Category: Article Series

Product Review: Planners and Journals Watercolor Insert

13932844_1177758938942376_6785521230065221577_nI have  always loved doing art on traveller’s notebook and so I was thrilled when my friends from Planners and Journals sent me a new product to test which is the Watercolor Insert.  I thought that when I first got it, that it was really pretty.

It is a standard Midori TN sized planner insert with Fabriano Academia (200GSM) watercolor paper.  it comes with about 20 sheets and is great for watercolor journaling, calligraphy and markers. The paper is also thick enough that it didn’t buckle when I used a bit too much water in my art.

Check out the Video below to see how it fared with my watercoloring

All about pencils

base_border imageHi! It’s been a while since I did a last blog about materials because of the busyness of the season. Well here is me trying to do more as we go along. Anyway today we talk about the basic of the basics, the best friend of the artist and the icon of creativity- the pencil.There are different kinds of pencils but we will be talking today about Graphite Pencils which are most commonly used in drawing.  In this article, we will explore the kinds of pencils, the pencil grades and which is best for which kind of art. I am also going to tell you my favorites and what I think you need in pencil drawing.

Again, this is a matter of my personal opinion. Any comments or arguments may be said in the comments. I am in no way an expert but I do share what I know.

Kinds of Pencils.

There are different kind of pencils that are commonly used by beginning artists. With pencils, I believe that you do not have to buy the most expensive kind or everything. The pencil is the most basic of basic materials and should be the one that you use most comfortably. That is where everything starts, after all.  Sketching is the first thing you do when you start a piece or practice so you have to find  pencil that suits you and your style– as well as something that you are most comfortable with.

Some people work well enough with a regular Mongol school writing pencil in #2 which is the same grade as the mid-way drawing pencil 2B. Some like Mechanical pencils which suit people who draw a lot of detail because of its  needlepoint precision. Some like lead holders/clutch pencils which allows the artist to shade freely and draw details with the point easier, however these clutch pencils are quite expensive and are actually kind of hard to find.  Whatever you are more comfortable with, should be the pencil that you use to draw.

I myself, prefer the wood-encased pencils — however, I do have a favorite mechanical pencil (which I call the magic pencil) because when I use that pencil I tend to do a lot of my best work in it. But of course that is just me.

enoAside from those kinds of pencils, there are also the colored lead type which is PILOT ENO. It is a mechanical lead pencil with colored LEAD which helps those like me who sketch messily find their lines in the sketch. It has several colors from green, blue, light blue, purple, red, pink and i think orange. I prefer using the light blue lead as a sketching pencil especially for inked works because that kind of pencil isnt seen in scans and can easily be edited out in photoshop. pilot ENO is available in National bookstore.

I also have a non-photo blue pencil which is similar to what the light blue pencil in PILOT Eno does. This light blue pencil is used by professional comic artists to sketch. I bought mine in Japan, and steadler used to have it here however now its kinda rare to find. So  I would suggest using Pilot ENO or a regular pencil instead.





Generally speaking, we have Graphite pencils which is the most common. These drawing pencils come in many brands but they have lead grades that ranges from 9H up to 9B. As a general rule of thumb, think of the grade as H- HARD, B- Soft.  HB is the regular Writing pencil and there is a pencil called F which means Firm.

Normally, H is good if you want light lines. However, does do indentions on the paper and is quite hard. Some H pencils are hard to see and they are ideal for detail work especially when doing detail inkwork.

B pencils are softer and are used to shade and smudge. Some people swear by an 8b pencil and do great portrait work or graphite work in it. B pencils tend to be dark and could easily be spread out. Most artists start off with a good 2B pencil and work from there.

You don’t have to buy all the pencils out there to make good graphite work. Most of us, like myself, use the pencil only to sketch out my artwork before inking or coloring it. For that, I prefer using a mid-range pencil – F or 2B.

There are times where in I am cautious about the cleanliness of my work, so I would use a lighter pencil. I would use only up to a 2H pencil or 4H (whatever is available) to do my sketches before inking them.

So, Marikit what pencils do I really need to get?

