Pencil Drawing Supplies – Beginner’s Guide for Choosing

Learning to draw can be daunting enough without fretting over what supplies to get. With so many different items

and brands, just purchasing the supplies can be enough of a deterrent for beginners to just throw up their hands and forget about learning pencil drawing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it shouldn’t.

This article will discuss the pencil drawing supplies you will need and guide you to take the guesswork out of which ones to choose so you can get started in drawing with graphite pencils.

Confidence Booster

Just in case you’re wondering if you will have enough “talent” to draw, please read my post “Can Anyone Learn to Draw?”.

Also, if you’re not sure how to learn to draw, my post, “The Best Way to Learn to Draw” will definitely help you get started.

Basic List of Needed Items      

  • Graphite pencils
  • Sketchbook
  • Drawing paper for finished drawings
  • Sharpeners
  • Erasers
  • Tortillons and Blending Stumps
  • Proportional Divider
  • Drawing Board
  • Storage Container

Pencils!

Yes, you can just pick up an ordinary No. 2 pencil and start doodling or sketching – anyone can do that.

But, this article assumes you are more serious and want the best supplies and materials to start out right.

To that end, let’s talk about graphite pencils made specifically for graphite drawing art.

They are sold in a range of hardness or softness from 9H to 9B (lightest to darkest).

Generally, the H pencils have a harder lead and make narrower and lighter lines with 9H being the lightest while the B pencils make darker lines with 9B as the darkest.

Just starting out, I would suggest sketching and getting familiar with the HB and 2B pencils first.

Regarding brands, my advice is to get a professional grade pencil – yes, even if you’re a beginner – and yes, you will feel very cool using them 🙂 ! You won’t regret it and the quality will be worth every penny (although they really are not expensive).

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The brand I use and recommend is
Derwent Graphic Pencil
.
Derwent Graphic Pencil - Medium Designer, Set of 12

Derwent is a quality company that makes quality art supplies and their graphite pencils are no exception.

These pencils come in a 24 pack, but honestly, you can get a 12 pack (pictured above) very reasonably that contains 4H to 6B, everything you will need to get started.

Derwent Graphic pencils are made of the best graphite and clay that is pure to maximize a smooth and quality flow; they are a joy to work with!

You cannot go wrong with these pencils – they are a professional grade pencil you will enjoy and appreciate.

Sketchbooks and Paper

Learning to draw is something you will want to practice daily to keep improving. And the best way I recommend is to draw in a sketchbook whenever you have a chance to sketch.

Daler-Rowney Simply Sketchbook - 11'' x 8-1/2'', Soft White, Hardbound, 110 Sheets

 Be sure to take your sketchbook everywhere, so when the mood strikes (and if you have time), you can sketch the idea quickly and finish later at home.

Here is the Daler-Rowney Simply Sketchbook – 11” x 8-1/2”

.  The hard cover that will hold up over time and a lot of transporting. 😉

When you would like to do a finished drawing, I recommend a good quality drawing paper with a weight of at least 60 lbs.

There are many drawing tablets on the market, but just don’t get one with paper as thin as printer paper as you will have a difficult time building up darker values.

My recommendation for quality, durable for erasing and will allow for smooth blending is

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Pad . Be sure to choose the vellum surface, not the smooth.

The vellum has just enough texture in the paper to be able to build up and hold darker tones while being smooth enough for beautiful transitions in value and gradients.

Ahhh…sounds great, doesn’t it??

Sharpeners

Obvious, right? I mean working with pencil, you need a good sharpener. And I recommend both a handheld and electric sharpener.

With handheld sharpeners, I have purchased ones from the dollar store and they were fine.

But, I recommend having a good handheld sharpener. They are not expensive and give you peace of mind that they will work well.

Kum Wedge Sharpener is the one I use and recommend, pictured here. It is made in Germany and has carbon steel blades that are razor sharp. Blades are replaceable, too!

Bostitch QuietSharp Executive Electric Pencil SharpenerFor

electric, I swear by the Bostitch QuietSharp Executive Electric Pencil Sharpener. It is super fast and sharpens to a very fine sharpness.

Also, there are no worries of it chewing up your pencils. This is a quality sharpener folks.

Battery sharpeners are OK. I really like the Tripworthy brand. It takes 4 AA batteries and it lasts a long time. I purchased mine about 10 months ago, and haven’t needed to replace the batteries so far.

Also, with battery sharpeners, you obviously can take them “on location”!

Erasers

We are so used to having erasers at the end of our Ticonderogas or mechanical pencils, that you may not think about needing to purchase separate erasers.

Well, the professional graphite drawing pencils do not have erasers on the end so clearly, you will need to have erasers on hand.

Synthetic rubber erasers

There are basically two different types of erasers I recommend you get: your basic synthetic rubber eraser which we’re most familiar with, usually in pink and a kneadable eraser (like putty).

But the one eraser I really like for its smooth and gentleness is the
Paper Mate White Pearl Eraser
. It is also Latex free if that is a concern.

Tombow MONO Zero Refillable Eraser - Round

second synthetic type of eraser I absolutely love is the
Tombow MONO Zero Refillable Eraser – Round
.

It is like a mechanical pencil except it has a very small eraser in it. And refills are available as well!

