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Travel Watercolor Set Review & Comparison

Between the planner and journal trend, the rise of mixed media, and growing interest in painting itself, there’s more and more interest in travel watercolor sets. They are an affordable way to invest in a basic set of watercolors for someone who is still learning to paint, as well as a great for taking along for creative time on the go.

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are affiliate links or advertiser courtesy links.]

Travel Watercolor Set ReviewWondering which travel watercolor set you should buy? In this article, we’ll takes a look at five different “student” level travel watercolor sets, and review their quality and design to recommend what is the best set for your needs.

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box Watercolors

This Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box is the heavyweight of this group of travel watercolor sets – in more ways than one. It’s by far the heaviest physically, weighing in at three to four ounces heavier than the others I tested. And it also seems to be by far the most widely available of the tested sets – especially if you include the 12, 18, 30, 36 and 48 color versions that are available of this set.

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box Watercolors

There’s a reason this set weighs so much, though. Inside, you’ll find 24 half pan watercolors, a larger selection than in any other of the tested kits. You’ll also find an entire kit of tools for watercolor painting: palettes, sponges, and a waterbrush. With the large divided palette – which can be made to hang off the side by putting the pins on its bottom in the holes on either side of the set – and the inside of the lid, this set has loads of space for mixing and blending colors. The sponges provide surfaces for dabbing off a too-moist brush. And the included waterbrush, which disassembles to store in the tray at the front, includes a small cap so that water can be kept in the brush even when it is taken apart.

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box Watercolor swatches

This set includes a full rainbow of colors, plus brown, black, grey, and white. Four blues and four greens provide lots of options for plein air landscape painters to mix with. If you’d like to make your own swatch reference after buying this set or another Sakura Koi set, Sakura has published a color chart with an area for swatching on it.

The Sakura Koi half-pan watercolor paints are fairly creamy and blend nicely. The colors are nice and vibrant while still maintaining transparency, and their saturation means they can be diluted extensively to make lighter colors.

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box Watercolors

Despite its popularity, there are a couple of cons to this set, however. Refills are not available for the Sakura Koi half-pan sets – Sakura recommends refilling them with the Sakura Koi watercolor tubes. However, only 18 colors are available in the tubes, and the colors are not all the same as the half-pans, so some colors won’t be able to be refilled that way.

There’s also an issue that can be seen above that the pans are very close together with no lip separating them, making it easy to contaminate one color with another. See the blue in my green and red? Unfortunately, to keep travel sets small, there isn’t a lot of room to spread out, and this shows the downside of cramming a lot into a small space.

I’ve owned this set for quite some time (and even traveled with it internationally). While this travel watercolor set may be a little larger and heavier than its competitors in this review, the space and weight is put to good use in an efficient design that packs in a lot of utility.

Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

Price: $21-$60 retail
Availability: Blick Art Materials, Amazon, A Cherry On Top, Simon Says Stamp, plus many other local and online art retailers
Size & Weight: 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 1.125″  9.375oz
Includes Brush?: Yes – Round #6 Waterbrush
Colors: 24 – China White, Lemon Yellow, Aureoline Hue, Permanent Yellow Deep, Permanent Orange, Jaune Brilliant, Vermillion Hue, Cadmium Red Hue, Crimson Lake, Quinacridone Rose, Purple, Cobalt Blue Hue, Cerulean Blue Hue, Ultramarine Deep, Prussian Blue, Permanent Green Pale, Viridian Hue, Permanent Green Deep, Olive Green, Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Grey, Ivory Black.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher's Pocket Box watercolors

This little box is truly a pocket travel watercolor kit! Slightly smaller than the size of my iPhone 6S (but a bit thicker), it’s also the lightest of the sets I tested. That’s not to say it’s a lightweight, however – it’s built of a sturdy plastic that should stand up well to life on the road.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher's Pocket Box watercolors

Inside the case, the design is spare and efficient. This small of a package doesn’t allow for a lot of bells and whistles. The Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box contains just 12 half-pan colors, along with a very small round travel brush. The inside of the lid is divided and serves as a palette area.

The paints in this case are sunk nice and low into cubbies that have good dividers between them to prevent splash over or inadvertent mixing of colors from one to the next. These half-pans are also in pans that come out (sometimes too easily, as I’ve found them sitting in the lid after the set has been juggled and moved around) so the colors can be refilled. Even though the paints are designed to be able to be refilled, I was unable to find any Cotman refills for sale online (at least in the U.S). I was able to find, however, the professional level half-pan watercolor paint refills from Winsor & Newton. These could be used to refill this Sketcher’s Pocket Box, and of course the box could also be refilled with watercolor tubes.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher's Pocket Box watercolor swatches

With only 12 colors in this set, obviously some things have to be left out. This set has no black, and no purple.What colors are included flow and blend beautifully, with the ability to be diluted to very pale tones. The color saturation is nice, although the starting tones aren’t as deep as I perhaps would like. The transparency is good, except in the really dark tones like the Intense Blue.

