A Professional Artist's Most Use Materials, Supplies, and Tools

One of the most common questions I'm asked is which materials I recommend or use in my work. I've spent many years buying supplies for both the classroom and my own studio so I try to be budget friendly, but also take into consideration the quality and "life" of the product.

Because I use such a wide variety of media, I'll try to break them down into categories and include a little information about why I prefer these brands over others.

Drawing Materials

KOH-I-NOOR Toison D'Or Graphite Pencils
These Toison D'Or pencils are so smooth and the varying softnesses of the graphite really create a full range of value. The 8B seems much darker than other 8B's I've used.

MOO PVC Erasers
I like this eraser because it seems to erase with relatively little force, it also creates long strands of eraser crumbles/dust so it's super easy to clean up and doesn't leave a huge mess.

Prismacolor Premier Kneaded Rubber Erasers
Another eraser I use frequently is my kneaded eraser to remove light layers of graphite instead of removing the whole area.

Papermate Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick
Another eraser! This is a little "mechanical" eraser stick that I often use to erase out highlights in hair or other small details. It's also very useful for small controlled areas like when I am working on sketch cards.

KUM Pencil Sharpener
I prefer an old school hand sharpener because I find I waste less of the graphite/core of my pencils (whether that be graphite, charcoal, or colored pencil) and my supplies last longer that way. Almost every pencil sharpener I have ever owned goes dull within a few uses, KUM brands seem to stay sharp much longer.

Faber Castell PITT Artist Pens - Black India Ink
Whenever I do black line work, like the pages of my coloring book, these pens are my go to. The ink is permanent and doesn't bleed when paired with watercolors or alcohol inks (though, you have to let the ink cure for at least 24 hours to make sure of this.)

Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star India Ink, Matte
When it comes to larger areas or black or thicker lines than what the Faber Castell PITT pens can achieve I use this Dr. PH Martin's Black Star ink. It's matte finish is very similar to the pens and I like that I can apply it with a brush or a pen.

Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
Prismacolor is my preferred brand when it comes to colored pencils. There are two things I recommend splurging on upfront, even as a beginning artist, and that is colored pencils and paper. Working in the cheaper brands can be very frustrating and turn you off from the process. When working in Prismacolor the application, the colors and pigment, the final piece, is just so much nicer because of the quality of the product. (My only suggestion with these, or any pencil, is be very careful about letting them roll and fall off the table. When pencils hit the ground the core/lead can break from the impact and make it nearly impossible to keep them core from staying sharp and inside the wood.)

Prismacolor Premier Illustration Marker
Ever since Prisma offered a brush tip marker these have been a regular product in my art process. They play nice with the black ink, watercolor paints, and also the Copic Sketch markers I use.

Copic Sketch Markers
Though I feel brand loyal to Prisma, I also use the Copic Sketch markers and that's pretty much for one reason only... I use the markers frequently enough that I am regularly having to replenish them. I like that Copic offers refills and replacement nibs whereas you have to buy a new marker when shopping Prisma. I make a lot of waste as an artist and I want to try to keep my carbon footprint as little as possible.

Faber-Castel Polychromos Colored Pencils
I more recently started using these colored pencils, they haven’t replaced my Prismacolor brand pencils but are used separately for a different look and feel. Polys are created using an oil based binder (whereas Prisma uses a wax binder) and I find that you get a softer, smoother application and look which, depending on the end goal of the piece, works better for me.

Krylon Gallery Series UV Archival Varnish Aerosol Spray
In order to seal my colored pencil pieces or give a little added shelf life to marker illustrations. I use this UV Archival Spray Varnish to finish off my pieces.
 


Watercolor Materials

Holbein Watercolors 5Ml Tubes
I prefer the tubes of watercolor paint over the pans because I can use a little at a time without wasting or ruining the paint (with cats and a dog I find little furs in my paint all the time so I try to keep my palette clean and dry except for when I’m painting). Holbein has good quality paints with lovely colors. I have the set of 24 and I find I’m able to mix every color I could possibly need. If you’re just getting your feet wet with professional quality paints, even the 12 count set would suffice!

Pelikan Transparent Watercolor Paint Set
I started painting in watercolors with this Pelikan brand paint set. While I primarily use the Holbein tubes these days, I still find myself packing up my Pelikan set when I travel or set up at conventions. For me, it’s easier to carry the pans than my entire palette setup. The colors are pigmented and easy to mix and dissolve.

John Pike Big Well Watercolor Palette
I find that having a watercolor palette with a lid and a large surface to mix colors on works best for me. I can close it up and keep it protected from the pets that try to prance around on it.

