Search

Hanna-Mae Illustration

Illustrator & eco clothing designer

Tag

tutorials

Last minute Mother’s Day make

If you had your heart set on something handmade this Mother’s Day but left it a little too late to order anything, why not try making your own? This month’s tutorial shows you how to make a simple decoration and is suitable for anyone who can use back-stitch. This can also be done on a sewing machine but I find it relaxing to work by hand.

You will need:

 

mday1.jpg

  • Pink felt (you can choose whatever colour your mum will like)
  • sew-on decorative elements
  • embroidery thread (or ribbon) in keeping with your colour scheme
  • Cotton (I used a stand-out colour for a decorative effect, you can use same colour as your felt if you like)
  • scissors
  • pins
  • Cookie cutter or template
  • Stuffing (you can use pillow stuffing but all items should be available in HobbyCraft)
  • Optional: essential oils

Step 1

Fold your felt in half and draw around your shape with tailors chalk (available super cheap from craft stores)

mday2.jpg

mday3

 

Step 2

Pin inside your outline and cut out your shape.

mday4

 

mday5

 

Step 3

Separate your two pieces and position your embellishments where you’d like them before pinning into place and sewing.

mday7

 

Step 4

Place your two pieces together and pin into place, leaving a gap at the top to stuff/insert your embroidery thread or ribbon.

mday8.jpg

 

mday9

 

Step 5

Back-stitch (or machine sew) around the edge of your shape (remember to leave a gap for stuffing)

Step 6

Get bits of your stuffing and start filling your heart. If you want to you can add some essential oil. I used lavender. Carefully use a pencil to push the stuffing in and make sure it’s evenly distributed before sewing up the gap.

mdayfinal.jpg

 

This idea is highly adaptable. You can attach all sorts of things, even add beads for a bit of sparkle. Craft shops usually have ready-made shapes for you to buy so you can skip the delicate cutting out and get straight to the sewing.

 

 

Advertisements

Monthly tutorial: St David’s Day

For those of you not from Wales you still may have heard of St David’s Day but not know much about it. Saint David’s Day is the feast of Saint David, patron Saint of Wales, and is celebrated on the 1st March as this is the day he’s said to have died in 589 AD. Today we mark the occasion in different ways, including wearing our national emblems the leek and the daffodil. Schools often hold concerts and special assemblies and I remember being so excited to wear my traditional Welsh lady outfit to school. As this special day is coming up soon, I’m dedicating this month’s creative tutorial to it and will be showing you how to make a decorative pinwheel daffodil. I got the idea from when I helped out at a children’s summer art school where we made paper summer flowers and have adapted it to fit this specific occasion.

Decorative Pinwheel Daffodils

daffcollage.jpg

You will need:

  • Light yellow thick paper
  • Darker yellow (or orange) thick paper
  • A yellow or orange button
  • A split pin
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (or strong double-sided tape)
  • Thick craft wire
  • Any tape (I used masking tape)
  • Green beads (optional)
  • Green floral tape (optional)

Start by cutting out two squares from your papers. I cut mine to 10x10cm but you can make them larger or smaller depending on how big you want your pinwheel.

daff11.jpg

daff10.jpg

Draw a line from corner to corner on each piece of paper and mark 2cm from the centre on each line.

daff9.jpg

Cut from the edge up to the 2cm mark and stick the lighter paper on to the darker paper using glue dots.

daff4.jpg

 

daff8

 

Now you need to start folding your edges over. Start at the top and alternate. You need to bend to the right and stick the end with a glue dot until you have the shape below.

daff7.jpg

 

Make a hole through your pin wheel and secure with a split pin.

daff6.jpg

 

daff5.jpg

 

Take your wire and cut to the desired length. You can get coloured wire or you can jazz up plain wire by wrapping floral tape around it and adding some beads. Leave a little of the end unwrapped so you can push it into the ground. Attach to the back of your pinwheel using tape.

daff3.jpg

 

Use all purpose glue to attach your button to cover the split pin. This step is optional but I like the look it gives.

daff2.jpg

These pinwheels are decorative so don’t spin, but they look beautiful placed in plant pots. You can get creative with your pinwheels and add glitter glue or use any colour paper you want. All the materials used for this tutorial are available in Hobbycraft.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

Final leg of the learning curve

This month I’ve been talking a lot about perspective with this month’s review being the book ‘Perspective & Composition’ by Barrington Barber (you can read it here). I’ve been continuing my learning curve with practising using the 1-point and 2-point perspective method and looking up examples of good perspective artwork.

