"Can you look at my Copic project and tell me how to fix this streaky look?"
Ugh. If I had a nickle for every time I hear this question... we'll, frankly, I'm not really sure what I'd do with a pile of nickles larger than my house... who thought of that stupid saying anyway?
I can usually help people fix their blending or streaking problems. Maybe the solution is an alternative stroke technique, sometimes we can switch the blending combination or change the order that colors are applied.
But do you want to know when I fail every time? When I'm completely powerless to help?
"So uhm, yeah... I was using regular 110 pound office cardstock. I've got better paper but I save it for the good projects."
Okay, word of warning here. Because I hear this so darned often, I'm about to get all rude and preachy on you here:
Saving your good paper for later is one of the dumbest things you can do
I'm being deliberately harsh with that statement.
I know. This is a mean and cruel thing to say. But geeze, Louise, I feel like I could tattoo "Always Use Good Blending Paper!" on my forehead and people still wouldn't think I'm serious.
Ask yourself these important questions:
Would you ever chew garlic cloves right before your first date with a hot doctor?
Would you strap on a pair of cement shoes to go swimming?
Would you smear your body with raw ground beef before starting your fist day as an assistant lion tamer?
No, you wouldn't do any of these stupid things.
And yet you regularly set yourself up for failure by grabbing office paper for coloring?
Can we please end this nonsense?
You should always use "the good paper" for every coloring project
Getting ready to color a stamp for the first time?
Use the good stuff.
Experimenting with brand new markers?
Use the good stuff.
Sitting in front of the television, coloring doodles because you're bored?
Use the freekin' good stuff.
As a matter of fact, I'd remove all office grade paper from your craft room. Go put it someplace else- someplace far far away. So far away that even if you are tempted to grab some, you can't get to it, because it's buried under a stack of boxes and that dead body in the attic.
Okay, I'm going to break it down for you now. Why do I feel so strongly about banning office paper from your stash of coloring supplies?
Five reasons to use the good stuff:
And I'm not kidding here. When you really look at it, coloring on crummy paper makes no sense.
1. Office grade paper will never, ever, ever blend as well as marker paper
Now I know, I've seen it. The internet is full of people boasting about the great results they get from Dunder Mifflin Color-Copier Cardstock.
"It works just like marker blending cardstock! I can't tell the difference!"
I'm a marker instructor. There are very few people in the world more motivated than me to find a cheap yet excellent marker paper that's easily available at many local stores.
I teach five different coloring classes every month. For every image, I color at least two experiments and a third as the class sample. If I film the class, I color it a fourth and sometimes a fifth time. In each class, I color the image again for the students to watch. Every live class I teach includes a kit; every student receives one kit and every kit contains two coloring images.
So for just one class, I use upwards of 25 pieces of marker cardstock. And I teach FIVE classes.
I USE A TON OF BLENDING CARDSTOCK. I am highly motivated to find the cheapest source of reliable cardstock!
I've not found an office cardstock that performs the way marker cardstock does.
This shouldn't be shocking.
Office cardstock is designed to be used by printers and copy machines, NOT for Copic coloring.
Printers and copiers machines do not use alcohol ink
Printers and copiers do not apply ink with a felt tipped brush nib
Printers and copiers don't apply 3-4 layers of color
Printers and copiers do not use rubbing friction to blend different ink puddles into a new color
Printers and copiers never re-hydrate dried ink with fresh ink
Copic blending on office grade paper will always be harder because you're asking it to do the exact opposite of what it was designed to do.
You can dress your dog up in red and blue feathers. You can teach him to sit on a perch and maybe you'll get him to appreciate the taste of bird seed. But your dog will never learn to say "Polly wants a cracker" because no matter how smart your dog is, he is not a parrot.
Your office cardstock is the same. You're asking it to do something it was never intended to do.
Office paper stinks at blending because it was not designed to be a blending paper.
It's a waste of your time to try.
2. You learn what you use
You do yourself a disservice by coloring daily on cheap paper, then switching to good quality blending paper for special projects.
Switching back and forth confuses your brain.
Here's the deal- the human brain is a miracle at overcoming obstacles.
Think back to the last time you smelled skunk. It was pretty potent when you first noticed it, right? Then after a few minutes, you stopped thinking about how the nasty smell and got on with your life.
That's because your brain is constantly making accommodations. It does this without you even realizing it. Your brain knows that if you spend all your time obsessing about the skunk outside your window, you'll never get anything else done.
Coloring on less-than-ideal blending paper is a little like skunk. When you use skunky paper your brain kicks into gear and figures out a way to make the best of a bad situation.
