February 2, 2018

My Arsenal Of Tools

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Today on the blog I thought I would share a little bit about how I create designs, and what tools I use to create them. I often create my designs in a style I call “tra-digital”, meaning I use a mid of traditional techniques (drawing on paper, painting with physical paint) and digital techniques (digitally coloring drawn lines, applying type, vectorizing drawings) to create a single finished piece. It’s a style that allows me to create images in my favorite way (physically on paper or in traditional methods) and still be able to meet 21st century deadlines and objectives.


For Mozzi’s maps, I used traditional pen on paper to create my images, then assembled and colored them in Adobe Photoshop.


Using both traditional and digital techniques means that I have a lot of tools in my arsenal when it comes to image making. Below are some of my favorites.




Of course. My favorite is a 2B, which is a darker, softer kind of pencil when compared to your traditional #2 pencil. I mostly use these for sketching, although I do love creating pencil drawings.



Faber-Castell pens

I love these pens. I use them probably every day. The ink is a rich black, and it’s smooth application. The pens last a long time too, so I’m a big fan. I used these to create the city themed Mozzi play mats, and the map shown below for my wedding.


I really do like using these pens and then digitally coloring the drawing. You can see that although I laid out the drawing completely on illustration board in pen, that I did digitally adjust some of the drawing. For instance, the “Lake Michigan” text is much larger than the original drawing.



I’m by no means a great watercolorist, but there’s a quality to watercolor that is nostalgic, natural, and just so lovely. I use this Van Gogh aquarelle set that I got while studying in Italy. I don’t watercolor often, so it’s been a perfect little set for years whenever I need a small watercolor touch, or if I’m out in nature painting.



Oil Paint

I don’t use it as often as I used to, but this might be my true love. There’s a vibrancy to oil paint that is unmatched. The ability to control how the paint looks is what draws me to it. When I was considering a career in fantasy illustration, this was my sole go-to.




Wacom Tablet

Pronounced “Wack-Umm” this is a great tool to have. It allows me to draw in programs like Adobe Photoshop with a much more natural stroke than, say, compared to using a mouse. The pen is also pressure sensitive so it can replicate a natural looking brush or pen stroke. I use this for digital painting and cleaning up some of my traditional drawings.


Adobe Creative Suite

For a majority of my work, I only need Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, although I do use Acrobat, Dimension, and InDesign as well. Adobe is certainly a huge player for designers, and I would say industry standard, although I have heard of some great competitors. For me though, there is no substitute. I have to have a great vector, and pixel based design program in order to do 90% of everything I create.



SketchUp is a 3D modeling program. I use this to create spatially accurate renderings for clients. It’s also a really useful tool to use when you need to rotate an object in space in order to capture a photo of the right angle. For instance, I’ll use SketchUp to create a spatially accurate rendering, and then save a photo of just the right angle of the rendering to use as a hero image for my client. It’s a great tool, and the base version is free!


I used this 3D model of a mobile, cube shaped trailer to achieve just the right angle for showing the customer how their mobile tour idea would work. Then I used a combination of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to finish the rendering and create the presentation.


Digital Camera

Occasionally, I can use the camera on my phone, but for everything else, I use a digital point and shoot, or a DSLR camera. A majority of all of my photos for work will be ultimately edited in another program, like Photoshop.


That’s my toolset in a nutshell. Each has it’s own qualities and limitations, and I truly enjoy creating with all of them. What are some of your favorite tools for either your professional work, or for your creative outlets? I’d love to hear in the comments below!





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