If you are interested in being an artist or at least making drawing a major hobby in your life, then you will need to have extended knowledge over the drawing materials you will need.
Oh sure you’ll need the basic pencil, eraser, and something to draw on but there’s so much more to it. Notice how one artist can make things look so symmetrical and realistic and other artists will have art pieces that look amateurish. What’s the difference? A lot of people have told me they wish they knew how to draw. My response: the difference between you and me is my knowledge of the materials that are used in the art industry.
Just like the chef in Ratatouille said “Anyone can cook,” I say to you, anyone can draw……with some practice and the right materials of course. I remember when I was in high school it was just the pencil and eraser and that was it. Now if you go into my studio I have an art desk, erasers, tortillions, pencils, and other knick knacks. So what are these knick knacks I’m talking about? Well these knick knacks are the things that will improve your artwork as well as help beginners start off in the right direction. This article is to discuss some old drawing materials you are familiar with, as well as get you familiar with some new tools and tricks.
Note: This article contains affiliate links to some of the drawing materials mentioned. LetsDrawPeople.com will earn a tiny commission if you purchase through these links.
Pencils: Soft, Hard, Mechanical, and Paper
OK so this is the basic of the basics here. No form of artwork can be done without some type of pencil marking. As you see in the below basic drawing, I used a 2B pencil to sketch out the drawing.
Drawing pencils go from one range to the other – light to darker pencils. The respective names and ranges are: 9B to 9H. The pencils that are 9B to B are the “soft” or bold pencils. These are the dark pencils; they do not have much clay in them in contrast to their counterpart. The higher the number is, the darker the pencil mark is.
When dark hair is called into the picture or pupils need to be filled, I usually use a 6B pencil or higher. When using 6B or darker pencils, please be careful when shading; the graphite can be easily spread and you may make an un-necessary mess while shading. Also, keep in mind that it will be just a tad bit harder to erase the darker pencil markings without leaving some residue.
Moving along, we have the H pencils or the hard pencils. These pencils contain clay in them to decrease the pencils’ dark markings. I sometimes use them when I want some light shading to the subject or if I need to utilize the carbon copy paper, I use the lightest pencil which is the 9H.
There is also the HB pencil – not too hard or not too dark. Usually it can also be found in the next pencil up for discussion: the mechanical pencil. The mechanical pencil usually has HB or 2B lead available.
It should be known that it’s often used for fine lines and detailing. Usually I use one when applying hair strands to the head as in the picture below.
The last thing I want to cover in this section is the kind of paper to use. I strictly use two types of paper material: Crescent illustration board and Strathmore Bristol paper. The Crescent illustration boards are strictly used for customers and the Bristol paper for personal art use. The Bristol gives off a little bit of a shine that will make your artwork stand out some and makes your blending of the graphite/pencil more smoother, therefore giving the art piece a smoother finish.
Blending Materials: Tortillion, Stumps, and Tissue
These materials ARE VERY NECESSARY if trying to get a realistic look. They will help with gradual blending and smoothing. Sometimes I draw with the tortillion when I want to add some shading to a small area, like adding some shade to the upper eyes or smearing of the lips or blending of the hair as in the pictures below.
Stumps and tortillions have somewhat the same design, but the stumps are bigger and have both ends pointed off while the tortillions are paper that is wrapped around very tightly. There’s no preference in which one to use; it’s up to the artist in which one s/he wants to use and how big or small of an area that needs to be shaded.
Using the tissue is a Godsend to me. I accidentally found out about this technique doing a Tomb Raider pencil piece. I’ve heard of the technique but never had a chance to apply it; I was too faithful to the blending stump/tortillion shading. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try and once applied, I immediately fell in love with it.
When using the tissue, please keep in mind that it’s used for large blending areas like the hair, arms, legs, cheek, and forehead. This technique will allow the graphite to blend and fade into the paper, giving that smooth fade into the white or whatever the color of your drawing paper is.
Erasers and Blu Tack
No art piece can be done correctly the first time around without some form of erasing tool. When it comes to dealing with pencil, you should have an array of erasing materials at your disposal.
Your basic erasers come in the form of regular white erasers, Pink Pearl erasers, and white stick erasers. The first two erasers mentioned are usually helpful in erasing large areas and lines. The stick erasers are long, white erasers within a blue, small tube whose length can be adjusted with an adjustable knob on the side. It can be used for big areas as well.
