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Colored Pencils – so many choices!

Reported by Marti Wills

Prismacolor colored pencils are easily the most popular and most well-known colored pencils, most likely because they are so readily available in nearly all art and big-box craft stores.  They are also one of the most reasonably priced.  However, they are not the only pencils out there!  I have been experimenting with some of the other brands on the market and been incredibly impressed with them!  They are a bit more expensive but for good reason and they are still well below the cost of a Copic marker!  So is there really a difference?  YES!  Can you do beautiful artwork without anything other than Prismas? YES!

I have been playing with the following pencils:

The first thing I will say is that it might be useful to purchase just a few of one color group in a different brand to experiment with and play with.  A lot of it comes down to personal preference and blending methods.

There ARE some color differences, but they are not necessarily extensive.  The biggest difference I have noticed is color intensity.  Think you can only get vibrant rich colors with Copics?  Wrong!  The other major difference is the hardness/softness of the lead.  I love the softer leads because I prefer to blend with my pencils as I color rather than using a solvent such as Odorless Mineral Spirits or Baby Oil. Luminance are the most expensive and while I loved them I do not feel the price is necessary.

I have several images I colored with different pencil brands.

This image is colored with several different types of pencils – Caran D’Ache Pablo (the greens), Luminance (hat & birdbath), and Polychromos (dress).  The lead in the Pablos is harder than I prefer & the Luminance, while amazing, are too pricey.  Polychromos are a bit softer than Prismas and color beautifully.  They blend together so smoothly!  The downfall – I feel they do not have enough pale colors.

One of the next sets I have been collecting are Derwent Coloursofts.  Also fabulously smooth with superb blendability and a softer lead.  I was easily able to layer/combine two colors to create an exact match to the turquoise paper.  72 colors total.

The other set I have been building on is the Lyra Polycolor pencils.  These pencils are different – they are oil-based rather than wax-based, giving them an unbelievably smooth, creamy texture.  Blending these pencils makes you feel like you are working with paint or pastel!  72 colors total plus 12 skin-tone colors.

This image is done completely with the Polychromos pencils, except for the skin, which was done using the Lyra Skintones set.  Polychromos are also oil-based rather than wax-based.  120 colors total.

So what have I discovered – while Prismas are easily obtainable, the other brands are well worth the hunt!

Pros:

  • Oil-based pencils – extreme blendability & vibrancy
  • Prisma – least expensive & easiest to find
  • Couloursoft – wax-based but softer lead than the Prismas.

Cons:

  • Limited color selection for some brands
  • The other brands can be a little more difficult to find in a store
  • Other brands are somewhat more expensive than Prismas

What colored pencils are you using? Or do you prefer to use markers for your coloring? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Cardstock Comparison

Reported by: Erin Bassett
With so many brands of premium cardstock out on the market now, I thought it would be nice to really look closely at some of the major brands and see if there was any big differences between them.
I decided to compare the ones I use most often: American Crafts, Bazzill, and Stampin’ Up. Here’s some of the similarities and differences you’ll find when purchasing them. You can download the chart below here:
Since I’m comparing them using the stash I have on hand, I don’t have all of the same textures for them. So, I was curious to see if that would play a part in my testing. I used the “orange peel” textured Bazzill cardstock, the “smooth” Stampin’ Up cardstock and the only texture that the American Crafts cardstock comes in (which is similar to a canvas texture).
Now as far as actual use goes, I didn’t really notice any major differences between them when I cut out some die cuts with my Cricut. I cut out the same shapes using the same settings and they all cut out about the same….not really a surprise since they are all the same weight of cardstock. (Although the Stampin’ Up cardstock seems a bit stiffer then the others.)
I also tested how Copic markers would work on them. As expected, I didn’t notice a difference.
One other test I preformed on the cardstocks is how well they folded. Nothing ticks me off more then paper that cracks when it’s folded. -It can make cards and other paper crafts look a bit tacky. Well, I’m happy to report that none of these cardstocks did that!!
Basically I think one’s choice between these cardstocks would boil down to the color and texture of cardstock needed for a craft project and how much it costs.
Pros:
  • American Crafts cardstock tends be the most inexpensive
  • Bazzill cardstock has a huge variety of colors and textures
  • Stampin Up has smooth cardstock that is perfect for stamping on
  • All three cardstocks preformed about the same
  • All three cardstocks are available for purchase online.
Cons:
  • With so many great papers you may run out of space!
Resources:
Do YOU have a favorite cardstock? Tell us what it is and why it’s your favorite.
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Acrylic Paint Comparisons

Acrylic paints are my favorite type of paints to work with. They’re inexpensive, and the color choices are almost limitless. I can stand in the paint aisle at a craft store and gaze at them for hours. The hardest thing to do is go in with a budget and have to decide which colors I’m going to take home. It’s a visual feast! If I had unlimited funds, I’d put one of every color in my cart!

I was recently looking at my stash of paints and realized how many different brands I had in there. I found that I was choosing paints at the store for the colors and not necessarily for the qualities the different brands offered. I started taking the paints out and playing with them with the purpose of seeing what the pros and cons were. Once I started doing the comparisons, I was amazed.

The 5 brands of paints that I did my comparison on are:

I started out with a canvas board that I’ve had since I was in my teens. I drew my design on this canvas back then, worked on it a little bit and then we moved, so it got put in a box and it’s been waiting all these years to be finished. I figured this was a great time to get back to work on it. I used this as my piece to compare my paints on as far as canvas went. I used a wooden piece for my other comparison for the same brands.

