Lines Across

Monday, February 23, 2015

Watercolors for Beginners: Basic Supplies

If you're interested in learning to paint with watercolors, figuring out which supplies you need to buy can be a little overwhelming. Remember that this whole series is from the perspective of a somewhat beginner (read part 1 here). According to how much time and money you're planning on spending, there are a variety of paints and products you can buy.

1. Watercolor Paints

First, let me talk a little bit about watercolor paints. I used to think that if you wanted to be at all serious about watercolors you needed to use the tubes of paint. While there are a few advantages to the tubes, that is completely not true! There are a lot of quality pans of watercolors that are artist quality and these are definitely what I would recommend for a beginner. They are so easy to use, and require almost no time to prep or clean up. The tubes of paint are more expensive, messy, and you have to plan in advance which colors you'll be using and spend a lot of time preparing your palette.

I got this set of watercolors from my mom for my birthday this past fall and I LOVE it: Sakura 24-Piece Koi Assorted Water Colors Field Sketch Set with Brush. The price is reasonable for high quality paints. The colors are vibrant and blend well, and I really love the selection of colors. If you're shopping for watercolors at an art store, I would expect that most artist or professional grade sets will also be great quality. I would just definitely recommend starting out with 24 colors or more.

I also have a smaller travel set of Windsor & Newton Watercolors that are also great quality. This set is great for painting earth tones like these cacti, but if this was the only set I had, I would really miss out on some of the other colors. If you are wanting to spend a little more money on a set of 24, here are a couple of very high quality sets that I've heard GREAT things about:

1. Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Color Pocket PLUS Set of 24 Half Pans
2. Kuretake Gansai Tambi 36 Color Set Japanese Traditional Solid Water Colours

You can also use tubes of paint. These can be purchased in sets or individually at the craft/art store. What I have done and recommend is to buy one or two tubes here and there if you're looking for a specific color, or if you're planning on painting something that will require a lot of one paint color. I have also gotten a tube of black watercolor paint because for me I found that it was easier to work with. As a beginner, I wouldn't recommend paying more than $3 or $4 per tube.

2. Watercolor Brushes

Shopping for watercolor brushes always seems to confuse me. There are bins of brushes at the art store labeled for different mediums and divided into different levels like beginner, student, artist, and professional. What's weirder is that sometimes the higher quality brushes actually cost less. Who knows. Really you just want to make sure that your brushes are pretty good quality, they are intended for watercolors, and they aren't shedding into your work. Sometimes you might just have to try a couple (coupons and clearance are my best friend) to see what kind you like.

You also really don't need that many brushes when you're starting out. Here are the 6 brushes that I regularly use:

1. A mop brush. This larger fluffier brush is great for laying down light colors and large shapes.
2. A large round brush. I use this one the most. It's great for laying down larger shapes and colors, and has a lot of versatility.
3. A smaller round brush. Another favorite. Great for details and edges, but it doesn't cover a very large area.
4. A very small detail brush. Great for adding little textures and details to your work.
5. A filbert brush. This brush is a cross between a round and flat brush.
6. A flat brush. Great for sharp edges or creating angular shapes.

I haven't personally tried these brushes, but this Winsor & Newton 7-Piece Brush Set would make a great starter set.

3. Watercolor Paper

You can use watercolors on any kind of paper, but you will get the best results with watercolor paper. Sometimes I'll sketch out an idea on plain printer paper just to save money, but the paper will crinkle and the colors don't blend together quite the same way.

I like buying watercolor paper in person so you can really see the look and feel of it. Some paper is more textured, and all watercolor paper is some shade of off-white.

The biggest thing to look for in watercolor paper is the weight. 90 lb paper is a little thinner, and more likely to crinkle a little, but it is significantly cheaper. The better quality paper is 140 lb cold press paper. This is a thick textured paper ideal for watercolors. Strathmore Cold Press 140-Pound Watercolor Paper is a high quality paper, and a great place to start.

4. Other Tools and Supplies

The great thing about watercolors is that they really don't require a lot of space or supplies, and there are a lot of things you probably already have that you can use along with watercolors. Here are a few of my favorite extra supplies and tools.

1. Palettes : While your watercolor sets may already include palettes, it's nice to have a few extras. They're cheap and easy to find, and they allow you to blend and test colors easily.

2. Washi tape or Painter's Tape: This kind of removable tape is great for taping your paper down to your work surface without any damage, and it's also useful for blocking out edges or areas that you don't want painted.

3. Extra Water: As you paint your water will inevitably become cloudy and usually it will turn brown. This may not seem like a big deal, but it will start to blend with your colors and affect your work. I like to always have two cups of water: one for rinsing my brushes, and one to use with the paints. Mason jars are great for this as well.

