Art Supplies and Materials: Essential Guide for Beginners

As little kids, we all had practice in drawing. No matter whether it was with a mom’s favorite lipstick, a brother’s school notebook, or even a kitchen wall — everything was fine. Actually, tools and materials were not much of importance to us.

If you want to grow and develop as an artist (no matter how old you are), you should get serious about the equipment that you use. You are not sure where to start and you have no experience, right? We’ve done all that boring work for you and will guide you through all supplies you may need for your classes. Focus on your drawing to become a skilled professional and enjoy this review about the materials commonly used by artists.

List of Basic Artist Tools for Drawing and Sketching

All basic tools are elementary and can be easily found in any art store. Even if you are on a budget, the money spent for your dream won’t break the bank.

So, here is a list of essential art supplies for beginners that you need:

  • pencils;
  • paper;
  • eraser;
  • pencil sharpener.

A combination of proper tools and materials allows you to develop your drawing techniques, while working with the wrong set of tools may lead to discouraging results. The quality of these materials may slightly vary among the brands. As you are just getting your toes wet with drawing, don’t jump into the specifics. We are going to examine the key characteristics of the mentioned art equipment.

Drawing Pencils Needed for Beginners

Obviously, the pencil is a primary thing to start off. Choosing a proper drawing pencil is very personal. There is an incredible variety of quality brands on the market. You may have to try a few before you know which is your favorite.

Each pencil has a lead core and a wooden body, where the lead is a mixture of graphite and clay. Such pencils are categorized by two scales:

  • graphite;
  • numerical.

The graphite scale is marked by designations “H” and “B.” The letter “H” indicates that a pencil has a “hard” graphite core. The letter “B” means “blackness” of pencil marks. “Hard” graphite draws light lines, while “B” graphite has a soft core and draws black lines.

At first, this may seem confusing for newbies. The thing is that soft-core pencils include a smaller proportion of clay in the graphite, so more of graphite comes out onto the paper. Such writing instruments dull faster and need regular resharpening, while hard-core pencils tend to keep a sharp tip longer.

The numerical scale ranges from 2 to 9, for example, 2B, 2H, 4B, etc. A higher number corresponds to a “harder” or “softer” writing core. Pencils with the soft “B” lead place darker lines and require no pressure for writing. Using hard “H” leads, you need more force to make a dark line.

The most commonly recommended pencils to start drawing are 2B and HB as they stand closer to the middle of the scale. You can draw dark marks and make shadings, but not so dark that they cannot be erased.

You can experiment with different brands to find your ideal variant, like Derwent, Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Conte, Prismacolor, Koh-I-Noor, etc.

You may have one individual pencil or buy a set of packaged pencils that usually come in nice tins. Such sets include the whole spectrum of grades. Some artists don’t use all pencils in the set and find it more comfortable to draw with a couple of lovely ones.

Such wooden graphite pencils are not expensive. One typical thing that differs in an art pencil is that it doesn’t have an inserted eraser, because artists need more control while erasing.

The toolkit of an artist would be incomplete without charcoal, as it provides a wider range of mark-making than graphite could offer. You can buy it in a pencil form or in stick. Charcoal sticks can be:

  • compressed (make darker lines);
  • vine (draw lighter lines).

Charcoal pencils look like ordinary graphite ones, but they are great for making details.

Professional artists advise starting with graphite pencils. They are perfect for beginners and easy to work.

Recommended Paper & Pads

You cannot use your pencil without paper. In fact, you can draw on any surface, but its quality is as important as your writing instrument. The type of paper highly matters for mature artists who create finished pieces. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a quality drawing surface:

  • paper texture (It is sometimes called the “tooth” of the surface. In other words, it describes the way that your sketching is accepted on the paper. The heavy texture will make the lines “broken,” while smooth surfaces produce smoother lines. You have to try them out and determine the one you like.);
  • paper weight (This factor is related to paper thickness and how much a ream of 500 sheets weighs. Thin and thick paper also affects the result of your work.);
  • acid-free paper (Such paper minimizes the damage caused by the atmosphere, so it can stand the test of time. It is resistant to fading and won’t turn yellow.).

Now you can experiment with the following paper types:

Drawing paper:

  • medium tooth;
  • suits for drawing;
  • good for graphite, colored pencils, charcoal.

