Artistic Coloring: 10 Tools that Never Leave my Desk (Copic Marker & Colored Pencil)

Artistic Coloring: 10 Tools that Never Leave my Desk (Copic Marker & Colored Pencil)

“What do I need to buy for this class?” The supply lists for your average coloring class or free tutorial, whether it’s with Copic Marker or colored pencil… well, they’re always a little spartan. The list tells you exactly what you’ll need to complete the class project. Nothing more. Nothing less. Meanwhile in art classes, you’ll get a general supply list of things you sorta-kinda-maybe might need at some point. Today, let’s look at the top 10 tools I use every day, things that I grab so often, they never get put away. Some tools are borrowed from my work as an illustrator and may be new to you while others are common in the papercrafting world…

Ten (MORE!) Gifts: Great Gifts for Watercolor Lovers (presents they'll actually use!)

10 Gift Ideas for a Watercolor Lover- presents they'll actually use! |

shopping for the perfect gift for a watercolor lover is a humbling experience...

If you're not a painter or a crafter, this isn't the kind of stuff you're used to buying.

And art stores? That's beyond intimidating! Shelves full of mystery goo and brushes and paper and well, who knows what all it's used for.

And forget about shopping online, because again- if you don't know what you're looking at in an art store, how are you supposed to weed through even more stuff on the internet?

Relax. Sometimes all you need is a little advice from another watercolor lover.

I started watercoloring around the time my first child was born (he's in college now). I started it as a stress reduction thing (yes son, you drove me to paint). Later, I started getting more serious about it when I realized that loose watercolor painting was helping to improve my artistry in other mediums. I love watercolor and I love sharing it with my students.

I'm also brutally frank, so if I think something is overpriced, useless, or downright stupid, I'll tell you not to buy it.

updated for 2019!

I regularly use these products and highly recommend them. For more information on recommended supplies, see our page dedicated to Amy’s Favorite Things here:


here are 10 (well loved, not useless) gift ideas for your watercolor lover:

(Warning: the following article contains Amazon Affiliate where applicable. Links to other stores or websites are not part of any affiliate program)

And hey, don't miss my other great Gift Suggestion Lists here... Copic, colored pencil and mixed media.

#1 - Black Velvet Brushes

In the first Watercolor Gift list, I suggested a set of kolinsky brushes made by Rosemary and Company.

Here's my suggestion for a mid-grade set. I teach with Black Velvet brushes made by the Silver Brush Company. They're not kolinsky but they sure come close!

These brushes feel great in the hand, they're not too long nor too short.

The bristles are a blend of squirrel and a synthetic. The squirrel helps hold water, the synthetic keeps its shape and provides a springy feel. Best of all, the point on these brushes is rather durable. With brushes, they all come nice and pointy but very few keep that point beyond a few uses. Kolinsky brushes stay pointed for a long time and you pay a premium price for that. Black Velvets come pretty darned close.

Beginner watercolorists tend to be hard on their brushes, especially when they use dry cake pan watercolor. Black Velvets can withstand quite a bit of abuse before they splay and get feathery.

This is a good assortment of useful sizes. The 12 for backgrounds, the 8 for general duty, and the 4 for detail. 


#2 - Tube Sets

Very few watercolorists today use only one brand of paint. We all hunt for the best versions of our favorite colors over several brands.

Watercolor sets are a good way to explore a group of colors that all have  similar characteristics.

A Quinacridone assortments allows you to play with quin based reds and golds, learning how they behave. A Cobalt assortment helps you learn the features of cobalt colors. A Primatek set lets you play with sediment naturals. This kind of compare/contrast learning doesn't happen when you usually work with just your one favorite red or blue.

If you’re looking for an introductory set, I highly recommend the QoR set of 12 or 24. QoR is synthetic and formulated to be both vibrant and easy.

(Click to view product on Amazon)


#3 - Lamy Safari Fountain Pen & Noodler's Waterproof Ink

I enjoy laying down an illustration in pen and ink before I add watercolor. This is a method that's growing in popularity, there are lots of journal sketchers who use pen first and watercolor to add small pops of color.

But even if your watercolor lover doesn't draw, maybe working from digital stamps or traced images, adding ink can spark new creative channels.

