10 Things I Need for My Work: Start to Finish

I thought that I'd give you a little insight into the tools that get me through a design process from start to finish. I thought that I always had a pretty basic process when it came to my work. This means that I thought that I never really needed too much to get my work done, and honestly, I don't. But when I started breaking it all down, I realized that there are actually quite a few things that I like to have to complete my design process. Here's the 10 things that I need to do my work, broken down in a start to finish list!

Sketch: red pencil, eraser, bond layout paper or sketchbook, sharpie fine point pen

I always start my sketches in my sketchbook, usually small, just playing around with the design layout and trying to see how the words I’m using are going to work together on the page. I like to use the Prismacolor Col-Erase pencil in Carmine Red for all my sketching, and a Staedtler eraser and holderfor fine erasing, and the larger eraser for getting rid of large mistakes. I’m left handed, so when I use a regular graphite pencil, I tend to smudge A LOT, and get a lovely silver hand. With the red pencil, I’m able to avoid all of this! I like to use Borden & Riley Bond Layout to plan out my pieces full size. It’s so smooth, and slightly transparent too, which helps with working on multiple rough drafts. Once I’ve settled on the design, and I’m happy with it, I go over my lines with a black Sharpie pen. They don’t smell as strongly as the markers, and handle the paper nicely.

Trace: light table

My husband bought me this Artograph Lighpad low profile light table for me for Christmas a couple years back, and it was a life changer! Prior, I was using the window to trace my sketches onto my final paper, which meant that I needed to plan around daylight. Now, I can trace at any time of the day, and flat on my desk, instead of unnaturally vertical on the window. I’ve seen even lower profile ones now, with rulers built in, but I’m super happy with the one I have right now. It’s a nice size too, at 9"x12", as most of my work falls within this range so it’s perfect.

Ink: pen and nib, ink, stonehenge or watercolour paper, watercolour paints

After lightly tracing my design on to my good paper, I get to inking. Depending on the design, I’ll choose different paper. For just lettering, I like to use Stonehenge. It has the slightest amount of tooth (texture) which makes it feel almost velvety. But it’s also smooth enough that my pointed nibs don’t get caught on it easily. If I’m going to be adding watercolour to my piece, I like to go with a 140lb cold press watercolour paper for most of work. I love working with this Canson pad for easy storage, and I can just cut down my piece to the size I need. I try to not get a terribly rough textured paper, again because I need the nibs to write as smoothly as possible, but I also want the paper to hold up to the very wet paint that will be applied. For ink, I like to use Sumi ink for it’s rich black colour. I like Kuretake and Moon Palace Sumi Inks. If I'm lettering and watercolouring on the same piece, I use Dr Martin’s Black Star Ink due to it’s waterproof properties. The sumi will run with water, even after it’s dried, so I only use it for lettering only projects. I’ll touch on more supplies (inks, paints, brushes, and more) that I use in another post coming soon!

Digitize: scanner and iMac

I definitely need my scanner in order to make my original paintings into prints. I try to scan at the highest resolution possible, to retain as much detail as I can. For the last 5 years, I’ve been using a MacBook Pro for all my computer work. Blogging, photo editing, creating prints and more. For the last year and half, it’s been a real struggle. If I wanted to open Photoshop, I had to make sure no other programs were running. I spent many hours looking at the spinning rainbow wheel of death, and wanting to chuck this important piece of my business out the window. I was so frustrated, and started saving up for a new computer. That money was almost all saved up this past summer, but then with my husband’s work being slow, it was allocated to other things, like a little ol’ mortgage or something less important like that. (Ha.) I was bummed, but happy that we had the money saved up when we needed it. Josh’s work was a lot better in the fall, so I got a nice little surprise at Christmas this year when I opened a little box containing a MacIntosh Apple. The actual fruit kind. At first I was confused, but then he said, “You're getting your computer!”. I was pumped, and now I’m the owner of a beautiful new iMac. It’s so fast, so much bigger than my laptop, and I can have multiple programs running at once! Win!

Edit: photoshop

I currently use CS4, a program I got way back when I got my laptop. It still works great for me, and I’m not seeing the need to upgrade yet. I have been considering getting the Adobe Creative Cloud, just the photo package one, so that Josh can benefit for the subscription on his computer too. I’m still learning new things on Photoshop all the time (that program seems like a neverending black hole) and love having it on my team. I’ve thought about getting Illustrator, but frankly it makes me nervous. However, I would like to be able to create vectors too.

