Regardless what kind of art you make or which medium is your favorite, there are a few must have art supplies for artists that everyone needs.
These mainly include drawing and sketching supplies, since most great projects start from a rough draft.
You probably still remember most of these from your childhood. But keep in mind that quality can vary a lot when it comes to Pencils and paper, eventhough they often look the same on the outside.
Here is a list of art materials and their uses that you will probably need when you are just starting your artistic journey.
1. Graphite Pencils
The first item on our list of essentials is of course the good old Graphite pencil. You probably have a few of them laying around your house.
The most important thing to keep in mind when buying a good set of drawing pencils is that you will need pencils of different grades of softness.
Graphite is a form of carbon and a naturally soft material. But by mixing in some additives like clay it is possible to make hard graphite pencils as well.
The softness is normally indicated by a letter and number, as shown by the scale below:
(Soft) 8B, 7B, 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 4H, 6H, 8H (Hard)
B = Blackness, H = Hardness, HB = Std. #2, F = Fine Point (Std. #3-4)
Having a variety of different pencils will let you quickly switch between soft and fine lines for sketching and darker lines and shades for the final line art.
If you know what you are doing you can choose to only buy individual drawing pencils of the hardness you like working with most. But once you start to take things more serious or sign up for an online drawing class, you will need a more complete set that contains several different pencils in a wide range of hardness.
If you are going to do some sketching you inevitably need a sketchbook.
The most important thing about a sketchbook is to actually use it!
To become a better artist, try to make at least one new sketch every week. Even better if you can do it every day.
I have a few friends that bought a sketchbook with the intention of practicing art on a daily basis. Only to realize it is harder than they think or to find out they don’t have enough time.
The best sketchbook is the one that is being used daily
And if you finally managed to fill every page of your sketchbook with a drawing, do not through it away! I can’t stress this enough. It is always a fun and rewarding experience to go through old sketchbooks from beginning to end and see how much you have improved over time.
For sketching a spiral bound pad is easiest to use. They come in several sizes, are easy to bring with you and you don’t need separate storage for your finished drawings. And since it’s just a sketchpad, you don’t need to go for the highest quality paper so you can keep the cost down.
With some of the cheaper models, you do run the risk of creating dog-ears or smudge your sketches if you are not very careful.
Some art teachers will tell you that one of the greatest methods to learn how to draw is to use no eraser at all. Supposedly this would make you draw more careful and accurate.
But for most of us, having an eraser is a nice little tool to have that makes your life much easier. Not only are they used for correcting mistakes, they can serve as great tools for marking as well.
There are four major types of erasers.
- Rubber Eraser: this is your standard eraser used for art that you probably have laying around in your house. They remove the graphite from the paper surface through sheer friction.
- Gum Eraser: this eraser works similar to the rubber eraser in that it used friction to erase graphite. But since this type of eraser crumbles apart very easily you can use it on more delicate paper that would otherwise be easily torn.
- Vinyl & Plastic Erasers: these types of erasers are known for being very hard and are good at their job of erasing things. But on the flipside, they easily tear the paper if you aren’t careful.
- Kneaded Eraser: rather than rubbing the graphite off the surface of the paper, a kneaded eraser is a little sticky and lifts the material from the surface. You can knead it into different sizes and shapes depending on what you need.
4. Pencil Sharpener
Regardless if you are using a pencil with very hard graphite or one that has soft graphite, you will inevitably break the point sometime. So make sure to bring a sharpener for when disaster strikes.
There are definitely advantages to using an electric pencil sharpener such as saving time and providing very sharp points.
But if you are going to do sketching outside or if you plan to travel with your sketching supplies, it is best to bring a small and lightweight manual pencil sharpener.
5. Drawing Material Storage
It is important that you take good care of both your sketches and art tools if you want them to last. Especially pencils can break on the inside without you even knowing it.
If you are traveling with your supplies a lot, some kind of portable container is best for you. Nowadays, these containers come in a variety of different sizes and shapes so there is always something that will fit your needs.
For people that prefer to work on paper pads where you rip off the page once you are done, consider investing a little bit in an art portfolio.
If you are just working at home or in a studio, a drawer or special artist craft station with a storage unit might be a better way to keep your materials safe from harm.
Optional Materials For Sketching
A sketchbook and some graphite pencils are probably the first things take come to mind when you think of sketching.
But besides the good old graphite pencils, you might want to bring some other of the following tools as well to bring some flair and color to your work.
No matter how good you are, there are just a few techniques and shades of grey that are tricky to pull off with only pencils.
So to spice up your black and white sketches, you might want to use charcoal as well.
Charcoal normally comes either as sticks or as pencils. The sticks of charcoal can be categorized as “vine”, which means it is soft and leaves light marks, or as “compressed”, which is harder and results in darker marks.
The charcoal pencil works very similarly to a graphite pencil. And they can be sharpened to a fine tip for detailed work as well.
Technically speaking, the charcoal that is used to produce the sticks and the pencils are a little different from each other. So you might notice small changes in their performance as well. But for the untrained eye, it might be difficult to notice.
Nothing bring a drawing to life more than a little bit of color, so why not use some Colored Pencils as well?
You can buy colored pencils from a large variety of different brands. Don’t get confused trying to find the best quality for the price. If you aren’t sure what to get, read our colored pencils review.
If you really want to take it to the next level, you can bring some watercolor pencils. They function as colored pencils while sketching. But once you get home, you can quickly turn your sketch into a watercolor painting by applying some water. Or you can bring a few filled water brush pens with you when you are sketching so you can do it right on the spot.
Just make sure to use special paper for watercolor pencils if you are planning to use water.
Art markers are another tool that you can easily carry and store that you might want to incorporate into your standard sketching supplies.
Just like colored pencils, art markers come in many different colors and if you buy from a good brand they can produce vivid colors that rival oil paint or acrylics.
Some markers have additional benefits such as the option of changing their nibs to best suit your project.
For the best art markers on the market, you might want to take a look at Copic markers. Read our previous article to find out the best Copic markers to start with.
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