Totes: A Little Bird tote is known to make people smile! The artwork is printed on both sides of this adorable, practical bag constructed of 100% spun polyester with black cotton web handles and made by Threadless. It is available in three sizes: 13” square, 16” square and 18” square. This bag is machine washable and perfect for daily errands, trips to the library, shopping or even using as a special gift bag for someone special. Consider pairing with a Little Bird zippered pouch to keep your small things from getting lost, or to keep your notebook or iPad protected from dust and scratches.
Drawstring Bag: The lightweight yet sturdy Little Bird drawstring bag is constructed of polyester and reinforced with a black liner. At 19”tall and 15” wide with a zipper pocket inside, it’s a perfect bag for going to the gym or yoga classes, but also great for shopping, trips to the beach, or jaunts around town. Ruby Charm Colors artwork is printed on both sides and is cute as can be! A matching Little Bird zippered pouch inside this bag is great for keeping your smaller essentials organized!
Little Bird is a design from the Ruby Charm Colors collection. The original b&w illustration was designed for coloring books and pages, while the full color artwork was completed on charcoal paper with colored pencils. Artist: Susan Carlson (Ruby Charm Colors); (c) all work protected by copyright.
This adorable 11 ounce butterfly mug can be used for coffee, tea, or whatever you’d like! Made of premium ceramic by Society6, this mug features wrap-around art and a large handle for easy gripping. It is dishwasher and microwave safe, and also available in a 15 ounce size as well [choose from dropdown menu on the Society6 page or click here].
ABOUT THE DESIGN: The black & white illustration this design is based on was originally drawn by the artist, Susan Carlson, for the Ruby Charm collection of coloring pages and books for coloring enthusiasts. This illustration was completed with a mix of watercolor and colored pencils, plus a number of pens for embellishments.
This week, I finally completed a color-test of my latest illustration for a new adult coloring book in the works and wanted to share my approach, tools and tips. I learned a few things about my process during this piece—things some of you more experienced colorists probably already know—but I thought they would be worth mentioning. The illustration took approximately 15 hours to draw, and probably about the same to color. It is 7×10 inches and the black and white line version is currently available on Etsy.
The butterfly is based on a pencil sketch I did a few years ago. I pulled it into Procreate and used layers to create a clean black and white line drawing, then added in the spheres, leaf vines, and two other butterflies. I drew one sphere and duplicated it three times, resizing and rotating each layer until I was happy with the composition.
When I save a digital file for future listing in my Etsy shop, I always create two images: one with pure black lines, and then another with lines that have reduced opacity to about 40-50%. I am starting to prefer coloring on the grey-line versions of my work because it allows me to focus more on hue and shape instead those black lines. I can then go back and darken or add lines where I would like to emphasize them.
I print my illustrations on card stock (in this case, it was Neenah Exact Index, 110 lb) with my Epson Stylus NX625 printer, and for the butterfly, I chose the grey-line version from the PDF.
My working space
I have a few hard artist boards I use to draw and color on because they provide a firm, smooth surface, and are easy to move around my desk (and off my desk if I need the space for something else). I also use an OTT Lite above my workspace as well as a small halogen desk lamp with a goose-neck. I also have another OTT light I can pull in if needed. Until I can get bionic eyes, I need to work fairly close to my illustrations. It’s frustrating sometimes, but being able to adjust the angle of my lighting helps.
My small desk area gets pretty messy while I am working.and I only clean up once a project is finished. I store all my pencils in BTSKY and Soucolor cases (which I found on Amazon) and organize them by color and brand and pull them out as needed. The reason I organize them by brand is because they behave a little differently on paper and I want to see my color options for a given need in one place. But more on that in a minute.
Even though the pallet appears to be somewhat limited for this particular illustration, I used many different pencils—brands as well as colors. I wanted to work purples and greens into the spheres, and over time, the colors sort of started dictating themselves. I sometimes have a loose color plan going in, but I don’t always stick to it. I admire colorists who can stick to a specific pallet—especially if it is a limited pallet. I’ve yet to try.
