A Very TL;DR : My Tool Box

Here is a long-awaited blog on my personal materials, tools, and resources. This will also include digital resources for Photoshop brushes and stuff, which is a tiny “list”, so I’ll leave that for last. I’m probably going to compile all of this into a FAQ later on as this is going to be quite lengthy. But I figured this would be a fun blog to write.

I would like to preface that I am not–in no way, shape, or form–to be considered an expert on ANY of this stuff, it’s simply a matter of preference and opinion when it comes down to it, so please do not read this like I’m reviewing things, because I’m not. I am also pretty amateur when it comes to any real media outside of pencils and your basic inking tools (dip pens, brush pens, microns, etc). When I touch paint, it’s really for fun and learning. I’m definitely still learning paint haha. I’ll keep things short and light as much as I can because there’s so much to talk about! 

I won’t be linking much because everything is straight-forward enough to simply Google and I don’t want this blog post to look like Tilly’s puked all over it, so with that said, where do I buy my stuff? Here’s a list!

Jerry’s Art-a-rama

STORES (Some have online shops)
Art Supply Warehouse

I often do my pickings online and only go out shopping if I’m needing to see something in person like paper and such, or if I’m feeling desperate or impatient for something specific, also like paper and such LOL. I really just like wandering art stores all the time. I tend to get ideas that way.

So let me start with the basics: pencils/graphite! I’m a lead holder/clutch pencil kinda person, and again this is just a personal preference that I grew into. When I did use wooden pencils, I used Faber Castell or Steadtlers.

I own three types of lead holders:


In the two Steadtlers I use Prismacolor red and blue leads. In the two Art Alternatives I use Prismacolor 6H and Staedtler HB lead. In the Creative Mark I only use with HB graphite or charcoal sticks, but I’m not really a fan of the “heaviness” of the Creative Mark, so I don’t use it that much. Out of the three brands, the Art Alternative and Creative Mark lead holders have indicators on the barrel to show what lead you currently have in it. I believe the range is 2B-2H on the Art Alt indicators whereas on the Creative Mark it’s 4B-4H.

I’m a messy/light sketcher, hence the 6H lead.

For erasers, I turn to two brands: General’s Kneaded eraser and Vanish Magic eraser. The kneaded erasers are pretty common and I’ve always used them for basic pencil drawings, however they don’t really like to pick up the Prismacolor red and blue leads as much as I like. The Vanish eraser is the one eraser I’ve come across that can take the red and blue leads off paper enough for me to not complain, although this may be because I’m a light sketcher and the Vanish eraser may work differently with someone who is heavy handed or carves down into their paper, lol.

If I must recommend something other than your typical graphite, I do like charcoal even if I seldom use it because it’s messy T_T. The brand I like/use is Winsor & Newton Vine Charcoal.

Next is inking tools! … Oh, boy, where do I start? Let’s start with fine points pens including dip pens!

When I first started inking things in high school, I loved my Sakura Pigma Microns and as a matter of fact, I still do! The microns I own range from 005 to 08 (.20mm-.50mm), as well as a brush tip. They’re easy to use, archival, and the ink is waterproof. 🙂 They’re my go-to if I’m not feeling like dealing with the range of my brush pens.

I do have Kuretake Zig  CocoIros (Kabukiza letter pens) with 4 colors red, sepia, cool grey, and black. I actually really like these for scribbling and sketching when I’m not being a perfectionist. But for the love of god do not forget to put the lid back on when you’re not using it, the tips can dry out and it can sometimes be a pain to get the ink flowing again.

Another brand I have is the Pentel Tradio Stylo. I haven’t really warmed up to this one yet, so it tends to get benched in my canvas roll. I like to look at it like a fancy writing tool for now. LOL

Now onto dip pens! I’m fairly new to dip pens even though I’m very familiar with calligraphy fountain pens that use ink barrels. Dip pens are definitely a different animal and tend to take a little more technical skill and patience and I wouldn’t consider them travel/field friendly. If you’re not careful, you can easily ruin and ink drawing unless you’re okay with making corrections using various methods. Also, you gotta stay on top of making sure you clean the pen nibs after using them. Pen nibs are definitely a disposable tool overtime, but taking good care of them extends their life. It’s good to keep a nice small stock of your favorite nibs as well.

For cleaning I suggest a good pen nib cleaner (I use a Higgins brand) and/or rubbing alcohol. I’ve heard of some people using an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and just dumping the solution into it and having the nibs just soak in there for 30 minutes or so. I haven’t tried this and nor do I think I need to. The cleaner and rubbing alcohol work well with me using cottton swabs. It’s important to keep nibs dry as they can rust.

