Ask any number of illustrators what it takes to “get good” and the one common answer you’ll probably hear is…

Ten Thousand Hours

(translation: Practice…and lots of it!)

Of course, every illustrator will also have papers and implements/tools they swear by, so I thought I’d share a few of my own.

Here’s where I illustrate.  As you can see, I’ve got everything I need pretty much at my finger tips.  

Photo of my drafting table workspace

My usual tools (in photo above, starting clockwise from bottom left) are:

X.ACTO mechanical pencil sharpener 

Higgins Waterproof Drawing Ink (in black and brown)

Various Copic Sketch markers

Prismacolor Premier markers

T-square ruler, straight ruler

Various natural and synthetic watercolor paintbrushes

Stabilo Point 88 fine line markers

Borden & Riley #234 Bleedproof Paper 

Although I also work with my Carter’s vintage fountain pen and dip pens, lately I’ve been drawing my illustrations with fine line watercolor paintbrushes and waterproof ink.  I love the possibilities in softness of the line and the gradations of grays that happen naturally as the ink starts to flow out of the brush.

To keep my brushes healthy and in excellent working order, I clean them after each drawing session with this brush cleaner.

brush cleaner and brushes

(The brush nearest the Brush Cleaner and Preserver tub above might look like it’s too fine to produce any line variation, but it actually works beautifully for faces.)  

Here is a series of face “doodles” I tossed off last night with my fine line watercolor paintbrush.

Face Off with watermark

One unusual tool in my arsenal that you might not see in other illustration studios is this one.

bone paper scorer

This bone paper scorer was among my father’s things when I was sorting through his desk last year.  Since I often need to fold, score and tear my larger sheets of marker paper into smaller portions, this tool saves my fingernails from being split by the paper.  My father would be pleased that I’m using it…

As you can tell, I’ve got my tool box pretty much down to a science.  Even so, it’s always fun to experiment with new tools.  Here’s my latest “toy”.  

Aquash pen in package

I bought it so that I could continue my paintbrush and ink practice in my sketchbook when I’m out and about.  This ingenious pen can be filled simply with water (to create wash effects over other media like water-soluble colored pencils, for example) or you can fill it with ink of your choice.

Here’s what it looks like empty and uncapped…

aquash pen empty

And filled (I filled mine with a solution of black Higgins waterproof ink diluted with some distilled water).

Aquash pen filled

Perfect for working on freedom of strokes and gestural drawing on the run!

Aquash girl


    • Joana says:

      Hi Speakglitter,

      I do love my Copics! I’ve built up my collection over quite a few birthdays and Xmases…now am finding that I use certain markers more than others and need to get refills for those.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting!
      🙂 Joana

    • Joana says:

      Hi Pam,

      I actually have TWO of these “pens”! The one in my purse is filled with more ink and less water, and the other at my drafting table is filled with a lighter concentration of ink (more water) for quickly laying out my illustrations.

      I’m an addict I guess…;-)

      XOX – Joana

      On Mon, Oct 5, 2015 at 3:16 PM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


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