Sunday, 31 July 2011

Thanks SO much to everyone who applied for the DT call, I really appreciate your efforts & it was lovely to see the talent out there.  The call is now closed & unfortunately I cant reply to everyone individually as there are way too many.  I needed someone with very specific techniques this time round & have made my decision today so if you were successful you have been emailed by now. So sorry if you weren't successful this time but please don't give up and be too disappointed, I simply can't have everyone, much as I'd love to. Thanks again for your interest, keep up the good work you talented people! xx

Friday, 29 July 2011

a little review...

Crikester, the world of craft has gone flip-pen mental! (see what I did there, get it? no, ok, moving swiftly on...)

So, we are all colouring like the clappers, well I am anyway thanks to you lot, you haven't let me barely make a card since December 2010, nooo all you want is to see me colour in, what a great way to make a living!  So, anyway, in my colouring travels I'm currently very privileged to work with some of the best companies in the UK right now, Letraset and Kuretake. Now both of these companies have fantastic, professional grade products which us crafters have taken to our hearts and know and love only too well, and as we all know there are other brands around too, in fact at present there is so much choice sometimes it's hard to know the best choice for YOU.

But this week sees a new contender to the throne - Spectrum Noir. Now I knew these were coming having had a natter to the lovely Leanne from Crafters Companion about them a little while back so when I saw they were released this week I had to procure a set or two to test for myself. I asked Leanne if it was ok if I did an official review as I knew dozens and dozens of you would start asking me what they were like.  So this is a completely honest, unbiased opinion, by me, using them at home, not paid for in any way shape or form other than I will declare Leanne then sent me the rest of the set of Speccies so I could have a proper play with a good choice of colours to try.

So I have to admit that when I first heard that Crafters Companion were bringing out an alcohol based marker I wasn't expecting much to be quite honest. CC are synonymous with bringing good value crafts and I just thought "cheaper version" initially. Initially. When I opened the packs on Wednesday I was really short on time, had a quick scribble for 2 or 3 mins to get an initial impression, was a bit underwhelmed and went on my merry way, over to Hunkydory to play with Copics all day. And I have to say it preyed on my mind throughout the day that I hadn't done them proper justice and hadn't been fair in my opinions when I hadn't really used them properly.
Spectrum Noir  24 Pen Box Set - BrightsTonight, I decided to colour in a proper image as I normally would with a Promarker or Kurecolor or Copic and give the Speccies a good old road test. And road test I did.

Firstly, let's get it out of the way - alcohol based, acid-free and 168 colours and £6.99 RRP for the 6 packs.  I like that the larger packs come in a storage wallet you can stack - brilliant, storage is such a major issue for us crafters and some of the other brands are badly lacking storage.  And with 168 colours in the range we need to have some storage.
Spectrum Noir  6 Pen Set - Essentials

Secondly - the barrel is square. I'm not sure if I am enamoured with this or not, it takes a little getting used to but at least they don't roll off the table all the time!
3. Refillable! This has to be a BIG bonus as it makes them so much more affordable. Obviously I can't comment on this aspect having not needed to yet and CC don't currently have the refills listed on the website so I have no idea how much wonga this will cost etc. but no doubt it will be revealed very soon.

I do like that the colour coding on the ends is big enough that you can see it, although I did find some of the printed numbers weren't great and I think these will wear off pretty quick so you might find yourself with colours and not know what they are when you've had them a while.
You get a fine nib and a chisel nib which is very similar to the Promarker nibs but the chisel is larger which I found a little tricky but then I'm the freako who uses the chisel all the time, I know most of you don't so you will probably never even open that end, shame on you. The fine nib is about the same size as the Promarker one and they're both felt nibs.  They do feel slightly "scratchy" on the paper I use (which is our Ultimate Graphic ultimate smooth that I use for all my colour work) but this didnt have any effect on the paper itself or the technique so it's more about getting used to the different handling than anything else I think.
At this stage for me I think the worst thing about the construction of the marker itself is that it's a bit on the smelly side! I do frequently get a headache when I've been using alcohol markers anyway but these are a bit heavy on the old solvent smell so make sure you're well ventilated :D It's probably something that will wear off once you've used them a couple of times to be fair.