As I said before, you can use whatever pencil is available t you at the moment to practice sketches. However, if you are itching to buy yourself a set of drawincils, then I would recommend the following grades depending on the type of work you are doing and your style.

For anime and manga artists who like doing tight sketchwork and details – 2H for initial Sketching or F and 2B for darkening some lines pre inking.

For those who like to darken their lines and who prefer softer pencil feel : 2B or F for the initial sketch then 4B and 6B for darkening. I would use fingers, a tortillion or stump to blend or a cotton bud.

For those who are doing portraits and other detailed graphite work, then I suggest to get the following pencils. 4H, 2H, 2B, B, 4b, 6b and 8B.

As you notice, my goto pencil is the 2B which is the most common grade. Why? Its easy to smudge and is easily available (its like the mongol #2 pencil you use in tests) its also pretty easy to erase. So I do recommend that.


So Marikit, now I have my pencils how do I use them properly or is there any special care for them?

Well, pencils are pretty cheap – especially if you use the 2B only or just use them for sketching. I recommend though, to make the most out of your pencil to get a good sharpener and eraser. (I’ll do an article about erasers later)

For those using the pencil to shade, an exacto knife or box cutter should be used to get the longer lead out of your wood cased pencils.

Now that you have your pencils, go ahead and enjoy! Sketch and practice and shade to your hearts content. The pencil is the artists best friend so make sure you do get to know him a lot.

For more information:

[Art on a Budget]Tips on Saving on Art Supplies: 002. Do Your Homework: Materials

After  Tip #1 making a list as mentioned in the previous blog, you should have narrowed down what you need and you don’t need.  Now, I know you’re excited because you know that you have the money now to get your supplies and you have a list that you are 100% sure of. But, if I were you, I wouldn’t just hop to the closest store and go on a shopping spree. If you really want to be Smart Shopper, you might as well  do my


Do my homework?!  Wait, Marikit… WHUT?!

I said this before in the former blog but  I mean is, do research– canvass the best prices, look at different suppliers and materials before making the grand decision. This might seem painstaking and annoying, but it will save you a lot of moolah.

Here are some of my tips on researching stuff before shopping.


There are a lot of materials that are similar and one might work for one artist but won’t for another. So check your style’s strength to determine the type of materials that you want to get. If you are a beginner, you might want to go for schoolgrade or basic since  you’re still studying. But if you are an advanced artist with knowledge about your forte and the materials you are comfortable with, stick with those or find similar materials with better quality/good price on the net before setting out on your shopping trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Quality over Quantity. – materials with MORE in it, doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. Some of them have more in it because it easily breaks or is not to up to par with the quality you are expecting.  So you end up not using it (which means it goes to total waste) or buying another set because it breaks so fast. Some materials may be a little more expensive, but they are WAY better and you can use them for a longer time. That is good investment.
  • Invest on good basics- when I say good basics, I meant good quality for the materials you often use.  If you plan to use materials for a long time, invest on good quality materials. You may want to think about this when getting things like Graphic Markers, Colored pencils and Paint.

  • Know your materials
    – make sure you know about what you are buying before you buy it. You should know the things it is made up of, what quality, what it works against etc.  I personally have wasted a lot of money experimenting on materials such as paper, pens, inks and more.   Things went smoother in the supply front when I started researching my materials and knowing what works with what and what works for my style.Speaking of which, here are a few things that you might want to check when buying materials:IMG_77212

      • PAPER – Check the GSM.  GSM is paper density.Paper products that let little or no light pass through (e.g. poster board) are considered dense or heavy. Paper products that allow some light to pass through (e.g. tissue paper) are considered lightweight.  Vellum is about 180-220 GSM … it is heavy enough to hold ink and is sturdy enough for me to keep so I like it — plus it’s not that expensive and I get to keep my art for a longer period ( it won’t crumple easily) If you are planning to keep your art, this might be a good idea.Check the smoothness of the paper as well. The smoother papers are good for colored pencil ( if you like smooth blending like me) and markers. The textured papers are amazing for some color pencil techniques, pencil and  watercolor.  So consider that when making your purchase. Consider your style and what you are about to draw so you know what kind of paper you are getting.