"Okay, so this paper bleeds a little. Maybe I should color a little quicker? Yeah, that helps. And now I'm seeing streaks, so let's press a little harder... okay, that works! But these two colors aren't blending, maybe we'll go over it a few more times... that's better."
When you color on one type of paper day after day, your brain starts working on how to best color on that paper.
You learn how to use what you're using.
So if you save your best paper for only the best projects, you're always going to get mediocre results because you have no experience using good quality paper.
You've spent all your time learning how to make the best out of crappy paper.
Wouldn't that same time be better spent learning how to make pretty art on proper paper?
3. Are you really saving money?
The best office grade cardstock for marker use (and frankly, I don't think it's all that great) is Hammermill Color Copy Digital Cardstock 80 lbs. A pack of 250 sheets = $11.47 + $3.95 s/h on Amazon today. That's $.06 per sheet
A really nice blending paper is Cryogen White Curious Metallic Cardstock, 89lbs, pack of 250 sheets = $71.00 + $9.50 s/h on Amazon today. That's $.32 per sheet.
My favorite paper is XPress-It Blending Card, 90lbs, pack of 125 = $39.95 with free shipping on Amazon today. That's $.31 per sheet.
So yes, the office grade copy paper is quite a bit cheaper when you look at price per page.
Except there's a hidden cost.
Marker papers use less ink than office grade paper. That's because marker papers are slightly moisture resistant while office papers are absorbent. To get the true cost of office cardstock, you should add in the cost of Various Ink refills because ink ain't free.
And how about the cost of starting over? When you make a mistake on blending paper, you can usually fix the error. Not on office grade paper. You'll use more paper on more attempts and more ink with each attempt.
And really, we're talking about paper here. At two projects per sheet of paper, the cost of coloring on premium marker paper is a measly $.16 per project.
You save 12 cents when you use Hammermill.
4. The cost of frustration
Imagine the following:
What if every time you pull your car out of the garage, a pack of rabid gang-banging squirrels pelts the car with acorns?
And what if... maybe not every single time, but what if maybe once or twice a month at least one squirrel throws a brick?
Let's say that there is no escaping the curse of the rodent gang. What if every time you try to drive your car, your car gets damaged?
I think you'd start taking the bus, right?
Now here's the key to my silly story:
You are not sitting on the bus because you're a bad driver, right? It's totally not your fault. You're stuck on the bus because of Nutsy McSquirreleson and his furry pack of hooligans.
You've given up driving because the price you pay in frustration is greater than the joy you get from driving.
Frustration has a cost. You can not escape it. You will always pay the price.
If every time you sit down to color something, if the markers don't work the way you want, if the blending doesn't happen, if there are streaks everywhere, if the paper bleeds through to your table, and if it all ends up looking like a kindergartener colored it...
How much longer are you going to keep coloring for fun?
5. The Goddess of Fleeting Excellence
Now this is the artist in me talking... An artist with 30 years of experience drawing, painting, and making beautiful messes.
You never know when you sit down to do a project if this is going to be the best thing you've ever done or the worst thing you've ever done.
It's a 50/50 shot.
Sometimes the Goddess of Fleeting Excellence will take notice of you. She will kiss you on the cheek. She will bless the work of your hands.
And you're plum out of luck if it happens while you're working on cheapo paper.
You don't have to be a professional artist for magic to occur. Every once in a while, you will look down at your half-finished project and think "Hey, that's pretty darned okay! I'm getting better at this! I like how this is turning out!" Even the suckiest of all of us has an occasional good day.
If you're always working on your best paper, you will never have to cry about it later.
I've had the magic happen when working on yellowed newsprint. It's happened on the back of a bank deposit slip. It's happened with florescent yellow crayon on the paper covering the tablecloth at my favorite Italian restaurant.
And no matter how I've rushed home and tried to duplicate my work on better paper, the spontaneity is always missing. The re-do is never quite as nice.
I work on the proper paper as often as possible because 30 years has taught me not to tempt the gods.
When the magic comes, I want to be ready for it.
I can't force you to buy quality paper
In my years of teaching, I've met more than one student who will never be as good as they could be because they refuse to invest in the proper supplies.
It's sad when I see it.
You have a love of color, a love of ink, a love of blending...
And you've been gifted with the time and resources to make coloring a hobby.
It's a rare gift to find your bliss. And time to spend on a hobby is a privileged luxury that many people in the world will never have access to.
You cheat yourself and you waste this gift when you fail to take advantage of readily available, relatively inexpensive, proper materials.
Start using your good quality paper today. Please.
Don't waste your precious gift.