Does it blend? New vs Old Blending Brushes and Sponges

Hi friends! Today we are going to compare the new “make-up” style ink blending brushes to color dusters (they look like shaving brushes) as well as blending sponges.


I tested them over a stencil (above) as well as fading the ink off onto paper as I did with the clouds below. (Cloud die from My Favorite Things)


Watch the video to see all the brushes and sponges in action and see what’s right for you and how your favorite tool compares!

An overview of the materials (Affiliate links used when available)

New Ink Blending Brushes. I purchased mine at a stamp show, the multi-pack I bought was $20 from double Trouble but they are sold out online. Prior to purchasing, I used a friend’s set who said she ordered this set on Amazon half what I paid at the show. I was so impressed I bought a set!

These are the Life Changing Brushed from Picket Fence Studio if you want the best of the best. (or at least the first ones to be used with crafting)  That set has the 4 larger brushes for $25

Pros of the new “make-up style” brush:

  • Captured fine detail for stenciling
  • Very Smooth ink blending with both dye and pigment inks
  • Easy to clean, most ink transfers to paper with hardly any left on the brush. Wipe brush of a rag and move on to next color without needing to wash it.
  • Very smooth fades when working off a mask on for rouging the edge of a paper.
  • No awkward ink blotches even when you stat on the paper instead of off the edge. Foolproof blending.
  • These can be compactly stored on your table in a small jar

Cons of “Makeup Style Brushes”

  • It takes longer to apply the ink over a surface
  • They can be more expensive than other methods HOWEVER you don’t need as many as they wipe clean so easily between colors
  • You could snap the neck of the brush and stain your wrists if you hold the brush at the end rather than supporting it at the head/neck area. My natural inclination was to hold it at the neck with my finger supporting the back of the bristle area and it was very comfortable to use. Not much pressure is needed this way.

Color Dusters (Judikins, Rubber Stamp Tapestry and the new Tim Holtz/Ranger ones in the silver tubes are all examples. Also called ink sweepers and sometimes come on long handles. These have stiffer course bristles made of hog)
Judikins color dusters
Tim Holtz
Rubber Stamp Tapestry

Pros of Color Duster style brush:

  • Quick soft blends
  • Easy to use
  • The more you use a brush the better it gets as the ink buildup in the brush primes the bristles
  • They won’t wear out

Cons of Color Duster style brush:

  •  You need a brush for every color family (reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, browns, greens, blues, purples, greys, black)
  • You get a less defined look when used with a stencil or mask.
  • Although you get a very even application of color with little effort the stiffness of the bristles give the blend a bit of texture

Foam style blenders. Examples of this are:
Ranger blending foam
Colorbox Stylus
Fingertip daubers
My Homemade make-up wedge and bottle cap blenders (my favorite!)

Pros of Foam Blenders/ Blending sponges

  • Inexpensive
  • You can achieve a bold saturated color or a softer blended color (skill required)
  • The more you use them the better they get (until they wear out)
  • They are inexpensive enough to have a blender for every inkpad you have and many brands (such as Ranger) have a reusable handle that you can swap out the foams on so you can store a lot is a little space.

Cons of Foam/Sponge blenders:

  • You need a sponge for every color family, many crafters have a sponge for every inkpad to ensure they don’t cross contaminate their pads as it is easier to transfer color from the sponge to a pad.
  • They take practice to get good results
  • It takes longer with foams than color dusters to blend.
  • They eventually wear out and start to break apart but you can get a couple years out of them.

I also wanted to mention the Darice sponge daubers I showed at the end. I like them for coloring stamped images but not for use with stencils or large areas because I don’t think they can take the heavy use. Unfortunately, I can’t find them online. I got them at a stamp show years ago.

What is your favorite? I think they are all useful and you can pick one and be happy with the result. The most important thing is that you practice and learn to use what you have.


Amaryllis in Gouache Sketchbook Sunday!

