Tool Time

Tool Time: Drawing Board- find the perfect surface for coloring


Quick question for you: are you wearing a bra right now?

Obviously, I'm asking the ladies amongst us. If you're a guy, I really don't want to know if the answer is yes.

If you're a regular bra-wearer, odds are that you are wearing one right now.


Well, for most of us, undergarments really matter. They make a difference in your comfort level and if it's a good brassiere, you look better in it. That whole lift and separate thing really helps.

I'm going to bet that most of us wouldn't dream of heading out in public sans-support.


Next question: what is your current coloring project mounted to?


So let me get this straight- you firmly believe in the value of undergarments yet you don't take the same time and care with your artwork?

Honey, we definitely gotta talk. 


Coloring should always take place on an ideal and protective surface.

And no, I don't mean on top of a sheet of notebook paper sitting at your kitchen table.

I mean a drawing board. Mounting your projects is a really good habit to get into.

Drawing Boards Improve your coloring results |

What is a drawing board?

Here's a picture of a few of my drawing boards in action.

This is a project in progress and below are two more projects in varying states of completion. All are mounted to clip board style drawing boards.

This is the way I always work. Always. The only exception is when I'm teaching live. In classroom settings, a mounted project would be bulky for me to pass around to students. But I always feel a little naked working that way...

Think about it, you are investing several hours of your valuable time into every coloring project. Shouldn't you take care to insure that your work stays clean, unbent, and consistent from start to finish?

You can not guarantee the integrity of your project if you are working loose and willy-nilly on top of a  few sheets of scrap paper.

Things happen.

Art boards prevent many of those things.


We've all had one of those face-palm moments when you set your project down on a sticky or greasy table.

I'm a mom of two boys. I know sticky and man-oh-man, do I know greasy. 

Even when a table looks clean, you can still end up with goo on the backside of your project. If you're lucky, the stain stays on the back instead of leaching through. Nothing kills a piece of art faster than a little I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

If I'm going to place a wager on which surface in my house is completely booger-free, I'm going to bet on my drawing boards. No one ever sets their Twinkie down on my art boards.

So yeah, this part is easy to explain. Stay tidy by using a dedicated art board.


taping your project to a board prevents dog ears and creases.

I don't know about you, but my desk is a kill-zone for paper.

Here's a real time sampling of the first six pieces of paper from my stack o' stuff to do.

Every single sheet is bent, creased, or otherwise looks like I drove an Abram's tank over it.

If I didn't mount my art projects to a board, they'd all have a similar Velveteen Rabbit look to them.

Yeah, I do not trust me. Do you really trust you?


art boards help insure a consistent stroke quality throughout the entire project.

Line personality varies according to the surface you're using |

Do you realize that your marker and pencil strokes are physically different when you work on different surfaces?

Let's say you start out coloring at your crafting desk, then you set the project aside for a few days. When you resume coloring, you are in front of the television using a large atlas as a lap table. The next day, you finish your coloring out on the back deck at your patio table.

Each surface you encounter changes the quality of the lines you make. Check out this quick experiment, four lines each time with the same colored pencil:

Check out the skips that happened when I went over just a slight scratch in my dining room table. It's not even a noticeable scratch and yet my pencil sure found it! Tell me true, how many of you have found a gash in your table the hard way, like right in the middle of a Saturated Canary face after you spent four hours on the hair?

Ugh, just the thought of that makes me sick.

When you use an art board, you can work in the car, in the bedroom, or in the shower without the change of location being evident in your coloring.


Art boards are cheap and easy to find.

Large and small art boards |

Just about every art store carries them. Most craft stores have them too. I've even seen them at big box retailers like Target and Walmart.

They come in lots of sizes and styles. Some have clips, some have handles, they come thick and they come thin, and some even have travel sleeves for greater project protection.

My gray boards are 12 x 16 (I have five) and I use them for the vast majority of my Copic projects. They have a laminate surface so they can be easily cleaned of ink with rubbing alcohol.

For large scale portraits on 19 x 25 paper, I use easel or drafting boards. These are awesome raw wood surfaces with metal edges. They're nice and square so you can use a T-square to run quick guidelines. My big boards are 20 x 26.

Yes, you can use an actual clip board but standard clipboards are sized for office paper. There are benefits to having a larger board. Obviously, the larger the board, the larger the project you can mount to it. And larger boards are easier to use away from the table- they can be a lap desk or you can tilt your large board against the edge of a table for a more comfortable slant.