I have three pen nib holders, listed in order of preference:

TACHIKAWA T-36         DELETER          SPEEDBALL (41754 and 41756)

I liked my Deleter until I bought the Tachikawa because it’s just so damn comfortable. The Speedballs just felt cheap for me, but they do their jobs. Both the Deleter and the Tachikawa can be used for a much much broader range of pen nibs, from several brands as well.

I have two brands of pen nibs along with several sizes:

DELETER – G, Maru, and Spoon
SPEEDBALL – 102, 56, 107, 108, 99, 512

I was pretty content with the Speedball nibs until I got the Deleter nibs, haha. I tend to favor the G and Spoon nibs just because of their flexible range. Maru is a little too fine for me right now.

And now for inks! I have three brands:

HIGGINS – Black (well bottle); Eternal Black, Carmine Red, White (with droppers)
SPEEDBALL – Super Black (well bottle)
DELETER – White (Acrylic)

All of these inks are waterproof. My favorites are the Higgins (see a trend here?). Upon using these, I’ve found that I don’t mind dipping the pens, but I really like using a brush or a dropper to put ink into the body the nib, it feels less wasteful. When I dip, I tend to get too much ink and it just becomes messy. Again, that’s just me. 

The Deleter white ink is THICK and not meant for dip pens. You can dliute it with water to get it to that point, but I highly suggest using a brush if you’re going to use this straight out of the bottle. Because of its thickness, this is my correction “paint”.

Next up: brush pens! I will include both brush tips and felt tips.

I have five brands of brush pens, sorta listed in order of preference.

PENTEL – Pocket Brush (waterproof) and Standard Brush (NOT waterproof)
FABER CASTELL – Pitt Artist (felt tip; waterproof)
KURETAKE – Fudegokochi brush pen black (NOT waterproof) and Zig Clean Color Real Brush cool grey (NOT waterproof)
SAKURA PIGMA Brush pen (felt tip; waterproof)
*AKASHIYA SAI* Watercolor Brush Pens

So right away, the pocket brush pen is my go-to for inking with a broader range and it’s travel-friendly and waterproof. The issue I seem to have with them however is the fact that sometimes, and only sometimes, the ink flows from the barrel a little too fast or too much and causes the brush tip to “bloat” and becomes heavy with ink and it becomes very difficult to create gentler fine lines, even with a light hand. I have three pocket brushes: one I use for dry, one ‘normal’, and one I’ve modded to be a flat brush. I’ve only had one case of a pocket brush leaking and it seems to be a freak accident.

*The Akashiya Sai watercolor brush pens I will rarely use for sketching and only for color filling, but they are super smooth and blend really well with a touch of water. I have a lot of fun with these. But the colors are bright, like highlighter bright. You would need to lighten them up using water, but at that point, you’re probably better off using real watercolor paint.

Which leads me into my next section: COLORING! I will include paint and markers in this. … I don’t use color pencils. >_> I’ve just never been a color pencil person, or pastels even. I will touch on tools as well.

I have the following brands / types of coloring… stuff in no order of preference:

COPIC – Sketch Markers
PRISMACOLOR – Set of 12 Cool Grey, Double-Ended (Chisel and Fine Tip)
WINSOR & NEWTON Watercolor- Cotman Set of 24 full pans Cotman Travel Set of 12 half pans
LUKAS Gouache – Designer Pro Gouache Set of 12 20ml tubes
AKASHIYA SAI Watercolor Brush Pens (oh, hello again!)

And my coloring stuff tools:

For Watercolor
PENTEL – Waterbrush; Fine, Medium, Large
YASUTOMO NIJI  – Waterbrush; Flat
Varied paint brushes (I know high quality sable hair is the best but PRICEY)
Small spray bottle with water
Small drip bottle with water
Winsor & Newton Art Masking Fluid
Folding palette box (Blick)
Paper – Strathmore 400 (140 lb), Canson Cold Press (90 lbs), Moleskine Watercolor Notebook Large (90 lbs)

For Gouache
Sta-Wet Premier Palette (keeps paint alive for days to weeks)
Varied synthetic brushes
Paper – Same as watercolor

I will say RIGHT now that I’m a little air-headed with painting because of the order of how I do naturally and habitually do things. I mainly blame working in digital for so long. The way I paint in Photoshop is COMPLETELY backwards to how someone would “normally” work with paint, especially with watercolor. Training myself to work backwards is definitely a matter of breaking habits.