For those who want more color options (and more working area) Winsor & Newton makes a box with similar features to the Sakura Koi that includes 24 colors.

As portable as this package is, it’s not self-contained. You’ll need access to a water source or need to carry water separately to be able to use it. The easiest option is to carry a water brush, or you could try the Field Plus version of the Cotman sets, which includes it’s own water bottle and rinsing cup!

Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box

Price: $11-$25 retail
Availability: Blick Art MaterialsAmazonA Cherry On Top, plus many other local and online art retailers
Size & Weight: 5″ x 2.375″ x .75″  3.25oz
Includes Brush?: Yes – Small travel brush
Colors: 12 – China White, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale Hue, Crimson Alizarin, Ultramarine, Intense Blue, Emerald Green, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel Set

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel Set

This travel set is in a round metal tin about the size of a CD (remember those?) that has a hinged lid. Despite containing 18 colors, this set’s construction makes it relatively light, the same weight as several sets I tested with fewer colors.

When you first open the case you are greeted by a plastic flap laying over the color tray that shows the names and numbers of all of the colors in the set. (Although Daler-Rowney makes replacement colors for this line of half-pans, I was only able to find them sold in the U.S. via an Amazon 3rd party seller that appeared to be shipping from the U.K.) This clear flap looks like a great idea until you try to paint with this set, and then it becomes an annoyance because it has to be held back to access the paints – it won’t fold back and stay out of the way on it’s own. After a bit of struggle I cut it off with a craft knife, finding no other way to remove it.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel Set

Inside the set, you’ll find four small mixing wells and a travel sized #4 Round brush. The small wells are removable for cleaning but not very durable as they are made of flexible plastic packaging material. Because it is made of metal, this set lacks the ability to have the inside of the lid double as a mixing area like in plastic boxed sets.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel Set swatches

Of all the sets that I tested, this was the one that frustrated me the most trying to paint with it. These paints were just difficult to use. In my opinion, they didn’t flow, blend, or dilute nearly as well as the other “student” grade kits that I tried out. It took two times loading the brush to do what I could do with one load of most of the other paints.

Overall, for the price, other sets offer a better value than the Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel set.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Travel Set

Price: $23-$30 retail
Availability: Amazon, plus a few other local and online art retailers
Size & Weight: 5.5″ x 5.25″ x .75″  5.5oz
Includes Brush?: Yes – Mini Aquafine Round #4
Colors: 18 – Chinese White, Lemon Yellow, Gamboge, Cadmium Yellow Hue, Vermillion Hue, Alizarin Crimson, Purple, Cobalt Blue Hue, Coerulean Hue, Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Permanent Green Pale, Viridian Hue, Sap Green, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black.

Prima Watercolor Confections – Tropicals

Prima Watercolor Confections - Tropicals

Art supply enthusiasts may not recognize the Prima brand, but I included this set because Prima’s mixed media line – including their Confections line of watercolors – was well reviewed to me by experienced mixed media artists in the paper crafts industry that I know. How, I wondered, would it stand up against fine art brands’ student products?

The answer was that it did surprisingly well. Even after all the recommendations I’d been given, I’ll admit that I was still surprised.

The Prima Confections watercolors come in a palette tin that is about the same size as my iPhone, but slightly heavier and thicker. Twelve half-pan watercolors snap into metal brackets, so the palette’s colors can be arranged in any order, and refilled easily. (Half-pan refills recently started shipping from Prima.) The one slightly annoying thing about this arrangement is that the pans have a tendency to slide from side to side when the palette is moved around. (In the photo below, some of the pans slid when I set up my picture, creating the gap next to the orange, and I didn’t notice at the time.) Also, of course, since the pans are butted directly up against each other, it’s easy to transfer color from one pan to the next by accident.

Empty palette tins similar to this one are available from several art brands to use to create custom travel palettes of artist grade watercolors.

Prima Watercolor Confections - Tropicals

With a fold out shelf with wells, plus a divided lid, this tiny palette has a surprising amount of area for mixing and blending colors. The center area between the pans is large enough for storing a small travel paintbrush, but one is not included with the set.

Prima Confections Tropical Watercolor SwatchesThe color palettes of the five Prima Confections sets are a bit unusual for watercolor paint. They do have one set called “The Classics” that is a traditional rainbow palette. But the rest of the color palettes are basically themed: Tropicals, Pastels, Shimmering Lights, Decadent Pies. Some of the palettes include duplicate colors, so you aren’t building a “full set” by buying all of the palettes. The palettes being themed this way can be annoying if you like to paint lots of different color schemes, but if you to create a specific signature look, having a palette tailored just for it can save a lot of work mixing and blending colors.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about these paints before I tried them, but I ended up really enjoying working with them. They are creamy, flow and blend easily, and the color saturation and transparency are gorgeous. These seemed to dilute forever, to endlessly lighter tones.

