So, we’ve talked about how good drawing is for you, we’ve talked about how to think and how to look at things to draw better, we’ve practiced and probably got a few laughs with our results, so now you just want to go out into the world, pencil, and paper in hand, and start drawing masterpieces, right? So now is time to talk about “Drawing tools 101”, or the tools of the trade.

You’ve probably even hit your local supply store by now, and more than likely felt excited at all the options on pencils, pens, papers and even erasers out there, but how to know what’s best for you and what to buy to get started? The right answer is; there is no right answer.
Don’t punch your screen just yet, nor buy the whole store, let’s take a look at your options, analyze how you might get to use them, so you can decide what drawing tools are the best for you!

But before we start let me give you general advice. Don’t start by buying the most expensive versions of your chosen tool or medium. You may try it out and realize it is not for you, you may mishandle it and brake it, you will make mistakes and feel like you have wasted some of your product, and thus, your money. The difference between working with a cheap tool and an expensive one can be noticeable, but it will mostly just make things more comfortable for you, as most art tools are just more durable and easier to use the more expensive they get. You will learn all the same using a school pencil or a professional one, so don’t go buying high-grade craft materials until you know what you feel more comfortable using. It will help you relax, experiment and have fun with your art and your available tools!

Every tool is liked for you for easy access.

1. Graphite Pencils

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The basic tool, graphite pencils are easy to find and inexpensive. You probably already have a couple of them around the house. These pencils come labeled with letters and numbers that will marker how soft the graphite is.
The letters will tell you the amount of graphite in your pencil on this scale
F: Fine point (lowest amount of graphite)
H: Hard
HB: Hard Black
B: Black (most amount of graphite)
The most graphite the “fatter” the line you’ll achieve with your pencil.
The number, on the other hand, will tell you how soft or hard your pencil is, the higher the number, the softer the pencil. The softer the pencil, the darker and coarser your lines will get. If you wish to draw with precise fine lines, look for a harder pencil in the low numbers, if you like a rougher look to your drawing, look for a softer pencil.
Also remember that when you start shadowing your drawings, the softer the pencil, the smoother and darker your shades will be.
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to buy all numbers and letters of pencils to get all the shades in the scale, you can start by buying a hard pencil, a medium one a soft one to practice and find out what you will really need from there. To tell you the truth, you may find that you won’t use more than 3 or 4 different pencils to shade, and some artist even works with just one, so relax and try out different numbers as you need to replace the ones that get spent.


2. Mechanical pencils

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Mechanical pencils also come in softer and harder graphite, though is harder to find the softer variety in this medium. They are rechargeable and more comfortable, they come in a variety of shapes and grips that can adjust better to your hand and make long hours of work less strenuous. They are not so good for shading, but are great for fine lines and, generally, easier to erase and correct than graphite pencils.


3. Charcoal

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With Charcoal, you can get intense blacks and a very distinct and powerful style. It’s a fast tool, not only for sketching but also for shadowing. It is also messy and harder than the pencils to correct your mistakes. Unlike pencils, you will need to use a fixer agent on your finished piece to preserve it, as the charcoal doesn’t completely set as pencil does and may get smudged with manipulation.
Charcoal is a fun tool that grants interesting results, it carries a lot of feeling and helps you to achieve striking and fresh results. It can be mixed with pastel chalks for further effects.
There are erasers for charcoals that will help you with your learning efforts with this tool, but it will take you a lot of practice to achieve fine details and subtleties with this medium. That being said, quick sketches with charcoal are a great way to loosen up and relax when approaching a subject, it is a great way to get a relaxed look and you can try different quick sketches with ease before settling for the final look you want for your piece, understand the shadows and even composition, to finish with this same medium or any other you choose.

