Fonts of the Month

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I’m picky about a lot of things, and fonts are one of them. There are so many ugly and abused fonts out there (don’t worry, I’ll be doing a post all about them soon), so for me there’s nothing more refreshing than discovering a new font that I love. This post marks the beginning of “Fonts of the Month.” I will be featuring five free fonts every time.

Here’s a little background on this month’s choices:

Cyclo — When it comes to fonts, sanserif is easily my favorite kind. I chose to feature cyclo because I just love the futuristic aesthetic. The letters are all very round and each one is interestingly shaped. It’s only suited for limited uses, such as titles or logo design, but it’s a fun font to have on your computer.

Sugarcubes — I used to say that I wasn’t a fan of serif. Sugarcubes changed all that for me. It manages to look minimalist while being serif, and it’s a very versatile font. It works for titles as well as body text.

Sweet Pea — There are so many handwritten “faux calligraphy” type fonts on Creative Market these days. It’s a very trendy look right now, so a not a lot of designers are making theirs available for free. Sweet Pea is one of the few ones that is, and it’s a great font. It’s by Sweet Type, and if you search them up on DaFont.com you’ll find that she has a few other nice handwritten free fonts.

Abril Fatface — I see this font all the time on Pinterest and I was glad when I found out it was free. It has a lot of potential for design and I just find it to be inspirational. It’s almost like a Times New Roman that looks good.

Liquido — Fonts can be art, so I wanted to feature a font that was more along those lines. Liquido looks like a typical long sanserif font (like Bebas Neue or something), but it has this weird wave running through all the letters, which creates a clever optical illusion. The one I showed is the fluid version, but it also comes with a regular that doesn’t have the wave in it. It’s such a cool font and it’s free so I just had to feature it!

If you’re a font lover like me, you can discover a lot of cool fonts through Pinterest. However, people do pin some pretty ugly fonts, so use your judgement.

What’s your favorite font? Tell me in the comments below!

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Paper Tips and Tricks #1 — Apple Zoom

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The simplicity of Paper (the digital drawing app by 53) allows for people to really explore. A few geniuses have gone beyond experimenting with the tools and have made some amazing discoveries that they share on Mix. One of these is the ability to use Apple Zoom to zoom in further while drawing in paper.

At first when I saw this and tried it, I was not impressed. I mean, it’s blurry, it’s hard to control, and sometimes your marks will end up in random places. But it’s really grown on me.

A lot of people have had the same first impression. It’s not ideal, but with patience and practice, trust me, it works. Of course, it will work better with Pencil but if you’re determined I’m sure you can make it work with your finger.

First of all, you can’t use Apple Zoom alone. Well, you can, but it’s useless because the tools don’t scale down. You have to use Paper’s zoom combined with Apple Zoom. You can adjust the Apple Zoom loupe to get the zoom amount you want once you overlap.

The Fountain Pen works amazingly well in Apple Zoom. The Fountain Pen, or Draw tool, completely changes when I use it like this. Instead of creating unevenly thick lines, it creates steady, consistent, thin lines. Almost like the marker, but a thin version. None of the other tools work nearly as well in zoom. The marker, or Outline tool, can be okay for precise coloring as long as you don’t zoom in too far. As far as I’m concerned, the watercolor (Color) tool is completely useless in this case. I haven’t really tried it, but you might be able to work with the Write and Sketch tool.

Be extremely careful. What happens to me all the time in Apple Zoom is that I’ll draw a line, and then nothing shows up. Outside of Apple Zoom, this can happen sometimes. Usually you just think “oh well” and draw it again. You can’t think like that in Apple Zoom, because every time that happens, you actually do make a mark. This happens because Apple Zoom is not designed to work with Paper, and sometimes the software does not know you are trying to draw in it. It will draw the mark in a random place, and this might not affect you if it ends up in some white space (because you can erase it later) but it will if it ends up on some precious part of your drawing. So, every time a mark does not show up, move your Apple Zoom and check for a random line on your page. If you see one, rewind, and then you can go back to work. If you don’t rewind, it might be hard to fix later.

Be patient. The random marks I talked about above are guaranteed to slow you down, but don’t let that stop you! Here is a piece of work I made in entirely in Apple Zoom:

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I published a copy of this on Mix that lets you make your own rose frame with the cut tool. I put roses, leaves, palettes, and some instructions to get you started.

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What can you create with Apple Zoom? Share it in the comments below!

