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Is Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper really Perfect?
Go to any adult coloring or Copic Marker discussion board and you’ll see the same question on a weekly basis:
“What’s the best paper for Copic Marker blending?”
And here’s the hard part- everyone who answers is equally convinced that their favorite paper is the very best of the best.
I’m no different, I highly recommend X-Press It Blending Card.
I start my beginners on X-Press It and I tell all my advanced students to keep using it.
Yes, I’m single-handedly propping up half of the Australian economy with my XPI addiction.
X-Press It facilitates smooth and easy blending by allowing your Copic inks to stay wet just a little longer than other thirstier papers.
It basically self-blends which makes learning less stressful. XPI also allows experienced colorers to push their marker skills beyond normal limits.
XPI is good stuff.
But there’s one big problem:
Many Europeans live in a big XPI dead-zone
It’s either completely unavailable or students have to sell a kidney on the black market to afford it.
So on my Vanilla Facebook discussion boards, the question is never “what’s the best paper?” Instead it’s always:
“I can’t find X-Press It and the guy at the shop recommended Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper. Is it true that it’s exactly like XPI?”
After two years of these comments, I figured it was time to find out.
Just like X-Press It?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, you should watch me use Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper.
This video is actually about my Copic face sculpting technique but if you look at the paper, it’s Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper.
By the way, I’m getting tired of typing that big long name out all the time. Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper. Ugh! Why do my favorite papers all have names that stretch from here to Montana?
Now go watch the video and pay attention to the paper because that’s going to come into play in a minute.
Are they the same paper?
Is Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper the same paper as X-Press It Blending Card?
A lot of people are telling me it’s the same exact thing, just different packaging, different brand.
So I tested it.
They are definitely NOT the same paper.
X-Press It Blending Card is a three layer paper
Yep, it’s a sandwich.
The easiest way to see the layers is to do something I warn everyone not to do: get your XPI wet.
When you get X-Press It wet, the moisture loosens up the top layer of the paper. The top layer is a very bright white coating of small fibers plus elfin magic. You can rub that layer away with your fingers when XPI is wet… which is why I keep telling y’all to stop sneezing on your projects.
Anyway, rub away the top layer of XPI and you’ll see some very ordinary manila style cardstock inside. Manila is super strong and pretty darned absorbent. So XPI is a sandwich of elfin magic with a sheet of awesome durability in-between.
That is not true with Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper. I did the water drop test (which is much easier than sneezing on-demand) and then I rubbed away the top layer.
Except there wasn’t a top layer. If you rub and rub, you don’t get to a manila core, What you find at the bottom of the hole is the top of your desk.
This means that Holtz is not a sandwich. It’s the same fiber + filler content through and through.
Hang on folks. I’m leading up to something here.
what’s the difference?
Well, that manila core does something special for X-Press It Blending Card.
You know how in Copic blending, we tend to stack up several layers of ink and then we blend it all out with a few more layers of ink? Ink upon ink upon ink.
The manila core in XPI is kinda like a really big granny purse.
Or maybe a backpack for you guys. Yep, a backpack, not a man-purse.
Anyway, the manila core is there to hold all that ink.
The reason why you can blend all the live-long day on XPI and not on that cardstock you bought from Jo-Michael’s Lobby is the manila core.
Ding, ding, ding! See, I told you that core was important. The core is sucking up your ten tons of ink and storing it securely for you.
The core is a big ol’ granny purse storing your wallet, your keys, hairy hard candy, crumpled receipts, and half a granola bar… plus 18 coats of Copic ink.
That sure as heck ain’t happening with Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper.
No core = no complex layering
Look folks, a lot of colorers yammer all day about bleed-through. Bleed-through is bad they say. “Find any ol’ cardstock that doesn’t bleed-through and use that for Copic coloring.”
I don’t care about bleed-through.
I’m not coloring with my wedding dress below my project so what does it matter if a little ink soaks through to my desk?
I don’t care about bleed-through, I care about bleed-out.
At three layers of Copic ink, I don’t see a big difference between the back-side of XPI or Holtz. If anything, I think I see more ink coming through the XPI.
But at 7 layers an interesting difference starts to appear.
Seven layers of Copic ink on XPI looks like business as usual. Sure, it’s a little dark but XPI’s big ol’ granny purse core is still holding strong.
Meanwhile, the Holtz at 7 layers has ink oozing out beyond the boundaries of your coloring zone. The Holtz makes it look like you forgot how to color inside the lines.
Both papers max out at about 10 layers of ink. There’s a limit to how much ink any paper can hold.
But at 10 layers the X-Press It looks fine. The Holtz looks like you were drunk.
But how does it blend?
That’s kinda why I wanted you to watch my Huckleberry face-coloring video. If you haven’t done that yet, do it now.
The Holtz is a slightly brighter white but they’re the same fresh Zamboni smoothness. They feel the same weight and firmness. Same, same, same.
I think the first few coats of ink feel similar too.
In the video, I’m cruising along, coloring as normal. All is right with the world...
…until I finish the final blending coat on the face.
And right there, at the 06:53 minute mark, you see me do something I almost never do:
I had to go back and add more ink
I’m looking at the dark flick marks, which weren’t blending out. Now by that time I had totally forgotten that I was working on Holtz. Seriously, the two papers feel so similar, I forgot I was testing!
