Learning to Love the Gel

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I have a love/hate relationship with gel pens. I realize to most people having strong feelings about gel pens may seem overly dramatic or personally indulgent, and they’re probably right. In the grand scheme of things how I use gel pens is not going to save the world or cause it to spiral out of its orbit on the way to total anihiliation. . However, (and there’s ALWAYS a caveat, right?) they are a source of joy and consternation every time I color.

Why, you may ask, do I invest them with such emotional power? The answer is simple: I don’t know. There. I’ve admitted it. It could be that I love the sparkliness (Is that even a word?) of the glitter gels, the edgy glint of the metallic gels, and the vivid hues of the florescent gels, but I hate (deplore, abhor, and several other synonyms, too) their lack of coverage in larger spaces and their tendency to smudge. (Yes, I COULD wait for the ink to dry before coloring next to it, but that would require a level of patience that I don’t possess.)

Thus, the very things that make gel pens fun also make them annoying. So, I’ve tried to devise ways to mitigate the problems with gel pens while keeping the lovely gel-iness (Now, I KNOW that’s not a word, but I’m feeling Shakespearean today.) that they bring to a design. Let me explain:

DSCN3216This is how my gel pens look on a larger swathe of page. As you can see, there is quite a bit of open space, even though I colored the area twice.

DSCN3217Next, I turned the page 90 degrees and colored the other way. While this helped fill some of the gaps, there is still plenty of paper showing through.

DSCN3218Of course, I could use a fat-tipped marker to get better coverage. (This patch was done with a Sharpie.) But it lacks the lovely sparkle and the intensity of color from the glitter pen.

DSCN3219So, I married the two to get the best outcome. Here is the Sharpie base with the glitter gel on top. This has the full coverage of the marker with the sparkle and saturation of the gel pen.

And, of course, the combination of the two opens the door for other effects. Here, I laid down the base coat with a berry colored marker, but still used the dark purple glitter gel over the top. This allows for a subtle variation of color that I might use on flowers next to one another or to color a bunch of grapes.

And different colors yield different effects (duh, right?). Here is a bright tomato red patch of marker covered in three different gel colors: pink, dark red, and orange. Each one changes the base to create something new. I might do this as an easy way to shade parts of a flower (especially if I have a limited number of marker colors or the markers don’t blend well.) Thus, I could color the whole flower in the base marker color, and then add darker parts with the red gel, medium tones with the pink gel, and light areas with the orange gel.

However, I should add, some colors don’t play well together. Here, I put silver (left) and light blue (right) glitter gels over that swatch of red and ended up with muddy ugliness. (Yuck! Yup, even the camera couldn’t hone in well enough to focus on this mess.) So, be sure you try out the combinations on a piece of scratch paper before you apply them to something you’re working on. (I HATE it when I ruin a perfectly good picture with the wrong color choice!)

Here’s an example of the dramatic difference gel pens can make in your coloring. I started with a base coat of medium pink Sharpie (left). Next, I added some pink glitter gel around the center and edges (middle). Then I finished by going over the outlines and coloring in the center along with every other space on the edge with purple glitter gel. Just this touch of dark adds a great deal of drama to the image.

DSCN3249

Here’s how the flower looked after I colored in the rest of the petals alternating gel ink and marker. To help keep the gel from smudging into the color next door, I did all of the marker sections first, and then went back with the gel working my way from the inside out and turning the picture so my hand wouldn’t drag across it.

As you can see, I tend toward high contrast, bold, unrealistic colors. (After all, I get enough realism from the evening news. I don’t need it on my coloring pages!) The colors work because the purple on the outside petals relates back to the purple in the center of the flower, and the darker color on the outside grounds the flower as a whole.

So, thinking back on my relationship with these pens, I can see that learning to love gel ink was really a matter of setting it up the right partner. Hmm… Isn’t that true for most of us?

Happy coloring!

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