To become a good pencil artist, you’ll need to develop the right skills while using the proper art materials. Your art tools should work well together while giving you consistent results, especially as a beginner.
If you have good technique but you’re working with the wrong set of tools, the results can be quite discouraging! You’re also missing out on progress you could have gained.
Find a reliable set/combination of tools so you can finally focus on developing your technique instead of compensating for problems related to your toolbox.
Using the Right Tools for the Job!
As a beginner, it’s important to practice seeing first. I think shading is something that should be learned much later on.
A great way to practice seeing and developing hand-eye coordination is to sketch.
Sketching allows you to strengthen your muscle memory for movements that are actually quite different from writing – where movements are very small and employ a different combination of muscle groups.
If you’re in this stage, pick up some quality sketch paper and an HB pencil. It’s as simple as that! This shouldn’t cost much more than $15. My recommendations are at the bottom of this page.
Drawing and Shading
If you’re ready for drawing and shading, push your sketch paper off to the side (especially if it’s a really thin and smooth one). Sketch paper is usually very thin – made for preliminary work. While you can shade on it, it may not be able to stand up to hours of shading, experimentation and erasing.
Pick up a quality ‘drawing’ paper that is thick, sturdy and well textured (medium tooth). My recommendations will be down below.
As for pencils, you’ll need a set that can give you a good range of values if you want to produce realistic portraits.
Using a single HB pencil is not going to give you that realistic effect. You can use an HB to shade light to medium greys. Go any darker and you’ll see just how inefficient it gets. Also, the harder your lead is, the more difficult it will be to blend (pencils marked with an H are hard, while ones marked with a B are soft).
Opt for a variety of pencils from HB-6B (from the same brand). If you want to learn more about pencils, visit this in-depth shading tutorial/guide.
Things to remember:
- Hard pencils are better for sketching because they don’t smudge as easily as soft ones. Shading dark areas of a portrait can damage the paper or even puncture it.
- Soft pencils are like butter. They are great for shading, but very difficult to use for light sketching.
My Recommended Drawing Supplies for Beginners
Below is a list of tools that I find reliable and work very well for me personally.
The links below this are Amazon affiliate links. If you buy your art supplies through these links, I will make a small commission (at no extra cost to you). These commissions help fund RapidFireArt so I can continue to do what I love and share my knowledge with you :)
For sketching: Derwent HB pencil (For sketching and drawing light stuff)
Derwent HB-6B pencils (If you’re on a tight budget, get this 4-pack).
Derwent H-9B, 12 pencil tin pack (If you want a more complete set for portrait drawing. This is the one I have).
A good pencil on bad paper can be a disaster. If you want to draw on copy paper/ printer paper, make sure the surface is completely matte. Sketching on regular recycled paper is fine, but you may not be able to erase the graphite completely if the paper has too many deep nooks and crevices.
Remember to look for acid-free paper. You will be able to preserve your artwork much longer.
Sketching Paper: Canson Artist Series Universal Sketch Pad. This is a really cheap sketchbook with quality sheets that are pretty thick. If you want to buy a different one from your local art store, look for one that is acid free and around 60lb.
Drawing Paper: Strathmore Drawing. Such a fun texture to work on! Picks up graphite really well. I use it for most of my youtube speed drawings.
I use both hard and soft erasers. Hard is for erasing really dark lines or big spaces. Soft is for erasing tiny details, making certain areas of your drawing lighter by lifting graphite away in layers and defining highlights. Click here if you want to learn more about kneaded erasers.
Hard: Tombow Mono
Soft: Prismacolor Kneaded Eraser. This is my favorite eraser of all time! It’s my best friend.. no joke!
As a beginner, I’d stick to tissue paper. Blending stumps are a little more advanced and can work against you if you’re not used to it.
Eisen Aluminium Pencil Sharpener. The best manual sharpener I’ve ever used! It has never snapped my lead, ever. Plus, the blade is really sharp, giving me a smooth sharpening experience every time.
When you’re making preliminary guidelines for your artwork, you’ll want to use a transparent ruler. An opaque one will block your full view of the drawing which may lead to uneven lines that you will need to erase and re-draw.
Also, make sure the inked numbers cannot not rub off, as this can ruin your drawing.