AliExpress Craft Project

In the spirit of finally writing blog posts for projects I did years ago, here’s another one. Around the same time as I did that Wish Vs AliExpress project, I decided to challenge myself to do a craft project with only items bought from AliExpress.

I’d had this image from Pinterest saved for ages and ages and figured it would be a good project for this.

So I found myself some polystyrene egg shapes, some plain drawing pins, and some black and white nail polishes.

The eggs were 92p for a set of two, with free shipping. They took about a week to arrive. The pins were actually 67p. I forgot to screenshot when I bought them and that image is from about ten days after I ordered – demonstrating the constant price fluctuation on Ali. I ordered 4 packs of pins for a total of £2.65 and they took about two weeks to arrive. The black and white polishes were £1.26 for the set of two and took about two weeks to arrive.

Now, for colour. I dithered between five different colours for ages and ended up using a Random Number Generator to pick.

The polish cost £2.22 and took four weeks to arrive. But eventually I had all my supplies.

To test the colours I pushed a bunch of pins into a piece of polystyrene foam, and painted one row in black and one row in white. I left the third row plain.

While they dried I decided I’d test how many pins I’d need by using one of the eggs to do a “plain” dragon egg. I really liked the pale metal colour of the pins.

It took about an hour, was a little tedious but mostly kinda soothing. And it looks freaking awesome. Also, I forgot to count how many pins I used. However, I did know that with 18 pins in the polystyrene, and only a handful of pins left from the 340 I first bought, I wasn’t going to have enough for a second egg. So I ordered 600 more.

In the meantime, I had some testers to paint. I gave each pin two coats of the shiny polish and left them to dry. They were all so beautiful.

Eventually all the new pins arrived and I spaced them all out in an old box. I couldn’t decide which of the three shades to go for so I went with all three and decided on a variagated look. I painted a bunch of the pins with white, and a bunch of them in black, and left a bunch of them plain.

And when they’d dried I got to painting. It took several layers and a lot of time. I used up every last drop of the polish, and some of the pins were very patchy. But finally I had a tray of mixed dragon scales.

Time to get pinning. I didn’t pay attention the order I was using the different shades of pin – but I did skip any that were super patchy and horrible looking. Or I tried to at least.

Because you layer the pins over each other a little, the sharp bit doesn’t always go all the way into the egg. I found myself spending a lot of time pushing pins back in. I wouldn’t recommend fondling the finished products too much. The pins slide out with disturbing ease. But the finished eggs are absolutely beautiful.

I wish I could find a way to stop the pins sliding out. All I could think about was dipping each point into a glue before sticking it in the egg, but I didn’t think of that until I was almost finished and I definitely wasn’t going to take them all out and start again.

What would you do to secure the pins?

I have a small tub of painted pins left over, so maybe I’ll have another go at something similar in the future.

Wish vs AliExpress: Conclusion

For the last four weeks I’ve been doing a challenge. Buying items from Wish and AliExpress that were as similar as possible, and comparing them. I shopped, I hauled, I swatched, and I arted. Now I’m concluding.

I had fun. I always (well, nearly always) have fun when I’m shopping, hauling, swatching, and/or arting. And for some of the items there are definite preferences. Like the pencils. The pencils from AliExpress would snap all the time, wouldn’t sharpen, and felt rough to use. So they lost.

Similarly, the coloured pencils from Wish were very unpigmented and hard to get decent colour from. So they lost.

The erasers were practically identical. The sharpeners looked different but basically performed exactly the same. And the inking pens were pretty much equal too.

So in terms of performance both sites are equal. However, when you take into account the cost difference that’s when we find our winner.

The pencils from Wish cost £2 including postage and took 1 and a half weeks to arrive.
The pencils from AliExpress cost £1.59 including postage and took 5 weeks to arrive.

The erasers from Wish cost £3 including postage and took 2 weeks to arrive.
The erasers from AliExpress cost £0.60 and took 2 weeks to arrive.

The sharpener from Wish cost £2 including postage and took 3 weeks to arrive.
The sharpener from AliExpress cost ££0.45 including postage and took 6 weeks to arrive.

