Review: Palomino Blackwing Pencils

Palomino Blackwing Original

I bought my first Palomino Blackwing pencils at a Renegade Craft market a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly thinking about how soft the lead was I was more interested in the fact they looked SO GOOD! A reason I have for purchasing a lot of stationery to be honest!

Turned out the Blackwing original and the 602 were as different as Brie is to Parmesan (I may compare all things to different cheeses from now on) The Original has a nice soft lead which I like for drawing and sketching, comparable to a 4B I’ve read. That’s a bit of a surprise as I tend to like a 2B which is more like the hardness of the 602. It’s not about numbers though is it? It’s about feelings.

Palomino Blackwing 602

Later on I purchased a Pearl, out of curiosity, which is niiiice and somewhere between the Original and the 602 in terms of hardness but I was still in love with my trusty black Original for my sketching needs.

Palomino Blackwing Pearl

Most recently I bought a Jade 205 and a Lake Tahoe 73 both from editions known as “Volumes”. Palomino bring these out a few times a year and you can usually only buy them in boxes of 12 but Papersmiths were selling them individually which I was very happy about. I love these special editions as they are themed and honour cultural icons and events.

The number 205 references the molecular weight of Jadeite and celebrates the Silk Road and the belief that Jade protects its owner and encourages creativity and mental agility.

Palomino Blackwing 205 Green Jade

The Lake Tahoe 73 pencil commemorates the creative influence the lake has had on artists, writers and musicians and its signature blue colour. So that explains the colour of the pencil, the raised lines reflect the topography of the lake and the 73 is its most recent Secchi number which indicates the lake’s clarity which affects its colour.

In terms of my thoughts on their hardness I would say the Jade is similar to the Pearl and the Lake Tahoe is softer again. Both are softer than the 602 which is good news for me!

Palomino Blackwing 73 Lake Tahoe

When it comes down to it these are some good looking pencils, but style isn’t the only thing these pencils have going for them. They are a comfortable weight, they have an eraser that actually works and you can refill them (the eraser not the pencil, that would be innovative!).

 They sharpen beautifully and they dont snap and even when you’ve given them the sharpest point known to man it does not break as you draw.

Yes they are more expensive than a Staedtler Noris or a Derwent sketching pencil (each about £1.50) but you will get what you pay for. These will serve you well AND you will enjoy using them.

Pencil caps

To protect those beautifully sharpened points I have these nifty little metal point protectors I bought from CW Pencil Enterprise but if you’re not in the USA go to trusty Cult Pens. They have a slit down the side and come with strips of sticky paper. They’re like labels but I don’t know what you would label, so I think they are to tighten the protector thingys so they fit the pencil better. They’re Japanese so I can’t read the packaging. Anyway, I use Washi tape as it looks nicer and easy to replace.

I would say, go and try a couple, they are such a pleasure to use you won’t regret it.

Review: Brush Pens Pt 2

Welcome to Part Two of my brush pen review. Next up are the last 3 pens from this stash I bought.

Platinum Souhitsu Fude Brush Pen CFSW-300 is the next contender. These guys all have similar names so make sure you follow the links to make life easier! This one is double ended, one black nib and one grey. I love that. Again it is a simple black plastic pen but this one has a sparkly barrel as well as the gold brush script. No pen clip on this one though!

Now I really like this one. It’s another felt tip but it has a really good point on it meaning you can get a lovely fine line, that also means that the difference between the finest line and the thickest line this pen offers is satisfyingly great despite the nib being small and short. Good flow of ink really smooth on the paper. On the right paper (a post about that coming up)

This pen, the Platinum Souhitsu Fude Brush Pen CFS-200 is very similar to the Zebra Fude Pen I mentioned in the first part of this review. It has a felt tip that is quite chunky as you can see from the picture above. It has a reasonable amount of flex but not as much as the double ended pen above so you get less definition between thin and think lines. The ink on this one does flow as smoothly as the Zebra Fude and so it drags a bit like it is drying out which isn’t ideal. If you like this chunky style tip I’d go for the Zebra Fude over this one and the difference in price is only pence.