Charcoal paper:

  • Heavy tooth, but it is lightweight;
  • Suits for drawing, for creating texture;
  • Good for graphite, colored pencils, charcoal;

Bristol paper:

  • Smooth tooth, but it is heavy;
  • Suits for creating detailed line work or for gradations of value;
  • Good for ink.

For beginners, printer paper will be absolutely fine. Those who have little-to-no experience will need a lot of it, moreover, you can sketch on both sides. Just purchase a pack of A4 or consider buying sketchbooks or drawing pads.

It is a good idea to take a pad on the go and start drawing life anytime and anywhere. The texture of such paper is not quite appropriate for making shadows, but that is not important right now. These pads have plenty of pages for your ideas and a hard cover to stand up to travel and repeated use. Just choose the size of the pad you feel comfortable with.

Here are some crucial points for buying a sketchbook:

  • portable and lightweight;
  • variety of sizes, materials and texture;
  • firm cover surface for drawing;
  • evidence of your improvements.

When you start drawing, your first experience will be pretty bad. Sketchbooks are good to practice your skills without showing it off to friends. Daily exercising is as important for the development of an artist as is an athlete’s daily workout in the gym. An active sketchbook is your leading factor to successful artwork.

In order to find the right pad or sketchbook, refer to Strathmore, Pentalic, Canson, Moleskine, Leda, Rendr, Pro Art, etc. Browse some of these brands to see what fits into your budget and grabs your attention.

Must Have Erasers

When you are just exploring the drawing art, you will surely need an eraser. Don’t think of them as of mere rubber cylinders. They are able not only to correct your mistakes, but also can be used as important mark-making tools. Bad erasers have the potential to destroy a paper surface and ruin your drawing.

There are different types of erasers:

Rubber erasers:

  • standard, commonly used erasers for removing graphite;
  • friction is used for removing markings from the surface.

Gum erasers:

  • soft;
  • appropriate for paper that is sensitive to tearing;
  • crumble during erasing to preserve the surface;
  • friction is used for removing markings from the surface.

Plastic and vinyl erasers:

  • tough;
  • can erase anything;
  • aggressive erasing can destroy paper.

Kneaded erasers:

  • lift graphite and charcoal residue from the surface instead of rubbing;
  • have low chances of paper damaging;
  • have a self-cleaning technique by kneading and pulling it;
  • can be reshaped for erasing very small areas;
  • relieve stress by fiddling with them (LOL).


  • erasers in the form of a pencil that can be sharpened;
  • used for precise erasing;
  • made of vinyl.

An ordinary plastic eraser will be the best option for an emerging artist to practice. However, kneaded erasers are the most comfortable. The more you work with them, the more you like them.

Pencil Sharpeners

As all pencils need sharpening, you will certainly need a sharpener, as well. The sharpening device of poor quality is able to eat up your pencil or break the lead, so their choice is very responsible. All sharpeners typically fall into 2 categories:

  • electric;
  • manual.

The price for electric sharpeners varies. A quality appliance will be much more gentle in processing your favorite pencils. These machines are good for a quick sharpening, but suitable only for regular graphite pencils. The leads of colored pencils include a waxy binder that can get within the blades and ruin the device.

People who are brand new to drawing and are not very familiar with the strength of their pencils can buy a manual pencil sharpener. In fact, it is a common choice of most artists. Like electric devices, the forms of manual varieties depend on the brand. It would be a pleasure for you to work with such brands as X-ACTO, Faber-Castell, Jarlink, TripWorthy, Prismacolor, Staedtler, Eisen, etc.

The easiest solution is a metal hand-held sharpener. It is quite cheap, portable, and easy to use. Moreover, it can manage sharpening colored pencils. These devices also come in various forms with different blades and holes.

Drawing enthusiasts may try machines that are powered by batteries. They don’t need a wall outlet and can be used outdoors. Equipped with a special container to hold shavings, they can be a good choice as well.

Even dollar models (plastic or wooden) that come in two for one pack will also do for a starter.

Additional Equipment for Art Beginners

That is the full set of supplies needed to start drawing. Some of the following optional tools can be deeper explored when you get a little more art experience. Still, if you want to include extra items, here are some more things to possess:

  • blending stumps;
  • felt-tip pens;
  • drawing board;
  • storage box;
  • art portfolio.

Some professional artists also recommend having transparent rulers to make preliminary guidelines, otherwise, you will need to erase and redraw uneven ones.