So I set about colouring in an image:

I'm not going to list the colours I used, that's not what this is about, but because there are 168 colours there is certainly plenty of choice. It also means the colours are grouped closely together in the colour spectrum which helps with blending similar colours together.

I did find that the inks "pooled" a little on the surface of the paper when I was using them but I was really quite  surprised at how rich the pigments were in the colours themselves and they are certainly juicy.  I know Leanne has put a lot of thought into the colour selections and you can tell that from the sets that are available.  Crafters Companion are pitching these as "products for Crafters" and they very much are that, rather than trying to emulate a professional top grade marker that a graphic artist or illustrator would use, sometimes crafters need something a little different.

Of course, they're a good price as I previously mentioned, compared to others on the market and because of that you expect a compromise.
I did find that I needed to work harder to get the blending I wanted unless the colours were similar, which meant that I had to load more ink onto the paper itself to move it around. If you use colours which are really subtle in shades you probably won't see this as an issue though, but I personally like to get a bit of contrast between light and dark in all my colours.

As I normally use a blender pen a lot to achieve soft blending I tried using the cross colour nib technique and it did work but the colour flushed through really quickly which meant I had to keep reloading the colour onto the nib  really quick. (I can't see a blender pen, must check if there is one). This made the colour bleed outside the image a lot.

Because I had to work harder to blend in both techniques, they did bleed considerably more on the image and you can see that especially around the jeans where I wanted to get a soft faded look to the denim.  On the tree itself I actually used 4 greens and was hoping to get a really nice soft blend but I didnt succeed very well and ended up more with a layered edge look as you can see in the photo, and I didnt want to keep going or it would have started to bleed quite a bit into the face.

A positive thing I noticed - this image is a printed digi image off the Magical Winter CD and whether it's luck or not I don't know, but there does seem to be considerably less smudging of the printer ink, especially on the face which is where I find it seems to happen all the time when you're using the palest shades.

One other thing that was noticable was the bleed-through of the paper. I used exactly the same paper as I always do and there is considerably more ink soaking through to the reverse of the paper, especially on the lighter colours as I find I don't normally get much at all on this stock (160gsm).
So, to wrap it up, pro's and cons I think:

Storage for larger sets
168 colours
Easily identifiable colours on the marker ends
Square barrel so they don't roll
Fine and large chisel nibs
Good pigments

Harder to work dark and light colours to a soft blend
Quite wet, colour can pool if heavyhanded
Bleeds over edge of image easily (colour inside the linework)
Bleedthrough on paper quite high
Because of the bleeding will probably use more ink
No blender pen?

Crafters Companion aren't trying to convince anyone that these are a professional marker that will compete with Promarker or Kurecolor or Copics. But what they are saying is that these are great for crafters. Personally I'm always open-minded and there's a place in this world for everything - my philosophy is always try it, compare it like for like, think about it, buy it. That way you don't buy twice because you made the wrong decision and always make sure you compare like for like. The choice is yours.

I would just like to point out that I demonstrate professionally for both Letraset and Kuretake on a freelance basis. I have no connections with Crafters Companion. All opinions expressed above are my personal opinions and do not reflect on any of the companies or brands mentioned in any way and nor have any of the brands seen this post before it is published on my blog. I only endorse products I would use myself and simply offer an honest and unbiased opinion on the products I've used through my time as an amateur and professional crafter. 

(In the interests of a level playing field, I will also review other alcohol based markers in the next few weeks)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Design Team Call...

Hi everyone! We are looking for a new member for our lovely talented team who can show us their awesome colouring techniques. So, if you LOVE colouring and you're great with your Promarkers, Copics and Watercolours and it's your speciality then please email us with a link to your blog and NO MORE than 50 words about yourself and why you want to be on the Polkadoodles team. 

You MUST be able to commit to participating in the challenge blog 3 times per month, making TV samples when required AND commenting on challenge entries each week, so please ensure you can do all this before you apply.  In addition, you can only be on one other digital design team. We will consider entries from around the world but as we need people who can make samples, because of time constraints, entries from the UK will be priority on this occasion. But don't let that put you off, we all know Nikky can never say no if she sees someone awesome!  We will be choosing someone over the next two weeks and results will be posted here. Please do not leave comments etc, all bloglinks must be sent by email.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I'm late...

...and I'm such a rubbish blogger.
I know.
I promise to return after Doncaster with some piccies.