Fabulous Awards 2015

by Tina Manzer


Reflecting its unique versatility and wide appeal among artists – from young cartoonists and Mangakas to experienced fashion designers – the Copic Sketch Marker from Imagination International takes the top spot in this year’s Fabulous Awards contest. Gelli Arts’ gell printing plates are the number-two pick, followed by Daniel Smith watercolors in third place.

This year’s winners were selected from a field of nearly 50 best-selling product recommendations collected last year from art materials retailers. The top three products and eight runners-up were determined in a voting process that took place on Facebook and at
NAMTA’s Art Materials World.
“Butterfly” and “Scooter”
by Marianne Walker

“Butterfly” and “Scooter” by Marianne Walker

“Butterfly” and “Scooter”
by Marianne Walker


For the second year in a row, a marker is most Fabulous. Copic’s Sketch Marker, with the widest range of colors in the Copic marker family – 358 – is also refillable, so artists can create new colors in empty markers using the refill ink.

In your store, the Copic Sketch Marker is probably a staple, especially if you’re in a college town. “The stores that do best with our products are the ones that cater to students,” noted artist Marianne Walker, Imagination International’s North American product director for Copic Markers. In an interview with our magazine back a few years ago, when there were only 334 Copic colors, she said students are pushing the markers onto the professors for illustration, sequential art and storyboarding.

“The professors still use the products they used in art school, so the students are educating them,” Marianne commented. “They say, ‘This marker that I’ve used for drawing comics is the reason why I get better results than others in this class.’”

Print by Roberta Restaino

Print by Roberta Restaino

Print by Roberta Restaino

SECOND thoughts

The reusable gel monoprinting plates from Gelli Arts were named the #2 Fabulous Product this year, shortly after they were honored as the second-best Creative Tool of the Year in January at Germany’s Creativeworld. The flexible plates come in standard sizes that range from 12 by 14 inches to 3 by 5 inches, as well as new 4, 6 and 8-inch rounds. At Art Materials World in April, we occupied the booth next door, where we saw how easy they were to use.

We enjoyed seeing the results, especially when other exhibitors contributed their papers, mediums, stamps and stencils to the gel-plate printing process.

Five-year-old Gelli Arts was founded by mixed-media artist Joan Bess and former Procter & Gamble marketing executive Lou Ann Gleason. “After a lot of research and a little luck, we perfected a plate that’s nonperishable with a sensitive surface,” Gleason told us. “The 3/8-inch plate is nontoxic and always ready for printing. It’s easy to store.”

“Hollyhocks” by Brenda Swenson, WW, NWWS, SDWS

“Hollyhocks” by Brenda Swenson, WW, NWWS, SDWS

“Hollyhocks” by Brenda Swenson, WW, NWWS, SDWS

PERENNIAL favorite

Last year, Craig Marshall from Spokane Art Supply told us: “Daniel Smith, made in Seattle, just took over the second spot in our watercolor sales, and is nipping at number one. We may benefit from a regional fan base, but our artists love these colors – we recently added a fourth display to stock them all.”

Yes, because there are more than 235 colors, including historical hues, amazing earths, “and some of the brightest and boldest quinacridones ever formulated,” says danielsmith.com. “They also boast superior lightfastness and excellent brushing properties that result in clear, clean washes even when colors are layered.”

As a young artist, Dan Smith settled in Seattle in 1970. He worked in a commercial printing plant and became friends with a group of artist-printmakers who used commercial printing ink for their work, with poor results. In 1976, using an old 3-roll mill, he started manufacturing a printmaking ink that had the lightfastness and working characteristics that his buddies wanted. His company became known as an innovator, and as Dan continued to develop paints that artists told him they wanted, the business grew.

This year, the company is refocusing its efforts on the manufacturing process, as well as distribution. Today, Daniel Smith watercolors and oils are more accessible to artists here in the U.S. and around the world. No wonder they’ve become Fabulous.


2013 Fabulous Awards  |  2014 Fabulous Awards |  2015 Fabulous Awards  |  2016 Fabulous Awards