Prima Watercolor Confections – Tropical

Price: $14-$25 retail
Availability: AmazonA Cherry On TopSimon Says Stamp, plus local scrapbook retailers
Size & Weight: 4.75″ x 2.75″ x .75″  5.375oz
Includes Brush?: No
Colors: 12 – #13 Island, #14 Coconut, #15 Hurricane, #16 Parrot, #17 Hibiscus, #18 Palms, #19 Pitaya, #20 Reef, #21 Pineapple, #22 Sunset, #23 Ocean, #24 Tiki.

Dixon Prang Half-Pan 16 Semi-Moist Watercolors

Dixon Prang Half-Pan 16 Semi-Moist Watercolors

This set is the only “scholastic” level (versus “student”) watercolor set in the test. It’s designed for high volume, hard use in schools by younger kids. I bought this set for my homeschooled daughter to use on some color exercises for her art class, so she could use these for learning basics before. I included it in this comparison thinking it would show what you get in the difference in quality by paying the price for moving up to a real “student” set. Instead, I was surprised at how much I liked this set!

Dixon Prang Half-Pan 16 Semi-Moist Watercolors

Most of us probably used a set similar to this at some time in our childhood – a big flat plastic case with large pans. Although this set is labeled as half-pans like the other sets reviewed, they are shaped different than traditional pans, so the visible paint surface is larger.)

This set contains 16 colors, labeled to match the color wheel. The pans are replaceable, but because the paints re designed for school use, and are so affordable, the replacements come in packages of 12! Unless you really like a certain color and use a lot of it, it’s really more cost effective to just replace the entire palette when one runs out.

Dixon Prang Half-Pan 16 Semi-Moist Watercolor swatches

These paints are nice and creamy, and flow and blend and dilute quite well for what they are. They are pleasant to work with for basic tasks, and quite saturated and bright. One place that they do fall down is on transparency. These are quite opaque for watercolors, especially when used at maximum concentration. But some people like that look and if you do, you may enjoy these for basic tasks. These also make a great set for portable coloring book use. Throw a pair of waterbrushes with different tips in the center well between the rows of pans, and you have a great tool kit for coloring wherever you may be with a few minutes to kill.

[Note: There are two versions of these paints, one with round pans and one with square pans. This review is of the square pan set.]

Dixon Prang Half-Pan 16 Semi-Moist Watercolors

Price: $8-$18 retail
Availability: Blick Art MaterialsAmazon, plus many other local and online art retailers
Size & Weight: 9.25″ x 4″ x .625″  6.25oz
Includes Brush?: Yes – Round #6
Colors: 16 – White, Black,  Brown, Red, Red Orange, Orange, Yellow Orange, Yellow, Yellow Green, Green, Blue Green, Blue, Blue Violet, Violet, Red Violet, Turquoise.

Travel Watercolor Paint Sets: Compare & Contrast

Now that we’ve seen an overview of all of these travel watercolor paint sets, how do they compare to each other – and which one should you buy?

It was clear examining these travel watercolor paint sets that three of them were in a class separate from the others – the Prima Confections, the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box, and the Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box.

Below, you can see that those three diluted to nice gradients (well as nice as my skills in that area would make). The Prang made a pretty decent gradient. The Daler-Rowney didn’t spread or dilute well and to get this level of color that is pretty much equal to the other paints, it took two brush loads of color.

Travel Watercolor Set Comparison

Since we are talking about travel, there are several things to possibly consider when choosing a watercolor set. Size and weight is one issue. The idea of watercoloring in your journal as you make your way around an exotic foreign locale might sound fabulous, but it becomes less fabulous when your art supplies are a pain to lug.

The Sakura Koi watercolor set is great in that it is all self-contained, but it also weighs nearly twice what the smaller Prima and Cotman sets weigh. It’s also a bit too big to truly slip into a pocket the way the two smaller ones are. So, if you want to throw it in a suitcase to leave in a hotel room, or don’t mind a few extra ounces in your backpack, the Sakura Koi is a good option to have lots of colors. It’s also a great option for using on board a plane or train to entertain yourself with everything contained right in the box. If flying, the waterbrush can be brought through security empty and filled with a water bottle on board (or pre-fill it and stash it in your liquids bag).

On the other hand, if you are traveling super lean, or want something that you can slip into a hoodie pocket to grab for a quick sketch, the small Prima or Cotman sets are great options. Both of these sets will require carrying either a water source and/or a brush or waterbrush.

The metal box on the Prima Confections watercolor set might cause security hassles while flying, but has the advantage of being able to contain a custom palette (either by purchasing the themed palette of your choice or by mixing and matching colors from multiple sets into one box). It also has the advantage of providing a very large mixing area for such a small container, and has a thumb ring on the bottom to enable holding it more securely on the go.

The Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box is the ultimate in lightweight portability out of all these sets, especially because it includes a brush in the set. This is a great basic set for planner users who want to tuck it in their bag with a waterbrush, for coloring on the go and while traveling, or for plein air painting.

