The Tools Artists Use

Lucy Knisley

Posted on November 07, 2012 | Comments

Lucy Knisley is an illustrator, comic artist, and author living in New York.

An illustration for The American Reader, by Lucy Knisley

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

Faber Castell Pitt pens, S and XS size, B for the black fills. I use .9mm blue lead mechanical drafting pencils, and color either digitally (in Photoshop, using a Cintiq) or using a Winsor & Newton watercolor travel set with a water reservoir brush from Pentel.

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

Depends on the look I'm going for, and what its intended for. More finished stuff tends to make me go digital so that errors can be easily corrected, whereas more freeform stuff I like to watercolor by hand.

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

(see above)

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

(see above)

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 my little travel watercolor set, because it imposes some limits and lets me get very comfortable with the palette. I do a lot of travelogueing, so I like to be up on my quick watercolor game for when I need to do it in a hurry when I'm on the go.

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'm a big fan of Stonehenge paper for watercolors, especially my travelogue stuff. It's nice sturdy paper without too much watercolor tooth, so it makes it easy to do quickly. It's also not too thick, so it can be schlepped around without breaking my back or bank. For inks, I tend to use Aquabee Marker paper, so it doesn't bleed, and because it comes in standard printer sizes in case I want to print out guidelines onto the paper.

Springtime in New York, by Lucy Knisley

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

I used to do a lot of painting in oil and acrylic on canvas and wood and masonite, but I mostly stick to paper these days.

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

Yes-- I usually scan and clean up all my work in Photoshop, and some of my work is digitally colored.

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

Definitely! For sketching and the occasional more inky look, I use a trusty old Pentel pocket brush, which I heard about from friends when it first came out. I scoured all over to find it (now they're everywhere! Hurray!), and absolutely loved it. I also like to experiment with new brushes for Photoshop when I hear about them.

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

I still use the same lightbox that I got for a birthday present when I was about 10. I used to use it to trace Archie comics as a kid. A couple days ago the wire finally frayed and gave out, and I determinedly rewired it myself! It's a tough old thing, but I love it, and I refuse to pay $100 for a box with a lightbulb in it. People are always curious about my travel watercolor set, which I found out recently was discontinued some years ago. I can still buy the little pans to replace the colors when they run out, but it's hard to find a travel set that has so many colors and a place to store my water reservoir brush. Like most of the things I use a lot, it's pretty beat and absolutely covered in paint, but it works like a dream.

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

I'm addicted to the inked page. I very rarely do purely digital work.

An excerpt from Lucy Knisley's comic, Stop Paying Attention

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?

They're both necessary for achieving the right look and feel to a finished piece. Working digitally helps me develop my non-digital drawing skills, and vice versa.

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)?

Absolutely necessary. The internet is the major venue for getting your art seen, critiqued, developed and sold. Interacting and exploring new artists online is a free way to find influences and peers, and even wasting time online can lead to inspiration.

Thanks Lucy!

You can find Lucy Knisley online at her website lucyknisley.com, on Twitter (@LucyKnisley), and her comic Stop Paying Attention.

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