I often get asked about the Art Supplies I use, so I decided to put them here all together on one page.
I’ve only shared the materials that I actually use, along with the reasons that I personally like them.
Please remember though, that it’s purely my opinion and just because I like a particular pencil brand or type of paper, it doesn’t mean it will be the best for you!
This list is designed to be a starting point for you to get started with a particular medium, and I encourage you to experiment with other supplies as well, so you can find your own favourites.
Most of the links on this page link to Jackson’s Art Supplies which is where I buy nearly all of my art supplies. They have a huge range and are always really quick sending out my orders.
I also buy some of my supplies from Amazon. You might also like to try Cult Pens for pens.
The Importance of Quality Art Supplies
Quality Art Supplies can be expensive, and it can be tempting to buy cheap supplies, especially when you’re on a budget.
However, the supplies you use can make a massive difference to the quality of the artwork you create. Poor quality supplies or the wrong type of paper can easily make your art look terrible! And it’s easy to think your poor results are a direct result of your lack of skills when in reality your results would be a whole lot better with better supplies.
Here are my tips for purchasing quality supplies without blowing your money on things you don’t need:
- Do your research before buying supplies to see what you really need. Buy the essentials first and then get the ‘nice to have’ items when you’re sure you like the medium.
- Try and buy Artists’ quality instead of Student quality supplies. Artists’ paints contain higher amounts of pigment (which is why they’re more expensive) which means your paint will be more vibrant, mix better and go further.
- Pay particular attention to the paper that is suggested for your medium. Poor quality paper, or the wrong type of paper, can make a dramatic difference in how your pencils or paints behave and the finished look of your artwork.
- Purchase loose stock instead of sets. A set will probably contain colours that you won’t use. Buying a small selection of just the colours you use, (or primary colours when purchasing paints) will give you a chance to try a new medium or brand without spending a fortune.
- If you can, use what you already have. For example, smooth watercolour paper is also suitable for graphite & coloured pencil. Gouache and Markers will both work with heavyweight mixed media paper.
- Save on the things that don’t matter. For example, a simple dinner plate will work as a mixing palette instead of purchasing a ceramic palette.
- Read reviews. See what other people say about the supplies you’re looking at. If they mention things they don’t like that you know would also annoy you, have a look for something different. It can also be helpful to see which supplies your favourite artists use if you want to create similar art to them.
After saying all that though I don’t want to put you off. If you can only afford Student paints, buy the student ones. If you only have printer paper, use that.
Just always bear in mind that if you’re not getting the results you want, a small upgrade in your supplies can make all the difference!
Graphite & Coloured Pencil Supplies
Faber Castell Series 9000: These pencils are one of two brands I use most often in my pencil drawings. They have super strong leads with incredibly smooth graphite that isn’t at all scratchy. I love them for fine detail because they hold their points so well and even the soft grade pencils lay down the graphite smoothly.
Staedtler Lumograph: These are one of the first Artists’ quality pencils I ever used and I still love them today. They are softer than the Faber Castells and make comparatively darker tones. I use them mainly for shadow areas and for drawings that I want to have a sketchy look.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph Black: I’ve not had a lot of experience with these pencils but I’m liking them so far. The leads are a mixture of carbon & graphite meaning they make darker tones with less shine than graphite only leads.
Faber Castell Polychromos: These are the only coloured pencils I currently use for Pet Portrait commissions. They use artists’ pigments suspended in an oil-based binder which means they blend really nicely but are also hard enough to keep a fine point which is perfect for detailed drawings. There are 120 colours available which all have good (or above) lightfast ratings.
I use two different types of paper for pencil drawings that I sell. When buying drawing paper, especially if you are planning on selling your drawings, make sure that the drawing paper you use is:
- Acid free. This makes sure it is archival and won’t go yellow with time.
- Heavyweight. This will prevent buckling and makes your drawings look more professional. I use paper with a minimum weight of 225gsm.
- Smooth surface. Smooth surface paper is essential for realistic drawings with lots of fine, small details. I don’t like extra smooth paper though because it doesn’t take as many layers of pencil.
I use heavyweight smooth surface Cartridge paper or Hot Press Watercolour paper. The brands I personally use are Daler Rowney cartridge paper and Arches or Saunders Waterford watercolour paper.
Bristol Board is another very popular paper for graphite artists. It is normally brighter white and smoother than watercolour and cartridge paper. I personally find it too smooth for my style of drawing but you might like it!
An important point to remember about paper for graphite pencils is that any type of paper will do for practice and sketches! You only need to be picky when you come to selling your pencil drawings.
One of my favourite sketch pads for simple sketches and drawings is a ring-bound A4 pad of 160gsm paper that I picked up for £2.99 from B&M!
