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  • How to Make Your Own Paint

    Oil Paint Colour

    Now, after the  INTRODUCTION TO OIL PAINTthe next challenge is to try making your own!

    Oil paints are basically the mixture of pigments and oil. Their popularity is caused by their qualities to dry without changing shape and colour, as well as their archival properties, meaning that the oxidised oil binds the pigments, making it possible to keep the painting intact for hundreds of years.

    Making your own oil paint allows you to experiment with the consistency of the paint, as well as the colours. Pigments found in nature can even be used to create your own unique colours.

    What do I need to make your own Oil Paint:

    • mortar and pestle
    • muller and glass slab
    • palette knife
    • linseed oil ( cold-pressed, raw or unrefined)
    • refined beeswax
    • pigment(s)
    • paint tubes (optional)

    The Method

    First of all, you will make a small pile of pigment on the glass slab, and make a small gap in the middle. Pour a bit of oil there and start mixing with a palette knife or spatula. Don’t worry if it’s not easy to mix, and only add a small amount of oil at a time, as you want the mixture to have the smallest amount of oil as possible.

    Start grinding the mixture with the muller in a circular motion, spreading the mixture gradually on the slab. The idea is to try covering every pigment particle with the least possible amount of oil. From time to time, scrape the paint off of the muller and start grinding again, spreading the paint. Do this until the mixture reaches a ‘paint consistency’, as it varies from pigment to pigment.

    Fillers and Binders used in Oil Paint

    Fillers tend to be seen as not good, but they have certain advantages. (the only thing you don’t want is more filler than pigment in the paint!)

    Barium sulphate and aluminium hydroxide are two common extenders, which are used to increase the volume of the paint without altering the colour. (it’s advised not to add more than 25%, as it may effect the colour)

    Beeswax acts as an emulsifier that helps strengthen the bond between pigment and oil, as well as a thixotropic agent that keeps the pigments evenly distributed.

    Storing Oil Paint

    You can choose from storing the freshly made paint in a glass jar, or in pre-made paint tubes. The latter will have an open base with a plastic cap on the other end. You can put the paint in with a palette knife and when it’s filled, squeeze the paint in the cap side of the tube in order to get rid of air bubbles. Don’t overfill the tube, as you need to leave a bit so as to roll up the excess. You might want to use pliers to fold it over. When it’s done, label the tube with the media, pigment and date of manufacture.




     How should I price up my illustrations?

    Arthur Rackham - 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ' - Lewis Carrol (1907)

    Having worked as a freelance illustrator for a number of years, you would assume that I would have managed to work out how to price my work for the various different commissions I undertake. Unfortunately – not so! It is one of the most stressful things you have to do as an illustrator.

    Clients often try to pay tiny amounts for your work, citing that ‘art is fun – not real work’, or telling you that the exposure you will get will advance your career and build up your portfolio. As all illustrators know, this is rubbish! Illustrating is hard work. Not only do you need the skills and imagination to be an illustrator, but it takes years of experience and hard graft to get to that point. If it was that easy, your client would be doing the work themselves. They need your skills, so you should realise your value and demand fees that are appropriate to the work you are being commissioned for and turn down those that aren’t.

    The main point to remember about pricing illustrations is that it’s all about the usage of your work and the rights to reproduce it, in what numbers, where and for how long.

    Where will your work appear? Will it be a front cover or inside? The highest fee will be for a full wraparound cover, followed by a front cover then a back cover, a full spread, full page, half page and finally a spot illustration. You have the same situation if you’re illustrating for a website – position, size etc.

    Brian Froud, Alan Lee - 'Faeries' (1979)

    How long is your artwork going to be used for?

    Usage is also a determining factor. How long will your work be used?  In an advert on TV? As background art on a TV programme? As a food label? CD cover? There is a direct correlation to how much your work is seen to the amount you should charge.

    The geographical areas where your work will be on display is also a factor. Will it be seen locally, nationally or internationally? Starting with a local audience and increasing up to an international audience. Adding value the more countries and languages the client intends to reproduce your work in. The entire world and every language is going to have a much greater cost to your client than Scotland and in English.

    Quentin Blake - 'The Enormous Crocodile' by Roald Dahl (1978)

    There is also the time factor. A magazine will have a short run, books much longer – for the life of the book. Some clients will want the rights to reproduce your work in perpetuity. The longer your client wants to use your work, the larger the amount you can charge.