Pens

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There are a lot of pens out there. A lot of them work, but not a lot of them work good. When it comes to illustration, a standard ballpoint pen just isn’t going to cut it (speaking of ballpoint pens, this is the best one I’ve found. I was also impressed by this one and this one).

Here I’ve put together a list of my favorite pens.*

1. Pentel Energel — These pens are good for everything. I use them for both writing and drawing. The name Energel is a little confusing because it might make you think of Gelly Roll pens. These are different and much more versatile. Energels have replaced ballpoint pens for me — they dry fast, the ink is a dark solid color and it comes out effortlessly, and they’re good price. There are quite a few models available — Energel X, Energel RTX, Energel Alloy, the original capped Energel, and Energel NV. All of them are refillable except for NV. The only difference between X, RTX, and Alloy is the material it’s made from — all three are retractable. The other two have a cap. There are lots of different color options, although I only use black. There are 3 options for tips — fine (0.5), medium (0.7), and bold (0.9). My favorite is the fine point.

2. Sakura Pigma Microns — There are a lot of pigment pens out there, and I’ve tried a lot, but none of them beat the Microns. The ink in the Microns is the best quality (waterproof, acid free, fade resistant) and they just work better. They’re a little pricey but they’re worth it if you need pens for illustration. If you like pigment pens for writing, you’re better off with these. There are also other types of pens and markers by Sakura that use the Pigma ink.

3. Sharpie Fine Point Pen — There is a lot of confusion when someone hears the word “Sharpie Pen.” The one people typically think of are the smelly ultra fine tip permanent ones. Those are not the ones I like.

I’m just going to clear this up right now: the fine tip permanent sharpies are just a fine tip version of the regular permanent ones. They are not for drawing on normal surfaces such as paper. A lot of people use them as if they were pigment pens. They are not. They are for writing on surfaces like plastic or metal.

The kind that I use are pigment liners. They are made by Sharpie, but they do not smell and have nothing to do with being permanent. Sharpie is well known for making permanent markers, but they are an office supply company that also makes highlighters, pens, and pencils.

So the pen that I want to talk about is simply called the Sharpie Fine Point Pen, and it is a pigment pen similar to the Microns I talked about earlier. They are more versatile than Microns, however, and you can find them in regular office supply stores when Microns are only available in high end art stores. These Sharpie pens are easy to use and work for both drawing and writing.


Those are my top 3. What are your favorite pens? Tell us in the comments below!

*I’m hoping to add more in the future!

Erasers

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The confusing thing about erasers is that they’re all supposed to do the same thing. I mean, with pens or markers, there’s lots of different kinds and some are specialized for different purposes. Not really the case with erasers. The only thing they are used for is removing pencil marks. Yet, there are so many erasers and only a few stand out from the crowd.

I’ve tried a lot. I’ve always been determined to find the absolute best one, and even once I’ve found one that I love, I’m still convinced that there’s a better one out there. A long time ago, my “best-ever” erasers were this one and then this one, but after a lot of time to experiment and experience other kinds, I don’t think very highly of them any more.

Here are the two erasers that I have currently decided* are the best:

Caran d’Ache Technik eraser — I found this at Blick and it is the eraser I use the most. It’s a non-abrasive plastic eraser, so if I’m erasing pencil lines from an image I traced with ink, it does not erase the ink. It is very smooth and fun to use. The main setback with it is a bizarre chemical reaction that happens with most plastic erasers. If the eraser is near plastic (in a pencil case, for example), the eraser will stick to it and “melt” the plastic. So I keep this eraser away from anything it can melt. That means if you want to store your eraser with, say, plastic office supplies or in a plastic box, it will melt it and ruin it.

Hello Kitty erasers — I know this sounds super weird, because it’s not like an eraser should be good just because it has a character on it. I don’t know why, but for some strange reason the best Japanese erasers are always white block erasers with Hello Kitty wrapping. They may look the same as those Hi-Polymer Pentel ones, but these are way better. I wish there was a specific brand who made these, but there isn’t. They are just these random Japanese Hello Kitty erasers, and they’re hard to find. They are plastic erasers, I’m pretty sure, and I guess you could say they feel “gummy.” They are very similar to the Caran d’Ache eraser, only I like these a little more. In my experience, these do not melt plastic. I have regarded them as the perfect eraser, except for the fact that they are hard to find. You can usually find them in an Asian store. These domo and angry birds erasers look similar, so it might not be limited to just Hello Kitty.

