10 MUST HAVE Drawing Materials and Tools To Get You Started Drawing
I have listed 10 must have drawing materials and tools you should have to create amazing drawings. Most of us start drawing in elementary school. Come to think of it, even before that! Think about it, Whenever I gave my own children as toddlers a crayon and a piece of paper they started making marks. They obviously weren’t thinking about what they were drawing or wanted to draw, they just started making marks and lines. And after they were finished they were more than proud to display their work and show everyone what they had drawn.
As we went through school and got older our use of tools and materials such as crayons changed and grew to pencils, pens, colored pencils, various erasers, etc. The quality of each of the previous mentioned tools varies according to need and function from beginner less expensive drawing materials to professional grade tools and materials.
There’s More To Drawing Than Just A #2 Pencil
Many times when people start drawing we pick up a No.2 pencil and some computer printer paper and get to drawing. There’s not a lot of thought about quality. But as we develop our drawing skills and learn about the tools and materials “out there” we see there is quite a difference in quality.
In this post, I am going to show you 10 of my favorite drawing tools and materials I and my students use on almost a daily basis to draw and create with.
1) Drawing Pencils
While many people start with just a No. 2 (Also known as an HB Drawing Pencil) pencil, you will really want to take a look at getting yourself some quality artist drawing pencils.
Drawing Pencil Sets
My students often use these because they are pretty reasonably priced but produce good quality drawings.
Drawing pencil sets are nice because when you purchase a set you get a good range of H and B pencils. The H stands for harder graphite (Lighter lines and shading) while the B stands for softer graphite (Darker lines and shading). Using a set of drawing pencils with a range of 6B to 4H gives you plenty of choices and options when you are drawing. Here is the name for each type of pencil. 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, and 4H are the graphite types in the set I use. It’s also nice when they come in a box that can stand up, easel style so you can see each type of pencil and they are easy to grab and draw. My younger students also use the General Brand drawing pencils and sets. These are a little lower quality, but if you are only worried about practice drawing at this point, these pencils are a good start
Individual Drawing Pencils
Lots of times artists find the graphite type of pencils they like and use most often and stick with those pencils. For example, I find that I use the 4H, 2H, HB, 4B and 6B pencils. These pencils give me plenty of range for shading and drawing. Of course the drawing pencils I use for each drawing differs depending on the drawing. But if I had only these pencils in my tool box, I would be very successful.
We all make mistakes right? Having a quality eraser is almost as important as the pencils. Have you ever used an eraser only to find that the eraser left red marks on the paper on top of your mistake. I just hate that!! When it comes to erasers I hardly ever use No2 pencil top erasers. When I’m sketching out an idea or making notes a No2 pencil and eraser work fine. But when I’m doing a quality drawing I want to use quality tools.
Types of Erasers
Rubber Erasers – These are your basic pencil erasers. These are the kind usually found at the top of your pencil. Rubbing these erasers over the graphite will usually erase the marks. I highly suggest you always TEST the eraser on a different piece of paper before you use it on a drawing you are working on to make sure you will get the results you are looking for and it also will not leave color behind on the paper.
Gum Erasers – These erasers are a softer type of an eraser and have a tendency to “crumble” but are really useful on papers that are likely to tear with friction. To use this eraser you rub it on the drawing surface to remove the media you would like. As you use friction to do so, the eraser tends to crumble but at the same time preserving the surface and will usually not cause tearing.
Kneaded Erasers – Kneaded erasers are very soft and moldable. This type of eraser lifts the medium from the drawing surface. These are great for erasing charcoal from paper or making a lighter shade when you are drawing with pencil. When the eraser gets dirty you pull it and “knead it” to clean it.
Plastic or Vinyl Erasers – This is my favorite type of erasers in the bunch. They are tough, erase cleanly and last a long time. These erasers can erase almost anything! But they can tear the paper you are using if you are not careful. So make sure you tailor the friction you use according to the drawing surface you are using.
Sketchbooks are an amazing tool and I highly suggest that you get your self one or 10. Sketchbooks do not only need to be used for drawing. It’s a great place to keep notes, resource photos, thumbnail sketches (Plans for finished pieces) and whatever else you want to keep in one place for quick use. I often have multiple sketchbooks going in all different sizes. I have a Daler Rowney 5.5 X 8.5 sketchbook in my backpack, at work, at home, in my purse, etc. I carry it where ever I go.
I do have one smaller sized sketchbook just to practice drawing each day. Sometimes it takes more than one day to finish a sketch simply because life gets in the way, but it keeps me drawing and practicing which is important.