Large margins on your drawing board protect your art |

But here's the real benefit to using a board that is significantly larger than your paper: you will find that having a very wide, unused margin of board around your project gives you space to protect your art. We've all set a pencil down quickly to answer the phone; it is asking for trouble if you set tools on top of your art. With a large board, you will tend to rest items in the margin instead.

Here's that picture from above above again, I've got a dozen pencils conveniently sitting on the edge where they won't damage the art.



Why tape your project down? Why not just use the clippy thingamabob?

Mount your projects to a drawing board |

Ahhhh, young grasshopper. Things are not always what they seem.

Most art boards come with a clip but that clip is absolutely, positively, not, not, not for clipping your artwork!

Clips will damage your paper. They'll either dent it or you'll shift the paper and accidentally crease it against the clip.

So what's the clip for?

For your protective sheet, silly! Here's the correct set up, art is taped, protector sheet is clipped over the top.

I use layout bond-weight paper for the protective cover. It's cheap. It's also somewhat translucent which allows you to see what project is on the board with just a glance. I keep a sheet on each clip board and reuse them over and over.

If I'm travelling, I'll use a sheet of Bristol or illustration board as a cover sheet because it is a little sturdier.

Stack of protected projects |

Here's a stack of projects. I have a vertical pegged shelf area for my boards but just as often, they sit on my desk in a stack like this.

By the way, the tape here is NOT masking tape. This is "drafting tape" which holds more firmly than painters tape but less than masking. Like painters tape, it won't leave a residue. Drafting tape is manilla colored like masking tape but it's more translucent. And honestly, I've had some quality control issues with masking tape recently; it doesn't seem to rip cleanly anymore. Not so with drafting tape, cheaper manufacturing changes haven't hit the drafting tape world yet. I buy drafting tape that has ridges running the length of the tape so that I can tell it apart from masking tape on my giant dispenser.

Drafting tape is another one of those fun things which you'll find in the manly-man section of the art or craft store. It's in with the printing and drafting supplies. You know, that aisle with all the rulers and weird pencils that you usually skip. There is a lot of good stuff down that aisle, so give it a tour next time. I know you'll find something cool and useful there, it just won't have the same pretty packaging that crafters are used to. 


By the way:

I'm partnering with Dick Blick now. The featured product widget will help provide reference when I mention specific products. I don't know about you but I remember the art on labels much better than actual product names. This way you get to see the products I'm talking about.

I do most of my art shopping at Dick Blick. I think I've put Mr. Blick's grandkids and their neighbor's two dogs through college AND medical school AND law school with what I've spent there over two decades. So if it's listed in one of my product groupings, understand that it is a product that I both own and use.


Quick tip video coming next week!

I was going to include a tutorial about how to tape your project in today's post but it got way too long. You've got better stuff to do than read me all day!

Plus, a visual demonstration will be much clearer than a description.

So watch for a link to the video, maybe by Wednesday.

Tool Time: Sticky Tack Erasers- gentle correction for colored pencil


Primum non nocere- first, do no harm

Abrasive Detail Erasers- Total Overkill |

This is something that runs through my head when a student pulls out one of these to correct a colored pencil mistake.

This is a detail eraser. It is designed to scrub away ink or grease mistakes from office grade, smooth paper. It is a very firm eraser which allows it to be sharpened to a fine point for small areas. It's also highly abrasive which means it rubs away more than just the mistake, it takes off the top layer of stained paper fibers with it.

But for soft, waxy colored pencil on delicately toothy paper?

You might as well use a hand grenade.

If you've got one of these weapons of mass destruction in your art kit, go put it back in the office drawer, where it belongs.

Right now.

I'll wait here.

I've been using colored pencils on an almost daily basis for over 25 years. I can honestly say that I've never encountered a situation where a mistake was so bad that it required stripping off the entire top surface of my paper.

Yes, I've made serious mistakes, but nothing that ever required the use of a hand grenade.


Colored pencils work best on toothy paper

Toothy paper for colored pencil |

Tooth is texture; tiny little micro mountains that grab and hold colored pencil pigment.

If you've tried using colored pencil on slick paper, you know how hard it is to get it to lay down smooth and not rub off. It's like trying to spread peanut butter on freshly Zambonied ice. You can try but hey, good luck with that.

Paper quality is a big deal; toothy paper is something colored pencil artists pay extra for.And that hand grenade eraser up there? It'll kill your paper.


Respect the tooth

Now I'm going to assume that most stamp colorers are using some form of office grade cardstock for colored pencil. There's nothing wrong with that, not all projects deserve special paper.

