Artistic Coloring: 10 Tools that Never Leave my Desk (Copic Marker & Colored Pencil)

Artistic Coloring: 10 Tools that Never Leave my Desk (Copic Marker & Colored Pencil)

“What do I need to buy for this class?” The supply lists for your average coloring class or free tutorial, whether it’s with Copic Marker or colored pencil… well, they’re always a little spartan. The list tells you exactly what you’ll need to complete the class project. Nothing more. Nothing less. Meanwhile in art classes, you’ll get a general supply list of things you sorta-kinda-maybe might need at some point. Today, let’s look at the top 10 tools I use every day, things that I grab so often, they never get put away. Some tools are borrowed from my work as an illustrator and may be new to you while others are common in the papercrafting world…

Tool Time: Drawing Board- find the perfect surface for coloring


Quick question for you: are you wearing a bra right now?

Obviously, I'm asking the ladies amongst us. If you're a guy, I really don't want to know if the answer is yes.

If you're a regular bra-wearer, odds are that you are wearing one right now.


Well, for most of us, undergarments really matter. They make a difference in your comfort level and if it's a good brassiere, you look better in it. That whole lift and separate thing really helps.

I'm going to bet that most of us wouldn't dream of heading out in public sans-support.


Next question: what is your current coloring project mounted to?


So let me get this straight- you firmly believe in the value of undergarments yet you don't take the same time and care with your artwork?

Honey, we definitely gotta talk. 


Coloring should always take place on an ideal and protective surface.

And no, I don't mean on top of a sheet of notebook paper sitting at your kitchen table.

I mean a drawing board. Mounting your projects is a really good habit to get into.

Drawing Boards Improve your coloring results |

What is a drawing board?

Here's a picture of a few of my drawing boards in action.

This is a project in progress and below are two more projects in varying states of completion. All are mounted to clip board style drawing boards.

This is the way I always work. Always. The only exception is when I'm teaching live. In classroom settings, a mounted project would be bulky for me to pass around to students. But I always feel a little naked working that way...

Think about it, you are investing several hours of your valuable time into every coloring project. Shouldn't you take care to insure that your work stays clean, unbent, and consistent from start to finish?

You can not guarantee the integrity of your project if you are working loose and willy-nilly on top of a  few sheets of scrap paper.

Things happen.

Art boards prevent many of those things.


We've all had one of those face-palm moments when you set your project down on a sticky or greasy table.

I'm a mom of two boys. I know sticky and man-oh-man, do I know greasy. 

Even when a table looks clean, you can still end up with goo on the backside of your project. If you're lucky, the stain stays on the back instead of leaching through. Nothing kills a piece of art faster than a little I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

If I'm going to place a wager on which surface in my house is completely booger-free, I'm going to bet on my drawing boards. No one ever sets their Twinkie down on my art boards.

So yeah, this part is easy to explain. Stay tidy by using a dedicated art board.


taping your project to a board prevents dog ears and creases.

I don't know about you, but my desk is a kill-zone for paper.

Here's a real time sampling of the first six pieces of paper from my stack o' stuff to do.

Every single sheet is bent, creased, or otherwise looks like I drove an Abram's tank over it.

If I didn't mount my art projects to a board, they'd all have a similar Velveteen Rabbit look to them.

Yeah, I do not trust me. Do you really trust you?


art boards help insure a consistent stroke quality throughout the entire project.

Line personality varies according to the surface you're using |

Do you realize that your marker and pencil strokes are physically different when you work on different surfaces?

Let's say you start out coloring at your crafting desk, then you set the project aside for a few days. When you resume coloring, you are in front of the television using a large atlas as a lap table. The next day, you finish your coloring out on the back deck at your patio table.

Each surface you encounter changes the quality of the lines you make. Check out this quick experiment, four lines each time with the same colored pencil:

Check out the skips that happened when I went over just a slight scratch in my dining room table. It's not even a noticeable scratch and yet my pencil sure found it! Tell me true, how many of you have found a gash in your table the hard way, like right in the middle of a Saturated Canary face after you spent four hours on the hair?