My favorite on-the-go coloring methods however are Copics and watercolor (paint and pens). Copics are definitely NOT budget-friendly but they’re a great investment over time as they’re refillable and “repairable” as long as you take good @!#$% care of them. After using Copics, I cannot look at my Prismacolors the same even though I will still use them. I’ve yet to try the ShinHan brand, but that’s also not kind on one’s wallet. LoL

I love my Cotman set + the Pentel waterbrushes. I don’t really like how the bristles are on the Niji so its job is just to wet large areas for a wet-on-wet.

… The art masking fluid frustrates me and the smell makes me go cross-eyed. I would definitely use a synthetic brush you do not care about because it is a brush-destroyer, or you can buy masking fluid applicators that are normally made of silicone/rubber. However, you can dilute it with water, 1/2 or 2/3 mix ratio, and it will fight you a lot less. And DO NOT LEAVE IT ON PAPER FOR MORE THAN 12-24 HOURS IF YOU CAN HELP IT and DO NOT USE A BLOW-DRYER. LOL … I’ve learned the hard way. BUT, different brands do different things, so it’s a matter of testing. So how I work with the Winsor Newton brand may work a lot differently with another.

Gouache is something that I’m still playing around with, but I favor them over acrylics, as they’re like an opaque watercolor and can reactivate with water, unlike acrylic. 

For paper, I am quite content with what I have. The Strathmore 400 stuff is quite lovely though as it has the least buckling and it’s thick paper, it can definitely handle water like a boss. The Moleskine and Canson paper is definitely good for the not-so-heavy watercolors, so watercolor sketching and such. However, I see more buckling in the Canson more than the Moleskine which is probably due to the quality of the paper.

I will end my real media section with miscellaneous tools I own:

Super old large light table. Honestly, it’s 50lbs or something.
Canvas paper
Black acrylic paint
White paint markers
White gel ink pens

So the light table I use if I want to preserve a sketch that I did in a sketchbook and then want to watercolor/paint it, so I’m going to find myself watercolor painting on non-watercolor paper and then we’re all going to be sad pandas. If I’m not sketching in my sketchbook, I’ll literally scribble and color in Photoshop/Sketchbook Pro and use the light desk to get this onto the media paper of my choosing. No matter what anyone says, as long as the original sketch and concept is your own, this is NOT cheating, it’s a matter of using a tool in a toolbox.

The canvas paper is used with the acrylic paint when I want to make textures and brushes for Photoshop when I feel like I need something fresh.

White paint markers and the white gel pens are used for small corrections or adding details with white on inked stuff.

Now onto the digital stuff!

I dabble in the following software (both Mac and Windows), listed in order of usage:

Photoshop (CS5-CC)
Illustrator (CS5-CC)
Google SketchUp
Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
Adobe After Effects (CS6-CC)

I use (or have used) the following hardware:

Cintiq 21UX (This is my primary).
Cintiq 12WX
Bamboo Fun (This is my secondary for travel).
Bamboo Pen
Intuos Pen
Intous 5

I use NOT-FREE Photoshop brushes from this guy: http://www.kyletwebster.com/. I alter them to my choosing. Of course my favorites are his gouache and watercolor brushes, they’re super fun and pretty accurate. For digital sketching, I just take a default brush and mess with it until I like it.

I really loved my Cintiq 12WX because it’s a screen that I can put on my lap that isn’t an iPad. But it got super hot. D: Overtime, it’s sensitivity kinda wore off, and that was slightly disappointing. Now I’m on the 21UX which is awesome because it serves as another monitor as well. XD I use hard felt nibs for the Wacom pens because they give a rough or pencil-like feel but the ONE drawback to using these is that they wear down SUPER fast. I went through 2-3 in a matter of a week during some heavy work loads.

I do a lot of my sketching, painting, and everything in Photoshop. I want distraction-free doodling, I use Sketchbook.

I use Illustrator for vector drawing and making comic panels, and logos, layouts, and such, or anything I want to be able to resize to fit on a building (not like I would ever do that, LOL).

The vector drawing goes hand-in-hand with After Effects, where I like to create stupid little animated gifs.

I use Google SketchUP to take my building or interior concepts that I’ve sketched out and then create them in 3D so I can use the camera to find compositions within the space.

Because of my career path, I work digitally 70-90% of the time. The other 10-30% is if I can no longer stand being on my computer and it’s causing an art block, or if I really just want to hunker down on my couch and just doodle away.

So there it is, my list of tools. 😀 … Well, 99% of them, because I know I forgot something. >.>’

I’ll compile this all to a FAQ in the near future that’ll include links and stuff. 😀
I’ll also do a post of my favorite reference books later on.