    What about Exclusivity?

    If a client wants the exclusive rights to your work, you should charge a higher price, as being able to sell your work to additional clients would obviously increase the amount you could make on your illustration.

    Working in colour, rather than in black and white takes much more time, so colour work should be charged at a higher rate. The more copies of your illustration, the higher price you can charge.

    Norman Rockwell - 'After the Prom' - Saturday Evening Post Cover (1957)

    How & Where does your client want to use your artwork?

    Another consideration is the rights your client wants to your work. Is it just for a book jacket? Will they reuse it on a website? Will they use it in further international editions? Will they use part of it as an inside illustration? For every additional right to your work, you should charge a higher fee. The highest fee being for total rights control. There is also an agreement called ‘work for hire’, where your client will not only have total control over the rights to reproduce your work, but could also keep your original artwork, the copyright and wouldn’t even have to link your name to the work. In this instance a much higher fee would have to be negotiated.

    You must also consider who your client is – a multi national or a private individual and tailor your fee accordingly.

    Certain countries put a higher value on illustrators’ work. For example, working with a US client, you can command a much higher fee.

    Considering how long an illustration will take you and factoring in research, meetings and travel time. Make sure you’re not working for minimum wage, but earning a decent amount for the time and skill you put into your work.

    A rush job is when you are offered a last minute commission and you have to work every waking hour to complete it. In this case you should ask for a higher fee.

    Ernest H Shepard - 'Winnie the Pooh' - AA Milne

    If you are working on something that has a long run, such as illustrating a book, you should be entitled to royalties. Your fee will normally be an advance on royalties and sometimes the royalties fizzle out, so it’s advisable to ask for a reasonable upfront fee, as you may never see another penny.

    Two methods of pricing your illustrations

    There are two different ways of working out your pricing. The client approaches you with the fee they are offering, or the client asks you how much you wanted for the work. If the client has a figure in mind, it is much easier. From there you can negotiate up. If you have to come up with a figure yourself, it is much more difficult, as you could get it horribly wrong and lose a lot of potential money by undervaluing yourself. If you really have no idea where to start there are some excellent books that you can reference :- The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines; The Illustrator Guide to Law and Business Practices Association of Illustrators); Becoming a Successful Illustrator (Successful Careers) by Jo Davies; How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees. Alternatively speak to your illustrator friends and ask about their experiences and how they price their work.

    Janet & Allan Ahlberg - 'Each Peach Pear Plum' (1978)

    Arrgh - My Head hurts!

    If this all sounds a wee bit stressful, don’t worry. The more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s important not to aim too high and scare clients off, but it’s equally important not to undersell your worth. The best place to be is somewhere in the middle. Where the client and you are both happy.

    The most important thing to remember, is that it’s the rights to your work that you are selling and you want to keep as many of them as you can. The more rights the client wants and the more exposure your work will get, the higher the fee you should demand. If you’re not sure, ask a higher price – your client can always come back with a lower offer if they’re not happy with it. You should always be paid fairly for your work and your unique skills.

    Nicola Bayley - 'The Mousehole Cat' by  Antonia Barber (1991)

    Written by Mary Aitken - Freelance Illustrator & Designer

  • Investigating Ink: What you should be using and how.

    Talking about ink

    We get a lot of questions from our customers about products, so we would like to use our blog as a place where we give you more information about the art materials we supply and what they can be used for.  When selecting which ink to use it can be difficult to understand which you should select, especially when you are trying to choose between two black inks, like drawing or Indian ink.  So to help clear things up we’ve put this article together to help you understand which ink you want to select for your projects!

    Which ink should I choose?

    There are various types of ink which you can buy, and the one you select for your work will depend upon factors such as application, what ground you are working on, what effect you are hoping to achieve and possibly how the work is going to be seen by your audience.

