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Tools of the Trade by SquirrelShaver Tools of the Trade by SquirrelShaver
I've been getting asked quite a bit lately about what tools I use when drawing and especially how I keep my lines clean. I've also seen a number of my peers getting asked the same question so here's what I use on a daily basis. The items you see above are the most imperative tools when I draw almost anything hopefully this can help some of you in the creation of your art and your own individual technique.

I'm sure many of my colorists would beg to differ on how "clean" my pencils are and honestly I don't consider myself a terribly clean artist to be honest. You might be surprised at how many smudge parks are all over my pages. But I understand how frustrating the process of keeping clean lines can be so I'm happy to help where I can.


A.) Lead Holder Pencils and HB Lead: A lot of pros use this type of pencil because of how versatile it is. The lead can sharpened to a near razor-like point with the sharpener, for tight details and fine lines, (see image "C") or let it ware down to a blunt tip for thick lines or large areas of shading. I use an HB lead which is a soft lead that leaves a nice dark line without too much pressure. Also I use HB because I don't typically have an inker and the line work needs to scan well into the computer for coloring and/or digital inking. Lead types vary on personal preference though so feel free to experiment and use what YOU like best and what feels best for your art.

B.) 0.5 Mechanical Pencil and HB Lead: Lately I've been using this pencil more often but I always go through spurts where I switch between this and the Lead Holder. Again, it's personal preference. One thing I will stress is don't fall for those outrageous $30, $40 or $50 pencils. Sometimes people think that expensive pencils are nice or will help them draw better but that simply is not true. To me it's a waste of possible beer money. I bought this pencil (and all mechanical pencils before it) at places like Wal-Mart, grocery stores and office supply stores. So unless the $50 pencil is a magical robot pencil that draws by itself the pencil that you use has no positive or negative effect on how talented/skilled you are. Just like a really expensive ruler won't make a straighter line than a $5 ruler with Hello Kitty on it. Invest wisely because everything else you use to make art costs a fucking fortune.

C.) Barrel Style Sharpener: This is the lead sharpener that I like to use for my Lead Holder pencil. There's several different kinds of sharpeners for Lead Holders (all are great) but this just happens to be the most affordable, convenient and portable one that I have found. I like this because I can have just one sharpener to keep at my desk and take to conventions if I need to and I don't need to empty it every 15 minutes.

D.) Sanford "Peel-Off" Magic Rub Eraser: This bad-boy here is my secret weapon! So much so that I don't even use my full size Magic Rub block eraser anymore. These guys are about the size of a pencil and have a high quality eraser tip that erases very clean. Much like a pencil it can be sharpened to a fine point with a regular handheld pencil sharpener to get into the tiniest of spots, clean up the edges of holding lines, or even create detailed negative space in positive spaces. Very very cool tool to have and the best part is they cost less than $1 each!

E.) Kneaded Eraser: I'm pretty sure most of you use this so I won't go too far into detail, but I pretty much use this only to erase really large areas of pencil smudging and occasionally shape into action figures. I will say to clean your kneaded eraser just stretch and fold it until all the dark black spots are gone. I only say that because some people are not familiar with that.

F.) French Curves: Another special tool that I find a lot of people aren't familiar with are French Curves. The best way I can think to describe these is; they're like a straight edge for curves. It's amazing how these things can seem to match up to any curved line you draw --especially big Bertha on the bottom there. I use these for EVERYTHING. Especially for drawing long lines on a woman's hips, thighs and butt, but they're also handy for hair and countless other parts of female anatomy as well as background elements or anything else you can thing of where you want a clean curved line.

