Saturday, 10 June 2017

Art supplies

Today I wanted to share a glimpse into my favourite art supplies I use to create my illustrations as it's something I get asked about a fair bit. Also I just really love talking about art supplies, they're my favourite thing in the entire world and I confess to owning far too many.

Also I'd just like to preface this post with a reminder: the materials don't make an artist - hard work does! I've seen a lot of artists create amazing things with cheap kids supplies, and I've seen a lot of people make bad art with really expensive supplies. Having the best stuff won't make you able to draw, you need to actually practice and learn how to use it! I don't say that to try and intimidate, my intention is the opposite. There can be a lot of snobbery around art materials and it's ridiculous. Just practice with what you have and learn how to use it well. That's how I learnt, through sheer hard work. Although I have some pricey things now, they're things I've built up to and invested in as part of my career, but they're by no means things you need to have to create good art. And if you tell yourself otherwise you're just putting up excuses for not practicing!

As you can see from the above, watercolour are my paints of choice. It's funny, I'd never in a million years think to call myself a painter yet I definitely am. I guess it's because I mostly paint illustrations rather than traditional styles.

I own two Winsor & Newton watercolour sets - the one I've owned for the longest time is the little pocket sized which you can see is well loved. I recently treated myself to the huge set which contains all of the colours and as you can see I'm yet to use it, but as I've been using this brand of paint for years already I know I'll love it. I also have the 36 set of Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese watercolours. These are very nice, well pigmented paints that I enjoy using a lot and highly recommend, but I don't really enjoy them any more than I do the Winsor & Newton. I definitely prefer pan style watercolours to tubed or watercolour inks, but that's just personal preference.

I have an array of paintbrushes, but these are the only ones I really use and I'd recommend them to anybody. They're a great little variety, and it's just the right amount to take on the go. I like to have a big fluffy brush to do washes of colour, and the smaller two are better for detail. I really love the slanted brush as it can cover different sized areas depending on how it's held so it's really versatile. My tiny little 3/0 brush is what I use for outlining and detailed work, and I also use it with ink to outline illustrations as well as watercolours. And then the flat chisel brush right at the end has a silicone "brush" head and is what I use for masking fluid.

Next up are my essentials for my portraits! I have a tin of pencils of different softness grades, the ones I use most are 5H, 2H, HB, 2B, and 5B. I like to put different washi tapes at the ends of the pencils so I can tell which is which at a glance. Paper stumps are one of my favourite things, I own them in just about every size and I blend everything so they're incredibly important. I also have to have sandpaper to file them clean, and I like to have a clean paintbrush on hand to brush away any loose graphite. It's really important not to use your fingers to blend and wipe things off the portrait, partly because as you'll know if you draw your hands get covered in graphite fast. But also your skin has natural oils and you don't want that getting onto your work and leaving grubby marks.

Erasers are just as important as the actual pencils, half of my portrait drawing is carving light out of the darker patches of a drawing and it just really helps add depth. Putty erasers are fab because you can tear bits off and form them into the right size, and because they're tacky they lift the graphite off nicely instead of rubbing it away which creates a better texture especially for skin. But my Tombow Mono Zero eraser is the real star of the show, and I honestly don't feel like I could draw portraits without it. It's like a mechanical pencil but an eraser, and it's only 2.3mm thick so you can be incredibly precise.

I'm a marker fiend, they're my absolute favourite thing to draw with hands down. I have every colour in Copic Ciao and a selection of Copic Sketch. Having used both types of markers, I like them both the same and find little difference in them apart from the price and colour range. My favourite aspect of Copic markers is that you can buy the ink to refill them, so they never really run out. My black is what I refill the most, and that refill ink I've had for about 5 years so it lasts a long time too! The colours are just really nice with Copic, I've used a lot of different brands and the other inks just don't compare. Copic can do a true pastel, and they can do a vibrant, punchy hue and they just blend together deliciously. They also have brush tips, which is the most important thing in a marker.

