I received a set of 22 Chameleon pens, a box of 16 Chameleon coloring cards last week and I am off this week. Lucky me! What better way to spend your vacation days than trying out new coloring product? After playing with it for two days, I have to say I am finally in love with these Chameleon pens. I would like to share my review of these pens and some tips and tricks that I learned.
What are Chameleon pens?
Simply put, Chameleon pens are alcohol markers. They are designed so that you can do multiple tones from light to dark using one pen. These are alcohol based, so I wouldn’t use them on my coloring books unless they are single-sided. It soaked through 70 lb card stock paper that I used to print my coloring cards, make sure you put extra protection underneath to protect your desk while coloring.
Each pen has 3 parts: a brush nib, a hard bullet nib and a mixing chamber. The colorless toning medium in the mixing chamber is what gives you the effect of multiple color tones. Here’s how you use the pen:
- Separate the pen from the mixing chamber
- Choose the nib (bullet or brush), remove the cap
- Insert the mixing chamber on top of the nib – the two nibs with touch.
- Hold the pen in a vertical position, colorless nib at the top, colored nib at the bottom – this allows the toning medium to flow into the colored nib below and dilute the color at the tip.
- The amount of time you leave the pen in this position determines the range of color variations.
- Separate the brush tip from the alcohol tip and start to colour
Tips and tricks
Some pointers before you start coloring:
- Timing – how do you know how long to mix the brush tip? Basically, practice makes perfect. Experiment on a scrap piece of paper first. After some trial and error, I now have a pretty good feel. The width of the area and how much tonal change you want are factors to consider. The following picture demonstrates the effect. All the boxes were colored using mixing time of 15 sec.
- Direction of movement matters – here’s a few gradient effects to show you that the direction of pen motion is very important.
- Starting point is the light part – this is the most difficult adjustment for me because I am used to gradient from dark to light when I color with colored pencils. Always think where do you want the light color to be and that’s where you start coloring.
- Overlap your strokes but just a little bit – remember with every stroke, the color gradually darkens as the mixing medium is reduced. Your pen motion should be continuous and go back and forth while overlapping just a touch to avoid gaps until you finish an area.
- Layering and mixing colors – I like complex colors. A lot of times I am not happy with just a single color gradient. It is possible to layer multiple colors top of one another. You can check out my youtube video (link below) to see how this is done.
- The blending pen saves the day! – the blending pen is like an eraser. I find that it works really well to “erase” small accidental run over of colors into the wrong area provided the mistake is not too dark and not too big. If you change your mind on a solid black area, you can’t make it back to white, you can dilute it into a lighter black (grey) but the area will still be greyish.
- Alcohol ink do bleed if your pen is in contact with the paper for too long. Keep moving and be careful around edges.
Other than the gradient effect, all the other techniques you use with markers work e.g. pointillism (dots), cross hatching (X’s). In the coloring card shown, I used the bullet nib of the black pen to create some dots around the main flower design to create depth.
Do not forget to remove the pen from the mixing chamber or place the pen in the mixing position upside down (color on top, colourless tip at bottom) because this caused the color to run into the toning nib. The problem can be fixed by turning the pen vertically in the opposite direction so that the color runs back to the colored nib, but I’d rather try to be careful to avoid the problem. There are extra nibs that are included with the pens. The color and the mixing medium are refillable.
A Video is worth a thousand words
Here’s a video I made on how I used Chameleon pens to color the color card shown. Enjoy!
New Chameleon products
Chameleon is going to have a new product called “Color Top”. You can use these instead of the built-in colourless toning medium to achieve the gradient from the “Color Top” color to your brush color. e.g. a red brush tip plugged into a purple “Color Top” will give you a gradient from purple to red. I can achieve the same effect today by having the purple brush nib touches the red brush nip and hold them vertically for the purple color flow into the red tip but it’s awkward. If you like that kind of effect, helps is on the way.
I heard Chameleon also have colored pencils, can’t wait to try them!
My honest opinion
All in all, I like the endless possibilities these pens can create and the colors are so vivid! I did find it a bit annoying at first about the mixing process that has to be repeated over and over again. I have no idea how many times I pull on and off the caps and count 1,2,3,4,5… in my head and might be counting out loud in my sleep after hours of doing this during the day. Creating layers could be a little challenging but I think it will get better with practice. A few times the result was not exactly what I envisioned but it’s art, you recover by pretending it’s planned and go from there.
I think these pens are quite different and lots of fun once you get used to them. I look forward to using these pens in my future coloring projects and I hope you have a chance to give it a try too. Visit Chameleon Pens website for some excellent tutorial videos.