Drawing Papers and Drawing Sizes

Earlier today I was contacted by an artist who has signed up to my 10-week correspondence course – the first one I’m running at DrawSpace.com. She had a query about the Mellotex paper she had just purchased from my website’s shop. She asked:

I ordered both the Super White and the Ultra White Mellotex
simply because I didn’t know which ‘color’ I should use. How do you
decide which ‘color’ of paper to use? Is it as simple as using the
off white paper if your drawing has mostly darker values in it, and
using the whiter paper if your drawing has more white in it?

First, I must explain that Mellotex is available in a number of varieties and I stock Super White, which is a warm creamy colour, and Ultra White, which is a brilliant white.

When choosing the paper for project, think in terms of available contrast. If your drawing needs a softer, less harsh look, choose the Super White. Alternatively, if you want the maximum range of tones available to you (almost always in my case), choose the Ultra White. Both papers are double-sided plate finish, so they have virtually no detectable surface texture – perfect in my opinion for detailed, realistic drawings.

How do you decide how large to make a drawing? Is it easier to work in a large size? But since ‘large’ is relative, how do you decide what size to make a drawing?

Personal preference and experience play a large part. Increasing the size of a drawing by 20% will often increase the time to complete it by 50% or more, as the amount of detail is greatly increased. You reach a point where suggestion will no longer suffice and only direct depiction will do.

Personally, I have a handy trick that I use. Let’s say the study is of a scene which includes a dog’s head and foliage. Sometimes I’ll print out an enlarged line drawing but more usually I just imagine an element on a blank sheet of paper, then I hold my pencil over it and “pretend” to draw the face. This simple exercise gives me an excellent idea of the work involved, how long it will take to complete, and the level of detail required. I might “draw” other areas too, such as foreground foliage. Based on the results from these exercises, I adjust the size accordingly.

You must also take into consideration the amount of information you have available. If you’re working from poor reference photos, small is better! Don’t increase the size past the point where suggestion will suffice, if suggestion is all you can achieve with the information to hand.

How do you decide how much of the paper to use for your drawing – is there a standard border size that should be left on the paper for framing purposes?

I always use a full 24″ × 18″ sheet of Mellotex no matter how small the drawing is. That way I can enlarge the area of the drawing at any time if I need to. The paper is finally cut to size to suit the mat and frame. Paper is not that expensive – not when compared to a drawing that has insufficient margin to mat correctly!

If your drawing is a commissioned study, don’t stint on those borders. Put yourself in the position of your client. Which would you prefer to receive – a 7″ × 10″ drawing on a sheet of 8″ × 11″ paper, or the same drawing on a generous 18″ × 22″ sheet? Human nature sees value for money in the second. Additionally, if the drawing is handed around the family for appreciation (it will be!), fingers prints will be kept away from the drawing itself. And framers often like to give the subject room to breath in a frame, and that in turn produces a larger and more imposing frame. Don’t assume that it will be closely matted – a good framer might well decide to use much of that generous 6″ border that you provided.

Epson Counter-attack Successful!

My office workhorse Epson C66 decided to die yesterday. Annoyingly it was due to built-in obsolescence! The “Printer parts are nearing the end of their serviceable life” message changed to “I’m dead” or words to that effect.

Thank heavens for the Internet! I found a great little utility that not only solved the problem (reset the protection counter) but has opened up all sorts of money-saving goodies and improvements to the printer’s use.

For example, if you’re tired of your R2400 cleaning ALL eight colours when only one is blocked – you can now select and clean just the troublesome one (although I haven’t tried it yet on my R2400).

It’s freeware, a small download, and a great utility:

SSC Service Utility – download it at www.ssclg.com

This is just a selection of what it can do:

  • Work directly with CSIC in Epson Stylus printers cartridges.
  • Reset or rewrite any chip using special add on device.
  • Freeze internal ink counters.
  • Reset internal ink counters even with empty cartridges.
  • Separate cleaning of color and black heads for all Epson inkjet printers.
  • Hot swapping of cartridges supported.
  • Resetting of protection counter (even when it is already full).
  • More then 100 different Epson printers supported.

NOTE: Please be aware that resetting counters and fooling cartridge chips will probably invalidate your warranty (I had nothing to lose with my C66). But the single colour cleaning facility alone will make this software useful.

I found just one problem – it only recognises 7 of my R2400’s 8 colours (LLK [light light black] is missing). I just checked on the application’s forum and it’s listed as a known fault, so it should be fixed. In the meantime just being able to see the ink levels stated as percentages is a huge help….. except my LLK is the one about to run out 🙂

It’s very useful too for compatible (non-Epson) cartridges. I’ve been reading through a lot of posts about this software and they all seem to agree with that statement – especially if you usually refill existing cartridges. And if you do, using them invalidates the warranty (according to a post by an Epson service agent) so you’ve nothing to lose by trying this little application.

Apparently my C66 counts the number of times the heads are cleaned. When it reaches the limit of the waste ink that (Epson decree) the sponge will hold, it shuts down the printer. SSC reset the counter for me but warned that I should clean the sponge at some point. So here’s how I did it – the squeamish should stop reading right now!

  • Problem #1 – the print heads are immovable and sitting on top of the sponge.
  • Solution – Use SSC to reset the counter.
  • Now your printer is unlocked, press the ‘change cartridge’ button, wait for the print head to move left then quickly unplug the power cord.
  • Take off the right end of the casing. You’ll find two ‘pinch’ connectors underneath; press in the connector at top of the back with a screwdriver as you push the housing off; and there’s one hidden under the top that you can’t get at so, as I’d nothing to lose, I brutally levered the end off with a screwdriver 🙂 The hidden lug broke off but the housing went back on cleanly.
  • Optional: gently push in one of the hinge lugs of the top cover to release it from the main body and remove it.
  • Inside, loosen the self-tapping screw at the base of the end of the metal assembly that contains the main mechanism.
  • With a screwdriver, push down the catch at the end of the carrier that contains the sponge.
  • Pull the carrier out of the printer and disconnect the plastic pipe.
  • Don’t take the carrier apart (I did but it’s not necessary).
  • Wash the sponge in situ under a cold water tap and dry the assembly.
  • Clean the wash basin before the wife finds out.
  • Wipe black finger prints off bathroom door (for same reason).
  • Reassemble in reverse.
  • Have a cold beer.
  • Congratulate yourself on saving the cost of a replacement printer 🙂
  • Print out ‘War and Peace’ while thumbing nose at Epson.

Job done!