I've tried dip pens (I have them for calligraphy) but I actually prefer fountain inks for watercolor. That meant finding a fountain pen that was durable enough to rattle around in my backpack and one that didn't cost a fortune.

Enter the Lamy Safari Pen. I use a converter cartridge inside so that I can customize the ink I use.

I have two favorite waterproof inks, one for general sketching and one for botanicals.

Black ink is fine but I often feel like it overwhelms delicate watercolor colors. Noodler's Lexington Gray is my compromise for general purpose sketches.

When I draw botanicals, I switch to Noodler's La Reine Mauve. It's a lovely warm violet which looks great around flower petals but it really sings underneath green watercolor leaves.

Click the link to see the Safari Pen but also run a search. Safaris come in lots of different body colors! I have a purple Safari Pen that's loaded with La Reine and a charcoal Safari Pen for the Lexington. That eliminates the "awww, darn it!" moments.


#4 - Inktense Pencils

Many watercolor lovers either start out with watercolor pencils or they quickly buy a set just for fun.

Inktense are something different. I use them in conjunction with my tube watercolors.

Inktense are not watercolor pencils (even though they look like them). Inktense are watersoluable ink in pencil form. The difference is that they're permanent; once they dry, the color will not rehydrate or lift.

That's why I use them in many of my botanicals. If I have an area like a twig or branch that I don't want to lighten or lift, I paint it on a base of Inktense.

This is the set of 24 but they go up to sets of 75. I have the set of 36 and I've never felt myself lacking. Bigger sets aren't always better and most artists find themselves using a core of about a dozen colors. Collecting them all doesn't improve the quality of one's work.

I'd stick to the set of 24 unless your special person intends to work in Inktense exclusively.


#5 - Watercolor Notebook

There are lots of watercolor notebooks on the market but you can't tell when they're sitting in the store whether they'll be any good to paint on.

Note: there are a lot of BAD watercolor notebooks on the market.

Journal paper quality issues are so bad that I used to make my own notebooks. By hand. Then a friend showed me this notebook from Global Art Materials and I was fairly impressed.

The paper is pretty good quality and it doesn't wrinkle or buckle much. I've ironed a few pages but that's normal with 140 pound paper.

Best of all (for me at least) is the wire binding. Most watercolor journals are book bound. Glued or sewn binding books like to close on their own, so painters tend to hold them open with binder clips. That eventually breaks the spine and the signatures or individual sheets can fall like rain from a broken spine.

Book bindings are also hard on left handed painters, we essentially have to flip the book upside down and start working from the back of the book towards the front in order to paint ergonomically. Wire binding looks less glamorous but the ability to flip the front pages over and behind the current page is a godsend. Wire binding allows lefties a freedom usually reserved for the right handed world.


#6 Sphere Easel

If there's ever a house fire, this will be my Dolly Madison moment:

Damn the kids and dog, I'm grabbing my sphere easel.

(Just kidding kids. Well, kinda kidding...)

I love my sphere easel. I use it for watercolor and colored pencil projects, but especially watercolor.

A desk easel gets the project up and off the table surface. That elevated feel is important, it keeps you from developing hunch back by leaning over and into the project.

The reason I went with a sphere easel over a standard desk easel is the range of adjustments possible on a sphere. I don't usually work with more than a tiny tilt to my project. The sphere allows infinite micro adjustments.

This is one of those hidden gems in the art world, many people don't even know they exist. You'll get extra street cred by gifting someone with something totally new and incredibly useful!


#7- Aquabord

Chances are, your watercolor lover paints on paper.

Because it's watercolor and watercolor only sticks to paper, right?


Ampersand Aquabord is quickly becoming one of my favorite surfaces to paint on. It's particle board that has been given a fine coating of... well... I'm not sure what the coating is. It looks like paper but acts a little like clay. I'm sure it's not totally clay though because Ampersand also makes something called Claybord and this is slightly different.

Anyway, Aquabord has a magical coating made from real fairy dust which absorbs watercolor quite nicely. The colors stay slightly more vibrant on Aquabord, plus the hard backing means absolutely no buckling or warping. Ever.

I love using the 6" x 6" panels, they make a nice Goldilocks sized painting - not big enough to be overwhelming but not small enough to be called tiny.