So there you have it! These are the basic tools that never change for me and I hope some of you can find this information useful. Like i said, it's great to experiment but don't lock yourself into anything that conflicts with your state of Zen while creating art. I don't use electric erasers because they're noisy and sound like vibrators but some people swear by them. Some people say HB lead is very messy and they prefer 3H or H lead. It's all about personal choice and what you feel comfortable with. as Adam Hughes once said, "You and all your art supplies should get along together". :)

Everything pictured above is available at your local art supply store or at www.bluelinepro.com [link]
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- www.mikedebalfo.com: [link]
- Facebook/mike.debalfo: [link]
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Add a Comment:
 
:iconspasticpug:
Spasticpug Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
For drawing I just have a ruler and wood forest pen
Reply
:icongreatc0lddistance:
GreatC0ldDistance Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2015  New member Hobbyist General Artist
thnx for the tutorial ;)
Reply
:iconrealizedesignsjason:
realizedesignsjason Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2015  Professional Interface Designer
Cool
Reply
:iconproudwulf:
Proudwulf Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
The only thing I can add to what you posted is, make sure the pencils are comfortable to your hand, and use smug paper lots of smug paper. lol It helps keep you from making them.
Reply
:iconproudwulf:
Proudwulf Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2013  Professional General Artist
I use tracing paper and tape it in place to protect the work, that way I can see what's already done.
Reply
:iconcoopergal24:
CooperGal24 Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I only have the white rubber erasers, kneaded erasers and those eraser sticks that you put in the sliding stick holder. All three work nicely with me!

I also use pens in different sizes and sharpie markers, both regular and pen form, mechanical pencils with graphite leads, rulers and just recently a triangle and french curve ruler!

I also use computer paper as my drawing source, my scanner printer to scan my pics and my GIMP art program to add whatever I want on the pic! ^^
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:iconyesuifegnand:
yesuifegnand Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2012
Thanks for the information. :)
Reply
:iconamonkane:
AmonKane Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2012
hehe, never thought I'd see those 'French curves' thingies again. 'Invest wisely because everything else you use to make art costs a fucking fortune.' Never fancied a Cintiq though?
'
Reply
:icondarkwarrior:
darkwarrior Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2012
Love doing it old school.
Reply
:icondave32563:
Dave32563 Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2012
Good information and insight!
Reply
:iconelguluso:
elguluso Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2012  Student General Artist
Awesome and informative
Reply
:iconzorndar:
Zorndar Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I like your way of thinking especially the 'To me it's a waste of possible beer money.' you ever saw those bendable curve tools? Made my life alot easier when I was drawing. Now I'm more into photography :).
Reply
:iconryansoup94:
Ryansoup94 Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Love this
Reply
:iconfriskies43:
friskies43 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks for sharing. I don't have this french curves but I will grab ones asap.
Reply
:iconfaolinfalalay:
faolinfalalay Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012  Student Digital Artist
i'm glad i'm not the only one who uses lead hold holders:D!!! every artist i've met in real life has never even heard of them.
Reply
:iconchainsaw-munkey:
Chainsaw-Munkey Featured By Owner Aug 6, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Great picks on the mechanical pencil. I used my $3 one till it literally broke. Bought a $7 one at Target I think and it has served me well for the last book and a half I've done.
Also I had wondered what the deal was with the lead holders. Thanks for clearing that up for me, and possibly a few others out there.
Reply
:iconliciandragon:
LicianDragon Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There's such a thing as electric erasers? :O_o:
Reply
:iconjuliano-pereira:
Juliano-Pereira Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks!! :)
Reply
:iconrandreotti:
RAndreotti Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I got everything but them damn curves! ....The FRENCH curves dammit!! lol ;)
Reply
:iconmat2468xke:
mat2468xke Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012
Nice tools :D I haven't herd/seen some of them
Reply
:iconxpancho-francox:
xPANCHO-FRANCOx Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've got everything on that list except for D. Can't find those anywhere! Even tried BluelinePro.com but only found the regular eraser...:(
Reply
:iconmentalpablum:
MentalPablum Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don't use the erasers, but check to everything else and add a set of the Helix circle templates :) Thanks for posting this list.
Reply
:iconashigaru:
ashigaru Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
Pretty much the de facto standards. Really, if you do better with a burned chopstick, a white-out pen and a brick, then by all means do so. It's always "90 percent software, 10 percent hardware"; i.e. the artist makes the art. ;) Thanks for making good art!
Reply
:iconsyntheticempire:
syntheticempire Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012
uhhh... its De balfo.
Reply
:iconsheldongoh:
SheldonGoh Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012
Whoa, thanks for sharing this Mike! I had no idea those sharpen-able Sanford erasers even existed! That's mind blowing! Also, it had never occurred to me to use French curves to do final lines for hips and legs and hair. I'm gonna have to try that!