4. Salt: I'll talk more about this later, but adding salt to wet paint is a really fun way to get a unique texture.

5. Rubber Cement: You can also purchase an Art Masking Fluid to use with watercolors. Basically you paint it on your paper to keep certain areas white, and then when you're finished you gently rub it off. I've found that rubber cement is much cheaper and works pretty well.

6. Pencils and Erasers: It's great to lightly sketch out designs and edges on your paper before you start painting, so it's important to have a few decent pencils and erasers.

7. A Paper Cutter: I have this Fiskars 12-Inch Paper Cutter and I LOVE it! It helps you cut your large (and expensive) sheets of watercolor paper into halves or quarters. I also always save the extra strips and edges to use to test colors and brushes while I paint.

8. Paper Towels: It's great to have paper towels nearby while you are painting to blot extra water, and to clean your brushes in between colors. You can also use paper towels to dab away paint in areas where you maybe applied too much, or to get a certain affect.

9. A White Crayon: You can paint over white crayon marks to get an interesting look and affect.

10. Straws: You can blow through a straw to scatter paint across your paper, or other interesting affects.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I recommend all of the products that I am sharing, and all pictures and thoughts are my own. I just think that Amazon is a great way to share my favorite products with you. Plus, I receive a very small commission for items you may purchase through these links.*

I'd love to hear from you! What are your favorite watercolor supplies? Do you have any tips or favorites?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Watercolors for Beginners - Part 1: Introduction

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I recently started really getting into watercolors. I got my first real set of watercolors this fall for my birthday, and I've started spending more and more time painting (and maybe a little less time blogging.) So I've decided to share a series of posts about learning to paint with watercolors. This unusually long and personal post is the first in the series.

The past couple of months, I've really enjoyed being aimlessly creative. As a blogger, I sometimes feel limited in my creative endeavors. I feel like every project that I take on needs to be something that would make a great blog post. I try to share projects and tutorials that are generally quick, require only a few supplies and special skills, and are recreatable. Lines Across is both my hobby and my business, and because I rely on it to help support me and my family, it's so easy to get caught up with questions of how to make money and make the most productive use of my time. However lately I've really enjoyed painting and experimenting with no specific goals in mind... and I've learned something. Being aimlessly creative has made me into a more authentic blogger... even if I've been away from the computer.

I've also found that there are a lot of people out there like me, who really want to learn to paint with watercolors, so I thought I would share my experiences and advice for people just starting out with watercolors, as well as some of the tutorials and resources that have helped me along the way.

First let me share with you my artistic background (ahem half of my life story): As a kid I was much more creative than artistic. My dream job was to be an inventor, and I was always trying to come up with new ideas and inventions. My parents are math people... basically we are a family of nerds. My mom has a PhD in Statistics and spent my childhood teaching me fractions and math games instead of sewing and cooking. And I loved it. Looking back I wish she had taught be both math and sewing, but I'm not sure I would have even been interested at the time. Both of my grandmothers were very talented amateur artists, but I never spent any time painting or drawing with either of them.

In middle school I had this really amazing art teacher who taught me so much about drawing and painting, but I still wasn't particularly interested in art in general. In high school I took an art history class that I loved, although I was still more of a math person and probably enjoyed memorizing dates and names more than anything. Then later in high school I took a photography class and a painting class. Even though both classes were short, I feel like I learned a lot about photography and painting that I use and apply every day. My senior year I took another art class that was amazing and really started to get interested in art for the first time. We got to explore a lot of different mediums from oil paints, to acrylics, to stamp carving, and print making. We even did a little watercolors.

I had a lot of trouble deciding where to go to college and what I wanted to do with my life, but since I was always a math person I ended up at Rice University studying mechanical engineering. I really wanted to take an art class or two, but at Rice you usually had to be an art major or a junior or senior to get into any art classes. There wasn't much time in my schedule for any classes outside of my engineering courses. So after 2 years I ended out transferring to Santa Clara University just outside of San Jose, CA. I ended up majoring in History because once again I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do, but I really enjoyed taking all different kinds of classes. I was even able to take a couple of painting classes there, and I really got into acrylic painting. I especially loved Pop Art and even wrote my History thesis on Andy Warhol.

However, right after graduation I got married to Grant, my high school sweetheart... and about 10 months after that we had our sweet son Benjamin. I found that for some reason being pregnant messed with my creativity... probably because I was always so tired and nauseous. Plus, it took a lot of time, space, and energy to set up a work space to paint. Then of course 16 months after Benjamin was born, we had little Lyla. I actually started Lines Across when Lyla was just a few months old. At the time I didn't really even know that creative blogs existed and I started my blog to share some funny stories (like this one), pictures, and maybe a few of my favorite products for babies and toddlers. Very quickly though one thing lead to another and I "discovered" all sorts of amazing creative blogs and started sharing a few of my own tutorials. (This was my first creative post.) And now three and a half years later, Lines Across is my creative outlet, my own business, and what has allowed me to stay at home/work from home with my (now 3) kids. It has been such a joy being able to share my little projects and tutorials with you all. I've made so many wonderful friends and found great inspiration from other bloggers and artists. And yet, I really have missed painting.