The pens from Wish cost £8 including postage and took 4 weeks to arrive.
The pens from AliExpress cost £6.77 including postage and took 1 week to arrive.

The colouring pencils from Wish cost £4 including postage and took 3 weeks to arrive.
The colouring pencils from AliExpress cost £3.38 and took 1 week to arrive.

Either way, the shipping is gonna be any amount of time between a week and seven weeks. So I’m not gonna take that into account. The total for Wish was £19 and the total for AliExpress was £12.79.

Going by the stats then, AliExpress wins. But with all these sites it can be very hit and miss. If I’d only ordered the stuff from AliExpress, I would have been really disappointed in the pencils.

Of course, the true indicator of which site is better is that in the two years since I actually did all that stuff, I’ve only shopped on Wish maybe once. Whereas I’m always on AliExpress and have a semi-constant stream of little packages arriving from the other side of the world.

Last week I promised you a bonus piece of art. Well, like I said, I did all this 2 years ago. My art skills have improved considerably since then. So, in the same vein as the Follow Up monsters I did a few months ago, I redid the little fairy.

Here’s what she looked like two years ago:

And here’s what she looks like now:

September Scrawlr

September’s Scrawlr Box was one of those ones that captured my interest immediately. So much so that I forgot about my dinner in the microwave and by the time I got to it I had to reheat it again.

Inside the box was five Posca markers, a fine liner, a pencil, a pad of marker paper, and a really really yummy sweet.

The featured artist this time was SP:Zero with a very funky piece including a unicorn. You can always win me over with a unicorn. And the zine looked very cool too.

The cover of the marker pad was torn, but I wasn’t too bothered about that. I got right into swatching within minutes of opening the box.

Then I used a shape challenge to sketch out a monster. I tried to use as many big shapes as possible, knowing that detail wasn’t going to be easy.

Colouring went well enough. There was an occasional paint burp, a bit of paint contamination, and a full on drop where it shouldn’t be.

But nothing that wasn’t fixable or adaptable.

The biggest problem I had was fighting the urge to outline. I couldn’t get the stripes on the tail to neaten up, and her hands were one big blob. I tried added some white to define the hands, and going around the edges, but I wasn’t overly keen on the fact that you could still see the white.

I didn’t want to do an outline because Posca markers are great for big lineless pieces, but in the end I gave in. Plus, they had included a fine liner in the box. I think she looks pretty good.

And I did a batch of monsters too, so that there was still something lineless. These are adorable too.

Cutting a Cricut Card

One of the first projects I did with my brand new Cricut was to make a birthday card for my sister.

I decided to be really fancy and make an envelope with her name cut out. I picked a really pretty font, added it to an envelope SVG from Simply Crafty SVGs, and it cut really well. Picking out all the little bits was very satisfying.

I made sure to keep the insides of the a’s and the e.

I stuck some black cardstock on the reverse of the card, and then very carefully glued those inners back into place. I’m not so good with precise stuff, but I didn’t do too badly.

For the actual card I used an SVG I’d downloaded from LoveSVG and cut it on matt silver vinyl that I got with my Cricut bundle from MDP.

I cut it out of the sheet before weeding and this was probably my first mistake. I couldn’t weed it.

So I tried a thicker font, and made my second mistake. I didn’t pay attention to where it was positioned on the mat with regards to where my vinyl was.

My third attempt worked well and I managed to weed it okay.

I cut a frame shape from a glossy green vinyl and layered the two pieces on the reverse of the black card stock on the envelope, so it became a one piece card and envelope.

Yes, I sign cards from my cats. Yes, I’m weird.

Michaela loved the card, and I plan on doing something similar for myself soon.

Wish vs AliExpress: Arting

After three weeks of pre-amble, I’m finally gonna do some art!

Like with the swatching, I did this on a page from my Faber-Castell Mixed Media Pad. I did the piece with the Wish supplies on the left, and the AliExpress supplies on the right.

Once I’d sketched out my two little fairies…

… I did the first inking. I used the 0.1 pen for Wish and the 01 pen for Ali, assuming they were the same size. The vaguely sketchy lines on the left were just me getting used to the shapes. They’ll be better when I’m finished and don’t reflect the quality of the pen at all.