4. Ink

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You can use ink to bring simple sketches to life, it produces impactful blacks when used pure or can be diluted with water or alcohol to achieve shades of grey. You can use a nib to make controlled lines that change with and direction depending on the pressure you apply or you can use a brush to cover greater areas and mix different tones. Working with a nib takes a lot of practice, but, what doesn’t? Ink can be a little messy to start with and keep in mind it stains, so prepare a proper working space for it, especially until you get the hang of it. With ink, you can get both elegant and strong effects, try a variety of styles and give your art a lasting finishing touch. You can find colored inks that are mostly used for lettering but that can widen the range of work you can achieve with this medium.

5. Ink markers

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Just like pencils, ink markers come labeled with numbers that illustrate the line with. The lower the number the finer the line. Working with Ink markers can achieve similar results to working with ink and nib, except you cannot control the with of your line by applying pressure with most markers, only the brush tip kind, so to get different line widths you may need to use different pens and even do multiple passes to widen the line. Yet you can get more controlled results, is far less messy and much more transportable than ink, it dries faster too. Is a great tool for delicate details and quick inking. It’s way harder to dilute this ink, and getting smooth shading results is almost impossible, they are, though, very practical for cross-hatching, texturing and doodling.
Ink markers can be disposable or rechargeable. The disposable ones are cheaper if you want to try them out, and rechargeable pens take a little care to keep working on their finest condition, so keep that in mind before deciding to invest in them.

6. Colored markers

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There is a huge spectrum of colored markers, they can be a fine point, wide point, flat or round, alcohol-based, ink or paint based, water-soluble or permanent. It’s hard to choose one variety to work with, and rather expensive to use them to learn your basics of coloring and color theory, I recommend you use cheaper mediums to practice and learn, but, by no means, forget about these tools later on.
With markers you can get vibrant colors, they are very portable, and practical to use, less messy than paints and come in such a great variety of shades and styles you can never stop getting new and surprising results. That being said, except for a few mixable markers, you cannot mix colors to get new or personalized shades, also getting a smooth color pass or transition takes a lot of practice and the quality of your markers makes a great impact on the end result, making it more expensive to practice. Even changing brands will bring great changes to your work and final colors.

7. Chalk pastels

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Chalk pastels are pasty and rough, they give fresh results, are quick to work with and are rather hard to correct mistakes with. They are very fun to work with, help you relax about your artwork and are a great tool all together that I highly recommend keeping around. You can mix them on your canvas and experiment with colors, with a lot of practice you can get detailed work out of them but, in my opinion, the greatest thing about pastels is that they are fun and fast, you can’t obsess over your mistakes with them and will get to really impress your personality and mood with them, because is hard to come back and correct chalk pastels, so you tend to get a fun and fresh result out of them. It’s almost like bringing back the fun of playing with crayons!
That being said, you have to treat them carefully because they can break and make your work more difficult. You’ll have to protect your finished piece with special sprays, like when working with charcoal, and they are a little messy.

We will talk about gouache, watercolors, acrylics and oil paintings when we start working color theory, don’t worry about painting just yet, there’s plenty to learn and practice on paper before we move to the canvas. So, let’s take a look at our paper.



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You can start drawing on common printing paper, you have to keep in mind that it is no very good for shading with pencils, because the graphite won’t adhere so well to it, you may harm it by erasing too much and all liquid base mediums are very hard to work on this paper, but for practicing plain drawing and making simple exercises it should be just fine.

Now when you start looking at professional grade paper, you’ll find a great variety that is designed for every different medium, watercolors, markers, chalk pastels and so on. These papers are great for their designated medium but can get very expensive, I recommend that you buy drawing papers for your practices, the higher the grammage the better and more durable they will be. Also keep in mind that porous paper will absorb more liquid and fix more graphite, and may not be the best option to achieve delicate and detailed results with mediums such as ink but will have better results for charcoals and such.

Drawing tools 101: This concludes the introduction to the basic materials you can use to get started drawing.

You can now go shopping with confidence, and get ready for our next class.


Drawing tools 101

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