The Tools Artists Use

Whitney Pollett

Posted on September 16, 2009 | Comments

Whitney Pollett is an artist living in Los Angeles, California.


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

I have to admit, being a girl first and nerd second, I spend all of my money on art supplies, video games and shoes. I love my Wacom tablet... one day it will be a Cintiq. Dr. P.H. Martin Concentrated Watercolors are great and last a lifetime. Any old mechanical pencil will do, Prismacolor Pencils (always True Blue and Crimson Red). Any and all paper, the stranger the size and texture, the better. Gray Tombow markers, Copic Markers, Winsor & Newton sable brushes (the Rolls Royce of brushes), acrylic gesso, extra fine sand paper, and Guitar Hero for when I can't think of anything to do with all those art supplies.

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

I honestly can't! I go crazy when I walk into an art store, buying everything I see, and then I put it all away in my closet never to be seen again! HAhaha! I usually open it up whenever I feel inspired, get overwhelmed, close the door and walk away. My little sketchbook from my bag and my laptop are usually where all my ideas end up.

If there is a project that can't be done digitally, like painting a vinyl or a canvas, I usually pull out my P.H. Martin watercolors and some acrylic paint. The two blend well and are incredibly vibrant!

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

I like warm gray Tombow markers, gel pens and Pigma Microns. Also, dried up Sharpie markers are fun to play with, especially when you take out the felt from the inside and ball it up to use as an underpainting.

My friend, Stephane Kardos taught me that. Merci!

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

I usually color everything digitally because it's 100% forgiving. Plus you can quickly reference textures and photo elements with ease and apply those bad boys to your painting directly.

I think using Photoshop automatically makes you a p*ssy. HAHah! You don't chose to be, you just become one unwillingly!


I like to think that Photoshop is like a kind, nurturing mother who feeds you three well balanced, delicious meals a day... reads you a bed time story and then tucks you in at night until you realize that you're thirty years old, have a flabby backside and you haven't seen the sun in 6 years! So then one day you leave home, finding that the world is a terrifying place and you're a hot mess!

Traditional media is the reality that's harsh and unforgiving and it's tough going to that from something so predictable and forgiving.

Not for me man, I'm sticking with Photoshop.... and maybe acrylics and watercolors if I'm feeling craaazy!

I really admire artists like Travis Louie, who can achieve what us digital artists can with just their hands and a canvas.

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 love cheapy mini watercolor sets. The color's usually aren't too saturated which is great for subtle sketching and quick tonal gestures under any ink or pencil drawings. It's really fun and not too permanent.

Sakura Koi watercolor sketch boxes are my personal favorite. It's refillable so you can swap out the little color cakes for any color you choose, which is great because pre-determined watercolor sets usually have a lot of "blah" colors.

And did I mention it comes with a refillable water brush! Sha! Awesome!!

Also Escoda travel brushes are great for field paintings and are gorgeous.


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 like sketchbooks.

As artists, I think we're a little disorganized by nature, so we have to be extra attentive to our collective selves to keep us from tripping over stacks of papers and spending hours looking for something in a cluttered office. I don't mind the size or the type, as long as it's recognizable and in some way bound together.

On that note, I love Kunst & Papier sketchbooks. They have a great variety of sizes and won't fall apart if they get wet or when you've schlepped them around with you for a while!

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

I love series paintings so if I can find a canvas or material that's an interesting shape with a couple different variations to match, then that's what I'll get!

Like any artist who wanders the aisles, wood piles, junkyards, etc. You look for that canvas that inspires you.

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

Always! Photoshop is the artist's crutch but I love it.


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

Of course! I often look at Cartoonbrew,,, and blogs like, and for inspiration.

Blogs are great for getting the artist's perspective on the project rather than just looking at a finished piece with a limited description.

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

Well sometimes I use a chain saw and human blood but that's only on special occasions. ....That was a bad joke, I'm totally kidding!! BAAH!

Well, honestly, I sometimes use my hands, cotton, beaver whiskers, sharpened sticks, whatever is lying around that you think might make for a nice effect. Being an artist is being an inventor and an engineer.... and in some cases a MacGyver too.

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

Well I wouldn't say "purely" but I use a lot of different software. It all depends on the project. As an artist, it's good to learn as many different tools as you can so you have a bigger tool box, so to speak, when a particular projects presents itself.

For me, I rely predominantly on Illustrator, ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro, Maya, Zbrush and AfterEffects.

These days, I've been doing a lot of digital painting so Photoshop and ArtRage are my apps of choice! ArtRage is the MOST fun and only something like $25! Also, Alias' Sketchbook Pro is great for sketching and cartooning. They have a free trial on their site too so go check it out!

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 usually always start a project with a sketch in my sketchbook or on marker paper. Siiigh... nothing is more exciting than getting a new book of marker paper and tearing out the first page for scannage! Am I right!?? Ooh life's simple pleasures....

Sooo, I usually start a project using just a regular mechanical pencil and some paper. Then I'll scan it in or take a digital photo and paint on top of it in Photoshop. I'd say I rely 70% traditional, 30% digital.

I prefer sketching out my ideas before I scan them into the computer because it keeps me focused on the idea rather than the techniques and the color. Too many options can become distracting and before you know it, you have a beautifully rendered, boring idea. Kind of ironic how eliminating your options can make you more creative.


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)?

It can be all of the above! I can't tell you how many hours I've spent researching something for unspeakable amounts of time when I should have started the project long before. But that's what's so incredible! The internet is an endless recourse. I'm going to sound like a huge dork right now, but technology has brought so many ideas to life, so many questions to resolution and so many seemingly unattainable dreams to reality. I've met people via Facebook and LinkedIn that are freaking giants in the art world and they've taught me so much! Social networks and blogs have bridged generational, occupational and experiential gaps like nothing has ever done before! And online tutorials are teaching people things that us chumps paid, oooh, only about 100K for! Hahah (this is where I break into Kip's "Technology" song from Napoleon Dynamite). Anyway, I like learning new tools and with the internet and software today, the skies the limit!

Some good sites for meeting other artists are: LinkedIn, Facebook, CGSociety, ZbrushCentral, Etsy, Artist's Blogs, Artist's Websites, and Google.

If you play your cards right and try not to freak anyone out (which I've done myself too many times to count hahaha) you can directly email your idols using these sites! Just tell them that you're an artist looking for some feedback, blah blah blah, whatever! More often than not, you won't hear back, but sometimes you will and that's what makes it all worth while! One day when we're all rich and famous artists, someone will randomly write us for guidance and we'll be happy to help!

Thanks Whitney!

You can find Whitney Pollett online at her portfolio website, and on her weblog

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