I have tried a lot of things in the past 16 months. I’ve stopped buying essentials (like shoes and clothes, despite looking like rag doll to be able to buy art materials) and after so much, I’ve narrowed down to what art materials I truly like and what I find helpful.
High-End: My favorite paper is Fabriano Artistico Watercolor paper. The colors vibrate on this paper like no other.
Mid-range: Strathmore watercolor pads, these are nice for quick watercolor paintings. When I need to do a quick illustration this is my go to paper.
Low-range: Canson XL watercolor paper
For ink and watercolor: Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook, the design of this sketchbook by itself is beautiful and it takes watercolor very nicely. Also it’s very smooth so if you want to use pen or brushpen you can do a lot of great shading, hatching and such.
For every day obessive sketching: Canson Universal Artist Series
Good paper, spiral bound, takes a beating in my bag but I have no remorse using it as intended, for sketching.
For watercolor: I haven’t found the one. I dislike Moleskine very much. The paper warps terribly. So I use the Strathmore pads but they are not very convenient to use as sketchbook.
Winsor and Newton Cotman brushes
After trying out several cheap ones and making the mistake of buying a Squirrel Hair Da Vinci that holds more water than I have paper, I started to buy Winson and Newton cotman brushes. They hold water and pigment really well, it was with these brushes I finally started to control my watercolors.
High-end: White Nights Watercolor set
The watercolors you purchase will depend very much on your goals. If your goal is to do fine art watercolor painting, you will hear a lot about Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton, Graham, Schmincke Horadam etc. All these are expensive and you need to be very good at color mixing to use these.
I’m aiming more towards illustration work. My choice is White Nights, a brand from Russia that is surprisingly good. It comes with 36 pans and they genuine artists watercolors. I’ve been super happy with these.
I also like Dr. Ph Martin’s radiant watercolors, but I don’t use them often. Only when I need a splash of intensity. I have only about five colors and unfortunately I didn’t choose wisely.
Low-end: recently I reconciled with the Sakura watercolor set. I had complained about its lack of transparency but I have been using them lately to sketch in the park and I have once again made friends. What’s nice about this set is the variety of colors.
I don’t use color pencils much, so I have only used Faber Castell, however recently I took a class where the teacher recommended Prismacolor col-erase for sketching. This was the best discovery because you can sketch, erase and your drawing is smudge free! I mainly use dark blue to draw. It is a really nice tool for using with the every day sketchbook, for quick ideas.
After having tried a set of sketching pencils, I gave up because of the smudging. So I’m back to a mechanical pencil when I need it. Otherwise I use the col erase pencils.
Staedtler kneaded eraser. Nothing else. I keep them in a little pot so they are debris free and I have about 10 lying around the house. There is nothing more annoying than starting to apply watercolor and having eraser debris stick to your brush so I’ve banned regular erasers from my life.
People swear by micron pens, I swear by Faber Castell Pitt artist pens. I have bought the set of four that includes a brush pen. I do have a couple of microns for the finest lines but I almost always default to the Faber Castell pens.
Dip pens. I bought dip pens and sumi ink. The quality of line you get with dip pens in unbeatable.
Markers and others
Tombow markers in black and gray for shading and making dramatic portraits in black and white. They are water soluble and create the most beautiful shades and mid-tones.
White sharpie pens, to correct watercolor mistakes or to add a distinc highlight here and there.
So this is my arsenal. There are things I want to try. I want to stay away from too much mix-media but I realized that subtle additions to my watercolors do enhance the finished piece.
How about you, what are your favorite pens, paints and brushes?
All resources linked here are either to Canadian art supply store Deserres or Amazon.