        Acid free paper is also good if you plan on archiving your work. Acid free paper help the materials to not fade and lasts longer as it age. Apparently these yellow slower than your average paper.This kind of paper is known to protect artwork from harm due to the acidity that a lot of papers have. It will live longer and your art will stay forever

      • PENCILS – there are soft lead pencils and hard lead pencils. THe harder the pencil, the harder it digs into the paper making it harder to erase. Softer lead pencils are easier to erase but smudge more easily.  I prefer non photo blue pencils and softer lead pencils usually a B , HB or an F .   Mechanical pencils are great for detail work and you don’t have to sharpen them all the time.Apparently comic artists have their own pencil styles and preferences and I found it fascinating to know what kind they use for their art. For beginners, a wood pencil might work better until they get used to sketching but for advanced people,  your choice.  But just remember that if you are going to color with colored pencils or a similar material, the pencil lines WILL SHOW under the wax so it is better to use softer lead.
      • ERASER – a lot of people scrimp on erasers but I tell you. ERASERS are the artists best friend. I use it not only for erasing mistakes, but also blending and keeping my art clean. I have a collection of erasers which made people ask me why i have so many when you technically use them for one thing. I say that each eraser is for a special purpose.  I use fine point erasers ( the auto eraser with refills) for finer work, I use gum and kneaded eraser to lift fine points (when I twist it) and roll it to clean up my work after inking.  I use plastic erasers for general sketching and big erasers.For those interested,  the best erasers to purchase for a basic set is a good plastic and SOFT eraser ( so you don’t tear or crumple the paper and it doesn’t ruin the paper by being too abrasive)  and a gum eraser. Finding one with a triangle tip works too!
      • COLORING MATERIALS –  I would say a lot about this and this probably would make this blog SOOO long because of the amount of things I want to say about them. So, I’ll only give general tips and leave the finer points for later.
          • Choose your coloring materials to fit your style.  Some people think that the commercialized and the Pro- materials are the only things that make amazing art. BUT WRONG. I know people who use cheap colored pencils, wax crayons, normal mongol pencils, ballpens and even cheap paint to make masterpieces that i can’t believe. SO — it’s YOU who makes the art not your materials. Having good materials is  just the icing on the cake.  So if you have to buy coloring materials, make sure it suits your style of art and that you can make the most use out of it and not buy materials that are PRO but you cannot use them.
          • Colored Pencil buying tips – depending on your style, but check the wax content of the color pencil you are buying. Harder lead colored pencils are tougher to color with and dig into the paper. They have a lighter color laydown as well so it will be hard to get vibrant colors with it, however it might work with shoujo manga which has lighter colors.  Check also how old the pencil is . Older stocked pencils tend to harden and there will be white material build up on the lead. That makes it harder to color with until you rub it off.
          • Water Color Pencil – watercolor pencils are somewhere in between colored pencils and watercolor. These are good if you use both mediums and they blend better.
      • pin001INKS – if you use pen inks, then chances of it being copic proof are high. If you do not ever intend to color your work with watercolor and/or copics then any brand will do. But if you want to color with wet materials, look for things that are acid-free, lightfast, fadeproof,waterproof /copic proof etc.
        • Lightfastness – The lightfastness or permanence of a pigment is its resistance to change on exposure to light. Ink fades overtime when exposed to light so a lightfast ink is good to prevent it from fading and to keep your art for a long time.
        • Check what the pen is made of.  Waterbased ink is no good for copics/watercolor. Make sure you get  PIGMENT INK.

There you go! Once you have done your research and find out what you want go ahead and buy! Check places online like Artmedia Trading ! They give great prices and excellent service! ❤

Thanks for reading and I hope you learned a lot, the next part of the series is  BABY YOUR MATERIALS!


[Art on a Budget ] Tips on Saving on Art Supplies: 001. Make a List

materialsAs Manga Artists, new or old in the hobby, we know that a trip to the Art Store is dangerous for our wallets. Getting that one shade of graphic marker or a pencil may lead to a full basket of things that some of us may not need or cannot afford. So this series will cover  some of my tips on how to buy materials, where  to buy them and what to buy especially for those of us looking to create Art on a Budget. 