The Cotman Sketcher’s Pocket Box is also the winner to me for pure paint quality, but it’s a small margin over the Prima and Sakura sets. These three are all excellent quality student pan watercolor sets that will be good for coloring, journaling, and quick travel painting.

If affordability is more important to you than paint quality, and you are only interested in using basic techniques with your paint, the Prang Dixon paints are a robust and very affordable option. But at an upgrade cost of only about $3-$4 to go from them up to one of the Prima or Cotman sets if you shop at the right place, it’s worth considering making a minor investment in better paint (although you’ll get fewer colors).

For those who are very serious about their painting, and who want artist quality paints,  the name to look for in travel pan sets is Sennelier, which is made with a high honey content. But be prepared to pay a high price – over $60 for a 14 color set of half-pans.

Whatever set you choose, don’t forget that other things like the quality of your brush and your paper will also affect the results that you get. Next in this series, watch for a watercolor paper comparison coming soon!

Travel Watercolor Sets - Review and Comparison - Which one is for you?

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What is the difference between original Distress Ink and Distress Oxide?

Tim Holtz recently announced that twelve new colors are being added to his new Distress Oxide ink line, bringing to a total of 24 the colors available in that line. But this new announcement of expansion in the Distress Oxide color palette may have some of our readers who haven’t tried the inks yet asking “what is the difference between the original Distress ink and new Distress Oxide ink?”

Let’s take a look!

[Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate or sponsor links.]

Distress Oxide ink pads

To run my comparison, I used the six Ranger Distress Oxide inks that I have purchased, along with their matching inks from my collection of original Ranger Distress Inks (some of which were provided to me by Ranger at the time of their release).

As an initial comparison, I stamped the inks side by side on plain white cardstock. I specifically chose these Tim Holtz silhouette stamps because their large solid stamping areas are the type of design that make it challenging to get a perfect impression. Plus they give a really good look at the color tones of each ink.

The male silhouette in each pair below is stamped in original Distress ink, and the female profile is stamped in Distress Oxide ink.

Distress Ink vs Distress Oxide stamping

At first glance, most of the pairs don’t seem that different. The color tones on most are fairly close to each other. However, one thing is evident after closer examination (and has been seen in my other use of the ink). The new Distress Oxide image is cleaner, with fewer light spots, than the original Distress Ink in most of the images. Because the Oxide ink is juicier, it is more forgiving in creating a good quality image with a challenging stamp design and on a less than optimal surface.

Distress Ink vs Distress Oxide stamping

Moving to stamping on manila tags, a better surface for the inks, and the difference in quality is somewhat less obvious between the two inks, but still slightly noticeable.

One of the key features that is being promoted for Distress Oxide is that it “oxidizes” when exposed to water. But what, exactly, is oxidation? According to Wikipedia, oxidation is “the loss of electrons or an increase in oxidation state by a molecule, atom, or ion.” Say what? What does that mean in craft terms?

Distress Oxide vs Distress Ink

Distress Ink (left) and Distress Oxide (right)

Above, these two tags have been dragged through ink that was rubbed on my craft sheet, and then had water dripped on them. Both tags end up with light looking spots where the drips were. But if you look closely at the spots, there is a key difference. When water was dripped on the tag with the original Distress Ink, the spots “bleached” and got light. It’s almost as if all color has been removed from those spots. In comparison, on the Distress Oxide tag, the spots still have plenty of saturated color in them even though they appear lighter from the water. That is what oxidation looks like in Distress Oxide ink!

Distress vs Distress Oxide test

original Distress ink (left) vs Distress Oxide (right)

Another major difference – translucency – becomes obvious between the two inks when I tried doing a direct-to-paper technique on a dark colored background on these animal cards cut from some idea-ology paper. You can see above how much more opaque the Distress Oxide inks are on the bear and the kangaroo cards than their counterparts in original Distress Ink on the pig and elephant cards. The difference is especially obvious on the Cracked Pistachio inked cards. On the elephant card, the original Distress ink is almost completely transparent, just tinting the card but not impacting the visibility of the image. This is a huge contrast to the Distress Oxide of the same color on the kangaroo card, which completely obliterates the image!

Distress vs Distress Oxide comparison

The more that you handle and manipulate these inks, the more subtle differences that you notice. For this test above, I rubbed the ink pads on my craft sheet, spritzed the sheet with water, and then dragged the tags through the ink. Both tags resulted in a marbled look with this technique. But if you look closely, you’ll see on the right above that the Distress Oxide ink pooled and flowed more, whereas the original Distress maintained more structure. You can even see striations in the tag on the left from where it was dragged, whereas the other tag is more shapeless in design.

Distress Ink layered tag

Distress Ink layered tag

Another of the things you will notice is how differently these inks layer. One of the big advantages being touted by Tim Holtz in his Distress Oxide demos since the product’s introduction has been that the product can be layered without getting muddy, and you can see in these examples I created how that works.

Above, I created a tag with five different original Distress Inks that were applied in three different layers, by swiping on the craft sheet, spritzing with water and then dragging the tag through. You can see that by the last layer, at least part of the tag had turned to muddy brown.

