A few folks have asked me to do a quick post on my sketch materials. Most of my professional work is all digital, and I’ve detailed my digital process a few times, but I don’t think I have for traditional commissions. Drawing with traditional materials is very enjoyable, but the lack of an Undo shortcut is usually frustrating. Anyway, these are pretty much the only tools I use, and very rarely does a new item enter my toolkit. I’ll talk about them a bit below, but you can see them all in the above process shots, taken while working on this custom design for Jesse Quick for a #DEANCON commimssion.
1. Grass Green Col-Erase Pencil. I stumbled onto Col-Erase pencils during a assignment I basically cheated on at SCAD. We were studying various tools in Penciling and Inking class, which was difficult as heck, as I can’t use a crow quill or ink well with drawing pens to save my life. I’m a brush guy. But we were assigned to use non-reproduction blue pencils for a week, and I couldn’t stand it. Non-repro blues are too waxy and light, and the squeaky friction of each stroke was driving me crazy. I found a light blue Col-Erase pencil at the local art supply store, that looked close enough to pass, and I found that I enjoyed drawing with it even more than graphite pencils. It’s smoother than scratchy graphite, but has more grit than waxy non-repro blue. (There is a Col-Erase non-repro blue pencil, but it’s also too light and waxy, to my tastes.)
2. Indigo Blue Col-Erase Pencil. I haven’t used another pencil in well over a decade. After years of using these religiously, they started to become harder to find in stores, so I had to start buying them online. I recommend them to artist pals all the time, and it’s always been a treat to meet folks who prefer them as well. Favoring these pencils was one of the first things Mike Wieringo and I bonded over, when a particular color was discontinued. I sometimes use a lighter color to sketch and a darker color to refine the pencils a bit, which I’ve done here.
3. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy. I taught myself to ink with brushes during my first year at SCAD, thanks to my talented roommate Kyle Kershner lending me one of his Windsor-Newton Series 7's to try out. No brush pen can perfectly replicate the dexterity of a top-quality brush, BUT, my convention sketchkit got a serious upgrade when by buddy Mike Maihack lent me one of these at a convention some years ago. Pentel’s Pocket Brush Pen uses a synthetic brush and replaceable ink cartridges, and is an incredibly strong contender for a brush replacement tool, so much so that I often use it at home, where setting up with a proper ink and brush setup isn’t too difficult. This is the first brush pen I’ve ever been able to trust to usually give me the lines I want. Not a true brush, but pretty damn dependable.
4. Pentel Sunburst White Gel Pen. Another recommendation from a friend, inker and illustrator, Rich Faber. This is a finicky little life-saver, but it’s a fine-point white out tool that travels well. A rare and valuable set of characteristics. As you can see in the above process shots, I decided to add a nod to Jesse’s old glasses with some simple, 90s-y shades, but that was after I’d already inked the eyes and left her secret identity too exposed. This tool helped me out here, as it did in yesterday’s starfield costumes on Laurel Gand and Kent Shakespeare.
5. Kneaded Eraser. The oldest, most consistent tool in my box. I lose these all the time, but they’re easy to find at any art supply store. I favor this kind of eraser mostly because it doesn’t leave shavings. I’m too much of a neat-freak for eraser shavings. As a bonus, you can shape it into a little Batman head in class.
6. Copic Cool Gray C4 Double-Sided Marker. I’ve used the black Copic marker fairly consistently for filling in black shapes when my brushpen is running low, BUT, I’ve only recently added this cool gray marker to my regular commissions process. It’s a nice, light gray that lets me add some shape and depth to my sketches, similar to my “one cut” coloring style. I’ve only been using this regularly for two weeks, but it’s definitely found a new home in the sketchkit.
7. Zebra Disposable Brush Pen. This is a very basic brush pen I’ve started using just for my signature. It handles well for quick strokes, but I can’t really use it for proper inking, though I know a few folks with different inking styles who enjoy them quite a bit, to solid results.
8. Sakura Pigma Micron Pen Size 08 (Not Pictured). I didn’t use this here, but a longtime mainstay in my toolbox is this fat-ass “Macron.” I use this guy for Spider-Man’s weblines, mainly. It’s a reliable tool that can take a slow, controlled line from my heavy hand. I don’t like pens much, so when I find one I like, I stick with it.
There you go! As you probably know, one’s drawing style is made up of both their choices and limitations, and these tools help me limit my weaknesses and focus on my choices as much as possible, and work quickly and competently with reliable results. But remember: It’s not the tools, it’s the artist that creates good drawings. Find the tools that work for you. These work for me, because it’s a small, travel-ready set of tools and they’re solid enough that the faults in my drawings are almost always just my own, rather than the result of frustrating unreliability in my tools.
Update: The paper is Smooth Bristol Board, available at any art supply store.