Art Tools of Parka

Hi, I guess as part of the Art Tools & Gears interview series, I should feature my tools as well.

My tools are mainly used for sketching outdoors. You can see some of my sketches here:

Watercolour pan sets

Watercolour boxsets

These are the main watercolour pan sets that I use. By the way, most of the watercolour box designs are not brand specific. In other words, different manufacturers can use exactly the same box design, except they load it with their own paints. I've written about portable watercolour boxes before.

On the left is Schmincke 18 half pan box that I use at work (office). I bought it empty and loaded with Winsor Newton pans. It's a rather spacious box. The lid has two huge useful mixing wells, the other metal flap has 8 smaller mixing wells. With the numerous mixing wells, it's convenient for mixing many colours at one go without having to clean out anything.

There are two Da Vinci travel brushes. One's the Maestro sable and the other's the Cosmotop Spin synthetic. Both brushes are firm and can hold water well, but the Maestro sable holds slightly more water at this brush size. The other difference is, it's more difficult to get water off the synthetic brush by shaking, which sometimes is what you want to clean it before mixing another colour.

The small box at the middle top is a Bijou box with an integrated bottle. It has a useful water tray. I don't use that set often as you can see by the relatively unused pans. But I use that water tray a lot because it's very portable.

Winsor Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set

Then there's the Winsor Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set (US | UK). I've since loaded it with Daniel Smith tube watercolours. I like this box for the lightweight and compactness. This was the set I brought for my Spain sketching trip.

La Casa De Les Punxes, Barcelona. With Daniel Smith watercolours

My friend and artist Marvin Chew has mentioned in his interview already, but I want to repeat it here again. The watercolour from the tubes are easier to mix compared to pan. They dissolve more readily. In terms of colour saturation, personally I cannot tell the difference between pan and tube.

The last set is the heavyweight enamelled box. Mine can hold up to 24 half pans. I've also reviewed this box before. I like this too because of the mixing areas, and the fold out flap is horizontal when put on the floor as seen in picture above. I bought this with the default Winsor Newton pan colours and a few of them are semi-transparent and opaque.

There's one thing to note about keeping watercolours in these box sets. Always make sure they are dry completely before closing the lid. That's to prevent mold from growing.

I've also loaded some chopped up Graphitone pencils, basically water-soluble graphite. They are great for doing tonal studies. Cheap and good.

Bras Basah, Singapore

Daniel Smith watercolour tubes

Some Daniel Smith watercolour tubes. You can get Daniel Smith from Amazon USA, or if you're in Singapore from

Unfortunately for Singapore, the two main brands of watercolours we have are Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton. Daniel Smith has some quality watercolours that are worth checking out also.

For beginners, I recommend getting an empty box (12-pan set) and pans, and load them with watercolour tubes. However, if you just want to try out watercolour painting, then it's more convenient to get the pan sets.

Click for bigger view

From the left,

As mentioned earlier, the Graphitone are cheap and good and great for tonal work.

Sad to say, I don't use much of the Namiki Falcon fountain pen. It comes with a flex nib which means you can vary your line thickness while drawing. The reason why I don't use it that often is because I don't like to apply additional pressure just to get the flex.

There are two Hero fountain pens 501-1 here. One's spoiled after years of usage. They can create varying line thickness also, by varying the way the nib touches the paper. I used to use the Hero fountain pens frequently, but has since stop because of the inconsistent quality of the pens and ink flow.

To the right is the Kuretake No. 50 Fountain Hair Brush Pen. As I don't use brush pen for inking that often, I use this as a dip brush sometimes. It's refillable actually. I don't want to load ink into the reservoir and have it clog when I don't use it that much.

The last pen is another Hero pen, model 308. Hero pens are quite heavy for the metal they use. Personally I prefer a lightweight fountain pen, something like the plastic Lamy fountain pens.

Here's the technical pen set that I have:

My main technical pens are the Pilot Hi-tecpoint pens. Cheap and good. Non-refillable, but I refill them anyway.

I don't use the Copic Multiliners much. I feel that their felt tip wears out too fast. If your standard Multiliner wears out, you throw that away, when your SP wears out, you buy the replaceable felt tip.

For technical pens, I would recommend going with the Rotring Isograph technical pens. Their metal nibs means they are durable. They can also be dismantled for cleaning. And refillable also. Overall, they are value for money even though the pens might not be cheap.

I used to have a lot of different colour Copic markers. After giving most away, I'm down to a set of neutral, cool and warm grays. For those intend on buying Copic markers, I would suggest buying either the neutral or warm grays as starters. You can save a lot of money when you find out you don't like drawing with markers early. And with grays, again, you can practice your tones and values. Get 3, 7 and 100 (black). They are refillable.

Markers are very convenient though, because you can uncap and draw. I use them to draw while on the train sometimes.

Another set of markers given to me. These are Chartpak markers. The only thing I don't like is their cap design, which doesn't close with a click sound. I usually slam the marker, cap downwards, to make sure they are capped tight.

Watercolour papers I used are the Daler Rowney Aquafine (US | UK). They are student grade. I don't paint paintings for sale so they are adequate for me. After I draw, I just scan them.

For professional work, I recommend avoiding them. It's thick, 300gsm, yeah, but they will still buckle when you load lots of water on. Also, the paper fabric will come off if you apply a few layers, such as when you're glazing.

They are relatively cheap, especially when you buy the 50-sheet jumbo size, so they are quite economical to practice on.

These are my sketchbooks. On the top left there's the Accurasee pouch that you can attach to vertical A5 sketchbooks. Nifty. I'm currently trying out some Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and they are really good.

At the bottom left is the Hand-book watercolour sketchbook from Global Art Materials which I like also. The paper has a nice creamy colour and takes watercolour very well, and can show off granulating watercolours.


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