Hi friends! Today I am painting my Amaryllis! It bloomed this week and I wanted to be sure to capture it before it went by. I used gouache, watercolor markers and colored pencils in a 6″x9″ sketchbook but feel free to use what you prefer any size you like!


I will have a real-time tutorial of this painting on February 1st in Critique Club. Join today for $5 per month and not only do you get 2 real-time tutorials from the Sketchbook Sunday series but you also get to submit 2 paintings a month for an in-depth critique from me to help you with whatever you are working on and improve as an artist! Click here to learn more or enroll today. Thank you for your interest! Now on-to the video!

Supplies (Affiliate links used)

I hope you have some time to create in your sketchbook today! Happy crafting!

The best watercolors $20 can buy?!? Pretty Excellent Watercolor Review!

Hi friends! Don’t you just love it when a product exceeds your expectations? I really wasn’t expecting much when I ordered this $20 set of Pretty Excellent watercolors from Amazon a couple of months ago. I had some  money left on a gift card and I loved the color and size of the tin and I fully expected I would be discarding the paint to fill with other pans but boy was I wrong! The paints are beautiful!


It took me a while to review these because I was trying to find something wrong with them. I used them on cards, bookmarks and small paintings and the jewel like colors are rich, clean and vibrant with no shift in color, fading or chalkiness. The lightfast ratings on the box were really good too with 19 out of the 36 colors being absolutely permanent and the remaining ones moderately lightfast. The amount of paint is typical half pan size (I pulled out the insert to make sure the wells were deep.) I contacted the seller Lightwish to see if these paints were the same as the Paul Rubens paints I had seen reviewed a lot lately and they said “Yes, they are the same as the Paul Rubens brand paint. But they also have some difference.” I think the difference is probably the packaging as the Paul Rubens paint comes in a higher end metal tin with individual plastic half pans and a chamois cloth and fancy gift box. If you were looking for a better buy on the Paul Rubens it seems this would be the set. If you were looking for an inexpensive travel set or a gift for an aspiring watercolorist I highly recommend this Pretty Excellent brand one. Watch the video to see them in action and for more information!

Pretty Excellent brand watercolors Review (Affiliate links used)


  • Price: $19.98 for 36 half pans of watercolor *no removable plastic half pans, they are poured in the plastic insert.
  • Bright clean transparent colors
  • Colors mix cleanly
  • Lovely tin/palette
  • Comes with a waterbrush or you can use the storage slot for your favorite brush
  • beautiful smooth colors finely milled
  • According to the back of the box 19 colors are absolutely lightfast and the remaining color were moderately lightfast but no pigment info is provided in English.


  • All the info except color names is in Chinese so if there is pigment info available I can’t read it LOL!

Bottom line, these are an amazing value for the price. There is no chalkiness even in mixes. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to use watercolors and ins’t concerned with pigment composition (urban sketchers, art journalers, scrapbookers, cardmakers) or beginners who want the experience of painting with a high quality transparent watercolor without the high-end price tag. I was really pleased to hear that the pretty excellent paint was the same as the Paul Rubens paint at a much nicer price as the 24 set of Paul Rubens is $39 and you get 36 of the Pretty Excellent paints for $20 in a less fancy tin which suits me fine.

The only downside on these paints is not knowing what pigments are in them. If you take them at their word about the lightfastness they are an incredible value. Keep the back panel of the box to refer to that info if you want it. I hope you found this review helpful and til next time happy crafting!

A Blue Poppy Real Time Watercolor! {greeting card quickie!}

Hi friends! Man, it has been a long time since I did a quick fun watercolor on a Strathmore watercolor card. I want to do more of these and hopefully it won’t take 3 tries to record it next time LOL!

SAM_5396 (1)

I used a couple new products from Jane Davenport. Her new mixed media line is hitting stores tomorrow and I have had several viewers asking me to demonstrate the new watercolors and watercolor crayons and I aim to please. Watch the video to see how they perform and hear my thoughts and observations on these new paints!


