My Tools for The Sketchbook Project

(Above sketchbook page from a photo I took at the Ballard Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago).

I got a few questions on my sketching post last week about tools I’m using when I sketch, so I thought I would write a bit about them. Let me say that I am no expert, not by a long shot. I began The Sketchbook Project to put the time in to learn the basics. For me, that’s the best part! I approach this whole process like I do any new craft, with eyes wide open, finding out all I can about tools and techniques from those that know a lot more then me.

  • Sketchbook– I don’t have a favorite type of sketchbook yet. I am currently using a blank book I bought at Anthropologie last year. Very pretty, of course, but not ideal for serious sketching. The paper buckles with even a small amount of water, markers bleed through, and and now that I”ve almost filled the book, it no longer closes easily. Its almost full, and then I can move on to a new one. I’ve already purchased the next sketchbook I will use, a spiral bound one with paper designed for multi-media. I have a hunch it will work much better.
  • Mechanical pencils and pink pearl erasers– I like the fine point of these mechanical pencils, and these erasers are good for me. Although I am challenging myself to not always begin with a pencil sketch. Instead I sit down to sketch some days with only a marker, making deliberate marks that can’t be erased. (Like this sketch from September).


  • Micron pens– I resisted buying these initially. They are pricey and I couldn’t justify needing them. But I eventually treated myself to a small set of black ones with various point sizes and now I use them quite a bit. I still don’t consider them a true necessity, but they sure are nice to have. I can sketch with them before adding watercolor, and the ink won’t run. The tiniest point (.005) is great for adding very small details. Warning- guard them from the hands of
    younger folks in the house who might be a little too rough on them though, the points are very small.


  • Sakura Koi Color Field Sketch Travel kit– hands down my favorite thing to “sketch” with. When I began The Sketchbook Project, I treated myself to the small 12-color set and I can’t say enough good things about this set for anyone who is just starting out. The paints are a good quality, it has its own waterbrush,
    very portable. It works great for me. I have yet to take my daily sketching out “into the field” but I certainly could. Even though I use acrylic in my paintings, I am really enjoying working with watercolors in my sketchbook.


  • Waterbrushes– Love these! Waterbrushes are paintbrushes with a hollow barrel that can be filled with water. Just squeeze the barrel to release the water. I think I have 7 of them now, all with various brush sizes. I have an inexpensive set I found Hobby Lobby and a few Japanese water brushes.My favorite one is the one that came in my watercolor set above.


  • Watercolor pencils– These can be drawn with like any colored pencil, but paint over with a wet brush and the effect is more like watercolor. I’m not yet sure how I feel about these. I’m challenging myself to use these more to get a better idea of what they can do.

And that’s about it. I hope that helps with any questions. If you artists out there have found good tools you’d recommend, I’d love to hear about them!
Go enjoy your day! Maybe even sketch something!

  • Erin | house on hill road

    October 11, 2012 at 5:49 am

    i LOVE micron pens. and i have to hide them from the kids. they are under threat of serious consequences if they even touch them. 😉
    also, jane has asked for a nice watercolor set for her birthday. i’m going to check this one out.

  • ShannonL

    October 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Ooh! I like those farmer’s market sketches! They look like they would be great fabric prints.

  • Chris

    October 11, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for this!

  • Claire - Matching Pegs

    October 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    The micron pens are what I use for Quilt labels, (because they are pigment pens) and for marking out embroideries.
    The fine brown ones are fine enough to cover with even 1 strand of floss.
    They are also great for needleturn applique. They create a line that is dark enough to be seen, but fine enough to easily turn under.
    I would never have thought of using them under watercolour, now I will have to try!

  • knutty knitter

    October 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

    I use watercolour pencils all the time – mostly the black fancy one I got specially but I have experimented with some of the colours too. They are just sooo portable (live in my bag) and I rarely use water with them – common or garden spit is just so available (ahem:). Cups of tea can also come in handy but I find controlling the amount of water trickier. I might add that my sketchbook is only about 3×4 inches. Anything larger definitely requires said cup of tea and a brush too.
    viv in nz

  • Cate Drew

    October 24, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Ah, those waterproof fine tipped pens are a dream. I do fine drawings of beetles and use the waterbrushes to add some colour, that doesn’t detract from the shape but sort of helps define it.
    Two other tools that have always helped me be more free and easy with what I’m making are oil pastels – they’re great for using in a sketchbook as they don’t powder like normal pastels, and you can blend the strong bright pigments to get softer edges. Yum. The other thing I have on standby is tissue paper, ans scraps of interesting papers – a torn edged piece can give instant texture and a large block of colour that you can embellish with another material, one of the pens for definition for example, or you can use chopped pieces for a strong edge, a pale square of colour to sort of frame a sketch. It always makes me think more out of the box as it were…

  • Mike

    October 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I’m in love with the sketch of the fruits. Pears and bananas are my favorite.

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