I also have a large selection of Prismacolor markers, I believe I have around 100 of these and I've had them around 10 years (and they're still going strong!). You can't buy Prismacolor markers in the UK, I imported all of these from the US because it was so long ago when there was less on the market. Although they get much less use from me since I bought my Copics, I still really like these pens. They are hardcore vibrant, Prismacolor do not do pastels or gentle washes of colour, they are the original go big or go home. Whenever you see Yellow Submarine art from me, I'll of used Prismacolor markers, they're really perfect for psychedelic styles. Because both the Copics and Primacolors are alcohol based they also blend together seamlessly.

Although I'm stating how many of the markers I have, you do not need this many to use markers. They're my primary medium so of course I have a lot, but I think there's also a real freedom in only having a handful and keeping to a select colour palette. When I'm on the go I love picking out just 6 or so of my favourites and seeing what I can do with just those.

And with markers you of course need a good fine liner! For a simple black line I love Uni Pin Fine Line, they're one of the cheapest fine liners yet also one of the best. They are a true black, and I can draw over the lines with my markers and the ink won't ever bleed! I do like the Copic multi liners, but I only buy them for what I can't get in the Uni Pins, which is nibs (the Copic goes down to 0.03mm and also has a brush tip), and also the pen colour as I particularly like the grey and sepia for when black lines are too harsh or a bit boring. And my pencil case would never be complete without my Uni Ball Signo white gel pen, which is perfect for adding highlights and picking out details. It's a true opaque white ink which can't be said of many gel pens, and I use it with everything, whether drawing portraits, illustrating with markers, or painting.

As for paper, my favourite sketchbooks are Pink Pig. They're cheap, they have high quality cartridge paper that withstands a wide variety of materials, and they're spiral bound which is always my preference. For non sketchbook work I use Daler Rowney Smooth HeavyWeight. This is what I draw all of my portraits on and all of my marker work, and it takes water colour pretty well too (although not as well as actual watercolour paper, obvs)

I do not recommend Leuchtturm1917 sketchbooks as the paper seems to repel pencils and everything else bleeds through. It's been a year and I'm still not over that. If you want a Moleskine, make sure you get the sketch or watercolour versions or the paper is too flimsy.

I do hope this post helps anyone who might be wondering what tools I use and taking a little peek into my studio, and might help inspire you to try something new. Art is such a rewarding hobby, and for me personally is so therapeutic in keeping my mental health in check. You don't need to be at a certain skill level to give anything a go, and you can only ever get better at anything through practice so never be scared to try!


  1. YES! Art materials are the absolute best things in the world, and I especially loved reading about the Copic section since I've been wanting to use them for years, but have always put off buying them. x) From what I've seen, I really enjoy your marker pieces too; they're always so vibrant and fun to look at.


    Have you tried Pentel erasers at all (for sketching/pencil drawing)? :) They work AMAZINGLY for pencils, but I'm not sure how they'd work for ... your portraits for example, since I just do sketching / line drawings.

    Thanks for the post! ♡

    1. BRI! ♥

      I love grey and sepia liners, they kinda blend into the colours so look like their barely there. I recently saw an artist I like recommend dark red for lining which I like the look of so that's my next experiment!

      Is that the Clic eraser by Pentel? I actually picked one of those up wayyyy back when I visited the US but stopped using it for I can't remember why (I think just because I have SOO many erasers 😂) I've literally just dug it out to give it a go again!

      Thanks for reading and commenting ♥

  2. This was really interesting to read, thanks for sharing. I'm feeling quite inspired now to go in the garden and paint. :)

  3. Much agreed! I used a lot of similar products- but then again I inherited a bunch of nice art supplies from my older sister. She got a BA in interior design, so that saved me a bunch of cash.

    The washi tape is a GREAT idea! I love that. Saves so much time looking at the ends of the pencils.

    1. Yeah I used to waste SO much time trying to read those tiny numbers 😂

  4. There is something almost magical about art supplies.. The possibilities of what you could create with them is almost endless!

    1. I agree, there really is! I love going to art shops just to look at all the supplies and get inspired without even buying anything.


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