Paint, Paper, and Pencils

Niji Waterbrush


Over the past several months, I have shared my painting process on my Ustream channel, and have received a lot of questions about my art supplies. Here is a comprehensive list of the traditional painting materials that I have used thus far, if you are interested in trying them out for yourself.

You can watch me paint and draw live every weekday. Please view the Dani Draws Live info page to stay up-to-date with the show schedule. To see examples of the work I’ve made with these materials, visit

Note: All product links are directed to Dick Blick Art Materials, my favorite online art store. Purchasing products through these links will help support this site.


Sketcher's Pocket Box Set
Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolors
Niji Waterbrush

Watercolor is quick and easy to color with, and is the medium that I have used most for painting my doodles. Watercolor is transparent and activated by water. Because of this, you can layer colors on top of each other to blend them. The transparency of watercolor can be difficult to work with because you have to plan out all your “whites” ahead of time. You can’t fix mistakes by painting over them, and you can’t make a color lighter once you’ve put it down (although sometimes you can wash color away with a wet brush, but it will probably still leave a stain on the paper).

    Winsor & Newton Sketcher’s Pocket Box Set – Because I usually only make small sketches on the show, I find it easier to use a small portable tray of pan watercolors.

    Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolors – For larger paintings, I like to use tube watercolors because it is difficult to cover large areas with a small pan set. The pigments in tube watercolors are generally stronger also. To use them, I squeeze the entire tube onto a large pallet.

    Niji Waterbrush – This is a special kind of brush pen that holds a barrel of water in its handle. It is great for quick, portable sketching with watercolor. Just squeeze it to release the water. It is also refillable and comes in a variety of sizes.


Winsor & Newton Designer's Gouache

Gouache is a type of watercolor, except it is opaque. So, like watercolor, you can activate it with water, even after the paint is dry. It can be tricky to work with color-wise, but fun once you get the hang of it. Color dries quickly, with a very flat, matte finish. Because of this, it scans very well and is generally a favorite among illustrators. It is also very versatile – you can dilute it to create watercolor-like washes, or use it very thickly and drybrush some texture. This is my personal favorite painting medium.

    Winsor & Newton Designer’s Gouache – Gouache comes in tubes. You can use the straight paint, but that is generally too thick for me. I usually keep my gouache paint by squeezing the entire tube into a film canister, then watering it down slightly. I keep the canisters sealed in a tupperware container when not in use. The paint will thicken up and even dry solid over time, but in most cases you can add some water to bring it back to working condition.


M. Graham Oils
Weber Turpenoid Natural

Oil paint is not water-soluble, meaning you can’t mix the paint with water or wash your brushes with water. It requires a different solution like turpentine, which makes working with oils very smelly. Oil-based paint also dries VERY slowly. A painting can take several weeks, or even months, to dry completely. This makes it ideal for blending and rendering. It is a favorite for many many artists. It can be used very thinly or literally piled on to create lots of texture.

    M. Graham Oils – Oil paint comes in tubes. Squeeze the paint directly onto your palette.

    Weber Turpenoid Natural – To clean oils, you need a solvent like turpentine or mineral spirits. These have very strong odors and can be harmful, which is why I mostly use Turpenoid, a less smelly alternative. It is more expensive, and the actual “feel” of turpenoid is different than a regular solvent if that is an issue for you, but it has worked out well for me. Pour your cleaner/solvent into a glass jar, with an agitator like a wire scrubber at the bottom, to rub your brushes against while cleaning.


Blick Studio Short Handle Synthetic Brushes
Blick Studio Short Handle Synthetic Round
Blick Master Bristle Brushes

I generally use the same type of brushes across all the different media I use. Watercolor and gouache can be used interchangeably; oil brushes you must keep separate because it is not a water medium, and so requires different cleaning methods. If you use acrylics, I would keep these separate from your gouache and watercolor brushes also because the dried paint will wear down the brush faster. I am generally not picky about brands, but I do recommend you get as good a quality brush as you can.

    Synthetic Sable Brushes – These are the type of brushes I use most often. Rounds are good for detail work. I keep about 2-3 different sizes of these on hand. I also like to have a flat around for larger washes.

    Bristle Brushes – I only use these for larger oil paintings. They are better for holding lots of paint and pushing stuff around on a canvas.


#102 Crow Quill Nib

Set of 4 Pens
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

I don’t use ink a lot in my illustration work, but I am enjoying experimenting with it more and more.

    #102 Crow Quill – These are the brown-handled pen and nibs that are pretty common in art stores. It is very versatile for different line widths, from very very thin to very thick. It is a dip pen, so must have a bottle of ink to use with it.

    Staedtler Pigment Liners and Micron Pens – These are easier to control than a dip pen, but you will only get a uniform line width. I like to use them for details and straight lines.

    Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens – I use the one with the brush tip. It contains india ink. Also great for varying line widths, and more handy than a regular dip brush.

    Speedball Calligraphy Inks – This is the ink I use. It is a calligraphy ink. Since I am still a bit amateurish when it comes to ink work, I’m not really sure about the quality vs. other inks, but it is waterproof, dries fast, and came in a nice, handy set with my crowquill pen.


Sanford Turquoise Lead Holder
Alvin Rotary Lead Pointer
Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils

Sanford Turquoise Lead Holder – Instead of using a normal pencil, I usually use a drafter’s tool called a lead holder. It contains a piece of lead 2 mm wide, which you sharpen with a special lead pointer. I like using these because it is kinda like using a mechanical pencil, but more versatile like a normal pencil. And it is easier to sharpen because you don’t have to worry about breaking any wood.

Sanford Turquoise Leads – You can buy more leads if you need a refill or want a different softness. When you buy them in a store, they will typically come with HB leads. I like 3B or 6B leads personally.

Rotary Lead Pointer – This is the sharpener you need for your lead.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Pencils – Sometimes I like to make my preliminary drawings with a colored pencil, then draw over them with a regular pencil or ink. The best pencils to use are Col-Erase, named so because they are easier to erase than normal colored pencils. I use either scarlet red or non-photo blue. I also tend to use Ticonderoga “checking” pencils – pencils that teachers use to check papers with – because they are cheap and easy to find in an office supply store.


Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board Pads
15-Sheet Pads

    Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Board – Bristol is a type of heavyweight paper. It can hold a variety of different media and it is generally the paper I use most often. It comes in two varieties. They each have their unique qualities and advantages, but I will often use them interchangeably:

      Smooth bristol has minimal texture and is best for inks and markers.

      Vellum bristol has a very subtle texture, more like a normal paper or illustration board surface. It is good for dry media like pencil or charcoal because of its tooth.

    Canson Watercolor Paper – Watercolor paper generally has a lot of texture and of course, holds watercolor very well. I have also used it for other media such as gouache and oil.