Supplies

The idea of starting over (or at least reverting to an “earlier save state,” if you will) can be daunting. Something I am fortunate enough to have already established, though, is an arsenal of great illustration supplies. This post is going to focus on the tools I’ve grown to love and rely on throughout my years of drawing and illustrating.

Sketching

Colored Pencils

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish and how clean you need your line work to look, you will need to choose your sketching tools accordingly. The benefit of using a colorful media to sketch is that it makes it very easy to remove the sketch marks digitally through color correction/removal. Another benefit I have found is that the more blunt drawing point prevents me from trying to add too much detail too quickly. The rough line work keeps things loose and I stay focused on the overall composition and movement early in the illustration process.

The biggest downside of colored pencils is erasing. I have encountered very few colored pencils that erase easily and completely. If you are the type that likes to erase a lot, this may not be the best route as the colors can become muddy on the page the more you try to cut into them.

Pros

  • Easy to remove colorful marks digitally
  • Allows illustrator to stay loose during early sketching phase

Cons

  • Difficult to erase
  • Doesn’t allow for as much detail in later sketching phases

Recommendations

  • Prismacolor Col-Erase → DESIGNED for sketch work finished with ink and erases a bit better than other colored pencils
  • Prismacolor Premier/Verithin → Depending on your preference, both of these pencils work well. The Premier pencils are richer and lay down thicker lines, but are harder to erase. Verithins have harder leads and are better for detail work and illustrators with a light touch (because you’ll dig into your paper if you draw too hard).
  • Crayola Colored Pencils → Honestly, I like using a standard school colored pencil from time to time. They are more cost effective and, in terms of sketches, do almost just as good of a job as the Prismacolors.

Graphite

These days, I like to keep things fairly simple and my supplies on hand very light. I’ve found that a good mechanical pencil with a tough eraser is all I really need for sketching, most of the time. Graphite has been a part of my drawing process since I was a kid, so it feels natural to me. Mechanical pencils also prevent me from having to keep track of a separate sharpener and eraser.

There’s a lot of different options, but my favorite mechanical pencil is the Papermate Sharp Writer. They are cost effective, lay down great lines, and the pink eraser included is a work horse for pulling up even the heaviest of sketches.

Beyond that, there are plenty of pencil companies that offer color lead refills, too. So, if you want to sketch with color, but not carry around a sharpener, these leads are a GREAT alternative.

Pros

  • Wide variety of types and lead softness to work with any style
  • Can purchase most anywhere (and probably already laying around the house)

Cons

  • Can smudge under hand and onto other pages

Recommendations

Erasing

Stick Erasers

Back in the day, I used to LOVE my Sanford Peel-Off Magic Rub pencils. Unfortunately, upon writing this, I have discovered that they have been discontinued 😧. I’m not sure why, but it makes me quite sad. This bump in the road won’t end your ability to find good, precision erasing, but you may have to consider other, more expensive alternatives (like mechanical erasers).

Pros

  • Precision erasing

Cons

  • Not great for large areas

Recommendations

Block Erasers

Block erasers are pretty standard. They come in a variety of materials and are generally pretty affordable. They are best suited for erasing large areas, or removing sketch lines from your work after inking is completed.

Pros

  • Great for erasing graphite sketch work once inking is completed and dry
  • Affordable and readily available at most stores

Cons

  • Very little precision

Recommendations

  • Staedtler Mars Plastic → Best all around eraser for a variety of material, including graphite, colored pencil, and charcoal.
  • Paper Mate Pink Pearl → Super affordable and sturdy eraser. Will take care of graphite easily and does a good job on colored pencils, too. Be careful, though, because overuse hard erasers can wear holes in your paper.
  • Kneaded Erasers (Prismacolor, General’s, Faber-Castell, etc) → These erasers can be molded into different shapes to handle a variety of erasing needs. They work best with soft graphite or charcoal because, since it’s so malleable, you can’t press it into the paper very hard. While I don’t personally like these, they can be a more cost effective alternative to electric erasers if you need precision erasing.

Inking

Dip Ink

There are a lot of different types of dip ink out there, but I generally stick with India ink. This is the stuff you have to actually dip your brush or pen into to use. While traditional ink has a steep learning curve, I highly recommend at least trying it as it creates beautiful and expressive line work that can’t be captured with most standard ink pens.