Contrast that to the tag below, created with the same five colors of ink but in Distress Oxide, and using the same technique. Although original Distress got muddy at three layers, this tag is still showing vibrant color after five layers of inking with Distress Oxide.

Disress Oxide layered tag 2

Some of the differences are subtle, and some not so subtle. But they add up to Distress Oxide being an ink that is an excellent complement to original Distress ink. Used together, the two inks give paper crafters and mixed media artists the ability for almost granular control over the properties of the ink at each stage of their project. Do I want my purple to blend or pool? Do I want my green to be transparent or opaque? Do I need my colors to layer, or not? You can decide the look, and select the appropriate ink – while staying inside the Distress palette.

Distress Oxide ink pads

Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Oxide ink pads have an MSRP of $5.99. Twelve colors were released in Winter 2017, and an additional twelve colors have just been announced and are currently shipping to stores. Distress Oxide is available at Scrapbook.com, A Cherry On Top, Amazon.com, and other crafts retailers.

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Review | Little House Coloring Book

It seems these days that there is a coloring book for almost any topic or theme that a coloring book fanatic could imagine. There is, literally, something for everyone. For coloring fans of the generation that grew up on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Little House on the Prairie tv series, that something might just be the Little House Coloring Book.

[Disclosure: Some links in this article are affiliate links that pay a commission when a purchase is made after a click.]

Little House coloring book

I was gifted Laura Ingalls Wilders’ classic series of books by my grandparents for holiday gifts over a series of years when I was in elementary school. I read them obsessively and became such a fan that our family visited the Ingalls/Wilder historic sites in DeSmet, South Dakota on a family vacation during my high school years.

So when I saw the Little House Coloring Book containing some of Garth Williams’ illustrations from the most famous edition of the series – the edition that I own in hardcover – I just couldn’t resist adding it to my library of coloring books! Williams’ illustrations are just as iconic as the stories themselves.

The book contains illustrations from all of the books that are considered part of the original Little House series (Little House in the Big Woods through The First Four Years). Since the Ingalls books were not heavily illustrated and some of the illustrations were small, the coloring book adds in text elements and combines some smaller elements to make repeating patterns on pages.

Little House coloring book page

One of the challenges of working in a coloring book such as this is that you are working with and trying to emulate the style of a familiar artist. Most of the Little House illustrations from Williams that are included in the coloring book were published in black & white sketch form, so there isn’t a specific example to copy from for coloring them. But Williams’ style in the images that he did complete in full-color for the books (such as for the covers) is very beautiful and distinctive.

For those who grew up loving and admiring the Williams illustrations and want to color in that same look, you may be interested to know that Williams usually worked in colored pencil and ink wash for his children’s book illustrations (he’s also famous for illustrating other books such as Charlotte’s Web by EB White).

For the illustration above, from On the Banks of Plum Creek, I used watercolor with limited success to try to mimic the look of Garth Williams’ ink wash look. I should have diluted my colors more.  For the illustration in progress below (from the same book), I am using colored pencil with a blending pencil.  This technique has me much happier with the results compared to the look of Williams’ work, but I have still not entirely got it nailed yet.

Little House coloring book page

This coloring book has been a lovely nostalgic walk down the memory lane of one of my childhood favorites, and also an artistic challenge.

Little House Coloring Book has 90 coloring pages and a cover price of $15.99 (but is currently available on Amazon for around $11).

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How to Pickle Wash a Mother’s Day Recipe Box

I love playing with paint, and I love the distressed shabby and vintage look. Now a product has come along that has my creative soul doing a happy dance because it combines the two so perfectly and easily: Plaid Pickle Wash!

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Plaid Ambassador Program for 2017, and some products I used were provided to me as part of the program. This is not a paid/sponsored post, nor is this post a requirement of my participation in the program. Some links in this article are affiliate links.]

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

Supplies:

Plaid’s new Pickle Wash is an easy to apply finish that gives a whitewashed appearance to wood surfaces. It goes on as a very thin liquid (with a watery consistency). After sitting for 30 seconds, the excess is then wiped off to achieve the distressed finish. The results  – and the ease of application – have to be seen to be believed. This truly is the vintage finish that I’ve been dreaming of being able to create on my projects! And it comes in a palette of a dozen vintage friendly colors like Gypsy Rose, Soleil, Sea Glass and Celadon. And of course…Cottage White! <swoon> Oh the possibilities…I apologize in advance for the Pickle Washing spree you are probably going to be subjected to on this site now.

I decided to start experimenting with my new Plaid Pickle Wash by making myself a new recipe card box for our kitchen. (A couple of decades is probably too long to be using a plastic index card box for them, right?) This recipe box would make a great Mother’s Day gift. So happy Mother’s Day to me!

