Thursday, March 26, 2015

What I Know about Watercolor Paper

After Sue C. asked about watercolor paper, I thought it would be pretty easy to write a post on the subject, but it's not been easy at all. This post might just confuse you with too much information. Sorry about that. If you don't care about watercolor paper, scroll to the bottom of the post to see today's cards.

1. You get what you pay for, and there's a reason good watercolor paper is expensive. For our purposes in paper crafting and card making, quality may or may not matter quite as much as it does for fine artists like my mother, who only uses Arches brand for her watercolor paintings. It really depends on what you're doing and how finicky you are.

I've used very fine, professional-grade watercolor paper, and it's shocking how much better it is than the student-grade stuff. If you want to start cheap, fine. But don't be surprised if pigments don't move well or paper starts to pill when worked too much. If results don't satisfy with the cheap stuff, upgrade.

2. Watercolor paper comes in different weights: 90lb, 140lb, and 300lb are the most common.

3. Watercolor paper comes in three different textures: rough, cold press, and hot press. Rough is, well, rough. Hot press is very smooth. Cold press is somewhere in between.  You'll get better stamp impressions (I find) with hot press. Paper from different manufacturers will vary, so don't expect a cold-press paper from one company to look the same as cold-press paper from another. Colors will vary as's amazing how many shades of white there are!

4. Watercolor sheets come in pads or individual sheets. You can find the single sheets (generally 22" x 30") in large paper racks or drawers at art supply stores or big box craft stores. Pads, which come in various sizes, are either spiral bound or glue bound, and you just tear a sheet out to use it. Pads are probably handier for most paper-crafters, but I usually prefer the individual sheets. You can try different brands/weights/finishes for less money that way, but they are difficult to store and cut unless you have a large cutting mat and large rulers.

5. To minimize buckling of the paper, buy a watercolor block instead of individual sheets. Blocks have sheets of watercolor paper bound together in a block with glue or rubber edging almost all the way around to create a rigid painting surface. I've used 140lb hot-press Arches blocks and been very pleased. Just let everything dry before removing the sheet from the block. There might be some buckling, but it's generally not too bad. To remove the dried sheet from the block, I use a butter knife and follow the instructions from Cheap Joe on this short video.

6. If you really want to use a lot of water without any buckling, get 300lb paper. It's really rigid. Because of the heavy weight, it's no good for folding into cards, but it's great for making single-panel cards.

7. You get what you pay for. Oh, yeah. I already said that. But it bears repeating. For stampers like myself, the expense of high-quality paper is occasionally justified. I bought 2 blocks of 9" x 12" Arches at Hobby Lobby when they were on sale years ago for about $17 each. I've used them both up, and when I went looking for more, I discovered Hobby Lobby isn't carrying the blocks anymore. Neither is Michael's. Bummer. Given how rarely I use these (the two blocks lasted me about 12 years!), I'm having a hard time justifying $38 on sale for a new block from Cheap Joe's.

8. I've met Joe of Cheap Joe's and he's a dear man. My mom takes classes at their North Carolina mountain studio every year. His company does good things for artists, too. I highly recommend them.

Now, are you thoroughly confused? Let me give you my bottom-line, best advice on watercolor paper:

  • Buy a little bit and play. If you have fun, buy some more. Experiment with different weights and textures and brands. Go in with friends to share pads or large sheets. If you're feeling really adventurous and also determined to prevent warping, watch this video on stretching paper and play around with that. Play, play, play. You'll make mistakes and that's okay. Just play. 


Finally, I present today's cards, which use completely random, unlabeled scraps of watercolor paper from my stash. All I know is that it isn't Arches, but it worked for these cards nevertheless.

These scraps were really rough (and I don't ever remember buying rough watercolor paper, so that's weird), and with some colors of the crayons, the pigment simply wouldn't spread no matter how much water I put down. I suspect the paper is cheap stuff 'cause the crayons aren't.

