New to drawing and what to know what supplies to purchase? Want to test out of the waters of this rewarding and frustrating hobby? I’m here to tell you what to get and what to run your eyeballs over for inspiration and knowledge.
Where and What to Buy
Okay, so let me start off by saying that the items below are recommendations. You do not need to spend money at all on drawing supplies, especially if you just want to test it out to see if this is something worth pursuing. (And if you are like me and you tend to dump money into hobbies you will never fully pursue. Anyway. This is not about me.) All you really need is a notebook and a pencil. But if you are interested in acquiring a few items – because shopping for art supplies is LIFE – then here is what I recommend: (Disclaimer: these are not affiliate links below. I do not get paid to link to any of these places. They’re just some of my favs.)
Amazon. I have a somewhat love/hate relationship with this company as of late, but if you want supplies in a hurry, this will work. Although I definitely encourage you to support actual art supply stores.
Jerry’s Artarama – One of my favorite places on earth! They have amazing promotions and coupons as well.
Dick Blick – Another personal favorite of mine. I can browse online here for hours.
Utrecht – I shopped here once and it was good. Pretty much the same kind of deal you would get at a Jerry’s or Blick, but with a hearty German sounding name.
Also, if you want to see and feel the items, brick and mortar stores are a good option. There are Jerry’s Artarama, Dick Blick, and Utrecht stores scattered across the land. Also Target carries decent supplies. And there is always good old Michael’s (the black hole of crafting).
Pencils. I recommend a good basic set of charcoal pencils like this one (get the set of 6 if you don’t want a lot of pencils). Faber-Castell is my all time favorite brand of pencils. But any set will do until you decide you want to upgrade. If you’re wondering what the “H” and the “B” stand for, it’s the softness level of the lead. So “H” is for hard (obvi) and it will make very light lines. These are good for first outlines as they are light and erase easily. The “B” are the softer pencils. They are good for darker lines and for shading. They are also somewhat more challenging to get off your paper. Which brings me to…
Paper. I’m a paper hoarder. I loves me some paper. So I am here to tell you that the best thing you can do is experiment and find out what you like best. Personally, I prefer a spiral bound sketchbook so it lays flat. Size is personal preference. I have a variety of sizes, ranging from smaller sketchbooks that I can shove into my purse and larger ones for landscapes, etc. And you just want a sketchbook for now. Eventually if you work your way into mixed media or watercolor, you will change your paper type (more posts on that later).
Erasers. I recommend two. You need a gum eraser (like this one) and a kneaded eraser (like this one). The gum eraser is amazing for removing marks thoroughly without damaging your paper. The kneaded eraser is amazing for removing charcoal, pastel, and pencil without leaving those little shavings all over the place.
Pens. The two brands I swear by are Micron pens and Pitt Pens. They are both permanent so if you have commitment issues, stick with pencils. They are waterproof as well. I use these to trace over my pencil marks and use one of the erasers (normally the gum eraser) to erase the pencils markings, leaving just the pen behind.
Pencil Sharpener. Cause life wears you down. I do not have an electric sharper, but I have several of the others. I would get one that fits a standard 8mm pencil as well as a larger hole for larger pencils, kinda like this one. Oddly, I’ve met some artists who are SUPER snobby and picky about their sharpeners. And I somewhat understand that, but I mean…it’s a sharpener. Test drive a few and go from there.
Those are the basic supplies I carry with me at all times. Now, if you want to move into more colorful territory, then I have some suggestions for you.
For the Heck of It
Colored Pencils. Any set here will be worth your money. I love Prismacolor and have several of their products.
Markers. This is one of those things that – again – is preference. You can go SUPER expensive and super cheap. I will share a few of the markers I have and you an make your own decision based on need and price. Now, my all time favorite markers are Copic Markers. They are expensive and pretty and wonderful, magical unicorns of color. They also bleed through really thin paper, so keep that in mind. And they are expensive.You can buy individual colors or sets. I recommend getting some individual colors first to see if you want to invest in a set. I also have TomBow, Derwent, and Faber-Castell.
Fun Pens. Thanks to the explosion of art journaling, pens are now available in any color and style you can imagine. I have more than I probably should. But these are my go-to sets: Stabilo, Jelly Roll Pens (let these dry completely), and the Soufflé Gel Pens (again, these should dry completely before you slam your notebook shut).
I prefer books, as I like to have a physical thing on my desk for reference and inspiration:
You Can Draw in 30 Days – Mark won me over when he said the drawing is a skill you can learn, not a talent that we either have or we don’t. Now, some of us like it more than others, but you CAN LEARN THIS.
Keys to Drawing – I love the name Bert and I loved this book. Another good one for study. This one does take some time commitment, so be prepared.
How to Drawn Almost Everything – I use this book frequently and I love the youthful drawings inside.
Ed Emberley – Ed Emberley is one of my favorite’s. I have all of his books and I love how you build upon basic shapes. His drawings can be on the simpler side, but it provides a good foundation.
20 Ways to Draw – The whole series of these books are amazing and I have them on my self for reference. These books are good if you want to see multiple ways to draw something.
These books are good when you feel like a loser and need a pep talk:
Steal Like an Artist – Look, we all start out by mimicking other artists. It’s how we learn new skills and techniques. You build upon what you like and discard what you don’t. So cut yourself some slack.
The Artist’s Way – Literally the most influential book I’ve read. It can be applied towards any creative pursuit. Julia Cameron is amazing at cutting through the crap we heap on ourselves and encouraging creatives to just DO IT ALREADY.
What to Ignore
This is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, then I would re-evaluate what’s going on. Are you listening too much to “experts”? Are you trying to draw things realistically? Are you overwhelmed with options? I’ve been there. I was told that since I did not go to art school, I would never amount to anything artistically. I was told that if it doesn’t look like a John Singer Sargent painting, then it’s too lowbrow for consideration. And I was, at one point, so overwhelmed and discouraged I quite for a few years. It happens to all of us. Expect the lows as well as the highs. Also realize that it takes time to define your style and what you like to do. Be patient with yourself.
But just draw. It really is as simple as that. If you get overwhelmed with materials and books and videos, your head will implode and you’ll quite before you start. So take one step at a time.