Art For Non-Artists: Tools: Pen or Tablet?

What tools does the non-artist really need to get started?  When you look at art books you find the first chapter is usually about the materials that can be used to make the artwork in the book. It always seems so overwhelming to me. Do I really need all these things? This post is about the minimum amount of tools you need to get started as a non-artist.

First we’ll talk about creating the original image in pen and pencil. Below is photograph of one of my sketchbooks. The Zen Doodle I was working on is called Winkbee. It’s a simple five sided shape that looks something like a puzzle piece. I say simple, but I find it one of the trickier beginning shapes. First you make the five sided loopy figure and then you make an outer copy of the shape as close to the first one as you can. Then you make a center that mimics the larger shape. It should have five loops as well, but sometimes  the center is so small that you can only make three or four. I didn’t like the first one – as you can see I crossed it out, but later I found there’s really no wrong way to do this shape.

The materials used to create the image below are: Micro pen .001 and sketchbook paper, a cell phone camera and photoshop to clean the photo up (using the adjustments panel).




Next I cropped the page  and sized it to get the image below (left). Then, I used the gradient tool in the adjustments panel. The gradient tool has a library of gradients. The artistic wizards at Photoshop have done all the work of creating photographic gradients and color harmonies. There are many ways to use the gradients, but all I know is how to pick one and use it as is. I simply went through them until I found one I liked. After that, I created a jpg out of the image.

So, you see this requires a little knowledge about Photoshop, but the tools are minimal and now I have an original image that I can use for my posts.



If you want to go completely digital, then I recommend you get a tablet to use with photoshop and other paint programs.

To create the picture below, I used Wacom’s Bamboo Tablet and Artrage. software. You could do this in Photoshop, but I’m more comfortable with Artrage.



I find I don’t have as much control using a tablet, but once the shapes are created I have more control over them. Many real artists (like my daughters) use pencil and paper to sketch their artwork first, then scan their images into Photoshop and ink over their work using a tablet.

Now that I have my images, I decided to add color to them using Artrage:

The image on the left was colored using only the fill tool (paint bucket). The one on the right was colored using the spray paint tool and the fill tool (paint bucket).

As you can see, since I didn’t “ink” over the image on the left, the color fill is more random than the tablet drawing on the right.

Now I have two pictures to use for my posts. I used the one on the right to feature this post.

I used the picture on the left as a background for a post on the word “quotidian”. You can click on the picture below to find about that.


So, you can see you don’t need many tools to create pictures. You do need to know some minimal things about cropping images and resizing. You don’t need to know everything about Photoshop or Artage tools – just a few. However, there are many tutorials out there to help you learn these things, so as you get comfortable with the programs you’ll find the tools that you like most.

The big plus is that I now have some original artwork that is my own. I have creative control over it and hopefully it will help draw people to my posts. The hard part was learning to draw a five loop shape – and finding a little courage to try.

But, everyone has permission to doodle – even non-artists. 🙂

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