Thanks again, man. Love your work. You make it look easy, every time. :)
Reply
:icontamoshi:
Tamoshi Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012
Thanks for sharing this info, I had never heard of these French curves, I'll have to check them out.
Reply
:icononwa7:
onwa7 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
=O! nice tools!
Reply
:iconcmedard:
Cmedard Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012
Aaaaaah, french curves.... :nod: :nod:

Sorry, couldn't resist. ;)
Reply
:icontimgrayson:
TimGrayson Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have French Curves ;]
Reply
:icontrilbies:
Trilbies Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Without B, the world of art would be closed off to me. x)
Reply
:iconblackrose-assasin:
Blackrose-Assasin Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Dude I not only make the kneaded eraser into action figures but I get soo bored i stick them on the wall and play with them lol
Reply
:iconpevansy:
Pevansy Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Magic rub eraser, cool. Never even knew about those!
Reply
:iconpornomaniac:
Pornomaniac Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
AH HA! A french curve for women with curves. I should have thought of that. *forehead slap*
Reply
:iconravenlachrimae:
ravenlachrimae Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love using E, B and D... welll most of the time i just play with my kneaded erases while i draw xD
and you're right about art supplies that cost shit-tons of money, it isn't really going to improve your drawing just because it's expensive. Especially for student-artists who lacks money like me... :)
Reply
:iconendless-spirit:
endless-spirit Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012   Traditional Artist
I always stole the french curves from my father when I was small. I should steal them again and try them for drawing.
Reply
:iconrambo1911:
raMbo1911 Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
what is that middle slot on the barrel style sharpener for, the one covered by the little Styrofoam, i have the same thing and i don't know what its for
Reply
:iconcoldgopher:
coldgopher Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Middle slot is for the little white cleaning pad. Once you take your freshly sharpened lead out, poke it in the cleaning pad to avoid dropping graphite on your drawing. (particular to drafting)
Reply
:iconrambo1911:
raMbo1911 Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
ooooh nice i used to use my finger for that lolz
Reply
:icon8malkuthvendetta8:
8malkuthvendetta8 Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012
Cool! I use B, and that's what I use until this day!!! XD
Reply
:iconcupcaketeakitten:
CupcakeTeaKitten Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh mai... I use both A and C ._. I dunno if this is a coincidence or it's just me xD And I only got those two a week ago from my grandparents :dummy:
Reply
:icondarquewanderer:
darquewanderer Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012
Thanks Ed. Nicely done.
Reply
:icontheriotranger:
TheRiotRanger Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the insight! Love your work!
Reply
:icons-rhoades:
s-rhoades Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I'd never even considered using a french curve for my ladies, that's a damn good idea. I thought you all free handed them.
Reply
:iconjacksonjart:
jacksonjart Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Professional General Artist
The only thing I don't have is the rulers I've never used stencils and don't really own an actual ruler...guess I need to get into it lol
Reply
:icontynikolai:
Tynikolai Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've never heard of those Sanford erasers before. Thanks! I'm definitely getting some.
Reply
:iconechta:
Echta Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Student General Artist
I could only see myself matching one of those curves up to a curve that I had already drawn and using it as a form for inking. I couldn't see myself using that for the sketch.
Reply
:iconsquirrelshaver:
SquirrelShaver Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
What ever tickles your fancy. Again, it's all about personal preference.
Reply
:iconechta:
Echta Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2012  Student General Artist
Well it certainly works for you, so that's all that matters. haha
Reply
:iconrafafa:
Rafafa Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2012
I will have to kinda of disagree with the cheap ruler part, I speak by experience, that a rather expensive stainless steel ruler is on the long run cheaper than buying several cheap plastic rulers that break all the time. XD
Reply
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