Art Materials for Sketching – Drawing for Beginners

Must Have Art Supplies for ArtistsRegardless what kind of artist you are or which medium you are working with, there are a few skills that every artist needs to become successful.

Most artists start out learning the fundamentals of sketching and drawing. Mastering these will directly translate to most other mediums, such as oil painting or art markers.

Therefore, I have compiled a list of fine art supplies you will need to practice your sketching and drawing techniques.

1. Graphite Pencils for Drawing

The first item on our art supplies list 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 the hard graphite pencils we are all familiar with.

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 for more detailed work.

If you know what you are doing, you can manually choose individual drawing pencils of the hardness you like to work with. Just make sure you get a good mix of both H and B pencils to you are equipped to handle any situation. If you just picked up drawing as a beginner, I recommend just getting a set of graphite pencils, since these normally come with a good variety of pencils.

Types of Pencils Used For Drawing

Besides graphite pencils there are also many other types of drawing pencils that can be used for drawing. Some examples are charcoal pencils, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils.

However, in my experience graphite pencils are the best for basic sketching because they are fast and efficient.

If you like to add color to your sketches you can try using some colored pencils as well. But since I normally can’t find the exact color that I want to use, I prefer to work in greyscale for most sketches.

Another alternative to regular colored pencils are watercolor pencils. These colors can be turned into watercolor ink by applying water to them. But they work perfectly fine as regular colored pencils as well.

2. Types of Paper for Art

If you want to make the most out of your pencils, you will need to use paper that is suitable for sketching. By no means do you need to go expensive and buy the best drawing paper for graphite. But using some decent quality paper will prevent excessive smudging and are easier to work with.

When choosing what type of paper to use, there are many things you can look at; hot-pressed vs cold pressed, texture, thickness, etc. To be honest, it feels a little bit like splitting hairs. Just choose paper that indicates that it is made for sketching or drawing and you will be fine.

Personally I like to use spiral bound sketchbooks because they are easy to carry, come in many different types, shapes and sizes, and you don’t seperate storage for you finished sketches. And once your sketchbook is full, you can take a look back at your drawings in chronological order and see your improvement.

However, the most important thing about sketchbooks is to actually use it. To become a better artist, you will need to make at least one new sketch every day. The more the better.

I have a few friends that bought a sketchbook with the intention of practicing art on a daily basis. Only to give up on their intentions within a few days or weeks. Needless to say, they didn’t improve their sketching abilities very much.

3. Best Eraser for Drawing

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, an eraser is one of the must have art supplies that makes life much easier. Especially if you are just starting out. Not only are they useful for correcting mistakes, they can also serve as great tools for marking as well.

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

best electric pencil sharpeners for artists

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.

When it comes to sharpeners, I prefer to stick to the simple ones. A small but good quality pencil sharpener will serve you much better than a clunky and needlessly big one.

Electric Pencil Sharpener vs Manual

If you have a lot of pencils or have a tendency to apply too much force and break the tips, you might want to consider using an electric pencil sharpener.

Electric pencil sharpeners can save you time and can give you sharp tips every single time. But you have to make sure that you buy a good one, or else it remove more material than necessary.

However, 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 Sketching Materials

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.

Charcoal for Drawing

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.

Sketching with Colored Pencils

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.

Sketching with Art Markers

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 if you are interested in coloring with Copic markers.