Friday Feature: Tools of the Trade

friday feature tools of the trade blog cover

I need a better blogging plan.

I woke up this morning and thought: Oh great. It’s Friday–and I have no blog post ready.

Actually, I do have blog posts ready, but they are scheduled for other days. I just had no Friday post prepared.  So by popular request, I am sharing about the tools I use to make artwork.


I use a plastic speedball holder with the Nikko G pointed nib. They were recommended by The Postman’s Knock and are very affordable. There is the option of an oblique holder, like the pink and blue one below, but I have yet to get my hands on one.

Pink to aqua ombre with gold leaf  Yes please! #ashbushholders:
Not all oblique pen holders are ombre with gold leaf; I just chose this custom one by Ashley Bush as an example because it’s awesome. XD

The oblong hole in the center of the nib is a sort of well to hold ink. This is pretty elementary, yet it took me ages to figure out.

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When you press directly down, the tines part and the ink flows out in a wider ‘ribbon’.

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When writing, you press down during a downstroke to achieve the signature look.

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This is pretty messy, but I was trying to take pictures with my left hand at the same time. 😛

When the ‘well’ is empty, you will be left with a set of railroad track lines. Dip the pen to refill the well to keep going.

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Brush Pens

I have a medium Pentel brush, as recommended by Angie of Angie Makes. The cartridge is in the form of the barrel, which holds ink diluted with water. It screws onto the front of the brush and it must be squeezed to release the ink solution.

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The upstroke/downstroke pattern is very hard to get right. I think the examples below are the best I have ever managed.

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A regular brush used with watercolors can also be used to create watercolor lettering. The blue ‘yay’ was done this way.

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I received a bottle of black Sumi ink, and that is all I have used thus far, so I cannot give a comparison. I like it; however, I feel as though I’ve gone through the 2 oz. bottle surprisingly fast.

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I have seen artists who use watercolors with calligraphy pens. That is something I haven’t tried yet.

I am currently saving my nickels and dimes for some gold ink. (gah. Need. SO. Bad.)

Watercolor and Brushes

I was given a set of watercolor pencils by a friend more than a year ago, and they are the only type of paints I have ever used. (I do have a set of acrylic colors, but I have experimented relatively little with them.) They have their pros and cons.


First, they last FOREVER. I recall worrying about using them too quickly. LOL. I think they have lasted longer as I do not have a palette or tray. It isn’t completely necessary. You rub the pencil on a piece of medium weight paper like a crayon, dab it with a wet brush and voila! Paint! You can rub multiple colors together for different shades. NOTE: if you use this method, don’t  waste your expensive heavyweight paper mixing color. I found out after a year that 70 lb. paper works excellently for this after the damage had been done. (Printer paper is not adequately absorbent.)


The downside to using them this way is that you have to mix colors over and over and over, making it difficult–sometimes impossible–to make consistent shades. I realized this, too, just recently, and I am planning to buy a tray for mixing.

Brushes, though? Ugh; don’t ask. I know nothing about them. It’s mostly been trial and error. The less you pay, the less quality. But I think a good one to mention is the fan brush. If you do landscape or even a few trees this is a must, as it is a huge time saver. It applies paint in a textured pattern over larger areas of paper than a regular brush.



I was given a set of different weights of pencils by Royal & Langnickel, and I really should buy more. I loved them. They were wonderful, especially then, because I had no paints and all I ever made was sketches. They allowed me to add more depth and variety. I lost several, but the rest I used until they were little stubs. Most of the time I just use a no. 2 pencil. (Look away, art police.)

I go through erasers like water. I save even little ground up one because the erasers are so precious. My dad brought me a hi-polymer eraser, and I have found it works very well.


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I was given a set of sepia Coptic pens for tracing as a gift. I used them in the messy bun art above. Tracing pencil lines with a pen definitely changes the feel of a sketch. I feel that it works well in some styles of art, but not so much in others.


I’m not a paper expert, but I can tell you that the weight (the number of pounds/ grams,) specified on a package of paper tells you how thick it is. My favorite weight for watercolor is 140 lbs. They do not ‘pill’ when you add to much moisture, and there is minimal warping when the painting dries.  Drawing pads from Strathmore are half that weight: that is what paper I use for mixing colors.

Tracing paper is a must for any artist, even one who hasn’t graduated to paints yet. It is a lifesaver for copying. You can make an almost carbon copy of any drawing.

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Lay the tracing paper over the drawing and trace (as the name implies) with a pencil.


Turn it over, rub pencil lead over the areas that you want copied (i.e. the lines you just made on the front).


Turn it over, lay it onto the new paper where you want the art and trace over the first lines you drew.


When you lift the paper there will be a faint trace of lead writing on the paper. Go over it with a sharp pencil.

I hope this is of some help to those of you out there getting started. What are your favorite tools for art/hand lettering? Leave a comment and tell me about it!


2 thoughts on “Friday Feature: Tools of the Trade

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