One of the most difficult questions you can ask me is: 'Hey Nienke, what are your favorite art supplies?'. Well, got a minute? In each category of materials there are so many options and brands to choose from! But after 5 years of intensive research (yes, this means I have a lot of markers, paint and pencils ;), I collected some favorites. I'm happy to share these with you in this blog!
Are you curious about the best (affordable) art supplies for when you just started drawing? Read my blog about the 7 best (art)materials for beginners.
1. (Mechanical) pencils
Let's start at the beginning. When it comes to 'normal' graphite pencils I don't really have a favorite, although the Black Wing is a really nice beauty (but also kinda expensive). I prefer working with mechanical pencils because they keep a sharp tip. I have 2 absolute favorites: My absolute favorite is the Pilot Color Eno. A mechanical pencil with a colored, erasable led. The big upside is that this doesn't show as much when you go over it with watercolors or markers. And it doesn't leave smudges like a graphite pencil can do.
You've might also have come across the ‘color erase’ pencil by Prisma Color. The Pilot Color Eno is similar, but as a mechanical pencil. I personally often use a blue or pink one (because: favorite colors), but there are 8 different colors to choose from. And if you like, you can make an entire illustration with it as well!
Secondly the Tombow Mono Graph. A little thicker (and the blue/white/black one also is heavier) than your average mechanical pencil, so you have a nice grip. And it has these little smart tricks, like 'shaking down' the led (check my IG stories) and an eraser you can turn up and replace.
2. Eraser and sharpener
With a good quality pencil you need a good quality eraser and sharpener. The Tombow Mono Dust Catch has been my absolute go to for years now. Yep, it matches my favorite mechanical pencil. Isn't doesn't only do a great job erasing, but the residu kinda rolls up and sticks to the eraser. Per-fect, no more eraser residu all over your paper!
When erasing smaller details I use the Tombow Mono Zero. It's a kind of mechanical pencil, but with a replaceable eraser instead of a pencil led.
The quest for the best pencil sharpener is a long one for most illustrators and artist. If you have a bad quality sharpener, the led of your pencils will keep breaking constantly. Very frustrating! But then someone told me about the Dahle133 and have been a fan ever since. It 'shaves' the pencil instead of sharpening, so you don't lose too much of your pencil. And it leaves you with a really sharp result! For sharpening on the go, I use a brass sharpener by Möbius & Ruppert.
There are so many fineliners on the market. One of the most well known brands is probably Micron by Sakura. I regularly use the Micron fineliners for illustrations, especially now that they have also released a set of gray tones. I also enjoy the tip and flow of the Uni-ball PIN. Third one is the Winsor&Newton fineliner, which has been released on the marker last year. These are my favorite at the moment. Especially the sepia color for portraits, in combination with watercolors or alcohol markers, for example.
All fineliners mentioned are waterproof, so perfect to combine with ‘wet mediums’ like watercolors.
Another material that has a ton of options: brushpens. There are 3 brands I use the most:
Tombow was my first love. When I started hand- and brushlettering 5 years ago, the Tombow ABT Dual Brushpen was the holy grail amongst brushlettering artist. And I think it still is. When I got asked in 2015 to demonstrate the Tombow brushpens on a big art fair, I was over the moon. I got the 108 set and it was a dream come true! With the brushpen on one side and the felt tip on the other side, it's easy to color lines and details in the same color. Mix 'em up with water and you get that nice watercolor effect. By the way, Tombow has just also launched a delightful desk organizer for all your ABT markers.
Tombow ABT's smaller sister is the Tombow Fudenosuke. Yep, that took me 3 years to pronounce correctly ;-) I prefer the black and grey version and use this small brushpen mostly in my illustration work. The black tip for lines, the grey tip for shadows. And the ink is waterproof! Participants of the workshop Sketchjournaling (that I host together with Anne from GoudenLijntjes) the Fudenosuke is part of the workshop package, that's how much we like it :)
Since day one of my brushlettering adventure the Pentel Touch Brush Sign Pen is my favorite for smaller lettering work, in my journal for example. Bigger, softer brushtips (like the ones from the Tombow ABT) will fray when using them intensively or not in the right way. Pentel has a very firm tip, which you'll sooner empty out that break! And even better: they released new colors this year, which are absolutely yummy. Be aware when you want to combine these brushpens with watercolor: unfortunately they aren't waterproof.
