The Tools Artists Use

Juan Carlos Solon

Posted on February 12, 2010 | Comments

Juan Carlos Solon is an artist from the Philippines living and working in Toronto.


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

My all time favorite tools (for now) : Pentel pocket brush, Pilot G-Tec C4 (0.4), Pilot Hi-tec point V5 (0.5), Any technical pencils, Wacom Tablet.

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

Depending on what I'm working on, I'll choose the most suitable tool to use. When I'm doodling or sketching I like using my ink pens and colored inks. For roughs or defined roughs I usually use a pencil. I used to use pens for my roughs, but recently I've been using pencils and have been pretty happy with the results.

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

I absolutely love pens, especially of the black ink variety. The main pens that I use, and have used for years are: Pilot G-Tec C4 (0.4) and the Pilot Hi-tecpoint V5 (0.5). I have tried dozens and dozens of pens, but these seem the most reliable to me. The G-Tec is water resistant so it’s nice to add watercolor on top. The Hi-tecpoint is not, but when added with water makes a nice effect. The G-Tec is also very nice for cross hatching.

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

I love color, in my earlier ink illustrations I used very bright colorful primary colors to balance with my dark line work. Nowadays I'm experimenting with more subtle tones.

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?

For color on my ink works, I use mainly Dr. Ph Martin's Transparent watercolor. I bought the full set of 36 inks, however I realized later on that I only needed 4-5 colors. The inks have a nice immediacy to them, they are bright and colorful and are really fun to play around with! I also recently bought a set of Staedtler Triplus fineliner color markers for doodling. They work really well, and have a really nice flow.


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

The Fabriano Venezia artbook is my tried and true sketchbook I’ve been using for almost 5 years. I always try to use another one, but I just have been too accustomed to the paper and set up. I find everyone has a different sketchbook that suits their style of sketching and work. There is no right sketchbook to buy but, there is a sketchbook that’s right for the artist.

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

Yes, lately I have been finishing my work with color in Photoshop. I really like the solid clean flatness you get with Photoshop colors. Even with some of my works with ink, I would scan the ink textures and line drawings to fix them within Photoshop for the final illustration.

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

Yes all the time, sometimes the results are good and some bad, but curiosity is a great ally when trying to explore new ways to express yourself. Word of mouth of new pens, inks, paper or techniques on Photoshop is a great way to learn new things.

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

In my pure digital art, I use tend to use just Photoshop.

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?

It is always a fight between digital and non-digital. The convenience of digital sometimes shadows the feeling of doing something traditionally. To me, both are equally as important to master, especially nowadays. For rough drafts and defined roughs, I usually tend to stick more to a traditional approach with pencils and pens. However I prefer to finish with Photoshop because I feel that sometimes there is a nice blend with a traditional approach finished digitally. I'm finding myself using digital a lot more lately due to tight deadlines. However in the end I would prefer traditional over digital. There is a rewarding feeling about finishing traditionally and feels nice to hold onto something after you finish a piece.


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 do believe in the present day that the computer is a very important tool people should embrace and not take for granted. The internet has been a great source for networking with other illustrators, finding a community of artists and finding inspiration through various blogs and websites. I found it enormously important to keep my blog and website up to date, to gain interest from the public and the art community. The blog is also a nice way to show your more of your personality and connect with other people. Websites have allowed work to be seen all around the world, and even allow you to create a shop to sell prints.

However I do believe a computer to be a double edged sword. I think finding inspiration and references online is great and a sure time saver, but I always try to tell myself to remember that there is inspiration out there other than my computer screen. That there are beautiful images around us that Flickr and Google images sometimes don't have. Of course with really tight deadlines people usually do what they have to do to make sure they get a great image on time…Man life is complicated!

Thanks Juan Carlos!

Juan Carlos Solon can be found online at his portfolio website, on his weblog, Facebook, Twitter (@juansolon), and on Society6.

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