Art supplies I use and love right now

9:52 AM

Last year, I wrote a comprehensive shopping guide to all my favourite art supplies, and while it still stand true and I still love them, that list was meant for the hobbyist who dabbles into arts and crafts and was not really specific to any particular medium or technique.
That list back then covered painting, illustrating and scrapbooking, and don't get me wrong, I still love doing these things.

BUT! I figured out this last year's shopping guide needed a complementary guide. One that lists the tools I use to create the art that I sell.

When you need your work to be a notch above in quality, the right tools are really important. Trust me there, the right markers and paper will make a world of difference once you scan your artwork.
The paper you use is probably even more important than the ink, markers or paint you use, and I learned that the hard way.

I am still working on building a good collection of markers, and while right now I prefer water based brush pens. One day I will perfect my skills with alcohol based markers as well.
Bellow you will find a list of the things I currently use for my artwork and illustrations and therefore can vouch for.
The links you will find bellow are allAmazon affiliate links, this means that if you end up buying anything after clicking this link, I'll get paid a commission at no extra cost to you.

Sakura Koi brush pens

Brush pens are super popular right now because of this whole hand lettering trend that has taken the internet by storm. 
But using them just to pen beautiful quotes is really underusing their potential. This type of pen is a great tool to color an illustration, and for many brands, they do mimic water color if you know how to use them. 
In India, the Sakura Koi brand is much cheaper than the super popular "Tombow dual pens" (Which are on my wish list still).

Back to Sakura Koi, since they are the ones I am using. The ink quality is great, and highly water soluble, which means that I can dilute it with a regular brush and water after I applied it to the paper for a watercolor effect. Which is exactly what happened when I drew this elephant : 

Elephant which I turned into a pattern and sold as a notebook hours after I put up for sale on Society6. 
The original elephant is the purple one on that pattern, this means it is the one that went from paper to computer via my scanner, and it was colored with the  "Violet shades" pack of 6 markers. 
I used a regular paint brush to water down the marker ink on the elephant skin to give it a more subtle shading. 

With all brush pens brands, the great news is that you can either buy the whole color range, or only buy the markers you will actually use. Either in sets like it is the case for Sakura Koi, or per piece as it is the case for Tombow dual pens. 
Right now I work with the Violet Shades pack mentionned above and the "Earthtones Shades" set. 

Uni-Ball Signo pens

I have been using the gold and silver pens in this range for YEARS. And they are great to add metallic accents to watercolor pieces such as this one (and many others) : 

I use them so much that I can't even recall how many I went through. I usually pick them up at my local stationery store. What I can say though is that I have my eyes set on getting the white one pretty soon.
Adding vivid white accents to a watercolor piece is always a challenge and many illustrators rely on that type of gel pen to get those highlights right.

Sakura Pigma professional pen

I actually own the "05" size of that pen, which Is currently unavailable on Amazon. This pen is the one I used to create that Black Paisley design featured on the notebook in the picture above. Notebook which by the way can be bought in two sizes on Cupick. Notebook that has the best quality of blank paper I have seen in years and is now serving as my pocket size sketchbook. 

Sakura Pigma pens are pens that have a very nice and smooth ink flow, which makes them perfect for illustrations. 
In the past I used the "Linc Ocean gel" pens which I still use everyday to write in my planner or randomly doodle. They come second in quality to the Pigma pen to be fair and if you can't get your hand on the Pigma gel pen, go for the Linc Ocean. 

Sakura Pigma, also exists in a non gel pen range called the "Sakura Pigma Micron" range. Which is mostly known for its black fineliner pens with various tip sizes, but also exist in colors. The color palette of this range is very limited though, so for fineliner pens, you better go for either the Maped Graph'Peps or the Steadler Triplus Fineliners.

Graphite woodless pencil

If you haven't been introduced to the beauty that is a woodless graphite pencil as an artist, I urge you to just go buy yourself one. 
I own this Faber-Castell HB one. But that is not the amazing part about it. What is bordering on the unbelieveable is that I bought this pen 20 years ago! 
That't right, long before I moved to India. And today I still haven't even used half of its length. 

Graphite pencils like this one aren't meant for writing, they are purely meant for drawing and sketching. For the heavy user, they are wonderful tools to shade large surfaces and for moderate users, they are far superior to any pencils to draw an outline of an illustration or painting. 

