What's the right tool to use?

there is no right tool in a general sense, only the right tool for you

I don't get asked questions very often but when I do, it's often about the tools I use. Which pens? What type of paper?

I will happily reel off the list of things I use to anyone and if the opportunity is there, I'll hand my pens to someone and let them have a go themselves.

The simple fact is there is no right tool in a general sense, only the right tool for you.

Before I go on, I'll just say the following content leans heavily on tools for traditional artwork (i.e ink on paper). I don't really work digitally so can't comment on specifics there.

Finding the right tool for you

There's no sure fire way to find the right tool, it's far too subjective a thing to apply to everyone. The only way to figure it out is by trial and error. Here are few things which may help you on your quest:

  • Borrow tools from fellow artists so you can try before you buy
  • Ask yourself "what sort of result am I after?" - If you want a very clean, sharp and precise ink line, you may want to favour pens with fixed nib sizes, like fine-liners or markers. You can be precise with brush pens (with practice) but it's more effort. On the flip-side, if you want lines which feel a little more organic, brush pens allow you to vary the line weight as and when you feel like it.
  • Ask artists you admire what they use. It can be a good starting point if you've no idea what you need to achieve a particular result.

Practice and patience

Once you set off on your quest, you might find a pen which you've seen other artists use but you can't get the same result quickly and be tempted to keep looking for more pens. When I switched to a brush pen, I found it very different to the pens I'd used before so I initially didn't like how my drawings were turning out. After a week or so, I got used to the pen and then overtime I came to love it. Now I'm pretty confident in what I can do with my brush pen and I've also learned the limits of it and know when my drawing requires me to switch to something like a fine-liner.

Try as many pens as you feel you need to but I urge you to give each one a good run before you put it to one side.

Remember, you're creating the work, not the tools

It's tempting to look at what another artist uses and think "I'll draw like that if I get that pen". Of course, this isn't really the case. Always remember that no matter what tools you use, it's what you as an artist can do that makes the real difference.

The best, most highly rated pen in the world won't make a beginner into a pro instantly. Nothing can replace the need to learn the fundamentals and keep trying to better yourself as an artist. The tools will just help you along the way.