I had a few people ask me how these compared to Dina Wakley’s new Scribble Sticks as well as Caran Dache Neocolor 2 crayons. There are a lot of points to compare here. Essentially they are all sticks of watersoluble media and you can use whatever watercolor crayons you have to get a very similar effect. You can even use watercolor pencils in some instances. One of the differences between crayons is the waxiness or dryness of the media. Watercolor pencils feel drier to color with where a watersoluble pastel like Prima is very slick and creamy/oily. Caran Dache falls nearer to an oil pastel where Dane Davenport Aquapastels are more dry like a pencil (very much like the ls Derwent Aquatones that were discontinued a few years ago-oh the humanity!) Dina Wakley Scribble Sticks are between the Aquapastels and Caran D’ache on the softness scale. These are small differences. Both Dina Wakley’s Scribble Sticks and Jane Davenports Aquapastels are more bright and transparent than the Caran D’ache Neocolor 2 crayons but that might have to do with the fact that they have a larger range including pastels so they would be overall more opaque (that said I have a hard time getting a vivid red in the Caran D’ache line but THAT said Caran Dache is my favorite watercolor crayon but they also usually have a steeper price tag but Amazon has the set of 15 for less than the two sets I am focusing on here, of course you can’t use a coupon like you can at the Big-Box.) I decided to compare the Scribble Sticks and Aquapastels together because a. I had several people ask me to and b. I already did a comparison on watercolor crayons last year before these came out and c. These are both brand new and aimed at the papercraft market. Here is a photo of both sets of crayons next to their tins.

IMG_20171109_180202 (1).jpg

I am a sucker for good packaging and they both are cute:) The scribble sticks are a bit larger but not as much as the tin might have you believe. Both sets have an insert to snugly hold the pastels. I’ll probably remove the insert on the DW tin and add some random crayons I have floating around:) Both crayons have paper wrappings to keep your hands clean, it’s pretty standard. The next image is a scan of each set watched so you can see what colors are in each set.


I was happy to see no overlap in color, here I swatched them all together in rainbow order. I think I might have too much free time on my hands.


The Scribble sticks felt softer as I colored with them and filled in the tooth of my paper easier, they were also better for picking up pigment directly from the stick with a brush.  The white crayon can be added to either the other scribble sticks or the Aquapastels to make a color more opaque which will give you the versatility of working on a colored surface or dark painting layer. The Aquapastels had less drag when sketching and coloring which is nice if you want to work quick and they held up to drawing on wet paper without the tip softening. Again minute details but worth mentioning. They felt more like a woodless watercolor pencil only a bit softer than a pencil.  Bottom line I like them both and they work great together. Amazon has the Scribble sticks for $23 and the Aquapastels are $24 at Michaels so they are comparably priced. I hope that helps anyone make a decision on what to get. As for the Glitz Sea watercolor set I found the quality to be the same as the original two watercolor sets she released earlier this year and you can see my full review here.

Phew, that was a long post but I wanted to get the info out while it was fresh in my mind. Will you be checking out any of these new art supplies or adding them to your wish list? Let me know in the comments below!  There will be a live show tomorrow at 12:30pm ET, til then, happy crafting!

Schmincke Akademie Watercolor Review

Hi friends! Today I have a review of Schmincke Akademie watercolor. They are student grade paint made in Germany. They are hard to find in America (Thank you Dave in Munich for sending these to me for review) but can be purchased affordably in Europe. I have had many requests to review these paints so here goes….


Video review!

Schmincke Akademie is a student grade watercolor that can be found in 24 colors. I am reviewing the 12 color set.


  • Price: Around $25-$40 where available, about half the price of Schmincke’s artist grade Horadam colors
  • Paints uses the same tried and true pigments you expect from quality paint.
  • Nice lightfastness.
  • Clean vibrant colors
  • Good mixing ability
  • Glazes well (2 layers)


  • The tin these came in had raw edges that were sharp as opposed to rolled edges found in most paint tins, not suitable for children.
  • I found the colors to wear down quickly, after a couple small paintings I had noticeable “wells” in the paint pans.
  • If applied thickly or in too many layers it will tend to streak or dry with glossy spots. *a common trait with student paints, par for the course.