Love this little gem and refuse to draw without it!!

Kneaded or Kneadable Erasers

These are called erasers but don’t look, feel or erase like traditional erasers and their purpose is different from that of a traditional eraser.

These kneadable erasers come in a wrapped package usually in gray but also colors. And this one pictured below right, Lyra Kneadable Eraser comes with it’s own little case.

This is very handy because they do dry out if left out. If you buy one without a case, a ziplock bag for storage works just fine.

It is a Lyra Kneadable Eraser - with Plastic Box

putty-like substance (see above photo) that removes the graphite from your paper without any erasure crumbs and doesn’t wear away.

(And did I mention, how fun and stress relieving it is to just play with??  Lol :))

The method to use the kneadable eraser is to press down and pull up to lift graphite for the purpose of lightening or lifting value.

You will see the graphite on the putty, but you simply stretch and refold/mold the soiled part over on itself to get a clean spot again.

They are not good for erasing larger areas as they will not erase completely.

Using the Rubber and Kneaded Eraser Together

When you wish to remove graphite from an area, it is a great idea to use the two together.

First use the kneaded eraser to lift off as much graphite as you can, then use the rubber eraser to finish erasing.

Here is a photo showing the difference of using the two-step process with both erasers uses on the right of the line vs. using just the rubber to the left of the line.

Clearly the right is erased more completely with very little residue left.

Tortillons and Blending Stumps

These are tools you will want to have down the road. So what the heck is a tortillon (pronounced tor-tee-yawn)?  It is a blending tool and so is a blending stump. Here they are pictured.

The shorter is the Tortillon, the double-ended one is the Blending Stump

.

These tools allow you to blend the graphite to create smooth gradients.

The blending stump being thicker is great for larger areas where the tortillon’s fine pointed tip allows you to get into small or tight areas to blend.

The blending stump is made from paper that is compressed into a cylindrical shape with points on the ends. The tortillon is paper rolled tightly into a fine point.

I personally like working with the stump vs. the tortillon. Here is a picture of a circle I worked with the blending stump on the right and the tortillon on the left.

The stump just feels softer and more gentle on the paper. And I was able to blend the graphite out farther. See for yourself the results.

Still, the tortillon is great for blending in very tiny areas.

Proportional Divider

You may not need this right away if you are just practicing sketching and possibly following the techniques in Betty Edwards book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (which I recommend and began with when teaching myself to draw).

However, going forward, this is a tool which can help you with proportions (just as the name suggests). It is also called a scale divider.  The Derwent Scale Divider

is my suggestion for you.
Derwent Scale DividerIf your reference photo is bigger or smaller than your art piece, this is a tool you won’t want to be without. You can easily transfer the drawing to scale by adjusting the divider, getting all your measurements and proportions exactly right.

The picture here shows my divider set at an approximate 2:1 ratio, that is my drawing will be drawn approximately at twice the size of the original.

This makes scaling everything to its proper size a breeze!

If you intend to draw a reference photo with a 1:1 ratio, then a simple geometric compass would work just fine to transfer measurements.

Drawing Board and Storage Container

I really recommend a board to draw on, preferably one that has clips. I listed these the board and storage container separately in the list because you make wish to purchase separate items.

But I combined them here because boy, did I find the perfect solution to a drawing board that doubles as a storage container too! 🙂 ArtBin Sketch Board
ArtBin Sketch Board

allows you to clip your drawing paper or pad to the outside to draw or open it and clip to the inside where all your materials will be.

What a great product!  I don’t own it – yet – but I may have to just get one now that I stumbled upon it!  I just love things that double or even triple in their purpose!

Let’s Draw!

Hopefully, you won’t have anything else holding you back from drawing. Just get started. Really, just do it! That’s the hardest part, getting started. But you got this!

Please let me know what your favorite drawing supply or tool is! You may have several favorites! Leave in the box below. I will never share your email.

Thanks for reading!

Have an artful day!

Elaine

6 thoughts on “Pencil Drawing Supplies – Beginner’s Guide for Choosing”

  1. This is a great intro into the basic art supplies that you need to start pencil drawing. I found that when I started using these supplies, I was able to create much better works of art. My blending and shading improved dramatically when I started using blending stumps and the right hardness pencil for the shading I wanted. My favorite drawing supply is the simple sketch pad. You can take it anywhere and even use bad pencils on it. My nephew whipped out his sketchbook at dinner when we visited to show off his progress. It was so fun! 

    Reply
  2. Great informative article on all the basics necessary for drawing.  I have an eight year old daughter that is obsessed with all forms of art so I am always looking for birthday gift ideas which I got a couple from this article. I will have to check out the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as well!  

    Reply
    • Thank you, Mike! Glad you were able to get some great ideas for your daughter.  Yes, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a great book. It was really my foundation for drawing.  

      Reply
  3. Thank you for your review on this, Elaine! This really helps a lot as my youngest sister is going to have her art classes in school as extra curriculum. This is a great list that we can look through, so that she will be ready for her classes. I love how you go into every small details of the products. Even just for pencils, you gave so much information that really is helpful when picking suitable pencils. I also love how structured your website is, it is really easy for me to locate certain parts of your articles. Such a great review done, keep it up and keep on drawing! 

    Reply

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