So I’ve been doing this for a few years now, since 2008, and I’ve come across a few things I like — pens, paper, brushes and apps. Here’s a list of my favorite, well, anything I like to use.
Pens & Pencils
Flair pens are great. Why? Well, for one, they’re cheap. you can get a box of twelve for under 15 USD usually and they last a long time. I usually give mine away after a few uses because I’m picky, but I don’t feel put out buying a box. Also, they’re resistant to bleeding and smudging when you use alcohol based markers like comic markers. more on this later. They also have a fine tip, but also allow you to get a thicker line by drawing in the same place a few times, or slightly tilting the pen at an angle as you draw. The flair is phenomenal, and for the price, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Ah, the trusted sharpie. Permanent. BOLD. Ubiquitous. Hallucinogenic? We all know the smell of a fresh permanent marker, and there’s nothing quite like a fresh sharpie. I love these things! They’re like the flair in some ways. The bullet tip is versatile with the ability to go from medium to very heavy line depending on the angle at which you’re holding the marker. This means that with one or two tools in my tool kit, I can have an array of line weights to add expressiveness to a drawing. Like the flair, sharpies are CHEAP. you can usually get a box for a steal. I say a box because drawing with a “dull” sharpie isn’t well, great. I tend to blow through these FAST. If you want to get really good at sketching, try a pen that never forgets and is unforgiving. You’ll have to learn to work with your mistakes and sketching with a sharpie will do just that. CAUTION - they do bleed with alcohol based markers like Copic and Prismacolor!
I don’t sketch much with ballpoint pens, but if and when I do, the Bic Cristal is my go to. Why? Well I love bold lines and without a prismacolor pencil to help me out, the Cristal has a certain quality that’s hard to beat. With a Cristal bold, you can add a level of expressiveness to your sketches on the go, without other tools that is hard to beat. With just the right application of pressure, you can sketch everything from construction lines to the final lines of a polished sketch, all with one tool. The cristal however, will bleed when markers such as Prismacolor and Copic are applied over the markers. Much like the other two pens, the Cristal is a cheap pen (Picking up a theme here?). Purchase a few and give em a spin.
Prismacolor Premier Pencils
Prismacolor Premier pencils are my go-to pencil for sketching. They have a larger softer lead (similar to a B lead on a pencil) than their companion, Verithin, variant. I like the softer lead because I can get a much more expressive line when I vary pressure and deliberately do so. However, because they have a soft lead, they do tend to smudge a bit more. Paired with bienfang marker paper, the Premier pencils are a dream, because of the “toothless” of the bienfang marker paper. I don’t particularly like using them on regular old printer paper. Tracing paper works well. Vellum too. As with other Prismacolor pencils, Premier pencils come in a variety of colors, though I typically use Indigo Blue or Black.
Prismacolor Verithin Pencils
Primsacolor Verithin pencils are the H to the B when it comes to colored pencils. They do have a harder lead and tend to stay sharpened longer than the Premier pencils. However, I don’t like that they don’t give me as dark or bold a line as I do with the Premier pencils. At times, when I do want more control and precision (cleanliness) in my lines, I do like to use a verithin. As with other Prismacolor pencils, Verithins come in a variety of colors, though I typically use Indigo Blue or Black.
Oh yeah, Sharpeners…
Doesn’t matter what you get here, BUT my favorite sharpeners are the old OLD O L D Panasonic sharpeners with autostop. Obviously they don’t make these anymore, but you can find these workhorses on ebay. Because I love them so much, I have 3. Or maybe 2. I think I did lose one at some point. If you can’t find one of these for some reason, XACTO also makes a decent sharpener, though I’m not sure it’ll come with autostop and a solid motor. The nice thing about the autostop feature is that the sharpener won’t waste your pencil by eating more of it than it needs to eat to give you that sharp point.
It’s important to find a paper you like. I usually opt for cheap, but my go-to are pretty much and ream of printer paper, copic marker paper and Bienfang marker paper.
Any ream will (usually) do. I like something toothy or with a bit of texture to it, so I shop on Amazon or my local office supply store for the cheapest decent weighted printer paper I can find. This isn’t my paper for tedious, detailed renderings, but rather, quick ideation and rough concept sketching. The less you spend on paper and pens, the less tied to the drawing you’ll be and the more relaxed and confident you’ll be.
Copic marker paper
This is the creme de la creme of papers. it’s great with each and every pen or marker I’ve used, and is particularly nice when using pencils. Still, it’s not my favorite pencil sketch paper. More on that later. What makes this paper especially nice is the fact that it doesn’t bleed. Ive used a lot of marker papers and I swear by the Copic marker paper.
Bienfang Marker Paper
I love this paper, actually, not because of how it performs with markers, but the tooth on the paper is just great with Prismacolor premier pencils (my pencil of choice). Bienfang marker paper does bleed with markers and excessive use, but it’s easy enough to get the hang of it. With the tooth of the paper being a bit heaving than that on the topic marker paper, pencil work shines on this paper. Look for Bienfang 360 marker paper with this link or at your local art store. Try it with some fattie pencils — you won’t be disappointed.
