I’ve been asked quite a few times about the pens I use and how I use them, so I decided to write this post about it. Now I am in no way a “master” at this and I’m constantly trying to improve and learn from other artists like Jake Parker and Andrew Mar. I’m going to start by going through my process and then move on to the pens. If you’re new to this or you’d like to get into it, I hope this is of some help.
The first step after deciding what I want to draw is to sketch out some thumbnails to figure out a good composition. The examples below show thumbnails and final drawings from Inktober 2016. In the drawing of Reggie, I was following the prompt “Jump” and had decided I wanted to draw a jumping Reggie. The thumbnail I went with was the 3rd one I did, but I tried out a few others just to be sure I had somewhat explored the other ideas I had. In the drawing on the right side I was following the prompt “Broken” in this case I found the right composition for the idea after a few tries. The others did not have a composition that worked in a square frame (for instagram).
After I choose a thumbnail, I redraw it in the actual size I want to use. For that usually use a regular mechanical graphite, but I recently started using an orange pencil instead. The next step is ink! Using a fine-liner or gel pen I ink the sketch and I often use a brush pen to fill in hard shadows or create some of the lines where I want variation in weight. A steady and confident hand is what you really need here. If you hesitate or go too slow you risk shaky lines and ink blots. Practice makes perfect. After the sketch has been inked I go over it with an eraser getting rid of most of the underlying sketch, resulting in a clean drawing that is ready to shade and color with markers.
I usually keep my color palette limited ,which I admit could be playing it too safe at times, monochromatic for the most part with a few elements in a complementary color to give an illustration some life. After I’m done with the markers I start punching things up a bit, using a white gel pen or correction fluid (like Tipp-ex) for highlights and to get rid of unwanted lines. I also tend to do some additional crosshatching here. The tree below is a quick example I drew up to demonstrate the process.
One thing I also like to do is add a circle or square or any other kind of geometry in the background that I try to frame characters in or to balance an image. Now allow me to walk you through all the tools I use.
First up we have the sketching tools. A regular mechanical pencil 0.5 is what I used to use up until a few months ago when I started using colored pencils. I use either a turquoise pencil or an orange one (mechanical pencil leads at the moment) depending on whether I want a warm or cool feel to what I’m drawing. For erasing I mainly use a regular (but good) eraser, a motorized eraser from Derwent if I need to erase a specific area without having to move the eraser around. A kneaded eraser is also useful for precision erasing or for a trick I learned from Jake Parker where you just roll the eraser over the drawing after inking to erase most of the sketch and keep just a little bit for a cool effect.
For inking I use a combination of pens: A Pilot G-TEC 0.25 gel pen, a 0.2 Copic Multiliner and a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. The gel pen is really thin with a very controlled flow of ink. This makes it very good for precise lines and details as well as hatching. It used to be my main pen but nowadays I start off Inking with the multiliner for most things before moving on to the gel pen for details, and finally the brush pen to add hard shadows and for smooth and fluid strokes. This allows me to stay in control while giving my lines different weights. Perhaps with more practice I can achieve something similar using only a brush pen. Currently the ink flow from it is too much for me to handle if I’m trying to ink over a sketch.
When it comes to correction and highlighting, I use a nice white gel pen for small corrections and highlighting, A correction pen for… correcting, and Tipp-ex with a brush or sponge tip when I want have some texture. The gel pen is softer and often requires a few layers to get really white which is perfect for creating simple gradients. I try to use the other options sparingly as they can easily become an eyesore if overused.
I’ve tried a few different brands of markers and I’ve grown quite fond of Winsor & Newton (previously Letraset) Promarkers and now of their Brushmarkers as well. I recently got a set of Touchfive and Chameleon markers that I’m looking forward to trying out. I’ve also experimented a bit with watercolors in combination with ink but I have much to learn in that area so I won’t go into that at this time.
I believe this covers most of what I use. Perhaps I’ll share some cool techniques I’ve picked up along the way next time.
Happy new year!