Last in the pack is the Uni POSCA Marker Pen PCF-350 Brush. I really wanted to be able to do brush lettering on surfaces other than paper, mainly on top of Washi tape so I thought I’d try one of these pens. I’ve had lots of POSCA pens with felt nibs and fine nibs so I know I like the way the ink flows but this pen has a brush nib. Actual bristles, which none of the other pens here have. What that does mean is that it takes some practice to get used to the long brush and the way that moves. You have to take the time to get used to how you apply pressure to get the thick and thin brush strokes because the variety of widths you can get is huge but can be hard to master. It does exactly what I want it to and gives you the option of writing on basically any surface!

And that is it for this brush pen review. I have added links straight to the pens on the Cult Pens website now.

‘Thanks for reading!

Review: Brush Pens Pt1

Every now and again I buy a pen that surprises me, I wish it happened more often but I’m a fickle being. The greatest thing about buying (most) pens is that they don’t cost the Earth so if they aren’t perfect you aren’t too much out of pocket. I do LOVE stationery shops where you can test them first though. The fabulous CW Enterprise has a drawer full of well used pencils so you can try each one before you buy (more on that in another post).

This little pile of brush pens came from Cult Pens and came to less than £20. They are a bit more per pen than maybe a biro or a fine liner but you would expect that to be honest and you’ll notice several of them are Japanese so I imagine there’s an import cost included.

On to the pens!

First up is the Zebra Fude Brush Pen. A simple black plastic body with some gold script on the barrel.

Zebra Fude Brush Pen

The nib is a felt tip and it feels very much like a felt tip pen that you would use for colouring in. I don’t like the feel of it much. The nib is quite stiff and doesn’t have much give in it and the ink is a little dry. It doesn’t come out very black either. I wasn’t a fan of this one at all.

Platinum Fude Brush Pen

Next is the Platinum Fude Brush Pen. It’s a plastic disposable pen with no real weight to it. The barrel has beautiful gold Cherry Blossom branches on it as well as some Japanese script which does add to it even though it’s just a plastic pen. Also the lid has a clear and gold glitter pen clip. Nice!

The nib is a felt tip, loaded with ink, which I really like. I can’t stand it when the ink is a bit dry and it’s hard work to draw your loops and it drags across the paper. The nib has a good amount of flexibility as you can see from the video and pics but it took a little bit of getting used to in terms of pressure. It’s a nice little pen but the felt tip will wear quickly if you use it on the wrong paper.

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Soft Nib

Next in line is the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen Soft Nib. This is my second one of these so that’s a good review already! The nib is a short felt tip with a lot of give but because it’s quite short it’s not too difficult to control like a long brush tip can sometimes be. Good flow of ink from this pen and it’s great for small work. I have written many a certificate with this pen.

Stay tuned for Part 2, I had so much to say I’ve split it into two posts.

Papersmiths Purchases

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting Papersmiths at Boxpark. We had tickets for the World Championship Athletics at the Olympic stadium and had just enough time to nip down to Boxpark before we needed to make our way over to the Olympic Park. I’m super glad we did!

It’s a lovely pink tiled space with shelves on both sides. The look and feel of it is exactly as you see on their Instagram and markets their brand SO well. I just love consistency of design, it is so joyful.

I bought a blue Nähe general purpose case for carrying around a small drawing kit whilst “on the go”. I wouldn’t say I’m an “on the go” type of person to be honest more “piddle about a bit” but that doesn’t sound as good.

Two limited edition Blackwing pencils, the Lake Tahoe and the Green Jade ones and a Pearl to replace the one I STUPIDLY lent to a student. I should know better.

A green Artline fineliner. Just to see what it’s like.

And a dark pink Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Progresso pencil which is woodless. Yep. You read that right, woodless! No wood, at all. They were all lined up in jars of the same colour and they looked so good. Also I picked it up and the weight of it was lovely. Do you do that? Pick up a pen or a pencil and the weight of it just feels so good in your hand and you have an instant reaction? An audible “ooh!”. I love that!

I treat Blackwings like a collectors item. I just have to try them and line them all up together. I’m such a sucker for well designed objects. I do like these though, both are a good hardness for me. I particularly like the Lake Tahoe one, it’s slight ridges feel nice when you hold it.

The fine liner is good but nothing overly special as fine liners go. Sorry Artline fine liner, I feel bad! It looks good though.