#8 - Ruling Pen

So here's one of those old-school tools that only crones like me know about. 

A Ruling Pen is how we make super straight lines using watercolor paint. And it's how we sign our names legibly.

Lots of youngsters try making straight lines with brushes... ha! You can't do that, nor can you write very well with a brush! Newbies!

I deliberately showed you the pen from the side view. You dip the Ruling Pen into a small puddle of watercolor paint and the paint is held in the space between the two blades by the magical force of physics called adhesion (Yes, I paid attention in science class).

If you want a thin line you twist the screw to move the blades closer. A fatter line means twisting to separate the blades. From there on out, the pen works exactly like the quill dip pens that Thomas Jefferson once used. Dip and draw, dip and draw, dip and draw.

Shoot. I just gave away one of my top secrets. Now they're going to kick me out of the Grand Society of Ruling Pen Rulers. The things I do for you people...


#9 - Modern Flower Painter

If you've ever got a spare year or two, try searching for a good watercolor book on Amazon.

There are thousands of watercolor books on the market. It's a pretty popular subject.

Anna Mason has written a good one. The Modern Flower Painter is a must read for botanical enthusiasts but her methods also work for anyone into painting detailed watercolors.

Mason works large scale with tiny brushes. If your watercolor lover comes from the world of colored pencil and markers, they'll immediately appreciate her technique.

The other nice thing about the Modern Flower Painter is the work in progress shots. Actually, I should be praising Anna Mason just for including step-out photographs. It's amazing how many instructional books include only photos of finished work. Mason's book is very generous with process photos, her "Viola" project has 17 photographs!


#10 - Finetec metallics

I'll rank this as a "want" rather than a "need" but not all gifts have to be practical or useful, right?

Finetec Metallic watercolors are a collection of metallic and opalescent paints (think shimmer eyeshadow for painters).

Calligraphers use Finetec for gilded look lettering but they're perfect for adding a bit of gold or silver to a watercolor painting. They can also be mixed into paint blends to create custom watercolor colors.

This set gives your watercolor lover a chance to play and maybe even discover a new style or technique. 


#11 - Digital Stamps... by me!

Okay, I know I was supposed to stop at 10 Gifts but I can't resist throwing in a bit of obvious self promotion...

I teach online Copic coloring classes for lovers of Copic marker, colored pencils, and watercolor.

Those three media types all have something unique in common, you can't use just any digital stamp. The coloring spaces need to be wide open with no texture marks and that's a rarity in the digital stamp world.

So because I got sick of searching for good stamps, I decided to start drawing them myself.

I designed my digital stamps with all three media in mind. They can be used for your special watercolor artist, marker artists and colored pencil artists alike!

Take a stroll over to my Digital Stamp Shop and get your special someone a few files to color. They'll love 'em!


so there you have it!

Ten, no make that ELEVEN awesome and battle tested gift suggestions for the watercolor lover in your life.

Be sure to check out my other helpful gift suggestion lists for Copic, colored pencil, watercolor, and mixed media fans.

Questions? Suggestions? I'd love feedback in the comment section!

Happy Shopping!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to

Ten Gifts: Great Gifts for Copic Marker Lovers (presents they'll actually use!)

Looking for the perfect Christmas or Birthday gift for someone who loves Copic Markers? Here's a list of 10 presents they'll actually use! |

Shopping for the perfect Copic gift is hard

Especially if you don't have the foggiest clue what your special someone does in the craft room with all those fancy markers!

After all, who really needs more markers? Isn't 100 of 'em enough?

Relax. Sometimes all you need is a little advice from another Copic Marker lover.

I've taught coloring classes for almost a decade now and I've seen a lot of marker products and marker accessories come and go. I'm also a brutally frank person, so if I think something is overpriced, useless, or downright stupid, I'll tell you not to buy it.

updated for 2019!

I regularly use these products and highly recommend them. For more information on recommended supplies, see our page dedicated to Amy’s Favorite Things here:


Here are 10 (well loved, not useless) gift ideas for your Copic lover:

(Warning: the following article contains Amazon Affiliate where applicable. Links to other stores or websites are not part of any affiliate program)

And hey, don't miss my other great Gift Suggestion Lists here... colored pencil, watercolor and mixed media.

#1 - Help complete their marker collection

I know it looks like your special person already has too many markers...