Felt-Tip Pens and Blending Stumps

The use of felt-tip pens can be useful for a beginner, as they have a psychological impact on artists. When you use a medium that cannot be removed from the paper, it forces you to be more cautious in making lines and put more thought into the work.

Artists use smudging tools like blending (or paper) stumps when they want to blend or smear material around on the paper. It helps to create gradations in value without using your fingers, which always results in dirty digits. In fact, using the fingers is a great taboo, because natural oils from the skin penetrate onto the paper making this sector impossible to erase.

Blending stumps are made of tightly rolled-up felt paper and look like a stick with two pointed ends. Some people confuse them with tortillions. These things are made of stiff paper, but have a similar look and only one pointed end. Tortillions require more efforts during work, because they are not as soft as stumps.

By using both of them, you may save a lot of time in shading backgrounds and clothing. If you have none of them, the following improvised alternatives will also work for blending your drawing:

  • tissue wrapped around your finger;
  • paint or makeup brush;
  • piece of suede.

Among hundreds of felt-tip pens and blending stumps available, the following brands are worth mentioning: Art Alternatives, Artist’s Loft, Loew Cornell, Derwent, Prismacolor, Maped, BIC, etc.

Drawing Boards

Having a drawing board is optional, but you will probably need one around if you work without a desk or draw on large paper. Drawing boards are usually manufactured in sizes larger than the size of printer paper, so you can employ bigger sheets along with the usual A4. You can bring the board to any drawing location outdoors.

There is an immense variety of drawing boards. Before you buy an appropriate one, pay attention to the following criteria:

  • size (width and height);
  • weight;
  • price.

Some artists prefer a thin drawing board, which is easy to carry around. Others want a thicker variant to hold a paper sheet in place with clips at the top.

Indeed, the boards come in a variety of styles, so your choice depends on the money you are willing to spend on it. Look through such brands as Art Advantage, Alvin, SoHo, US Art Supply, Martin, Lohome, Springer, Jack Richeson, Art Alternatives, etc. Maybe you’ll find the one you want.

Storage for All Your Supplies

A true artist always takes care of his artwork and his art materials. You will also need some suitable storage to keep everything in order. Here are three solutions in accordance with the type of storage container that you will need.

  • portable container (They are helpful if you need to carry around your art equipment. Such boxes are deep and long enough to accommodate all your tools.);
  • semi-portable container (They are larger than portable solutions and too massive to be used daily. These boxes provide an ideal organization tool for your art supplies.);
  • permanent stack (This is an option for those who have no need to carry their art materials anywhere.).

As experience shows, storage boxes are necessary to prevent damaging erasers, breaking pencils, and losing supplies. It can be even an ordinary plastic container in the size you need. Just figure out how many things you want to store together and how big is your apartment to keep everything at home.

Newbies with minimal tools can store those in a plastic bin or buy a special storage holder. Maybe, you have enough space in your desk drawer. Any kind of organization will do. Remember that you will waste less time seeking out your art equipment and can devote it instead to practicing.

As far as the brands of storage boxes go, there are plenty of options to choose from: IRIS, Pro Art, KINGART, LifeSmart, US Art Supply, etc.

Art Portfolio

Keeping your artwork in order is of paramount importance. Even those drawings that you don’t let see anyone else should be treated with respect and protected.

The most popular option to store your works is naturally a portfolio. Here are some features that should be considered if you are going to add this tool to your art collection:

  • rigidness;
  • size.

A portfolio with a rigid support system will keep your works from bending. As a rule, cheap versions don’t provide this support.

When buying a portfolio, be sure that larger works will fit in it. At the same time, don’t purchase the largest one, because all your works are not that size.

To cut costs, you can create a portfolio on your own with a couple of cardboard pieces and tape.

Here are some suggestions for the brands that offer solid portfolios: Artway, Westfolio, Art Alternatives, Itoya, Transon, Nordic Mellow, Prestige, etc.

Over time, you can make a profound collection of your reference works, because having an individual portfolio for an artist is just as important as his drawing tools and materials.


With this list of essential art equipment, you have more than enough to get to work. If you need more details on some items, find this information on More examples and advice from qualified artists will help you to navigate and make the right choice.

If you think that there is no point in buying a lot of accessories, just grab the four must have art supplies — paper, pencil, eraser, and sharpener. Keep practicing every day and you will notice progress in the shortest time.

I am a professional designer with many years of experience. Besides, I write articles about drawing supplies at