As for the worst eraser I’ve ever used, there are a lot of bad erasers. There’s those kind (they’re usually the erasers on the ends of cheap pencils) that actually add marks to the page instead of erase. I guess the absolute worst are these Lalaloopsy erasers. I don’t know why I had them but all I can say is that are they are the worst erasers ever. And on Amazon they’re $6! They were so unbelievably bad that it was like erasing with a water bottle or a phone case or something. You almost have to try them just to experience it the badness.

What’s your favorite eraser? Say what you think in the comments below!

*As I already said, I change my mind so if I find a better eraser in the future, I will update my list.

Chartpak AD Markers Review

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In order to find the marker that works for you, you’ll need to experiment. These Charpak AD markers aren’t mainstream. If I look them up on Pinterest, not much shows up. They’ve been around for ages, and I’ve noticed that when I go to the art store, they tend to be hiding in a corner behind the giant case of Copics.

They’re worth a try. The result is a bright, solid, consistent ink that mimics watercolor. They are blend-able, and the chisel tip is really easy to use (there’s also a fine-tip option). One marker last a really long time and they are comfortable to hold. These are permanent, and they are also waterproof. They come in around 130 colors. The price is good too in my opinion — about $3 per marker.

However, I tend to avoid these markers most of the time because of the smell. If you use them too long, you are guaranteed to feel lightheaded or get a headache. The smell also takes a long time to clear out, so I only color with these outside. They are not refillable, and they bleed. They bleed onto the other side of the paper in addition to bleeding outwards from where you drew. If you are using thin paper, then you need to put scratch paper underneath or else they will bleed onto whatever surface you are drawing on. Bristol paper or Rendr paper are the most compatible in my experience.

If you are at the art store, test them first. Smell them. See what you think. They are good quality markers, but I don’t think they’re for everyone.

Paper by 53

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There is quite a selection of drawing apps for iPad if you take a look. Paper by 53 is my favorite. I’ve tried other apps and Paper is just better.

Their approach to digital drawing is keeping it simple. That means no brush sizes, no layers, no photo import, and no paper sizes. It sounds weird, but it’s actually great. It gives you a chance to really explore each tool and how it interacts with other tools, just like how you do in real life. There’s not much thinking involved. The tools just work. In my opinion, the app Procreate has too many features, which distracts from the creative process. How can you get your ideas down if you’re always fiddling with opacity?

Using Paper


Your drawings are organized in notebooks, which you can name and change the covers of. You can easily add, duplicate, and delete pages, as well as move them around.

Once you open up a page, a shelf of tools will pop up on the bottom, Originally, Paper was free to download, but it only came with the fountain pen tool, the eraser, and limited colors. The four other tools and the color mixer were all in-app purchases. Recently, however, 53 made all of the tools free so that everyone could use them. In March, a second set of tools was added to Paper, called “Think Kit.” That’s free, too.

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There is a zoom feature as well as an undo/redo thing called Rewind. The zoom loupe will show up by pinching (just like how you zoom normally). Rewind works by rotating two fingers counter clockwise to undo, and rotating two fingers clockwise to redo.

Pencil

The reason 53 could afford to keep their app free is because they came out with their own stylus, called Pencil. It is modeled after a carpenter pencil, and it comes in 3 models. Pencil is very lightweight, portable, and easy to use. You connect it by pressing the tip to a button on the screen. Once connected, Pencil unlocks new features, including blend, palm rejection, and surface pressure. It also slightly changes the way the tools work. Pencil has an eraser that you can use without switching tools. I have the walnut model, and I love it. It’s my favorite stylus. However, there is one thing that really bothers me about it, and that is the durability of the tips. The tips are made from thin rubber, and they wear out quickly. There is one extra tip in the Pencil package, but once you go through that one, you’ll have to buy more. Even though the holes form quickly, I try to use the tip as long as I can before switching.

The Tools

The Originals

1. Draw  The yellow fountain pen, called the “draw” tool by 53, is a tool that created solid black lines of varying width. If you draw fast, the thickness of your lines will be uneven. However, if you zoom in and write slow, you have good control over how thick or thin you want your line to be. This tool is great for writing, hand lettering, and drawing.

