Creating depth and contrast using Tombow Grayscale Palette pens

Creating depth and contrast using Tombow Grayscale Palette pens

I've been having a lot of inky fun, pulling out stamps I haven't touched in years, one of which is a beautiful hydrangea image from Personal Stamp Exchange (PSX). Back when I started stamping, this company was well known for their classic botanical floral images, among others. I have a particular soft spot for images of hydrangeas, which are my favorite flowers.

This image is particularly suited for vintage cards, and I decided I wanted to have a soft, vintage feel after the eye-poppingly bright card I posted yesterday for Fab Friday! I pulled out some SU! markers in both current and retired colors, and I also pulled out a new set of Tombow Grayscale Palette pens. A good set of gray markers is really a must in any crafter's arsenal in order to create depth in any image you color. While I like sometimes using complimentary colors to accomplish this, at other times using a nice array of gray pens is more suitable, such as this image. Lookie:


GOJUS! (YILM!) I pulled out Sincere Salutations as well and a Cuttlebug die that has been languishing in my stash for eons (the black bracket behind the main image. A closer look:


The trick to creating good contrast is to have a dark tone, a middle tone, and a light tone. When you use the color as your midtone, the grays you use creates your dark tone, and then you can use white gel pen to create your lightest tones.


And yes, this is all done with water-based markers, not alcohol. I love those, but you can really do beautiful things with water-based markers, and they are definitely more affordable. So without further ado…



You need:

  • Light-colored card stock (I used Very Vanilla).
  • A rubber stamp with a vintage feel (really any image will do though).
  • Colored markers. For this, I used Almost Amethyst, Pink Pirouette, Bashful Blue, Pistaschio Pudding, Certainly Celery, and Barely Banana.
  • An ink pad that works well with markers (I used Versafine Onyx Black).
  • Tombow Dual Brush Grayscale Palette pens
  • White gel pen (My favorite is Uniball Signo White).


Because my colors were more pastel, I used two of the lightest gray plus the blender pen that is included with the set.


Ink your stamp up.


Stamp on the card stock.


Check the image for any missed areas.


If the image is not perfect, you can always use the rejects to test colors…this one came in very handy.


Start putting your midtone colors on the image.


This is what it looks like with just the midtone colors. Pretty flat, isn't it? As flat as a bottle of Diet Coke that has been left open on my stamping table overnight. A sad waste of my favorite beverage (besides coffee, that is)!


After that, start adding darker areas to the flowers using one of the gray markers in any place where it looks like there may be a slight shadow, such as flower centers, parts of the petals that underneath other petals, etc.


You also want to add gray to the parts of the flower that are inside the flower head. These are indicated by the illustrator with crosshatching. If you haven't achieved a dark enough shade, go to the next darkest marker.


Keep adding more gray until you are satisfied with the look you are getting. You can see that the gray added to a color creates a deeper shade of the color, essentially giving you a larger range of color with the markers you already have.


I decided to add some pink to the purple blossoms, as you will often see hydrangea blossoms with a mix of color, and it adds more liveliness to the image.


This all looks rather blotchy, doesn't it?


This is where the blender pen comes in. The one that comes in the Tombow assortment is really a great blender pen. You have to be careful not to overwork the areas because if you oversaturate them, the paper can start to pill, but I found this blender pen seemed to be better at blending colors before the paper got too saturated. You can see how well it blends the colors together by comparing to the photo above.


I added yellow centers to the flowers.


I then added white gel pen highlights to the parts of the flower that I wanted to come forward, such as the edges and any place where the petal folded over itself.


Again, this is too stark and needs to be blended.


Again, the blender pen comes to the rescue! All gel pen is is paint, and so it's like having a tiny brush with white pigment paint.


I added some green to the little stems visible on the inside of the flower head.


You will repeat the process on the leaves. Not all the flowers over there are finished, by the way. I was just trying to get through the whole thing and show all the parts of working the image! I will go over the whole thing, blending, adding highlights and shadows, and blending some more until I'm satisfied.


I found the Pistachio Pudding a little dull for my taste. I feel leaves, especially vintage images, really need more yellow, so I added some Certainly Celery.


Here, I'm adding some gray to the underside of the leaves.



And adding highlights again with the gel pen.


And blended out with the blender pen again.


I added some Barely Banana to the leaves because I always love a splash of yellow to vintage leaf images.


Blend, blend, blend! So basically, you just repeat these steps, adding more gray to areas you want to recede from the eye like the underside of leaves or the interior of the flower head, adding more gel pen to the areas you want to highlight, and using your hand blender pen to soften the hard edges of the pen strokes.


Here you can see the contrast of the image on the left, where the blue flower head has been colored with this technique, and the one on the right, in which the blue flower head only has the base coat of Bashful Blue.

Let's have another look at the finished image on the card:


Beautiful! Colorful without being loud and perfect for the vintage feel of this card.

You can buy these fabulous pens here at BLICK.

I hope you enjoyed my tutorial! Now go make a card!






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