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6 Art Supplies You Need to Start Drawing (And 3 You Don’t)

Hey, fellow art enthusiasts! It has been almost two years since I started my journey to learn drawing, and what I have realized over time is that drawing can be one of the least expensive hobbies if you allow it to be. But as a beginner who was in love with buying art supplies (who isn’t, right?), I would often buy stuff I felt I needed to start drawing, only to end up not using those at all.

So, in this post, I share a list of 6 essential drawing supplies I feel every beginner should consider investing in, if they can, and maybe try avoiding the 3 things that I personally regretted buying so early in my drawing journey until you’ve gotten some experience with the basic tools especially if you’re on a budget.

6. Invest in a good set of pencils.

I think getting yourself a handful of nice pencils of different levels of hardness has great value for money because it’s something that can help you draw values more effortlessly without an exorbitant investment and getting a few pencils can easily set you up for months or even more than a year if you keep them in a nice sturdy case.

My first pencil set was a Faber Castell 9000 tin of 6 that cost about $12, consisting of pencils of varying hardness ranging from HB to 8B, and these are a dream to work with. I still have the tin case (which you can see in the photo above), which I use to store my drawing tools.

More recently (two years ago), I got myself an audition pack of 4 Blackwing pencils that cost me about $15, which is a bit pricey to be fair, but even though I have drawn almost every day for almost two years, some of those pencils have still survived to this day, which I find quite surprising.

Compared to the Faber Castel, I think Blackwing pencils are marginally better in terms of how they feel and they have a lovely buttery texture that I love. Also, there is a lot of convenience with their built-in erasers that you get so accustomed to once you start using those, but you cannot go wrong with the Faber Castel 9000 series either.

I have only drawn with pencils from these two brands so cannot say how they compare to other brands but I’m sure you’ll find reasonably good options for a fraction of the price if you’re on a budget if you do your research.

Besides the conventional pencils, I also recommend getting a mechanical pencil for line work because you always get a nice sharp point with these. A nice mechanical pencil will last you for years, and you only need to get lead refills once every year or so, which makes them quite economical. I got a Faber Castell TK Fine two years ago, and I have had no issues whatsoever to this day.

5. Get a stack of paper sheets.

When I first started drawing, I was so afraid of ruining my sketchbook. It was only after an artist I met at a weekend art meetup, who was critiquing my sketches, advised me to initially draw on loose sheets of paper until I got over the fear of messing up a sketchbook. To me, this has been a game-changer and a liberating experience.

I recommend every beginner to get a 500-sheet stack of ordinary printer paper which only costs $8 to $12 and use it to conduct your drawing experiments for months. I recommend getting a ream that weighs at least 21 to 24 lbs (80 to 90 GSM) to ensure that the paper can tolerate some heavy-handed shading.

4. Get a nice sharpener that does the job.

A basic sharpener from any well-known brand is probably all you need to get a nice consistent pencil point without fuss.

I prefer the two-step shapener from Blackwing which gives a beautiful long point every time and also comes with a storage to hold shavings from a sharpened pencil which is quite convenient (P.S. If anyone from Blackwing is reading my post, please adopt me for testing out your art supplies already 🙏).

3. A kneaded eraser is a must-have.

Besides a regular eraser, you’ll want to have a kneaded eraser in your drawing kit to erase any part of a drawing that requires a gentler touch.

Lately, I have liked using a mechanical eraser that a friend of mine gifted to me and I find it helpful in carving out tiny and narrow highlights but it’s not something essential if you’re a beginner.

2. Blending stumps are a nice addition to your shading repertoire.

I wasn’t a fan of blending stumps (also known as tortillons), but ever since trying them a few months back, I really love how easily you can blend shading with these, so I highly recommend anyone starting their drawing journey to get a pair.

I have tried a few blending stumps from different companies, but overall I don’t think there is much difference in quality, and it’s more about getting used to it. I think I slightly prefer ones by Derwent because I’m able to get a smoother / less grainy finish with those.

1. Get the best drawing board for your budget.

I guess this says enough about my budget 😅.

A drawing board not only helps you secure the paper or sketchbook, but it also allows you to draw more freely and for longer durations because of the more comfortable angle and the fact that it frees up your non-drawing hand and helps you avoid slouching.

I would love to get one of those adjustable drawing boards which I think are a great investment, but for now, I have settled for an ordinary office clipboard that I already had, which admittedly isn’t ideal but it’s definitely a step up from having to draw without any support.

3 Things you don’t need when you’re just starting your drawing journey.

1. Drawing tablet.

If you’re new to drawing, I suggest starting with traditional media like graphite or charcoal before investing in a drawing tablet, which is significantly costlier and perhaps more difficult to get over the initial level of proficiency.

Once you’ve tried drawing traditionally for a while, you’ll be in a better position to assess whether you want to learn drawing digitally or explore other subjects or mediums traditionally instead.

When I got back to drawing, I was inspired by many Procreate artists at the time and ended up buying an iPad Pro with an Apple pencil for just that, only to discover I actually prefer the tactile sensation of drawing with graphite on paper.

2. Artist-grade painting sets and brushes.

While it’s nice to experiment with different mediums, I think it’s best to start learning to draw in monochrome first with materials like graphite or charcoal before learning to draw with colors.

But if you do want to draw with wet media as a beginner, I suggest getting something that is not exorbitantly pricey so you can have fun figuring out if that’s something you want to do without investing too much upfront.

I remember getting myself an artist-grade watercolor set with a Kolinsky Sable brush set a while back that was quite expensive and frankly quite unnecessary at the time. I ended up not really liking the medium, which in hindsight was in part because my drawing skills were quite average and that made it really hard to figure out the structure of a painting and understand how values work with colors.

3. Expensive sketchbooks.

If you’re just starting, avoid expensive sketchbooks so you don’t worry about ‘making mistakes’.

I have more than 4 Moleskine sketchbooks that I haven’t used for two years because I got obsessed with creating the perfect sketchbook that was devoid of messy drawings, and this got to a point where it was paralyzing my art progress. Eventually, I had to give up drawing in those (admittedly beautiful) sketchbooks so I could let my creativity flow.

Parting advice.

A great piece of advice I once got from a mentor is that the best tools for drawing are ones you already have and this is something I have to remind myself whenever I feel like getting the next shiny art supply that I think I absolutely need but deep down I know I really don’t need.

So if you have a few pencils lying around and can find some sheets of paper to draw on, don’t make not having any other art supplies an excuse to not draw! You can always work with what you already have while you build your dream drawing kit.

Let me know what some art supplies you cannot draw without in the comments below. Happy drawing! ✏️