But here's the thing- Copic makes 358 different colors and it's highly unlikely that he or she owns them all.

I've never met a colorer who didn't have a list of at least 20 markers that they would buy today if their Fairy Godmother handed them $100. Even the rare person who owns all 358 has lots of other Copic products to lust over.

The problem is that YOU don't know what colors your person is missing. Play it safe by going the gift card route and let them order items off their mental wish list.

What dollar value is reasonable? That depends upon how generous you want to be. Here's a clue to setting your budget: Copic prices fluctuate greatly based on who is running a sale. A single Copic Sketch marker can be priced anywhere from $5 to $10 depending upon the retailer. Amazon usually isn't the cheapest source but an Amazon card is the least likely to go unused. Other Copic retailers which also offer gift cards/certificates include: Dick Blick, Cheap Joes, Jerry's Artarama, Oozak, or Carpe Diem.


#2 - Multiliner SP

Most Copic colorers also use fine line technical pens in their work. Copic makes thin pens called Multiliners that are totally compatible with their coloring markers. Chances are your person owns a few non-compatible pens that they're really careful about using (a non-compatible pen can ruin a Copic marker nib), or they own the cheaper, disposable version of a Copic Multiliner.

This SP version of the Copic Multiliner is the Rolls Royce of fineliner pens. I think they're the finest technical pen on the market and I use them on all my art, even the non-Copic stuff. The stainless steel body feels great in the hands; the weight is just right and the grip area is comfortable to hold. SP Multiliners are refillable (via pre-filled cartridge) and the nibs are replaceable if they accidentally become damaged. Over the long term, I think the SP version is a better value than the cheaper disposables.

Because few brick & mortar craft shops carry SP pens, it is likely that your person doesn't own any SP pens.

SP sets come in an A version and a B version the Multiliner 10A version combines both sets at a reasonable price. This set includes all 10 sizes of Black Multiliner SP pens, including 0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.35, 0.5, 0.7, and Brush.

10 Gift Ideas for a Copic Marker lover. The Copic Collection App is the best inventory system I've tried. |

#3 - The Copic Collection App

Okay, I'll admit that this idea is cheating BECAUSE IT'S A FREE APP, but seriously, I can't write a list of Copic ideas and leave off my most used tool!

Most Copic colorers have little checkbook sized booklets like this where they keep track of which markers and refills they own. While booklets are fine, I'm cursed in that my book is always sitting on my desk at home when I'm standing in front of the Copic display in my local art store.

With this phone app, I have my list with me where ever I go... well, maybe not in the shower but certainly everywhere else.

I've tried several different apps and I like this one the best by a long-shot. It's easy to read, easy to modify, and from an artistic point of view, the graphics are so much cooler than a text based list app.

Shown at left is my collection of reds. Now you know which 6 red markers I'd love to receive this Christmas (hint, hint).

See, I told you, even those of us who own a ton of markers still have holes in their collection!

The Copic Collection app is by the Too Corporation (that's the Copic parent company) and is available on iTunes and on GooglePlay.

red ribbon.jpg
10 Gift Ideas for a Copic Marker lover. The Hex Chart is complete genius and Sandy Allnock deserves a Nobel Prize for it. |

#4 - The Hex Chart

Speaking of inventories, even if your Copic lover owns a swatch booklet or app, Sandy Allnock's Hex Chart is still an essential tool that every Copic colorer should own.

I have no sway with the Nobel Committee over in Stockholm, but I still cross my fingers every year in the hopes that Sandy receives the Peace Prize. Boy, did she earn it for this piece of genius!

It's wrong to call this thing an inventory list. It's actually a relationship chart that demonstrates how marker colors are related. Want to know which colors can form blends with other colors? Which markers can substitute for others? Check the chart!

Best of all, filling out the blank chart shows where the real holes in your collection lie. Big blank areas of no color help a Copic lover decide which areas of their collection to build up next.

The Allnock Hex Chart is an online, digital download which includes a two page blank chart and a two page fully colored chart. Users record their own collection while the pre-colored version provides full-collection information.

I pretty much force my students at gunpoint to purchase this chart. They learn sooooo much from it!

Purchase the Hex Chart at here.