Pros

  • Creates a richer black than most pens/markers

Cons

  • Can be messy
  • Not travel friendly

Recommendations

Nibs and Brushes

So, what do you use with dip ink? Brushes and nibs, of course! Though not widely used by the general population, using nibs and brushes are a traditional illustration and comic book drawing tool. They can be difficult to learn, but it’s worth trying as they create unique and expressive line work. Expect to see a stand alone post regarding this topic at a later date.

Pros

  • Variable stroke width creates more expressive line work
  • Creates less trash than modern pens

Cons

  • Can be messy
  • Not travel friendly
  • Somewhat of a steep learning curve

Recommendations

  • Zebra Comic Pen Nibs G Model → GREAT starter nib because it is flexible enough to allow for a range of stroke width without being TOO soft and dumping the entire ink load
  • Speedball Standard Pen Holder → Needed to hold the nib and draw with
  • Pentel Pocket Brush → This is my favorite inking tool, by far. It has real bristles and replaceable ink cartridges. The line work it creates looks just as beautiful as regular brush and dip ink, but it is much more compact and a travel friendly alternative.

Ink Pens

For those that like to keep things simple, there are plenty of options out there when it comes to standard pens. Just be aware, pens from your local store’s office supply section are probably not designed for traditional art and illustration. Because of this, you may encounter bleeding, smearing, and running (depending on what pen and paper you use).

Pros

  • Portability/ease of use
  • Less mess
  • Easily available at a LOT of different stores

Cons

  • Not always archive quality and can fade, run, and smear a bit easier
  • Many are disposable, which means more garbage in our landfills

Recommendations

  • Sharpie Pens → The awesome look and feel of a sharpie marker with a finer, more technical point
  • Micron Technical Pens → Archive quality, available in a variety of colors and widths
  • Copic Multiliner Pens → Expensive, but ink is refillable and all pen parts can be replaced. They also have a decent brush pen
  • Pilot Precise V5/V7 → Can be found at most super stores and available in a variety of colors online

Paper

What paper you will use depends on what medium you are using and your own personal preference. The fast and loose rules are lightweight, semi-textured papers for sketching, and smooth, heavyweight, bright white paper works for inking.

With sketching, I like smaller, spiral notebooks. The spiral binding works well for clipping on a mechanical pencil or ink pen to keep everything together. My final inked pieces are usually done on individual smooth bristol sheets.

Recommendations

  • Sketch Pads → Anything works (I’ve used printer paper on more than one occasion), but I like generic drawing and sketching notebooks from Strathmore and Canson. Discount mixed media pads are also great if you find yourself switching around and testing out a variety of media (like markers).
  • Tracing Paper → Any brand of tracing paper works well, but I also like Canson Marker Paper because it is semi transparent, but also smooth and sturdy, so you can ink directly to it.
  • Inking Paper → Vellum/Smooth Bristol Paper (Strathmore 300 and Canson XL) lets you lay down ink smoothly and prevents most bleeding

Software (Clean Up and Color)

Photoshop

Photoshop works best for clean up, in my opinion. There are a lot of very powerful tools that allow you to ink and paint within the app, but depending on your computer, these may be too CPU intensive. Mostly I use Photoshop to clean up sketch lines, make minor edits and corrections, and to assemble multiple images or panels.

Pros

  • Extensive toolbox to create and edit your work
  • Industry standard

Cons

  • Expensive/Ongoing Cost($9.99–20.99/mo)
  • CPU intensive for older computers

Procreate

Procreate is geared more towards digital drawing and painting. It comes equipped with a variety of brushes that effectively imitate real world media. There are also tons of brush packs available from other artists and illustrators. Used in conjunction with the Apple Pencil, the Procreate app is one of the best substitutions for traditional media I’ve used.

Pros

  • Very intuitive feel with Apple Pencil
  • Great variety if brush customization and brush packs for all inking and coloring styles

Cons

  • iPad Specific ($9.99)
  • Limited design tools

Thank you for checking out my work!

If you’d like to show additional support, please consider becoming a patron on my L. Fox Illustration Patreon page.

I’m also happy to accept one time donations and tips via PayPal and Venmo.

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L. Fox Illustration

L. Fox Illustration

Illustrator • Maker • Mom • Professional Procrastinator