To get good impressions from the stamp, I inked it well with Memento Luxe pigment ink. Not all the panels stamped out well because of the rough texture of the paper, but I got four usable out of six, which isn't bad.

When the watercolor pieces were mostly dry, I put them between two sheets of waxed paper, then between two squares of good-one-side plywood, and then I put an eight-pound dumb-bell on top. The next day, I had mostly flat panels to put on cards.

Adding glue might have caused additional warping, and my tape runner wouldn't have held this together well at all. So after gluing the cards together, I put them under the weight to dry, and they came out just fine.

Whew, again.

I hope this post was useful and not too confusing. Feel free to leave questions in the comments, and I'll answer them as I can. Those of you who are fine artists and know more than I do...please feel free to weigh in!

stamps: Papertrey
ink: Memento Luxe 
paper: unknown watercolor, SU black, cool Caribbean, pretty in pink
accessories: watercolor crayons, paintbrush, glue

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Citrus Birthday

The idea of visual triangles floated around in my head, and this card just sort of popped out.

The colors are cheerful and summery, as befits a cold March in Ohio. It's so uplifting to use summer colors at the butt-end of winter! Anyway, by using dye inks (in this case, Memento), the overlap of green and yellow adds a bit of interest to the design. If you use pigment, chalk, or other opaque inks, the overlap will look mostly like the top color rather than a blend.

Hee, hee. She said, "Blend." Oh, yeah. You blend.*


This layout is a great way to use those larger sentiments. Too often, mine languish. But this time, the sentiment is front and center!

And Now for Something Completely Different...
Just for fun, I'm going to provide a link to an article on the cutest little animal I'd never heard of...the Ili pika of China. It's extremely endangered, and the awwww factor is epic. George and I saw a lot of pikas while backpacking in the Colorado Rockies years ago, but none of them was anywhere near as cute as this darling creature.

You're welcome!

stamps: Papertrey 
ink: Memento
paper: Papertrey
accessories: rhinestones

*If you don't get the joke, watch the movie My Cousin Vinny. It's hysterical!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Yellow and purple. Red and green. Orange and blue....

Complementary colors create high-energy designs, and this can be particularly useful if you want to make something very simple that really my card above. The sun, a single word, and POP! All because of the complementary colors.

I don't recommend dressing hyper five-year-old boys in complementary colors. Choose a soothing monochromatic or analogous color scheme in muted tones. Because, you know, kids get color theory, right?

You're not buying it. I can tell.

By the way, analogous color schemes are made of three colors side-by-side on the color wheel (a primary or secondary color plus the colors on either side). They create lovely harmony and depending on the tones and color saturation, they can be incredibly soothing or nice and peppy, but they lack the contrast and high energy of complementary schemes.

I'm no expert on color theory, but it's worth reading around on the interwebs for the basics. Color Matters and TigerColor are two good places to start. I refer to my color wheel frequently and consider it to be an indispensable tool for paper crafting. Mine rests in easy reach on my cork board over my craft desk. They are inexpensive and readily available in the art sections of Michael's, Hobby Lobby, or JoAnn's.

In the words of Woody the Cowboy doll...if you don't have one, get one!

Or not. It's really up to you.

stamps: Papertrey Hello There
ink: Hero Arts orange soda, Memento Bahama blue
paper: Papertrey
accessories: circle punch, dimensional

Monday, March 23, 2015

When the Focal Point Just Needs a Little Something

When a well-designed stamp is already dramatic and eye-catching, it often just needs a little something to complete it. Such is the case with the heart from Hello There by Papertrey.

I love this sentiment with a heart that's missing its middle, and by adding a small rhinestone heart (colored with Bic/Sharpies to match the SU cherry cobbler ink), your eye is drawn to the center. I chose to put the sentiment toward the bottom of the card to create a little more movement for the eye...and thus adding a bit more interest to a static design.