Ugh, just the thought of that makes me sick.

When you use an art board, you can work in the car, in the bedroom, or in the shower without the change of location being evident in your coloring.


Art boards are cheap and easy to find.

Large and small art boards |

Just about every art store carries them. Most craft stores have them too. I've even seen them at big box retailers like Target and Walmart.

They come in lots of sizes and styles. Some have clips, some have handles, they come thick and they come thin, and some even have travel sleeves for greater project protection.

My gray boards are 12 x 16 (I have five) and I use them for the vast majority of my Copic projects. They have a laminate surface so they can be easily cleaned of ink with rubbing alcohol.

For large scale portraits on 19 x 25 paper, I use easel or drafting boards. These are awesome raw wood surfaces with metal edges. They're nice and square so you can use a T-square to run quick guidelines. My big boards are 20 x 26.

Yes, you can use an actual clip board but standard clipboards are sized for office paper. There are benefits to having a larger board. Obviously, the larger the board, the larger the project you can mount to it. And larger boards are easier to use away from the table- they can be a lap desk or you can tilt your large board against the edge of a table for a more comfortable slant.

Large margins on your drawing board protect your art |

But here's the real benefit to using a board that is significantly larger than your paper: you will find that having a very wide, unused margin of board around your project gives you space to protect your art. We've all set a pencil down quickly to answer the phone; it is asking for trouble if you set tools on top of your art. With a large board, you will tend to rest items in the margin instead.

Here's that picture from above above again, I've got a dozen pencils conveniently sitting on the edge where they won't damage the art.



Why tape your project down? Why not just use the clippy thingamabob?

Mount your projects to a drawing board |

Ahhhh, young grasshopper. Things are not always what they seem.

Most art boards come with a clip but that clip is absolutely, positively, not, not, not for clipping your artwork!

Clips will damage your paper. They'll either dent it or you'll shift the paper and accidentally crease it against the clip.

So what's the clip for?

For your protective sheet, silly! Here's the correct set up, art is taped, protector sheet is clipped over the top.

I use layout bond-weight paper for the protective cover. It's cheap. It's also somewhat translucent which allows you to see what project is on the board with just a glance. I keep a sheet on each clip board and reuse them over and over.

If I'm travelling, I'll use a sheet of Bristol or illustration board as a cover sheet because it is a little sturdier.

Stack of protected projects |

Here's a stack of projects. I have a vertical pegged shelf area for my boards but just as often, they sit on my desk in a stack like this.

By the way, the tape here is NOT masking tape. This is "drafting tape" which holds more firmly than painters tape but less than masking. Like painters tape, it won't leave a residue. Drafting tape is manilla colored like masking tape but it's more translucent. And honestly, I've had some quality control issues with masking tape recently; it doesn't seem to rip cleanly anymore. Not so with drafting tape, cheaper manufacturing changes haven't hit the drafting tape world yet. I buy drafting tape that has ridges running the length of the tape so that I can tell it apart from masking tape on my giant dispenser.

Drafting tape is another one of those fun things which you'll find in the manly-man section of the art or craft store. It's in with the printing and drafting supplies. You know, that aisle with all the rulers and weird pencils that you usually skip. There is a lot of good stuff down that aisle, so give it a tour next time. I know you'll find something cool and useful there, it just won't have the same pretty packaging that crafters are used to. 


By the way:

I'm partnering with Dick Blick now. The featured product widget will help provide reference when I mention specific products. I don't know about you but I remember the art on labels much better than actual product names. This way you get to see the products I'm talking about.

I do most of my art shopping at Dick Blick. I think I've put Mr. Blick's grandkids and their neighbor's two dogs through college AND medical school AND law school with what I've spent there over two decades. So if it's listed in one of my product groupings, understand that it is a product that I both own and use.


Quick tip video coming next week!

I was going to include a tutorial about how to tape your project in today's post but it got way too long. You've got better stuff to do than read me all day!

Plus, a visual demonstration will be much clearer than a description.

So watch for a link to the video, maybe by Wednesday.