Here it is. A long, detailed list of my most commonly used art supplies and favourites- from paper to pens to paint- plus the stuff you don’t see including storage, reference material and tech. It’s a lot of info, so grab a cup of tea and let’s break it down!
(Don’t wanna read all these words? Check out the video here.)
I prefer to work in sketchbooks over having lots of loose bits of paper here, there and everywhere. And for me, since I mainly work in ink or paint, a sketchbook that can handle wet application is a must. Here’s what I’m using at the moment;
Affordable and durable, this sketchbook is just ideal for me. It’s easy to lay flat on the table and handles wet-application with ease. I’ve used ink, paint (heavy on the water at times) and Copic markers in this, and although the markers do bleed through to the other side (when don’t they) there’s never any feathering on the paper or bleed all the way through to the next sheet.
Similar spec to the last sketchbook, this one has a much neater, more proffessional (dare I say better quality) feel to it. It’s case-bound, making it a lot more convenient to take on the go. See how I decorated the cover of mine here.
I’m a huge fan of Leuchtturm. There’s a real sense of craftsmanship in all their products, plus the colour variety that their notebooks and sketchbooks come in is unreal. This one has stood up well to wet-application, the pages are a lot smoother and a little bit thinner thank the previous two sketchbooks but there isn’t much feathering of ink and the pages don’t crumble under wet paint.
I’ve been using Moleskine for years, and though I might have converted to Leuchtturm (who I would say are slightly better quality for a similar price) my Moleskine sketchbooks have treated me well.
I also keep around at least one cheaper sketchbook for rough sketches, reference practice, thumbnailing or just plain old doodles;
I’ve just started using this as a sort of daily, doodle/art-journal and I’m ridiculously surprised at the quality! The paper holds up beautifully with my Pentel Brush en, feathering slightly but not bleeding through at all. For such a cheap price, I see myself re-purchasing this forever! It’s a definite new staple.
This is where we get to the serious stuff! With such a focus on line-work, my art would be nothing without a good pen and a precise pencil to sketch it out.
I’ve had this pencil and it’s purple counterpart for years. What I love about mechanical pencils is that you never need to sharpen them but always get a precise line. I can’t explain why, but I can never seem to sharpen traditional pencils properly.
£3-30!! (if you buy from the brand directly, I’m sure you can find it cheaper)
I have to admit, I use these very rarely as you can see from their almost pristine condition in the picture. However, if I’m looking to do a more detailed pencil sketch featuring more shading, I’ll dip into this set. They’re nowhere near artist quality so, if unlike me, pencil work is an important part of your art, this isn’t the set for you.
(Buy them at the pound shop)
This is my ultimate art tool. I have an entire blog post on this pen here, so check that out for a more detailed review. But here’s a brief overview;
Great for adding details and sufficiently opaque, I’m sure there are better gel pens on the market but this one is good enough for me!
Another brush pen now and another solid favourite. This pen differs from the Pentel as it isn’t refillable or water-resistant but gives a finer line and slower ink flow, allowing for much more detail bit still giving varied line thickness when you’re applying different amounts of pressure.
Real brush tip
Before I discovered brush-pens, pure ink in a bottle is where I started with my line-work. And I still can’t resist going back to it. India ink when used without water leaves a slightly glossy finish, and a truly deep, rich black colour.
When I’m inking with India Ink, I’ll use a really fine paintbrush and I do the same with paint outlines too.
My system with brushes is to buy cheap sets and replace them whenever I need to (which surprisingly isn’t too often considering how awful I am at taking proper care of them). The two sets I’m using at the moment are;
For paint, I’m pretty much totally converted to gouache. I mainly use Winsor and Newton and can’t help but marvel every time at the richness and depth of colour and opacity. I also have a Reeves set that’s great for mixing in with the Winsor and Newton when I’m desperate for a certain colour and I feel like I need more than the W&N primary colours to get there. Basically when I’m being lazy (which is all the time). The Reeves set can hold it’s own, but there is a definite difference in quality between the two brands. I also have a larger tube of Pebeo gouache in white as I often found that I was running out of white much quicker than any other colour and Pebeo was the first brand I came across that did tubes of gouache that size.
So let’s break all that down;
6 primary colours
I mix my paint in this mixing palette £1.50 and clean my brushes in a jar from Sainsbury’s £3.