Next up, erasing the pencil lines. Both erasers created a lot of mess. The Wish stuff spread around more, and seemed like it created more mess. Maybe I used more graphite with that one?

I filled in the pupils with 0.8 pen and the 08 pen, then I got to colouring. It was a lot harder to get darker colours with the Wish pencils.

After that I went over the inking again. I used the 0.3 and 03 pens. I didn’t go over the wings, so they still had a lighter look. And I used the 0.1 pen to go over the softer sketchier lines in the hair of the Wish fairy.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that with the final inking the fairies also received some colour on their lips and cheeks. I realised after I’d inked that I’d forgotten those. It was really hard to add colour to the cheeks of the Wish fairy. You can barely see it.

So here are my completed fairies. What do you think?

So that’s the end of the series right? Wrong! Tune in next week to hear my conclusions, and to see a bonus piece of art.

August Scrawlr Box

I wasn’t overly intrigued by the August Scrawlr Box, which is probably why it took me several weeks to get around to doing it – let’s just not mention the two boxes from this year that I haven’t done at all yet.

Inside the box you have a 3 pack of art board, a palette knife card, three tubes of heavy body acrylic, a paint brush and the wrong pencil.

Here’s the menu with the details.

And here’s the art print by Bastien Marienne, complete with bonus Jasper tail.

I think the reason this one didn’t pique my interest right off was because it’s acrylic. I have no experience with acrylics. I do have a set of acrylic paints which I plan to get around to learning to use at some point. But I have no idea how to paint with them. As evidenced by what is upcoming.

I didn’t do any research first for this, I just went in. I plopped some of the paint into a palette, and started swatching. I swatched the colours as they were, and then started mixing them. I quickly found that I had a lot of paint on the brush and no idea how to get it off.

After the rainbow gradient you can see in the background of that picture failed…

…I moved on to doing a monster on one of the art boards. I think I put too much water in the paint because it was really streaky.

So I globbed more on. And I tried to keep the paint within the lines, but with so much paint on the brush it was hard.

After a while I got really frustrated and just scooped up all the paint left in the palette and smushed it into the board.

I guess it’s an abstract monster.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up though. I decided I’d use the same art board, the same sketch, the same paint brush, but with watercolours. And to be fair I was only going to use three watercolours – in the same colours as the acrylics.

I used Arteza Rose, Arteza Lemon and Koi Cobalt. And it was super streaky again.

Maybe it was the art board. So I moved on to watercolour paper.

Because you need to wait for watercolour bits to dry, I nearly always do a couple of pieces at the same time. So I went back to the art board. I tried again with the acrylics.

I spent a good hour or two at these. It was difficult, and almost unenjoyable. But I ended up with two pieces I was semi happy with.

Eventually I’ll get around to properly learning how to use acrylics. Maybe when I’ve done that I’ll come back to these paints. I have nothing to judge against, but they seemed to be of a decent quality. And they were definitely bright and vibrant.

Animal Alphabets

I finally finished off the Mythical Alphabet round of Animal Alphabets on Twitter. Sort of.

In my last update I got as far as D. After that it took me eight weeks to do the Each-Uisge…

…And then seven weeks to do the Frost Giant…

…And six weeks to do the Golem.

It took me nine weeks to do the Hatsailing…

…Eight weeks to do the Ijiraq…

…Seven weeks to do the Jasconius…

…And six weeks to do the Kitsune.

I was doing them in batches. One session of drawing every few months. Two weeks after the last letter was announced, and the day after the next run was announced, I realised that the reason I was always behind was because I just wasn’t inspired by a lot of them.

So instead of letting it be one more thing adding pressure to my brain, I’d only draw the ones I wanted to draw. I skipped the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the Mizuchi and the Nian.

I did the Otso Bear…

…And then skipped the Peryton and the Qebehsenuef.

I did the Rainbow Fish – although I felt really bad about not doing an actual rainbow.

I skipped the Sarimanok, the Tailypo, the Unhcegila and the Valravn.

Then I did the Will-o’-the-wisp…

…And the Xanthus.

