I love trying out new tools and materials, and I’ve tried a great many over the past few years. There’s something really childishly fun about picking up a new tool and testing it and seeing how it responds to your way of working. From basic generic dry media to traditional Japanese brush pens to a vast array of digital drawing and painting apps- I’ve tried so many things. So this post is going to be about my tools and materials and what I think of them.
- Faber Castell 9000 series pencils. Wonderful drawing pencils that I keep coming back to no matter how many others I try. 2b-8b is the perfect range for sketching and drawing. If I had to pick just three grades, it would be the 3b, the 5b and the 7b. In my experience, FC’s run ever so slightly lighter than Steadtler pencils of the same grade.
- Steadtler Tradition Series. I somehow prefer these to the darker, courser Lumograph series that is pitched as the more premium one.
- Faber Castell TK Vario 0.9. Wooden pencils are always going to be better than mechanical for me but the Vario comes very, very close. At 0.9 mm it’s incredibly versatile, fine enough for details but not as thin as a 0.5 so you don’t have to worry about breakage.
- Clutch Pencils. 2 mm clutch pencils have one advantage over traditional wooden ones- they stay the same shape and weight over time. I don’t find this enough of an advantage to prefer them, but they are a very convenient choice for traveling. I like the FC TK ones, but Kohinoor’s top model is just as good. Also great to have on hand are solid graphite sticks or 5.6 mm clutch pencils from Kohinoor or Faber Castell.
- Derwent Coloured Drawing Pencils. The tin of 6 is perfect for rustic sketches in sanguine and sepia, and the white pencil is brilliant for using on toned brown paper.
- Conte crayons and Faber Castell Polychromos Pastel Pencils. I quite like my Conte a Paris sticks for really energetic sketching, especially portraiture or figure drawing. The Polychromos pastel pencils are also excellent, my favourite for drawing. I wish it were easier to buy them loose or in a sanguine- sepia set.
- Winsor Newton Inks with any decent brushes or water-brushes, with old fashioned dip pens on smooth paper are great.
- Kuretake No. 13 brush pen. I’ve tried the Pentel Pocket brush, and the expensive sable tipped Kuretake model, but find the No. 13 best of the bunch. I use mine with Platinum carbon ink.
- Platinum Carbon fountain pen, and the Platinum Cool fountain pen. The Platinum Carbon fountain pen is incredibly fine, and when used with Carbon black ink, produces very sharp, jet black, waterproof lines. It’s excellent for sketching and inking alike. Lately I’ve also been using my Platinum Cool fountain pen for ink sketches. This is an especially great fountain pen because it has a special cap technology which means that, unlike most fountain pens, it doesn’t have to be used regularly to be kept in good condition. It’s said to be able to go for up to a year without use without the ink drying out and clogging the feed. Sometimes I use my Platinum Cool pen to sketch in black ink, and then use a water brush to bleed the lines and use the grey wash to shade and add body to the sketch.
- Copic Ciao markers. Copic markers have got to be the Maybach’s of the art material world. Sure they’re good but their price makes you wonder if they’re that good. Short answer is no; the Toyota’s of the art world will do everything and get you as far as you need to go. But slight as the difference is, the price is worth it if- and only if- you regularly use one or two shades. I have two warm grey Ciao markers in different grades and it’s great.
- Copic Sepia multiliners. These are amazing pens for sketching, and then going over with a black ink pen. The 0.05 is brilliant for incredibly fine detail work, as is the 0.1, and the 0.3 is best for looser sketching.
- TWSBI notebooks. Specially made to work with fountain pen ink, these are beautiful notebooks for writing and sketching in ink.
- Daler Rowney/ Seabright marker pads. If I had to pick just one kind of paper, it would be these. They are very versatile, and take graphite, ink, markers (of course) and even charcoal, pastels, and conte well.
iPad Pro with Apple Pencil
- Adobe Sketch is my favourite art app. Simple, minimalist, with a few beautiful brush options, layer function, and it’s completely free. Best of all are the colour palettes.
- Procreate is by far the most advanced and fully featured art app for iOS, and it’s very, very good. There are a ton of resources available if you want even more brushes and there’s a great active online user community.
- Concepts is another very cool app. It’s for designers first and artists second, and the UI is incredibly sleek. It lets you sketch in vectors, and the line quality is very natural looking and feeling. Only one basic brush for colouring in but this is not a painter’s app, more geared towards ideation and well, concepts.
- I’ve tried everything else- ArtRage, Paintstorm, Clip Studio, Medibang, Inspire Pro, Sketch Club, Autodesk Sketchbook… and the three I’ve mentioned above are the only ones worth keeping on my iPad. Autodesk Sketchbook is however a decent runner up to Procreate.
- Wacom Cinti1 13HD. I far prefer my iPad to the Cintiq I owned for a while. It was a beautiful device, but a pain to set up, a pain to move around, and the cursor lagged just a tiny little bit more than my Apple Pencil.
- Microsoft Surface Pro/ Book. My laptop is a Surface book, and it’s very, very good as a laptop. But as a drawing tool it falls short. The stylus just isn’t up to scratch. It’s not that noticeable when writing or taking notes or even while making quick sketches, but it lags quite a bit compared to the Apple Pencil. I haven’t tried out the new updated 2017 Surface Pro’s with their new pens, so maybe they’ve matched Apple now. Still, for what it’s worth, my favourite drawing app for Windows 10 is Sketchbook Pro. With its low subscription cost and vast number of excellent, free downloadable brushes, it’s far better value for money than Corel Painter or even Photoshop for plain sketching and painting. Another very good lightweight app for Windows is Escape Motions’s Rebelle. Krita is also a great option especially considering it’s open source.