I am often asked, especially on Instagram, what tools I use and what resources I take advantage of in my business. While I am happy to share most of my tools and resources, I can’t possibly share all of them (both because I can’t remember everything and because that would take too long). The following tools are some that I use and love, and I hope you find this list helpful!
First, as always, my disclaimer: I do not speak for all artists here and what will work best for you or anyone else. I speak only for myself! I am also not representing any of these companies. I also can’t vouch for how any of them will work for you and your process.
I also link to many products here on Amazon, because they carry pretty much everything — and if you live in an area without a local art or printing store, Amazon is a great place to order supplies. That said, I encourage you to shop small local businesses for these products, and I also encourage you to search the internet for other places that sell art supplies if shopping on Amazon isn’t your thing.
Products, Hardware & Creative Software
Black pens: I love Micron pens. Most of you who follow me on Instagram see that I draw with Microns everyday. I love this pen, and I have several in each width, from very tiny tips to thick “Graphic” widths. I do all my lettering with Microns. They are permanent and acid free. Find the widths that work best for you (I tend to use .03-.08 the most often). Buy them here. I also like these black brush pens by Sakura.
Gouache: My favorite brand of gouache is Acryla. The color selection is lush and they mix nicely. It is more opaque than many gouaches and might be because it’s an acrylic-based watercolor paint. Gouache is matte in finish and I like this, especially when I’m painting on paper.
Acrylic: I use both Golden and Liquitex Professional acrylic paints for my larger abstract work on wood. If you are lucky enough to live near a Blick Art Store, they have an amazing selection of both brands of paint (along with the Acryla gouache I referred to above).
Brushes: I purchase whatever firm, flat head or tiny head brushes are on sale for either watercolor or acrylic painting. I go through brushes really fast, so I buy whatever is on sale or feels nice to the touch.
I also use X-Acto Knives and regular old scissors for paper cutting (note: be extra careful with these, especially if you have small children! Put the cap back on when not in use).
Paper: I am not a paper snob! I draw on vellum or regular drawing paper and paint on watercolor paper. I use so much paper that I usually purchase what is on sale. Canson and Strathmore are fantastic paper brands but there are many other great papers out there. Find the papers you like the best by experimenting. My sketchbooks are just regular everyday cheap sketchbooks, and sometimes if I want the pages to be thicker, I glue every other page together with an acid-free glue stick. I do occasionally work in a sketchbook with watercolor paper, which is a nice treat.
Computers: I have two computers. I have an iMac with a large monitor, which is great for Photoshop editing when I am working on illustration gigs. I print from that computer onto my Epson 3880 (see below). I also have a MacBook Air which I use for everyday stuff and some editing in Photoshop.
Printer: Many of you ask how I make my art prints. Since 2008, I have owned and used an Epson 3880 printer, and I make all of my open edition (non limited edition) prints on this fine piece of machinery. The ink is NOT CHEAP (about $60 a cartridge and there are about 8-9 cartridges) but it lasts a long time.
Printer paper: I find that Epson Paper is the best for Epson printers, and I use Premium acid free Epson matte paper for all of my art prints.
Scanner: I scan my work as a regular part of my workday and find that the Epson V800 scanner does the job well. Like with any scanner, you have to play around with the controls to make sure you are scanning in just the right way (scanning artwork is different from scanning negatives or photos). Once I scan my work, I edit it in Photoshop (see my note about Adobe Creative Cloud below). I learned how to use Photoshop to edit my artwork many years ago by taking tutorials on Lynda.com and also asking people with more experience for help or lessons. Then I practiced everything till I became an expert at it. Much of what I scan is larger than the scan bed, so I scan in parts and piece together with Photoshop tools. Another skill I taught myself over time.
Creative Software: I use the Adobe Creative Cloud for all my design software, and the program I use daily is Photoshop (I also sometimes use Illustrator).
I work with a Intuos Pro Wacom Pen Tablet for editing my images or for digital drawaing in Photoshop.
I don’t know how I lived without my desktop USPS postal scale (and I use Etsy’s shipping feature to make my USPS labels). Highly recommend both if you are an Etsy seller.
I really love Moo for business cards and postcards. I purchase their Luxe business cards for an extra “wow” factor! Their quality is gorgeous and mine are always a conversation starter.
I’ve been using Siteground for web hosting. I can’t recommend this company enough. They have hosted several of my web sites.
Since 2011, I’ve used WordPress for content management on both my blog and website. It’s user-friendy and free!
Sara Jensen Design designed both my blog and website. Sara and her husband Thor handle everything for me from design, development, site updates, and more. They are the bomb.
Other Resources and Tools
I’ve been on Etsy, the handmade online marketplace, since 2008.
I highly recommend the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for crucial information on pricing your work, contracts, licensing information, and more. It is the best book out there on the topic, period.
We recently signed up with Hootsuite for social media scheduling and monitoring. So far so good.
My Business Classes and Book
Become a Working Artist (Online Course)
Online Art Classes
Sketchbook Explorations (online class)
Basic Line Drawing (online class)
More classes coming soon! Stay tuned…
A closing note: yesterday my 15 year old niece came over for her first day as my studio assistant. She is an aspiring and already prolific artist and has plans already to go to RISD to study illustration when she graduates from high school. Several times yesterday she said to me: “Wow, these pens are SO NICE!” or “Wow, this is the nicest Wacom Tablet I’ve ever seen!” and “That is such a cool scanner!” I said to her, “Someday when you are a professional illustrator you will have nice equipment too!” So this is all to say that much of what I own, I own because I make my living as an artist and using high quality materials and equipment makes my work better and my clients and collectors happier. I had none of this stuff (except for maybe the paint) when I started out as an artist. That said, there are many other alternatives to the stuff I’ve listed that are less expensive and still great. I encourage you to use the materials and equipment you have and find the stuff that works for you. Don’t ever use not having the “right” materials as an excuse for not getting your hands dirty and creating!
Have a great Wednesday, friends!