Bottom line:
These are a lovely student grade set on par with Cotman, Grumbacher Academy and Van Gogh just be aware that the 12 pan tin might be sharp. I have seen this set packaged in a tin holding 24 colors (room for 12 more) so that might be a better idea for a child or clumsy adult (like me LOL!) I hope you found this review useful and til next time happy crafting!

Review: American Journey Watercolor Sticks

Today I am taking a look at the set of 24 American Journey Watercolor Sticks. They are watercolor pigment in a clear paraffin wax binder. I wanted to find out if they are more like a watercolor pan or a watercolor crayon.


For my test I am working on Strathmore Windpower paper. Watch the video to see how they perform!


The American Journey watercolor sticks are available in sets or open stock. The sets have a handy storage palette to keep them in. Open stock the sticks sell for $7.99 while a 12 color set in a palette goes for $59 bringing the per stick price to $5, a much better deal.


  • Price: They cost a bit more than Winsor & Newton watercolor sticks but are 2x as big. They are the same size as Daniel Smith but a bit cheaper
  • Pigment info listed on sides of watercolor sticks, stable lightfast pigments are used. If you are picky about your pigments I suggest getting colors open stock.
  • All usable product-you can save the shavings if you sharpen the crayons to use as watercolors. You can use all the product so no waste.
  • Drawing with the crayons give you more of a “watercolor pencil” experience rather than a watercolor crayon experience
  • Transparent (as long as the pigments used are) Most watercolor crayons are opaque and these are luminous and transparent, the reds are stunning and worth buying to supplement a watercolor crayon set that you might already have.


  • When used direct to paper from the stick (aka sketching and coloring) I don’t feel like you get as good color payoff as you would with a traditional watercolor crayon or water-soluble oil pastel. I don’t think this is a con for some people but if that is what you want with this product I think you will be disappointed. Also these American Journey sticks are more expensive than Caran D’Ache watercolor crayons which are better for a dry, direct to paper technique. It boils down to personal taste though.
  • Not great for glazing as colors easily lift.

Bottom line:

I like this product for sketching and then picking up pigment with a wet brush for washes (like pan color) for use on white paper. They are different from a watercolor crayon because they are transparent. I think they are better for direct painting without a lot of glazes because they are very liftable. If I had to recommend one color I would try any of the reds and they really stand out as different from other similar products.

If you would like to try your hand at some mixed media watercolor & watercolor crayon techniques enroll in my Craftsy Class Mix it Up Mixed Media Step by Step! We go though watercolor washes, stenciling, drawing and painting with watercolor crayons as well as play with other mixed media techniques, it is a lot of fun and the folks at Craftsy make everything look so nice!


Any class that you purchase at craftsy through my special affiliate link helps me bring more free tutorials to you here on my blog and I think you for your support! Happy crafting!

Fancy a Spot of Tea? Real Time Watercolor Tutorial!

Hi friends! I almost titled this post “Don’t buy the new Prima Watercolors until you read this!” but it felt a little two click-baity. Although I think that this post will give you some valuable info on the two new Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections set Pastel Dreams and Shimmering Lights. First off, I really like these but if you are planning on using them like ordinary watercolors you might be disappointed in the results. That’s why I created a free painting tutorial to help you make the most of these unique sets.


Here is the step by step video and review of these new paints.

Here are links to the Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections sets. Hallmark scrapbook is having 15% off Prima watercolor products! Woohoo! They have free shipping on USA order over $99 and reasonable rates for worldwide shipping.