Tracing paper is great. it’s cheap, lets you overlay a sketch and you won’t break the bank getting some. It’s not really presentation paper and I think of it more as ideation paper. When I do use tracing paper, I go for the cheapest I can find, or this brand.
My go to marker brand is Copic marker. They are expensive, yes, however, they are also THE BEST, in my opinion. Why? Well, the markers are modular - you can purchase different tips for the markers. They also work with accessories produced by Copic like this Airbrushing kit. Copic markers are also refillable. you can purchase a single marker anywhere from 3-5 dollars depending on the sale you find, but then purchase refill ink that will extend the life of your marker tremendously. I’m not sure how many refills you EXACTLY get, but I’ve had a few markers for years now with moderate use and not had to purchase additional refill ink as of yet.
Copic markers come in 3 varieties - Sketch, Classic and Ciao. I haven’t had much if any experience with the Ciao, but the sketch and Classic are solid Choices. Let’s talk about the classic and sketch. On the classic you’ll find a nice chisel tip and bullet tip on either end of the marker. The chisel tip works well for blending or filling in areas and is really crisp. Again, the nice thing with Copic markers is that if you want to customize your setup, there are other tips available, like a bullet tip that is more rounded. There’s also the fine bullet tip that comes standard with the marker, but after time and use, you may want to consider refreshing and replacing the tip.
The Copic sketch marker is similar to the Classic, but the barrel is ovular in shape. I think this keeps it from rolling off an angled table. The Copic sketch marker has a brush tip instead of the bullet tip which I think is what gives it the name “sketch”. It’s handy if you like to use your markers is a less controlled way and lean more artistic or illustrative in your style. I do keep a few on hand for variety.
Prismacolor markers are a staple among many industrial designers and illustrators. They’re a solid choice for anyone starting out, but they don’t offer as much flexibility as the copic system and colors are somewhat limited in comparison. however, if you’re looking for a marker with a chisel tip, bullet tip and won’t eat all your money, consider using prismacolors.
A note on Shinhan Touch
For digital sketching, most of what I do is on an iPad Pro. Yes, this is an apple product and only works with apple-y things, but you know what, I haven’t found anything that works better for me. I can’t do CAD on an iPad the way I like to do CAD, but I do get to sketch the way I like to sketch using an iPad. It’s light, has great battery life and a cell connection so that I can work pretty much wherever I want to work. I think it’s fantastic. I usually get every revision of the iPad Pro, maxed out, but apple now added pencil support to the base iPad. You’ll miss out on a few features like not having an air gap between the screen and what you see (like the iPad Pro) but it’s a solid choice for the money.
As far as sketching apps go, it’s Procreate for me on an iPad Pro. it’s a solid choice for the money and in little time you’ll be up and running sketching ideas or making awesome paintings. I’ll update this section if I find something better for me personally, but this is my go-to app for drawing.
Camera Tools And accessories
When I make my youtube videos, I use a two camera setup. I travel with one for my workshops. But, here’s a few tips and accessories I’ve found helpful
A solid tripod will help you whether using a traditional camcorder or a smartphone for your recording. I recommend pretty much anything made by manfrotto for tripods. The little extra you spend on something nicer, however, will go a long way in your satisfaction. in this case, buy it nice, or buy it twice.
Manfrotto Magic Arm
Manfroto magic arms, like the name implies, are simply, magic! They come in a few styles, but my go-to is the variable friction magic arm. I also have the model that has a cam action lever to secure the arm, but I find that adjusting the position of everything else is tricky. For over table setups using an iPhone for recording or live streams, I find that the variable friction arm (with super clamp) works amazingly well.
If you do get a magic arm, be sure to pick up a super clamp as well. The super clamp is key in helping you fix the magic arm to another object like the edge of a table or a pole or whatever. When I travel for my workshops, I always have a super clamp or two.
Zoom H4N Microphone
The Zoom H4N Microphone (or newer version) is what I use for recording my voice for my videos. I then overlay audio on the two video feeds for my recording. It works really well and has the ability to run on battery power or on an adapter.
For markers and other supplies, I’ve used a variety of solutions, but I’ve stuck with two depending on my activity. Systainers and Pelican cases.
Yes, they’re expensive but I do like them for different reasons. Let’s start with the systainer.
The systainer is a stuff storage box that I discovered while woodworking. They’re pretty big and come in different sizes and also can be accessorized with inserts should you choose. My favorite thing about them is how they stack together. However, the normal systainer is too big for markers and my other things, so I use a systainer mini (well, several systainer minis) for my markers and art supplies. I have one for each group of marker colors (i.e. one for reds, one for yellows, one for purples) which helps me organize things a bit. I do wish they made them in a clear plastic. Maybe they do, but I get mine from Amazon and color choices are limited to light gray and dark gray in the mini sizes.
For traveling with my sketch and video supplies, I use a Pelican case 1500 series with wheels. it’s a neat roll-aboard that can also be checked should you desire. It’s the perfect size for MOST overhead bins so that I don’t have to worry about losing my luggage. You can also get a variant with adjustable foam inserts for camera gear if you want. I just carry my stuff openly in the case with some padding, as I have enough stuff that it’s usually pretty tight.