Discussion: What unique drawing tools do you use?

I admit, I never tire of talking tools. Not the stuff found at the Home Depot, but the local art supply store. I don’t believe that any particular pen, paper or pencil will make any cartoonist funnier or produce more clever cartoons, but I’m fascinated by the tools cartoonists keep in their quiver. Last year, about this time, we discussed “What tool in your trade are you obsessed about?” after Richard Thompson detailed his obsession with nibs. If you follow Brian Anderson’s blog, you know he praises his Kuru Toga – a mechanical pencil that rotates the lead to keep it sharp. After reading David Paccia’s interviews with 40+ artists and their tools of choice, I figured it was due to have another tool talk session.

The question today: What tool (pen, pencil, paper, software, etc.) do you keep in your studio – that you use regularly – that is pretty unique or you don’t think anyone else uses?

69 thoughts on “Discussion: What unique drawing tools do you use?

  1. I have a glass dip pen that my late mother purchased for me in Italy. She actually bought me two but, you know … it’s made of glass. Very cool looking and it actually produces a nice line.

    It’s funny you should bring this up, because I just sketched with it the other day.

  2. Lately I’ve been in love with uniball pens. I love the line they give, so I’ve been drawing stuff with them for a while.

    There are probably better pens I could be using, but right now uniball’s okay in my book.

  3. The tools I use the most are fairly typical – mechanical Bic pencils, Microns for lettering, a Pentel disposable fountain pen for tight inking, and I rave about the Pentel Pocket Brush – but I have two pens I rarely hear other people talk about.

    I picked up a pair of Pilot Parallel Pens (http://tinyurl.com/kounnu) for fun, and now I LOVE them – they’re unpredictable and messy when used with a loose hand. They’re intended to be used as calligraphy pens, but I find them better suited for messy illustrations.

    A few years ago my best friend purchased a handmade glass fountain pen for me as a novelty gift. I ended up using it for a book illustration job on 400lb cold-press watercolor paper with ink, and it was PERFECT for the job. The entire thing is made out of glass (similar to this, only smaller: http://tinyurl.com/y8rgwr7). It’s a little scary to press hard because COME ON, it’s made out of glass, but so far it’s held up just fine.

    Editor’s note: I’ve shortened the URLs above to preserve comment section layout.

  4. I couldn’t live without Hunt 513EF nibs, Speedball India Ink and Strathmore 400 series Bristol board.

    Other than that, I’ve been using the best eraser I could ever imagine that cost 50 cents at Wal-Mart and cheap tape to keep work docked on the drawing board. I’m sure there is plenty of heated talk that we could have about erasers and tape, eh? (Okay, probably not.)

  5. A decent photocopier. After drawing my cartoon in pen, brush and ink on Bristol board, I then photocopy my black and white cartoon onto another sheet of Bristol (I still need to provide a black and white version for syndication). Next, I hand paint that version using watercolors. I’d be lost without that copy machine.

    I was once asked what software I was using to achieve that realistic watercolor look. That made me laugh.

  6. I’m partial to Pitt artist pens. If I do use a nib,I stick to the Hunt Globe bowl point.

  7. Aside from my brushes, I adore my Tachikawa’s. I use their dip pen plus the fine and x-fine manga pens.

    I’ve been wanting to try one of those glass pens Stephen mentioned too.

  8. oh man I love this stuff

    I use a speedball C5 or C6. I think they are actually lettering nibs but I like the random/varied line they produce. I just use regular old super black india ink.

    The little art shop in my town carries the 926 “manga” flat bristol from Bee Paper. It’s thinner than Strathmore, which is nice if you use a light board, but it seems more durable. You can really drag the nib hard and give it a good scratch without it digging in or getting pulpy.

  9. @danielle, I’ve never heard/seen the Parallel pens. I had to google around to see anything produced by it (aside from calligraphy). Here’s the only thing I could find: http://bit.ly/6D3N8X . I can see how it could be hard to control, but it seems to paint smoothly and the clean up nib looked cool.

    Is it waterproof and archival quality ink?

  10. Col-Erase light blue pencils and Winsor & Newton brushes size 3 with India ink. I also like the Fanboy Comic strip boards. When I was 15, I used a “Leroy” to letter with (so slow), now I just use a shaved Speedball B-6.

  11. For the past several months I’ve been using a Caran d’Ache 3mm graphite pencil for my finishes on the dailies. Still using Faber-Castell Polychromos black pencils for Sundays.