And finally the Progresso pencil… Now, I like soft soft colouring pencils that give a great variance of opacity from dark and opaque to light and slightly transparent. This one is exactly that! I definitely recommend this lovely if you dig colouring with pencils. I like graphic markers but i’m going to experiment a bit more and use these.

I was pretty restrained to be honest. There was so much more in there I could have bought.

Have you been to Papersmiths? What did you buy?


Designing A New Pin Badge

After having the great luck of winning a Made By Cooper competition to have 100 pins made in my own design I have had the added luck of selling them to people who like them as much as I do. It’s not often that exciting things like that happen. So now I’m hoping that other people will like my new idea and design too. Can you help me?

I read a great blog by Mail Chimp What’s In Store the other day about what happens if you don’t product test. You can read it here.

I think it can be easy to want to keep your ideas secret when there are big brands out there ready to steal them, reproduce them badly and make money off something they didn’t even have the creativity to think up for themselves. But how do I know if anybody likes my ideas or would buy them if I don’t check in with them first. So that is what I’m doing now.

This is my idea for a new pin, in three different colour ways. Please comment below and let me know which you like the best and if you’d buy a pin for collage lovers! Thank you, in advance! xxx

Collage 1

Design One


Design Two


Design Three

Custom Brush Lettering

I’ve been taking part in a monthly late night opening of Loveone in Ipswich on the last Friday of every month. The shop is where our I Make Fun Stuff concession is located as well as the Subterranean Arts gallery and TRAM vinyl record shop.

This month our friends at Applaud coffee shop next door also joined in and served red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup with homemade flatbread. You’ll see a picture of that further down.

For these events I’ve been offering my services in brush lettering. To be honest it really scares me as I feel a lot of pressure to get it perfect and I’m still a rookie at this technique but I have tried to start saying yes to things that put me out of my comfort zone.

Brush Lettering

A little warm up to help the flow of the brush and loosen up my hand and wrist. Now I think about it I should really do some warm up exercises before I start these sessions. I may be less likely to make mistakes! Which was a bit of a problem last night and spelling mistakes! Oops!

brush lettering

Here you can see the delicious soup and flatbread from Applaud and another practice piece of brush lettering. I got a few commissions last night and a few the first time I did it so I’m going to keep doing it, keep practising and I’ll give you an update from the next one. The theme is Cosy!!

My Favourite Sketchbooks for “On The Go”

Field Notes. Daler Rowney Sketchbook. Midori Traveler's Sketchbook.

This week I thought I’d tell you about the variety of sketchbooks and notebooks I like to use when I’m “On the Go” or travelling, or at work actually.

I’m really fussy about my sketchbooks, some might say snobby in fact. It’s not that I don’t like cheap sketchbooks, that’s not really the case, I just don’t like cheap paper. Teaching art in a college means I get to look through loads of different makes or brands of sketchbooks and I can tell you right now the worst ones seem to be made from recycled paper pulp and it is horrible!

Here are the ones I like to use, what I use them for and why I particularly like them.

Midori Traveler’s Sketchbook (No. 12)

sketchbooksonthegopost-4 sketchbooksonthegopost-5

This one comes top because it’s the one I use most when I’m out and about. It’s part of my traveler’s journal with my diary and Webster’s Pages Notepad inserts that I use to record trips and events.

The paper is lovely and thick, it’s cream in colour and a little textured. I don’t like very textured paper as I find the soft pencil I like to use tends to smudge easily and I draw “on the go” more than anything else. The edges are perforated so you can remove the pages if you like. I have also used this to do brush lettering in with watercolour and the pages did not warp and the paint didn’t bleed through.

Field Notes 

Field Notes New York Edition

Field Notes New York Edition


I keep these little squared paper notebooks in my backpack for a variety of reasons. I have one to fill with patterns and doodles, the paper isn’t thick enough to avoid bleed through so you can’t use both sides of the page if you use markers. I like filling these up and having a stack of patterns archived in notebook form.

I use another one for keeping notes about ideas and products I’m interested in trying out or want to buy.

The last one I use for practising brush lettering on a small scale as the squared paper is really useful when trying to practise drawing the same size letters.