The big positive about them is that unlike conventional wood pencils, their tip will always be rounder . This means that they are far more gentler to the paper they are being used on and wont scratch it as much and won't leave as much of a mark behind once erased. 

This last bit is making a HUGE difference when you are creating artwork that will be scanned at a high resolution later. Because with a regular pencil, or even a mechanical pencil, you will end up scratching the paper even with a light touch. These scratches WILL show up on the scanned artwork. This will lead to you having to pay more attention when you clean up your work in Photoshop because those dang scratch marks are really subtle but still need to be eliminated while you edit.

Let's talk paper! 

While you can doodle and draw on just any paper for fun, you will soon discover that not all papers have been born equal when it comes to quality artwork. 

If you are not yet well versed into these papery matters, chances are you at least heard about watercolor paper. 
But it doesn't really stops there. You see depending what you plan to do, the grain of the paper is also very important. Especially if your artwork will end up in the bed of a scanner. The rougher the paper, the more irregularities you will see on the scan. 

I still frequently use a fairly all purpose art drawing pad such as this one. But I can't even begin to speak about it's limitations and I am getting more and more frustrated with it each day. 
The paper quality is decent, it's a relatively fine grain 140 gsm paper that does reasonably well with watercolor and pencil but fares rather poorly with markers and pens. 

At least when you plan scanning that type of work. Ink bleeds in the grainy paper leaving you with ragged edges once the picture has been scanned at 1200 dpi, which is the resolution you want to scan at if your artwork drawn on an A4 sheet of paper is to be printed on let's say a window curtain or a duvet cover. 
And if you wish to really specialise in watercolor art, it will always be a good idea to go for heavier paper such as a 300 gsm fine grain paper. 

For markers and pen illustration I now use Bristol paper. To be fair that was already the type of paper I used when I was an art major in in school and later used to do technical drafts in professional school. 
I am currently using the Canson brand on in size A5 (link above) because I keep my ink and marker illustration small but I plan to stock up on A4 size as well. 

For watercolor I still use that fairly multipurpose art pad I mentioned. But this Canson Watercolor paper is one I used in the past and can vouch for. It can absorb a lot of water without warping or flaking away (that shows on the scanner too). 

One thing to remember in general is that higher gsm paper will be thicker and sturdier, and absorb more moisture without warping, and a grainier paper will absorb the moisture faster than a smooth one. 
This is why for watercolor you want not only a paper that can absorb a lot of water, but absorb it fast to prevent  drips and smudges. And why you want to use your ink pens, and markers on a smoother surface to prevent ragged edges and micro-bleeding since the water or alcohol in those markers is meant to evaporate rather than saturate the paper. 

If you are still unsure about what paper to use for what here is a little guideline that leaves the gsm number out : 

Smooth paper : pencil, markers, ink, and graphite

Grainy paper : watercolor, gouache and pastel (dry and oil based)

And here is what to remember when it comes to the gsm number : 

The wetter the medium, the higher the paper thickness and density. 

That is about it for now, these are really the supplies I use day in and day out to create the artwork that ends up in my shops at the moment. 

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  1. Oooo!
    Art supplies make me swoon. Just look at the pretty colors & think of alllll the endless possibilities.

    I'm getting ready to get a bit artsy painting my own food photography backgrounds. I was perusing Ikea to see what the color palette trends in home decorating is now. (Ikea always seems to be precisely 'on trend' in home fashion) Looks like we'll be seeing lots of that charcoal gray, Prussian blue, and tan or ecru that have been 'in' for the last few years accented with pops of jewel tones.

    1. I could spend hours in an art supplies store (and probably break the bank doing so).

      I am less of a fan of the ecru tones and greys that are trending than I am of the blue and and jewel tones. But I have always been a fan of colors.
      I remember when I was working as an apprentice decorator, I was BORED to death with those earth tones sofas, and white sheer curtains. Especially since we had sample books full of much more colourful option, but when it came to sheer curtains in particular, people always went with the sheer white...gah!!!!!!!!

      In 4 years of apprenticeship I only remember one client opting for sheer curtains with a poppy flower print on it. And we had two regular customers who believed sofas and soft furnishing should be colourful accents in a room.
      Back then not even deep blue sofas were a trend yet.


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