Slice has been gaining a lot of popularity in the colored pencil world lately, especially with pet portrait artists. The ceramic blades are a safer and innovative alternative to the traditional X-Acto brand knives that are commonly used for creating texture in animal fur and human hair.
One of the many advantages of this tool is that while it will cut on a paper surface it won’t cut your hands. It’s actually pretty cool. I definitely tested it out and came away without a mark! The safety cutter version of this blade works really well for opening packaging. This version however is not the ideal one for your artwork.
The manual pen cutter version is the one most recommended and used by artists. It has a sliding mechanism that allows you to slide the blade out between the 2 lengths settings. There’s an automatic version of this as well but this one is not ideal for artwork use as you would have to hold the sliding mechanism in the open position the entire time you are using it.
Here are a few key points about this product from the sliceproducts.com website:
- Installed blade type: rounded tip
- Durable nylon handle
- Manual retraction with 3 positions
- Ambidextrous design
- Finger-friendly® blade cuts effectively
- Reduces injuries, lowers costs
- Non-sparking, non-conductive, non-magnetic blade
- Chemically inert blade never rusts
- Oil- and lubricant-free blade
- 100 percent zirconium oxide blade
- Blade edge lasts up to 11.2x longer than metal
- Fewer blade changes = fewer injuries
- No-tool blade change
Another thing worth noting about the company is that one percent of the proceeds go towards Autism research. The founder has a son with Autism and founded the company in part to help support funding for his long term care.
I really like the simple and information packaging style of this brand. All the features you could possibly want to know about are included on the packaging and they even make it easy to remove through a perforated area on the back. One of the key features of this product is that it’s supposed to be able to open difficult packaging so it would be ironic if it was hard to get the product out of its own packaging! It’s attention to detail things like this that I really appreciate about a company that is already putting a lot of thought into their product.
Don’t throw out your traditional metal blades just yet though. It should be noted that while this particular Slice tool is supposed to be great for texturizing purposes it’s not a great replacement for cutting thick paper. I tried cutting a section of 140 lb paper and it didn’t cut all the way through even on multiple swipes.
TEST DRIVE APPLICATION
The common way I have seen this pen cutter being used for artwork is by slightly carving or shaving bits away of the colored pencil layers already applied but I’m going to do my texturizing beforehand. This is a common technique used to allow areas such as whiskers to not be filled in. Some artists like to you a metal scribe for this as well but depending on the paper and the point sharpness it can leave a rough texture behind as it scratches the paper. The goal is to make an indentation in the surface of the paper. When then color over top the area is left white on a normal pressure pass with a colored pencil.
I’m creating small short strokes with the pen cutter to mimic the cat’s tiny hairs. It’s helpful to have lighting that allows you to see where you are placing your stokes. Also, be careful not to press too hard as you are making a stroke since that can sometimes cause the knife to go in a direction you don’t want it to. I’m using a Strathmore Bristol Plate 500 series paper for this project which has enough thickness to withstand the mark-making of the Slice tool. Thinner papers are not as ideal for this unless you are using it to shave away layers of pigment. Again this will require some practice and a delicate hand.
Coloring over the areas where I’ve used the slice tool, you can see the indentations I’ve made are now aiding the overall texture effect. One of the biggest challenges when creating an animal portrait is accounting for all of the little white or lighter colored hairs that are present. Few colored pencils are opaque enough to allow you to place a lighter color over top of a darker one and successfully have the right contrast so this is one method for achieving that look. There are of course other ways to achieve that without this method such as using a fixative between layers or even working on pastel mat will achieve similar results in terms of lights and darks. This method however will show a visible texture.
This is my first time using this technique with the Slice pen cutter, so even as I’m working through this I’m seeing ways that I can improve upon it in future pieces but overall I think the technique using the slice tool is working pretty well. For this use, it’s great that it doesn’t cut right through the paper because if you were creating this as a commission piece for a client you wouldn’t want the back all cut up or worse accidentally cut right through the paper and have to start over.
Here’s a finished look at the piece! I’m pretty happy with the result using the pen cutter. It can difficult with this particular subject matter not to over render all of your strokes so it’s nice that this allows you to maintain a lot of the texture. I’m not super happy with how the whiskers turned out and I think I might need a bit more practice with that but for the small hairs I think this turned out pretty good.
If you’re supporting me over on Patreon you can get a more in-depth look at how exactly I created this cat drawing or you can check out a condensed version on my Youtube video below.
To Learn more about Slice visit their website at https://www.sliceproducts.com/en-ca/content/about-slice
Have you used the Slice Manual Pen Cutter for your artwork? Share with me in the comments below!