Vegan-friendly & Economical Drawing surfaces: Part 1 non-paper methods

I would like to share some information for anyone who draws and paints on a regular basis. As a student learning to draw and paint, I am using about 5-6 A4 sheets per day in various tasks such as: warm up exercises (line, circles practise), sketching (fast under 15 minutes), drawing (ranging from 30 minutes to over 3 hours), watercolour painting (fast impressionist sketches to more detailed paintings), acrylic painting and oil painting. I also use pastels and large chunks of charcoal.

In Part 1 here, I will focus on reusable resources and methods which I am currently using to practise drawing and sketching. These typically involve an erasable ink some surface as well digital devices such as an IPad. My focus is also on using vegan-friendly materials where possible.

Resource 1: Whiteboard with whiteboard markers

Whiteboard with vegan-friendly whiteboard markers produced by Faber Castell. The ink can be refilled using Faber Castell refill ink bottles which can be purchased on Amazon or in some stationary shops. In the future, I will experiment filling the whiteboard marker pens with Faber Castell Fountain Pen Ink (vegan-friendly).  I also purchased some Rocketbook beacons ( these are silicon orange triangles, and I use the Rocketbook app to capture the image. See Figure 1 (whiteboard with Rocketbook beacons) and here is the pdf link of the image captured and processed by the Rocketbook app: RB 2020-02-17 09.02.35

Figure 1: Photo of the whiteboard equipped with the Rocketbook beacons (orange triangles made up of silicon).

I also painted my own orange triangles with some orange acrylic paint mixed (Royal Talens, listed as vegan) with matt acrylic medium from Liquitex (vegan-friendly) on Fabriano Tela oil paper (vegan-friendly, discussed below). The DIY triangles work as well as the Rocketbook beacons. I have 2 whiteboards one is about 90 x 60 cm with a stand and I have fixed the official rocketbook beacons, the other is an A3 whiteboard with diy orange triangles.  I like the whiteboards as they allow me to practise drawing long lines and countless circles without worrying about using too many resources. It is also useful for thumbnail sketching and taking notes during the drawing/painting process as well as for R&D on art materials.

Price:  The cost for using using this method depends on your skills to spot a bargain. Sometimes you can get the whiteboards for free in various local listings. Faber Castell white board marker pens (vegan-friendly) come in a set or can be purchased individually on Amazon or local stationary shops. DIY Rocketbook Beacons can be constructed easily at home. The Rocketbook app (android/ios) is free to use.

Uses: 1. Practising lines, circles, boxes; 2. Perspective drawing exercises, 3. Thumbnail sketching; 4. Pen and Ink style drawings with non-permanent markers by Faber Castell.

Resource 2: Ipad Pro 12.9″ with an Apple Pencil

The IPad Pro is certainly the most expensive resource for practising to draw and paint, but it is also a brilliant digital drawing tool. If you can draw on the slippery surface of the ipad, drawing on paper feels a lot easier. I tried Paperlike coating for about 4 months but I didn’t like it much. I like drawing on the glass surface.

Obviously this is the most expensive resource. I purchased mine second hand for a very reasonable price listed on local listing (considerably cheaper than Ebay).  It is a second generation IPad Pro 12.9 inch (2017), and it included a brand new unopened apple pencil. Private listings (local shop windows, and dedicated local listings online) can be generally considerably cheaper than Ebay. I did purchase Ipad 2018 model with an apple pencil, but I ended up selling it and switched to my Ipad Pro 2017. I found the screen on the Ipad 2018 too small and the Ipad pro is like a laptop (with a smart cover) which I also use for typing up my notes, language learning and working on fiction projects (Scrivener plus Word). I use procreate, Artrage and Autodesk Sketchbook apps to draw and sketch. My favourite app is definitely Procreate, and I have enrolled on some Udemy courses which go deeper into the settings. I try to use the simplest paint brushes in the software (pen or pencil tools) for sketching, which then allows me to transition to paper more easily.

I like the Apple Smart Cover for typing on but its not really ergonomic to draw on (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Ipad Pro 12.9 inch (2017) connected to an Apple Smart Cover.

I considered various stands for the ipad and I opted for a laptop cooler. The stand is made of sturdy metal and its compact (see Figure 3). I like this so much that I purchased another one to prop my drawing and painting boards. I can adjust the steepness of the stand by selecting different angles (20° to 45°). The stand does not take much space and it comes with a storage case which has ample room for the Apple Pencil.

Figure 3: Ipad Pro 12.9″ (2017) on a laptop cooler stand.


Resource 3: Thick paper enclosed in a document wallet

In a clear A4 document wallet I placed an A4 sheet (160 gsm printer paper) and a thin plywood board. I use different tonal papers for practising to draw and paint. I also coloured the A4 sheet with 4 orange triangle using a marker pen, and these act as beacons for the rocketbook app. I use my fountain pen filled with some Graf von Faber (Faber Castell archival ink, vegan-friendly) to draw and sketch on the document wallet. The ink dries within 5 seconds and it does not smudge. I also tried Faber Castell Black ink for fountain pens (cost 6 euros for a bottle) but it was too runny and there were lots of ink blobs.  The sketch dries rapidly and with the Graf van Faber Carbon Black ink the lines don’t smudge, shown in Figure 4. I also made some small orange triangles and capture the image using Rocketapp. This is a great method for practising pen and ink style drawings and for tonal thumbnail sketches. I use a wet tissue paper to remove the ink sketch and reuse the document wallet over and over again.

Figure 4: Pen and Ink test on A4 document wallet with Graf von Faber Carbon Black ink (vegan-friendly). The drawing board can be reused after erasing the sketch and ink marks using a piece of tissue or rag wetted with water.

I am also able to use Non-permanent Fine tip marker pens (Faber Castell brand are certainly vegan-friendly and refillable) instead of the fountain pens. This certainly gives me clearer and well-defined lines, as shown in Figure 5. The ink dries within a few seconds and they don’t smudge. The board is again reusable after cleaning with a piece of damp kitchen towel. I am also able to capture the image using the Rocketbook app but the app ignores the cream background. The image nevertheless is clear (here is the link to the pdf image): plastic_coated board

Figure 5: Pen and ink drawing test on a document wallet with Non-permanent Fine Tip marker from Faber Castell.

Variations: I also use grey or cream coloured thick printer paper or card instead of using white paper. Make sure to use the normal camera app instead of the rocketbook app for capturing the image.


In Part 2 (next blog post), I will present a list of paper surface which are vegan friendly and I will discuss their economical and sustainability aspects.