The question of what mediums and materials I use is asked often, and it's one that has some pretty complex answers. I tend to view everything as a possible tool, a potential addition to my art. Because of that, I have a wide, wide range of materials that I use. I'm going to try to break it down as much as I possibly can, but it will not be a complete answer. A complete answer would require an entire website devoted to the tools! Because of that, if you see something that you want more information on, please feel free to use the contact form to ask for more information.

Basic Drawing Tools

Every good painting begins with a drawing, in theory. At least in my work it does though there are other painting styles that don't require it. For me, I am fairly sparse in my drawing tools. What you see here is the basics of any drawing that I do. The red tool on the bottom left, is my pencil. it is my favorite pencil, and is a .3 mm lead. Accompanying it is the lead holder for replacement leads. Next to that is a Faber Castell black fine tip pin, extra small. I use this to do detail linework for the butterflies on some of my tree sculptures (though not all). The black pen that says 'ranger' is an adhesive pen, that I use for holding the metallic pigments in place that I use in my drawings, before I melt them onto the board. And finally the topmost piece is a clickable eraser. I can't STAND erasers but sometimes I need to use them, this is the only one that doesn't make goosebumps happen on my arms, and doesn't require me to actually touch the eraser itself.

Coloring with Pencils

Colored pencils are my first love, when it comes to laying color on board. And so I show you my favorite pencils now. There are many, many brands of colored pencils, but my heart will always stay with prismacolors. They are a wax based pencil, which is why they blend so smoothly compared to other types of colored pencils. But they have their drawbacks, in that the wax rises to the surface of the drawing and gives it a.. dusty.. appearance if it is not sealed. This can be removed with heat (a simple touch of the hand is often enough to warm the wax and send it back down). Sealing the pencil is as simple as using a spray varnish lightly over the surface, or a spray fixative.


I use watercolors, and so I need paintbrushes to apply the paint. I use a fairly wide range, but the round brush is by far my favorite shape. For those who are unfamiliar with types of brushes, the brushes are named based on the shape of the bristles. Round, filbert, flat, liner, and so on. Each shape of the brush performs a different function and creates a different effect when used. Becoming proficient in the different types of brushes will help you achieve the effects you want.

Brushes, continued

Another important factor in choosing your brushes, is the length of the handle itself. Try different lengths and see what suits your hand and painting style. For many, the long handled brush is wonderful, and is great for oil and acrylic painters that need to keep their hands far from the painting itself. For myself, the shortest handled brush you see here is best. It allows me to keep the most control on the brush and to minimize the effects that my tremors have on my paintings. There are also brushes that have grips, not just the smooth surface of the handle, and that too is a matter of personal comfort.

Also be aware that bristle TYPE affects the painting as well. I prefer synthetic and nylon bristled brushes for my paintings, which is what all of these are. I've used natural hairs, but I've found I'm so rough on brushes that the synthetic fibers tend to last against my rough treatment a little better.

Watercolors and their various types

Well you can't talk about the brushes, without talking about the watercolors themselves. Lots of people ask me what my favorite brand is, and to be honest? I don't really have one. Each company has it's own unique properties that make it worthwhile.. and it's own failures that makes it frustrating. The most important part for me is the quality of the paints themselves, and what grade they are.

What do I mean by grade? Well, when you buy paints, they come in a variety of grades. Mainly student grade or artist grade (though some add a 'professional grade' in that's essentially artist grade, and I truly believe there is a grade lower than student, but more about that later).

There are several differences between student grade and artist grade, one is the quality of the pigments. For example, artist grade will have cadmium yellow, made with real cadmium, while student grade will have cadmium yellow hue, which is often made with less of the precious materials, or even synthetic materials that don't QUITE match the true color.

Another difference is in the pigment's size. Student grade is usually coarsely ground, so they can use less of the pigment for bright colors. It means that when you paint with them, it can come out grainy and.. well.. coarse looking. With the artist's grade, the pigments have been ground as smoothly as they possibly can get, which means to duplicate the grainy texture sometimes you need to use a granulation medium to push it.

And finally, a major difference is in the amount of binder used. If you've ever opened a tube of paint and had a ton of clear/yellowish goopy stuff just kind of glop out long before the paint does, that is the binder. It's usually ox gall liquid, or sometimes a bit of honey. Student grade uses far more binder than is actually needed, to again maximize the amount of paint you can get with less pigments. Artist grade tends to measure it more precisely and is USUALLY less likely to have goop factor happening.

So what is what in the picture you show?

Well. The top row are all professional and artist grade paints. We begin from the left with two Winsor & Newton paints, their artist and their professional grade paints. In general the only difference I notice between them is that you can find a much wider range of colors with their artist line, than the professional one. Next is Holbein Watercolors, which is a pretty massive tube at relatively the same price as the WN brand. To the right of that is M. Graham, which is a company that is unique in that they use honey in their binder, so the colors never quite dry on the palette. They are by far the best for brilliant, deep colors but have a fairly limited line available. Next is a tube of Gouache, from the company Talens. It smells horrible but is very useful for some bright effects in watercolor. And finally that weird little tube, is some of the fine, real pigments that I use when I make my own paints. This particular bottle is of nettle, which makes a beautiful yellow green color.

The second row are student grade paints. Grumbacher, Winsor & Newton and Van Gogh are the most commonly found student grade paints and are wonderful for learning to watercolor without spending a fortune. I still use many of their colors today, because they are so nicely made.

The bottom row... well this is what I mean by a 'grade under student grade'. These are paints that are commonly found at walmart, or in the artist sets that go on sell for super cheap around christmas time. They are incredibly cheap, VERY gritty and grainy, tend not to hold their color very well and usually have next to no real pigment in them, so once they dry and you try to revive the paint with water? It just is a pale, washed out version of it's original self. I never recommend these, not for practice, not for anything really except a cheap gift for kids under ten who just want to have fun.

Mediums Galore!

Oh how I wish I wasn't currently out of some of my favorite mediums so I could add them in the photograph! When doing art, there are a variety of mediums you can add to your paint, or under your paints, to improve your textures or style.

Starting on the top left, granulating medium! It's name is pretty self explanatory (as with most mediums) in that you add it to your paints instead of water to cause the pigment to become grainy on the paper. Next to that is colorless masking fluid. This is painted down on any surface you would like to keep completely white, and removes much like rubber cement peels off of paper after you've painted. Iridescent medium can be used after you've painted for a light sparkle effect, or mixed into the paint itself to have a pearlescent effect. The bottom row are modeling paste, which can either be mixed iwth the paint or simply plastered onto the paper first and painted over. It's used to create 3d, sculpture effects on a 2d painting. And finally absorbant ground, or watercolor ground, is similar to gesso and is used to create a surface suitable for watercoloring. This is great for being able to watercolor on surfaces that don't usually accept watercolors, or sometimes to fix a major goof on a painting that requires painting over.

Gold Leafing

I like to gold leaf, quite a bit. This is not the extensive list of available materials, but the very basics. A sizing (the adhesive for the metal sheets), two types of sealers, and two types of gold leaf. Both of those are immitation leaf, as real gold leafing is a bit out of my price range at the moment. They're brass and copper, and create a really amazing effect when used right.