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We like to use the right tool for the job. We’ve learned that the best ideas turn out even better when executed with the right materials and tools. This has led to a great deal of research and experimentation. As a result, we’ve created a Top Tools List of tools that have made the cut. These are the tools we have tested and love.

This is a living list (like our Reading List), and it is constantly updated as we improve our techniques.

Now, we’re happy to share it with you! What do you think? I know we have appreciated lists like as we have grown as artists and designers.

We also keep a list of our FAVORITE BOOKS: the ones we can’t live without and read repeatedly.

top tools list

Watercolor Paint/Pigment List

We most commonly use the following brands and have found them to be of excellent quality

  • Schmincke
  • Daniel Smith
  • M. Graham

Laura’s Current Standard Watercolor Palette (all Schmincke unless otherwise noted):

*NOTE: You can get most of these colors with the palette in this set

Top Watercolor Brushes List

Top Watercolor Papers List

  • Canson XL Watercolor Pad – a basic but very functional paper that I use frequently. As long as you don’t overwork it or expect a super-absorbant paper, this works very well (and it is very reasonably-priced)
  • Fabriano Artistico 300 lb – my preferred heavier paper. This is my choice for larger work and work where I will want more absorption.

Travel Watercolor Tools List

  • Watercolor Brush Pens – I prefer this particular brand (Kuretake) because the flow seems to be just right. I’ve tried several types and definitely prefer these. I also like this set since it has three sizes which make for a very versatile travel set.
  • Load-it-yourself Travel Watercolor Palette – This is my most-used palette. I use my own pans and refill them with tube paint (a subset of the list above).
  • Travel Watercolor Palette with Paint – This is a great travel palette that is very similar to the one above, except that it comes preloaded with high quality paint. The Schmincke colors are excellent and the feel is great.


Sketchbooks and Papers


  • Lamy Fountain Pen – I particularly like this pen because the flow is so clean. It has a variety of nibs to get different effects
  • Zebra Ballpoint F-301 – My favorite basic ballpoint pen. I’ve tried many, but I think this is the best. It has good sensitivity to touch, so you can get very fine/light lines or thicker/darker lines. This makes it really nice for sketching. I also rarely have an issue with it clogging or getting stuck.


3D Modeling

  • Cinema 4D – our preferred 3D software for hard-surface modeling and animating
  • ZBrush – the software we use for most of our organic and fine-detail 3d modeling

Digital Painting

  • Photoshop – Workhorse for organic and high detail illustration. This is also great for photo editing.
  • Illustrator – This is an excellent program for creating logos and branding assets, as well as illustrations that are intended to be reproduced at very large scale without loss of clarity

Video Editing

  • After Effects – the software we use to edit our animations and videos.


Digital Drawing Tools

  • iPad Pro – The tool we use to do the majority of our digital painting for both illustration and fine art.
    NOTE: You’ll also need an Apple Pencil to do a proper job. We also really like Procreate for iPad painting and use it in conjunction with Photoshop.

Computer Accessories, Monitors, and Tools List

  • Asus ProArt – My favorite secondary monitor that we use to attach to our primary computers for excellent illustration work.
  • Asus ProArt – A less expensive secondary monitor that still does a great job
  • Microphone – The microphone we use for our forthcoming online courses.


  • Dropbox – Our favorite place for cloud file storage and sharing with clients.
  • Zoom – our preferred video conference for one-on-one meetings


  • – the platform we use for our website
  • DreamHost – This has been an awesome and reliable host for our site
  • Grammarly – The tool we use to check our copy.
  • MailChimp– The tool we use to automate emails, launch email campaigns and manage subscribers

Since some of the materials/items listed above are associated with affiliate links, we may earn a commission If you end up deciding to purchase any of the products. We only recommend products that we fully support.

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