#5 - The Copic Neutral Gray set

Colorers tend to purchase pretty colored markers first. Personally, I use my gray markers far more than any other color family and I teach more classes with them too.

Grays can actually save money when you're building your collection because you can use a gray UNDERNEATH another color to darken it. So if you're missing a dark red or a dark blue, ONE gray marker can help you replicate many colors you may be missing.

Chances are that your special person owns a few grays but not an entire set.

Copic grays come in four versions. I'll rank them here in order of how often I use them:

  1. Neutral (N)

  2. Cool (C)

  3. Warm (W)

  4. Toner (T) ... uhhhhh... actually, I don't even own any Ts

So I'd advise starting with an N set and gift them later with the C set on a different occasion.

The W warms can wait. I know a lot of colorers buy the warms right away but that's because they see so many projects online using them (note: "used most" is different than "featured on the internet the most"). But the W’s are far less versatile and thus should be a lower priority purchase. Give me an N neutral marker and I can rule the world!

blue ribbon.jpg

#6 - Uniball Signo Pens

Copics are beautiful but they don't make a white marker, nor do they make metallics.

I call for the Uniball Signo white on about 60% of my class projects and it's part of the required kit for my beginner classes. It's a flat, dense white that releases in a very generous and wet line. It's perfect for adding details and accents to coloring projects and especially excels for eye highlights.

The silver and gold are basically liquid metal. Most metallic pens are actually glitter or sparkle pens. Not the Uniball version. You could color gold bars and silver coins with these pens, they add the look of metal leaf to projects. They're an absolute must-have for Christmas cards.


#7 - Coloring Mat

Yes, I know this is technically a cutting mat, not a coloring mat. Read on, cowboy.

There's nothing sadder than to see a student happily coloring along when suddenly the texture of the table starts showing through on their project.

If you've ever done crayon rubbings with leaves or on tombstones, you know what I mean. A bump on the table can quickly turn into a bump in your coloring project. It happens a lot with colored pencils but I've also seen it happen with markers. Yes, with markers. Not kidding.

Coloring on a smooth surface is important. Coloring on a clean surface is important. Coloring on the same hardness of surface for every project is important too.

All of these things are solved by using a small cutting mat as a coloring board. They're inexpensive, lightweight, and easily cleaned. I use one for every class I teach and I have several for use in my studio. the 8.5x11" size is great, so are the 9x12". Both sizes can easily tuck into a folder or bag for transport.

Note: I do not use my coloring boards for cutting. No sense buying a smooth surface and then unsmoothing it!


#8 - Travel Tote

I have several supply totes, some good and some bad. This bag is the best of the best and it's the one I almost always grab for carting supplies to class.

The Everything Mary Deluxe Papercraft Organizer holds an amazing amount of stuff and it's been an incredibly durable bag. I've been dragging mine around for almost 5 years now and it still looks new.

The handles are what makes it perfect. They're longer than average which means that you can fill the center section with tall items and still clasp the handles together in one hand for easy toting. That's pretty unique. The center section dividers are smartly placed and the side pockets offer both open pockets and secure pockets with magnetic snaps or velcro.

Even if you're special person is only toting items from the craft room to the living room, this bag will be appreciated and well loved.


#9 - Various Ink Case

Copic sells markers in sets and most of sets arrive in an acrylic box. These boxes are treasured by colorers because they not only store the markers securely but they also display the markers like pretty little gemstones.

Having said that, I'm not a fan of the acrylic boxes and mine are gathering dust on a shelf in my closet.

The Wide Marker box is my one exception. I love these boxes, but not for wide markers!

Various Inks are small bottles of refill ink. Every colorer has at least a few bottles bouncing around their craft room right now. Ink bottles are a challenge to store because they're a different shape and the I.D. caps are set at a different angle than the markers.

But Various Ink bottles fit beautifully into the Wide Marker box! One box holds 24 colors and the boxes themselves slide nicely into several different sized storage tubs. The gridded bottoms allows one to organize the colors (hooray for Obsessive Compulsive Rainbow Disorder!) and they'll remain in order rather than knocking around. I absolutely love these boxes!


#10 - Most Incredible Stamp Tool Invented (Misti)

Most of my projects use my original Vanilla Arts Co. digital stamps but I do use a few commercial rubber or silicone stamps each month.

