• Claire Tolles

Top 5 Tools for New Artists

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

New to sketching? Here's the best art supplies for beginners.

Sketching is a great foundation for almost any other visual art. Oil painters and cartoonists alike use their sketches as jumping off points for new masterpieces. But, it can be difficult at first. Especially, when you don't have the right tools. Below, is a list of my favorite sketching supplies that beginners will find both simple and reliable.

"I have been sketching my entire life with the wrong materials."

I have been sketching entire life with the wrong materials. A few years ago, I went to Art Essentials for the first time and learned that there are so many more options than just printer paper and number two pencils. In fact, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of questions.

How do I choose between a 4h pencil and a 4b pencil? What is the difference between cold pressed and hot pressed paper? Gum eraser or kneaded eraser? If you're confused, don't worry. Here is what you'll need to start your sketching adventure.

First, paper. Walk into any art store and you'll find rows and rows of different colored, textured, and pressed paper. There is gray paper, natural paper, white paper, cream paper, watercolor paper, mixed media, newspaper...etc. Don't even get me started on the varying 'tooth' paper can have.

Beginners will have the best luck with a mixed media pad--preferable spiral-bound for easier movement. Mixed media means the paper is moderately thick and can handle graphite, charcoal, watercolor, and much more. This is great for artists who want to test out different mediums on a versatile pad.

Next, Pencils. It comes as a surprise to some beginners, but sketching pencils are not like regular school pencils. Artist pencils come in a plethora of opacities. This means the graphite can be hard or soft, giving darker or lighter lines. For example, a 4h is very hard and makes light lines (it can also dent/rip the paper, so press gently). Meanwhile, a 4b is very soft and makes thick, dark lines.

This is why I recommend beginners to buy a basic 12 piece pencil set ranging from 8b to 2h. This will last a long time, and show new artists a whole new way of contrasting their light and darks.

You will also need an eraser because artist pencils typically don't have eraser built-in like number two pencils do. Personally, I despise the large pink erasers you find in school supplies stores. The colored rubber sometimes leaves stains on the paper, and the erasability is usually low. I prefer soft gum erasers because they are softer than a vinyl or plastic eraser but not as malleable as kneaded erasers. Although this is completely up to you, I've found the gum eraser is a good place to start.

The fourth item on this shopping list is a simple pencil case. I suggest a zipper case that can fit in a backpack or shoulder bag. Art Essentials has a great canvas panel case that holds up to 24 pencils.

Finally, it's great for beginners to start drawing right out of the gate. 'How to' sketching books are perfect for this purpose. Try not to start with something too complex--like animals or people--rather, begin with still life. It might not be as exciting to draw fruit and household objects, but the basics are important for a strong foundation.

I hope you found this article helpful, and that you will be patient and persistent in your artistic endeavors. You can find the supplies mentioned above at most art stores, but I recommend going to Art Essentials since they have a wide variety products.