10 must-have mark making tools for creative art and design

10 must-have mark making tools for creative art and design


Last year was my first year as a graphic design student at CSU. I thought a laptop and a creative cloud subscription was all I needed to get creative. I was wrong. Instead, I found that my best ideas and a large portion of my assignments were either based on, derived from or were hand-drawn images.

In a world overloaded with digital imagery, hand drawn or analogue elements bring an extra layer of texture, emotion and interest to graphic design. So I’ve put the mark makers to the test to get you sorted for the year to come.

  1. Mechanical pencil

These pencils never need sharpening and offer a crisp fine line. Great for mapping out concepts, and sketching line based imagery.

  1. Charcoal pencil

A wonderful addition to your pencil case for dark, textured, or tonal hues. Charcoal sticks crumble and break, while these offer a paper wrapper and can be peeled away as needed.

  1. Digital pen

There are a huge range of free drawing apps that will pair to your phone or tablet. Using a digital pen means you’ll be able to jot down ideas anytime, anywhere. The digital pen is also useful to create elements that you can upload to your computer.

  1. Paint pen

‘Posca’ is the most common brand for a paint pen, offering a matte opaque coverage when dry. Draw on glass, paper, wood, metal, fabric or anything else your assignment might require.

  1. Water brush pen

Water pens are refillable with water so you can quickly add a wash to any drawing. Water pens offer a beautiful stroke and are cheaper than many ink or water colour brushes.

  1. Set of tonal led pencils

I recommend the 6 pack which ranges from the dense 8B to the commonly used lighter HB. Great for shading and adding depth to your sketches.

  1. Fineliner Pen (0.4)

A great mid weight pen for outlines, blocking out silhouettes, and determining composition in a thumbnail sketch.

  1. Fineliner Pen (0.005)

The nib of these pens are tiny, which means the fine lines can sharpen your imagery. Think fine line cross hatching and intricate details.

  1. Cheap ball point pen

Let’s face it, being a student means you’ll need to do lists and be constantly jotting down notes. Save your nice pens from the abuse of the everyday student.

  1. Watercolour pencils

Experiment with new colour palettes, block in colour, or add a wash detail. I recommend the ones in a tin so you can see and find all the colours at a glance.

What’s your favourite mark making tool?

Image: Noel Badges Pugh

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