Box Off! - SketchBox vs ArtSnacks

I have been getting ArtSnacks box for two years. Recently, I discovered SketchBook. It's a similar subscription service that delivers full sized art supplies to your door once a month. I'm a big fan of subscription boxes and often recommend them. I'd like to find the best possible box to recommend and for my own use!

SketchBox Trial

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ArtSnacks Trial

The Basics:

I bought a three month subscription to SketchBox. This cost $85.00. There was a slight discount for buying more than one month at a time, but that breaks down to about $28.00 a month. SketchBox comes at two cost levels. I purchased the lower cost level, SketchBox basic. ArtSnacks is a $24.00 a month and only comes at one cost level. The May SketchBox arrived on April 27th and the May ArtSnacks box arrived on May 2nd. For me, the cost and delivery dates are close enough that they are comparable. 

The contents:

ArtSnacks:

The ArtSnacks box contained Copic MultiLiner CS, Tombow MONO Graph Mechanical Pencil, KUM Correc-Stick Eraser, Faber-Castell PITT Big Brush Artist Pen, and Liquitex Professional Paint Marker, 2mm. Overall, this was a disappointing box from ArtSnacks, in my opinion. Compared with last month's box, this box was a disappointment. 

Copic MultiLiner CS: The copic multiliner CS is a calligraphy pen (CS stands for calligraphy small). It has a small chisel tip. I am not a fan of this product. I like the copic multiliners in general, however this calligraphy tip does not work well for me. It was difficult to work with and did not compliment my technique. I was able to make it work, but it took twice as much effort as a normal multiliner or a brush tip pen. If I worked in lettering, this pen might have been useful, but I don't work much in lettering. I'm a bit confused as to why this pen was included in this box as ArtSnacks does offer a box exclusively dedicated to learning lettering. 

Tombow MONO Graph Mechanical Pencil:  This is a normal mechanical pencil. A mechanical pencil was included in a box a couple months ago and I'm still using that pencil. I didn't need a new one. It is a finer led, but not enough that I particularly notice the difference while sketching. Tombow is a nice brand, but it's just not what I need in a mechanical pencil.

KUM Correc-Stick Eraser: I like this product! It works as advertised. It allowed controlled precision while erasing. I've been having some trouble with erasing sketch lines and loosing some of the ink in the process and needing to touch up the ink. I hope this eraser will solve that problem.   

Faber-Castell PITT Big Brush Artist Pen: This could have been a good product, except I'm not not a fan of the color. I do like the pen itself. The large size is great for filling large areas and the brush tip allows a lot of control. I also like the large barrel on the pen. It's comfortable to grip. I have yet to test the pen's blendability. It the ink is india ink which should not blend with water based products. I'm not sure I like the pen enough to buy it in a better color.

Liquitex Professional Paint Marker, 2mm: This is a water based acrylic pen. I love the liquitex band. I like this pen. The ink applies with a sticky texture. Pages closed on this ink while wet will be cemented together, so be careful! However, the ink does dry quickly. When dry the texture is a matte, almost flaky texture. The bold color translates well to the page and the pen is easy to manage. I prefer a brush tip and this pen has a chisel tip, but it was still easy to work with. I don't know if I'd buy it again, but would buy it if I were working on wood or some other non paper medium.

SketchBox:

The SketchBox contained Spectrum Graphic Custom 3 piece set, Tombow Dual Brush Pen, Tombow Blending kit, Derwent Drawing Pencil, and LePen Drawing Pen - Brush. I loved this box! All of the products in the box worked together so well! Getting a three piece set of of the Spectrum pens was fantastic for getting a full read on the product. Similarly, the two tombow pens allowed me to test how the tombow pens work together. 

Spectrum Graphic Custom 3 piece set: I really liked this product. These markers are alcohol based, similar to copic markers. They blend well with each other and blend with copic markers as well. A little googling says that these pens cost a little less than copics, but are at a similar price point. My one complaint about these markers is that they did not come with a brush tip. This brand does offer brush tip markers. I loved the colors offered in this set! I might buy more colors if I can find the brush tip version of this marker.

Tombow Dual Brush Pen: This is a narrow barreled water based marker. I'm not a fan of water based markers. They tend to cause bleeding in most of my black ink liner pens. This pen was no exception. I had to choose my inking pens more carefully than I would with an alcohol based pen. For a water based marker, I liked it, but I'm not likely to buy it again.

Tombow Blending kit: This came with a blending pen and a wonderfully helpful pamphlet on blending methods with this product. Although, as previously mentioned, I'm not a fan of water based markers. The literature on blending methods was an interesting read. Some techniques sound interesting and the blending pen allowed some fun techniques when used with the colored tombow pen. 