  12. I use Alvin Penstix. They’re usually found in the architectural supply area of the art store, and come in 3-packs of .3, .5, and .7mm. They have india quality ink but use a felt tip instead of the harder tips in Microns, meaning I can use them smoothly over non-photo blue pencil.

  13. The basics. I mean elementary school. First mechanical Bic pencil on heavy stock paper.

    Then, I scan and ink over in Anime Studio with a Wacom tablet. Had another brand tablet before, and it was alright, but I find the Wacom is more reliable. Don’t have to periodically shake and recalibrate.

    Finally, lettering in Adobe Photoshop. Just cause I’m comfortable with it. And I still have a bootleg version of 5.5 from Yugoslavia.

  14. Does anyone else use removable labels for dialogue? It makes changing the dialogue so much easier.

    I assume many do, but I haven’t heard anyone talk about using them, so I’m curious if it’s common or not.

  15. I use a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush for the majority of the line work, with a crow quill for the cross hatching, and a Copic Multiliner SP for the lettering. For India ink I only use Speedball Super Black. For corrections I use Pro White Process Opaque Watercolor.

  16. Gosh I’m easy. A good set of pigment liners, some hb pencils and smooth plate bristol. Other than scanning my strips, and emailing them to my editors, I don’t use the computer for any production.

  17. I’ve found the Copic Multiliner pens to be a better alternative to Microns. They’re practically the same product but the Copics hold up better in my experience. Pick the metal case versions and you can swap nibs and ink cartridges as needed.

  18. Love the airbrush but haven’t toughed it in years. Micron pens and soft graphite pencils. Cheap markers and dinner napkins. Addicted to WACOM Intuos3 graphics tablet, dream of a Cintiq. ArtRage, Photoshop and Illustrator. Antique fountain pens. Polymer clay and polished sculpting tools. Scratch board and lino cuts. Woodcarving tools. A chain saw and a fresh stump…

  19. I sketch with a non-photo blue mechanical pencil so I don’t have to erase, but never seem to settle on one tool for the ink lines. I usually use a #2 brush and ink, then switch to a Pigma Micron #08 for crosshatching and shading. But often I decide to try something different — two weeks ago I was in the mood for drawing large and coarse so I just grabbed a medium Sharpie, with good results.

    I don’t use expensive paper since I scan the line art and finish coloring and lettering with photoshop elements. I just bought a Mustek 11 x 17 scanner that saves time because I can scan a whole drawing in one swoop.

  20. Another unique thing (or things) I have are supplies from the great animator/teacher T. Hee.

    If you’re not familiar with him, one of the many things he did was direct “Dance of the Hours” for Fantasia. He also co-founded the Character Animation department at Calarts.

    He died in 1988 and I was a student at CalArts at the time. He gave all his old supplies to the students. I arrived late that day and wound up with a bunch of colored pencils and a rubber cement eraser.

    That’s right, I have T. Hee’s rubber cement eraser.

    Another teacher would make certain students go outside and get a small twig and sharpen it to a point. They would then have to dip that into ink and only draw with the twig. That was to force them to loosen up and stop drawing so tightly.

    All of this reminded me of a dumb thing I did eight years ago. I posted a “How To Make A Comic Strip” page on my website. I was working for a large libary system at the time and was constantly asked how comics were made, so I made up what I thought was an obvious joke about the process.

    I kid you not, a couple of librarians (who have Masters degrees, mind you) came up to me and said they had no idea I did all of that just to make a comic strip.

    I found the page and put it back up on my website. Me with short hair: http://tinyurl.com/yfh8g5o

  21. I use a black Flair pen on heavyweight Southworth 100% cotton bond paper. I’ve used metal pen points and ink in the past, even used brushes in some of my early work…but the humble Flair pen works best for me. Unfortunately, Flairs lose their point quickly and the line gets too broad, so I generally have to use a new pen every day. I pretty much get everything I need from Staples…can’t remember the last time I visited an art store.

  22. I use the Tombow dual brush-pen for the line, Sanford ‘s Sharpie for the solid black areas and Prismacolor markers for color. I found with the “rush” of studio work the faster drying time the better. I still like to get my hands dirty.

  23. Hunt 107 nibs… since high school…Speedball Super Black India ink, 300 series Strathmore Vellum Bristol, Col-Erase light blue pencils and plain old Sharpies for the big black areas…

  24. I can’t re-letter over the Pro-White, so I often use white-out. Anybody got any hints?

  25. Wow, this is so cool! Thanks for sharing.
    For me, I am very easy and simple.

    1) A old orange side click mechanical pencil, I have had since high-school.