  • Pastel Dreams (I use mostly colors from this set in the teacup tutorial)
  • Decadent Pies (I used a blue and green from this set to achieve the rest of the colors for the teacup tutorial. This is a great landscape painting set)
  • Tropicals (If you can only get one set go for Tropicals, they have the brightest cleanest colors and mix well)
  • The Classics (A all around useful set with basic colors and a white and black if that is important to you)
  • Shimmering Lights (A very opaque paint with mica added to create a subtle elegant sheen)

There are NO duplications in any of the colors in these sets so if you want to collect them all you will have all unique colors. 😀

I wanted to also show you how the paints look in a more opaque fashion.


They remind me a lot of gouache, the paint feel very buttery when applied thickly (not chalky like I thought they might) and they would show up nicely on colored cardstock for cardmaking and scrapbooking. In these swatches you can see the colors from Pastel Dreams and Shimmering Lights. I overlaid a thicker swatch of the pastels over the wash layer once it was dry so you can see how the colors shifts darker in thicker layers. I swatched the shimmering colors on white and black as they look much different on each. Again, great for cardmakers and scrapbookers.


I also played with using the Pastel Dreams and Shimmering lights with lots of water. Because there are no strong darks other than red and brown it is difficult to get darks so you would not want these sets as your only watercolors, they are better as add-on collections.


So now you have the skinny on these two new paint sets from Prima Marketing. If you have any questions let me know in the comments below and if you like this project please share it with a friend or on social media:) I also wanted to let you know that most other watercolor products are also on sale at Hallmark Scrapbook and anything you purchase through the affiliate links in the post support the free tutorials on my channel, thanks! I’ll be back tomorrow with our live Friday painting class, til then happy crafting!

Review: Grumbacher Academy Watercolors

Hi friends! Today I am reviewing a paint which might be the best student watercolors on the market in my opinion: Grumbacher Academy. I have had many of these colors in my stash for over a decade bought on clearance and I grabbed a couple extra to do the review. Watch the video to see how they fared.


Price: $3-$5 per tube
good transparency
high pigment load
stable artist pigments used
rewets well when dry in palette

Can’t think of any:)

I don’t want to think that if you have watercolors you like that you need to run out and get these two. I still find them quite comparable to Van Gogh and my beloved Cotmans. I also recommend Prima and Koi (but I wish I could know what pigments are in them) and Sonnet (I know the pigments and some are shady but most are good!) 😉  Mostly I want you to be able to make informed decisions and not waste money on junk. Since we all live in different countries with different products available affordably I want to help as many people as I can.

Programming note: The next two weeks are a bit crazy, the kids have short school weeks and I have some videos I am working on for you that might take a bit longer to produce than usual so if there is a day without a video that is why:) Luckily I have over 1400 videos in my archive if you need a crafty fix. I have them organized by type on my playlist page so poke around and find something new to you! Thanks so much for stopping by and til next time happy crafting!

Aqyla Review

Hi friends! Over the past week I have had the chance to try out a new type of paint that is a cross-breed between oils and acrylics. It’s called Aqyla and it is from the Japanese company Kusakabe. A viewer asked me to review the paints and the company kindly sent me a sample. This is not a sponsored post, none of my reviews are sponsored but I like people to know if I received a product for free so they can make informed decisions. Rest assured, you will always get a truthful review from me.


Watch the video to see how I liked the paint and learn the pros and cons of this medium.

You can find out more about Aqyla here and save 10% using the coupon code: thefrugalcrafter

Update: The Aqyla mixed with acrylics dried just fine:) It did take a couple of hours though.


  • Affordable, the 18 colors set I used was $46
  • Open stock available in 72 colors and effects mediums
  • Compatible with oils, acrylics and watercolors
  • Easier to blend than traditional acrylics but dries faster than oils
  • High pigment load, no extenders
  • Lightfast and uses tried and true pigments I recognize from other artist grade paints


  • You need to mail order it

I hope you found this review helpful. I base what I review on viewer requests so if you would like a product reviewed just let me know in the comments below and I will try to accommodate it (if I haven’t reviewed it already!) Thanks for stopping by and til next time happy crafting!