As someone who knows what it's like to not have a lot of free time, extra space, or money, most of the projects I share here can be completed in about 30 minutes, don't take a lot of space, and are made with supplies you probably already have or a $5 trip to the craft store. And while in the past I had written off watercolors as being too complicated and requiring a lot of natural skill and practiced talent, I've come to learn that there are so many different quick and beautiful projects you can create with watercolors, even if you're not an experienced artist with a lot of special tools. Now that my kids are a little older as well, they LOVE doing watercolors with me. So I'm able to spend great quality time with them AND pursue something I'm passionate about at the same time. WIN WIN!

One of the things I love most about watercolors is how simple and accessible they are. I have a little bin filled with some brushes, a pencil and an eraser, and a couple of watercolor sets. I can quickly pull out my watercolors and paint for fifteen minutes here and there.

I want to challenge you to BE AIMLESSLY CREATIVE. Spend the morning painting flowers, or doing that craft you saw on Pinterest, or just coloring pages from a coloring book because you're a grown up and you can! Being creative in one way or another is good for your soul and will make you a happier and more well-rounded person.

However, don't just compare yourself to others. Everyone is skilled and talented in different ways, and being creative isn't a competition. It should bring you more joy than frustration. Of course you will make a lot of mistakes. I can't tell you how many pages of watercolors I've painted recently that were total failures. And yet they weren't failures because I learned something from each one.

If you really want to be successful in a creative endeavor like watercolors, you should take the time to start at the beginning. Make sure you have the right supplies. Play around with some basic techniques. Watch a few You Tube videos of skilled watercolor artists just to see how they do it. Follow some simple tutorials for beginners. Play to your strengths. Work harder on your weak points. That's what this series is really about.

Have you ever wanted to learn a new craft or skill but felt guilty that you could be doing something more productive with your time?

Here's a look at some of the upcoming posts in this series:
1. Basic Watercolor Supplies
2. Where Should I Start?
3. Watercolor Techniques
4. Watercolor Projects for Beginners

Friday, February 6, 2015

DIY Watercolor Polymer Clay Hearts

I've gotten a little behind on blogging lately. I've been making things like crazy, but I just haven't taken the time to sit down and share the tutorials. If you follow me on Instagram, you got a little sneak peak of these cute watercolor hearts a couple of weeks ago.

I first got the idea to create a watercolor look with polymer clay from this coaster tutorial by Something Peach. This project is great for beginners to polymer clay, and it requires very little tools.

What you need:
1. Polymer clay: white and another color
2. Acrylic Clay Roller
3. Heart Shaped Clay Cutters

What you do:

1. Knead your clay a little to soften it. I found that Sculpey clay is a little softer and better for this kind of project.

2. Start by adding a little bit of a vibrant color of clay to a ball of white clay. Knead the two together a little bit, and roll them flat. This whole process requires a little bit of experimenting. You will get different styles and looks according to how much you blend together the two colors of clay.

3. Ball up the clay and maybe stretch or twist it a little bit, then roll it flat again.

*Tip: If you want your clay to be very even, you can use two identical flat surfaces (like paint stirrer sticks from Home Depot) on either side of your clay. Make sure that both ends of the roller is rolling on top of the two sticks as you flatten the clay in the middle.

4. When you're happy with the watercolor look of your clay, start cutting out your heart shapes. Smoothing out the top of the clay lightly with your fingers can help create more of a delicate watercolor look. You can use any cookie cutters you have or you can easily find cheap little cutters in the clay section of the craft store. Just remember if you use real cookie cutters with clay to not use them with food ever again.

5. Put your hearts on a baking tray and bake according to the instructions on the type of clay you are using. I smoothed the edges out of the hearts slightly as I moved them to the tray.

...and you're done. You can turn these cute little hearts into handmade jewelry like little stud earrings or a necklace. You could also attach them to hair clips for cute hair accessories, make them into fridge magnets, or turn them into a festive garland. I ended out making 6 different colors, although the fuchsia, blue, and black are my favorites.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Geometric Heart Printable Pillow Boxes

Today I'm sharing these free printable pillow boxes. If you follow me on Instagram, then you got a sneak peak at this design. I've been obsessed with geometric shapes for a long time now, but I've only recently gotten into watercolors.