So I’m sitting there staring at the flicks which very clearly aren’t blending as usual. I’m wondering what’s wrong with my XPI or if my marker is low on ink.
Then I remembered… “ohhhhh this is Holtz…”
I had to go back and put more ink down; giving the blend the extra moisture it needed to smooth out completely.
Now I know this doesn’t look like much of a problem to those of you who typically fix your blends several times. But for me personally? I don’t usually have to go back. And for me to go back with THAT blending combination?
Not something I ever have to do, folks.
Which then got me to wondering about my Rebel Blending Technique where we run smooth blending transitions between two very different colors- purple to orange or black into pink.
I tried to Rebel on Holtz. It’s noticeably harder.
Then I wondered about the Chasing Technique which I use in a lot of florals. That’s where we use one color to move another out of the way. Chasing was downright ugly on Holtz. It left a bathtub ring which never happens on XPI.
Which all leads me to think that many of my most used techniques, the tricks that people take my classes to learn…
Well, a lot of that stuff is highly reliant on using the correct paper.
It ain’t skill. It’s X-Press It.
Holtz is a very good marker cardstock!
I’ve got a large pack of Holtz here and I look forward to using it. I will likely keep a stash of Holtz in my studio all the time, from now on.
Because it’s pretty damned good.
It’s not outstanding like XPI but then again, neither is Cryogen. And I probably use way more Cryogen than XPI.
Really. I don’t always use the very best blending paper because instead, I choose paper based upon my project requirements.
There is never one best paper for everything
No paper is an all around rock-star. All papers have pros and cons.
If I’m not focusing on smooth blends or special effect techniques, there are lots of other options to consider:
If I’m doing 100% Copic with nothing else underneath or over the marker work, I use X-Press It.
If I’m teaching beginners, I’m going to give them X-Press It.
If I’m doing Rebel Blending, I’m going to do it on X-Press It.
If I’m Color Chasing, I’m more likely to choose Cryogen.
If my project involves any kind of water based media like Distress Ink or gouache? You’ll see me work on Cryogen.
If my project uses more colored pencils than Copics, I use Cryogen.
Here’s where Holtz has a place in my studio system:
Holtz has more tooth than XPI, so if I’m doing a project that uses more colored pencils than Copic, I’ll now have to decide between: Cryogen or Holtz.
Copic ink looks more vibrant on Holtz. XPI fans often forget that our colors look a little less fresh with X-Press it.
Holtz is a truer white than XPI (which tends to read slightly bluish) and Cryogen is really more cream than white. So if my project includes areas of exposed paper that needs to be white-white, I’m far more likely to choose Holtz from now on.
Where do I really see a use for Holtz?
Because of my background in illustration for print media and because I work with Copics which are not lightfast, almost all of my artwork is made with the intention to be digitally scanned and then reproduced for screen or printing.
Basically, everything I create gets scanned or photographed. I sell very few original pieces.
If you follow my newsletter or Patreon stream closely, you know I have a serious problem with accurately capturing and reproducing the color pink. I almost threw my computer out the window a few weeks ago trying to digitally reproduce the Pretty in Pink magnolia class samples.
That project was pretty much my perfect storm. Faint pink on beige Cryogen is hard to scan, terrible to photograph, and beyond my Photoshop skills to fix.
Had I been smart enough to do the project on Holtz, Pretty in Pink still would have been challenging to photograph but nothing close to making me want to drown my sorrows with a mug full of arsenic.
So how about class supplies?
Will I be recommending Holtz to students who take my classes?
Ehhhhh… probably not.
I know. I just got done talking about how I intend to use Holtz in the future.
But for students, I have to look at the overall Holtz profile.
To be clear, Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper is an excellent paper.
And I’d definitely recommend using Holtz if you can’t get your hands on X-Press It Blending Card.
Look, I know this sounds like nitpicking but that’s what you come to me for, right?
I am the Queen Picker of Nits.
For students, I will always choose the substrate that makes blending easiest
Until I find something better, it’s going to be X-Press it for beginners. Copic ink practically self-blends on XPI Blending Card.
Blending is hard enough when you’re starting out. Why would I ever recommend a paper that puts hurdles in your path? The video shows me hesitating, it shows me going back for a reblend. If I have to do a reblend, I can’t in good conscience send a student down the same possibly troubled pathway.
Holtz Perfect Colouring Paper is a very good Copic paper. I just don’t think Holtz is the best paper to learn on.
Take a look at the marker paper brands you use.
Be honest with yourself: Are you using the very best or are you settling for something that’s cheaper or perhaps more convenient because it’s always in stock at Jo-Michael’s Lobby?
Are your blending problems really a lack of skill or are they the result of using inappropriate paper?
Tell us about it in the comments below. We all learn more when we share and compare our observations!
Color with me!
Watch my basic face sculpting and skin blending technique in this FREE demonstration at YouTube.
My Huckleberry uses Copic Markers, Staedtler Triplus Pens, and Prismacolor Soft Core Colored Pencils.
I demonstrate how to use simple 3 marker blending combinations to color personality filled faces.
Supplies used in “My Huckleberry”
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