Other useful tools
Putty Eraser: Kneadable erasers are a favourite amongst pencil artists of all subject. Gently dab them on your drawing to lighten lines and add highlights. They are very versatile because they can be moulded into a small point for highlight details too.
Tombow Mono Eraser: These are perfect for precision erasing of fine lines from your drawings. I use them for whiskers and fur highlights.
White Plastic Eraser: A quality eraser is a must for avoiding a smudgy mess and cleanly erasing your lines when rubbing out mistakes and cleaning up your sketches.
Blending Stumps: These are essential for blending out your pencil lines to create smooth tones. I don’t use them lots for drawing pets but find them invaluable when drawing people.
Precision Craft Knife: This is another way of adding whiskers and flyaway hairs and fine highlights to your drawings. Used carefully the knife is used to scrape away the top layers of pencil to reveal the paler layers below.
Embossing Tool: These tools are super helpful for drawing fur, hair and details on leather such as bridles. Indent the paper before you draw and the tool makes dents in the paper that the pencil ‘skips over’ when shading. Choose a tool with small round ball end.
Pencil Extenders: These clever little accessories help to extend the life of your favourite pencils when they get too small to use.
I loved my alcohol markers from the very first time I used them. They have lovely strong bright colours and I love the blending effects I can get with them. My markers help me create more stylised art I struggle with in other mediums.
Alcohol markers can be very expensive. Copic markers (which are widely recognised as the best you can get) have a recommended retail of £5.00+ per pen, however, you can get refills and buy them as single pens. In contrast, the cheaper alcohol markers are often available in sets, which can work out expensive if you don’t use all the colours.
I’ve listed the markers that I already use, plus a few that are on my wishlist! But basically want to try all the different marker brands!
Touch New: These pens are the cheap end of the alcohol marker market but I still really like them. They are an excellent starter set for those looking to try markers. There’s a good range of colours (the largest size set is 80 colours), though they lack pastel colours and they blend nicely. The only problem is they only come in sets so you will inevitably end up with pens you don’t use. They are twin-tipped, with a bullet nib and broad chisel nib.
Promarkers: These are professional quality alcohol markers, and come in a range of 160 different colours. They are available as single stock so you can buy only the colours you use most regularly. They are also twin-tipped with a bullet and broad chisel nib. The ink and nibs are high quality and lay down and blend nicely.
Arteza Everblend: I don’t own these markers but I would like to try them! They come in different size sets, with the largest being 120 colours. There is a set of skin tones. They are twin-tipped, also with a bullet and chisel nibs. They appeal to me because of their budget-friendly price (only about £1 per pen) and wider range of colours than the ‘cheap’ marker sets.
Copic Markers: I don’t own any of these either but the moment I win the lottery I’m buying the whole set of 358 Sketch colours! (Which will set me back £2,000+). They are known to be the best of the best alcohol markers with a massive range of colours and excellent blending capabilities. They come in two ranges; the Sketch, and the Ciao. The Sketch have brush and chisel nibs and a slightly higher ink capacity than the Ciao. The Ciao have bullet and chisel nibs and come in a smaller range of 180 colours. Both ranges are available as single pens and are refillable.
Sakura Pigma Microns: I tried lots of different fineliner pens before the Microns and these are by far my favourite. The ink is acid free and archival, waterproof and fadeproof. Plus the nibs seem to be sturdier than most which is handy for me as I’m quite heavy-handed! They are available in lots of different nib widths and colours and as single pens and sets.
Finding the perfect paper for using with my alcohol markers is still ongoing, though I have found a few that I quite like. The most important thing to remember about paper for alcohol markers is that some bleeding through to the back of the paper is inevitable, especially if you are blending and layering your colours.
Bear in mind that the quicker the ink soaks into the paper, the harder it will be to blend your colours. Your colours are more likely to feather around the edges on paper that absorbs the ink. Watercolour paper is designed to allow the paint to soak into it slightly so definitely avoid watercolour paper.
Canson Marker Paper: I highly recommend this paper for marker sketches and practice. It has a very smooth surface which means the ink sits on top of the paper for a short while making blending your markers easier. There is no feathering around the edges of the ink and it doesn’t bleed through the paper either. The only problem with this paper is that it’s only 70gsm so feels very flimsy and it creases easily.
Extra Smooth Bristol Board: This paper is heavyweight paper, bright white and super smooth. It takes layers of markers really well and the ink stays wet enough for long enough to easily blend smaller areas. The ink does bleed through the paper but I’ve learnt to accept that with alcohol markers!