What? You mean you have to practice drawing? But it’s Art! If I have a dime for every time I have told students that they need to practice and they gave me a shocked look and a loud WHHHAAAT?
Compare drawing to anything you want to get good at. You may have some natural talent, but to get really good you need to learn the basics and practice, practice, practice. I always ask, “What if you wanted to learn to play the guitar and didn’t know how. Would you know what to do in the first or even second lesson? Would you be able to get on stage and perform for an audience after your 5th or even 10th lesson?” So why do people think they can pick up a pencil and create drawings of art show and museum quality. It all comes down to a lot of practice!
4) Drawing Surfaces
When we look at various drawing papers the options are almost endless. It’s important to think about what you what your final drawing to look like when it’s finished. There are 3 things you will want to keep in mind when choosing a paper for your project.
Strathmore Drawing Paper Pad Strathmore Mixed Media Paper
I prefer to use a medium to
heavy weight drawing paper.
Play with the weight of papers
to find what you like.
1) The Tooth – The texture of a paper’s surface is called the tooth. The tooth of the paper determines how it accepts the drawing medium onto the surface. Heavier tooth or texture will give the drawing a “rough or broken” appearance. While a smooth drawing surface gives the smooth appearance and the shaded gradients (value changes) are also smooth. The tooth of the paper you choose depends on the type of drawing and the look you are going for as well as the medium you are using. Drawing with pastel or charcoal is usually done on a heavier tooth paper because of the softness of the drawing medium. The artist will determine if a smooth or rough paper will work best for their finished piece.
2) Paper Weight – A papers weight refers to how much a rim ( 500 sheets) weights. For most papers, the weight is directly related to the thickness of the paper. So for example usually 100 lbs paper will be thicker than 60 lbs paper. Once again, the weight of your paper is dependent on the look and feel of your final drawing and the drawing medium you are using. It’s also based on artist preference. For me, I love a smooth tooth heavier 80 lbs drawing papers. Play around and experiment with different kinds of paper to see what you like and what works best for your style of drawing.
Here are a few papers I really like to work with:
3) Acid-Free – Over time and due to the elements paper tends to break down. You always want to make sure that you use an acid-free paper when you do your artwork. Acid-free papers will not yellow and are more fade resistant in sunlight.
5) A Good Pencil Sharpener –
Pencils need to be sharpened and if you do not use a quality sharpener you will end up really “chewing up” your pencils. You will waste a lot of pencils with a bad sharpener so go for quality in this area. Sharpeners are either manual or electric.
Electric sharpeners get pencils to a point very easily and very quickly. With my students and at home I use an Exacto School Pro Sharpener. It’s very tough and stays sharp for a long time.
Because colored pencils have a softer “lead” than regular graphite pencils and contain a lot of wax in them that will build up over time and ruin your sharpener you shouldn’t use them in an electric sharpener. Also, never stick short pencils into the sharpener. It’s very difficult to get short pencils stuck in the sharpener out. When pencils get too short for the electric sharpener, it’s time to pull out the manual sharpener.
While electric sharpeners are quick and easy to use, manual pencil sharpeners are hand held and are convenient to take where ever you go. There are many different kinds of manual sharpeners. Because I do a lot of drawing on the go when I am riding in the car and I’m not always near a garbage can, I like to have a manual sharpener with a bottom to collect the shavings from the pencil.
6) Spray Fixatives –
A workable fixative is used on drawings to lessen the chance of the medium moving or smearing while and after you work. Using a workable fixative means that after the surface is sprayed, you are able to go into the drawing and “work” on it more. It also helps to give the paper back it’s tooth when using mediums like pastel. Always use a quality workable fixative because some fixatives tend to yellow over time. Also be careful because sometimes fixatives can change the color of drawing mediums such as pastel.
The fixative I use and have my students use is the Krylon Workable Fixatif. It brings good tooth back to the paper and changes the color of the drawing medium very little. You can respire pieces over and over again while you work and it doesn’t coat the paper.
Make sure you use this spray in a very well ventilated area as it does have quite a strong oder when sprayed. I try to spray my pieces outside whenever possible as the smell tends to linger for a while.
7) Blending Stumps and Tortillons –
Blending stumps and Tortillions are used by artists to blend and move mediums on the drawing surface. Now you may wonder why you wouldn’t just use your finger. Sometimes I do use my finger if I am just doing a quick sketch or just practicing to blend and shade values. But because your fingers will have natural oils from your skin I wouldn’t recommend using your fingers on a final piece you might be drawing. Tortillions and blending stumps are also very useful in very “tight” areas you need to blend and you are able to get smooth gradations in detailed drawings.