Since the Pickle Wash is so thin and soaks into the grain, it really raises the grain and emphasizes any imperfections in the surface. Unlike a paint like chalk paint, which covers a multitude of sins in a surface, Pickle Wash is not nearly so forgiving. So a good quality surface is key to getting good results. Before I started painting, I sanded my recipe box down with 320 grit sandpaper, and then removed the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

Applying the Pickle Wash finish was easy. I started on the inside of the recipe box and applied the wash with a foam brush. (This is a great way to get a feel for a new finish, by applying it in an area that won’t be seen much first.) Then after 30 seconds, I used a sheet of blue shop towel to rub off the excess. After allowing it to dry awhile, I repeated the process on the outside of the recipe box.

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

After allowing the Plaid Pickle Wash to dry for the required time, I wanted to stencil on it. For stenciling I reached for classic FolkArt Acrylic, in – what else? – Vintage White! It was the perfect shade of not-quite-white to apply to make my stencil look vintage. True white would have been too stark against the the distressed Pickle Wash finish.

The stencil that I chose for the front of the box was large enough that it spans over the opening of the box lid. So to keep everything in place while I stenciled it, I taped the box lid shut with painter’s tape. Then, after sticking down the self-adhesive stencil, I also taped around the edges of the stencil, since the design went very close to the edges and I didn’t want to get any paint off the edges of the stencil.

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

I dd my stenciling with a super dry brush. I wasn’t worried about getting thick, solid color or about missing spots, since the whole idea is for a vintage, aged look anyway.

Once the stenciling was dry, I drilled a hole in the center of the recipe box’s lid with my drill. I selected a drill bit that was just a tiny bit smaller than the diameter of the screw for my decorative knob I was planning to use.

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

The finishing touch for the recipe box is the decorative knob that serves as a “handle” for the lid, and which emphasizes the vintage theme of the design. I chose this faux milk glass one because the vintage white look of the faux milk glass mimics the vintage white of the stenciled design.

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

The decorative knob came with a really long bolt on it, which would get in the way of storing recipes inside the box. So I got out my Dremel tool and cut it off very near the nut attaching the knob to the lid.

And that is it…my Mother’s Day recipe box was completed. Now that my recipes are stored so beautifully, I might actually have to cook and use some of them!

Pickle Wash Mother's Day Recipe Box

Review | Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy

Every so often, a craft tool comes along that is so simple, yet so useful, that I wonder how I ever got by without it. The Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy is one of those tools.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Lawn Fawn provided the Stamp Shammy that was used in this review to me for a separate project outside of this site, but I loved it so much I decided I wanted to share it here. Some links may be affiliate links that pay this site a commission when a purchase is made after a click, or advertiser courtesy links.]

Lawn Fawn Stamp ShammyAt first glance in the package, the Stamp Shammy (Amazon, Scrapbook.com, ACOT, Simon) is quite unassuming. In appearance it’s just a piece of turquoise cloth that is slightly under 5″ by 7″ in size. But once out of the package and soaked in water, it shows its true magic.

After being soaked in water, the Stamp Shammy turns into an all-in-one stamp cleaning solution. In my tests, it cleaned rubber and clear stamps of all inks – leaving no color behind on the stamp – except for solvent based inks such as Staz-On and Ranger Archival. Even with those solvent inks it left the stamp clean enough for the stamp to be re-used, but just left behind staining on the stamp. This included tests of pigment, dye, chalk, and hybrid inks from multiple brands.

Cleaning stamps with the Stamp Shammy does leave behind marks on the shammy cloth, but those are just cosmetic and do not mean that area cannot be used to clean another stamp. The staining may be an irritant for neat freaks, however.

Using the shammy is a simple, single step process. Just tamp or wipe your dirty stamp on the cloth until the stamp is clean. Then the stamp can be put away or immediately reused. The Stamp Shammy can also be used to wipe off my stamping block if I get ink on it while using a stamp.

Because of how simple it is to use, and the fact that it uses no consumable supplies, the Stamp Shammy is perfect for large scale repetitive stamping projects. The first project that I used my shammy for was to swatch some inks, leaving behind all of these small circles on the shammy. The shammy makes it ridiculously easy to switch colors for a project like that where you are stamping multiple times with multiple colors with the same stamp. Just stamp, swipe on the shammy, and then ink with your next color!

Lawn Fawn Stamp ShammyAnother project that the Stamp Shammy is perfect for is bullet journaling or planners. I just used it while setting up a new bullet journal, which meant stamping nearly 1000 impressions for calendar dates and events. When I was done, the cloth was quite stained from the black ink, but my shammy was cleaning fine. (The picture below was taken partway through the stamping.)

The shammy really decreased the amount of time it took to complete the calendar stamping versus my last time doing it to set up a new journal. And it made it so easy to do the special events on the calendar in a variety of colors!

Stamp Shammy Bullet JournalSince the shammy is wet while being used, I usually keep it on a thrift store plate (or a foam one) on my work surface to keep the table surface and other items from getting damp.

Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy

Since getting my Stamp Shammy I have drastically cut back my use of baby wipes to clean my stamps – great for both my budget and the environment. I use them only rarely now!