Noise: netflix or spotify or podcasts

I like to have background noise when I work. If I’m lettering a custom piece, my go to is Netflix. If I play music while lettering, I often start singing along, and then it’s inevitable that I’m going to mess up my lettering. My Netflix indulgences are Buffy the Vampire Slayer (for years and years…I have them all on dvd too), Grey’s Anatomy, American Horror Story:Coven, Law and Order: SVU, prison documentaries and cooking shows. Spotify gets me my Iggy Azalea guilty pleasure fix, plus others like Duce Wiliams (friend of my sisters… he’s so good!), Bethel Music, Lana Del Ray, A Fine Frenzy, Sleeping Giant, Denison Witmer, Brooke Waggoner, Hillsong United and Brooke Fraser. (I've linked you to all my favourite songs by the listed artists.) Sometimes a good portion of this list goes over to iTunes, so I can control the playlist more. Podcasts I'm currently listening to? Serial, of course...slowly making my way through this case. Plus, Elise Gets Crafty, with Being Boss, The Lively Show and The Pen Addict on my waiting list.

Capture: camera

For taking photos…duh. I use a Canon T4i, and love how light and easy to carry around it is. I just got some new lights that I’m so looking forward to getting set up and using! Winter in Ontario has it’s dreary days, and where my little house is, I’m already hard pressed for good light coming in the windows. Hopefully these new lights are going to do the trick to help keep me a little saner when trying to capture images of my paintings and lettering pieces. I'm also currently saving up for some new lenses, a zoom for capturing Josh when he's out surfing, and a 50mm prime lens for me!

Fuel: chai tea and giant mason jar of water

These are my fuel. (TMI: It also means that I make a lot of trips to the bathroom. My small bladder and a love for tea don’t make the greatest partners.) My go to is chai, Numi Organic Golden Chai in the morning, or the Jasmine Green tea for a refreshing taste, and the Rooibos if it’s after 4pm (that’s my caffeine cut off if I want to sleep.) I go for Steeped Tea's Hot Yoga after heading to the gym, and Steeped Tea’s Feminini-Tea for certain monthly times…hint hint. Actually it's so good I have it all month long. Sometimes I’ll change it up a little have hot water with just a squeeze of lemon with some honey and ginger. Sick or not, it’s so yummy! Using a litre mason jar helps my water intake so much though! And my beautiful bestie Heather got me these awesome tops that fit with the rings for the jar, so I can either sip my drink like a take out coffee, or stick a massive straw in these and suck that water back way faster than regular drinking. The size of the straw is also super nice for smoothie drinking. Plus, they can go in the dishwasher, which makes for a happy girl. I try to consumer lots of fluids, especially water throughout the day.

Schedule: desktop planner

I’ve been using the same Moleskine planner for the last ten years, although just the pocket size for when I was at university. I tried going over to a different planner this January, as I received a really nice one from my parents, but for the way my brain and business work together, I just couldn’t make the new one work. Thankfully, I had also received the Moleskine for Christmas, so now all my work is in order. I love how the week is laid out on the left page, and the right page is just lined, great for notes, quick sketching or planning, or lists. I’ve switched the planner from my parents over to more of a journaling planner, as it has larger sections for each day of the week, with lines, perfect for journaling (and tracking fitness…cause I joined a gym, and love it!)

Atmosphere: candles or essential oil diffuser

I like yummy smelling things, but I don’t like to be overwhelmed by them. I have a lot of Bath and Body Work candles, but I find that I can’t have them lit in our little house for too long anymore without giving me a headache. I’ve switched over to soy based, lighter smelling candles, and that has seemed to help a little more. I love all the scents of the Bella by Illume candles, but Island Moonlight especially. Currently, I'm burning the Pinapple & Bamboo one, and it's so delicate and lovely! I also got a humidifying essential oils diffuser for the office, to help keep my dry winter skin from not all falling off, but also to put essential oils into the air. I love the smell of them, but also the benefits. Four Thieves is a favourite, and is so good for combating any sickness. So far, even though everyone around us has caught it, Josh and I have managed to avoid getting the nasty flu that’s going around. I add eucalyptus if I’m feeling stuffy, or some other blends, depending on my mood, stress level, or any other needs I might be experiencing! 

Note: all comments and opinions are my own. These are not affiliate links, nor am I being paid or support but any of the linked companies, but are justspecific supplies that I just love to work with!


Are there any specific things that you need around you to get you through your work day? Share in the comments!