I found this youtube video to be particularly good in clearly explaining the method (click to open new window): ‘How to Draw in Perspective for Beginners‘. Youtube can be a great resource for art enthusiasts, particularly those who are teaching themselves.

I’ve been a member of the website DeviantArt for a while now (my first account was set up in 2006!) and I’ve always found it an inspiring place as you get to see other’s art work and browse whatever topic takes your fancy. This past week I’ve been taking a look at ‘perspective’ and here are some pieces that really caught my eye, some because they clearly show the use of perspective lines. Click the names to be taken to the profile.

TitaniumDream

perspective_practise_by_titaniumdream_dbh91d-pre.jpg
‘Perspective Practise’ by TitaniumDream

I like how this piece is a mix of imagination and theory. You can clearly see this is an exercise in perspective and can see the 2-point perspective lines.

EpHyGeNiA

anatomic_perspective_by_ephygenia_d2glpnl-fullview
‘Anatomic Perspective’ by EpHyGeNiA

In the book I reviewed last week there were various examples of where perspective can be used. The human body was briefly covered and this is an example by EpHyGeNiA.

 

LisaCrowBurke

d2v8ktx-57ab6cde-46fd-4300-8ac1-fcd21cc99b2f.jpg
‘2-pt Vertical Perspective’ by LisaCrowBurke

I love this piece as it’s so interesting. I think it’s a great example of an interesting perspective but I think it’s made so much more than that by the inclusion of the pigeons.

 

 

Next week I’ll be bringing you a special St David’s day tutorial and I’m excited to say that soon I’ll be visiting the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition: ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing‘ to mark the 500th anniversary of the famous artist’s death.

Monthly Review: Perspective & Composition

Last week I talked a bit about the online art course I’ve started and how one unit had been focusing on perspective (link). The unit prompted me to dig a bit deeper into the subject and today I’ll be reviewing the book ‘Perspective & Composition’.

Image result for Barrington Barber perspective

 

Full title: Essential Guide to Drawing; Perspective & Composition

Author: Barrington Barber

Price: £4.99 – £23

Where to buy: WaterstonesBook Depository, Amazon, ebay

About: An instructional guide to the ‘rules’ of perspective and composition, with step-by-step exercises.

I first came across Barrington Barber’s instructional drawing books when I was a teenager and used to lap up the art books in The Works. Although this particular book claims to be ‘practical and inspirational’ I’d argue that the former is at least true! As someone who loves step-by-step instructions both written and with visuals, I do like Barber’s books. However, this more methodical, instructional tone doesn’t exactly get you fired up with creative ideas. The covers of Barber’s books tend to be quite tame with a ‘school’ vibe about them and the interior looks almost text-booky. However, the contents is quality.

The layout is logical, with a clear font, sub-titles and diagrams so is good for all kinds of learners, be they visual or more text-based. There are also mini projects throughout to ensure you understand the concepts being explained so there’s a good balance of theory and practical.

I think this book would be best suited to art students, particularly around GCSE and would be useful in a classroom or tuition setting. Although, it would also be useful for those teaching themselves. One section mentions ‘Compositions by Master Artists’, which could potentially encourage further research and study.

Another thing I like about this book is that although it’s short it tries to keep the users interest by covering different ways of using perspective, for example when drawing people or objects in addition to just landscapes and scenes.

Although this book wouldn’t encourage me to purposely seek out any more of Barber’s books I did take something away from it and it’s worth a read if you’re really struggling with the concept of perspective. For me, the best way to learn about perspective is to practice, practice, practice and learn to trust your eyes; draw what you see, not what you think you should see.

