner.

Yes thank you, I know my mat is wrecked.  It still works.

Typically, I set my dial for these stickers to Poster Board or Poster Board+.

Why?  Because it applies the amount of pressure I need for die cut stickers.  I don't have any desire to do KISS cut designs, so die cut works for me.

Follow the instructions in design space and load your mat and blade.  Hit the "Go" button on your machine and let it do the magic.

Once you're done, unload your mat, remove your stickers (use your spatula if you so choose) and you're done!

After all this, bear in mind that every so often, you may need to clean your Cricut blade with a bit of vinegar to remove any adhesive residue.

If you liked this tutorial, check out the resources I have over at!
If you liked my art, maybe check out my comic at

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Case for Waterbased

Illustration created with Pentel Brushpens in Strathmore 400 Series FIeld Watercolor Sketchbook

I've written a lot about alcohol markers over the years.  I've reviewed dozens of brands, done numerous field tests, and for awhile, firmly proclaimed alcohol to be the king of markers.  And while I still love Copic markers, Prismacolor markers, Shin Han, and Blick Studio Markers, my recent foray into writing about all things watercolor has given me a new appreciation for the right kind of waterbased marker.

Because the right marker, the right brush, can make all the difference.

Illustration created with Winsor and Newton watercolor markers

Oh I get it, waterbased has gotten a bad rap, and I've contributed to that.  And sure, when waterbased pretty much meant Crayola and other firm tipped markers with anemic inkflow, it's easy to see how alcohol markers, with soft foam rubber brushes and almost infinite blending capacity was the hands down winner.

But things change, artists and crafters innovate and experiment.  And we end up with waterbased markers that turn the table on the old marker showdown.

Today I'm going to share a few of my favorite waterbased markers with you guys and explain why waterbased might be a great fit for your studio or collection.

Pentel Brushpen Illustration in Canson XL Mixed Media Sketchbook

If this post seems like your jam, please take a moment to visit my Patreon and consider joining the Artnerd community!  It's thanks to the generosity and support of my Artnerds that I'm able to create content like this!

The Ink Inside:

Both waterbased markers (for the most part, with one exception) and alcohol based markers (again, one exception) utilize dyes for bright, brilliant color.  Dyes are colorful, beautiful, and very much NOT lightfast.  If you're looking for markers for art that will stand the test of time and sunlight, Winsor and Newton has one contender in each arena- their Pigment based Watercolor Markers, and their Pigment Markers (ethanol markers).  Both are guaranteed to be lightfast up to 100 years.  Generally, regardless of your marker's base (alcohol, water, or water/glycerin solution) your colors will shift and fade over time.  Alcohol is non-archival, and glycerin (commonly used in waterbased markers) yellows.

Pentel brushpens for watercolor
Pentel Brushpens in Canson XL Mixed Media Sketchbook

Exceptional Exceptions:

In this post, I am not considering Pitt Pens to be 'waterbased markers' although, in truth, they are, and the big brush markers are most certainly used as markers.  Pitt Pens come in a variety of vibrant colors, utilize India ink, are permanent once dry, and can be challenging to use for watercolor effects.  You can read the full review here- I find these to be enjoyable markers and well worth investigating, but dont wish to shoehorn them into the confines of this post.

In this post I am also glossing over Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers.  These are interesting markers- the only pigment based alcohol markers I've ever come across, but they are not compatible with other alcohol markers (in that they won't blend with other markers- they're ethanol based, but they could be used mixed media).    You can read the review for those here.

Illustration created with Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers

The Markers:

Waterbased markers have considerable body variety.  You have brushpen bodies with nylon bristles such as Pentel Brushpens and Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers, marker bodies with dual tips (very similar to many popular alcohol markers) such as Aqua by Spectrum Noir and Winsor and Newton Watercolor Markers, and single tipped markers such as Ecoline watercolor markers (foam rubber tip in a body very similar to a Crayola).

There's a huge range of brush options as well- compressed fiber such as Aqua by Spectrum and Winsor Newton, foam rubber like Kuretake Art and Graphic Twin and Ecoline, nylon bristles such as Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush, Pentel Brushpens, and Mermaid Markers.

Alcohol markers are a bit more standard- they tend to come dual-tipped (brush and bullet, or bullet and chisel being the most common options) with either compressed fiber brushes or foam rubber brushes.  Occasionally fine point is an option (old Prismacolors had a super fine point with a lovely tri point chisel).  You will never see nylon bristles on an alcohol marker, because alcohol degrades nylon (so please DON'T fill waterbrushes with Ranger Adirondack or Copic Various alcohol inks!)

Succulent illustration created with Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers


Most waterbased markers are intended to be disposed of once empty, but there are a few standout exceptions.  Ecoline markers can be refilled with the corresponding Ecoline liquid watercolor (both are dye based), Mermaid Markers can be rinsed out and filled with the ink of your choice (no refills are available at this time), Pentel Brushpens do have refills available, but these can also be rinsed out and refilled with the ink of your choice.

You can make your own waterbased markers at home very simply- fill a clean waterbrush with water+a dye (fountain pen ink, DR Ph Martin's Radiant Watercolors, or even homemade dye!) at a water to dye ratio that works for your needs.

Many of the popular alcohol marker brands do offer refill inks (Copic, Kuretake, ShinHan), although finding those refills may be difficult.  You can also purchase empty Copic markers and fill with the ink of your choice (I love using Ranger and Pinata alcohol inks).  Copic also has various replacement brushes so you can create a system that works for you.