    2) Fine point Sharpie

    3) A Pilot Precise Deluxe Extra Fine

    4) Cheap copier paper

    5) Magic Rub eraser

  26. I go out of my way to find the cheapest disposable mechanical pencils I can find. I draw rough and fast on 12″x12″ strathmore Bristol, Ink with a Rosemary and Co #2 brush with India ink (sometimes Bombay, some times Windsor Newton), I erase the pencils with a kneaded eraser, and then scan and add tones and dialogue in Photoshop CS2.

  27. I’ve started using a Cintiq tablet. Still getting used to it but I love it. I haven’t decided which software I like more with it, Manga Studio 2.0 or Sketch Book Pro. Both have their strengths. Manga Studio is kind of cool because it replicates various pen tips and makes it super easy to build panels, word balloons and effects.

    I used a bunch of Bell system pen tips for years that had belonged to my late wife’s grandfather but they don’t make them anymore. I now know why Sparky bought every Resterbrook Radio pen tip left on the planet before they stopped making them, just so he could keep that amazing line quality when inking Peanuts. If you’ve got a favorite pen tip that you like I strongly suggest you buy as many as possible. After the Bells ran out it was on to the Faber Castell Pitt pens and the newer Copic pens, but never the same. I used a few Manga pens for awhile as well.

    I also take stuff through Adobe Photoshop to color. When doing it the old fashioned way I love Dr. Martins dyes.

  28. I use a Wacom tablet and that’s pretty much it. I sketch in Painter and ink/letter in either Painter or Illustrator. I haven’t bought art supplies in maybe six years.

  29. @Josh Pasto
    I’ve been thinking about getting a Wacom, an Ituos 3 or 4…problem is they ain’t cheap and there’s nowhere in my area to look at one before popping for the $400-$700 bill.

    Can I ask what type Wacom you use?
    Do you have any online stuff I might look at, just to gauge how it looks?

  30. Shane,I use an Intuos on everything. Regrettably, I will have no etchings to sell when Sotheby’s calls.

    Just stick with Intuos and stay away from the cheaper cousin, the Graphire, as it lacks the sensitivity and accuracy of the Intuos. I work on an Intuos at my workplace, but like my generation one Intuos at home as well.

  31. I used a Graphire for some years, it’s good enough to add color, and even for doing some types of drawing, but for more painterly or deep ink strokes you need at least an intuos.

  32. Steve,
    Thanks for the info…is it the 3 or 4? I’ve read the 4 has a much better ‘feel’ but that the pen nibs last a very, very short time. I thought the 3 might be a better one to start on for a techno-newbie….true?

  33. Great post!!

    I rough out my work in Sketchbook Pro using a Cintiq 21ux. I print out my roughs and trace them off with a col-erase light blue onto a piece of Strathmore 500 series bristol (velum) tying them down as I go. I then ink with a Windsor Newton Series 7 #2 with ink that I usually curse (where did all the good ink go?). I then scan my page into Photoshop where I color and then letter in illustrator with awesome ComicCraft fonts!

  34. Well, talking about process: I record my rough ideas in sketchbooks with a bic pen, then choose the ones I like and go to the computer to do everything else from preliminar sketch to inks or color.

    When working in paper, if I can choose, I like bristol board, b- pencil, brush pens, pen nibs speedball c-c, 503E or Hunt 56, and calligraphy pens for lettering, If I can’t, then any cheap pen or marker on xerox paper will do.

  35. Old school baby:

    blue line pencil
    current favorite ink nib Joseph gillott rexel drawing nibs..(bought a whole box)
    Micron pens
    and testing Sakuras new line of manga pens .PIGMA SENSEI some with plastic tips.
    Windsor Newton #7 brush that is older than alot of folks on here,
    they don’t make them like that anymore sadly..it still keeps a perfect tip after..*coff coff*……..25 plus years…..sigh
    gum eraser
    assorted inks-testing Liquitex ink! right now, also like FW,Sennelier,Windsor Newton black india ink…
    I must have 6 different bottle working at the same time
    pro-white white out for the RARE boo-boo ( ha ha ha)
    paper-canson vellum bristol
    but the quality is getting as sketchy as the strathmore 300,and
    400 series stuff..sigh
    no computer stuff cept to scan and drop in some color in photo express..

    so what tablet would anyone recommend is i WAS delving more into computer stuff?…let’s say I only have 300 bucks to put into it though….

  36. it depends on the job and my mood.
    Most of the time if I’m just messing around, a heavy ballpoint pen and some cheap notepaper. Yellow legal pad is the best.
    For super clean drawings, mechanical pencil, fine point and large sharpie markers on bright white bristol or sketch paper. Erase the pencil lines then scan and color in photo-shop. I don’t have a lot of computer equip so I try to keep the process as simple as possible.

