Art Supplies

Let's Talk about Copic markers: Is abundance killing your art?

 
It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com
 
 

We are extremely fortunate

It’s rare in human history for people to have enough free time to practice hobbies. It’s also unusual for so many people to have the financial means to invest in good quality art products for those hobbies.

Heck, it’s only in the modern era that good quality art products even exist.

So yes, you were born at the right time and under a lucky star.

But is this abundance a good thing?

Now I’m not suggesting that we go back to the days of painting with mud paste on cave walls. But let me explain a bit of what I’m seeing recently…

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

I’ve got students who own more good quality art supplies than I do.

And they don’t know how to use most of it.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m jealous or that I’m some sort of art dictator, banish that thought entirely! I love the fact that artist grade products are easy to acquire and I’m thrilled that good information is  readily available on the internet, in shops, and in classes.

Viva la freedom!

But here’s the thing- a lot of people are emotionally invested in owning ALL the best items.

It’s the owning that rocks their socks, not the using.

They’re obsessed about a medium just long enough to collect all the materials and then something fresh starts trending and they’re off to collect everything that’s new in that aisle of the craft store.

People have thousands of dollars of art and craft supplies and yet most aren’t producing anything of worth.

 

Owning all the Copic markers will not make you a great Copic artist

Owning all the colored pencils in the world doesn’t tell you what to do with them.

Collecting every color ever made doesn’t improve the look of your projects.

Abundance hampers growth.

Yep. I’m serious. I think owing all the Copics or all the Prismacolors stunts your ability to learn and to improve your artistry.

 

For a long time, I had 24 Prismacolor pencils

Yep. I went through art school with just two dozen pencil colors.

Now granted, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to use my pencils because they kinda frown on using colored pencils in an Oil Portraiture class.

But looking back, I only had a few tubes of watercolors and fewer tubes of gouache. Same with oils and acrylics. And sure, part of the reason was that art school is darned expensive but I wasn’t the only student working with a very limited palette.

It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com

Necessity is the mother of artistry?

That’s not too far off. 

When you work with a limited number of colors, you get to know the product really, really, REALLY well. You learn how to manipulate and manage your colors to get the values and saturations that are needed. 

To go all zen master on you, you become one with the medium.

That doesn’t happen when you own 358 colors.

If you had 358 kids, you’d barely know their names much less how they behave under normal and abnormal conditions.

You also don’t get to know your products when you spend only two weeks using them before you bounce off to the next crafty medium.

And I’ll also extend this thought to cover to those of you buying multiple brands of colored pencils or every kind of marker ever made. You can’t learn a product’s ins and outs if you’re also using four other products at the same time.

 
 

Owning everything gets you nothing

A lot of people are using some amazing products on a regular basis and not learning anything in the process.

Remember when I said that art school required very few colors? I wasn’t kidding. One class used only four colors- Titanium White, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red, and Yellow Ochre- and we were painting human figures with realism! I learned a ton of things in that class and 22 years later, I still use that information every day.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, there are a lot of people wasting money buying more supplies than they need.

And there are a bunch of people having pity parties because they don’t own enough supplies to “make anything good.”

The swan image shown here used 12 markers. Four of those markers were used on the background, they’re not on the swan.

So that’s 8 markers for a swan and I could have easily dropped another three without you noticing. 

And those eight markers are the same markers I’ve used on tons of previous images. They’re not swan colors, they’re colors I use on many other things.

 
It's not how many Copic Markers you own, it's understanding how to best use your collection! Why abundance stunts growth. | VanillaArts.com
 

You do not need tons of supplies to color well

What you need is a good understanding of the supplies you own.

There are giant holes in my Copic collection because I haven’t purchased the colors which I know I’ll never use.

And while I own the entire line of several brands of colored pencil, the vast majority of those pencils sit untouched because I rarely have a need for some colors.

And that’s not unusual for artists. Yes, you’ll meet some color hoarders who own absolutely everything but most artists use the same colors over and over in everything they do. In fact, the majority of us are a little OCD about using just our favorite red and no other red will do. So you could buy out Dick Blick for us and we wouldn’t appreciate it much.

 

I want you to take a good look at your color collection

This isn't for inventory purposes. I don’t want you to count your colors like Scrooge McDuck.