Tip # 1:  Make a List.

The worst thing we can do when manga material shopping is going to National Bookstore or any Artshop without a list in hand.  The reason is simple:  If  you don’t have a list, you obviously don’t have specifics on what you are looking for and what you need. Going without a list might also lead you to buying things that  you already have  and that is a waste of time and money. Without your list, you will go around and around in circles, not knowing what to get and really get frustrated if you either waste too much time being unsure of what to get and not getting anything at all or getting way too much.

So, Marikit, what do I put on my list?

Well… here are tips on how to make your list of things to buy before you set off shopping.

1. Evaluate what you need.   if you are a new manga artist I recommend you reading my blog The Truth about Manga Materials to show you the basic manga materials needed. You can also watch my video on Inking Materials to help you see what you need. But in a nutshell, here are things needed to create manga art:

      • Pencil – whatever you are comfortable with is fine but softer lead is better if you want to save your paper from being damaged by pencil.
      • Kneaded eraser/Gum Eraser  or a good quality soft plastic eraser. – getting the wrong eraser or a hard eraser might ruin the paper as you erase and ruin your artwork.
      • Inking Materials – most people start learning from inexpensive gel pens and then moving up to drawing pens. However if you are into drawing pens already , I suggest getting: 0.05, 0.1, 0.3, 0.5 in any brand (though i love unipins) and if you can find a good permanent marker with a fine tip and a brush marker (though the brush marker is only good if you can afford it).  However here is one tip i want to share: For inking large black areas, use:  black paint or china ink and a brush. It saves you money because china ink is cheap!
      • Paper: if you intend to keep and color your art, think of smoother the better. 70 gsm paper is good for sketches but its hard to maintain especially if you are a deep penciller. Depending on your art style I recommend vellum boards ( or the ones used for calling cards ) that are inexpensive but good for art. the GSM must be at least 120 and above with smooth finish ( depending on what coloring material you are using)  Personally, I use 220 and above vellum or bristol boards A4 size ( industry standard) or 8 1/2 x 11 ” (short ) size.  They hold up well to inking with nibs and my graphic markers, colored pencil and watercolor. Plus, it is nice to keep after since it will last longer than ordinary copy paper.
      • Coloring Materials : Depending on your style, you should know what your main medium is.  If you are just starting out, I would not delve into coloring yet but will concentrate on inking. However, if you want a colored piece there are a lot of materials that you could use.( I am going to do a video on Coloring materials soon, so look forward to that for additional tips too!)

        • Get good quality material for your best medium. I am a firm believer in QUALITY over QUANTITY and so if you are confident in using a certain medium (say: colored pencils or watercolor pencils) you should splurge a little on that because you can create more work on that.
        • Get Student Grade Watercolor – and by this, i meant really cheap watercolor for your backgrounds or for coloring. Watercolor blends easily and it is a very easy medium to use for big areas without hurting your budget
    • However, if you are an artist with existing materials, check what you have first and list down things that you really need.

2. Plan out your budget. – list out things and prices so that you will not go overbudget and spend too much.

3.  Research and Canvass before you list-  before you go out and buy things, check on prices online and offline and research different places to go to get the cheapest stuff. Make sure you also factor in your time and fare to go there.  If you know the price of the thing you need, then you will not go over budget and maybe researching can lead you to places where you can get it for cheap.

4. Know the difference between the materials you want and what you need so you can plan out what to buy.- I admit that i fail when it comes to this because my wants seems to be my needs but if you are on a budget, it might be smart to list things down first on a separate piece of paper and ask “DO I REALLY NEED THIS?” or “CAN I CREATE WITHOUT THIS?” and BE HONEST with yourself when you answer that.

Once you are done, transfer the narrowed down list on another sheet and get ready to shop!

I hope these four tips help you prepare for your next shopping trip for art materials. Stay tuned for the next tip to create ART ON A BUDGET: Where to buy?