Category Archives: Product Review

Tip: Use Highlighter tape

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Highlighter tape comes three to a pack.

Sure, you can use it in your art journal, or your plain journal, but highlighter tape is saving the training side of my business this week.

Earlier this week, I was teaching a business writing class. There were students of different levels, and more material in the book than I could cover sensibly. On Day2 of the class, I had to choose what had to be covered, what could be covered if I had enough time, and what I could skip.

The instructor’s manual is heavily written in, and one more insert or note was going to get lost. How to make the material sound smooth and well prepared? Highlighter tape to the rescue.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that's not the workbook, it's a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

Goes on easy, comes off clean. No, that’s not the workbook, it’s a copy of Raw Art Journaling.

I purchased the tape from The Container Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. It comes in a small square case containing three transparent colors–green, yellow, orange, so I can color coordinate– green for items I must cover, yellow for items I can mention if I have time, but can also skip if a discussion or exercise runs long, and red for portions that can be skipped entirely if time doesn’t allow for a closer look.

The tape sticks to a page, but can be lifted off cleanly, without a residue. It’s as wide as a line of type, so I can pinpoint material. Each tiny roll has a cutter in the box, so I can tear off as much as I need.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

Three fluorescent colors make it easy to navigate the page.

It’s brightly fluorescent so I can find it easily. It doesn’t damage coated or uncoated pages and won’t peel off color or ink. It’s a great tool. All I have to do is make sure I peel off all the evidence before I return the instructor’s manual.

The tape has no manufacturer’s name on it, other than highlighter tape, and the item number 128.

I recommend it highly for other uses as well–cookbooks, sewing/knitting/crocheting patterns, weaving instructions, sheet music (to mark your part), library reference books, as well as design elements on cards and gift wrap.

If you want to use it in art journaling, I’d suggest putting it down, rubbing it with a bone folder, then covering it with matte medium, so it doesn’t curl up over time.

The tape was an impulse purchase, but every time I use it, I save time. When you don’t know how many questions are going to be asked, it’s also great for speeches that have a time limit.

–Quinn McDonald is an instructor who always wants to add just one more idea. Sometimes that impulse needs to be stopped.


Pilot has come out with a new line of pens.  The only Pilot pens I knew so far were the disposable Varsity Pens and the parallel calligraphy pens–both of which I like to use. The new pens come in five … Continue reading


Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Splash Inks are versatile fun in a bottle. I’m on the Yasutomo Design Team, and Splash Inks is one of the products I got to use. As soon as I found out you could marble paper with the inks, I … Continue reading


Scotch® Brand Tape has a new kind of tape rolling off the reel. (I could not help myself, I had to say that). It’s meant, I think, to be a competitor to washi tape–the Japanese-made tape that uses thin but … Continue reading

Color Distraction

Spectrum Noir makes an alcohol marker that will give Copic a run for the money. Copics cost about three times the cost of Spectrum Noir. (At Dick Blick, a six-pack of Spectrum Noir is $8.95;  a six-pack of Copic costs $33.61.) For my uses, the quality is similar enough. Spectrum Noir is a little wetter and the blend is a little more subtle, but that’s the only difference in application.

19913-5169-2ww-mPricing varies greatly. The website for Jo-Anns sells a six-pack of Spectrum Noir for $14.99 and a six-pack of Copics for $49.99).

What I don’t like is that you can’t buy them individually, you buy them in sets or not at all. There are 12 sets of six color-coordinated ones, and larger sets of “brights” or “pastels” in packs of 24. If you buy all the six-packs you have the same markers as in the 72-pen set.

I’m fond of their instructional videos which teach you to put down the darkest color first, then blend with the lighter color, creating a smooth transition.

While packing materials  for the Madeline Island  class, I came across an interesting exercise that works for collage or just an interesting abstract.