Instead, I want you to take a good hard look at what you own and ask yourself “do I really understand how to use all this?”

Rather than running out to buy more green pencils because you want to color botanicals and you don’t yet own the magic combination…

Maybe consider the fact that it’s not the supplies you’re missing, it’s the product knowledge.

There’s a big difference between owning everything and understanding everything you own.

Which category are you in?

Print
 
 

Tool Time: White Eraser (Your New Best Friend)

 
Best Tools for Paper Crafters- White Eraser | VanillaArts.com |   #copic #adultcoloring #howtocolor
 
 
 

Frustration takes the fun out of coloring!

And I suspect that much of the irritation we face during our crafting sessions is self imposed due to faulty or inappropriate tools and supplies.

Think about it - what's more fun? Going out for a Sunday drive in a Lamborghini or in an '87 Yugo with one flat tire?

Please don't tell me you're a Yugo fan...

The thing is, you don't really have to have the sports car to enjoy a pleasant drive. You can have quite an enjoyable time in many makes/models of car. But that trip in the Yugo is going to cause more than a few gray hairs before the adventure even starts. Sure, a 3 wheeled hatchback might make for awesome yard decor but it's not exactly road ready material.

When you grab the wrong tool for a crafting job, it's like choosing the Yugo over the Lamborghini, every single time.

Let's make our lives a little easier (and a little more enjoyable) by looking at good tools. Some will be expensive, others will be dirt cheap. The point is that they work well and will improve your coloring sessions.

 

First up: Your new best friend- the white PVC eraser

 
White PVC Erasers are wonderful | VanillaArts.com
 

Forget about odes to Grecian urns, if I was even remotely poetical, I'd write an ode to white erasers. Whether in brick, stick, or pencil top form, Vinyl erasers are a modern miracle.

Even if you don't draw, you will use this eraser! When you measure, draw straight lines with a ruler, and especially when you're penciling in a detail to color later, this is the tool for you. It's also essential for colored pencil coloring.

It's a great all around eraser. I'll cover other erasers in future Tool Time articles but if you're only going to purchase one eraser, this is definitely the kind to get!

 
 

Alternate Names

PVC, Vinyl, Polymer, Poly, Plastic, Non-Abrasive, and Technical. These are all different descriptors for roughly the same thing.

By the way, my daughter has about 3,000 little novelty erasers shaped like hamburgers and strange Japanese hamsters. While these may be vinyl and some are even white, they are not what I'm talking about here.

Brands 

Staedtler, Pentel , Tombow, Campus, Lyra, Faber-Castell, Nayana ... these are just the top names, there are tons more. They're all slightly different and some work better than others, but I've never encountered a white polymer eraser that didn't do a good, scratch that, great job of erasing basic work marks.

Defining Features

This is a soft plastic, almost rubbery eraser which contains no abrasive pumice or grit. It feels smooth and buttery when rubbed against paper and it leaves a minimal amount of debris.

Best Used On

Excellent for graphite (pencil lead) in any hardness. Moderately effective on waxy colored pencil and firm chalk pencils. Excellent for finger and hand smudges that collect on the borders of your work.

If I need to erase something, this is the first eraser I try because it's gentle. I may end up moving to something more abrasive for stubborn marks, but I always begin the process with my white PVC eraser.

Styles

For years PVC erasers came in brick style only, usually with a cardboard sleeve which kept large bricks from cracking.  For greater control, try a stick version. White vinyl erasers are pretty standard on top quality technical pencils but I've also seen them on the disposable PaperMate level mechanical pencils. Artist-grade electric erasers use PVC erasers. The most recent development has been a micro sized PVC eraser in pen form, the Tombow Mono Zero eraser, which is excellent when working in small areas.

Note: there are also very similar PVC-Free white erasers on the market. For the record, that's the only white eraser that I've ever hated. It was oddly soft and it developed small cracks on the first use. I quit using it when large chunks started coming off, about 2-3 weeks into daily use.

Price Range

Very inexpensive. Small bricks and sticks are often found in value multipacks for under $1 per eraser. The Tombow Mono Zero eraser is around $5.

Availability

Very widely available. Art stores, craft stores, office supply stores, and in the office supply area of many big-box retail chain stores. Online at numerous retailers.