Monthly Review: Making Handmade Books

Last week I showed you some ways to use up your leftover wrapping paper from Christmas, including how to make a boring notebook look a little more interesting by covering it with paper. It got me thinking about how over the years I’ve liked to create my own books and folders to suit my needs (in fact I’ve only just recycled the planner I constructed two years ago; I made it to suit everything I needed, including a to-do section,a shopping list section,a notes section,an emergency contacts section,a day-by-day plan section, and even an inspiration section for when I was low and in need of focus). As someone who loves to work things out and create my own patterns (it’s the asperger’s in me! I love to construct/deconstruct things!) I’ve spent many hours working out measurements for folders,books and boxes. However, sometimes a little inspiration is useful in creating new designs, and for those who aren’t sure where to begin it’s good to have some step-by-step instructions along with lots of visuals. In my second year of university we had an exceptionally brief workshop on bookmaking, which actually set me off on the joy of creating my own books and folders. In the workshop a book was recommended and that’s the book I’ll be reviewing today: Making Handmade Books, by Alisa Golden.

Full title: Making Handmade Books 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms

Author: Alisa Golden

Price: £9 – £20

Where to buy: Waterstones, BookDepository, Amazon, Ebay

Brief description: Step-by-step instructions along with a generous helping of visuals showing you how to create many different books, wallets, folders and more.

51eze4gu9kl._sx422_bo1,204,203,200_

 

The Good

For me the best feature of this book is the use of images. I benefit greatly from being shown visually what to do in addition to just being told/given written instructions so this book is great for both text-based learners as well as more visual learners. However, not every single step is shown, just ones that the author deems most in need of extra explanation.

The second thing I like about this book is the layout. Each project is divided clearly, with a bold title for each. Each step is also clearly numbered and diagrams are labelled. I feel this approach is very useful for those who struggle to follow instructions, as it allows you to break your project up into smaller bits, allowing you to focus on one step at a time.

Another thing I like about this book is that you get more than you may have initially expected. You learn not only how to construct some interesting books/folders etc but you also find yourself discovering some unique artists. As someone who enjoys learning, I read the ‘Artist’s Bio’s’ section with curiosity. I feel this would also be useful for art and design students who may wish to research the artists further.

Continuing with the topic of ‘extras’ this book is full of them! In addition to the bio’s the book also includes several pages dedicated to ‘Ideas & Concepts’, complete with inspiring images and stories of interesting collaborations.

The not-so-good

Whilst the book provides lots of information and numbered steps to guide you through each stage of your project, some designs are particularly difficult. The majority would be too complex for children, which is why I feel this book is aimed at adults and older teenagers. This is a foray into the world of serious bookmaking as an art form, rather than a weekend project to occupy children. I admit that some of the designs put me off as it was evident that a lot of time and concentration would be needed and the diagrams themselves were very complex (for example the ‘Tetra-Tetra Flexagon’).

The only other potentially negative point is the need for specific tools for some of the projects. For example, linen tape, awl, certain boards.

Conclusion

Personally, I would recommend this book to anyone who has a serious interest in bookmaking. I think it’s best suited to adults and older teenagers, particularly those on design courses or who have a love for making and creativity. I find myself revisiting this book on regular occasions and for myself it has been worth every penny. The price is reasonable and it can be found easily.

 

bookcollage.jpg

 

Monthly tutorial: Fun paper projects

Before Christmas I promised I’d show you some crafty ways of making use of that mountain of wrapping paper that inevitably amasses after Christmas day. If you’ve recycled your paper already (some papers can’t be recycled, see last months post here: link) this is a good way to use up those annoying bits that are too good to recycle but that clutter up your wrapping stash.

Please forgive my less than perfect photos, my 8 year old digicam has served me well but I have a suspicion it’s on its way out!

notebookcollage.jpg

 

origamicollage.jpg

 

You can easily find origami tutorials online and your library may even stock some books. If your new years resolution was to try a new craft, what better excuse to give it a go? This works best with thicker wrapping papers.