And while many have tried successfully to create homemade alcohol markers from various dyes+rubbing alcohol/blender solution, the only attempt I've seen that worked over time utilized empty Crayola markers and the Crayola marker system.

Illustration created with Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers

Watercolor Effects:

With most brands of waterbased markers, even many Crayola products, watercolor effects are easy- just add water using a waterbrush!

You can achieve watercolor effects with alcohol markers by brute forcing a couple options.  You can either oversaturate your paper to get the blends you desire (losing control, and difficult to replicate layer after layer), or you can use a brush to apply rubbing alcohol or blending solution to either your markers or an alcohol ink palette.  Keep in mind that alcohol dissolves nylon bristles eventually, so us a cheap brush!

Illustration created with Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers


With juicy waterbased watercolor markers like Jane Davenport Mermaid Marker's, or Pentels colorful brushpens, your paper stays damp longer and allows for beautiful blends of bright color without paper abrasion.

Although alcohol marker enthusiasts may claim ANY alcohol marker will blend, some blend better than others.  I've found markers with juicy chisel nibs or brush nibs blend the best.  Inkflow is key to preventing streaky applications!

I avoid using blender markers when possible for my art- option to blend out with a lighter color from the same family, regardless of marker composition.  However, there are blender markers available for both alcohol markers and waterbased markers, if you know where to look.

Alcohol Marker Blenders:
Copic Sketch Blender
Copic Ciao Blender
Prismacolor Blender
Blick Studio Brush Blender

Waterbased Marker Blenders:
Waterbrush with water
Ecoline Blender Marker (highest recommended, as the brush is foam rubber, and won't abraid your paper)
Sakura Koi
Tombow ABT Blender

Solvent for most alcohol based markers:
Alcohol (isopropyl alcohol will work)

Solvent for waterbased markers:
Water+gylcerine (water will work)

Note: These are not cross compatibile

Illustration created with Spectrum Aqua markers


On absorbent papers, waterbased and alcohol based markers will both leave streaks upon initial application, unless you're using a particularly juicy waterbased marker such as Pentel Brushpens or Mermaid Markers.  Most markers require a couple layers, or a blending solution (water for waterbased, rubbing alcohol or blending solution for alcohol markers) for a streak free application on most papers.

For streak free application, both alcohol markers and waterbased markers benefit from papers with a coating- vellum and Yupo are both interesting if challenging substrates. 

Illustration created with Kuretake Art and Graphic Twin markers

Wet Over Dry:

When paper gets pills, it's due to excess moisture in the paper combined with the abrasion of applying a new layer.  You may have noticed this playing around with Crayola Markers as a kid- it's hard to get layers of color without ruining your paper.

In this area, you want to be careful about your waterbased markers.  I've found markers with soft tips, such as foam rubber (Kuretake Art and Graphic Twin) or nylon bristols (Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush, Neopiko 4, Pentel Brushpens, Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers) work well for layering color, especially if you use something resilient and absorbent such as watercolor paper or mixed media paper.

Alcohol markers generally work quite well wet over dry, regardless of paper and brush type because alcohol evaporates almost immediately.

Illustration created with Ranger Distrss markers


Either marker type will reactivate if its solvent is applied- for alcohol markers, that's something with an alcohol base, for waterbased markers, that's anything containing water, and often alcohol as well.  This is what makes both marker-types so blendable, but it's also what makes waterbased marker art susceptible to almost anything- damp hands, stray flicks of water, a spilled cup of tea.

In my experience, waterbased markers are more reactive than alcohol based markers, and may be quite difficult to control, especially the juicier markers.  I found Ecoline and Winsor Newton watercolor markers to be some of the easiest to control, as well as Crayola Signature Blend and Shade markers and Crayola Supertip markers (dryer inkflow=easier to control).

Winsor and Newton pigment watercolor markers are about as reactive as actual pan and tube watercolors, and reactivity will vary with the pigment used.

MozArt watercolor markers
Hydrangea created with MozArt watercolor markers

Recommended Waterbased Markers and Uses:

Crayola Supertips
Great for: Cheap watercolor markers
Crayola Supertips Watercolor Hack
Crayola Supertip Super Tutorial
Crayola Supertip Tutorial: Making Monochrome
Get Your Own

Jane Davenport Mermaid Markers (original 12)
Great for: Loose, fun, vibrant watercolor effects
Get Your Own

Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush
Great For: These are a suitable alcohol marker replacement if you work small- very blendable, lovely color, can be used with water or blended color into color if you work quickly.
Colored Leads and Clean Color Markers Tutorial
Succulent with Zig Clean Color Real Brush
Monochromatic Magic with Colored Leads and Zig Clean Color Real Brush
Get Your Own

Zig Art and Graphic Twin Markers
Great For:  Large, juicy foam rubber brush is less likely to abraid paper surface.  Great for handlettering and marker techniques on coated papers.
Get Your Own

Ecoline Watercolor Markers
Great For:  Vibrant, dye based watercolor markers that have compatible liquid watercolor inks.  Refillable!
Get Your Own

Winsor and Newton Pigment Markers
Great for: Best use is for travel watercolor illustrations, or adding intense spot color.  These are the only pigment based waterbased markers on the market.
Get Your Own

I hope my enthusiasm for waterbased markers has sparked your imagination and perhaps inspired you to try a few of the brands I've recommended to find your best fit!

If you enjoyed this post, or found it helpful, please consider joining the Artnerd community on Patreon!