But that doesn't mean that you can ignore the tooth. In fact, because you're using only moderately textured paper, you need to protect the limited tooth EVEN MORE than someone working on generously toothed, premium cold press paper.

Abrasive erasers wear the paper smooth. The more you rub, the less tooth survives. So yes, you may have removed the offending mistake but when you reapply color, that smoothed area will not grab the colored pencil the way it did before. If you really damage the paper, you'll have a shiny zone that stands out to viewers.

So when you make the inevitable mistake and you reach for an eraser, remember Primum non nocere- first do no harm.

Start with the most gentle eraser you can find. If that doesn't lift the error, then bring out a slightly bigger gun. Do not start with a Tyrannosaurus Rex eraser; start with a soft, fluffy, white bunny rabbit.


Sticky Tack is the fluffy bunny of the eraser world

Lift mistakes with sticky tack |

Sticky tack?

Yep. Poster putty. The stuff that your fourth grade teacher used to put "Hang in There" and "Give a Hoot, Don't Polute" up on the class room walls.

This stuff.

Duck is a good brand, so is Scotch Brand. You want the white kind, not the softer blue or green versions.

Pull off one  strip (there's usually 8-12 strips per package). A single strip is enough to last for at least 6 months. You'll need a small airtight container (film canister sized) to hold your working piece. Pop the rest of the package into a zip lock bag for longer term storage.


This is not a kneaded eraser substitute

Gently lift errors with sticky tack |

Gray kneaded erasers are for working with charcoal, graphite, and chalky dry pastels. You drag gray erasers across the paper to gently lift powdery marks. Gray erasers are lightly abrasive and they are not sticky enough to lift stubborn and waxy pigments like colored pencil.

Sticky tack is lightly sticky. That's why it works. Use it the same way you used Silly Putty to lift up your favorite Sunday Comics.

  1. Soften and knead the sticky tack into a smooth, warm ball.

  2. Gently press into the surface of the mistake.

  3. The sticky tack will grab the paper; hold the paper down with one hand while gently peeling away the sticky tack with the other.

  4. Knead the residue into the eraser to create new clean surfaces.

  5. Repeat as necessary until you've lifted away the mistake.

Sticky tack lifts colored pencil without damaging the paper |

I know it sounds crazy but this stuff really works. Best of all, it doesn't damage the tooth of the paper the way rubbing erasers do.

The other benefit of this lift and remove method is that it eliminates transfer smudges. Let's face it, it's pretty easy to drag Prismacolor pigment into unwanted areas. I wear a drawing glove to prevent hand dragging marks. Rubbing erasers often pull color into your cleaning area... which then requires more rubbing. It's a vicious cycle.

Lifting mistakes straight upward eliminates the potential for eraser smudges.


When I make a mistake, I grab the sticky tack eraser first

As I said, start with the fluffy bunny, not the T-Rex.

If the sticky tack can't remove the oops, move up to your white eraser. But give that sticky tack several tries first, because the white eraser will drag and transfer pigment.

But honestly, the sticky tack almost always removes enough of the pigment that I can go back and add the correct color.

Remember, you don't have to get down to naked paper in order to fix a mistake. Most Prismas are fairly opaque and can cover over much of the mistake.


So here's the rundown on sticky tack erasers:

Alternate Names-

Sticky tack, poster putty, sticky stuff, adhesive putty


Duck, Scotch... choose a quality WHITE putty. The dollar store stuff was gooey and left residue. The colored versions seem to be softer but less sticky. Make sure it's fresh and clean, the once-used stuff in your junk drawer may have collected grit.

Defining Features-

A soft putty that clings to waxy pigment enough to lift it away but will not damage the paper or leave a residue.

Best used on-

Wax based colored pencil marks and other media that sit on top of the paper surface. Will not work on liquids like ink or paint that absorb into paper fibers.

Price Range-

Very inexpensive. One package will run just a few dollars and provides enough for several years of daily use.

Available at-

Office supply stores, hardware stores, or similar aisles in any big-box retailer.


Sticky tack... who'da thunk?

Go get some today, your tooth will thank you for it.

Art tips and tools

Tool Time: White Eraser (Your New Best Friend)

Best Tools for Paper Crafters- White Eraser | |   #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 |

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.


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.


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.


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 |

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 |
Pentel Hi-Polymer PVC Eraser |

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 |
Mod Podge brush for sweeping away debris |

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 |

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 |
A Cleaned PVC Eraser |

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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