Using Golden’s Glaze (in iridescent gold), open the squeeze bottle hold it over a sturdy sheet of paper (this was Stonehenge paper from the spiral block). Make a complicated squiggle, making sure to cross over the pattern several times. Allow to dry. Glaze takes longer to dry than acrylic paint. Expect days, not hours.

SquiggleOnce the glaze was dry, I used the Spectrum Noir markers to color in some of the spaces. Because there was just one package (Turquoise), I used Sparkling H2Os in other spaces, and two sparkle markers (in black and white) for the last two blocks.

You can see the blending on the bottom, right space. The top, left space shows two colors unblended. The oval to the upper right of the black sparkly piece shows blending–my first try.

squiggle2This technique looks very different in different lights. It’s the same piece, but in the bottom one, you can see the sparkliing inks and the iridescence of the gold glaze.

You can also try the technique using black gesso in a squeeze bottle. Mustard bottles work well, and the Dollar Store sells sets of two (red and yellow plastic) for, yes, a dollar.

--Quinn McDonald is thinking of cutting up the piece to use in a collage.

Fun With Splash Inks (Part 2)

Splash Inks are acrylic inks invented by Karen Elaine and made by Yasutomo. I’ve posted on Splash inks previously. Today, Arizona Art Supply had a class in learning how to use the inks. Kari Foteff

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff, from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

Senior Account Manager Kari Foteff (L) from Strathmore, and inventor Karen Elaine.

from Strathmore Papers (L) and Karen Elaine were there and they taught a wicked good class. Strathmore papers were the first papers I loved when I was a papermaker, and it was great meeting someone who gets to work with Strathmore papers much of the time.

It’s fun meeting an inventor, particularly one who is modest and never mentioned her time on the Carol Duvall show. ( A popular show on the DIY Network several years ago) or the process of invention, just what the inks can do.

There are four inks, and they follow the CMYK colors: Cyan (blue) Magenta, Yellow and Black. You can mix them into over a hundred different colors.


We mixed several colors, and Kay, next to me, did a whole sampler of colors.


We then masked off a card and, using a stencil, scraped Golden’s regular gel (gloss) over the stencil and allowed the gel to dry, creating a resist.  We then mixed colors and applied them over the card. Kay did an attractive multi-colored card:


And I tried for a batik effect:


I’ll be demonstrating the inks at Arizona Art Supply’s booth the Women’s Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center April 27 and 28, 2013.

Karen Elaine helped me learn how to do some paper marbling with the basic colors. I have some more work to do (mixing new colors), but I’m really pleased with the basic marbling which is super easy:


And works with more complicated combing patterns, too.


Even the second pick-up works well:


I made these on cardstock, but you can also make them on sized watercolor paper. You can use them as art journal backgrounds, or just write in the lighter areas. You can use Golden’s regular gel as a resist and then write on it with a sharpie. Lots of experimentation still to go, but I’m having a lot of fun with Splash Inks.

-–Quinn McDonald has inky fingers again.

Disclaimer: I purchased the inks myself. I am receiving no compensation to blog about them.

Splash Ink: New Product

This isn’t a review, because I haven’t had these inks long enough to do anything except make a few basic mixes. But with a weekend coming up, there is the possibility you may want to try them, too.

colorbottlesI went out to buy ink today, because most of my work is done with ink, watercolor paints and pencils. I had gotten a flyer from Arizona Art Supply mentioning that there would be a demo of the new Splash Inks, and it had piqued my interest.

Here’s the premise: Splash Inks come in only four colors–the same four colors that printers use to make hundreds of colors by mixing them in different amounts or different size dots. You may know the colors as CMYK–Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black. The K is used to prevent confusion with B for blue, which is called cyan. (Did you take notes? No matter. Read on!)

colorgreenThe inks are acrylics, and only slightly thicker than ink. They mix incredibly well, and can be used in waterbrushes and in calligraphy pens. (I haven’t tried that yet).  I played around with the yellow and blue to make various shades of green, turquoise, and jades. The more water you add, the more transparent the colors become.