  37. My quirky thing: I use a “reducing” glass.

    It looks like a magnifying glass, only it does the opposite: it makes things look smaller.

    It helps me see what the art will look like reduced (as it would appear published).

  38. KAL – I have one of those. An ol’ cartoonist told me I needed one when I started out way back in high school. I thought everyone had one, but you’re the only one that has ever mentioned having one.

  39. Cheap-o card-stock paper from our company print shop (which has a Bristol-like tooth), 2H Faber-Castell pencil, kneaded eraser, pigma micron pens sizes .1 to 1, and Photoshop.

    Add desperation and a deadline.

    Mix well using large-format Intuos tablet.

    Serve whatever comes out of the oven.

  40. Card stock.
    Variety of NC blu pencils.
    #2 Princeton Art round watercolor brush ( love the large grip ).
    #1 Winsor Newton round point & a script liner for finer work, crosshatching, lettering…but not always.
    Daler Rowney India ink.
    Two kneedable erasers.
    Reducer copier.
    Wastebasket, at times.
    Coffee, lots of it.

    Oh, Google images….

  41. Pencils/pens/brushes:

    Whatever I can use my 50% off coupon for at Michael’s.


    Whatever I can scavenge from the recycling bin in the press room at work.

  42. I found wonderful paper for my choice of tools–Sharpies. It is IP-Hammermill 60lb. Color Copy cover paper. Never worked on a smoother surface–like velvet. I hate mechanical pencils. I sharpen my own pencils with a knife and use Ticonderoga 2 1/2’s. High polymer Pentel erasers get rid of what I mess up on. I can’t find it anymore, but I used to use Pelikan T ink–it had a spring green label and it was BLACK–not like the stock stuff you get today. Do they still make Dr. Martin’s Pro White? I can’t find it anywhere, either. It whites out with one application. For color I like markers or Dr. Martin’s Dyes, but there are certain applications where good watercolors are the thing. If I buy individual tubes, I must include Payne’s Gray (angry sky) cerulian blue (clear sky) and yellow ocre for wheat and stuff.

  43. For roughs, soft pencils on cheap copier paper is the best!

    No matter what I play with, I always end up going back to my Rapidograph technical pens for “final” artwork. Sure it’s a pain to keep clean but they always just feel right.

    As for paper, I’ve learned to go with a “better” copier paper that is smooth enough to not clog the pen nibs.

  44. Holy cow I can’t believe I read the whole thing…. Anyway, my 2 cents. I’ve used quill dip pens my entire career along with the fine, round brushed for washes and blacks. But times change.

    Now, while inking on the road, at coffee shops and everywhere else, I NEED my Stainless Steel Mont Blanc gold and platinum tip fountain pen. It was a gift from an old friend who wished to see my career progress and more expensive than I would have ever bought. It’s a completely leak-proof, flexible- smooth tip, screw on cap, and twisting suction ink reservoir system. I can’t recommend it enough. It looks like this ( http://mont-blanc-pens.info/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/montblanc_solitaire_fountain_pen.png )

    Then I scan the lineart at 300 dpi, and use the Wacom Cintiq pressure display to color with. I prefer photoshop over Corel still, but that’s changing the more I create actual sketches and lineart drawing digitally instead of with the traditional fountain pen. I’ve gone into more details on my website tutorial section. Hope this helps.

    And btw, kneaded eraser is the most brilliant art tool invention in the last 100 years.

  45. umm i like pencils personnaly then finish it off with a sharpie pencil then erase my construction lines

  46. Has anyone, ever used the Illustrator Non-Repro Blue Stick Pens or Illustrator Blue Mirage Non-Repro Markers? I used to use them a long time ago, more than 8 years, but haven’t been able to find them since I’ve started making my own comic. BTW Bryant that Montblanc solitaire fountain pen, Awesome! Everything else I use is fairly typical, I do prefer Winsor Newton Black India ink though, can’t live without it, and a muji wood mechanical pencil; gives me a consistent pencil line that I don’t have to sharpen, but since it’s got a wood casing, feels like a traditional 2b.

  47. well, a #2 pencil w/pink eraser. sharpie markers, extra fine to fat. ANY paint i can find & lots of patience………

  48. Are there still cheap, commercially produced #1 pencils on the market? I constantly search for them but find only #2. Phooey! Flies in my soup!

    Equivalent drawing pencils are like two bucks each!

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