Another craft you may enjoy (and which I find very relaxing) is decoupage. You can buy special materials such as decoupage papers and glue/sealer but really all you need is some thin wrapping paper and PVA glue. It’s so simple you can get stuck in without much preparation. The Range stock extremely reasonable wooden shapes. I’ve used a little wooden birdhouse.

birdhousecollage1.jpg

 

You will need:

  • Your base shape (such as my birdhouse)
  • Scrap wrapping paper
  • PVA glue
  • A paintbrush
  • A container with a little water in

Instructions

  1. Tear your wrapping paper into small pieces
  2. Mix a little bit of water in a pot with a blob of PVA glue (make sure to stir well until fully mixed)
  3. Paint a thin layer of your PVA mix onto one area of your shape and put bits of wrapping paper over it
  4. Paint over with your PVA mix
  5. Keep layering and painting on glue until you’ve finished the entire shape
  6. Put somewhere to dry

Useful Tips

  • Don’t mix your glue with too much water or your paper won’t lay flat
  • Smooth the paper as you go along to get rid of any lumps and bumps (yes, you will get a little messy!)

 

This is great to do with children as it’s simple and your get results quite quickly. The next how-to is also fun to do with slightly older children but again be prepared for gluey fingers!

Paper beads

beadcollage

 

You will need

  • Left over/scrap wrapping paper
  • cocktail sticks or kebab skewers
  • PVA glue

Instructions

  1. Mix a small amount of water with PVA glue
  2. Cut strips of wrapping paper approx 1/2 cm in width (the length you use will depend on how layered/thick your beads will be)
  3. Get one of your skewers/cocktail sticks and loosely wrap your paper once, fixing it with a dab of glue (try to avoid getting too much glue on the wood or you won’t be able to get your bead off later!)
  4. Continue to build up, adding a coating of glue as you go and smoothing out gently with your fingers
  5. Once you reach the end of your paper strip, make sure the outside has a coating of glue and either put your bead stick somewhere to dry or continue using it
  6. Leave until completely dry (the glue will have given your beads a slight gloss and hardened them up) then gently twist to get your bead off the stick.

Tips & Notes:

There are two ways you can make your beads, either tapered at the ends or just even. To get a tapered effect (like the red beads above) your beads will be a bit longer as you need to work from one side to the other. The easiest way is to just keep rolling your paper up, but once you’ve practised a little you can start trying other ways of wrapping.

This works best with brighter, patterned paper and you can use this method with fabric too. Get creative and try wrapping bright threads around your beads!

The most useful tip is to NOT WRAP TOO TIGHTLY around your cocktail stick/skewer as you won’t be able to get your bead off. I made this mistake myself when I started learning to make paper beads but you’ll soon get the hang of learning just the right ‘hold’ on the stick.

Whilst I waited for my wrapping paper beads to dry, I made a bracelet using some paper and fabric beads I’d already wrapped before. For these I used scraps of handmade paper, felt scraps, recycled sari material and even some left over paper I’d been stamping on (rubber stamping that is! Not foot stamping!)

bracelet.jpg

Monthly tutorial: Developing your ideas

This month I’ll be guiding you through how to develop your ideas. For me, this part of the creative process is just as important as the creating itself, as it’s the pre-planning that forms a solid foundation for my work. So let’s get stuck in…

‘Where do I begin?’

If you’re working towards a brief (if you’re studying art/design at GCSE onwards this word will become familiar to you and you’ll hear it often) then you have a good starting point. Read it carefully and make bullet-points or highlight exactly what it is you need to fulfil. Are you designing a Christmas card? A design for packaging? Does the brief state what style/feel they want? The more information you have the easier it is to generate ideas. Starting a self-led project from scratch can be difficult because every decision you make has to be your own and a successful design isn’t usually created by just picking up your paintbrush straight away without any blueprints. If you don’t have a brief, set yourself one. Write down briefly what you want to create, who/what it’s for and what sort of style you want. For example, I’m creating a Christmas card design, it’s for my family and friends, and I’d like it to convey warmth and cosiness and be in a cute illustration style.

‘What next?’

