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Tools of the Trade: My Favorite Materials and Software for Illustrating

Hi there, I'm Anna Lena Feunekes, and today I want to share a bit about the tools and materials that help bring my illustrations to life. Whether I'm working on a children's non-fiction book like Tasty Tales or another creative project, having the right tools makes all the difference. Let's dive into my favorite materials and software, and I'll give you a peek into my artistic toolkit.

holbein acryla gouache

One of my go-to materials for vibrant and opaque colors is holbein acryla gouache. This paint offers the best of both worlds: the rich, matte finish of traditional gouache and the durability of acrylics. It's perfect for creating bold, eye-catching illustrations that pop off the page. I love how smoothly it blends and how quickly it dries, allowing me to layer colors without waiting too long.

prismacolor pencils & caran d'ache pencils

For adding fine details and intricate textures, these pencils are my top choice. These pencils have a buttery, smooth application and come in a wide range of colors. They're excellent for shading, highlighting, and adding those little touches that make an illustration feel complete. Whether I'm working on a character's expressive face or the delicate texture of a pizza crust, these pencils never let me down.

photoshop and procreate app

When it comes to digital illustration, I rely heavily on two powerful pieces of software: Photoshop and the Procreate app on my iPad. Photoshop is a versatile tool that I use for everything from adjusting colors and textures to creating complex compositions. Its vast array of brushes and effects gives me endless creative possibilities.

The Procreate app, used with my Apple Pencil, is fantastic for drawing on the go. The iPad's portability means I can sketch and refine ideas anywhere, whether I'm at home, in a café, or traveling. Procreate's intuitive interface and pressure-sensitive capabilities make it feel very natural, almost like drawing on paper.

You can find these tools via the Adobe website or via the appstore on your tablet.

plain cheap paper and pressed paper

For my traditional sketches, I use a mix of plain cheap paper and arches pressed paper. The plain paper is great for quick, rough sketches and brainstorming ideas. When I'm ready to create something more polished, I turn to arches pressed paper. This high-quality paper holds up well to various media, from gouache to colored pencils, and its smooth texture allows for fine detail work. Depending on how fancy I feel, I'll choose between these two types of paper to suit my needs.

Strathmore mixed media:

lenovo thinkpad laptop and wacom drawing tablet

My trusty Lenovo ThinkPad laptop and Wacom drawing tablet are essential parts of my digital workflow. The ThinkPad is powerful and reliable, handling heavy software like Photoshop with ease. Paired with the Wacom tablet, it allows for precise control and a natural drawing experience. I can seamlessly switch between traditional and digital methods, ensuring my illustrations are exactly how I envision them.

old books for collage materials

One of my secret weapons for adding unique textures and elements to my illustrations is using old books from thrift stores for collage materials. These books provide a treasure trove of vintage illustrations, patterns, and textures that I can incorporate into my work. Whether it's a faded map, an old botanical illustration, or a snippet of text, these materials add a rich, tactile quality to my artwork that can't be replicated digitally.

If you wanted to try out something similar, I'd try these: or running to your local thrift shop!

Illustration is a blend of creativity and technical skill, and having the right tools at my disposal makes the process more enjoyable and effective. From the vibrant colors of holbein acryla gouache to the digital versatility of Photoshop and Procreate, each tool plays a vital role in bringing my illustrations to life. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my artistic toolkit and maybe even found some inspiration for your own creative endeavors. It's what I use in my work as an illustrator for books and products.

If you want to purchase some of these tools, the links I added to these articles are affiliate links, meaning I earn a commission if you end up purchasing via my link - that way I can keep making art and encourage other creative people! For now and most importantly though: Thanks for joining me on this journey behind the scenes!

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