as designers, we have tons of options. pens, pencils, sharpies, hands, computers…


i love just plain old pen and paper. i’m a big fan of hand drawn work because you can get the thicks and thins and pressure differences that you can’t get (or at least i can’t) on a computer. there is something about doodling on paper that i find relaxing and free. my job requires me to be on the computer most of the time so i leap at chances to get off of it and do something with my hands. i also try to draw everything as i imagine it so there is minimal photoshopping once i’ve scanned it in. sometimes i do a couple versions of what i’m trying to draw. the first one usually comes out wonky – the perspective is off or i gave the figure some extra fingers. when i’m done drawing that version i usually step back and laugh at it, they’re pretty funny looking (there was one that had me crying i was laughing so hard). after a couple more tries i’ve usually landed what i was trying to draw. this discipline of drawing everything first has taught me how to be a better illustrator. i find that i’m finishing drawings quicker and i can translate my thoughts to paper without so many versions.

when i was younger i was obsessed with mixed media. (like those journals from last week’s post!) i liked to feel like i was creating something with my hands. i really enjoyed the calligraphy course I took in college, and the drawing classes too. but once I started blogging a few years ago, I became most comfortable behind the computer. i use my wacom pen for pretty much everything. drawing on my photos, navigating my computer, designing for clients. (i recommend this one if you are just starting out – i have this one) it’s crazy how much better you can get at something with a little practice, but it’s also scary to watch your skills go away when you don’t practice! now i feel like a fish out of water when I try to draw on paper. i want to find a better balance, because I know both are very important…but for now my trusty wacom pen is just fine!

what is YOUR favorite medium to use when you are designing?
see you next week!
bri + katie

(illustration by katie evans. here are all the advice posts over here – as always, let us know if you have questions!)


Add your own

    Anni says:

    When I’m really stuck on something, I need pen and paper.
    Actually, even when I’m making any sort of list, it has to be pen and paper. My fiance laughs at me all the time because I’m surprisingly technology resistant for someone who has an iMac and geeks out over new camera releases (hello, Mark iii) but there’s something strangely therapeutic about a classic notebook and a pen.

    Keely Reyes says:

    I’m with Katie, pen and paper are my favorite starting points. I just can’t get the same feeling when I start on the computer.

    Jess Davis says:

    I vacilate between computer and pen. For graphcis and illustrations for my blog I use the computer, but in my day job an interior designer, there is nothing like drawing a perspective sketch of a space or piece of furniture. and computer renderings really look stiff and lifeless compared to hand drawn renderings of spaces (although they are getting better). I’m trying to mix it up more and do some hand drawings for my blog. Thanks for the recommendation on the wacom pen. Do you recommend the bamboo tablet if I already have photoshop. What about the bamboo stylus for ipad?

    LindseyBee says:

    I agree with hands-on action–I am partial to pencil & paper. There is something very relaxing about shading an object to make it pop, or just enjoy creating the details of something beautiful or rad. & then it’s also fun to turn around & use the wacom tablet for navigation on the computer, too! I’ve pretty much said goodbye to my mouse track–so much more fun that way!

    Silverbleed says:

    Pencil and paper, but also my tablet. It pretty much depends on what I’d like to create, the time I have for it and what it is for.
    I just wish I had more time for traditional tools, because using pencils just has this… relaxing feeling.

    Sarah says:

    Thanks! I love hands on cut and paste projects, which can be pretty rudimentary. I love the idea of the wacom tablet!

    Alex says:

    I definitely relate more to Bri on this one – I spend hours and hours designing on the computer and feel uncomfortable on paper now! right now I’m trying to make an effort to get back into painting and drawing (although I was never very good at drawing to begin with!).

    Abby says:

    I love paper and pen, but I’ve always found that I wasn’t very good with it {at least not as good as I thought I needed to be}. When I’m at my computer I tend to feel more creative and capable of my task. I’m definitely going to look into the wacom table (I’m an interior design student and that would be very handy!)

    Danie says:

    Love, love LOVE my intuous pad too! As for favorites, I love it all, I guess. Love drawing by hand (markers, pen, and pencil), painting in watercolor and acrylic, digitally drawing…I guess I just can’t make up my mind.

    Fun post!

    I live for those childhood Harriet the Spy black + white notebooks and a fresh fine point Sharpie marker. Gimme those two items (add vodka) on a desert island and I could go to town. xo Lola

    Marie says:

    x-acto #11, self-healing cutting mat, metal ruler and paper. I love making things with my hands…although, my finger had a run-in with my x-acto blade just yesterday! eeks! 🙂


    HLD says:

    I’m with Bri. I love mixed media and creating with my hands. A cool style I have started applying more is adding a “scrapbook” effect to a lot of the photography I shoot. I find cute shapes and flowers online and scrapbook them on to a photo. Or I’ll even scan in tears of scrapbooking paper and stickers. HUGE fan of both of your work! Bri – you are an aesthetic goddess! You just HAVE IT. Very inspiring. I wish I could be more of a sketch artist like Katie, but sadly, no part of that comes naturally to me. I feel that that natural NACK is a huge part of the process. You can take a class (I took a drawing and perspective class in art school) and it really didn’t stick with me. I envy those who can draw well! I even suck at the Draw Something app! 🙂 Thanks for sharing everyday!!! Your posts/site/everything is very inspiring. Hope to meet you/collaborate with you one day!!

    Tiffany says:

    This is such a fun blog & I love these advice posts! My favorite is definitely old fashioned pen and paper. I have always been obsessed with it since I was a kid protecting my crayons getting broken and notebooks from being frayed. Thanks for the wacom pen recs, have to try it!

    Kerry Grolle says:

    A few years ago, one of my architecture professors challenged me to sketch in pen – it makes each mark on the page that much more deliberate. Ever since then, I am a pen and sketchbook kind of a girl. I generally have between 3 to 7 pens of varying line weights with me to achieve my goals…

    Black gel pens and paper. I have too many ideas in really random places and need tools that are quick, easy and portable. 🙂

    Mel says:

    Hi Bri! Quick question: where do you get those pencil brushes?
    I downloaded some but the ones you use to write the notes in the pictures look way much better. LOVE your blog!

    kristina says:

    like you bri, my wacom pen is what i use most. when i was a kid it was definitely pencil and paper – need to get back into drawing.

    Pegah S says:

    Katie, I love your doodles, very very sweet and simple. I love pencil and how it feels when you right/draw on paper.

    Laura says:

    This is such an intriguing question and I am fascinated by your answers! Like Katie, I prefer to draw by hand for the wibbly-wobbly indie look. Do you have any tricks/tips for getting the hand drawn image onto the computer for outlining? Just curious! Keep up the amazing work ladies! xo

    Caytlyn says:

    I always always use a fine tip sharpie and I enjoy drawing in my sketchbook so I never lose an idea.

    Sarah says:

    I love to start everything out on paper just to get the raw ideas out with out worrying about the details. Then I artwork using my wacom and illustrator!

    Becky! says:

    I didn’t think much of this when I first read it, but then I thought about it more and am thinking about updating my Wacom. I have the Bamboo and it’s good enough, but not great. I know it’s not pressure sensitive, which would be nice to graduate to. Do you feel like you have more control with the writing / drawing on the nicer one? Or is it just better because it’s pressure sensitive? Whatever it is, it’s working.

    Caytlyn says:

    I’m a big fan of a Papermate Sharpwriter #2, those cheep yellow mechanical pencils haha, I also like American Crafts Precision pens.

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