Top 5 Pens for Illustrating

I’m a big believer in the best pens being whatever you have to hand, as when you have an idea any pen will do! I’ve seen some amazing pieces created with some of the cheapest biros, so not having “the right pens” shouldn’t be an excuse (unless you’re attempting to paint a mural with nothing but an old potato).

That being said, I get a lot of people asking me which pens I use for my sketchbook and hand drawn work – so I thought I’d share some of my favourites in a blog post.

I love a good geek-out over pens so if you’d like to share some of your own favourites, please do so in the comments section!

Kuretake Mangaka Flexible
Favourite for: Outlining

I really like the flexible tip on this one as it allows me to use different pressures to achive both thick and thin lines. The ink comes out smoothly and is smudge proof when dry, which makes them particularly nice for outlining.

Kuretake Zig Brushables
Favourite for: Shading and adding colour

I use a lot of different markers for colouring but I keep coming back to these for my sketchbook work. The markers have dual tips with a tint of the same colour at the opposite end, which makes them great for adding highlights and shading. They are a bit unforgiving when using for large blocks of colour (so much so that I usually switch to Promarkers for this) but the brush responds well to changes in speed and pressure when applying single strokes, so I find them really comfortable to sketch with.

Uni Pin Fine Line
Favourite for: Detailing

I find this pen really versatile and use with all kinds of papers and mediums, but mainly for detailing. The ink dries quickly can withstand a good amount of layering with watercolours or markers without bleeding. I can be a bit heavy handed sometimes but the nibs are durable and can withstand it well. They’re more expensive than other fine liners but I find they last longer so I don’t replace them as much.

POSCA Chisel Tip
Favourite for: Large scale and live drawing

The 8mm chisel tip is always my go-to for big work, particularly live drawing events. The ink comes out clean and opaque, dries fast and leaves a nice finish. The chunky barrel and sturdy flat tip makes it easier to keep steady when working at odd angles. The ink doesn’t come out so fast that it drips, but you can pump it to get that effect when you need it.

Koh-i-noor Toison D’oh Lead Holder
Favourite for: Sketching and Shading

Ok, so this is technically a pencil, but it would be a shame not to include it as I use this pencil during pretty much every stage of my process! From the initial sketch through to the final details. The lead is nice and durable so I’ve even used it for marking out scale when starting a mural. It comes with a handy sharpening tool at the end too!

Review: BenQ BL3201PT Monitor

As most of my work is created digitally, I’m always up for testing out new design tech – this month, I’ve been checking out the BenQ BL3201PT Monitor.

The specs boast a 32 inch 4K2K display built with BenQ’s advanced IPS technology, providing ultra-precise colour rendition (100% sRGB colour) and over 300% working space. Full specs here.

I was surprised by the heavy weight of the monitor when it first arrived, but this proved to be indicative of good build quality. The base is particularly robust and stays stable at every angle. There are a lot of adjustment options, including a 90 degree rotation to portrait mode which I’ve been finding useful for web design work.

The connectivity options are generous and even include 2 x USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack and an SD card reader. There are 2 x built in 5W speakers too with fairly decent sound.

The on screen display controller is a nice touch, as it allows me to assign my favourite modes and quickly switch between them. The controller sits neatly in a recess under the monitor but it’s also attached via a 0.5m cable so you don’t necessarily need to reach across the desk to switch modes.

I was initially skeptical about the 32inch display and expected the size to be a little overkill for design work compared with the 24inch set up I’m more accustomed to. On a busy day I’ll have Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign running simultaneously alongside various admin and social media apps, so I found that gaining that extra screen space increased my productivity as it’s saved me from minimising and shifting app windows around so much.

The screen surface has a very light matte coating, which provides a good level of anti-glare without compromising the vibrancy. I often find screens with matte coatings appear a bit dull and grainy but this monitor is the exception. Images are displayed beautifully and the screen maintains clarity well at different viewing angles – any colour shift is barely noticeable. The back light is distributed evenly and I only noticed a very slight drop-off in the corners, which is minimal and nothing that would be distracting.

I found the default display settings worked well out of the box and only needed a little tinkering to set it up for design work. The monitor is missing a wide-gamut (Adobe RGB) colour space though, which some designers may find to be a let down.

The ‘low blue light’ feature has made working long hours easy on the eyes, particularly in the evening when I’d usually start getting a headache.

Overall, the BenQ BL3201PT Monitor offers excellent value for money.


Top 12 Art & Design Blogs

I love browsing through art and design blogs over a morning cuppa. In no particular order, here are my current Top 12. Feel free to add your own favourites in the comments section below.

Noupe Mag –
Stylish showcases and articles for digital designers and developers

Creative Boom –
Creative inspiration, industry news and freelancing tips, plus a fantastic directory of creatives

Unurth –
Beautiful street art from around the world

Lost at E Minor –
Featuring inspiring art, design, music, photography and pop culture.

Digital Arts –
Inspiration for digital creatives

Inky Goodness –
Showcasing new and emerging illustrators

Specky Boy –
Articles and showcases for web and digital designers

Design Week –
Design industry news and job listings from across the UK

Computer Arts –
Design tutorials and articles from the world’s leading digital art magazine

Thunder Chunky –
Featuring interviews, news and artwork from the world’s most interesting artists.

Design Juices –
Interviews, articles and showcases featuring all things design

Juxtapoz –
Online version of the contemporary art and culture magazine