Daler Rowney A5 Stapled Sketchbook

Dale Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook

Dale Rowney A5 Graduate Sketchbook

These guys are so great if you know you’re going to be drawing a lot but don’t want to take a big sketchbook. When I’m home I like to work in ring bound A5 or A4 sketchbooks from Paperchase but they can be quite heavy so I like these thin chaps if I know I’m going to meet a friend for a drawing date or I’m going somewhere and I want to draw there. They’re super cheap too! I picked this one up for £1 in Sainsburys!! Buying art supplies while grocery shopping is win win surely?

Let me know your favourite sketchbooks for when you’re out and about, I love to try new things!

Papergang August Subscription Box

Papergang Subscription BoxI love a subscription box, I mean who doesn’t love post? Well parcels, not bills.

A good subscription box brings you a collection of goodies you have selected but based on a theme you’re interested in. The fact that you don’t get to choose the contents means you try items you perhaps wouldn’t choose to spend your money on and you discover exciting new things. In this case, paper goods! And man do I love me some paper goods.

Papergang is the creation of Ohh Deer. These awesome guys work with illustrators and collate their work onto a fabulous website where you can buy products by interesting and talented people. Every month the Papergang send out a selection of paper based goods and stationery that you can’t get anywhere at all until they go live on the Ohh Deer website.

This month’s box, and my first, came in a sturdy box with a beautiful marble slip cover. On the back is a template to turn your slip cover into a cardboard stegosaurus!

Inside the goods are wrapped in tissue, to make it feel extra nice and you get a great big notebook, some tape, a greetings card and a calendar card.

Papergang Copper Tape

The tape is a shiny copper coloured paper tape. I actually already have some copper tape that was gifted to me by @intwosandthrees  and is actual metal tape (safety warning: I cut my finger on a squished up piece of it! but maybe that’s just my clumsiness) but this is very much paper tape that is easy to tear and is very shiny! I have been disappointed by non-shiny metallic tapes in the past but this is good quality. 

Kris Tate Card and Envelope

You also get a greetings card with artwork by Kris Tate. It’s got quite a Native American feel to it with the patterns and colours used though those are deer not moose as I mistook them for originally! I love the mixture of photographic elements and bright illustrated patterns in this card and the good thing is it isn’t necessarily for any occasion. I like cards that I can just send to friends for no particular reason. The card is sturdy too so feels good quality, it isn’t cheap and glossy at all!

Kris Tate Card

Here’s a close up of the deer. I love the coloured lines coming out of his mouth and on his fur, they’re fun, bright coloured and add a feel of the handmade, you can tell they have been made by the artist, not computer generated so they look all the same.

Papergang Marble Notebook

The biggy in this box is this hardbound marble notebook. It has a fabric spine which is nice and wide, strong thick covers and a lovely gold inlaid frame on the front so you can personalise it.

Papergang marble notebook

It also has copper edged pages! Copper is a bit of a theme of this month’s box if you hadn’t noticed! This edging definitely adds another touch of luxury to this notebook. It’s so nice I want to save it for something worthwhile.

PapergangBlogPost - 7

The pages are lined, but only on one side which is quite unusual and also continues with the feel of it being for something special. I guess you could use it to sketch on the plain side but you may be able to see the ink on the other side depending on which kind of pen you used. I’m not testing it, this book is staying pristine until I find a good use for it!

All of the items in this month’s box are things I will easily be able to use, especially the copper tape. I’m going to keep my subscription for another month at least to see what I get next time. I have seen images of more paper goods in previous which I’m keen to see. This big notebook was a pretty special item so I’m looking forward to seeing other products like small notebooks and stationery.

Foiled Brush Lettering

I’ve been working on a commission for a good friend recently which has been lots of fun as it’s been an opportunity to work on my brush lettering for clients rather than just for fun or using my own ideas. This is a process that crosses both analog creating and digital (which is not my forte) so I thought I’d give you an idea of how I go from idea to finished product.

brush lettering

The first thing I do is practise the letters and words I’m going to be drawing. I find some letters more difficult than others, especially “S” and “d” and I also like to try different styles.

I like to use the Kuretake Zig BrusH20 for brush lettering. This yellow one is the detailer brush. The watercolours are a cheap set I bought in the States by Artists Loft. It’s about $5 and is good to travel with or take on a drawing/painting trip because they’re super light and it doesn’t matter if they get bashed up a bit. I paint in black because that’s easiest to trace in Adobe Illustrator.

