The Tools Artists Use

Nina Johansson

Posted on March 07, 2009 | Comments

Nina Johansson is an artist living in Stockholm, Sweden teaching art, computer graphics, webdesign, multimedia and some more to kids between 13 and 18 years of age.

What are some of your favorite drawing tools (pens, pencils, markers, drawing tablet, all of the above)?

Variation is fun, but I usually draw with an ink pen, and either leave it as an ink drawing or colour it with watercolours.


If you have a wide collection, how do you decide on which to use on a particular drawing, project, or day?

I am not sure, I guess I just choose pens from what my hand feels like holding. You know, sometimes it's a fountain pen day, other times it may be a Micron day... I usually have a few different kinds with me.

Sometimes the paper decides too. Some inks bleed on some papers, so you have to choose pen according to that.

If you prefer pens, is there any particular brand, color, or type of ink you like best?

Lamy Safari is my preferred choice of pen right now, usually with Noodler's Lexington gray or Polar black ink. The Safari has a little springy feeling that I like, at least with the Extra Fine nib. I use other ink pens too, like Microns, dip pens, technical pens... Usually waterproof. I recently discovered Copic Multiliners, I like those a lot.

How do you like your color? Watercolor? Acrylics? Oil? Colored pencils? Markers?

Watercolours, usually. Sometimes coloured pencils.

If you do use paints, inks, pencils, or markers for coloring, are there any in particular that are your favorites? Do you prefer travel sets of paints to a full set?

In watercolours, Schmincke and Winsor & Newton are easiest to come by in Sweden, so those are the ones I use, both pans and tubes. Great quality and loads of pigments in both brands.

I have all kinds of sizes on my palettes, from tiny travel sets to a huge tool box with tube paints. I use an English handmade travel set most, the tool box is for larger paintings and experimenting.

I sometimes use coloured pencils too, Faber-Castell Polychromos are the ones I like best. They are very soft and rich in colour.


Is there any particular type of notebook or drawing pad you prefer? Or does any scrap of decent-sized paper work in a pinch?

Any paper will work, if I happen to have forgotten my sketchbook at home, but I prefer to use my own hand-bound sketchbooks. That way I can get the paper and format I want. I have yet to find a store-bought sketchbook that is actually good for both drawing and watercolours.

Do you ever do any kind of post-processing (like adding color in Photoshop or similar tool) to your drawings?

I enjoy working on my images in Photoshop, adding colours and textures and so on, but I rarely have time to really sit down and do it thoroughly. I teach computer graphics (among other things) so I get to do it a lot at work, and that makes me prioritize working by hand in my spare time.

Have you ever tried a new pen (or paper, etc) from reading about it, or seeing the results in another artist's work?

Many times. I am, in fact, an addict to new pens, I try them all. Then I usually go back to my Lamy Safaris...

Do you have anything you use out of the ordinary for making your art?

Not that I can think of, really. Well, I adore patterns, so I cut a lot of stencils with repeating patterns, but you don't see a lot of those in my sketches. I use them more for paintings and larger works.


If you create purely-digital art, what are the software programs you use? Is one used more than another?

I rarely do purely digital stuff, but I use Photoshop and Illustrator pretty much, couldn't choose one over the other since they do different things.

If you work both digitally and non-digitally, which do you find yourself doing more? Is there a reason you would prefer one of the other? Is it because of the tools available in either space?

I work with traditional art tools more in my own art, and digital tools at work. I enjoy digital work very much, but computers never get your fingers dirty or let you splash around with water or messy paint. I like that, so traditional techniques will always be part of what I do. There aren't as many "happy accidents" in digital work...

I asked about post-processing on a computer, but do you think the computer is a helpful tool for making art? Whether it's looking for inspiration online, or using it to build a weblog to promote yourself and your art, do you think a computer is necessary, helpful, or a distraction (or all of the above)?


I think computers are very helpful AND a huge distraction. I find a lot of inspiration on the internet, and I have made a lot of online acquaintances (of which some have become real-life friends) with people who share my interest in drawing and painting. I keep an art-related blog and get a lot of feedback, so for social and inspirational purposes, the computer beats everything. But these are also the things that easily consume a lot of time, time that I could have spent drawing, for instance. You have to find a balance in how much time you spend online - even if it's inspirational and informative.

The computer is a great tool for making art, but I don't use it to make art that tries to replicate traditional techniques (such as drawing or painting directly in Photoshop). I think real art supplies are better for that. Purely digital art often looks a bit dead, it takes some handmade work to make it interesting.

Thanks Nina!

Nina Johansson can be found online at her blogspot weblog and she also regularly contributes to the wonderful Urban Sketchers weblog. Nina's portfolio is located at

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