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What a Tool

I was recently asked by an artist in Mexico about the tools and materials I work with in creating my work. I thought I’d share my responses:

Thank you for the kind words regarding my work.

There are certain art supplies that are my favorites, although I agree with you that an artist’s thinking, problem solving abilities and talent are far more important than the tools that he or she uses. When I was making Conan the Barbarian in Zaghreb the art supplies available there were absolutely pitiful. I ended up coloring my designs with a children’s watercolor set intended for ages 3 to 6. No other watercolors were available there. Nevertheless, I made it work.

I lived in Mexico city when I was making the second Conan film, Conan the Destroyer. I don’t recall getting art supplies in Mexico to be too difficult, except for getting the kind of illustration board and matte boards I liked to work on. I noticed, also, that the Pelikan inks in Mexico had a different formula than their German counterparts.

The only art supplies that I am really picky about are my brushes. I insist on using the very expensive Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes, although in Zaghreb I was forced to use the little children’s brushes that fan out (they won’t/can’t come to a proper point)!

Nevertheless, here are the tools I use most often:

Black & white art:
3H and HB (or #2) pencils, any brand
Magic Rub eraser (these are great erasers; they don’t tear up the paper)

Bruning electric eraserPanasonic electric pencil sharpener

Hunt Crowquil pen, standard 102 tip and holder

Speedball B tip pens for lettering (mostly B-5, B-5 1/2 and B-6)

Osmiroid chisel tip pen for regular comic book text lettering

Higgins Black Magic India ink (not the greatest ink; that would have been ArtTone Extra Dense Black, which Higgins bought out. Higgins changed the formula, ruined the ink and then discontinued it)

Winsor Newton Series 7 #1 brush (Dave Stevens used the Series 7 #2)
I use a lot of Sharpie markers, too, for quick sketches. They are very permanent and don’t bleed over time (although many of the colored ones can fade).

Fredrix canvas (when I stretch my own) or high quality pre-stretched canvases from Dick Blick. I’ve tried a variety of Fredrix canvases; they’ve all been good.
Winsor Newton Galleria acrylics (for my underpainting)
Winsor Newton Griffin Alkyd oil paints.
Any good large brushes for the painting lay-ins
Winsor Newton Series 7 #s 1, 2 and 3 for details.
Liquin medium (I add turpentine for a 50/50 mix)

Crescent extra heavyweight (less warping with extra heavyweight) cold press illustration board
Prismacolor pencils (Prismacolors are great; these pencils have saved many of my pictures. Don’t forget to spray them with a fixative, though, after you’ve finished your picture, or they will eventually “bloom” with a light, powdery mold)
Winsor Newton Designer’s gouache or watercolor; I NEVER use Dr. Marten’s dyes (they fade and don’t photograph properly. The reds fluoresce and fool the camera, turning brown in the photo)
Artist’s sponge (a true sea sponge; not artificial)

I like any sketchbook with good toned paper. The toning of the paper (I prefer light brown) allows me to add white when I need to.

I color my comics work digitally using PhotoShop.

I hope that helps you out. I think everything listed above is available online from Dick Blick Art Supplies. I don’t know if they ship to Mexico, though.

Good Luck!

3 thoughts on “What a Tool

  1. Thanks for all the great information Bill. Very useful. You probably don’t need any supply suggestions, but for more than 20 years I have been using one ink exclusively, it’s the type that is included with KOH-I-NOOR Rapidograph pen sets. You can also buy it separately in the same 3/4 fluid ounce bottles, it is DENSE black and works great with a brush or pen.

  2. Hi Matt,
    Very important: Is that KOH-I-NOOR ink completely waterproof? I paint watercolors over a lot of my inked pieces. If so, I can’t wait to use it! Thanks!

  3. In my experience it has been very waterproof. Watercolor washes over my inked art have not bled. I think it might be worth a try. (But please test it, I wouldn’t want to be the cause of the death of a gorgeous Stout original). The Trans-Mix Media listed below is what I’m using now, the Ultradraw ink is very good too, but I believe is recommended just for paper. Trans-Mix works on paper, plus film, plastic, glass etc. I think Hobby Lobby and Michael’s both carry it with their drafting supplies. I’ve tried the opaque white version of the Trans-Mix and was very disappointed (pigment settles, actually not opaque), but the black does the trick for what I do. Hope it works out for you!

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