What you need:
1. Free Printable
2. White Cardstock (I used 65 lb.)
3. Scissors
4. Glue
5. Scorer or X-ACTO knife

What you do:
1. Print out the PDF onto white cardstock. Print on high quality for the best results.
2. Cut out the boxes.
3. Fold the boxes along the two long gray lines.
4. Score around the four curved lines. Fold them in slightly before you assemble the box.
5. Glue the tab to the opposite inside of the box.
6. Pop in the tabs to make the box a pillow.

These simple pillow boxes are two sided - one side has the hand painted watercolor heart design, and the other side says LOVE. They are so easy to make and perfect for filling with little treats for Valentines day.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Geometric Mountains DIY Wall Art

I am proud to be a 3M sponsored blogger, and, as part of my responsibilities, I get the opportunity to evaluate ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape. Opinions are my own and additional products used in the project were selected by me.

This fun wall art project combines so many of my favorite things into one piece: geometric designs, ombré, shades of blue, mountains, gold accents, and natural wood. You could create a very similar piece on a canvas, but I especially love the way the natural wood looks next to the painted areas. This wall art is actually pretty easy to create thanks to ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape, however it took me a while to get here. For me this was one of those projects where I had too many ideas spinning around in my head at the same time, and it was hard to settle on just one. Originally, I had taped out this abstract geometric gem, and I had created a color palette with a lot of different colors, but I ended out settling on this mountain design because it is so much easier to recreate. I'm glad I did, because there is something really beautiful about the simplicity of these mountains.

What you need:

  1. ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape Delicate Surfaces with Advanced Edge-Lock™ Paint Line Protector 2080EL Delicate Surfaces with Advanced Edge-Lock™ Paint Line Protector 2080EL
  2. Finely Sanded Plywood (I used 1/8 inch)
  3. Acrylic Paint (blue and white)
  4. Gold Paint
  5. Paintbrush

What you do:

1. Start by sanding your wood surface and wiping it off with a slightly damp cloth. The plywood I used was already very smooth and I only needed to lightly sand near the edges.

2. Plan your design. I sketched a little design to follow on a piece of paper and used that as a model. You could also lightly sketch the mountains onto your wood surface with pencil and erase them at the very end.

3. Use the ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape to tape your mountain design. The tape is easy to tear, but I used scissors to get precise edges for my mountain peaks and valleys. The tape is also easy to remove if you want to slightly adjust your design as you go along.

4. To make sharp points for the peaks and valleys, cut both edges at an angle. When I first started I was having to cut the edges a few times to get them to line up, but after a few pieces of tape, I'd gotten the hang of it.

5. Once you've finished your whole design and are happy with it, you're ready to start painting. I mixed together the shades of blue paint colors I was planning on using before I started. I made sure that I had more than enough paint to cover each area. If you run out of paint and need to mix more, it's almost impossible to exactly recreate a color. It's recommended to have a base coat for best results using ScotchBlue™. 

6. Start painting the mountains. Paint away from the tape edges. I painted two or three coats.

7. Let the paint dry for 24 hours before putting painter's tape on top of painted areas. Now tape off three mountain peaks. I made them diamond shapes.

8. First paint a coat of white paint and let it dry, then add a couple coats of gold paint.

9. Now carefully remove all of the tape from your wall art, hang, and enjoy.

The ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape is great for using on delicate surfaces and leaves very clean and precise lines. I really love the way the natural wood surface looks against the painted white geometric mountains. I also love how you can see a little bit of brushstrokes if you look closely. I made sure that they were all vertical. If you don't like this look, you could use spray paint instead of acrylic paints or use more coats of paint.

I really love this artwork, but it hasn't found it's permanent place in my home just yet.

Be sure to check out the ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape Website for more information and inspiration. You can find everything there from helpful tutorials to creative project ideas. You can also follow along on their Pinterest page, Twitter page , and Facebook page.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

30 Creative Gift Wrap Ideas for Kids

Christmas is just a couple of days away, and most of you have probably finished wrapping your presents. However, if you're anything like me, you took advantage of those last few days of Amazon Prime shipping, and are expecting a few packages by tomorrow at 8 PM. So for you last minute people like me, I gathered together 30 creative gift wrap ideas that your kids will love. Some are insanely simple, and some are a little more complex, but there is definitely plenty of inspiration.

You can find all 30 creative gift wrap ideas over at Let's Wrap Stuff.

I also just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support of Let's Wrap Stuff in its first Christmas season. I definitely have not had as much time and energy available to really turn it into a useful and thorough database of gift wrap ideas YET, but it's off to a great start. My decision to launch it this year was one of those "A year from now you'll wish you started today" things, and I'm so glad I did.

So thank you again from the bottom of my washi tape covered, paint splattered, glittery, yarn wrapped heart.
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