Artsnacks 2016 Travel Collection Review

So quick disclosure: This “collection box” was bought with money from my pocket, I am in no way affiliated with Artsnacks or any of the brands mentioned and was not provided with anything I am reviewing today, nor was I asked to give my review. All opinions are my own.

What is Artsnacks?

Artsnacks is a subscription box service that mails subscribers a box with a few art supplies in it once a month. They also sell “Collection” boxes which are independant from their monthly subscription service and are a more expensive one-time fee per box. The collection boxes contain more products and usually follow a theme (such as travel-size art supplies for the Travel colection!). For more information on Artsnacks head on over to Artsnacks.co

What’s In the Box

Picture of the items contained in the Artsnack 2016 Travel Collection Box

  • ArtSnacks Travel Tote Bag
  • Custom ArtSnacks + Denik Sketchbook
  • Kuretake Watercolor Paper Postcards
  • Koi® Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box
  • Cachet 101 Sketch Pad by Daler-Rowney
  • Pentel Aquash™ Brush with Pigment Ink
  • Faber-Castell Art Grip Colored Pencils

Denik Softcover Sketchbook

Drawing of the Denik Softcover SketchbookOkay, so in the spirit of full disclosure, I am going to start out by saying I don’t care for soft cover perfect-bound sketchbooks and go out of my way to avoid them normally. Bendy covers curl under stuff in my bag, do a poor job of protecting the pages and keeping them from curling under stuff, floppy books make drawing on my lap less enjoyable, etc. I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
All of my long-held personal criticisms aside, the book is still just okay. The matte cover is beautiful and feels nice to run fingers across, the pages are smooth and work very well for the colored pencils that came with the collection. But the book does not lie flat, so be ready for the battle to keep it open while drawing. And the paper is very thin, it buckles and warps when used with the watercolors (not surprisingly).
Alcohol markers bleed through the pages, so if you’re going to use them you’ll want to have a piece of scrap paper under the drawing you’re coloring or it will bleed through to other pages. But the paper does not warp when used with alcohol markers, so that is nice.

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend a perfect-bound softcover sketchbook even to someone I disliked 😛 If you agree with my assessment of softcovers, you’d be much better off checking out Denik’s spiral bound books here. The ability to flip the pages you aren’t working on behind your current drawing cannot be understated! Also I like the thicker paper in their spiral books much more than than this thinner stuff.
A couple of other sketchbooks you could try if you prefer hard cover and still like the journal look are Moleskine* and Leuchtturm1917*. Both are solid choices and very travel-friendly (and lie flat!).

Kuretake Watercolor Paper Postcards*

Drawing of a Kuretake Watercolor Paper PostcardThese are lovely, and an awesome addition that fits in with a travel theme so well! Though I admit that I haven’t yet attempted to mail them anywhere and don’t know how they would hold up without some kind of plastic poly bag or similar protection… it is very rainy over here in the Pacific Northwest and I wouldn’t hold out much hope for a hand-drawn postcard without an envelope.

Cachet 101 Sketch Pad by Daler-Rowney*

Drawing of the Cachet 101 Sketch Pad by Daler-RowneyThis little book has nice paper with some tooth to it, and it works really well with the colored pencils. Not surprisingly it does not play nice with the wet mediums, the page buckles and tries to curl as it dries, so this is another dry media and pens sketchbook. Would have preferred something A5 sized, since that is the size book I like to carry around with me.

Koi® Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch Box*

Drawing of the Koi® Watercolor Pocket Field Sketch BoxThis is a nice little set, though I already have a pocket watercolors set and so haven’t gotten into this one as much as I would like just yet. The colors dry bright with a medium amount of granulation. They mix nicely and hold onto their vibrancy well enough. They are pretty decent quality student-grade watercolors. The box they come in is a nice size for traveling, very compact and it also comes with a nifty waterbrush, so that you do not have to worry about carrying water, and a sponge for dabbing. The wells give plenty of space for color mixing and despite the box not being able to lie flat they don’t drip with my regular amount of water use.

My biggest criticism is that the paints aren’t in pans, but are nested in a very flimsy, cheap-feeling plastic backing. This isn’t a big issue currently, but when I use up this set I will probably be prying that out to fit some pans into the box in it’s place. It feels like the type of plastic used in product packaging, the stuff that becomes extremely brittle over time, especially when exposed to the sun. So I would rather just replace it when the time comes.

Pentel Aquash™ Brush with Pigment Ink*

Drawing of the Pentel Aquash Brush with Pigment InkWhen this pen first arrived I wasn’t sure about it, but it’s grown on me. A lot. It was used in many of my InkTober pictures this year, and it’s an easy grab when I want to throw some midtone into an ink drawing. It does have a sort of grainy-looking texture though on some papers, namely my Denik and Canson spiral bound sketchbooks. But I actually really like that about it.

Faber-Castell Art Grip Colored Pencils*

Drawing of the Faber-Castell Art Grip Colored PencilsOut of the entire set, this is what actually gets carried around with me everywhere in my bag. I ADORE colored pencils and this case makes bringing them around without breaking them really easy. The pencils themselves are decent quality, not too waxy and they layer fairly well. I have used them in my sketchbooks and a Harry Potter coloring book that I take around with me places when I know things will get boring and want something mindless to do (like during Settlers of Catan games). Highly, highly recommend these, I literally do not leave my house without them!

Overall Opinion

Drawing of the ArtSnacks Travel Tote BagSo, for a collection of travel-friendly art supplies that included both a watercolor set and an ink brush, I would have expected more paper that could actually handle being wet than just the postcard set. Truth be told, I would happily trade in the Denik sketchbook and the little mini sketchbook for something sturdier with thicker pages. Personally, I carry this Global Art Materials Watercolor Sketchbook with me everywhere in my bag.
Other than that I am very happy with everything else! The watercolor set is nice and will see lots of use from me, the colored pencils never leave my side, the Aquash ink brush gets used a ton. My mom is going to love the postcards that I will be making and sending her, as soon as I find something plastic they can be shipped in. The tote bag was a nice touch, though (in my opinion) $10 is a bit steep for a thin fabric tote. I prefer the totes from CottonOn, at $2 – $4 they are more affordable, fairly sturdy and benefit a good cause.

In closing, this box was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It is highly likely that unless they continue doing boxes curated by artists (like Jake Parker picking out what went in the 2016 InkTober collection box) I will skip future collection boxes.

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