My recent experience searching for an elusive sketchbook made me realize how little artists disclose about what tools they have found success using. There’s really no reason to keep this information a secret. Is it better to not tell anyone about the perfect, hard-to-find pen only to have that manufacturer discontinue it because no one bought it (except you, of course)? Let’s collectively share what we’ve toiled long hours and lots of money  finding so that the good products rise to the top.

The follow is a list of art supplies that I have come to love. I hope this helps others in their searching.

Staedtler Lumograph Drawing and Sketching Pencils 2H 
I pencil comics and illustrations with the 2H. It’s only slightly less dark than the HB, erases easily, and doesn’t smudge when you brush your hand over it on bristol board. Overall, I have to say that I’m not too particular when it comes to pencils. For the longest time, I penciled my comics with standard school-grade #2’s (the 2B equivalent) and never had complaints. The 2H just leaves behind less evidence of graphite when I know I’m going to ink a drawing.

Uni-Ball Vision Pen Fine Tip Black
I carry this with me wherever I go. I buy them in multi-packs because 1) I inevitably lose them, and 2) I love drawing with them. It’s a pretty popular brand and you can find them at any office supply store. The ink is waterproof, jet black, and flows easily. I see no reason for owning an expensive Rapidograph-style pen when these are available. They can leak if you take them on a plane so bring more than one on a trip.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens .03, .05, .08
These are pretty popular as well. I’ve always used them for lettering, word balloons, and inking panel boarders. They are easy to find in most art stores. I use the .08 for lettering and sketching, the .05 to sketch, and .03 whenever I need to write tiny. The tips will dry out if you don’t put the cap back on.

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen
This is a convenient way to have a portable brush. The ink is not waterproof so I don’t use it for any finished artwork, but I sketch with it all of the time. I recently switched to this over using the more expensive Kuretake Brush Pen because the ink flows more freely with the Pentel. You can buy replacement ink cartridges, but the tip is connected with the pen so once that frays, you need to buy a new pen. I keep a frayed one for dry brush and spotting large areas of black and a fresh one for line work.

Windsor Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush #1, #2
This is the brush I ink all of my “nice” work with. If you take care of it and clean it well after every use, it will last you a long time. I ink primarily with the #1 and use the #2 to fill in large areas of black or do dry brush. A brush is one of those things that if you buy the cheaper model, you will notice a difference in quality. Just take care of it and your investment will last.

Speedball Super Black Waterproof India Ink
In a bottle of ink, all you need it to be is: jet black, waterproof, and won’t become watery over time. In some cheaper inks, the pigment begins to separate and settle to the bottom like sand. Others will get a molasses consistency to them which leaves blobs of ink on your art and makes your brush harder to clean. I’ve used a number of decent brands over the years, but Speedball is what I’ve been using of late.

Windsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Pan Set
I love these portable watercolor sets. The pans are easily replaceable so the tray will last you a very long time. I use this tiny, pocket-size model and have a larger one with 24 colors in my studio. The quality of the watercolor is nice. Don’t skimp on cheap watercolor pans. Remember those terrible dried out cakes of color from school? You need ones that actually produce paint when you add water!

Strathmore 400 Series Bristol Board Smooth Pads
I use the 14 x 17 size for comic pages. This is just great, bright white paper that takes ink well, handles erasing nicely, and has just never failed me. I’ve used the same brand for 10 years.

Hand•Book Trav•e•logue Sketchbooks
These 5.5 x 8.5 sketchbooks are hardcover with a linen cover and come with a bookmark and elastic band. The paper is an ivory color (brighter than Moleskine paper) and has a slight tooth to it. It takes the Uni-Ball, Micron, and watercolors really well. I personally think these are WAY better than Moleskines. Plus, the don’t come with a phony back story! Larger sizes of the books are in production and should be available this year.

Like everything, your art tools are all based on personal preference and what type of work you like doing. These happen to work for me. Post what supplies you’ve found success using.

4 Responses to “Tools”

  1. Ribbu

    Thanks for putting this together, Mark! I love to see what other illustrators use – frankly, every illustrator should have something like this on their About page. Now you’ll just have to disabuse me of the idea that all I need to be able to draw like you is to go out and buy all this stuff.


    Well, it’s worth a shot, anyway. DickBlick, here I come!

  2. Ribbu

    Aw shucks. Thanksfest, thanksfest!
    But I seriously just ordered ALL OF THIS from DickBlick. I’m trying to turn over a new sketchbook leaf. I’ll let you know how it goes. 😀


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