Must-have art supplies to let your inner creative shine
From doodles to fine art, supplies like these make it easy to create.
Spending a lot of time indoors will likely result in you discovering something about yourself. Maybe you’re the kind of person who cannot be still and has to burn some energy in order to stay sane. Or maybe you are super creative and you just never gave yourself the time to channel your talents into an actual skill.
If you suddenly discovered you’re an artist but all you have is some printer paper and a pencil you’ve had laying around the house since the last time you went to Ikea, fill up that shopping cart with these 10 essential pieces of art supplies.
The kind of sketchbook you’ll need will depend on what technique you’re experimenting with, but if you’re starting with the basics, with this sketchpad by Strathmore you’ll be more than set. This particular paper is meant for drawing in dry media, which means that it’s great for various types of pencils, pens, and markers. The paper is heavyweight, which will cushion every line no matter how thin or hard your graphite. Also, the sheets are microperforated, so if there’s a page you don’t like, you can easily forget about it and start again.
Use your sketchpad to work your drawings, but once you’re sure which are the lines that count, you’ll want some tracing paper. And this is not any tracing paper—Bee Paper’s heavyweight tracing vellum is thick and luxurious and makes going over your sketches an absolute breeze. The fact that its heavy weight allows you to fold it and actually break it, allowing you to play around with multiple shapes and sizes if you need to. It absorbs archival ink rapidly and doesn’t wrinkle easily, which makes it that much easier to make your lines coincide.
Were you waiting for the perfect excuse to buy washi tape? This is it. Yes, washi tape is cute and that should be a good enough reason to get some. But when it comes to drawing and sketching, washi tape is also perfect to position your tracing paper on top of your sketch—you can easily cut it with your fingers, and it’s not that sticky, so you can easily remove it without you worrying about ripping half of your drawing when you’re done. You can also use it to layer different sketches on tracing paper to create the physical illusion of depth, and even use it to mock up fabric patterns.
Learning how to draw is one thing, but learning how to draw anatomy is a whole other ballpark. The internet is filled with resources to help you better understand how bodies move, and you can always get a reference from photos—but nothing compares to drawing using a model or physical reference sitting right in front of you. Unless you can convince someone to pose for you, then this art mannequin set by Alextreme is the next best thing—the new and improved version of those wooden models most people only buy as decoration. They come in two muscular structures, with interchangeable hands and feet, and even accessories like guns and knives. It also comes with a stand so you can use your mannequin as a reference for drawing mid-air poses.
What pencil (if any) you use for sketching, will ultimately depend on what works for you. But there are some tools that have a following for a reason, and Pentel’s GraphGear 500 mechanical pencil is one of them. Extremely durable, lightweight, and comfortable, this is one of those pencils you really don’t want to lose. It comes in various sizes (going from 0.3 to 0.9) and its metallic mesh grip gives you a level of control that makes the GraphGeat a true delight to use. As an extra feature, the eraser cap has a lead selector that goes from HB to 4H, so you can easily identify what kind of lead is in your pencil.
Using a colored pencil for rough sketches and guidelines will make it a lot easier for you to tell which lines actually make the drawing and which ones are just failed attempts. UniBall’s NanoDia colored leads come in seven different colors to choose from depending on which one you like. If you can’t decide, you can always get the mixed colored pack to play mechanical pencil Russian roulette. Contrary to what you might think, these leads are easily erasable, won’t stain your paper, and will easily blend into the background once you trace or ink your drawing.
You can ask anybody who draws and they’ll tell you that these are the tracing pens you should get. Loaded with fast-drying archival ink, the Sakura’s Pigma Micron fineliners are simply a delight to work with. They run smoothly and dry quickly on both fiber and waxed papers, and come in multiple nib sizes going from 01 to 08, and even the hyper-fine 001 and 003. Black ink is the starting point, but you can also find them in 8 different colors.
If you want to add a little flair to your art, playing around with lettering can be really fun. But if you know absolutely nothing about it and wouldn’t know where to begin, the Plumix Iris Hand Lettering Calligraphy Set is a great starting point and one of the best art supplies out there. It basically comes with all you need: three rechargeable fountain pens with nibs in three different sizes (fine, medium, and broad), three boxes of ink refills in three matching colors, and even a guide to learn the best kind of font to try with each one. Use them for some calligraphic details, floritures, or even for tracing—though you might want to stick to absorbent fiber papers for that. If fountain pens are simply not your thing, you can go for Pilot’s lettering pens. They also come in three sizes and are more of a plug-and-play alternative to the more ceremonial and classic fountain pen.
What’s the point in doing amazing artwork if nobody will see it? In the good ol’ days this would’ve required you to show your work somewhere, but today the biggest window for your creations is the web. The Perfection V39 scanner will allow you to make crisp digital copies of your artwork, and even play with different photo settings—like brightness/contrast, curves, and levels—before the actual high-resolution scanning takes place. This will help you make sure you always get the best version of your sketches whether you want to edit them, turn them into digital artwork, or simply post them. The scanner is light and super easy to use, and you can even put it away in a vertical position to make room for drawing when you’re done.
If you want to go straight to digital, but are not ready to invest in an iPad Pro, then Wacom’s Intuos drawing tablet is a great way to experiment without breaking the bank. It comes in two sizes (small and medium), it’s easy to install, and it acts like an ultra-sensitive cursor that uses more than four thousand pressure points to determine different kinds of strokes and brushes. You can use it with Photoshop or any other photo-editing software, and if you don’t have one, you can download one for free upon registering your Wacom tablet. Another cool detail is that the pen doesn’t need batteries or a charger, so it’ll always be ready to sketch.