One of the reasons why I began working digitally is my high failure rate stamping rubber stamp images. Clean images with no smudges or missing parts are something I simply can't get the knack of... at least not on a consistent basis. And I hate wasting paper stamping something out two or three times, praying for a usable image.

The MISTI tool from My Sweet Petunia is perfect for all-thumbs stampers like me. It lines up the stamp and stamps exactly where you want it to, every single time.

Best of all, if part of the image doesn't stamp well, you can re-ink the stamp and try again. Believe me, I take advantage of that feature a lot! I've even successfully re-re-re-stamped a stamp with this tool.

Not kidding.

If your special person has seen the MISTI, I can guarantee they want one. Badly. If they already have one, I'll bet they've also lusted over the newest Mini MISTI. 


#11 - Online Workshops

Okay, I know I was supposed to stop at 10 Gifts but I can't resist throwing in a bit of obvious self promotion...

Marker Painting Workshops- Art lessons using Copic Markers and Colored Pencils. Learn to adapt your adult coloring skills to realistic or expressive art. | | #copic #coloredpencil #realisticcoloring

I teach online Copic coloring classes that are perfect for intermediate to advanced level colorers. Marker Painting Workshops teach art based painting techniques using markers with colored pencil accents.

This isn't a copy-cat style craft level class!

Marker Painting Workshops are forever access & always open enrollment classes, sold individually. A new MPW debuts each month!

Marker Painting Workshop classes include:

  • 15-20 minute technique video that provides a deep-dive look at one technique, method, or mindset

  • 60-240 minutes of guided coloring video (depending upon the project). Videos feature informative fun time-outs and technique breakdowns

  • original digital stamp in three formats

  • full color printable project sample

  • full color printable color map + recipe

  • full color printable guide to shade & shadow

  • class discussion board with full instructor Q&A access


So there you have it!

Ten, no make that ELEVEN awesome and battle tested gift suggestions for the Copic Marker lover in your life.

Be sure to check out my other helpful gift suggestion lists for Copic, colored pencil, watercolor, and mixed media fans.

Questions? Suggestions? I'd love your feedback in the comment section!

Happy Shopping!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for use to earn fees by linking to

Head to Head: Blending Cardstocks- Cryogen versus X-Press It


Nobody rides a bicycle on the beach...

Bikes are great; you can go a lot of places on a bicycle.

But if you're sunning your buns at one end of the beach and the daiquiri bar is way the heck down at the other end... it's highly unlikely that you're going to use peddle power to cross a mile of sugar sand beach.

Bicycles don't work very well in the desert; they're not so great underwater and I'd hate to be left with only a bike during a Michigan January.

Now I'm not beating up on bikes and bicycle enthusiasts. I love my bike.

But only an idiot tries to use a bike in a snowstorm. It simply isn't designed to do what you're asking it to do.


Smart people match the tool to the task

That includes paper.

Especially when you're working with Copics and colored pencil. Trying to blend alcohol markers on a dollar store drawing pad is like trying to peddle your way down Daytona Beach.

You're not using the right tool to facilitate good blending.


for years, I've used x-press it blending card 

Not just faithfully, I've used it exclusively. 

For my style of marker painting, it simply works best.

Ink stays wet on the surface of X-Press It paper slightly longer than with other blending cardstocks. That extra wet-time allows for better blending. I see significant improvement when I move students from their preferred paper to X-Press It.


But X-Press It has one major drawback

I combine marker with colored pencil. The combination of wet and dry gives me more depth, texture, and mark versatility than is possible with just marker alone. 

I love my X-Press It. The problem is that X-PI is everything a colored pencil paper should not be.

X-Press It is super slick with a slightly resistant surface. Way smoother than hot press, it's Bing Crosby driving a Zamboni eating butter kind of smooth.

Meanwhile colored pencil likes things gritty. Artists call it tooth; a good colored pencil paper has tiny jags and crevices which grab hold and collect pencil pigment as you color.

X-Press It cardstock is as toothless as the starting line-up for the 1972 Red Wings. Trying to color with colored pencil on X-PI is like spreading grape jelly onto a greased pig. About 70% of what you lay down ain't gonna stick.