8) Art Supply Storage –
Taking care of your art supplies and keeping all of your drawing tools in one spot helps with organization as well as productivity. Art supplies are expensive and if you take really good care of them, they will last you a long time. I have my Prisma Colored Pencils in the same storage bag from High School 25 years ago. (Yes, I gave away my age) I’ve had to replace some of the colors I use often, but they are still in really good shape.
Materials On The Move
I started using a tackle/tool box for my art supplies in high school. I felt like such a hot shot carrying my supplies around school. But it was a great way to keep all my art supplies available to me on the go. As time has progressed my tool boxes have gotten larger and I have more of them for various mediums I have worked with. I have 1 for all of my metals supplies, another for polymer clay supplies, one for watercolor and other painting supplies and of course one for all of my drawing supplies.
Permanent storage can be done in multiple ways. It is a must have in your work space to organize your supplies. I have multiple cabinets and bins for various supplies in my studio. Using this type of storage helps me to be able to organize all of my supplies and know where to find what I need. Having permanent storage also keeps my studio clean and uncluttered.
Other Storage and Organization Options
There are other ways to organize and store supplies for easy use and accessibility. Here are a few that I use in my own studio at home.
9) Art Work Storage –
There are a multitude of different kinds of portfolios to transport or store your 2-dimensionall
artwork. Your artwork is important to you and needs to be protected.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a portfolio:
- The size of the artwork you have to transport or store
- The rigidity needed to keep your work from bending
- The type of surface your work is done on. Paper, canvas, canvas board, etc.
- The length of time you will be storing your work
These types of portfolios are cheaper in price and are nice for short term transportation and storage of artwork. The draw back to using a paper type portfolio is that they do tend to tear and lose handles over time and a lot of use.
Canvas portfolios are durable and long lasting. They cost a little more than the paper portfolios but I really like them because they are sturdy, rigid and can be used for temporary storage and transportation as well as long term.
Leather Portfolios are very rigid and offer a lot of bend proof protection of 2 dimensional artwork. They are also very good for long time storage of finished art pieces. This type of portfolio is great for large artwork.
10) Other Drawing Materials and Mediums
There are many different kinds of drawing pens just like pretty much all the other art supplies out there. When it comes to drawing pens, just like drawing pencils, they are available in sets and come in various widths depending on your need. My favorite brand for drawing pens is the Micron brand. There is a large width variety , have permanent archival quality ink and also are a in colors. My students often like to use the very fine tip Sharpe Brand markers to do drawings with. Sharpe ink is permanent but not archival so it will fade to a brownish color in UV light over time.
Because felt pens and other drawing pens are less forgiving if you make a mistake there needs to be more thought before marks made. When a mistake is made is causes the artist to go into problem solving mode. The mistake is simply a little change in direction and figuring out a solution.
Colored pencils can be used to make spectacular drawing but if you do not know the correct way to use them with a multitude of techniques I would tell you to take a colored pencil drawing course first. Colored pencils come in different qualities from Crayola to more professional grade colored pencils like Prismacolor colored pencils. Many times beginning drawing students do little color layering and mixing and their drawings are less that what they hoped. Play with color blending and layering or take a course and learn the correct way to use colored pencil for high quality drawing. (Coming soon here at The Visual Art Academy)
Charcoal or Conté
Charcoal and Conté are softer mediums to use for drawing and can give you some very dramatic affects in your drawings. With Charcoal and Conté the range of value you are able to attain is quite broad.
Charcoal comes in various types and can also be found as charcoal pencils. Charcoal also comes in white and not just black. Choose colored paper to draw on and you can really create some dynamic values.
Conté also called Conté Crayon is composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay base. It’s a little harder and more dense than charcoal. Conté crayons are most commonly found in black, white, and sanguine tones, as well as bistre, shades of gray, and other colors.
So there you have it, the 10 must have drawing materials that will help you be successful drawing no matter what the subject matter. These are the materials and tools for drawing that I use and recommend. If you really want to start drawing all you need is basically something to make a mark with and a surface to make it on. Do not let the lack of different supplies keep you from beginning to learn or practice drawing.
You will find as you get more serious and interested in you get in your work, the more you will want to purchase quality materials and tools for drawing.
I have no doubt that you will find the materials and tools that we have discussed as the 10 “must have” drawing materials and tools.