 

Here's why you need to ditch the pink eraser:

 
PVC vs Pink Erasers | VanillaArts.com
 

Both Samples are #2 Ticonderoga pencil cross hatching, firm pressure on vellum surface Bristol Board.

The left has been erased by a fresh Pentel "Clic Eraser" #ZE22 PVC eraser (the purple one shown above)

The right is erased using the same Ticonderoga #2's factory installed pink eraser. Eraser is fresh, not hardened, and first time used.

Here's the deal with white erasers, not only do they erase pencil marks better than the old-school style pink eraser but because they're non-abrasive, they leave the paper fibers relatively intact.

Don't get me wrong, EVERY eraser on the market will damage your paper to a certain extent but the less damage you cause with each erasure, the better. If you're someone who is heavy handed or you go back and erase your marks a lot, you most likely have noticed damage zones on your paper. These are areas where the Copic Marker doesn't absorb properly or where Prismacolor just won't stick. Using a PVC eraser will help to limit the number and severity of your damage zones.

PVC erasers definitely leave a slight sheen on the paper surface but that's nothing compared to the pink smudge left behind by the pink eraser. That pink residue won't scrape off, it's embedded into the paper and is at some angles, a very noticeable discoloration.

 

Brand Differences

I'm not terribly picky about my white eraser brand. Having said that, it should be clear that I'm not buying them at the dollar store. I tend to pick them up as impulse purchases at the art store, so I'm usually purchasing an established name brand in the mid-range price.

One thing I have noticed however is that some leave more carnage behind than others.

By carnage, I mean the funky residue that you have to sweep away.

Staedtler Plastic Grand Eraser | VanillaArts.com
Pentel Hi-Polymer PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com

Staedtler's erasers leave the usual debris behind. The Pentel Hi-Polymer brand always forms just a few, long threads of residue. So Pentel leaves your desk area a little cleaner.

I had heard about Moo erasers from Nayana Co. when I was researching what to use for hand-carved stamps from erasers. So I picked up a two pack; they were very inexpensive.

Not only does Moo leave A LOT of carnage all over your paper, but when you touch the eraser with your fingers, you can rub even more off. It's not that it's gritty, dry, or funky feeling - it just constantly sheds. So while Moo works fine, I've decided not to buy that brand again because I think excessive shedding = a shorter life span for the eraser.

Moo PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com
Mod Podge brush for sweeping away debris | VanillaArts.com

And by the way, this is what I use to sweep away the eraser carnage:

It's a 2.5" soft Mod Podge Brush. It's supposed to be used as an applicator but it's so soft and fuzzy that it's perfect for brushing aside eraser residue or the dust generated by Prismacolor pencils.

I wish it had a hole in it so that I could hang it up, but other than that, I love this little guy.

Do not use your hand to sweep debris aside. You'll either transfer body oil to the paper or you'll accidentally drag the debris hard enough to leave a skid mark. If you don't have a brush, try to blow it away. The key is to be gentle!

And yes, I did have a really nice professional, expensive drafting brush which I used frequently until it mysteriously disappeared from my desk one day. I found it in the kitty litter box. I'm not sure why my husband or my 5 year old put it there but I'm sure they had a really good reason.

Needless to say, I do not have a really nice professional, expensive drafting brush anymore.

 

PVC erasers do require care

Dingy PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com

White erasers tend to hold on to the graphite or colored pencil that you have erased. This is a problem because you can accidentally transfer color to other areas of your art.

This is what graphite buildup looks like. It also holds on to Prismacolor especially well.

Cleaning it is simple - no special tools required.

Rub the eraser clean on your pants. Jeans work best but here I am wearing a pair of khaki pants. It won't transfer to material, your pants are completely safe.

If you're not brave enough to use your pants (or maybe you're not wearing any...) find a washcloth or keep a scrap piece of fabric in your art supply box.

Get into the habit of always cleaning it off before use. That prevents the oopsies.

 
Cleaning a PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com
A Cleaned PVC Eraser | VanillaArts.com
 

And by the way, I never clean mine off this well, a couple swipes to clear the area I intend to use is usually what I do. In fact the original dirty photo (blue background) is exactly how it normally looks, I swipe off the end before using, I never clean off the whole darned thing unless I'm taking a photo of it for the website.

White erasers - an all around, gentle tool that I use daily. Consider adding them to your tool box today.

 

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