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Hidden Gems: Lesser Known Artist’s Tools For UK Illustrators


As an illustrator, I have a problem… I can’t stop buying new tools!

Hi, I’m Julian; I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator for the past three years and I spend way too much on new artist’s equipment. There’s so much choice and variety out there it’s impossible not to go a bit wild. But figuring out what equipment is worth the money is commonly a matter of trial and error… So I figured I’d list some of the hidden gems I’ve found useful as an artist myself.

Whether you’re new to art, or you’ve been an artist for as long as you can remember, hopefully this list will help you out on your way.


Uni Color Pencil Lead – Blue

Price: £4.99

Purchase from: Amazon

Purpose: Use it to sketch drawings for inking over, then scan it in and have those sketch lines magically disappear


I love this tiny little packet of lead. It’s unassuming but has helped me invaluably since I discovered it.

Provided you’ve got a mechanical pencil to use it in, it allows you to draw in a light blue colour directly onto the page. The benefit of this? You can then ink over your sketches and scan it in and your scanner will barely pick it up at all, leaving you with just your ink lines on the final product. Seriously magical.

Some old style scanners won’t pick it up, full stop, but newer scanners are a little smarter about it. Still, it only takes a small amount of fiddling in Photoshop or a similar programme to get rid of the ghost lines completely. I used to just use standard pencil lead for my sketches and it was a nightmare compared to this. If I scanned it in without erasing my sketch lines, I’d spend ages trying to get rid of them on the final product; or, I’d spend ages trying to erase them on the page and end up fading my ink lines too. With this lead I don’t even have to erase.

There are similar products out there; I tried a Pentel blue lead but the blue was too dark and came up too easily on scanning. The Uni Color is a perfect light shade.

The only con? You have to wait for it to arrive from Japan.


12 Inch/30 cm Plastic T-Square

Price: £5.29

Purchase from: Amazon

Purpose: For drawing straight lines that are parallel to the page’s edge


This is a little tool I’ve used innumerable times. I actually own a larger one suitable for A3 paper as well, but this one is fine for A4 and below. Originally I’d never heard of it because it’s not usually something advertised as an artist’s tool, unless you’re an architectural artist! Turns out, this little thing is perfect for drawing straight lines that are parallel to the page’s edge. Perfect for doing comics, borders around the edge of your page, or anything that needs to be parallel to the page’s edge (like buildings).

It’s small enough that you can pop it into your bag alongside your sketchbook, and it’s even got a hole at the end if you wanted to hang it up above your desk. The only issue is trying to use it when you haven’t got a flat surface; it can be fiddly doing it on your lap.


Uni Posca Extra Fine Tip Marker – White

Price: £2.60

Purchase from: Amazon

Purpose: For adding highlights to your work


Okay, you’re working on a piece and you need highlights on your character’s hair, or in your character’s eyes. What do you do? Do you carefully ink in around the highlights? What if you’re trying to draw a hundred tiny snowflakes on a coloured background? Forget it – buy one of these instead.

This paint marker lets you draw in white paint right onto the page as easily as any other pen. It’s a vivid bright white and you can use it on most surfaces, including glass and plastic. Personally, I’ve used it plenty of times to add highlights onto a marker-coloured drawing. It’s so much easier to just colour everything in and add the highlights after rather than trying to add them in as you go.

Plus, it’s ridiculously cheap.


Tombow Mono Zero Refillable Eraser

Price: £3.79

Purchase from: Amazon

Purpose: For erasing tiny details

I love this tiny eraser. By the way, it also comes in a square format, but the round tip format is the smallest you can get. It’s perfect for erasing tiny details and I personally don’t use any other eraser now unless I need to get rid of a really big chunk of work. Plus, it’s refillable, so there’s no need for you to buy a whole new pen every time.


Special Mentions…

There are so many amazing tools out there that I personally didn’t know about when I started pursuing art as a career, but which now form part of my daily arsenal. They weren’t really obscure enough for this article since they’re used by many illustrators across the world, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention them nonetheless.

Sakura Pigma Micron Fineliner Pens: Buy it here

Winsor & Newton A4 Bristol Board: Buy it here

Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens: Buy it here

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens: Buy it here



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