The Tools Artists Use

Lisa Hanawalt

Posted on September 12, 2012 | Comments

Lisa Hanawalt is an illustrator and an award-winning comics artist living in Brooklyn, New York.

Cover of the book Lisa Hanawalt illustrated, Benny's Brigade

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

I mostly use pens and watercolor, but I like all of the above!

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

Ideally I try to match the medium I'm using with the mood I'm going for in the artwork, but sometimes I just use whatever seems like the most fun at the moment. If I’ve been working digitally for awhile, I definitely feel more inspired to go back to traditional media and vice-versa. Switching back and forth keeps me from getting into a rut.

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

Microns have been working best for me for the last few years, and sometimes I use a Pentel Pocket brush (although lately I prefer a real brush + ink).

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

With the exception of oil, I enjoy using pretty much any medium for coloring. Of all of those, I think I'm strongest at watercolor... but I've been messing around more with gouache and colored ink.

Poster design for the 2011 Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, by Lisa Hanawalt

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 use a travel watercolor set made by Royal Talens, Holbein gouache, and Dr. Ph. Martin's Radiant Concentrated inks.

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

Rives BFK is my favorite paper right now, but I also use a lot of Bristol Vellum. I like Arches when I need something more toothy.

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

I've always hated painting on canvas for some reason, I hate those little bumps! I always use paper and paint in thin washes to prevent it from buckling - I'll take warping over canvas bumps any day.

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

I clean things up a little in Photoshop, and I'm getting braver about coloring with it and even correcting line art by drawing on my Wacom tablet. But generally I prefer doing things the old-fashioned way.

Visions of Thanksgiving (for the New York Times), by Lisa Hanawalt

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

I'll try anything new if it's physically handed to me, or I might seek something out if one of my favorite artists recommends a particular tool in an interview.

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

Not really, but I like sculpting with clay or papier mache whenever I'm not busy with other projects.

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

Photoshop! I hate Illustrator. I've heard good things about Manga Studio, so I might try that at some point.

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 prefer non-digital work because it's just more fun and I'm innately a get-the-hands-dirty kind of artist. That makes it sound like I make paintings out of mud, but well, basically yes. Working digitally can be totally enjoyable but it always feels like working.

Street construction drawing, by Lisa Hanawalt

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)?

The internet is indispensable when it comes to self-promotion, research, and community. I use it for connecting with fans of my work, looking up reference photos, and forming relationships with other artists I admire - it's great!

However, it's also a distraction and sometimes I think looking at endless illustrations on Tumblr can leave you feeling like an uncreative husk. And while social networking is helpful for many reasons, it still can't compete with the power of face-to-face meetings.

Thanks Lisa!

You can find Lisa online at her website and on Twitter (@lisadraws). The book Lisa illustrated, Benny's Brigade, is available now from McSweeney's (the book's publisher) or

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