Derwent Drawing Pencil: This is an interesting product. It worked well with all the products I've tried to use it with. It's opaque over most alcohol or water based inks. The pencil has a wax texture which is unusual to work with, but I liked it once I got used to it. I don't think I'll be buying this again, but I do like the product.

LePen Drawing Pen - Brush: I like this product! It's a broader brush tip pen than I usually use for inking, but it does allow more dramatic line work. I've enjoyed working with this product and I might buy it again. 

Final Thoughts: 

This month, SketchBox was my favorite! The products were better and more useful for trialing. Because of the sets with multiple colors, I was able to put the products through their paces. For example, I was able to trial blending the products regardless of whether or not I already have markers of the same base. The box was well designed and the products went well together. The ArtSnacks box did not meet the same criteria. The products did not work well together. Not only was the multiliner not well designed for illustration and bleed when combined with other products in the box. I'm disappointed because ArtSnacks is usually a better box. Hopefully next month is better!

Week's Supplies Review

Throughout the week, I unwind by drawing in my sketchbook. Here's a quick run down of the supplies I played with this week and what I think of them. I have played with all of these supplies before, so I wouldn't say this is a first impressions review, but some of them I've only used minimally, or a long time ago, so I don't have a lot of experience with all of the supplies.

SumoGrip Mechanical Pencil: This pencil is in all three of the images above (click the image to see full sized). It is currently my favorite pencil for sketching. Everything I draw right now starts with this pencil. It takes 0.7 lead and is incredibly comfortable to hold. It has a twist up eraser that has never given me much trouble with smudging. Most important is the grip. It's wide grip is designed for comfort and to be used all day. I absolutely love this pencil!

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen: A fine tip brush pen with black ink on one end and grey ink on the other end. I talked about this pen last week in my first impressions post. You can see it's in every image this week. I wanted to use it a bit more to get a better feel for it. I still love this pen and will happily buy it again. I've found it's most useful for dark line work. As I've mentioned before, the black ink is extremely opaque. It was able to write over bright red ink last week and this week it completely covered metallic gold ink and survived being erased over.

The one problem I've run into is the size of the grey ink tip. The black and grey tips are the same size. This is the perfect size for small details and a lot of control. It worked very well in the second image above. However, the fine tip on the grey side was not very versatile. The black tip doesn't need a lot of versatility. I only use that side for line work, so as long as I can get some good line weight I'm happy. However, using the grey tip for shading means there are going to be larger fields of color that I want to use it to fill. The small tip is not well suited to these applications. The first image and last image were difficult to work on in places because of this lack of versatility. 

I still like this pen and will use both side. Black for line work and grey for detailed shading, but I'm searching for a better option for full picture shading.

Copic Ciao (YG11): Seen in the first image, this is a pale green copic marker with a super brush tip and a medium broad tip on either end. I have had this for a while, but never got around to using it any more than a simple swatch. I've never been a big fan of copic markers. I find that they dry too quickly and tend towards a streaky look when dry. This week I tried using this marker as more of an accent than to lay down full color. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it! Because I was using it in small doses, I didn't have to worry about it drying too fast. I also noticed that this pen was not drying out as fast as other copic supplies I've used in the past. I was also able to get a pleasant layering effect.

I'm still not entirely sold. I found that the pencil had to be completely erased or the marker would pick up the color and become muddied. I prefer to leave my sketch lines while working, so I did not like this limitation. In the first image, you can see in the top left hand corner where I had to work the pencil out of the tip to get back to the pure color. I did like the pen and will try to use it again in the the future.

Graphite & Charcoal Drawing Pencils (by: Pentalic): This is a 6 pencil set that includes 6B, 2B, and HB graphite along with medium, soft, and white charcoal. This week I only used the 2B and HB graphite and the medium and soft charcoals. I do not use pencils for much outside of sketching. I personally prefer ink. However, in the second image, I wanted to give the smoke a dirty, smokey quality, and I felt pencil was the medium best suited to the job. I've had this pencil set for a long time, but never used them outside of a quick first impression months ago. Even in this piece, I only used it for accent. That being said, I was happy with the product. I was able to blend the pencil into the shape I wanted with my finger and the final product was what I had imagined.

Metallic Caran D'Ache (gold): This is a medium fine tipped pen with a metallic gold ink. I've had this pen for a while and enjoy using it as an accent. It's a fun pen with a bold metallic ink. The ink is very strong, opaque, and can write over anything. It has a slight metallic shimmer. It is clearly gold, not a dark yellow. I like this pen a lot, however I do not use it very often as a little accent with this pen goes a long way. In this peace, I was pleased to see that my Fudenosuke pen was able to write over this gold pen, both with the opaque black tip and a transparent shading with the grey tip.