My favorite black, white & red mixed media art supplies (video compilation)

Published by Nela Dunato on at 11:33 in Art, Sketchbook, Video, Tips for creatives

In this long 3-part video series, I share my favorite mixed media art supplies for sketchbooks and art journals, along with examples of how I use them.

I’ve been keeping sketchbooks since 2006 and experimented with lots of different mixed media techniques. My approach involves a lot of drawing, doodling, and painting, usually of figurative and surreal scenes and creatures. I combine drawing mediums that allow for a lot of precise detail, along with some more fluid and expressive painterly techniques that add atmosphere, depth, and texture.

If you want to view the pages I shared in the videos in more detail, many of them are in my sketchbook gallery.

Black mixed media art supplies

I find black to be the most useful color in mixed media art and journaling, and often I'll work only in black on a white surface. In this video I'll tell you about my favorite black art supplies and show you examples of how I use them in my sketchbooks.

The camera lens takes a few seconds to focus properly, which is not ideal for a video like this. Thank you for your patience!

1. Brush pen

  • Pentel Pocket Kanji Fude brush pen
  • Actual synthetic bristle brush (not like “brush pen” markers which have a felt tip).
  • Variety of marks: press harder to cover a wide area, or make thin hairline strokes with gentle motions.
  • Surprisingly robust – I’ve had it for 8 years and the point hasn’t frayed at all.
  • Waterproof ink. Instead of original Pentel cartridges I now use Platinum Carbon ink because it's cheaper.
  • It’s not 100% waterproof over gesso and acrylics, so be careful if you want to go over it with a wet brush. It’s best when applied directly on paper, or as a final layer.

2. India ink

  • Cheap, so I use it to cover larger surfaces alongside a brush pen.
  • Waterproof and permanent on paper and cardboard.
  • Can be used with brushes and dip pens.
  • Peels off of acrylic mediums, coverage is not as opaque, not recommended.
  • Has a warm sheen because it’s resin-based.
  • Can be diluted with water to create shades of gray and interesting watercolor-like effects.
  • I’m not choosy about the brand, Koh-i-Noor is available in my local stores.

3. Fluid acrylic (acrylic ink)

  • More expensive than india ink.
  • Waterproof and permanent on all surfaces.
  • Can be used with brushes and dip pens.
  • More versatile than india ink.
  • I use Royal Talens Amsterdam Oxide Black.

4. Black gesso

  • Primer that works on any surface.
  • Useful as a base layer, or to cover up a part of a page you don’t like.
  • Smooth, but has grit so you can draw over it with many different tools, and it won’t damage your paint markers.
  • Other artists use it like black paint to mix with white and other colors.
  • I personally no longer use black acrylic paint in my sketchbooks.
  • I currently use the Pebeo Studio brand.

Paints and inks are messy and require preparation: I need to put a protective sheet on my table, put on gloves and an apron so I don’t get it all over my clothes... and sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that. I want to sit on the couch with my sketchbook and doodle without worrying about making a mess that will be Hell to clean up. In that case, this next tool comes in really handy.

5. Watersoluble crayon

  • Stabilo Woody 3 in 1
  • Similar to Caran d’Ache Neocolor II, which I have in Indigo Blue and Grayish Black colors. I combine them and they blend together really well.
  • They can be purchased individually or in sets.
  • They make marks on anything, even on slick surfaces, so you can write over thick layers of acrylic mediums, paints, PVA glue, or glossy magazine pages you tape in your journal. They even write on my lacquered desk. In that respect they are like the famous Stabilo All pencils.
  • When you blend them with water they make an even, opaque surface – it works over matte paints and mediums. (They will wipe off of a very glossy surface.)
  • There are many ways you can use them: draw and activate with water, draw into wet color, draw with a wet tip, or pick pigment off the tip with a wet brush. Or you can leave it dry.
  • Dry application will have a waxy sheen, but when it's dissolved with water it gets matte and you can add more layers on top of it. I’ve even been able to write over it with certain markers and pencils.
  • Very convenient for travel and kid-proof.

6. Charcoal

  • One of the cheapest art supplies.
  • Comes in several forms: vine charcoal, compressed sticks, and pencils.
  • Works on any surface that has grit – paper, matte acrylics, gesso, matte gel medium, etc.
  • Nice soft gradations achieved by blending with fingers or blending stumps.
  • Not super opaque, better for subtle effects.
  • Use spray fixative (or cheap hairspray) over it to preserve your artwork from smudging.
  • If you seal your charcoal drawing well (several coats), you can work over it with paints.
  • Not to fussy about the brand. I used Koh-i-Noor Gioconda, Derwent, and Cretacolor.

White mixed media art supplies

When working in mixed media, I mostly use white to add highlights, decorative elements, and text over a black or dark background. White is also useful as a mixing color or a surface primer. In this video I'll tell you about my 6 favorite white art supplies and show you how I use them in my sketchbooks.

1. Gel pen

  • UniBall Signo Broad
  • Very fine and precise line for doodling, writing and highlights.
  • I find the broad tip gives a more stable line than the fine tip.
  • The downside is that sometimes they clog up and there’s nothing you can do to make them write again.
  • Works over most media that has grit, but best used over waterproof materials (india ink, black gesso, matte acrylics).
  • Not waterproof (at least not immediately – may be if left alone for a couple of days).
  • You can make the line finer by going over it with a wet brush.