CERAMCOAT (by Delta)

I’ll be honest and admit that when I took all of my paints out to look at them (and I have WAY more than what you see in the basket above – those are just the paints I use the most of), I found that I had more Ceramcoat (by Delta) than the other brands. One of the reasons for this is the first PRO that I have for their paints.

* The Ceramcoat line has an extraordinary amount of colors available. More than I’ve ever seen of any other brand on the shelves at a craft store. There’s a total of 233 colors.

I know the packaging doesn’t make the paint better or worse, but I really love their packaging. it’s so clean and simply. It doesn’t feel cluttered like other paint brand packaging does. I just can’t help myself…when I see that label on the front of the bottles, I’m drawn to them.

I used Blue Heaven on the sky of my canvas and found the coverage to be very good for a primed canvas board. Canvases tend to hold oil paint on a first coat better than they do acrylics, so it’s typical to need a couple coats of acrylic to get full coverage.

Lighter colors do tend to show the canvas through them, but the Ceramcoat paints give a really good coat the first time. It doesn’t take much to touch them up after the first coat. The paint is thick enough for a good first coat, but not too thick to make it hard to work with in smaller spaces.
Wood is a much more porous surface and calls for a couple coats of paint as a primer. The Ceramcoat did really well on the first coat.

Ceramcoat touts their paints as “America’s Favorite Acrylic Paint.” The paints are a bit more on the higher end of acrylic paints. Most stores sell them for a MSRP of $1.69 per 2 oz. bottle, though there are bigger bottles of the more popular colors in 4, 8 and 12 ounce sizes.

These paints typically dry within 15 minutes.

APPLE BARREL (by Plaid)

The Apple Barrel line of acrylic paints are ideal for porous surfaces and great for wood, kids’ crafts, and basic crafting. They don’t necessarily work great for canvas work, as even with a second coat, the coverage isn’t enough.

After a second coat:

The bottle label recommends using them for porous surfaces and that’s definitely what I have to stick with unless I want to do 3 or 4 coats on a canvas. I find myself steering clear of the Apple Barrel paints when working with primed canvas, but when I’m working on paper crafts or wood, it’s an ideal paint to work with.

The bottle recommends allowing the paint to dry for 1-2 hours between coats, though I’ve found that I can administer another coat on a porous surface within a half hour.

There’s a little over 100 colors to choose from, including neons (which are hard to find in acrylics) and they also carry large economy size 8 oz. bottles of basic popular colors.

The price ranges from $1.29 – $1.49 in most craft stores, so they’re a good choice if you want a good-coverage paint for porous surfaces but you’re working on a budget.

ANITA’S

This is a brand that has been on US craft store shelves for years, though it’s hard to find much in the way of information online about them directly from their company site, Design Objectives Limited. I’ve got a fair share in my paint supply and they are a bit on the lower price range at around $1.19 per 2 oz. bottle.

I do like the Anita’s brand paints on canvas as they have good coverage and the colors are vibrant and very opaque. That’s one thing I’ve realized about paints that claim they are opaque. Not all paints are created equal. What one brand’s standards of “opaque” is…. another brand has a very different standard.


Anita’s paints even advertises as being ideal for using on canvas, which is a plus in my book. The first coat goes on thick and smooth and there’s not a lot of touch-up required.

There’s usually not as many colors available as Ceramcoat, which is why I tend to go with the Ceramcoat line more, but I find that the two brands are very comparable.

AMERICANA (by DecoArt)
There is a total of 235 color of Americana paint, which is 2 more than the Ceramcoat line, though I haven’t seen the full range of colors on a store shelf yet.

American boasts a total of 15 recommended surfaces for their paints and 5 of them are non-porous surfaces, which makes them ideal for primed canvas, one of my favorite things to paint. Because of the limited range of colors on most store shelves, I tend to veer toward Cermacoat, but the Americana paint is almost perfect for one coat on canvas. On wood surfaces it is even better.
This is one paint that I would really like to buy more of, as I like the appeal of a one-coat wonder.

Their price range is $1.19 – $1.29 per 2 ounce bottle, but they also carry 8 ounce bottles in selected colors.
CRAFT SMART (by Plaid)

I’m fairly new to this brand and just recently discovered it at my local Michael’s. This paint line is made exclusively for the Michael’s stores. Craft Smart also carries other art supplies that are made just for Michael’s.

I was looking for some low cost acrylic paints for my 9 year daughter to start out with, since she’s always getting into my stash of paints and especially my favorite colors (she has good taste!). When I found the Craft Smart line, I picked them up based on the price. At only 59 cents a bottle, it seemed like a really good deal for starter paints for a 9 year old.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality when I tried them out on my own projects. The quality of these paints are just one step below the Ceramcoat quality, but more than a dollar cheaper.

One of the downsides to this line is that there are only 74 colors available, so unless you’re willing to mix your paint colors, there’s not a large range of shades to work on complex colored projects. They’re ideal for projects calling for bold colors and also for kids’ crafts. The price makes them a great deal, especially if you’re working on a budget.


So, what did I find in my comparison?

The adage that “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true. Even some of the cheaper cost paints match up to some of the higher cost paints. The cheapest of the paints (Craft Smart) was almost as good as the most expensive paints (Ceramcoat).It also really depends on what you’re using your paints for. Some are formulated to work on all surfaces (Americana) while others are best used on porous surfaces (Apple Barrel).I’ve found that my paint collection is made up of a majority of Ceramcoat paints, but it’s not been out of a choice of quality, but rather the selection and the packaging. Now that I know what the differences are in the paints since doing my comparison, I’ll be expanding my collection to include more of the other brands and try to bring my paints together in color families, rather than brands.What brands are your favorite? Do you have a favorite color? What interesting surfaces have you used your acrylic paints on? Leave us a comment and let us know!