    Dye based inks 

    Dye based inks are produced using a series of soluble dyes in solution, often shellac.  Dye based inks should be used when the main aim is the purest, most vivid colour.  However, dye based colour has a lower lightfastness and so is better for work which will be kept in protected conditions such as a sketchbook or portfolio rather than on permanent display where the colour will deteriorate faster over time with exposure to light.  Shellac Dye based inks are usually water resistant, and produce the best effects when used on paper, Bristol or illustration board and when used with dip pens or brushes.   Dye based inks are not recommended for use with fountain pens as the particle size of the dyes may cause clogging and damage the nib.

    iartsupplies sells three ranges of dye-based inks, the Ecoline liquid watercolour ink range in which all colours are dye based except for the white and the gold, the Waterproof Drawing ink except for the white and black colours and the Dr Ph Martins Radiant Inks.  The exceptions in the ranges are both pigment based and have improved lightfastness as a result.   With the black drawing ink, choose this when you want a black which will provide you with a greater possibility for shading work and gradations of the colour as opposed to Indian Ink.  The Ecoline and Radiant inks do not contain shellac and are not waterproof, but the Drawing ink is once dry.


    Here are some ideas to get you started with Ecoline inks:


    Acrylic Inks

    Acrylic Inks such as Daler Rowney FW are made using pigments the same way that paint is.  These inks are best for those of you who need a fluid versatile colour with the highest possible lightfastness.  Compared to dye based inks, Acrylic inks have slightly less colour intensity but due to the better lightfastness are less likely to fade.   Acrylic inks are waterproof and permanent once they dry and you can mix them with any acrylic paint and acrylic mediums giving them great versatility!

    Acrylic inks work best on paper, board and canvas, but will also take on plastics, wood and ceramics.  If you choose these inks you should use a brush, dip pen or a technical pen or airbrush.  Acrylic inks are also great for stamping, screen printing, fabric printing and stencilling.

    Read what art bloggers think about FW Acrylic Inks:


    Indian Ink

    Black Indian ink is mostly used as a drawing ink.  Indian ink is generally produced using lampblack pigment combined with a gum binder and which becomes liquid when mixed with water.

    Indian Ink got its name from the fact that the materials used to make it were originally sourced on the sub-continent, but you may also hear it referred to as Chinese ink, as that was the country where great use was originally made of it, around  3000 BC.  Indian Ink is most generally sold in liquid forms in bottles.  Indian ink is water resistant once dry.   Indian Ink can be used with technical pens, fountain pens, calligraphy pens, brushes, airbrushes and dip pens.

    Indian Ink is generally much denser and blacker than many other pigment based black inks.  This makes it great for covering large areas and block black work, such as in comic book illustration.

    Here’s an interesting tutorial for the ways that bleach can be used with Indian ink!

    Let us break that down for you one more time:



    • Pure, vivid colour
    • Low lightfastness
    • Best for sketchbook/ folio work, not on permanent display (and exposed to light)
    • Water-resistant
    • Use on paper, Bristol or illustration board
    • Use with dip pens or brushes
    • DO NOT USE with fountain pens, dye particle size may cause clogging and damage nib.



    • Pigment based
    • Fluid versatile colour
    • High lightfastness
    • Waterproof and permanent once dry
    • Can be mixed with acrylic paints and mediums
    • Use on paper, board, canvas, plastics, wood and ceramics
    • Use with brush, dip pen, technical pen or airbrush
    • Great for stamping, screen printing, stencilling and fabric painting.



    • Pigment based
    • Use when you want the blackest black ink
    • Use on paper, board and textured papers.
    • Use with technical pens, fountain pens, calligraphy pens, brushes, airbrushes and dip pens.

    Happy inking everyone!







  • Calligraphy Hack

    f3579673250d9183994b8f5ab1e022d7Want to make use of some calligraphy script but don't have the time or materials right now to learn how to use a purpose pen?  Don't worry, we've found this great hack for you which shows you how to use fineliners to create calligraphy like writing. 

  • Wrinkling in your Oil Painting?

    What causes winkling in Oil Paints?

    wrinking of oil paint Oh Dear!

    It’s not a pretty sight. Usually we associate wrinkling with age, but if you have found your oil paintings wrinkling, age is not the cause! It is the drying process that is top of the list, with possible combinations of paint quality, colour, and your technique also contributing to the issue. If you want to know how to avoid it, then read on!

