My preferred tool to use for illustration is the humble graphite pencil. I love tonal differentiation; the subtlety that can be executed with pencil from the finest hairs to heaviest scrawl. People often ask what pencil I use, or what my favourite pencil is. I tend to start sketching with an F which I’ve found to work well for me, it’s just a little bit harder than an HB but still very flexible with the gradients you can achieve. But to produce a drawing I’ll almost always use the whole range, from 8B to 6H.
Typically I work from photos. I’ll think of a composition, then I’ll scour the internet and reference books for images and collage bits together on Photoshop to make a rough sketch of what I have in my head.
I like to use very smooth hot pressed paper, Fabriano 4 Liscio, so I can achieve as much detail as possible, and I like the feeling of the pencil gliding on the paper. I sketch out the composition outlines, making any changes that seem like a good idea, then working top left to bottom right, I’ll fill in the detail, always resting my hand on a clean piece of scrap paper as not to get any grease or dirt on the paper or to smudge the work I’ve already done. A good tip is also to use white tack as a rubber, it lifts the graphite off without damaging the paper.