Now you’ve got your basics you need to build on this. Your task is to convey your meaning successfully. It can help to make some notes (I like to do colourful spider diagrams) to get any ideas in your head down. Let’s use my brief as an example. It’s for Christmas so I’d write down all the things I associate with Christmas, for example: holly, mistletoe,family get togethers, gifts, snow, stars etc. Do the same for the other important messages behind your intended design, in this case ‘warmth and cosiness’, which made me think of things like: blankets, thick coats/jumpers, fireplace, hot drinks etc. You’ll have quite a bit to work with by the end of this idea outpouring, so you need to narrow it down and decide which elements you think will work well together or excite you most.

Next steps…

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to include it’s time to pull the pieces together. How are you going to put these elements together in a way that’s natural and pleasing to the eye? It can help to do a bit of research at this point, see what other artists have done, and how they’ve gone about positioning things. If you’re designing a greeting card it can be really useful to browse card selections in shops. Bear in mind the message you want to communicate and work around this. For me, I wanted my design to be ‘soft’, which means soft, rounded shapes that curve and flow, rather than sharp edges. This is why I chose to position my chosen features (poinsettias, mistletoe etc) in a circular wreath and made my character rounded. Collecting images and making a small inspiration board to refer back to can be really helpful. When designing my Christmas card I collected a few photos of poinsettias and hedgehogs and worked from these, remembering my desire for ‘softness’.

 

 

hedgehog.jpg

drink.jpg

gingerbread.jpg

 

I like to do rough sketches of each element I plan on using before bringing them all together. I knew I wanted to include a hot drink in my design so I sketched a couple of versions of this until I found a version I was happy with. I like to make notes next to my sketches, for example, I wanted my hedgehog to be more rounded, so I wrote a note to remind myself ’rounder’. It’s ok for your rough work to be messy, no one will see this stage, this is your chance to get all your ideas down and play around to see what works.

Colour!

When you’re happy with your sketches and have decided the layout of your design it’s time to think about colour. Some colours work harmoniously and this is what will be most pleasing to the eye. Have a think about what sort of message you’re intending to send with this design, do you want it to feel cold and wintery for example? (in which case you’d consider cool colours) or warm an cosy? (in which case you’d consider warmer colours). For my design I wanted warmth but also to continue the feeling of ‘softness’. For this reason I chose not only warmer colours but quite muted versions of these colours. By this I mean I didn’t choose just orange, I chose a more burnt orange. A lot of the colours I chose I had to mix with colours such as burnt umber, burnt sienna and ochre to get that muted tone. I’m a huge fan of building yourself a collection of paint sample cards for use in your art/design planning. Get a file and get in to the habit of picking up some sample cards/booklets any time you find yourself in or passing a DIY/home shop. You can also just pay a visit to one when you have your colours already in mind. If you know you want cool colours, go and pick up sample cards just of these. You can do this for each project. I then hold colours I think I want to use next to each other and decide which appear most harmonious. When you’ve chosen, stick them to your rough sketches so you have a guide of what goes where. As you can see below, I’ve assigned colours to various parts of my character.

nov2

 

Starting your final design

Before starting your final design it’s useful to work out sizing and most of the time I like to have a complete rough version with everything in place. Once you know where everything is going and how large it needs to be, it’s time to select your paper and begin. You can read about selecting the right paper in my guide: ‘Choosing the right sketchbook‘.  I chose to use fine grain heavyweight paper as I wanted a hint of texture as well as a paper that could hold oils well. Once you’ve transferred your design, you can begin adding colour. What medium you use is up to you but it’s essential to use paper that can handle your medium (see my mentioned guide, above, to read more about this).

As you can see on my rough pages, I’ve mixed my colours and tested them next to the samples before applying them to my piece. It’s a good idea to have some scrap paper nearby to test your colours on, particularly as they can appear different on your palette than on your paper. Some colours can dry lighter, some darker.

blognov1.jpg

I’ll be revealing my own complete design next month and kicking off December with some unique, creative gift ideas for you!

Happy creating!

