6 Studio Essentials

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I've been working on designing a studio space in my new home. As I've been going through this process, it's caused me to re-evaluate every item I have. My space in this house is smaller than the one in my old house, so I've had to be selective about what I keep.

Here are 6 of my studio essentials that are not going ANYWHERE! I absolutely love these items, and they make my life easier every day:

Commercial Paper Cutter I use this every single day. It's the best investment I've ever made!

Pencil Sharpener I can't believe how many years I went without one of these! It makes life so much easier.

Natural Light Task Lamp A friend recommended this to me (thanks Hannah!). It truly makes drawing at night easier, which is unfortunately when I'm usually doing my illustrations.

Laser Printer This changed my life! I print all of my art prints at home using my laserjet. It prints such vivid black tones. I used to use an inkjet and would constantly be frustrated. I also use the scanner feature to scan in artwork. I purchased mine at Costco for $300, but this Amazon one is similar.

Second Monitor This is a game changer. I love having my artwork open on one screen, and my Etsy Shop or e-mail open on the other screen.

Artwork Storage Boxes I love these archival boxes. I have one per year, and it's a safe effective way to store work. I like the 9x12 ones.

7 Steps to Crisp White Backgrounds

Ever wonder how artists get those crisp white backgrounds behind their artwork? When you take a picture of your work, the image most certainly doesn't look like that. Today, I'm going to share my process with you, so you can have artwork that looks like this:

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1. Take a picture of your artwork near a bright window, or scan it into your computer. I recommend scanning if you want to create art prints of your work later. A bright window is good if you just have a quick sketchbook drawing you want to share.

2. Open your image in Photoshop. If you don't have Photoshop, you can do a 30 day free trial.

3. Open your Adjustments panel, and click on Levels. Move the Level sliders closer to each other. This will darken the dark tones and brighten the lighter tones. You will need to play around with what number to set it at. The key is to not lose the bright tones, but to get the shades of black as close to a true black as possible.

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4. Merge all of your layers together. You want your image layer and your levels layer to be one.

5. Use the Paint Bucket tool. Set your tolerance in the toolbar at the top of your screen. I recommend 30 for most artwork, but you will need to play around with what works. Using the paint bucket tool, color the background areas white.

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6. Use the Paintbrush Tool. Set the color to white, and remove any specs in the background. This will clean up your image.

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7. Use the Clone Stamp tool to remove imperfections in the artwork itself.

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8. Resize for Instagram (1080x1080 pixels300 dpi). You can do this in Image>Canvas Size....Save as a .psd file and export out as a jpeg.

Hint: If you want to create an Art Print out of your artwork, save a version at 8x10 inches, 300 dpi. I recommend saving all art prints as photoshop pdfs.

Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have more questions about this!

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My 7 Illustration Tools

I get a lot of questions about what illustration tools I use. Today, I wanted to run you through my essentials:

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Borden and Riley's Paris Paper for Pens  This is my favorite paper - and I've tried a lot of papers! I've been using it for years. It's thick, smooth and bleed-proof. Not only do I illustrate everything on this paper, but I also print my art prints on this. Highly recommend! 

Prismacolor Markers I typically use these as the base layer for my drawings, and layer colored pencil on top. These markers have a long lifespan, and produce extremely vibrant colors.

Prismacolor Colored Pencils These are by far the best colored pencils on the market. The color they produce is so saturated, it sometimes shows up on black paper. For these, I recommend going to an art store and picking out your colors one by one. I don't love the shades in the variety packs.

Uniball Signo White Gel Pen This is the best white gel pen I have found. I love to do little polka dots over color with this pen. It's completely opaque on black paper.

Sharpie Paint Pens I love the gold and black extra fine pens. I use these for most of my black detailing. They layer really nicely. The gold pen has the best shade of gold I've found.

Micron Pens I use these for small black detailing, and to sign my work. The 02 weight is my favorite.

Gum Erasers Great for erasing pencil marks on Paris paper, as well as lightening colored pencil strokes.

How to build a better Etsy Shop

I like to pick an objective to focus on every month, because it helps me stay productive. This past month, my focus has been on my Etsy shop. Here are some things that have helped me step up my Etsy game:

1. Revising Shipping Methods: I really hate going to the post office, so I recently started using USPS pickup. You can schedule a home pickup online, and it's 100% free. Etsy has a "print address label" feature, so all you need is a label printer to create your own postage. I just bought this one, and I love it so far.

2. Upgrading Packaging: Lately, I've been working on prettying up my packaging. I designed several new stickers and inserts. As I mentioned, I've also been printing my own USPS labels, which look much cleaner than hand-addressed envelopes.

3. Updating Listing Copy: I've copied and pasted product descriptions for years. However, I like reading unique listing copy on other shops. It makes things feel more personable, and like more love went into making the product. Right now, I'm working on implementing this in my shop.

4. Planning Sales: I've always been pretty bad about running sales in my shop. I'm currently working on a calendar of sales, along with on-brand creative to promote those sales. 

5. Offering Incentives: I love getting reviews from customers. As a way of saying thank you, I decided to offer a new coupons for anyone who leaves me a review. I also printed an insert to package up with my prints, as a way to promote this incentive.

6. Digital Decluttering: Make sure all your conversations are wrapped up and that all your open orders are closed. This is so important in staying organized.

7. Renaming Shop: You used to not be able to change this on Etsy. Up until recently, I was still using my personal name as my shop name. I just changed it this past month.

8. Revisiting Photography & Branding: This is probably the most important thing you could spend time on. Having a solid look and feel is the main factor that drives traffic to your shop. If you don't have the time and resources to take great photos, look into stock images. Adobe Stock has a pretty affordable plan - 10 images per month for $29.99. 

9. Creating a Shop Video: I haven't done this one yet, but it's on my list. I love watching the videos that other shops have posted!

10. Connecting with Other Sellers: Start a team, message other sellers, favorite shops. It's easy to work in a bubble, especially when you're managing a small business. However, you can learn a lot from other Etsy sellers, which will help you run your business better.