I am often asked what materials I use when out sketching, or drawing at home, type of pen, type of colours, and so forth. This is the answers page.

tools of the trade


I have several pens I like too use, but my weapon of choice is definitely the Pigma Micron,  size 01. I draw small. Sometimes I will use size 02 or 03, and occasionally an 05. The only problem is I go through them fairly quickly, as I tend to draw on watercolour paper. Next most common for me is the Copic Multiliner, again size 0.1. One problem is that I can never find either of these pens in the UK, so it basically means I can’t ever move back there. When in the UK, I usually pick up Uni-Pin Fineliners. I also use Staedtler pens, but they can’t even come close to the the Pigma Micron. sometimes I will use the Uniball Vision Micro, which has a far more reliable nib but can’t get as fine as I like it. Occasionally I will use a biro, but not for watercolour washes. Drawing with ball-point pen is a lot more fun and a lot more versatile that you might imagine.

I tend to draw in pen first, usually black ink (sometimes with some pencil for compositional purposes), and then add the colours.



I colour my sketches with watercolours. I use the Winsor and Newton Cotman range, I believe the box i have (above) is the ‘deluxe sketcher’s pocket box’. I have used the additional space in this box to add more colours; I like having choices at my disposal (similarly i carry loads of pens with me in my case, and tend to actually use about two of them). The half-pans are good, and when they are done I sometimes refill them with the tubes; fortunately these paints are available at most art stores in the US and UK. I usually mix my colours in the little pans. For colours, Payne’s Gray is extremely important to me, as is Ultramarine. I always carry a tiny jar of water which fits into my small bag pocket (and doesn’t leak! make sure you have a good lid). I have a smallish brush with a long pen-sized handle, which I have gotten a lot of use out of, plus a slightly bigger one for colouring the sky and a slightly smaller one for painting thin details.

koi waterbrush


I have recently (post-Symposium 2010) cracked and become a waterbrush user. As was prophesied to me, once I started using one I wouldn’t stop. I’m using a Koi waterbrush and it’s great, much easier to deal with than the crappy one I tried a few years ago. I have two, one slightly smaller. Definitely useful out and about.


I do use pencils, occasionally. For pencil drawings, a good HB works for me, keep it sharp. I carry an H2 with me everywhere, which gives very faint lines, and I use it for drawing simple guidelines when I sketch, it helps me compose my drawing, especially when dealing with tricky perspective.  

sketchcrawl 23 pages 1 and 2


Primarily I use the large Watercolour Moleskine. I have filled several of them already. They suit the size of sketch I like to do, and the paper takes the watercolour really well (unlike the regular moleskines, which hate watercolour). The only thing is the widescreen size makes it a little awkward to hold. Occasionally I draw in my Moleskine Diary, and I enjoy drawing in the small Moleskine Cahiers, which have very thin paper but are a dream when using a copic multiliner. I also like the WH Smith sketchbooks (only in the UK), the suede-bound ones are very nice with their wrap-around cord, and the spiral-bound cartridge paper ones are nice too, and have sturdy backs.

You can see my sketchbook collections on Flickr.

bag it up


I am fussy about my bag. I need one that will fit my sketchbook and pencil case in it with room to spare for a book or a sandwich or a camera, but not so much room that I fill it and weigh myself down (this happens a lot). I want to enjoy walking about my cities, not feel like I’m backpacking across Europe. I have a small Eddie Bauer shoulder-bag with lots of little compartments, including pockets on the side for my water-jar. This goes everywhere with me. And it is blue.

sketching stool


To save my bottom from getting dirty on the pavement, I carry a lightweight Trail Stool, which I got from REI (see it here). I attached a camera-bag strap to it so I can carry it over my shoulder and it’s so light I don’t even notice it. The stool made things so much cimpler for me – in the past choosing what to draw meant first choosing somewhere to sit; now I can sit anywhere. I’ll add a picture soon.

IF magnify


I haven’t joined the iPhone age. I don’t even have a camera on my cellphone. This means when I feel the need to take pictures while out drawing I need my camera. It’s useful to do this; whenever I don’t want to do the colour on-site, I usually make lots of little notes (“sky=blue, grass=green“, in case I forget), but a photo helps my memory too. It’s also good for photographing the sketchbook on site.

I also carry sunscreen, and a hat. Might seem obvious but I’ve been burnt on foggy days in San Francisco and it ain’t nice. I tend to sit in the shade. Not so much glare on the paper.


One last thing: this is just what I use, and it came from trying out things until I found what I was most comfortable with. I’m still trying things out, learning what I like. You need to use what you feel happiest using; if you can only use the most expensive pens and finest paper, excellent, and if you feel happiest with a 50 cent ball-point pen and some graph paper, then that is what you use. It has to be personal. Drawing is not about using the ‘right’ or most expensive tools but simply enjoying what you do. You don’t need studded boots and corner flags and a referee’s whistles for a good game of football – just a round ball and a couple of jumpers for goalposts. That’s it. 

positively fourth street