The Art Tools I Use
When I was a kid, I didn’t know much about quality art supplies. The most expensive tools I used in my middle school years were Crayola supplies and sharpie markers. Now at the age of 20, I look at my humble collection of art supplies and realize that I’ve come a long way. I would like to give a few important disclaimers before I begin. 1- by no means am I rich (after all, I’m a broke college kid), and all of the supplies I have were slowly collected over time through gifts from friends and family, or bought with money I saved up. 2- there are countless different mediums out in the world, and millions of ways for people to create art. It is a form of self-expression, and just like how we have our idiosyncrasies in speech, artists have quirks in styles and mediums. I've tried countless different art supplies, and the ones I currently use are the ones I feel most comfortable with, were the most accessible (and by accessible I absolutely mean "were the kindest to my bank account"), were the easiest to learn, and help me create the art I want to create. With that said, if you are a beginning artist, or even an advanced one, you are by no means meant to take the list I am providing to heart and use the exact tools I use. This is just a reference list from my repertoire.
And so, here’s a breakdown of the tools I currently use.
I have a huge love/hate relationship with paint. For one, I hate how it requires more set-up and clean-up compared to markers or colored pencils. Canvases are also not a very cheap thing to come by. Thankfully, there’s a lot of cheap supplies out there, although you have to keep in mind that in the art world, you get what you pay for; the more money you drop, the higher the quality of the product.
On the other hand, a skilled artist can still make good creations with cheap supplies, and the cheap supplies can last a while if maintained properly. For paints, I actually use the 50-cent acrylic paint bottles from Walmart (*gasp). That’s right. Even better, Walmart has bags of cheap paintbrushes for $4-5, and large canvases for about $10-15. If you’re a beginning artist, or perhaps starting an art business or want to create a series of artworks for a portfolio, hit up Walmart first.
On another note, Michael’s is also a good place to go for supplies, especially if you want to step up the quality of your collection. On good days, especially in the summer or the end of holiday season, Michael’s has sales for canvases (like a pack of five 16x20 inches for $20) and their acrylic paints aren’t too expensive either.
Ah, my favorite medium. Markers are easy to use and clean-up. There’s also several brands out there, each with their unique qualities. Personally, I’m a huge fan of copic markers. This is a professional brand that most comic book artists, designers, and other professional artists use. Now, these markers are reaaally pricey ($5-8 PER marker), but the quality is amazing. They’re alcohol-based and they’re excellent for blending colors. There are also over 300 colors available, so you can create so many shades and nuances of color in your pieces. The other really cool thing about them is that you can actually refill your markers with ink, so you never have to buy replacements when they dry out.
Most of my illustrations are made with copics, so I can attest to their amazing quality. Before copics, I used sharpies. They’re ok for beginners, or for when you’re trying to create art with a specific style. However, I’d say they’re pretty limited in their abilities. I would personally recommend any alcohol based markers such as prismacolor or winsor & newton, but ultimately, copics are the way to go for me. My advice: save up to buy yourself a nice big set from amazon. I actually received mine as a gift, but I can tell you that it’s the greatest art supply in my collection.
3- inking pens
This is another staple for artists. Most of the time, I start a new piece by sketching it in pencil, and then outlining it with inking pens before I color in with copics. There are so many brands of inking pens out there, but the ones I currently use are Faber Castell and Sakura micron pens. Almost all brands come with pens that have a variety of nib sizes, such as .3, .5, .8 and 1. These measurements are all in millimeters. The smaller the nib size, the thinner the line.
Another recent investment I made was in a Pentel inking brush pen. It’s a pen that creates these wonderful lines ranging from really thin to really choppy and thick, depending on how you hold the pen and how much pressure you put on the paper. It took a few tries to get used to it given how sensitive it was to pressure, but once you get used to it, you have a lot of options to create with lines, and you can get some pretty neat effects out of it. It’s also refillable, so the pen itself lasts a long time.
4- white gel pen
I LOVE this tool. I use a signo white uni-ball pen for highlights on my illustrations. It comes in handy for adding those nice white pops of color on drawings, and helps add more dimension to values. You can find these pens at your local craft store in the marker/pen section, or just order directly on Amazon.
I didn’t think this at first, but the type of paper you use can be a really big game changer, especially if you use a lot of ink-based tools for art. I used to just use normal copy paper or any sketchbook paper available, but I quickly learned that some papers can actually suck the ink out of your markers faster since they aren’t bleed-proof. I recently got a hold of a stack of 50 sheets of marker paper, and it’s made such a difference in blending options. You can find marker paper at craft stores, or even just look it up on Amazon. The Copic brand itself has its own sketchbooks and pads of marker paper.
For prismacolor pencils, I prefer toned paper over normal white paper. This creates a nice contrast with the color pencils and gives it a nice pop of color.
6- Prismacolor Pencils
These can also be pricey depending on where you get them from, but Amazon sells them pretty cheap. Prismacolor pencils are thick and blend-able, creating wonderful layers and contrasts of color that normal color pencils aren’t capable of creating. Most professional artists also use these.
7- A Lint-roller
You might wonder why the hell I included this in my list. Actually, lint-rollers are really handy to have. When I sketch, I tend to erase a lot, and sometimes it gets frustrating having a bunch of eraser marks all over the paper and workstation. I discovered that lint-rollers are great for sweeping over my desk and even my canvases to pick up those pesky eraser marks or pencil shavings.