2. Sketch  The orange pencil, also known as the “sketch” tool, mimics what a real graphite pencil looks like. The lines are initially thin and light, but you can really darken them by going over it a few times. When the Pencil stylus is connected, you can create really fat strokes by turning onto the thicker side of the tip. This tool is best suited for initial sketches and drawing. It’s terrible for writing.

3. Outline The blue marker, or the “outline” tool, is my favorite. It works really good with Pencil connected. It creates nice thick, even strokes. With Pencil, it creates fat strokes out of zoom, and thin strokes in zoom. It’s a great tool for writing and coloring, and I even use it for drawing.

4. Write The brown pen, called “write”, creates blotchy, thin lines. If used right, it can make your handwriting look good. It can also be used for drawing, and the tool doesn’t change much with Pencil connected or in zoom.

5. Color The purple paintbrush, a.k.a. the “color” tool, mimics watercolor. It’s the tool I use the least, and after using Paper for a long time and still can’t say I have much experience with it. You can create lots of different looks and even sort of blend colors together. It’s only good for coloring.

Think Kit Tools

6. Diagram The diagram tool of a shape (for example, a square or a circle) and the diagram tool will turn it into a perfectly polished version called a “smart shape.” You can also use it to draw lines and arrows.

7. Fill This tool looks like a blue paint roller, and you can use it to fill smart shapes with color. You can also fill empty areas with large blocks of color by dragging (this is called freeform fill).

8. Cut The cut tool is a gray pair of scissors that allows you to cut out a part of your drawing and duplicate it, move it around, or throw it away.

Color Control


9. Mixer/Color Picker — the mixer is a circle that allows you to create your own colors by swirling to mix them. You can also tap to see HSB sliders for an accurate color. You can tap to reveal the color picker, which allows you to copy colors from the page.

10. Palette Slots — the palette slots give you a place to store the colors that you mix up. You drag and drop the colors into the circles for easy access, and you can organize them in a way that is convenient for you. Paper comes with default colors in the slots, and once you customize yours, there is still an option to revert back to the defaults.

Stylus or Finger?

I’ve only had Pencil for six months or so, but I’ve been a Paper user for about two years or more. I never liked any other stylus because there was no palm rejection (it’s only for Pencil). For a long time I used my finger!

The drawings I made before I had Pencil and the ones I make now are very similar. Pencil is a lot of fun and much easier and quicker to use than a finger, but to be honest you can achieve a similar result with your finger with some hard work, patience, and practice. I think Pencil is totally worth it, but you can still use Paper without the investment.

Mix

In September 2014, 53 added a new service called Mix that works within the Paper app. It has over 1 million creators as of March 2015. You can sign up and share your creations made in Paper, as well as see what other artists are making and follow them. Not only that, but you can “remix” their work. You can draw on it and add to it, color it, change it, whatever you want. I’m going to post a separate entry all about Mix in the future.


In the end, Paper is a great app and remember that everything except for Pencil is free (be aware that Paper is  not compatible with iPhone and is only available on the app store.)  I highly recommend it and hope that you give it a try. I love Paper so much that sometimes I forget that my iPad does other things. See what you can create!

Copic Markers Review

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Copic Markers are popular for their ability to blend. I used Chartpak AD markers before I used Copics, and I quickly switched over because they are low odor, non-toxic, and refillable. The Copic sketch edition are the most popular and come in 358 colors. These are oval shaped (so they don’t roll around), and dual tipped (one brush tip and one chisel tip). The brush tip is great. I find the chisel tip sort of useless and difficult. The markers work on almost any paper, but they can bleed onto the other side.

Copic Markers come in three other forms — original Copics, Copic Ciao, and Copic wide. The wide marker is just one giant chisel tip. The “original” ones have a square barrel and two tips — one is chisel, but the other is a different, smaller brush tip. They hold the most ink. Copic Ciao has the same tips as Copic sketch, but the barrel is round and smaller so they are slightly cheaper.

The biggest drawback for me with these markers is the price. They are worth it if you use them a lot, but start out by only getting the colors you really need. I have a pretty small collection, so I use Chartpak markers alongside the Copics.

Before you buy any, make sure you know how to tell which colors blend (all the markers have a code that tells you the hue, saturation, and shade). Learn how to use the markers before you try them! I was so glad I did this. There are tons of tutorials and introductory videos to get you started. Copics quickly became my favorite way to color, so give them a try! They work on pretty much every kind of paper, and if you use them right, your art is guaranteed to look good.