I used to use paint markers to draw thicker white lines, and when they’re brand new and they work, they’re amazing. But I’ve run into so many issues with them like inconsistent flow, clogging, and the tip getting damaged from normal use. I don’t use them every day so maybe that’s why I have so many issues, but I’ve given up on them and here’s what I use now instead:

2. Fluid acrylic (acrylic ink)

  • Waterproof and permanent on all surfaces.
  • Can be used with brushes and dip pens.
  • Expensive compared to other types of paint and ink, but it’s the most opaque liquid that I was able to find.
  • I use Royal Talens Amsterdam Titanium White.

3. Gouache paint (tempera, poster paint)

  • Cheap, but make sure not to get the one intended for little kids in huge bottles because that one is not opaque. In the video is the Slovenian student-grade brand Aero.
  • Use straight from the tube, or dilute with a bit of water.
  • Can be reactivated with water, so if it dries on your palette you can use it again.
  • You can use it to activate water-soluble media. You can also tint gouache with water-soluble media, inks and paints after it has already dried by re-wetting it.
  • Layers will mix and blend somewhat. If you don't want this, use acrylic paint instead.
  • I like it because it's washable and easy to clean off of brushes, so I can use it on the go.

4. Gesso

  • Primer that can turn any surface ready for painting and mixed media.
  • Useful as a base layer, or to cover up a part of a page you don’t like.
  • Mine is a bit older and thicker so it’s not as smooth as my black gesso, it has quite a bit of grit. Some may be smoother and more liquid.
  • Other artists use it instead of white paint to mix with other colors.
  • You can use it to activate water-soluble media, after which it becomes waterproof.
  • I've been using this single tub of Raphael gesso for years, so I can't compare with other brands.

I do sometimes use matte white acrylic paint in my sketchbooks, but not as often, so it didn’t make it to my favorites list.

5. Watersoluble crayon

  • Caran d’Ache Neocolor II
  • Similar to Stabilo Woody that I mentioned in the previous video.
  • More opaque and versatile than color pencils, less opaque than other mediums I’ve mentioned in this video.
  • Best for subtle highlights and scribbles, unless you apply them really thick (high degree of control over the opacity).

6. Pastel pencil

  • It can be used alongside and blended with charcoal.
  • Works on any surface that has grit – paper, matte acrylics, gesso, matte gel medium, etc.
  • Nice soft gradations achieved by blending with fingers or blending stumps.
  • Not as opaque as paint (it's better for subtle effects), but better than any other type of white pencil I’ve used.
  • Use spray fixative (or cheap hairspray) over it to preserve your artwork from smudging – white gets a bit transparent when sprayed.
  • I use Conté a Paris.

Red mixed media art supplies

Red is a chromatic color that I use the most, so I'll share my favorite bright red art supplies and show you examples of how I use them in my sketchbooks. No matter what your favorite color is, you'll probably be able to find these in that hue. I do have some of these things in other colors too, but whenever I'm testing new materials, red is the first color I buy.

1. Brush pen

  • Pentel Color Art Brush
  • Actual synthetic bristle brush (not like “brush pen” markers which have a felt tip).
  • Variety of marks: press harder to cover a wide area, or make thin hairline strokes with gentle motions.
  • Large ink reservoir so I feel comfortable painting large surfaces.
  • The reservoir can be squeezed to get the ink flowing if it gets too dry, and it can also be used for dry brushing because it does tend to get dry pretty often.
  • Water-soluble, but I'm not a fan of the pink tint so I don't use that often.
  • Can be mixed with other colors to create gradients and shades.

2. Watercolor

  • Tubes and pans sold individually or in sets – I use tubes on larger paintings, and pans in my small sketchbooks because they're more convenient.
  • I use student grade Van Gogh, as well as Sakura Koi which is of lesser quality, but I find it OK for journaling. For tubes I mostly use student grade Winsor & Newton Cotman paints.
  • Recommended on thicker watercolor or mixed media paper, though I use them on all kinds of papers because I'm a rebel.
  • Can be mixed with water and other colors to create an infinite amount of shades.
  • The unpredictable texture of watercolor is very appealing.
  • Works great with ink, which is my favorite drawing media so I use the two together very often.

3. Watercolor pencils

  • The coloring tool I've been using for the longest time.
  • Like a basic colored pencil, but it can be dissolved with water which makes it easy to blend with different colors.
  • Useful for details and to intensify areas painted in watercolor.
  • I've tried many different brands, and my favorite is Derwent Inktense because it's the brightest, most saturated of them all, and is available in open edition. I’ve been using a Koh-i-Noor Mondeluz set for many years before that.
  • There are many ways you can use them: draw and activate with water, draw into wet color, draw with a wet tip, or pick pigment off the tip with a wet brush. Or you can leave it dry.

4. Acrylic paint

  • I use Winsor & Newton Galeria paint on bigger paintings, and cheap craft/hobby paint in sketchbooks.
  • Matte paint is easier to draw and write on with pens and pencils.
  • Waterproof and permanent, works on any surface.
  • Transparent versus opaque: make sure you buy the one you want. Transparent will tint the area and leave darker marks visible. Opaque will cover up what’s underneath.

5. Watersoluble crayon

  • Caran d’Ache Neocolor II and Stabilo Woody that I mentioned both in previous videos. (I’ve noticed some wax bloom in Woody so I use only Neocolor in important work.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these videos :)

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments, and why you like them!

Nela

* Some links in this post point to products (for example, on Amazon). If you buy any of them, I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). I only recommend products I have personally tested and loved.


Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

Artist, brand designer, teacher, and writer. Author of the book “The Human Centered Brand”. Owner of a boutique branding & design consultancy that helps experienced service-based businesses impress their dream clients.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...


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