Recently this came up as a topic of discussion on one of the forums I follow. My first thought was, gosh, I still use mostly low-tech methods to create Galaxion–meaning I draw and ink on paper– so surely such simple techniques would translate to a simple set of tools. Paper and pen, right? And ink. And the pencil. And the eraser, too. Hmm. Just how much stuff  do I use? Well, I decided to gather it all together and take a picture. I had to stand on a chair.

That's a lot of stuff.

What you see here are only the things I use on every single page. I have other tools I pull out occasionally, like circle templates, tracing paper, and other sizes of tech pens, which for simplicity’s sake– ah, the irony– I left out of the photo. What the heck is all this stuff? Left to right, top to bottom, I have:

  • An old yoghurt cup for water to clean the brush at the table
  • Canon brand smooth Bristol paper, 14×17, which I trim to 11×17 for each page
  • Clear plastic ruler, for drawing margins and panel borders
  • Deleter Black Ink #3, one of the nicer inks I’ve tried
  • Zebra Brush Marker, large tip, for inking word balloons
  • Pentel Clic eraser
  • Zebra Brush Marker, medium tip, for emphasis lettering and inking straight lines
  • Uni-Ball Alpha Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil, size 0.5, “B” leads
  • Copic Multiliner, size 0.7, for all other lettering
  • Winsor Newton Series 7 brush, size 1, for most of the inking
  • Ames Lettering Guide
  • Mono brand eraser, large
  • Kneaded eraser
  • T-square
  • Rolling ruler, for quickly drawing parallel lines
  • Straight-edge ruler, for inking straight lines
  • Scrap paper to remove excess ink from brush
  • Rag to remove excess water from brush
  • MacBook (and Photoshop CS2), for cleaning up art and adding grey tones
  • Wacom Intuos 3 tablet

And here’s the tool that didn’t fit on the table:

I purchased this monstrosity, the Brother MFC-6490CW scanner/inkjet printer, because it has an 11×17 bed, so I can scan my pages whole instead of having to scan in parts and stitch them together, which is what I had to do before. Much easier.

For those of you who are most interested in the pens and stuff, here’s a close-up of those:

I talked more about some of these items in a blog post from a couple years ago. If you’re wondering why some of the tools have tape on the ends, it’s merely there as away for me to mark when I started using them (I write the date on the tape). I’d been wondering how long some of my tools last, especially the brushes, which are expensive. My current one has only been around since the beginning of the year.

Why so many tools? Why, for example, do I need three different erasers? Well, I suppose I don’t. I like the kneaded eraser because it’s gentler to the paper and it doesn’t leave any of that eraser dust, but for some jobs it just doesn’t cut it. I like the Clic eraser because it gets into small spaces easily, and I like the large eraser when I have to erase large areas, or when I’m cleaning up the pencil lines after I’ve finished inking. Each does a different job well, or at least represents a reasonable compromise. For example, I used to use Rapidographs for lettering because with the ink I could get a much darker line (markers are never as dark), but they require a very upright position to write with. I’m not happy with the greyer line I get with the Copic Multiliner, but it does make all the hand-lettering easier. So I’m using that for now, until I find something better. Meanwhile, the Rapidographs are still good for making straight lines. And speaking of…

These are even more tools I realized should have gone in the first picture. A non-descript pair of scissors to trim the page, a Koh-i-noor Rapidograph, size 4 (or 1.2, depending which numbering system you like) that I use to ink the panel borders, the Ultradraw ink that goes in it, and a big fat soft brush. The brush is completely trivial, since all I use it for right now is to gently brush away eraser dust (too often I just use my hand, and then end up smudging the pencil lines). I had it lying around so I figured, why not.

So, yeah… that’s a lot of tools. Maybe art tools to me are like kitchen gadgets to people who like to cook– there are so many specialized tools that do specific things really well. I know my kitchen drawers are full of  little gizmos I consider indispensable and I don’t even enjoy cooking all that much. Could I pare it down to one knife, one big spoon, one pot, and a frying pan? Sure. But I probably won’t, because I like my gizmos.

These days more and more artists are switching to purely digital work, which means their entire list of tools is a computer and a tablet. Or maybe only just a tablet, if they happen to have one of those fancy Cintiqs. Think of how clean my desk would be. Makes switching to digital almost tempting. Almost. :-)