The Tools Behind the Art

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all having a fabulous Tuesday, wherever you are in the world.

I’ve been browsing several pages and groups on Facebook about art and Zentangles, and some artists post up the supplies they use in their art, and it’s really fascinating! I love being able to see what helps them create their gorgeous art, and it always inspires me for my next shopping trip to Curry’s or DeSerres.  So I’d like to take today to show you all about the tools that I use in my  own art, and I hope they inspire you!


I prefer a VERY smooth base for my drawings, especially if I’m colouring them with coloured pencils. Most sketchbooks have toothy pages, which don’t let my pens or colours lay down very well and cause a ton of pencil smudging. That being said, if I’m doing a lot of character work and other things in pencil and in minimal colour, I stick with a spiral-bound sketchbook.

11918955_10153213834143337_163675683818825955_nI bought my current one for $3 at Dollarama and I’m not a fan of its paper, so I’m going to get one with smoother paper next. For everything else, I use bristol board and A4 printer paper. Bristol board is thick, smooth paper that can be found at any art supply shop. For my markers, I use special marker paper that I bought on Amazon. Sometimes I also use black paper, or toned tan or grey for special looks.


For sketching and drawing, I’ve exclusively used mechanical pencils for at least seven or eight years. You can get them pretty much wherever there’s a stationery section. Mechanical pencils are very cheap and often come in good-sized packs, and they’re different colours (not the lead, though), so it’s fun to switch pencils when you get bored of one. You can buy replacement erasers and lead for them, too. I prefer .005 lead, but this pair of Papermate pencils that I got from Dollarama are .007 and are just fine.

11954626_10153213833943337_4830983181476154108_nI usually finish my drawings in pen, erasing the pencil lines underneath once I’ve let the ink dry for about five minutes. For this I use a wide range of Sakura Micron pens, which are cheaper and easier for me to find than the Staedtler ones that my best friends prefer. I find that they dry up rather quickly, so if you’re going with the Microns and plan on using them a lot, I’d strongly recommend getting a few of each size so you don’t have to keep running out to the art supply store or ordering online when one dries up.

11951843_10153213833833337_1524403071510616710_nMy favourites are 005, 01, and 03. 005 is best for very fine, small details, and 03 is great for general linework. I also really love the Brush pen and Graphic 1, which has a bullet-shaped head perfect for thicker lines and easy colouring in. I get them at Curry’s because there’s usually a sale on the loose pens, but you can also get them at DeSerres, Michaels, and Amazon.


I most often use coloured pencils, and I’ve been using Prismacolor for the past nine years. Their lead is very soft and has a very rich pigment, so you can lay down brilliant colours and do excellent layering. But because the lead is very waxy, you should be careful to build up thin layers or else you’ll end up with a layer of wax that you can’t do anything else with. I find that the lead breaks VERY easily, so I can’t ever sharpen them to a point before the it falls out. It’s very frustrating because I can’t really get any sharp details with them. I will be switching to Derwent pencils as soon as I can justify doing so, because I’ve experienced nothing short of perfection with them. I got my initial set of pencils on eBay in 2006, and I’ve been building my collection over the years by buying loose pencils at Michaels in the US and Curry’s in Canada.

11902304_10153213834168337_2732779241632577992_nI’ve recently taken up working with alcohol markers because I was so amazed and inspired by artists who use Copics. Copics are too expensive for me, so I did a little research and purchased a large set of Spectrum Noir markers from Amazon. These markers are double-ended, featuring a fine tip on one end and a fat chiseled tip on the other. They’re great other than the fact that they are quite limited in colour selection compared to Copics, and most colours are far different on paper than how they’re portrayed on the caps. It can be very hard to do good blends, gradients, and two-tones because of the colour limitation, which is especially lacking in oranges and greens. I will be fleshing out my markers with loose Copics purchased at Curry’s.

11880402_10153213834078337_4415951899984702766_nWhen I paint with watercolours, I use any that I can find. I bought a cheap set from The Works here in England and they do a great job! I also use watercolour pencils that I bought years ago at Walmart. I use really cheap brushes that I also got at The Works, but if I get more serious about painting I’d like to get much nicer ones.

Other Tools

Staedtler Black Eraser: For mistakes on small details, I use the eraser on the mechanical pencil. But for larger mistakes and for erasing a page of linework that’s under my pen lines, I use these black erasers that I got at Curry’s. They’re perfect for cleanly and fully erasing graphite without leaving weird marks or tons of flakes behind.

Kum Ellipse Sharpener: I bought this bullet-shaped sharpener on Liat’s recommendation. It sharpens my touchy Prismacolors very smoothly, and it sharpens the girls’ Derwents and Faber-Castells to VERY sharp points. It also conveniently keeps all the shavings inside until you dump them out. I purchased it at Curry’s.

11938041_10153213833998337_6540573882395728508_nWhite pigment or gel pen: This is perfect for adding highlights to your finished drawing. I have trouble adding highlights to coloured pencil drawings, but that could be due to Prismacolor’s waxy finish. It’s a dream to add highlights onto marker works, though! I currently use a Sakura GellyRoll pen that I bought on Amazon, and it’s so nice and smooth!

DeSerres Metallic Pens: These gorgeous pens were super cheap (pretty sure 99 cents each), and lay down thick shining colour. They’re the best I’ve ever used for metallic accents!

11960248_10153213833978337_1703986310502654897_nFaber-Castell Artist Markers: Part of an artsy gift from my friend Kent last year, these beautiful brush-tip markers come in sets of 6. I got this set of warm and cool greys, as well as a set of basic colours that isn’t in this photo because I didn’t bring them to England. The grey set makes gorgeous greyscale drawings and they layer well.

11924916_10153213833898337_3626032484786543204_nStaedtler Triplus Fineliners: I’d been wanting a set of these for a while after I saw a few artists using colours for their linework instead of black ink. I’ve seen them at Curry’s, but I got them at Tesco when they happened to be on sale for the school season.



Roll-up pencil case from DeSerres. I got it on sale for $9.99 and it’s brilliant!

11219310_10153213833798337_1298069039837807956_nPencil cases. The London one is from Accessorize and holds my Prismacolours. The watermelon one is from Tesco and holds my coloured fineliners, some ball-point pens, and the big sharpener.

I don’t have a picture of drawing storage since it’s at home, but at Dollarama I bought this really neat folder that has several different pockets inside. I keep different categories of drawings in each pocket (such as main characters, secondary characters, trades, fan art, animals).

What are your favourite art tools?

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