Coloring Birdy

My newest coloring book, Birdy, has been in the works for quite some time and it feels really great to have all the artwork and the book layout work done and submitted to the printers. There is still some work to do (mostly hoops to jump through) before we get the final copies in our hands, but I did receive an author’s proof in the mail this week from Amazon!

There are two versions of this book – one that will be printed on demand by Amazon (8.5 x 8.5″ square format) and released in the coming days on Amazon, and then the special Artist Edition (9 x 9″ square format) which is being printed on heavier paper and spiral-bound. While waiting for the author’s proof of the Artist Edition, I decided to take my first author proof copy of the Amazon version for a spin with a few different colored pencil brands along with some gel pens.

This design is called Bedtime Blossom Buddies since it has a “night” or dark background. The paper is not super thick in the Amazon version, but it works just fine with colored pencils, and you’ll see I added some watercolor (Karen Spencer’s micas) to my work in progress as well. I grabbed a few Caran d’Ache Luminance and Tombow Irojiten pencils and began with the leaves, then progressed to the birds and branches. Lots of lights layers building up to my final colors.

One thing I like to do when coloring is to mix blending tools / techniques to achieve the results I want. The three main blending tools I use are the Prismacolor Colorless Blender pencil (which is great for “mushing” colors together). This blender can dull your colors a little bit, but it is excellent when it comes to getting rid of the little white speckles left behind when layering your colored pencils over toothy paper.

The second tool I use is the Caran d’Ache Blender Bright stick. I only use this as a final treatment because it seals in the colors, and once you blend and burnish an area with it, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to add more color over that area. The great thing about the Blender Bright is that it actually intensifies your colors and makes them look more saturated. So whatever dullness you see after using the Prismacolor Colorless Blender, the Blender Bright brings those colors back to life. On a side note … something I have noticed lately is that it is becoming more difficult to find the Blender Bright sticks. Blick carries them in a pack with their wood-cased colorless blender, but I can’t find 2-packs of just the Blender Bright (or single sticks) any longer. I reached out to Blick and was told that are a few companies who are discontinuing the individual sticks since they are easily damaged in transit, but there was not a notice on their end about these being discontinued. I also reached out to Caran d’Ache today and will let you know what I find out.

The third blender I use (and it’s not really called a blender) is the Caran d’Ache Luminance Buff Titanium pencil. It is off-white in color and can add an earthy, pale, yellowish-grey tint to the colors on your paper. This pencil is fairly soft and has a blending quality that feels more silky and supple than the other Luminance pencils (which I also love). You can use the Buff Titanium over a wide variety of colored pencils (they don’t have to be Luminance) and you can get them at Blick through open stock one at a time. I highly recommend getting one to add to your collection of coloring supplies if you like playing around with different blending techniques and tools.

Another tool I have very recently come to love (and why I didn’t get one sooner is beyond me) is the T’GAAL pencil sharpener. I know there is lot of hype around this sharpener (and I usually ignore hype) but this little thing is no joke. One of the best sharpeners I have ever used. It has 5 different settings so you can adjust it for your own needs, the blade is very sharp, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of waste which is great news for those of use who are on a budget. I use the 4 and 5 settings for my Irojiten pencils to get the sharpest point possible for detail work, and I’ve been using 2 and 3 for times when I am filling in larger areas of color.

5 sharpening points available on the T’GAAL pencil sharpener.

I often use a very sharp Irojiten pencil to recolor black or grey lines, and to add extra details to my work like the lines in these feathers.

This coloring is coming along slowly (still not done) but yesterday I added a little bling on the wings using Karen Spencer’s mica watercolors. If you don’t know about these yet (and she has traditional watercolors as well) you can read about this fabulous artist and paint-maker here and find her watercolors on Etsy.

To add some bling to some of the long feathers I used “Shy Violet” and “Veri Peri” and then I used “Gold,” “Golden Orange” and a little “Coral” for the flower centers.

I have become a big fan of waterbrushes, especially since most of what I paint when coloring a page consists of smaller details, or, lager areas that I plan to color over with colored pencils. I know I have mentioned this a few times in the past, but a layer of watercolor pencils makes a wonderful base layer for regular colored pencils once the area is fully dry. The dried watercolor usually enhances the quality of the paper. If you would like to see some of my favorite water brushes and where to get them, check out this list on my Art Supplies page.

In addition to pencils and paints, I also used a few Faber-Castell Artist Pitt pens to color in the fine white curly lines coming off the bird backs. When coloring on a black piece such as this, the Pitt pens only show up on the white areas (usually not the black) so they can be great for details where you might not want to see overlapping pencils marks.

For the bird bodies, I used a light layer of Caran d’Ache Museum watercolor pencils (Sepia 10% and Night Blue) to create a base layer, then finished the bird bodies using Luminance French Grey and Grey Blue (see below). I drew a few extra feathers with the Plum Irojiten, and a few leaves using the Cactus Irojiten, and then “buffed” or blended it all out with the Luminance Buff Titanium to achieve a soft look. The final touch on the bird wings are dots of white using my Sakura Souffle gel pens, and I used the Sakura Moonlight pens (grey and pale blue) to add some curls off the head feathers and a few stars in the top right corner.

That’s as far as I got on the Bedtime Blossom Buddies before I had to tackle a few other ongoing projects like the planning 2023 Creative Companion, designs for a few fun products, plans for opening preorders for the next reprint of the Artist Edition of the Big Book of Color Charts, and more. It’s going to be a busy fall in the RCC studio!

Hope you all have a wonderful, creative weekend!