    Wrinkling is caused during the drying process when the surface of the paint layer dries faster than the body of the layer itself. As oils (linseed, poppy, safflower etc.) have a chemical drying process by oxidation and obviously the oxygen from the air reaches the surface of the paint quicker and more easily than the paint underneath. If the surface then dries to a closed film, this effectively blocks the oxygen to the paint underneath. As the oil is expanding by the addition of oxygen molecules, the surface of the paint layer tends to expand faster than the paint on the inside, especially when the surface does dry to a closed film. Then the difference in expansion causes wrinkling.

    slight oil wrinking Not a nice sight!
    oil wrinkling in thick paint Give some thought to the colours you use









    The surface of a paint layer can dry to a closed film for several reasons:

    1. First of all when the paint contains a relatively high percentage of oil, which is the case with very fine (transparent) pigments. Pigments in oil colours are surrounded by oil, and if the pigment particles are (relatively) very small, the collective surface of the pigments is huge and a significant quantity of oil is needed. The more oil (or put another way, the less volume of dry “breathing” ingredients), the more closed the superficial film and the higher the risk of wrinkling.
    2. The second reason can be the chemical composition of the pigment. Some pigments, such as cobalt and earth colours, contain elements that catalyse the accessibility of oxygen and therefore act as siccatives (speeding up the drying), with the same result as mentioned above. Also traditional lake pigments (e.g. traditional madder lakes, not used in the Rembrandt Oil Paints, here the “Permanent” madder lake is based on a modern replacement) tend to cause wrinkling.
    wrinking of oil paint Thick or thin, certain colours and additives like linseed oil or poppy oil can increase the wrinkling risk.

    This also explains why the risk of wrinkling with Van Gogh Student Oil paint is less than with the artist quality Rembrandt range of oil colour. In Van Gogh Oil the quality of pigment is partly replaced by extenders. The particle size of these chalk kinds of products is relatively big when compared with the pigment itself (so relatively less oil is needed), the particles themselves “open” and therefore give access to oxygen, also to the oil within.

    How can I reduce the risk of my oil painting wrinkling?

    By adding oil to the paint, the risk of wrinkling is increased, especially with metal and pearlescent colours. It is advisable to thin the paint with a painting medium, not with pure oil. Although mediums do contain oil the wrinkling is different and therefore reduced.

    Although Royal Talens (makers of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cobra and Amsterdam paints) do try to avoid wrinkling as much as possible by adjusting their recipes, for some colours wrinkling cannot be eliminated without decreasing other quality aspects of the paint. If these kinds of colours are applied thickly, it is advisable to mix them with Painting Paste. This “painting butter” gives oxygen access to the oil within the paint as well, without changing the hue of the colour.

    So in summary you can avoid wrinkling in the following ways

    1. Give careful thought to the colours you use, as well as the paint quality.
    2. If you have the time, try out some tests first to be sure
    3. Don't add oil to your oil paint. You do not need to do this. You should only add a "medium"
    4. If you are using a “risky colour” in a high quality paint then think about
      1. How thickly you are going to be painting
      2. Can you thin it out a little with white spirit and make the paint leaner?
      3. Can you make the paint fatter and add some painting medium?
    5. If you want to paint thickly, with a high quality (high pigment content) and/or “risky colour” then think about adding some filler like painting paste.
    painting with wrinkling I am slightly wrinkled here and there, but I am not old yet!
  • Art Journals and Mixed Media

    blogAre you interested in starting your own art journal, improving your art journal techniques, looking for new ideas for backgrounds, pages etc.?  This great blog provides ideas, tutorials and guidelines, check it out for some inspiration and education.


  • Arts & crafts time? Keep your colors clean!

    Q Tip Painting Tips!

    I was as going through my facebook feed this morning and the 2nd post on my wall was this picture from Q-tips.  It immediately caught my attention because just last night we had paint night at our house with the kids.

    At first I was thinking that they were showing and leading us to the idea of using a Q-tip to clean our watercolour pans (which would actually be a good idea).  Then I was thinking maybe of using the Q-tip to actually clean the actual individual colors.  I know when my daughter starts getting serious involved into painting with her watercolour set she gets all the colors mixed up and the entire pan looks like a hurricane has hit it.  So now once everything starts getting a little dry I thought about taking the Q-tip and actually cleaning / scraping the messy part of the individual colors back down to the "original" color.

    What do you think?
    How do you keep your colors clean as well as your pans?

    I would love to hear some suggestions or your input on this subject.

  • Handy Tips; Hints for Glass Paints


    Cleaning up after painting.