Finally I skipped the Yowie and the Zitiron.

I’m taking on the Fan Art round with the same attitude. I’m only drawing the ones I actually want to draw – which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Wish vs AliExpress: Swatching

Last week I showed you what I’d bought for my Wish vs AliExpress challenge. This week, I show you the swatching that I did.

I didn’t get any paper so I did all the swatching and the final art piece on paper from my Faber-Castell Mixed Media Pad. I split the page in half, and labelled the sides so I’d remember to put everything in the correct place. Like the haul pictures, the Wish stuff is on the left and the AliExpress is on the right.

Item 1: pencils

The Wish pencils (on the left) felt lovely and smooth. The AliExpress ones were a little scratchy. For some reason I can’t find the picture of the AliExpress swatches, so the image on the right is where I compared the sizes from Ali with the same sizes from the Wish set.

Item 2: erasers

The erasers were identical. Absolutely. I couldn’t spot any difference.

But I swatched anyway. They erased. They’re erasers.

Item 3: Sharpeners

I scribbled like a mad person on some scrap paper, as hard as I could, so as to blunt the pencils. The Ali pencil just snapped every time I tried that.

The Wish pencil sharpened well in the Wish sharpener. The Ali pencil just kept snapping in the Ali sharpener. I tested the pencil in the Wish sharpener and it kept snapping in that one too. To be fair, I tested the Wish pencil in the Ali sharpener and it worked fine. The sharpeners are great.

Item 4: pens

These were good from both places. They were juicy, and drew smoothly. I’d say the AliExpress pens felt nicer, but only marginally.

Item 5: colouring pencils

Two of the pencils from Wish came blunt, but they sharpened nicely. One of the Ali pencils was blunt. Like the sketching pencil, it did not sharpen.

For the swatching I did a patch that had many layers so it was darker, and a patch that one or two layers and was lighter. Wish is on the left, Ali is on the right.

Neither brand snapped while colouring – even when I pressed harder for the darker patches. The Wish pencils felt rough and grainy though. The Ali pencils were smoother and more pigmented.

Bonus swatching:

For this project I’ll be using the colouring pencils but if the pens are nice I’ll use them in future, and for that I’ll need to know if they’re alcohol-ink and waterbased-ink proof. So I grabbed a marker of each type. I like to do this type of test on a yellow so I can really see if the ink smudges.

The Ali pens did better with this, but it’s more than likely I didn’t let the Wish pens dry enough before I went over them with the markers. I do that a lot.

Next week, the art!

Sam’s Paint-a-long

Remember I told you that my friend SamBeAwesome was gonna be doing a paint-a-long? Well, it was a LOT of fun.

I set myself up about a half hour early, ready to do some warm ups.

I did a bunch of little dome shapes – one for each colour in my palette – to warm up, and turned them into monsters.

And then it was time to get started.

Here’s the reference image we were using, and here’s where you can get it if you’re interested.

We began with some quick little sketches to get the basic form sorted.

And then we moved on to sketching out our bird on the watercolour paper.

Here’s mine.

Once we’d erased the excess graphite it was time to get painting.

Sam was a really good teacher. She took every step slowly and gave as much detail as she could. It was a joy to follow her.

I started off trying to follow as precisely as I could, and ended up doing my own thing. But I was definitely learning and having fun.

Normally when I paint I use the medium as a colouring tool. I do a drawing, outline it, and colour in the shapes. I’m not so good at this actual painting technique. But I’m super happy with how my little bird turned out.

I actually ended up with two birds. Early on in the paint-a-long Sam mentioned the colours she was using, but that we could any colours we like. She said we could do any type of bird. Because I’m me, I asked if I could do a rainbow unicorn bird.

So I did.

I’m not overly happy with the splatter on the galaxy in the bowl. I can’t splatter. At all. One day I’ll spend an hour or two just practicing splatter. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it if I do.

I Got a Cricut

After years of deliberating, and many many hours of research, I finally got myself a Cricut. It’s something I’ve wanted ever since I started doing my own art. I want to make sticker sheets primarily, but the possibilities of what you can do with it are amazing.

