The Tools Artists Use

Frank Dormer

Posted on April 22, 2009 | Comments

Frank Dormer is an artist and children's book illustrator living in Connecticut.


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

I only use a nib pen and watercolors to create my illustrations. My nib is a Waverly nib from Edinburgh. The back of the tin has a phrase that I've never understood. 'They come as a Boon and a Blessing to men, The Pickwick, the Owl, and the Waverly Pen." Maybe your readers will know. It's the only nib I use, and found them in an art store in college 20 years ago. I've never seen them since, but the tin has over 100, so I'm set. I use whatever paper is available for sketching and figuring out layout for a book. Newsprint, copier, and trace usually.

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

Just the pencil and nib pen for inking.

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

I usually waver between Higgins Black Ink and FW Ink.

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

I use Winsor & Newton Watercolors, usually out of the tube. I have many colors but usually use only a few.

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?

The watercolors I use most are: New Gamboge, Rose Dore, Cadmium Scarlet, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Manganese Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, and Payne's Grey. These are tubes that are squeezed into a John Pike Palette that I bought in college.


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 scrap of paper works for rough sketches. I use ink so some paper bleeds, but I'm usually more interested in capturing a pose or scene than how perfect it is on paper.

If you paint, is there any particular type of canvas you prefer? Do you like to paint on wood or any other materials?

Watercolor paper is used for my final art. It is usually hot press, although I have been enjoying using bristol board with watercolor. Winsor & Newton is my usual paper.

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


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

Sorry, but I am hopeless. I have been using watercolor since I was about 10, and dip pens since college (20 years ago) and don't really like to change.

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

Nothing I can think of. I have, as I said before, never come across the Waverly Nib since college, and I have been in lots of art stores. So that may be out of the ordinary, I don't know.

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

No digital art. I use my Mac for scanning art and putting together picture book proposals.


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 see the computer for making art as a tool, like a pencil, or pastels. Some use it, some don't. I know almost all the artists I know have a computer, even if it's for building their site, or scanning art. But there are a few who still do paste-up and it works fine for them.

Thanks Frank!

You can find Frank Dormer online at his website/portfolio, and his weblog. You can find more information about the books Frank illustrated on his site, and on

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