In fact, you probably already own your basic drawing supplies: a piece of white paper and a pencil. With a bit of luck, the pencil has an eraser tip.
This is quite sufficient to start learning how to draw. This probably the cheapest form of art you could practice! The supplies you need are easy to transport and you can just go out, have an adventure and come back with a full sketchbook.
But little by little you will want to expand your palette of drawing techniques and progress in your art. Then you will need some additional art supplies such as an easel, brushes, canvas…
Here is a range of must-have art materials for the discerning artist!
Basic Materials for Beginner Drawing Lessons
Drawing is a fairly affordable passion, especially as a beginner. You certainly won’t be spending your whole salary just for a pencil and an eraser.
However, you do need to recognize good materials from bad. If you stint on the quality, you will only end up spending more.
But what do you need to buy?
Your art teacher will probably give you a list; but until then, here is a little overview of some basic art supplies in addition to the cost of your art classes.
To become a good artist, a proper lead pencil is the first and most important item on the list.
Unless your drawing tutor has given you specific instructions, a pencil case with a pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener and a ruler are enough. For most drawing courses you find, the teacher provides the paper.
What’s the difference between the different types of pencils?
Whether it’s called a lead pencil or graphite pencil, it will be your best friend for many long years to come. It is mostly used for preliminary sketches, a few broad strokes you will then fill in with the actual medium - unless, of course, you are drawing in pencil.
Graphite pencils come in several strengths depending on how hard or soft they are. HB is the traditional lead pencil, a good compromise between soft (B) and hard (H) pencils - but there are many gradations on either side.
When taking beginner drawing lessons, you don’t need to buy all the gradations. In addition to a HB, you might want to buy a 2B. A little softer than HB, it lets you draw lighter lines - and make your shadows darker.
But how can you draw with a blunt pencil? You need to be able to draw precise lines to bring your vision to paper - so don’t forget to pack a pencil sharpener.
How To Sharpen Your Pencils
The most important question is not whether your pencil sharpener should have a casing for the shavings. The most important question is whether it makes a nice tip without breaking the lead.
As an alternative to a pencil sharpener, you can use a cutter or knife instead. This gives you more freedom in shaping the point, so your graphite lead is aways exactly the way you like it.
What type of eraser should you use?
You will also need an eraser to remove your errors. Learning to draw means making a lot of mistakes until you acquire a sure hand. You can leave some messy lines as they are, but it’s preferable to erase those that confuse the image.
There are two types of erasers.
One is the kind you have been using since Kindergarten. But there is also a “kneaded” or “kneadable” eraser that you can press into any shape you like. It also allows you to simply lighten lines and shading by carefully dabbing with it - great for highlights or certain effects such as drawing fur. If you press down more firmly, you can also erase lines completely.
It is as close to perfection as you can get in an eraser, as it unites two functions into one object.
Now all you need to do is put all your new supplies into a pencil case or an etui, together with a small ruler for straight lines and perspective grids, and you’re ready to start drawing.
Art Supplies for More Advanced Drawing Techniques
Whether to allay boredom during the summer or because you have been curious about a specific technique for a long time, intensive or summer courses such as those offered by the Royal Drawing School are an ideal way to improve your skills and spend several days immersed in drawing.
It is a great way to discover new drawing techniques or improve in your favourite art style. Whether you want to take drawing classes in water colours, sketching in Scarborough, living model in Manchester, still life in Liverpool... You have only to choose!
But what kind of art supplies do you need when practicing between two art classes?
The materials an artist use are important. It is in fact possible to recognize the works of an artist merely by looking at the drawing materials he used.
You don’t need a fully-stocked art studio to improve your craft. However, it might be useful to invest on some art supplies little by little to allow you to touch on various different drawing techniques.
Pencils for advanced drawing classes
Are you starting out with graphite?
There is a whole range of graphite pencils that will help you add subtlety to your pencil drawings by adding contrast, highlights and shadows.
From 9H (the hardest strength) to 9B (the softest), the range is great. But what do you need them all for?
By having the whole range of pencil strengths at your disposal, you can create highly nuanced drawings. But certain strengths are also associated with certain styles:
- H pencils are often used for technical drawings (architecture etc.)
- HB pencils for writing
- B pencils for realistic drawing
So the latter will be most useful to you for figurative drawing.
However, lines and shading will also come out differently depending on the type of paper you use.
Finding the right paper for your drawing style
Although a lot of drawing teachers will provide paper for their students, it’s useful to have a stock at home so you can practice any time.
It’s important to be able to draw whenever you like! Indeed, in order to learn to draw well, you have to be able to improve at your own rhythm.
What type of drawing paper you buy will depend on the technique you are using. Going out to buy paper means reflecting on what you will be drawing and how (landscapes, portraits, drawing animals, technical drawings…)
Different types of paper have different weights, colours and structure (grain).
A4 paper at 125g/m² is perfectly fine for beginner drawing sketches, but you will soon find it more pleasant to draw on thicker paper.
Sketchbooks are often the most practical. Their leaves are thick enough that you won’t punch through with too much paint, a hard pencil or too much erasing. An A5 format fits into most bags, but they also come in A3 if you want to make larger drawings.
If you want to keep up with drawing, you might want to consider getting an easel. It lets you have just the right stability and inclination to position your paper or canvas and let you bloom as a pencil artist or painter.
If you want to become an illustrator, a light table is a good investment! It makes it easier to copy your line drawings.
Obviously, there are a number of drawing techniques that require their own specialised supplies (chalk, charcoal, sanguine, watercolour, gouache, acrylic or oil paints, tempera…) Most artists have a favourite technique that they regularly feed with new art materials.
So choose one or two techniques that appeal to you particularly and invest in those first.
How To Store Your Artwork and Keep Your Art Supplies in Good Shape
Once a drawing or painting class is over, it’s important for you to be able to put away your art supplies and even more important to make sure they're protected. Some materials easily become damaged and it would be a pity to have to buy new paper every week. It’s important to take good care of your materials so they will last a long time.
Not to mention keeping your finished artwork in pristine condition.
Whether you are taking private lessons, going to an art school or taking weekly classes at an art studio, you should always use a pouch for your papers.
The size, of course, will vary depending on your needs: while sketches and illustrations often make do with A4-size paper, a comics board is usually closer to A3 in size, and reproducing a painting often requires an even larger format.
An art folder, ring binder or a plastic pouch are some of the options available to you.
The most important thing is to protect your papers and artwork from light and humidity.
Some types of paper degrade quickly in contact with light, and humidity warps even the thickest of papers.
The same goes for your drawing supplies. A pencil case or etui will protect your pencils.
And don’t hesitate to use a little box for your kneaded eraser - they quickly pick up dust and dirt, rendering them unusable. An old film case is just the right size, or a washed-out mint tin. The closed box will prevent graphite dust from your pencils from adhering to the eraser.
And don’t forget to clean the edge of your ruler so it won’t leave traces on your next drawing.
It’s usually a good idea to review your drawing supplies about twice a year so you can replace used or damaged materials.
Where Should You Buy Your Art Supplies for Your Next Drawing Lesson?
It is generally fairly easy to find art supplies - no need to go trudging through kilometres of rain and mud to get what you need.
You have several choices.
Department stores generally have basic drawing materials on offer. Their shelves are usually well stocked with tracing paper, Bristol paper, graphite pencils, erasers or pencil sharpeners.
However, there are certain art supplies you won’t find in a department store. Your local stationary shop will have a better choice; some have whole aisles devoted to drawing supplies, with different weights of paper, graphite pencils in varying strengths, etc.
But the best selection is obviously in specialised shops. They have the greatest variety in terms of brands and mediums. And you can always ask the shop assistants for advice when choosing new coloured pencils or Copic markers.
If you don’t have a specialised art supplies shop near you, there are a number of Internet sites that can help you out. However, it’s better to use them only when ordering replacements, since you can’t try out or finger the materials like you would in a live shop.
So it’s best to have some idea of what you want before ordering from an Internet shop, though some offer samples for £1 or less if you want to try out new materials you can’t get anywhere else.