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook: The first paper I used my markers on was my Stillman & Birn mixed media sketchbook. The paper is smooth surface 270gsm and is very similar to the Bristol Board with the pens blending well if you work quickly. The pens do feather slightly at the edges but it’s barely noticeable on a finished illustration. The Stillman and Birn sketchbooks are really nice but they are very expensive and you’ll only be able to use one side of each page using alcohol markers, so I’d only recommend one of these sketchbooks if you fancy treating yourself!
White Gel Pen
I use a white gel pen to add highlights and extra little details to my marker drawings. It took me a long time to find a white gel pen that I like, a lot of the ones I tried were blotchy and streaky. Eventually, I tried the Sakura Gelly Roll pens and now I won’t use anything else.
Watercolour & Gouache
I am very new to watercolour and gouache paints so am definitely not qualified to offer a lot in terms of how good or bad products are. I thought it might be useful to share what I have purchased and why I purchased it as reference for other new painters.
Winsor & Newton Designer Gouache: I chose this paint after reading lots of forum discussions, Facebook group posts and reviews about artists’ favourite brands. Winsor & Newton and Holbein seemed to be the most popular and I went with Winsor & Newton because they were cheaper than Holbein! This paint is professional artists quality with a range of 82 different colours. I have nothing to compare them to but I really like the vibrancy of the colours and the beautiful matt finish of the dry paint.
Winsor & Newton Cotman: These are the student grade of Winsor & Newton’s watercolours and they were the first watercolours I used. I purchased a small set of half pans and I think they are quite nice paints but the colours are definitely not as vibrant as the artists’ watercolours I have.
Holbein Artists Watercolour: These were the first artists’ watercolours I purchased and I found a real difference between the colour vibrancy of these and the Cotmans I first bought. Holbein watercolours aren’t as popular as some because they contain a lot of mixes of multiple pigments. This can make colour mixing unpredictable.
Sennelier: I have purchased just a couple of these tubes of paint after following Billy Showell’s botanical painting tutorials and finding out that these are what she uses. They have a range of 99 colours and are known for their finely ground pigments and honey binder, which makes them vibrant and smooth.
Jackson’s Artists’: I bought a couple of these tubes after reading that the formula is the same (or nearly the same) as the Sennelier paints. The range has 48 colours, and the description describes the smoothly ground pigments and honey binder.
Gouache is super versatile in terms of paper and I’ve painted with it on Bristol Board, Heavyweight Mixed Media and Hot Press Watercolour Paper. I think the paper choice for Gouache depends mainly on how you will use it and the style you paint in.
If you’re planning on using watercolor techniques with watered down gouache I would definitely recommend Watercolour Paper. But if you’re using it more or less straight out the tube in opaque form then it looks great on brighter, smoother paper.
Arches Hot Press: Arches is a very popular paper within the watercolour community and I really noticed the difference in my paintings when switching from cheaper paper to Arches. It is 100% cotton and hardly buckles, even with multiple wet layers. I do find the paint soaks into it, especially the first layer, so the colours aren’t always as bright as I’d like.
Saunders Waterford: This is another very high quality, 100% cotton paper that I bought purely because it’s available in ‘high white’ and I prefer a brighter white paper than the Arches. I was also interested if there would be a difference in the two papers.
The best quality watercolour paper is available either as gummed pads, blocks or loose sheets but I also have a couple of watercolour sketchbooks I like. Sketchbook paper is generally lighter so isn’t really suitable for wet washes or lots of layers. I like them for practising though and prefer books to lots of loose sheets lying around! I’ve used both watercolour & gouache in my watercolour sketchbooks. The two I like the most are:
Pink Pig Watercolour Sketchbook: This sketchbook has 270gsm paper which is lovely & smooth, high quality and archival. It’s spiral-bound so lies nice and flat and is very reasonably priced for the high quality of the paper.
Hahnemuhle Watercolour Book: This is a hardcover sketchbook that also lays nice and flat. I have a personal preference for the look of a hardcover book but they are more expensive. It has smooth surface paper that is the same both sides. It’s only 200gsm but is fine if I don’t use loads of water.
Jackson’s Studio Synthetic Watercolour Brushes: As a newbie to watercolour I decided to go for synthetic brushes because they were more budget-friendly than the pure sable ones. I have since tried pure sable brushes but I prefer the more springy feel of the synthetic ones. I have a small selection of different sizes from 0 up to 10.
Other useful supplies
Palette: Palettes are used for mixing your paint and a lot of watercolour artists set up a custom palette with their favourite colours squeezed out of the tubes and ready to go. If you are using your palette purely for mixing a white ceramic dinner plate will work very well instead.
Masking Fluid: Masking fluid is used before you start painting to mask highlights and brighter areas to prevent you from accidentally painting over them and dulling your painting. It is applied with a brush and then gently rubbed off with an eraser. It’s especially useful for whiskers, eye highlights and in landscapes.