Grumbacher Academy Watercolor Round Brush, Size 10
I find my 10 Round to be my most versatile brush because it has a nice fine point for small details but it’s also large enough and holds enough pigment to use the whole brush and get big washes or gradients down quickly.

Derwent Watercolor Pencils
I love watercolor pencils for when I travel. I like using them dry and washing over them with clean water and I like using them on damp paper for a really solid pigmented line. They’re incredibly fun to play with and I really enjoy using them in my sketchbook for documenting things quickly.

Water Brush Pen Set
Another really great product to carry with you while traveling! These brush handles are little barrels you fill with clean water and squeeze to release water through the bristles of the brush.


Papers & Tools

Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Hard Cover Sketchbook
This sketchbook has great quality paper that holds a decent amount of wet pigment without too much curling or warping. I do have some bleed through with alcohol markers, but for a good art journal/travel sketchbook, this one is top notch!

Strathmore Series 400 Drawing Pads and Sketch Pads
When drawing, I use Strathmore exclusively because they are consistently great quality and acid free, meaning the paper won’t yellow or deteriorate when stored properly. I also like that Strathmore papers are made in the US.

Strathmore Bristol Vellum Paper Pad
When I work in ink or colored pencil I primarily use Strathmore’s Bristol pads, like these 9x12s or the larger sheets of a slightly higher quality (the 580 series).

Strathmore 580 Bristol Vellum
This Bristol is 2-ply and very high quality for final works.

Arches Cold Press Watercolor Block
I love these blocks for when I’m working on larger final pieces. They’re nice because you can paint directly on the block and remove the painting when it’s done with very little warping since it’s stretched out and sealed down around the sides. All you need to do is slide a palette knife around the pad to free the top sheet.

Arches Watercolor Paper 140 lb. Cold Press
Because I often work very small, I have found it most economical to buy big sheets in packs and cut them down to they size needed. I don’t have a large paper cutter so I usually use a T-Square and X-Acto knife to start and then my small paper trimmer to finish.

Fiskars Paper Trimmer
When I start my art cards I usually work on a piece of paper that is 3” x 4” and then trim it down to 2.5” x 3.5” that way the image and color goes right to the edge without potentially tearing or damaging the edge of the card. This trimmer is a good size for easy storage and you can easily find replacement blades when they go dull.

White Artists Tape
In order to get those crisp clean edges around my watercolor paintings, I use white artist tape. If I’m out of the white tape, some blue painters tape works in a pinch.

Gummed Kraft Paper Tape
Stretching your watercolor paper before painting is always a good idea, especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of wet on wet techniques that require saturating your paper. In order to keep the paper from warping, taping it down with this gummed paper tape will save you the hassle of having to flatten it out at completion.


Art Business

Half Sheet Self Adhesive Shipping Labels
I don’t waste my time going to the post office to purchase shipping anymore and I print and ship all my products from my house. I also don’t waste my time taping down my labels, so I buy these adhesive half sheets and it has saved me so much time! The fit through my home printer just fine and get the job done.

A9 Invitation Envelopes
When I ship out giveaways or stickers I only use a stamp and an envelope. These A9 sized envelopes are perfect for 5” x 7” prints and they are self-adhesive, so no licking to seal!

Rigid Fiberboard Photo Mailers
To ship out my 8” x 10” prints these fiberboard photo mailers are the perfect size and don’t require any extra backing to prevent them from bending.

Ultra Pro Clear Card Sleeves
When I ship out the art card they come in a clear card sleeve and acrylic top loader.

Golden State Crystal Clear Sleeves Storage Bags
Art prints and stickers are shipped in clear sleeves to protect from any potential smudging or damage.

Poly Bubble Mailers
I buy mailers in bulk as the cost can add up quickly when mailing out merchandise.

KC Store Fixtures Mini Grid Organizer
When I set up at events and only have a table for display I use this grid organizer (with extra connectors) to build an upright table top display. I like it because I can create different sizes and shapes depending on what is provided at the event and I find having all of your products at or above eye level allows potential buyers the opportunity to see all your products in front of them.

4" Mini Cable Ties
I don’t totally trust the connectors in instances where maybe something or someone could potentially knock my display over, so I reinforce the grid with cable ties.

Storex Portable File Box with Lid
I find it easiest to keep all my prints in one box, divided with file folders and tabs. One works great for my current print amount but as I make more art I might need to buy a second.

Smead Hanging File Folders with Tabs
Folder to go into the file box and keep things organized.

 


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