Its size and simplicity makes the Stamp Shammy the perfect stamp cleaner for stamping on the go at the crops or while traveling. It’s small, lightweight, and there’s no containers of liquid to haul (and potentially spill). Just find a sink to run some water on it and activate it, and you’re ready to go. One shammy could serve the stamp cleaning needs of an entire table of croppers! When you are done, throw it in a zip bag to take home. (Don’t keep it sealed up too long, though – be sure to lay it out to dry so that it won’t mold while sealed up wet!)

So what is the cost of stamp cleaning miracles? The price of the Stamp Shammy – an $8 MSRP – is affordable enough that prolific stampers can buy several and stash them where they use them most – their planner kit, their stamping supplies, their crop bag, or wherever they need it. I’m already plotting to add a second one to my supplies for my planner stash!

Pros:

  • Affordable ($8 MSRP)
  • Easy to Use
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Ink stains the shammy (but it still works)
  • Won’t take out solvent inks entirely

The Lawn Fawn Stamp Shammy is available in retail stores and from online retailers (Amazon, Scrapbook.com, ACOT, Simon) for an MSRP of $8.

Mommy Lhey February 2017 Little Bits Box Unboxing | Review

Mommylhey Little Bits Box

For those who love adding cute and colorful paper accents to their planners and traveler’s notebooks, the Mommy Lhey Designs “Little Bits Box” is a fun way to do it. I love planner supplies, but with my work and school schedule I don’t seem have time to go to very many stationary and planner shows. I have some favorite designers that I keep an eye out for, but otherwise I just don’t have time to do much searching for new products. When I heard that Mommy Lhey had a created a monthly subscription box which started in January, I jumped up and ordered it. I have purchased the “Little Bits Boxes” in the past when they were sold individually, however they sell out fast and I missed out on quite a few of them. Lhey Ralston is one of my favorite designers. She designs these adorable whimsical box sets that just make me smile every time I look or use bits and pieces from a “Little Bits” box.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box

The Mommylhey “Little Bits” Box works a little differently than some of the other subscription boxes that are available. You pay for the box a month in advance. So since I joined in January 2017, my first box was the February 2017 box, which I just got two weeks ago. She pays close attention to the items she includes in each box, and if something does not come up to her standards, the box may be delayed a little so she can get it resolved. Each monthly stationary subscription box includes a card from Mommy Lhey that has all the items in the box listed. For those who are visual people like me, I am going to list what came in the Little Bits planner supply box and add a picture of each item. The theme for the February 2017 Box is “Fresh Picked” and it contains a variety of stationary items. She personally designs the papers for each box and makes them two sided so you can choose which side you like best. Below are the items that were included in the February Fresh Picked Stationery box.

Mommylhey Little Bits Box Pattern Papers side A

There’s three sheets of  colorful patterned papers (with front and back designs on them) with the sweet “fresh picked” theme.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Pattern Papers Side B

The package of six journaling cards are very colorful and still small enough for me to use in my hobonichi planners.  These were in the same color family as the die cuts.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Journaling Cards

The Mommy Lhey die cuts are really well done and made of a thicker card stock than most.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Die Cuts & Ephemera

The box also contained a package of enamel dots, which is probably the only thing I was not excited about. I tend to not use them because they add too much dimension to my planner pages.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Enamel Dots

There was also this great package of  watermelon slice sticky notes!

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Sticky Note pad

The box also contained a package that held eight Sticker Sheets which is one of the largest amounts of stickers that I found a monthly subscription box to have without paying an extra fee for more stickers. Most boxes have two to four pages of sticker sheets. Below is a sampling of the stickers that came in the box:

Mommy Lhey Package of Eight Sheets of assorted stickers

Mommy Lhey Planner Stickers

Mommy Lhey Box Planner Stickers

This month, Mommy Lhey included a cute 2″x3″ stamp set that is the perfect size to use in my various planners ( an A5 Planner, Personal Planner, and some  Hobonichi planners). I am so glad that she used the fruits for tiny accent stamps and  had a little girl eating a watermelon for the larger stamp. I don’t think I would have had much use for a large fruit stamp. Since the stamp set is so small, these stamps also worked well in my micro traveler’s notebook. If you use them in a Hobonichi, just be careful what ink you use, though. Some inks really show through on the Tomoe River paper.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Stamp Set

She always includes a planner clip and charm in each box. For the February 2017 Little Bits box, she has included a cute little girl planner paper clip and an adorable cactus planner charm.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Planner Clip &amp; Planner Charm

I’ve looked a long time for one stencil that works in both my A5 planner and my Hobonichi Weeks Planner. I really like this stencil because it is small enough to fit in my Hobonichi Weeks box and it has a great assortment of useful designs like squares, flags, arrows, circles, checkmarks and more. She manages to fit quite a bit of shapes into a small stencil. You can see that there is some slight excess plastic on the arrow cut out, so I just cut it with scissors and smoothed it out with a nail file so that it would work perfectly.

