I often get asked what art materials and tools I use so I thought that I would write a blog post to cover this topic.
Since I use different types of materials at different stages of my work process I decided to split up this post following said process so you can see what I use and when.
Before we dive in I just wanted to add that this post is not sponsored by any of the brands that I am about to mention and the art materials and tools that I talk about are my favourites at this point in time. It took a lot of trying various things to come up with this list. They are what works for me and by no means recommendations so feel free to try some of them too if you want but what matters is that you find the tools and materials that work for you. 😉
At the sketching stage I am not too fussed about the quality of my tools so I use very simple and cheap materials that everybody has at home.
My favourite sketching pencils are a simple HB pencil that one of my illustrator friends gave me as a Christmas present about three years ago, a 2H pencil that I use when I want my lines to be very pale and ‘dry’, and an old BIC MatiC 0.7mm mechanical pencil for smaller details.
For thicker or darker lines I use an old B pencil that I found in my parents’ stuff ages ago (it has ‘Europa 1992’ written on it so might or might not have been made in celebration of the Maastricht treaties which made the EU official, or of the UEFA Europa League of 1992; but anyways, that shows how old it is) and a 2B pencil that, if I remember correctly, was part of my new school materials for my Arts class back when I was 13 years old (I am 30 now).
I tend to use sketchbooks for drawing for fun and developing personal ideas but when I work on illustrations for a client, or illustrations that I know I will trace on my lightbox or scan, then I sketch on sheets of printer paper instead: they are inexpensive and easier to pop into my scanner than a whole sketchbook!
This is where I care a bit more about the quality of the material that I use for one simple reason: better material tends to last longer so it is a better investment in the long run.
At this stage I choose different tools and materials depending on what the next stages of the work process are going to be and on what the finished piece is going to look like.
I’m not sure what make my dip pen is but I thought it was pretty when I bought it and it makes me happy to draw with such a pretty tool. These days I use a Joseph Gillott 404 nib with it.
My go-to brush for India ink outlines is a 5/0 Royal Soft-grip SG250 by Royal & Langnickel.
Over time I have tried a few different brands but at the moment I am using black Pébéo Graphic India ink and I absolutely love it! It dries pretty quickly and it is a pleasure to ink with as it is not too thick and flows very well on paper compared to some other brands I have tried before.
- Black Faber-Castell artist pens. I got a set and use them all apart from the calligraphy pen. It is a nice range for clean black lines.
- Equally good, the black Sakura Pigma Micron (size 04) which is great for small details.
- One of my recent purchases is a black Tombow dual brush pen and I love it! I use it to create ‘irregular’ strokes when I am on the move or when I don’t have time to get my brush and India ink out!
I use various colouring techniques and materials depending on my mood and on the type of work. Here is what I use the most:
I have a LOT of different brushes! Some I bought myself, some I had back when I was at school, others I received as gifts.
When it comes to my favourite brushes (as in the ones I use the most for my work) though, you can count them on the fingers of one hand. Literally.
- For small details I use a 5/0 Royal Soft-grip SG250 by Royal & Langnickel (the same as the brush I use for India ink outlines, just a different brush so I don’t accidentally get my colours dirty with black ink);
- I use a Royal Majestic 4250 size 1 (still by Royal & Langnickel) for most of my brush lettering and when I work with watercolour inks;
- Also for watercolour and smaller details I use a Cotman brush series 111 in size 2 by Winsor & Newton (this is an amazing brush!);
- I use a Royal Majestic 4250 size 6 to paint larger surfaces;
- And finally, for painting out of the studio I use a Pentel Aquash waterbrush. I own three different sizes of these and the ‘medium’ one is the brush I use the most. They are very easy to use and the water reservoir means that you don’t have to worry about taking a jar or some other water recipient with you. These water brushes are also great for travelling: all you have to do is empty/fill the water reservoir when you need to.
The Winsor & Newton Cotman 12 half-pan sketchers’ pocket box is a good basic set. As well as being quite inexpensive, you can create pretty much any colour you can think of just from this small set.
- Pébéo Colorex watercolour inks
- Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink
The colours of these inks are so vibrant and beautiful! I love looking at the colour swatches that I made and taped in front of my desk, and at the colourful bottles of ink (that’s such a geeky thing to say, I know!).
I got a box of 24 Derwent Inktense ink pencils as a birthday present this year and they are brilliant for adding texture and extra colour to some of my artwork!
To add some white details I use white Posca pens (0.7mm), which are essentially acrylic paint in the form of a pen. They’re amazing and I can’t get enough of them!
No big surprise here, for digital colouring I simply use Photoshop.
The type of paper that I use depends a lot on what I am going to draw or paint on it, and on how the illustration will be used. For example, the paper needs to be thicker for India ink or watercolour, not too textured if I am going to work with my dip pen, and Bristol paper/card is usually better for illustrations that are going to be scanned because it doesn’t leave texture marks which means that it requires less ‘cleaning’ work on the computer.
I have tried (and am still trying) different brands and types of paper but so far the ones I really like are:
- Great for outlining, brush lettering, scanning: Winsor & Newton Smooth Surface Cartridge Pad (220gsm in A3 to get more drawings on a single page for bigger projects; I can also cut the sheets when I prefer to work on a smaller surface)
- Great for outlining, dip pen work, watercolour and ink work: Canson Mix Media Imagine (200gsm) and Daler Rowney Aquafine Smooth watercolour paper (Hot Press, 300gsm)
‘Bits of technology’
Although I love working in traditional mediums, technology can’t be overlooked completely as it offers very helpful solutions in order to meet those tight deadlines (you have to move with the times!). Plus technology can save you a lot of time and you can do really cool stuff with it too!
I work on the small Wacom Bamboo CTL-460 that I got six or seven years ago. It still works perfectly and its small size means that I can take it with me if I plan to work out of the studio.
My Huion LED Light Pad has become one of my favourite tools. Before that I was using my window to trace some of my illustrations. As you can imagine, my lightbox is way more comfortable and it means I can work after dark now!
After quite a bit of research I settled for the Epson Perfection V550 Photo. I remember being like “wooooooow!” when I scanned my first illustration back then. You see, it was so much better than the scan quality of the all-in-one little printer that I had back in the day!
I hope you enjoyed this post and that you found it helpful!