Reviewed by Louise Totton
We really enjoy colouring in our house – the kids have always loved it, and I recently got into adult colouring books (a little late to the party!) and have been really enjoying colouring in some beautiful patterns and mandalas over the past year or so. I particularly enjoy colouring with felt pens because I love the bright and vibrant coverage that it just seems impossible to get with pencil crayons, although I do tend to only colour patterns and abstract images with them. This is because as much as the bright and thick coverage of a pen looks fabulous, it is very difficult to get any kind of shade and texture with them, rendering a lot of the pictures rather flat and two-dimensional.
My eldest daughter is ten, and as I said before, is very into arty stuff, drawing and colouring. At the end of the school year last year, they we looking at shading, shadow and texture in their art lessons, and she was really keen to extend what she’d learnt and get some practice in over the summer, so she and I have been spending some quality time together away from the TV learning together. As I said, using felt tips to try to get shade, to build texture and to highlight isn’t really possible, so we spent the earlier part of the school holidays with a lamp and a set of pencil crayons. The latter part of the school holidays, however, was revolutionised by the arrival of a set of Hunkydory Crafts Prism Alcohol Markers.
For those of you who don’t know, alcohol markers are a very special type of felt pen that allow you to build colour, add texture and even blend different colours together. They allow you to highlight the areas of your image where the light would naturally hit and add darker shades to the areas where a shadow might be cast, much as you would if you were painting or using pencils. The Prism Markers are double-ended pens, so have both a bullet tip and a chisel tip and they are sold in ‘themed’ packs of six pens at £9.99 per pack. The packs include a pinks set, green, blue as well as a brights, darks and neutrals along with others. There are fourteen packs in total and there is no colour duplication across the range, meaning that if you buy all fourteen packs, you will have 84 uniquely coloured pens. We were sent the full range of pens to try out along with two colouring pads which are specially designed for the pens, a set of 5×5 inch Miri Mats, 20 blank cards and envelopes and a beginner’s guide to the pens. The colouring books each contain 60 images to colour (20 different ones – three of each), and are small square pictures, perfectly designed for making greetings cards.
The first difference between these pens and normal pens is that on the end of each lid, there is a number printed, rather than a colour name or an accurate indication of the colour of the pen. Hunkydory have a number of instructional videos on their YouTube channel, as well as the instructional guide that I was sent, and both of these suggested that visiting the Hunkydory website and printing off my own colour chart would be a good idea. This prints in mono, and the idea is that you use your pens and colour the chart yourself, which gives a far more accurate depiction of the colours of the pen than any pre-printed sheet or coloured barrel ever would. From the website, you can also print projects as well as some really cool practice sheets so you can really get to grips with shading faces and skin tones as well as hair textures and highlights.
My daughter and I started off by looking through the book that we were sent, which we found to be a fantastic beginner’s guide to get us going. We started off by trying some of the suggested colour blends and graduations, and it was great fun. Having completed the colour chart, it was much easier to see how the different colours related to each other and which ones would blend into each other. We were both really pleased with some of the results that we managed to get, and it’s amazing how well you can even just use one pen to build some colour up and achieve different depths and shades, so when you then realise that you can even blend different colours together, the possibilities really are endless!
After a bit of practice, we were both very keen to get going on the colouring books that we had been sent. They both contain a lovely mixture of images, so there is something to suit most tastes. The images that they have chosen particularly invite you to use shade and blending to achieve some wonderful effects – and we first of all used the project book to guide us as the sheer number of pens in the set can be a little overwhelming when you start off. There are a number of complete projects based on the colouring books in the guidebook so that you can dip you toes in the water without worrying too much that you’re wasting the sheets or are going to make a mess of them! As well as an image of the completed work, there is also a full list of the colours that you will be using and even some further ideas for the completed sheet after you have coloured it in.
Using the pens is fabulous – I know they’re expensive and probably cost far more than you would normally think of spending, especially for the kids, but the quality is obvious from the moment you open them. The barrels are an ergonomic triangle shape, making them incredibly comfortable to hold, even for prolonged periods of time. The lids snap on and off very securely – again, they just feel like a super quality product and the tightly fitting lid will ensure that your expensive pens won’t dry up.
The ink flow is superb too. Every single one of them flows beautifully, but without being overly wet so they don’t bleed outside of the lines at all. Some of the images in the colouring books have some very fine details and given as these are markers with bullet and chisel tips, I was a little worried that they wouldn’t be able to cope with some of the finer details in the images. I need not have worried at all- the quality of the tips are so good that they cope equally well with either fine detail or larger areas of colour.
One of the most noticeable difference with these over normal felt tips is that they don’t make the paper go rough, and they don’t overly saturate it with moisture which can even lead to holes in the paper. Because they are alcohol-based, once the colour has been laid down, instead of waiting for them to dry, the alcohol evaporates off the paper leaving a beautifully smooth finish behind.
We have thoroughly enjoyed trying these out together – it was particularly nice because they are a completely new medium to both me and my daughter, so we really were learning how to use them together. She had more of a willingness to go off-piste than I did too, whereas I was probably a little more conservative in my approach and it’s lovely to see how these two different approaches are reflected in totally different interpretations of the same image.
If you are lucky enough to be in a position to be able to buy the full set of colours along with the guide book and colouring books, you will literally have everything that you need to start a new craft. The results are beautiful, and the process of choosing colours, blending and shading is so therapeutic – you really can just lose yourself for a while. For demonstrating just how beautifully these pens can shade and show texture, I think my favourite image that we have coloured is the pile of biscuits. I would never have thought before about just how many different browns are present in an image like that, and when you combine the layers of different colours too, it’s an almost infinite number. My daughter particularly liked colouring some of the elephant images, and its amazing to notice how her shading of the balloons has improved in just a week. She coloured one in as her first project, then another after a week and the difference is clear; she has managed to capture the highlights and shades so very well after just a week of using the pens.
These also make beautiful gift cards, and the Miri Mats and blank cards we were sent will certainly be put to some really good use over the next few months. Stamps would complement these sets incredibly well, as a number of the designs have clear space where a greeting could be stamped to make a perfect and personal greetings card. The pens are also designed to be used to colour in stamped images, so the possibilities are endless.
We have had a wonderful time with these pens, and with the whole starter set. I simply can’t fault them at all, and it really has been great spending some time with my ten-year-old working on them. Calming activities like this are great as you can just chat whilst you work and actually connect with each other – something that you just can’t do whilst you’re watching TV or leading busy lives doing your own things.
I would wholeheartedly recommend these to anyone who has in interest in this type of crating. I am looking forward to trying out more products from the Prism and Hunkydory ranges – the lead up to Christmas is always great fun for crafting and I am sure there will be lots of fabulous things on their website!
For more information on the Prism range or to buy, visit www.hunkydorycrafts.co.uk.