And that’s pretty much it for my basic supplies. Now for a couple of quick extras I thought I’d show you some of the sort of behind the scenes stuff starting with a tiny bit of the tech I use…
I did a lot of research before buying this scanner, having spent a load of money on a higher-spec, much bigger and much more expensive scanner before this one and being hugely disappointed with how it washed out my images. This came up as a great, affordable option and ended up being miles better than it’s predecessor. There’s actually a newer model out, however my research found that this older one was in fact better so I made the long journey to a PC World on the other side of London where I’d found was one of the few places that actually stocked it. Why I didn’t just get it online is beyond me.
As a starter scanner, I couldn’t ask for better! Plus, it’s so light, I can use it in bed on those lazy days.
Mac and Windows Compatible
Up to 2400 x 4800 dpi
This is a free image editing software which offers many of the features of Photoshop. Obviously it’s nowhere near as extensive, but if you just need to do a bit of tweaking, this is the software for you. And it’s capable of a lot more than tweaking if I’m honest!
(Download it here (Mac+Windows))
All the info on my camera and lighting equipment is featured in this video. My camera is the Pentax K-r. It does a decent job of taking pictures of my art for my website, shop and online portfolio, however it’s a little bit dated, heavy and noisy. I’m looking into downsizing to the newer, cheaper and higher-spec Sony A5100. In fact, I’m planning on buying it tomorrow!
So, for inspiration when I need a bit of a visual prompt, I always keep comics and art books at hand. At the moment I have this vintage avengers comic on my desk which is great to flip through, even if just for a laugh. I ‘borrowed’ this one from my sister but usually I get a couple of new books a month for about 50p from charity shops or car boot sales.
So to finish off are a few storage and decoration items plus the cutting equipment I use to get my work down to size. These things may not be important to some, but I thought they were at least worth mentioning because it all feeds into the overall process. So let’s go!
To cut my art down to size, I’ll either use a knife and a cutting mat or- for smaller pieces- this paper trimmer. The trimmer has become quite blunt but it still performs to a decent standard and I believe the blade can be replaced. Cutting with a knife can be a bit fiddly but I do prefer the clean edge it gets me and it’s a lot clearer to see where exactly you’re cutting.
(Stanley knives or Exacto-knives can be bought in many craft stores and online)
I’m throwing these in at the end as I don’t use them often anymore but thought they definitely deserved a spot on the list. The particular set I have has a great range of colours to get you started, including various skin-tones, some pastels and some bright, bold hues too.
Not much has changed since my art workspace tour so I’d recommend that you check that out, here.
Most of my art supplies are kept by my desk in a bathroom storage unit from Ikea. I have a paper rack also from Ikea that fits perfectly into the gap between two of the shelves. As well as that, I have wooden boxes for overflow art and craft supplies that I don’t use so often. On my desk itself are a few cups and jars that I’ve spray painted gold to hold pens and pencils and stuff like that.
Then there are these wooden paint boxes, which I bought from car boot sales (one was empty and the WH Smiths one came with all the paints as well- bargain!) In the empty one, I’ve put some watercolour palettes, my Winsor and Newton inks and some masking fluid.
I get a lot of questions about my third box with the compartments and the clear lid. This is from a supermarket (either Aldi or Lidl) and it’s supposed to be used for teabags! I’ve found that the compartments are perfect for separating my paints into types for easy access; so gouache, watercolour, acrylic and oil.
I keep finished pieces of artwork in expanding folders in a cupboard in my room so they’re accessible, safe from the elements and organised.
To keep things atmospheric, I always like to light candles and surround myself with plants. This isn’t just something I do for my videos, I genuinely like to embellish my workspace with pretty things! So my current favourite candle is from Sainsbury’s and so is this gorgeous succulent (and the smaller, fake ones too). Most of the rest of my plants are plastic and from Ikea and I just switch them around whenever I’m in the mood for something different.
Thanks so much for checking out my list of essential art supplies. Please note that some links provided in this blog post are affiliate links which means that, if you do chose to purchase something through that link, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
What are your go-to art essentials? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to use the link in the sidebar to sign up for email updates every time I post to this blog. See you next time!
Okay, I have to be totally honest, I haven’t watched Star Wars since I was little. It’s funny, back in the day, I