So as you can see, sometimes just a little something makes all the difference.

stamps: Papertrey Hello There
ink: SU cherry cobbler, Memento black
paper: Papertrey white
accessories: rhinestone heart, alcohol marker

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Spectrum of Happiness

More playing around with Hero Arts inks in a spectrum of yummy colors. You might suspect that this card has three layers, but it's just two white layers with the popped panel outlined using a black Sharpie.

And bling. Because bling is good.

This post has been brought to you literally by Chrome, which magically started working on my computer today. IE still isn't letting me add pictures to Blogger. I swear my computer is possessed and messin' with my head. Who knows what will work or not work tomorrow!?!?!?

stamps: Papertrey
ink: Hero Arts, Memento Luxe black
paper: Papertrey
accessories: dimensionals, rhinestones, black Sharpie

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Blue, Blue, and More Blue

It's just sad when we have so much powerful technology at our fingertips and it doesn't work. I'm still using awkward work-arounds to blog.

Thank heaven for awkward work-arounds.

Still can't print anything, though.


Enough complaining. Today's card comes courtesy of inspiration by Pinterest. The inspiration piece is much lighter and more delicately colored than my card, but so what? Inspiration is just the starting point, and we stampers have to make do with what we this case, Ombre Builders from Papertrey. I came up with a dramatic blue, geometric card that makes me so very, very happy!

I actually cut about seven or eight panels using most of the stamps in the set, and then experimented with which ones looked best together. These three were by far the most dramatic and effective least with the shading and colors I used from the Kaleidacolor all-blue pad.

The panels are 2.5" x 0.75".

The sentiment works because, really, what would you say goes with this sort of abstract, geometric design?

stamps: Papertrey Ombre Builders
ink: Kaleidacolor
paper: Papertrey
accessories: none, unless you count the glue and cutting tools

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Playing with Little X's

When I was growing up, all the women in my life made little X' other words, they did cross stitch. My mom was the best at it, only because the backs of her projects looked just as good as the fronts (everyone hated her for that!), but one of my aunts at least made her fronts look as good as mom's, even if her backs were a mess. She and mom took stitch classes at various conferences back in the day before people got "psychotic" about stitching.

BTW, I have no idea what that means. I'm just quoting my aunt. Apparently, stitch teachers started taking the whole thing way too seriously and charging too much for classes. If I remember correctly, my aunt drew the line at paying $100 for one class to learn one stitch. That might not be technically psychotic, but it sure is crazy. When I think of how some paper crafters take what we do way too seriously, I guess I kind of understand.

These are HOBBIES, people. They're supposed to be fun...not a competition or a lead-up to bankruptcy court.

Anyway, my last cross stitch project happened in 1987, and I vowed never again to stitch another stitch. My project may or may not have been tossed at the wall a few times in frustration, which may or may not have helped it look better.

Whatever. I quit stitching because it was not fun for me and haven't once regretted it!

Anyway (again), that particular aunt is having surgery tomorrow. This card is for her. She will laugh, and laughter is the best medicine.

The idea for the card was pretty basic...I saw a lot of happy colors on Pinterest one day and decided to make a few spectrum cards with all those yummy bright Hero Arts inks I have. I love how the ascender of the "d" in "mend" sticks up around the bottom corner of the raised panel. That visually connects the sentiment and panel nicely, don't you think?

Follow-up on the last post's rant:
My computer is still driving me crazy. Turns out I CAN upload photos in Blogger on IE on the Administrator account, but not in my profile account. Weird. Chrome works just fine on the Admin account but not on my profile. Also weird. After uninstalling and reinstalling Norton antivirus, my Outlook account is working for now...though that has happened before and then it's gone wonky again because of the Norton Anti-Spam plugin. Oy vey. Finally, my computer can't find my wireless printer, so I can't print anything.

When George has me committed to the loony bin, you'll all know why.

To those of you who are also having tech problems, my deepest sympathy.

stamps: Papertrey
ink: Hero Arts
paper: Papertrey
accessories: dimensionals