    Like any other there are always Hints & Tips for anything you use when making something. I have come across a few things since starting using the Decorfin Glass Paints and want to share these with you as I know there are many friends of mine over on the Crafts Beautiful forum are taking part in our Glass Painting Challenge. If you read the following tips and hints you will soon be well on your way to beautiful & inspiring glass painted makes in card-making.

    * When changing to another colour when painting have some luke warm water or even Turps, which is better, to dip your brush in and a paper towel for drying off, leaving clean for next colour.



    Cleaning Agent - Turps or Warm Water


    *Apply the Relief Paint thickly, to do so take the nozzle off and apply or even, draw over the first layer of relief paint ( I tend to do this ) while wet and then leave to dry flat. If you require thicker add as many layers of Relief Paint as you need.

    * Apply the Glass Paints thickly to your topper you are making so that brush marks are not seen at all. When doing so though, make sure you have used the Relief Paint thickly too or else the Glass Paint will go over the lines of Relief Paint. I tend to thicken the relief paint at least 3 x when painting thickly. But wait till dry enough to go over with the next layer.

     You could also try encompassing a small decorative object within the layers.


    Glass Painted Heart Topper


    * You can use the Relief Paint also, for writing text on your card makes if you feel comfortable with your handwriting. You can also, use the relief paint to draw swirls and anything else for a drawn effect. 



    Writing with Relief Paint


    * When drying the Glass Painted Images created you need to lie flat for 24 hours but, I have found that some colours are not fully dry after the required 24 hours so, a tip from me is to hang your toppers on to a wall or door and allow to dry more as then the colour will not drip and allows more free space to work to make more. When doing so, just use a piece of masking tape or sellotape when pinning up to dry.



    Drying Heart


    * Colours Light Blue and Transparent White take a bit longer to dry I have found and leave a sticky feeling so, bare in mind as I have left things lying around and bits get into them and remain there leaving the topper a bit messy. Also, keep fingers away from the stickiness as will leave finger marks.



    Finger Marks, Dust etc.


     * I have found that when I get craft magazines and see some useful templates of basic shapes, I cut out and keep and use these for drawing over with Relief Paint, especially when creating on acetate as you can lay the Template underneath the acetate and then store away in an envelope for later makes. Very handy are templates, especially if you can not draw. If you are happy with your own drawing skills and enjoy drawing then you can easily make your own templates to use; the heart below is my very own hand drawn template that I use a lot in my crafting. 



    Templates from Magazines or Own

    * Using Stamps, the Image of, you can use the outline as a base or, if abstract enough to use all detail on it use as a template for your glass painted topper. (I used this Butterfly Stamp below to use as a base for a topper to make a card).

    Butterfly Stamp

    * I have found that Punches in Cardmaking ie. squares, circles etc. and scalloped ones too are handy to punch the shapes out and adhere to the surface you are working on and go over with the glass paints - either to use as a outline or fill in. It is interesting when you have a scalloped square paper with flowers on and you see the Transparent white over the whole square and the pattern can be seen through the glass paint. But, also you can use punched out shapes - especially little shapes - and sprinkle on top of the glass paint whilst wet to create something different and then use the Transparent white over that once dry. This sample below just shows a small sample I have tested out on using Transparent Glass Paint on top of patterned paper, so nothing special. 





    Technique Using Patterned Paper


    Watch out for too much paint on the brush - it can get everywhere!

    When painting in small designs make sure that you use a small headed fine brush when applying, so not to have paint coming out over the sides of the design.

    Make sure your lids are on tightly and storing paints upside down will help stop them drying out.

     Ideas to try

    Masking fluid - this can be used to maintain white marks where wished on the design but, we give this as an idea to try out on canvas.

    Layers - decoupage;

    When producing layers of glass paint you need to wait til each layer of relief paint and glass paint is dry (use thickly though) and then do the same again for the 2/3/4/5th layers - as many as you wish, just bare in mind the weight of the base the design goes onto.  



    Glass Painted Abstract Topper

    The other way to produce layers of glass paint is to create your design and repeat however many times and relief each one using either beads or sticky foam squares to raise each layer. Below, is an example of the 3 layers seperately then, one of all the layers layered together with beads.


    Layered Flower - Glass Painted
    Adhered with Beads

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