I usually start with the Caran d’Ache Luminance, Pablo, Prismacolor and Polychromos pencils, They provide a nice, soft base of color to build upon. I wish I could say I have one method I always follow but I don’t when it comes to blending. Sometimes I work from darker colors to lighter, sometimes lighter to dark. And I sometimes start wth my mid-tones and work out from there. My favorite pencil for lightening areas and adding highlights is the Luminance white pencil. I’ve used a variety of brands, and this one has become my go-to. It effectively blends underlying colors, but lays down white pigment more effectively than my other white pencils.
With the purple triangular areas for my spheres, I put down a very light layer of Prismacolor Parma violet from the points to about 3/4 of the way down the triangle shape. Then I used Black Cherry from the base (with a heavier hand but decreasing pressure back up to the point. Bistre (#179), one of my favorite Polychromos pencils, was then used to blend the Black Cherry and Parma together from the point about halfway down. The brown really warmed up the violet hues. I blended a little more with those base colors, then used my black Irojiten pencil to deepen the shadows at the base of the triangles. And added a touch of Irojiten Crimson to the tips. Finally, I finished off the triangles with a mix of Irojiten Iris, Plum and Crocus to burnish and seal my colors.
I tend to work with a lot of layers – maybe too many – and I also feel the need to practically push my colors right into the paper. I don’t necessarily recommend this practice (I am not a colored pencil expert) – it’s simply the way I work to get the effects I want. And I experiment a lot and may change my ways over time. But for now, I like to burnish my colors with a final layer using the Irojiten pencils. Because they are harder than most pencils (especially the Prismacolors and Polychromos) they help “press” or “melt” the pigments into one another. Burnishing is typical done with a colorless blender (like the Caran d’Ache full blender) but I discovered I like using the Irojitens instead. The provide a touch of pigment in addition to burnished results and add a little more saturation and depth to my work. You have to choose your colors carefully, but it works for me. So with the purple triangles, using the Plum Irojiten gives a little more reddish saturation to the violets, while the Iris plus in a little more blue. Since Crocus is rather light, it works well as an overall blender with this set of colors.
Another tip with the Irojiten pencils – using Eggshell (which has a very pale yellow tint) is wonderful for burnishing greens. Don’t be afraid to experiment with these lovely wax-based pencils if you own a set. It seems people either love them or hate them, but do give them a chance. Play with your colors on scrap pieces of paper while working to see how different tints will react to your base layers. I purchase my Irojiten pencils through Blick as they have both sets and open stock as well. Since I use black and eggshell the most, I can easily purchase individual pencils.
Another reason I love the Irojitens is that they help give a little sheen to my work and they get rid of any small white spots that may have been left behind from my pencils skipping over minute “pits” that may exist in the paper.
My final step after burnishing (and sometimes during) is using my Verithin pencils (which have a fine, hard point) to sharpen and enhance some of my lines and refine shapes. Sometimes I’ll use a Faber-Castell PITT pen to add darker lines and details as well, plus a few gel pens to add small dots and other embellishments. I prefer matte over metallic Sakura gel pens (because they don’t reflect as much when I scan or photograph my work for other uses) and have a set of Soufflé pens.
That’s about all for now! Feel free to bookmark or follow my blog as I plan to start adding videos as time allows.
“How did you get those colors to pop like that?” Ive been asked that question countless times, and I can say in all honesty that it’s not so much my skills as an artist, but my willingness to experiment with different colors and pencil brands.
While putting my first coloring book together this past July, I purchased a few packages of tinted card stock from Michaels (the “Recollections” brand) so I could include a few of my illustrations on pale blue and brown paper. It was an experiment inspired by an drawing I did of a Lion Fish since, yep, the ocean is blue. Some of the packages I bought included sheets of darker charcoal and black card stock. When I had a little time to color, I printed my Little Bird design on charcoal just to see how it would look. And wow was it fun to color!