Monthly tutorial: Halloween treat bag

Halloween is coming up so this month I’ll be showing you how to sew your own mini drawstring treat bag. As my blog followers will know I’m a huge fan of recycling/upcycling material (take a look at my eco wear: link) so when I was given a stash of random bits of material I was keen to get stuck in and get sewing again. I hand-sew all my items as I like the control and the feeling that i’m really engaging with what I’m doing. I also feel that hand sewing can be therapeutic due to the repetitive motion and concentration it requires but this bag can be done using a sewing machine if you don’t have much time. Some materials are easier to work with than others. Generally speaking thinner cotton fabric is quite easy to work with. The spiderweb material I used had a lycra-esque quality to it which made it difficult to work with, for this tutorial I recommend sticking to non stretchy fabrics.

You will need:

halloweenbag12.jpg

 

♦ A cutting mat (optional but useful!)

♦ Fabric scissors

♦ Fabric marker/pencil

♦ Pins

♦ Sewing needle

♦ Cotton thread (in colours matching your material)

♦ A piece of material measuring at least 32 x 18 cm

♦ A piece of contrasting material measuring at least 32 x 8cm

♦ 2 pieces of ribbon approx. 32cm

Step 1

You’re going to need to cut out two pieces of material for the main part of your treat bag. Using a fabric marker/pencil, mark out two rectangles measuring 16 x 18 cm and cut out.

halloweenbag11

Step 2

For your casing you’ll need to cut out two rectangles measuring 16 x 8cm.

halloweenbag8

 

Step 3

To give a neat edge, fold shorter ends of your casing over 1cm and pin in place before sewing. I used basic backstitch.

halloweenbag7

 

halloweenbag5

 

Step 4

Pin your larger pieces of fabric together around three edges (2 long edges,1 short) with the wrong sides facing. Sew with 1cm seam allowance and turn the right way.

halloweenbag10

 

halloweenbag4

 

Step 5

Take your casing pieces and fold in half so you can see the neat side of your stitching. At this point if you have time it’s good to press your pieces with an iron but as I had limited time I skipped this step. It just makes your material more well behaved and neat. Pin your folded pieces to the top of your bag (raw edges at the top)

halloweenbag3

 

Step 6

It’s up to you how far down you wanht to sew, the further down you sew the less of the contrasting material you’ll be able to see and bear in mind you’ll need to be able to get your ribbon through. As I had a gap at the top of my material where the spiderweb pattern stopped I chose to sew quite low down, just above half way but anything 1cm or over is fine (providing you can fit your ribbon through).

halloweenbag2

 

Step 7

Turn your casing in. This is also a good time to press your material to keep your joins/edges crisp. Please remember that some fabrics can only be pressed at a very low heat though! Stretchy fabrics can actually melt. If you’re using cotton as recommended this isn’t a problem.

Step 8

Attach a safety pin to the end of your ribbon and feed it through the gap you’ve made with the casing.

halloweenbag1

And there you have it, your own unique Halloween treat bag! This pattern is so versatile, it can be used for any occasion, including Christmas and birthdays. You can alter the sizes to make a smaller or larger bag and is a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Choosing the right sketchbook

You’d think it would be the easiest thing in the world: finding some paper to start your art project. But when you’re just starting out in the world of art (such as GCSE students etc) it can be perplexing to navigate your way around the vast options available. Don’t be tempted to reach for the cheapest option just to save some money! I’m sure plenty of you have been in a situation where you begin full of enthusiasm only to find that your paper is wrinkling or your ink bleeding. This is because it really is important to be using the right kind of paper for your piece, it really can make or break a piece. I’m going to take you through the basics of choosing a sketchbook when you’re just starting out, or are just getting serious about pursuing your artistic interest. I’ll be putting key points/tips in bold/colour.

All sketch books will generally be suitable for what it says in the title: sketching. Just getting some ideas down in pencil. Where problems usually arise is when you begin using other mediums, especially ‘wet’ mediums such as paints and ink. The very basic sketchbooks you can find almost anywhere (such as budget shops) are usually not suitable for anything more than just getting down some ideas in pencil.

