The Tools Artists Use

Nathan Stapley

Posted on April 10, 2009 | Comments

Nathan Stapley is an artist originally from California, now living in New York.

Painting by Nathan Stapley

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

I love pens and pencils, I haven't played with markers too much lately but those are nice too. But mostly pens and pencils are my favorite drawing tools. lately I really like this mechanical pencil I have.

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

I guess it depends on a lot of things, from what's laying around to what kind of surface I'm going to be drawing on.

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

I can say that I love most Japanese pens. There are these really nice ones called HI-TEC I think. they come in all tip sizes and I would always have a few different ones. I'm out of them now though, I need to find a good place to get them around here. I like the brush pens too with the stiff tips. another pen I like to use sometimes is the ball point, they are kind of like pencils in a way.

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

Mostly oil, gouache, and watercolor.

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?

I mostly use a limited palette, I try to paint with like 4 colors tops. I guess I have my favorite colors, lately it's been white, ultramarine blue, cad yellow, and burnt sienna. Sometimes I will need a stronger red with that one though. I have a tiny little Winsor & Newton watercolor kit that I carry around, I've had it since like 1998, I refill it as needed. It's awesome. For gouache, I use an old CD cover for a palette and just a few tubes of paint. I haven't painted outside with oils in a long time.


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

I love Moleskines like the rest of the world. I'm grateful to whoever decided to bring those back from the old days. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to make an awesome drawing in those things, which can be good or bad, so I have a crappy sketchbook I bought at Walgreens too.

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

I like Masonite a lot, with a nice coat of gesso for an oil painting. For gouache I like the Moleskine paper actually, the kind in the 'sketchbooks'. And watercolor paper for watercolors, I've been meaning to get some good watercolor paper.

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

Sometimes if a scan is weird I will have to tweak it to be more like the original painting before I post it on my weblog.

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

Probably. Whenever I see some great piece of art I get excited about it and want to know how they do it, and look at the tools I think that person used. but I usually realize that it doesn't matter what kind of pen, or brush, or prepared canvas, or painting medium, or wacom tablet I use. but I have discovered things that work for me this way.

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

I don't think so, just the usual stuff.

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

I use Photoshop CS2 for my work at Doublefine productions. And the web comics I make there are all Photoshop all the time.

Dog painting

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?

Well lately I've been finding myself doing more digital work for my job, but I'm also starting to use Photoshop for my gallery paintings too, just in the preliminary stages though, composition, color, value. It's a really fast and fun way to plan a painting. I do like drawing and painting in my sketchbook though too.

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 the computer is a very helpful tool for me personally. The internet is amazing for reference. They are small and clean and you can do pretty much everything on them. Weblogs are great for people who know nothing about how to make a website, such as myself. I've also learned about many amazing artists I probably would have never heard of if it wasn't for blogs. I don't think a computer is necessary for making Art at all, but for me they are helpful and yes, a distraction.

Thanks Nathan!

Nathan Stapley can be found online at his weblog, his portfolio is at and he has a online comic at Doublefine. Some of Nathan's prints and original art are available at Gallery 1988.

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