Mommy Lhey - Planner Stencil

There’s also a pom pom pen and a “MyPrima Glue Pen” by Prima Marketing. I love this glue pen. It fits right into my pencil bag and I can easily carry it around with me. It also works very well at adhering my paper items. My daughter loved the pom pom pen because it had a fun plaid design on it.

My Prima Glue Pen and a Pom Pom Pen

Of course, it would not be planner supply box if she did not include a roll of washi tape. This month’s washi tape has a strawberry theme.

Mommy Lhey Little Bits Box Washi Tape

I feel this monthly subscription box gives me a lot of value of the monthly fee of $24.99 (plus shipping).  I really enjoy all of Lhey Ralston’s designs and look forward each month to her new releases. You can see more of Lhey Ralston’s design on her instagram page @mommylhey or her Facebook page.

[Note: this is an unsponsored post. I am a paid Mommy Lhey subscriber.]

Tutorial: Heart Chicken Wire Memo Board

Today, I’m excited to be sharing the first of two tutorials for projects that I made that were on display at the Creativation show last month in the Buttons Galore booth. This heart chicken wire memo board was so fun to make, and I so enjoyed sharing it with so many people at the show!

[Disclaimer: My company, Nally Studios, is the social media & blog manager for Buttons Galore. I am also part of blogger programs for Cricut and Plaid, who provided some product used in this article. Some links in this article are affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking.]

How to Make A Heart Chicken Wire Memo Board

Chicken wire is so hot for home decor, but using it doesn’t mean you have to create a design that is “farmhouse” looking. This bright, colorful heart chicken wire memo board will fit right in when it is hung up in my teenage daughter’s bright pink bedroom, and will be a great place to hang cards and pictures.

Supplies Needed:

This chicken wire memo board project is entirely made from scratch, cut from a sheet of plywood. The great thing about doing it that way is that it can be made to exactly the size that will work for the space that you have! (My heart is about 17″ high.)

To start this project, I needed a template to work from. If you have a steady hand, you could hand draw your cutting outlines on the plywood, but I prefer working with a template. To create my template, I used the basic shape tool in my Cricut Design Space Software to draw two hearts and merged them. Then, since my template was larger than the cut area on my Cricut, I used the rectangle tool to slice my heart into sections. Then I cut out all of the pieces and taped them back together to make my template!

heart template

After I made my template, I used it to trace an outline on my sheet of plywood. Then I cut out the heart outline with my jigsaw. To cut out the inside of the heart, I drilled a hole first with my largest drill bit. That gave me a place to insert my jigsaw blade as a starting point, and then I worked my way along the inside of the outline.

The 1/4″ plywood is surprisingly easy to cut and a heart is just gentle curves and straight lines – don’t be intimidated! (Don’t forget your safety glasses!)

Once the shape was cut out, I cleaned up the edges and the surface with sandpaper. Then I painted it with a beautiful shade of pink called “Vintage Victorian” from the Plaid FolkArt Home Decor Chalk Paint line.

buttons on heart memo board

After the paint was dry, I started on the button collage. It’s time consuming to do a collage like this, kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle that you don’t have a picture for, but I find it kind of zen and relaxing. Having the background be painted is a little cheat – it gives room for error and allows the project to still look right if an area of buttons doesn’t quite fit together correctly. Working in short sections and then letting the glue dry before going further is best to minimize the risk of inadvertently shifting buttons out of position while you work.

Let the front dry completely before starting to work on attaching the chicken wire, to make sure everything is secure!

chicken wire

The chicken wire is a bit stabby to work with but if you are careful it’s possible to get it applied without too much trouble. The most important thing in this step to getting a nice finished piece is making sure that the chicken wire is pulled nice and flat and tight.

I started by cutting a piece of chicken wire that was just a bit larger than my heart. Then I worked in small sections attaching it to the back with hot glue, and pressing masking tape down over the hot glue immediately. (Thanks to Teryn at Vintage Romance Style for the no staple technique!)

Once I did one area, I went across to the opposite side and pulled the wire tight and did that area. Then I picked another spot and went opposite it. I worked my way around the whole heart by going back and forth.

applying chicken wire to frame

After all the glue was dry and cool, then I clipped off as much as I could of the wire pieces that were hanging out, leaving one loop of wire at the top of each curve of the heart to attach a hanger to.

I could have stopped there on my chicken wire memo board, and just attached a hanger, but my perfectionist side wasn’t happy with the messy looking back and wanted to make it look a bit prettier. So I got out a roll of Duck Tape I had on hand (conveniently in pink that matched my project). Laid down in short sections on the back of the heart, it both covered the masking tape & hot glue mess and sealed in stray ends of wire that could poke.

applying duct tape

For the final touch, I cut a piece of ribbon from the 28 Lilac Lane kit to use as a hanger and looped it around the wire I had left exposed. A drop of hot glue adhered the ribbon loops in place.

This same technique can be applied to any shape or size chicken wire memo board….just draw or create a template for the design that you want! What shape do you want to make?

how to make a chicken wire memo board