5. Watercolor / aquarelle
Sounds different, but it's the same.There are a lot of wonderful high quality watercolor paints in tubes, like Daniel Smith, Holbein or Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolors. Although I would LOVE to try these, I already have a lot of sets with watercolor paint in (half) pans. Therefore I gave myself a ban on buying the more expensive tubes until my pans run out ;-). So I've collected several sets: some are great for on the go (because small and portable) others are bigger. When I'm in my studio, I prefer getting my 45 half pan Winsor&Newton Cotman set out. I bought this as a souvenir from a cute small art store when I visited Edinburgh. It was on sale, so double irresistible. Although officially these Cotman watercolors have less quality than their professional line, the pigments and colors of Winsor&Newton are always great.
When I'm on the road or on location for urban sketching I prefer the 12 color set by Winsor&Newton. I also composed a set with my favorite watercolors by Prima. They are of a lesser quality than W&N, but their little candy boxes are just to hard to resist (especially if you're staring at them for 3 days on a creative event, working for the webshop Splendith ;).
Als penselen gebruik ik het liefst die van . Niet de goedkoopste, maar oh zo fijn én zonder echt dierenhaar. Onderweg gebruik ik vaak een waterbrush: de .
When it comes to brushes I prefer the ones by Princeton. Not the cheapest, but oh so good and without the use of animal hair. When I'm on the go, I often use a refillable water brush: the Pentel Aquash.
6. Colored pencils
My blog started with a few reviews on colored pencils and I ain’t done yet! Because I [heart] them. I'm a huge fan of the Faber Castell Polychromos, even more since I got the 120 set for my birthday in April (you can read all about is in this blog). They have open stock in many art stores, so it's easy to stock up on your favorite colors. Recently I also bought a few Caran D’ache Luminance to test them and oh my…those are dangerously amazing! I'll definitely write a more extensive review on them later. The pencils by Holbein would also be on my favorites list, if my bank account had no limit...
Oh my, I could write a book about this (pun intended ;). So. Many. Sketchbooks. In the world and in my cabinets. Currently I have 3 favorites for you:
· Want to treat yourself to something pretty? The sketchbooks by Mossery are just that. Not cheap, but beautiful for sure. Great quality paper that can handle lots of different materials and gorgeous covers.
· If you're looking for watercolor sketchbooks specifically, I also enjoy using the ones by Hahnemuhle. High quality watercolor paper and easier on your wallet than Mossery. Nowaday Hahnemuhle also has toned watercolor sketchbooks which are really nice to try if you want to mix things up!
· And if you don't want any stress over possibly 'ruining' your expensive sketchbook with a failed drawing? It really helped me to used the cheap, but good sketchcahiers by Gersteacker or Seawhite. I wrote a blog about them as well.
My favorite isn't a 100% gouache, but it's the Acryla Gouache by Holbein. This Acryla Gouache is dilutable with water (like gouache), dries with a mat finish (like gouache), but is water resistant after drying (like acrylics). Which means you can layer paint much easier than regular gouache. And why Holbein? Because they use very high quality pigments and the colors are fantastic! Wanna know more about gouache? I'll tell you about it in this blog.
9. Acrylic markers
The last one on this list! Because I also paint murals, I regularly work with acrylic paint markers. You can also use them on paper, but not every paper is suitable for them. You might wanna try mixed media or watercolor paper for this.
Best known are the paint markers by Posca. And there is a reason I also have a box full of them. Great coverage, nice colors and a good flow. The nibs are replaceable, so your marker will last you longer.
Nowadays I do prefer the Molotow One4All markers though, because they're are refillable! After a while paint makers won't have a good flow or coverage anymore, and with the Posca's you get stuck with half empty markers then. With Molotow you just add more paint to your marker or mix your own colors using the refill tubes. Because the flow and quality is the same as the Posca markers in my opinion, I prefer to go with the more sustainable option
And that's it: my favorites! Is this list complete? Absolutely not ;-). Ask me about alcohol based markers, drawing inks or drawing on the iPad and I still have a lot of things to tell you. But let's save that for another blog post. These materials are the ones I use most on day to day basis.
Did your favorites make this list? Or do you have any other questions about certain art materials? Let me know in the comments!
PS I have collected links from small business owners and webshops where I personally like to order my materials. Most of the links in this article are affiliate links. Are you going to buy materials? You really help me by ordering through these links! It won't costs you anything extra, but I do earn a small percentage of the sale. This allows me to keep writing these blogs. Do you shop at BeCreativeShop? Use the code NienkeVletter and you will get 5% discount on your materials! Thank you so much :)