For those who don’t know, a Cricut is a digital die cutting machine. You can tell it what shape and what style to cut things in and it’ll do it for you. You can also draw with it if you program it right.

There are three styles of Cricut. You have the Cricut Joy – which is a smaller model and mostly used for making cards. Then you have the Cricut Explore Air 2, and the Cricut Maker. The Maker does a LOT more than the Explore. You can use a bunch of different tools and cut a wider variety of materials. It also costs a couple of hundred quid more. If money wasn’t an issue I’d have gone for that one. But an Explore does everything I want for now.

I ended up getting mine from a website called MDP Supplies. They make signs and things, and sell supplies in the same vein. I ordered it (along with a few extras) late at night so the next day delivery was actually the day after next, but it finally arrived. In two massive boxes.

I opened the bottom, heavier, box first. And there it was!

It was actually in there really snugly. It was hard to get the Cricut box out of the packing box. But Jasper helped.

And finally my beautiful Cricut Explore Air 2 was sitting on my desk.

When you buy the Explore you get with it a light grip mat (there are a range of mats you can buy with different levels of stickiness), the fine point blade, a 0.4mm pen, and some cardstock samples to run the introduction projects.

You download and open up the Cricut Design Space program – which you use to make projects and tell the machine what to do. The sample project that it gives you is a cut. It offers you one of six shapes – I went with this flower. It shows you how and where to stick the card onto the mat, how to feed it onto the machine. And then it cuts.

And then you spot the cat hair that is already on the mat. I knew it wouldn’t be long.

You weed out the pieces of the pattern that aren’t meant to be there, and then you remove your cardstock from the mat. Et voila! A pretty flower.

When I was doing my research I watched a lot of unboxing videos and I don’t know if there used to be a different starter project or if there were instructions to do it, but the samples in the pack also included a long piece of white cardstock and a shorter piece of black. The different starter project was a card that incorporated the pen tool as well as cutting.

So I looked that up in the Design Space projects. Watching it draw is kind of hypnotising.

Once it had drawn and cut, I weeded, and removed from the mat.

Fold the white cardstock, slot in the black bit, and there you have it. Very cute.

Time for the second box.

In this box were the other things I’d got. I bought the Cricut as part of a pack from MDP which included a bunch of A4 sheets of vinyl, a weeding tool, a scraper, and a massive roll of transfer tape.

On top of that I’d bought myself a second mat – not an official Cricut one, but it is compatible, a set of Cricut tools, and a deep cut blade & housing for thicker materials.

Okay. So what to do now? Well, I needed to cut some vinyl. When I’d told my sister on the phone that I’d bought a Cricut she thought I’d said “kraken”, so I decided to cut a kraken shaped vinyl to place on the top of the machine.

I found a free SVG (the sort of file you need for cutting) online and dug out a sample of purple vinyl I’d bought from eBay previously. I measured my sample so I knew what size to make the cut.

I cut on paper first, just to make sure, and then finally cut my first vinyl project.

It looks really good on my Cricut.

Another project I did in that first burst of experimenting was with a free SVG from LoveSVG.

When you draw, it only draws outlines really, but I didn’t mind that. I coloured the inside of the letters with markers and left it in my boyfriend’s bedroom where he’d find it.

I’ve had the Cricut about a week now, and I’ve done a few more projects, with help from Jasper.

After watching many YouTube videos – specifically this one about using vinyl to make an ombre effect and this one about layering vinyl (both by Kayla’s Cricut Creations) – I made a vinyl sticker of one of my little monsters. It’s not perfect – there are lots wrong with it. But it’s certainly not bad for my first attempt.

The Cricut-brand pens are quite expensive, but luckily there are lots of others that fit in the slot. I experimented with all the different pens I have and discovered that Crayola Supertips and Sakura Gelly Roll pens both fit and work perfectly.

I also took advantage of the free month trial of Cricut Access – a huge library of fonts, files, images and such – and did this shadow cut. This is something I’d like to do with my own art in the future, so I was eager to give it a go. Again, it’s not perfect. Mostly with the way I stuck it together, but it looks pretty good for a first attempt.

I’ve done lots more playing around and experimenting, but I won’t bore you too much. Yet.