So not to make light of Sophie's Choice, but at the start of every project, I'm usually standing at the train station trying to pick between X-Press It for Markers or Vellum Bristol for colored pencil.


Then I rediscovered cryogen

A student once handed me some sheets of "sparkle paper" in class. I'm always up for trying a new paper, but she presented it as a marker paper, something another Copic instructor had recommended.

It was a nice cardstock, smooth with an interesting pearly flake embedded in the pulp. I made a few test swatches and no angelic chorus descended from the heavens. I decided I liked X-Press It better and filed the Cryogen away in my drawer of assorted paper.

Time passed.

I cleaned out that drawer last month and came across some unmarked sheets of cardstock. As I'm mentally berating the wheel running hamster who lives in my head for not labeling the paper... my fingers... they were feeling the paper. I was actually petting the paper.

Cryogen vs XPress It head to head |

And the hamster started dancing

He danced and sang because we were petting a marker cardstock with a bit of tooth.

Holy Grail anyone?

I've been playing with sparkle paper Cryogen recently. I'm pretty pleased.

I wouldn't say Cryogen White is the answer to ALL my problems but it does get the Nazi off my back. Here's what I've found.


X-Press It- a superior marker blending card

  • Full Name: X-Press It Blending Card

  • Surface: ultra hot-press, feels coated but isn't

  • Color: bright white

  • Weight: about 110 lbs.

  • Tooth: very little

  • Thirst: coats well on first pass, no excessive ink usage

  • Alcohol Ink Blendability: extended wet-time makes for easy and amazing blends

  • Vividness: colors are bold, no visible changes upon drying.

  • Bleed (ink pulled by paper fibers beyond stamp lines): hardly noticeable

  • Leak-through (to back of paper): only after 3 coats

  • Water Damage: exposure to water will damage paper irreparably. Surface will buckle, then separate from core, can peel off.

  • Colored Pencil: accepts a first coat with a sharp pencil. Hard to layer or blend, must press harder than normal to collect color. Color can smear.

"Go Fish" colored on X-Press It Blending Card |

Cryogen-a balanced all purpose cardstock

  • Full Name: Cryogen Curious Metallics

  • Surface: hot-press

  • Color: "white" but is actually a creamy, yellow tinged white

  • Weight: 89 lbs.

  • Tooth: light tooth

  • Thirst: coats well on first pass, draws more ink than X-Press It

  • Alcohol Ink Blendability: moderate, some strokes remain visible after second pass.

  • Vividness: some colors mute slightly as they dry.

  • Bleed (ink pulled by paper fibers beyond stamp lines): light bleed but controlable

  • Leak-through (to back of paper): after 2nd coat

  • Water Damage: a light spray did not affect paper. A good soaking caused buckling and slight swelling. Swelling disappeared when dry but buckle remained. No peeling or bubbling.

  • Colored Pencil: accepts 2-3 coats of colored pencil, waxy pencils blended well. Easy to color softly with no visible stroke lines.

"Go Fish" Colored on Cryogen White |

Here's a side by side:

X-Press it on top, Cryogen on bottom. Creamy color of Cryogen is more noticeable in real life.

Cryogen vs. XPress It cardstocks. Marker vs colored pencil cardstock |

Overall, a move to Cryogen means that I sacrifice some marker blending ability in order to gain pencil blending ability.

  • You can see some unblendable marker strokes in the blue stripes just before the tail on the Cryogen. The B37 was especially stubborn.

  • B99 looks more deep and vibrant on the X-PI but it's only noticeable when side by side.

  • B32 (lightest blue in the stripes) is noticeably lighter and more even on X-Press It.

  • The difference in aqua colors here is solely due to the yellow of Cryogen making all colors look warmer.

  • Blue pencil over yellow marker on X-PI looks muddy. Same on Cryogen looks more subtle and pleasing.

  • Not only does pencil "stick" better to Cryogen, white gel pen adheres more smoothly

so am I a Cryogen Disciple now?

Not really. I'll still teach with X-Press It because I never want to place hurdles in front of my students. Blending is so much easier with X-PI that I can't justify the switch for my beginners and casual colorers.

But for any project (personal or with advanced students) that requires more than 50% colored pencil, I'll be using Cryogen.


Associate Links: (note XPI is a pack of 25 sheets while Cryogen is a pack of 50)