Brush Lettering in Adobe Illustrator

Once I’ve got the words right I scan them into Adobe Illustrator at the highest resolution I can and use the Image Trace function to, well, trace them. There is a great tutorial here that explains the process and the easiest way to do it. I often have to use the Pen Tool to adjust some of the errors that come form the Image Trace process and fiddle around to smooth out lines and delete anchors that are not needed. This is the most boring and laborious part for me as I’m not a fan of digital stuff really. 

I then have to take each word that I’ve refined and line them up on the appropriate page size. That sounds pretty easy but I’m still getting the hang of Adobe programs so it was definitely worth mentioning that I need to line everything up so it looks right on the page.

brush lettering

Luckily when that’s done it’s pretty straightforward as long as no changes need to be made.

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It’s important to make the black as black as possible so adjust your letters in Illustrator and turn your printer settings up to high quality to get the best print. To foil onto this it MUST be printed using a laser printer, it doesn’t work on inkjet. The foil sticks to the carbon and that’s why it needs to be as black as possible.

Foiled Brush Lettering

Next all there is to do is apply the foil to the print. I use a fancy laminator which is basically a normal office laminator but it has different heat settings. You place the print in a carrier sheet (which is like a laminating pouch that doesn’t stick together) cut the foil to size, place on top and run it through the laminator.

Foiled Brush Lettering

And there you have it! One quote hand lettered and foiled to create a unique and original art print.

I’m hoping to do more like this in the future so if you’re interested pop me an email or comment below!




Studio Calico Planner Kit Review

Studio Calico Pool Party Review

I finally gave in to my nagging inner voice and signed up to the Studio Calico Planner Kit a few months ago. I had been receiving the A Beautiful Mess  Messy Box for a year at that point and looked at Studio Calico because they distribute the Messy Box so I knew the products would be good quality.  I really like the idea of subscription boxes, they introduce you to new items and brands or fresh ways to use the products and are good value when you add up what you get.

I went for the Planner Kit because I am a bit of a control freak and find being organised stops me worrying about things as I feel more in control when it’s all laid out in front of me. I get a lot of patterned papers and cards in the Messy Box and the planner kit seemed to focus on stickers, inserts and embellishments that you can use to help organise yourself and your life!

This is what is in my latest planner kit for July, titled Pool Party. It takes about 11 days for it to get from the USA to the UK with economy shipping so it’s a little while before I get mine, but it’s worth the wait.

In this kit was:

  • Patterned Transparency
  • Color Theory Monthly Tab Stickers
  • 2 Rolls of Masking Tape
  • 2 Patterned Fold Over Clips
  • 2 x Attacher Stickers
  • 2 x Tab Stickers
  • 2 x Label Stickers
  • 2 x Phrase Stickers
  • 2 x Puffy Summer Icon Stickers

These fold over clips are great for marking pages, or holding them open when you’re trying to photograph them!

Studio Calico Pool Party Planner Kit

The Color Theory monthly tabs are bright and draw attention to the pages for each month in my Midori free diary making it easy to track back through the weeks.

The masking tape is great to “underline” an event or highlight a day that’s important.

Studio Calico Pool Party Planner Kit

I’ve used the Puffy icon stickers to embellish days and add an extra touch and when I’m recording occasions or days to remember in my notebook insert.

PoolPartyEdited - 3

I’ve used the Tab stickers to mark things I want to remember like jobs to do, ideas or things I found that I want, like a wish list! This is sometimes a dangerous activity as it means you remember the things you like rather than just forgetting about them and saving your money!

Sadly sometimes I get things in my kit that are designed for a planner with ring binders and the Patterned transparency is one of these items, but I’m sure I can use it for something else and using items for new purposes is always interesting.

I haven’t made a big dent on this kit yet but I know a lot of the stickers are going to be really useful when my diary gets really busy in the academic year.

I hope this gives you an idea of what you get in a Studio Calico planner kit. Their next one is now live so go check that out on their website and i’ll review that one when it turns up! Next time I’ll show you the different Midori inserts I use in my Traveler’s Notebook.