I posted my work in progress on Instagram and my followers seemed to love it, too. They inspired me to keep going, and I eventually created a Black Magic coloring book. I knew I would not sell a lot of copies (especially early on), but I wanted to make it available to those brave enough to try–and there are some courageous souls out there from the US and Canada to Germany, France and Malaysia. (And it’s pretty cool to know my illustrations are being colored around the world.)
It took a little experimenting, but I found that certain pencil brands and colors worked better on darker papers than others. For Little Bird, for example, I used mostly Prismacolor and Faber-Castell Polychromos. A light layer of Prismacolor Light Aqua allowed me to build up a few darker shades on the body and wings, like Prismacolor Aquamarine, Electric Blue, Peacock Blue and Indigo mixed with Polychromos Prussian Blue, and Cobalt Turquoise. I also mixed in several green, French grey and brown hues.
The white pencil from the Caran d’Ache Luminance series (and no, I can’t afford the entire set, sadly) is one of my favorite, most used pencils. As with most of my pencils, I order them from Blick individually as needed and usually keep a few sharpened and easy to grab on my desk. They work very well to “pull up” or lighten areas I want highlighted, and they also work well to blend colors (but with a whitish cast).
If I don’t want a whitish or chalky cast when I blend larger areas, I’ve found that my Irojiten pencils (which are fairly hard) work very well–especially if the color I choose is slightly darker (or lighter) than the colors I am trying to blend. Using similar shades can really saturate or intensify the colors, and if I color with a lot of pressure (but not enough to snap a pencil tip) the Irojitens work great as burnishers. And I adore the smoothness of the black Irojiten pencil (which I order individually through Blick) for working in shadowed areas.
The big take-away here is to experiment. And don’t be afraid to screw something up! It’s going to happen now and then, so just embrace your mistakes as opportunities to learn something new about the tools you are using and what it is you want out of your coloring.
I don’t typically plan out all the colors I want to use in a given piece, but I do have a “feel” for what I am going for overall. And I very rarely end up there because the colors sometimes make the choices for me as I work. But that’s okay! When I am using dark paper, I try the colors I want to use on a duplicate print out of my illustration on the same dark paper. If one brand of the color I want does not lay down enough color, or just doesn’t show up as well as I’d like it to, or looks crappy next to another hue, I try another brand or another shade. I don’t have as many colored pencils as many of my fans do, but I do experiment. A lot. My desk is littered with scraps of paper with little scribbles of color on them.
Another key to working with black ink on black (or dark) paper is to have really good lighting. I have a small OTT light and an older halogen light I keep on my desk. Both have bendable necks that I can twist to just the right angle to see my lines. The lines on the Little Bird illustration weren’t too hard to see, but on black paper (like the card stock I used for my Black Magic coloring book) the lines can be very challenging to see–especially for some of my more highly detailed designs. The coloring I started of Ruby Charm herself (below) was done on the same card stock I used in Black Magic and, as you can see, is quite dark. Using a white Verithin pencil to lightly trace over detailed lines that are difficult to see can help quite a bit. As you color, those white lines will be absorbed, so don’t worry.
Finally, I add a lot of my smallest details with a fine-tipped black Faber-Castell PITT pen (to carefully emphasize some lines and dark areas, and a small collection of Sakura Soufflé gel pens for dots. I like the Soufflé pens because they are matte and photograph and scan better than metallics or glitter pens do. The beauty of purchasing, downloading and printing any artist’s coloring pages (I am a big fan of Etsy for this!) is that you have control over not only the paper quality (which is a huge issue for many colorists) but also the color or tint of the paper itself. And if you purchase pages through Etsy, you are directly supporting an artist!
If you have a computer and printer, all you need is a free version of Adobe Reader to download and print your files. Check your local craft and office supply stores to see what they carry in regard to card stock, and don’t be afraid to play around!
Coloring on darker papers can be very challenging, sometimes frustrating and time-consuming, but it can also be unusually rewarding.