Splash ink was developed by Karen Elaine Thomas  for Niji and is distributed by Yasutomo.

colorhowtoThe packaging comes with a mixing chart for landscapes, portraits and more. The colors are measured in drops (the bottle tops are designed for this) and water is added to lighten colors and make them transparent. It’s hard not to like the idea.

I’ve tried the most basic mixing with good results. While you are supposed to used these inks on watercolor paper, I think coated stock or Yupo will give a clearer color and less fast absorption, which made it a bit harder for me to mix. This is not a disappointment, it’s simply a new technique and needs some practice.  I have fallen in love with the colors you can make, though.


Karen Elaine was at the Mesa (AZ) stamp show, and demo’d an interesting technique using rubber stamps. There is something appealing about resists, and she used it in that way.

I’m eager to try working with these inks. They seem to be versatile and I want to explore them.

Disclosure: I paid for the inks and am not receiving any compensation from anyone to post this blog.

—Quinn McDonald uses ink to work on journal pages.


Last week I discovered that Jet Pens was selling the Wink of Stella Glitter Brush Pen by Zig / Kuretake of Japan. I love Jet Pens, primarily because I am a pen addict, but also because they have excellent customer … Continue reading


The winner of the journal is Cynthia Morris! Congratulations, Cynthia. Send me your mailling address, and the journal will be on the way. Yes, there is a giveaway, there wasn’t room in the title. I’ve seen the Strathmore art journals … Continue reading

Fun With Parallel Pens

Pilot Parallel Pens are a wonderful addition to any art journal page. As do all parallel pens, it writes a broad smooth line, a tender fine hairline, and decorative strokes. The pens come in four widths: 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm, or 6mm. The ink feeds across the writing edge and when I try it, it’s smooth and even. (Pen and Ink Arts has some exclusive sizes: 1mm 2mm, 3mm, and 4mm and 6mm slant)

If you have used parallel pens, you know how they write–you can use them for the traditional calligraphic strokes. But, I’m not calligrapher, so I misued mine immediately. Each pen comes with a red and black cartridge, and packages of cartridges are easy to buy– and come in 11 colors including red, black, blue, green, and a box of mixed colors. Each package also comes with a converter bladder device, so you can use Higgins, Dr. Ph. Martin or other inks.

To my great surprise, you can pull out the cartridge and use the barrel itself as an ink reservoir. This is wonderful for mixing your own inks or gouache. You can also use the barrel to create one kind of ink–Payne’s Gray, let’s say, and then dip the ink in another color, you get wonderful blends. (The Harmless Dilettante has some great examples.)  Of course, you can do this with traditional colors–blue to green, purple to black. But that’s not what I did.

Color sample of Dutch Blue, Interference Blue, Shimmering Black on black Artagain paper.

Color sample of Dutch Blue, Interference Blue, Shimmering Black on black Artagain paper.

I found two incredible watercolor inks–an interference blue made my Dawler-Rowney, that looks watery white in the bottle. And a water-based acrylic ink called Shimmering Black, which I put in the pen, made sure it was writing well, then dipped the nib into interference blue and wrote with it.

The result was an incredible blend of shimmer and shine in each letter. Unfortunately, I dropped the wet sample I was working on face-down on my desk before I could photograph it. Interference and sparkle colors don’t photograph well, anyway. I hope the  sample on the left will do to describe the color.

The point (I’m just going to ignore that) of this is that the Pilot parallel pens are versatile, easy to use, and come with cleaners for people like me who use acrylics that aren’t meant for those pens in them anyway. If you are going to experiment, buy an acrylic ink cleaner right away. I’m glad I did.

You can also turn the pen up on its corner and write like a monoline pen. I did that with the ink mix and while it’s not as obvious (the line is thinner, after all), it makes a great new kind of calligraphy.

Disclosure: I purchased all my Pilot pens and inks myself. I was not compensated in any way to write this article.

Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art.   Quinn will experiment and possibly ruin pens and inks in pursuit of meaning-making,  and not mind a bit.