Over the years I’ve learnt to feel my paper before choosing in addition to looking at the description/symbols on the front of the book/pad (more on this later). Generally, cheap papers are quite rough to the touch and will feel thin. Slightly higher quality paper will feel thicker, but may also have a rough texture. But BEWARE! If you do choose a cheap sketchbook for just doodling it’s good to know that cheaper kinds of paper won’t usually stand very much erasing. Ever seen higher quality paper advertised as being ‘acid free’? This is beneficial because it means your work is less likely to fade and the paper less likely to break down.

Let’s talk about cartridge paper…this type of paper is widely available and a lot of illustrators and artists are happy to use it.  If you do decide to go for basic cartridge paper for paints such as watercolour bear in mind it must first be prepared. Painting directly on to lower GSM* cartridge paper will cause buckling and you’ll end up with a wibbly painting! The process of preparing paper for watercolours/gouache is known as ‘stretching’. It’ll take a little effort to do, so if you’re desperate to get stuck in to some work straight away using wet mediums it’s best to avoid low GSM cartridge, or make sure you have a stash of pre-prepared sheets. I learnt how to stretch paper on an ‘introduction to art’ summer school at a local college when I was 15 and found the course a real stepping stone into GCSE art, which then progressed to A level, which then progressed to a degree. By the time you reach university it’ll just be assumed that you know these basics. It’s good to look out for taster courses or holiday schools at local colleges/uni’s as you could pick up some skills that prove useful for the rest of your artistic journey. You can find so many videos on Youtube showing you how to stretch paper: link

Now we’ve covered the cheaper ‘everyday’ papers let’s look into specifics. The good news is that a lot of the sketchbooks they stock in art and hobby stores usually have guides on the front, it’s just a matter of reading the symbols and understanding what certain things mean. Something I found confusing for a while was ‘hot pressed’ and ‘cold pressed’. It’s actually as simple as this: hot-pressed paper has a smoother, finer surface, whilst cold-pressed has a more textured surface. Some pads don’t even mention these terms though and keep it more straight-forward by saying ‘smooth’ or ‘grained’. It’s really a matter of personal reference, I use both depending on the finish I want.  As I usually work with a lot of detail I generally avoid heavily grained papers as lines can be less ‘crisp’. Thanks to the information on a lot of sketchbooks it’s actually now easier than ever to select your book. Some pads will say ‘mixed media’, meaning that generally any medium is ‘safe’ to use, others will say ‘watercolour’ or ‘drawing’ (Daler  Rowney label their sketchbooks really well making it easier to select one). As for symbols, they’re easy to work out; a paintbrush head means it’s suitable for paint, a fountain pen means fountain pens can be used, a fineliner/pen means drawing pens may be used and what looks like a conte stick means pastels can be used. But there’s one area that I know confuses a lot of people…GSM*. This stands for ‘grams per square metre’. Basically, the higher the GSM the heavier the paper, meaning it can handle more. GSM is sometimes written as ‘G/M2’. Papers with high GSM are usually labelled as ‘heavyweight’.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand what paper you’re using before you begin an important project, mainly to avoid frustration over things like buckling, bleeding, eroding etc. I think the most important thing you can do is read the specs of the paper (even individual sheets in art/craft stores will usually have a little label telling you hot/cold pressed and GSM) and if you’re not sure then ask!

Time for some recommendations! For general doodling and really rough work I carry around a small ‘Graduate‘ sketchbook. These are Daler Rowney’s reasonable, lower GSM books that come in various sizes. Hobbycraft also offer their own version of these, with a similar GSM and a very modest price tag. For work that I plan to use (for exhibitions, card designs etc) I rarely stray far from Daler Rowney finegrain heavyweight paper as I find it can hold all mediums really well. I’ve used pastels, oils, gouache, pens, pencil and I’m always happy with the results (though be careful if working on small areas in oils especially oils that have been thinned as sometimes you can get a ‘halo’). I also recommend Daler Rowney’s smooth heavyweight when I want less of a textured surface. If I’m solely using gouache or watercolour I may also opt for their Aquafine smooth pad.

So that’s it, your guide to choosing the perfect sketchbook. Happy creating!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: