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The Ultimate Guide To drawing and sketching supplies

If you are anything like me you are drawn to art stores like a fly to honey. I can stand in the isle of an artist supply store and never tire of the selection spread out in front of me. Of course, I have gone overboard from time to time and have ended up with stuff that after having used it once or twice, have decided it wasn’t for me.

pencil drawing of woman
pencil drawing of  woman

When it comes to drawing and sketching supplies the choices may seem endless and repetitive to some. But it is wonderful to have so many options, and understanding the whys and wherefores can be important when figuring out which tool to use for whatever effect you are trying to get.

Of course the best way is to buy them all and experiment, however that can be a bit costly, and if you need a specific result it can be a bit overwhelming. But hopefully, after reading this post, you will have a better understanding of the mighty pencil and have a good idea about what you need.

Pencils – The Artists Workhorse

pen and watercolor
pen and watercolor

When it comes to pencils for artists, many brands come packaged    for the convenience of the user with differing hardnesses. There are also different darkness factors to take into consideration. Some pencils are very black and others merely the graphite gray that we all know.

There are also graphite sticks, available in different hardnesses, some which look like a pastel but are really like a really fat pencil. Applying graphite powder with a brush, either wet or dry is always an option as well.

And if that wasn’t enough there are also water-soluble drawing pencils that can be used either wet or dry. It adds softness and tone to a graphite work that is difficult to achieve with any other pencil.

The mechanical pencil always has a place in an artists array of goodies. The leads are of varying thickness and hardness, and if you are someone who likes to keep a tool for a while, mechanical pencils certainly fill that bill.

Colored Pencils – A rainbow of

Smooth texture, vibrant color, light fastness, easy layering and blending are all important factors to think about when buying colored pencils.

Old woman in colored pencil
Old woman in colored pencil

The different effects that are possible when using colored pencils is amazing. Purchase them individually or in groups of as few as nine or ten, and as many as 150 or 200. Core softness varies, the softer ones leaving a smooth, creamy trail on paper and the harder ones great for detail work.

When I worked in the medium many years ago blending pens, which help blend the colors together with ease that was only dreamed of.


Charcoal – More choices than you may think.

piano keys in charcoal in drawing and sketching supplies
piano keys in charcoal

Charcoal is simply wood, or more likely twigs that have been placed in a drum which is placed in fire for 3 to 5 hours.

Charcoal comes in many forms. Sticks which started out as small twigs, in chalk-like pieces or all prettied up in little square, fairly dust free sticks. There are also charcoal pencils as well as small blocks of charcoal which come in different tones.

Markers and Pens –

Trying to find the perfect markers or pens can be a bit of a challenge since the variety is great and the range of options can be a bit paralyzing.

There are markers that have thick or thin points, are water-soluble or permanent, are light fast and acid free (important when thinking in terms of archival work).

Markers can have firm tips or brush tips. Within that category there are many varying shapes and sizes of tip. There are over 300 different colors to choose from. You can pay from a couple of dollars each for a marker. Or up to almost three thousand dollars for a custom set designed by a clothing designer, Go figure.

Pens on the other hand are all about the tips and the feel of it in your hand. There are pens with stainless steel tips that give a beautiful line. And pens that are refillable with over sixty colors of India ink.
colored pencil drawing
colored pencil drawing

There are pens with ball points and pens with broad tips that serve many uses depending on what you need them for. Pens have refillable wells and also come pre-filled. There are even bottles of high flow acrylic that have tips to use in large areas. They can also double as pens in certain circumstances.

You can even get highlighters that don’t bleed through the paper you are busy making a point with.

At any rate, whatever pen or marker you are in the market for, make sure it matches your project. The last thing you want is to put finishing touches on a project only to discover that the pen or marker you used didn’t do what you needed it to.


The creamy texture and vibrant colors make for smooth, expressive work.

Oil pastels are a combination of an oil and wax binder medium in each color. The creamy texture and vibrant colors make for smooth, expressive work. Colors are generally light fast, ensuring your artwork is permanent. The lipstick-like pastel

pastel of goldfish
pastel of goldfish

consistency of oil pastels means colors can be easily blended with a blending stump or finger. Their oil content means they can also be thinned into washes and color gradations with solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits.

Semi-hard pastels are ideal for color sketches and drawings. Easily blended like soft pastels, but with less mess and more control. The semi-hard pastels are great for both adding detail and shading in large areas of color. With some semi-hard pastels you can use with water to produce even more effects.

Soft Pastels are creamy pure pigment pastels. These pastels are smooth and blend well on paper. The only issue with soft pastels is the dust they create. Some artists use the dust in their work while others are a bit put out by it.

Watercolor Pencils and Sticks – The great surprise.

watercolor pen swatches
watercolor pen swatches

These wonderful pens can be used over drawings to create a wash effect. Use them to lay in color over permanent marker.  Apply them to watercolors to use as a wash if a lot of detail is needed. Dip them in water and use them to draw. It leaves a softer, deeper, looser quality line in the work as well.amazon

They can be (check first) permanent and light fast. They come in pencils form, in sticks and in crayons. There are slightly different ways to use each of these. Check it out to see what suits you and your way of working best.

To Sum it Up

The above tools can add not only vibrancy and excitement to your work, but  a dimension not previously found. Using new materials adds a level of uncertainty that forces you as an artist to stretch your boundaries and explore in a new way.

All the above may seem a bit pedestrian to some. But many artists get stuck using the same materials over and over. Unfortunately, many times, their work sometimes reflects this.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, change ways of working or looking at things differently. It is the thing that makes us as artists unique.

Remember, change is the only constant in life. Embrace it!

If you have had an experience when using a different material or tool took you to another lever, I would love to hear about it.

Pen drawing
Pen drawing





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