7th August 2019
My Favourite Art Supplies
One question I get asked over and over is what pens, pencils and other creative tools I recommend, so I’ve written the definitive guide to my favourite inky supplies. I hope it’s helpful!
The set I always recommend to newbies. Best value for money pencil you can buy. Hard enough to sharpen to a good point, soft enough to blend.
Triangular barrels like the Staedtler Ergosoft, but a softer, wax based pencil with bold pigment that’s super smooshable and blends beautifully.
As above, but larger tins with more colours and round barrels. A very good, non bank breaking option!
Castle do a lovely range of wax based pencils. Their regular colouring pencils are very good, but I particularly like this tin of pencils specially selected for colouring flowers. A perfect partner to World of Flowers!
The fancy option! If you have cash to splash, go for Polychromos – they are a joy and have a huge range of colours.
A less expensive version! These wax based pencils are perfect for getting started. A HUGE range of colours, soft enough to blend but hard enough to sharpen for those little details!
A tricky medium, but I like these water colour pencils the best.
Use them dry and sparingly, then add a little water with a brush.
Yes, crayons! These are clay, not wax and are actually pretty wonderful for colouring! You can sharpen them to a good point and they layer and blend beautifully. You can also use the white crayon as a blending medium.
These are super cool! They blend colours together like magic, then the halo effect of the blending liquid evaporates (always do a test patch first).
Much easier to use that blending solution.
But if you MUST use a blending solution, this is the one I like. I use it with a blending stump.
For blending when you are working ‘dry’. Hold the nib in the palm of your hand and warm it up before use.
I don’t use ink often, but when I do, I use these for fine details and writing.
Great fibre tips and a good range of colours. I find the ink can fade a little over time though.
For highlights, details and fancy bits, I like Sakura gel pens.
These are quite ‘juicy’ and whilst the rollerball nibs aren’t the finest, the ink is luscious, glittery and oh so vibrant!
Staedtler Mars Micro 775 Rotary Pencil, 0.5, B or HB lead
Smooth lines, weighty in your hand and easy to erase and no smudgy mess!
Mars Lumographs HB or 2B
‘Traditional’ pencils – perfect for large sketches or tracing when you need to be a bit more scribbly.
0.2 for most things, 0.05 and 0.1 for details and 0.3 and 0.5 for big inky outlines.
I began using these pens in Art School when they were the only ones I could afford in the College Shop.
I still use them today. Great value, dark opaque ink and easy to use.
Water based paint in a pen. Great for murals and pops of colour.
Needs no introduction!
Perfect for inking trainers and tote bags.
Heavy coverage and weatherproof ink!
Heavy duty graffiti pen perfect for large wall murals and uneven surfaces.
A white plastic eraser to lift graphite cleanly off the page. No smudgy mess!
Fancy but brilliant for tiny details or highlights.
Bolt it on your desk, sharpen a tonne of pencils without getting a blister.
Best for travel, no sharpening bits in your pencil case!
Note: Worth noting the best sharpener I’ve ever found was a little rose gold metal one that came in a £3 Tesco gift set! It’s honestly brilliant!
Best drawing paper ever. Thin enough to layer up and trace, hefty enough to take ink without buckling. Also great for scanning!
Slip a sheet behind the page you are working on as a guide if you need straight lines or right angles.
Perfect for creating symmetrical designs. Worth noting any brand works just as well (as does Baking Parchment!)
They are not the cheapest, but I love them. Makes list making feel classy.
Best value for day to day notes and scribbles.
A good size too.
Other Bits & Bobs
Had it since school. Use it for measuring out angles to draw perfect stars or symmetrical designs.
Again, left over since my school days. Best way to hand draw a perfect(ish) circle.
Round, size 4 and 2
I don’t like the idea of animal hair brushes. It’s a personal choice.
These are sold as Acrylic brushes but I use them with watercolour pencils.
Clear, easy to peel off and the best for sticking large sheets of paper together if I’m working big.
Desk Lamp with Daylight Bulb
It’s not really the lamp that’s important here, it’s the bulb.
A daylight bulb is better for your eyes and allows you to match colours properly.
Be careful with these. I use them for trimming paper (with a metal ruler only), lifting off tiny blemishes on my page or sharpening pencils when I’m feeling like I could live in the woods…
Keep it clean to avoid smudging. I find a see through one super helpful.
I use this for trimming paper but you can also get safety rulers with a raised holding ridge (I just find these trickier to use).
HUGE mat I’ve had since Art School. Great for trimming papers and it self heals (the cuts sort of squish together again!)
This slim little LED box is a joy! Back when I was staring out I’d balance a pyrex lasagne dish on my lap and put the lamp on the floor!
I currently have an Epson GT-2000. Had it for years, very dependable.
Most of my artwork is scanned at 1200dpi – SUPER large but it gives the most flexibility in terms of scaling up.
Currently Canon iP8720. Prints perfectly but if I’m honest the paper trays are a little fiddly. I have to manually switch between A3 and A4. And I never use it wirelessly, hardwire it with a USB as it prints much quicker!
Mine is pretty old now. It’s well battered and loved but I use it all the time. And no, I can’t work a PC!
I’m lucky enough to have an old Thunderbolt Apple Monitor, but they stopped making them. This is Apple’s replacement product. Pricey! But I find having a second, larger monitor super helpful and it better for my eyes and multiple tabs.
Can’t fault it, had mine for years and years!
A hardy little external hard drive that’s big enough to store my HUGE files but tough enough to be hauled around in my work bag.
I only use the computer to edit and digitise my drawings in the final stages, never for creating artwork, so I only use Photoshop. I save my drawings as high res Bitmaps or Photoshop files (or occasionally Jpegs) but never vectorise them.
Cloud based file storage system. Great for off-site back-ups of smaller files and also sharing folders with other people.
File sending website. I’ve always found it safe and reliable (and free!)
Cloud based back-up. A silent assistant, quietly backing up your files as you work so you can sleep easy!
When it comes to buying art supplies, I honestly don’t think you can beat an independent Art Store. Their staff are usually super knowledgeable and it’s nice to buy indie.
Having said that, it’s not always feasible to shop independent. Large Art and Craft chains like Hobbycraft and Michaels are great, as is good old Amazon. There’s also indie online stores like Cultpens. Lastly, don’t forget about your supermarket! I often get lots of great bits and bobs (like that amazing sharpener!) from our local Tesco.
A little note
No #Ads in this post, just one artist sharing her fav tools with her friends.
I’ll update this list from time to time when I make new discoveries!
The best way to find the tools you like is to experiment.
What I love, you may hate!
It’s all part of the creative process.
Go have fun!