Category Archives: Art Supplies

The Year of the Coloring Book: Coloring with Inktense

We’ve declared 2015 the Year of the Coloring Book! Johanna Basford has a new one coming out in February (Enchanted Forest) and that’s what kicked off our excitement, but it just seems like coloring is overall having a moment — there are some incredible new titles that we are having so much fun with.

Today I took home a new one from Peter Pauper Press called Joyful Designs. It’s in their Studio Series and it’s illustrated by Joy Ting. A couple really nice things — the art is printed on one side of each page only, so you can use pens, markers or even watercolors and it doesn’t matter if the color bleeds through to the back. And the pages are micro-perforated, so if you want to you can tear them out (or you can leave them in).

I started a design with Inktense colored pencils by Derwent. I’ve had these pencils for a while but never used them much. I bought them intending to use them on fabric (they’re permanent after being wet and then dried), but that project never got off the ground. So I had them hanging around and decided to try them on this project.

And I love them!

I started by coloring the whole design with the pencils. Then I brushed water over some parts of the design to get a watercolor look. In other areas I brushed water and then colored over the areas again — that gives some really intense color saturation. And I also tried dipping the tips of the pencils in water and adding accents that way. I found that I almost got TOO much color on the page with that technique, so I used it sparingly. Here are two pictures — one with the first layer of color, and the second after I added water and additional ink.

The colors got so intense that it’s sort of like a 1970’s look — very groovy.

Joyful Designs page colored with Inktense pencils

Joyful Designs page colored with Inktense pencils

Joyful Designs page colored with Inktense pencils, with water and additional ink

Joyful Designs page colored with Inktense pencils, with water and additional ink


Video: Make a paper-plate snake with Do-A-Dot markers

Shop for Do-A-Dot markers on our website.

New: all-natural paints from Glob are made in the USA

Glob all-natural art materials are made in the USA

Yesterday we unpacked a very exciting box — all-natural paints from Glob! They’re made in the USA and they’re earth friendly and beautiful. Check ’em out on our website here.

Or, visit the store and see them in person!

Glob paints at Pufferbellies

New sign in our art department

Susan F made a sweet new sign to hang over our art supplies. A “visual upgrade,” as my brother Nick would say!

In the mood to shop for art supplies but can’t make it to the store? Here’s the link.

New art supplies sign at Pufferbellies

Crafter After Hours — Gelli Arts printing

Last night we held our second Crafter After Hours — an art event for grownups (with no kids allowed). Seems sort of weird for a toy store … but maybe not really. Crafter After Hours was born out of our mega-popular Crafternoon events for kids. We find that sometimes (a lot of times?) the parents are as interested in the projects as the kids are. And since we have our brand-new Upstairs Art Room to enjoy … we decided to go for it.

This time around, we created gelatin monoprints. My plan was to make gelatin plates for all 15 participants. Not too hard, I thought. I had been making a couple at a time for myself, and figured it wouldn’t be too tough to scale it. But I was sort of wrong. Since I wanted to have backup plates in case someone’s tore or got nicked, I figured I would have to make about 22 8″x10″ plates in all. And that’s a lot. After some serious stressing, I ended up ordering these cool Gelli Arts plates — they work like traditional gelatin plates, but they’re super easy to clean, not as fragile as gelatin, and store at room temp. Plus I didn’t have to spend hours making them and panicking that I would somehow mess them up. Win! The event was a big hit. Everyone left with some beautiful pieces.

Cards, gift tags and collage paper made with the Gelli Arts plate

Tuesday Crafternoon: Watercolor Flower Gardens

Watercolor Flower Garden

This week at Crafternoon, we made flower gardens using watercolor crayons and watercolor pencils. Even the littlest ones enjoyed putting color on paper and watching it move when they brushed on some water … and, of course, blowing with a straw.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper or “paint” paper (we like Strathmore’s kids’ paint pad — it’s less expensive than watercolor paper but nearly as sturdy)
  • Watercolor crayons
  • Watercolor pencils (optional)
  • Water in a little cup
  • Brushes (a larger one for watering your grass, a finer one for adding details to the flowers)

Step one: Prepare your paper. We used Strathmore watercolor paper cut in half.

Step two: Plant your grass. Scribble hard all along the bottom inch of your paper with whatever colors of watercolor crayon that you’d like your grass to be. Use a lot of color! Most children chose green, but we had plenty of blue grass, yellow grass, brown grass and red grass, too.

Our favorite watercolor crayons, from Staedtler

Our favorite watercolor crayons, from Staedtler

Planting the grass

Plant the grass

Step three: Water your grass. Use a brush to apply big pools of water all over the areas you’ve colored in.

Watering the grass

Water the grass

Step four: Make your grass grow. With a straw held close to the surface of the paper, blow hard to move the water up the paper and create your grass and flower stems.

Make the grass grow!

Make the grass grow!

Step five: Add your flowers, and whatever else you’d like (birds, butterflies, sky, sun, etc). We used watercolor crayons and pencils for this as well, and encouraged the children to try different techniques. You can color on the dry areas of the paper then add water with a brush, dip your pencil or crayon in water first and then draw, or paint an area with clear water and then color on top of it. It’s all fun.

Add flowers to your garden

Add flowers to your garden

A finished flower garden

A finished flower garden

Crafternoon: Salad Spinner Fireworks

Crafternoon at Pufferbellies: Salad Spinner Fireworks

Things started off calm, but the excitement ratcheted up quickly!

This week at Crafternoon we made beautiful Salad Spinner “Fireworks.” We were inspired by this post at momtastic. Of course, we had to put our own special twist on it by using our favorite liquid watercolors: Watercolor Magic from Sargent Art. We used glitter, metallic and regular colors, but the glittery ones were by far the favorite.

Here’s what you need:

  • A salad spinner
  • Some paint in a squeeze bottle
  • Paper cut to fit into the bottom of your salad spinner. We used pages from a Strathmore paint pad cut into quarters.
  • Kid power!

Here’s what we learned:

  • The pull-string type of salad spinner was easier for younger children to use than the kind you whirl the handle around and around. Both kinds were fine for big kids. The kind with a knob you push down on would probably be the easiest of all, but we didn’t have that kind.
  • The more paint you put on, the more AMAZING your “fireworks” will be. So don’t hold back!
  • If your salad spinner is the type with drainage holes in the outer bowl, set it on a cookie sheet or something to contain the mess.
  • A small bit of a Scotch brand foam mounting square will keep your paper from flying around inside the salad spinner. Scotch tape didn’t work as well.
Note for toy stores and groups: We did this project with 25 kids over the course of two hours. It took three grownups — one to handle each salad spinner and a third to run the wet artwork outside to dry on the line, and to sign kids up on a clipboard. The children needed a grownup to hold the spinner still while they spun it. This was a surprisingly un-messy activity! The salad spinners kept everything well contained; I only had a few drops of paint to scrub up off the floor at the end of the day. 
liquid watercolor in glitter, metallic and regular

We used our favorite - Watercolor Magic!

squeeze the paint onto your paper

Squeeeeze the paint onto your paper. More is better!

salad spinner art before


salad spinner art after


Salad spinner art

The string-style spinner was easier for little ones to manage.

artwork outside Pufferbellies

Some of our salad spinner artwork drying outside on the line.

Salad spinner fireworks

A few of our salad-spinner fireworks up close.