There are also pencil erasers; these come in the form of regular looking pencils but instead of lead there are erasers within the pencil. I personally use these to add highlight strands to hair or to erase small markings in a drawing. You can see the example of me applying the pencil erasing technique to the hair in the example below.
Another eraser that is absolutely required in this field is the kneaded eraser. These erasers resemble modeling clay and you can shape them to adhere to the marking you want to get rid of. Also, these erasers can be used to “lift” markings of the pencil, leaving a lighter mark. I think these are excellent in creating clouds or some type of smoke leaving some faded residue.
On that subject, you can also use an item called Blu Tack. It’s a substitute for a kneaded eraser; it works the same way. I find myself using this more than the kneaded eraser. No particular reason, it’s just my personal preference.
If you need to erase a small area that is surrounded by markings that you don’t want to accidently erase, no worries, use an eraser shield. These are like the dental floss of drawing – they’re inexpensive and precise. Usually they have several shapes in them cut out so that you can erase within the area. I don’t use it as often as I use to but I do have one waiting in the shadows just in case.
Horsehair Brush, Workable Spray Fixative, and Drawing Board
OK so instead of erasing a marking and using your hand to wipe off the residue, use a brush…namely a horsehair brush. If you brush away eraser residue with your hand, you run the risk smearing your work. Not to mention it saves you from accidentally spitting on your work when you blow the eraser residue away.
When you want to build up the tone of your drawing, a workable fixative should be called to action. When you get a workable fixative, you can still work on the area even after it’s been sprayed. It holds the graphite in the area that you have sprayed, allowing you to darken the subject by building tone without you disturbing the initial area.
You can’t draw until you have a smooth surface to draw on such as a drawing board. You will need to angle the drawing board towards you to help prevent the distortion that comes when working flat. I have a drawing table that has the option of tilting if need be. I also have a mobile drawing board. I say mobile because a lot of my friends know if they want me to come over, I’m bringing some form of art to work on. I’ve went to a party and sat in the corner and worked on a drawing for a customer. You can tell I’m dedicated to my art.
Rulers, Circle, Ellipse, and Other Templates
Ever wonder how some artists achieve perfect lines or circles? You may have thought “I can’t be an artist, I can’t even draw a straight line!” Well my friend, don’t fret. There’s a small secret to be learned here; the majority of artists, including myself, use rulers and templates. Templates are tools with pre-made circles and other shapes to help you achieve the shape that you want. You have different templates that specialize in having different shapes. Some are strictly circles or squares to name a few. You also have ellipse templates that specialize in curves and round objects. Also, you can’t forget about rulers. Not only do they provide a way to graph and measure your subject, but they serve as straight edge templates too.
Carbon Copy Paper, Projectors, Light Boxes, and Acetate Report Covers
OK so as I stated in a previous article, I run the risk of a mob of angry artists burning down my house. To me and them, this is what helps us make our art pieces look accurate and believable. Oh I can draw, don’t get it twisted; but when you have a lot of art that needs to be done for customers and you still need to make time for your personal art projects, you’ll do the things that will cut down your time. I have seen artists draw a basic sketch in like under 2 min. – wish I could move that fast; but since I like to be totally accurate and proficient, I’ll call in the talents of the three named above except the acetate report covers – never used them before but I may purchase some in the near future and try them out. Who knows, I’ll probably do an article on them.
Anywho, about the other three, using them will shave you some time off in doing the art piece. If someone says that you’re cheating by incorporating the assistance from these three, they’re sadly misinformed. As I stated in the other article, can a doctor perform surgery without his tools? Is that cheating since he’s using tools to cut down surgery time? What about a dentist? Does using tools to help him find cavities or to fix tooth damage or decay qualify as a form of cheating? My thing is it doesn’t matter how you get the picture done, the question is does the public like your art concept? Now go marinate on that for a second.
The last thing I will talk about briefly is the reference photo. As you can see in the below picture, it’s a picture I took of a close friend of mine. She has modeled for some of my paintings (Angel Eyes, Expecting) before.
It’s not necessary but helpful to have some type of reference photo. This will help with accuracy and placement. I know some people who can draw off the top of their head, but I like to be anatomically correct. With that being said, a photo reference with accuracy is necessary in my work. Every artist is different; some will use reference photos and some will use their memory. It really doesn’t matter as long as you and the customers will be satisfied with the end product, no matter what drawing materials or techniques you use.