Art Supplies

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Whew! When I started to do my online research for this section, I went to my personal favorite for mail order art supplies, Blick Art Materials. They have quite an inventory, and I've always gone to them when the local art stores (which are pretty sad in my area) didn't have the art supplies I needed.

I am pretty conservative with art supplies. I stick with the big brands a lot of the time, but I'm not afraid to venture out and try new brands and off-brands. But, I will mainly recommend the established brands here, because they are easy to find (call your local art store) and they are tried-and-true.

Pencils and Paper

Graphite pencils, colored pencils, and paper recommendations:

400 series Strathmore paper - decent all-around paper, not too expensive.

Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pads 

Kimberly drawing pencils - I remember using these pencils when I first started drawing. They are just fine.

General's Kimberly Drawing Pencils 

Colored pencils - There are many types of colored pencils. I usually use Prismacolors or Derwent.

Prismacolors - the brand of colored pencil I personally recommend. Get as large of a set as you can. (24 pencils would be the bare minimum.)

Prismacolor Colored Pencil Sets 

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When choosing drawing paper, you will be assaulted with a multitude of choices. There is "drawing" paper, and then "sketching" paper. Usually (but not always) Drawing paper is a little higher in quality, and therefore more expensive.

Get either drawing or sketching paper, whatever you can afford. For practicing, I recommend sketching paper. Make sure the paper you buy can take the mediums you intend to use. For instance, if a paper says "pencil and charcoal," don't try to paint a watercolor on it. Some drawing papers will take ink and watercolors too - so check each type before you buy!

There are many good paper brands. I usually get Strathmore or Canson, but I have been known to get whatever I can find. (A lot of the drawings seen on this site were made on an ultra-cheap sketchpad I got at K-Mart!) Some of the cheaper brands won't take erasures well, so don't always go with the cheapest. Feel the paper a bit, and see if you think it has a good surface.

DON'T get newsprint. It's great for certain things, but is far too flimsy and thin for portrait drawing.

I recommend the B and 2B softness when buying graphite pencils, and maybe an HB. Don't get a 2H or anything harder than HB - your drawings will always be too washed out, as you will have to press down really hard to make a decent line. A 3B or softer can be great for making dark tones, but the graphite will smear if you aren't careful. (This is true for all pencils that are given softness/hardness ratings.)

As far as colored pencils go, Prismacolor and Derwent are the brands I use. Derwent is a little on the "hard" side (not quite as smooth and creamy as Prismacolor) so I only get Derwent when they have a unique color that Prismacolor doesn't. The "Verithin" brand is too hard for a colored pencil. It won't make a rich line. It has its uses, but I do not recommend Verithin for most portrait work.

You can use regular drawing paper for your colored pencil work, or Canson brand paper (textured paper, for pastel or charcoal). I usually use Canson, since it comes in many colors.

I recommend Kneaded Rubber eraser for pencil and colored pencil work. You can find many brands of Kneaded Rubber erasers, and as far as I know they are all pretty similar. Kneaded Rubber erasers (available at almost all art stores) are a little like "Silly Putty." You manipulate it with your hands to make different shapes. You can even make a little pointy tip to erase small and delicate parts of your drawing. Kneaded Rubber erasers are also less messy and easier on the paper than regular erasers. Regular rubber erasers are acceptable when you have no Kneaded Rubber eraser around.

Specific advice for buying colored pencils for portrait work:

If you are new to colored pencils and are seeking a good selection of colors for drawing portraits, here are some of my Prismacolor and Derwent color recommendations. You can buy these pencils individually, instead of in a set.

I do not want to imply that an artist needs to own each and every one of these colors. Get as many as you can afford. I have highlighted (red text) the colors that I personally consider absolutely, positively essential to my own colored pencil portrait work.

Prismacolor—Light colors, flesh colors, accent colors, tints:

White, Light Peach, Blush Pink, Peach, Sand, Deco Peach, Clay Rose, Beige, Cream, Pale Vermilion, Warm Gray 10%, French Gray 10%, Cool Gray 10%

Prismacolor—Darker colors, darker flesh colors, shadow colors, dark accent colors:

Burnt Ochre, Terra Cotta, Sienna Brown, Parma Violet, Crimson Lake, Henna, Indigo Blue, True Blue, Non-Photo Blue, Steel, Warm Gray 90%, Cool Gray 90%, French Gray 90%, Black

Derwent Studio and Signature Pencils—Unique colors that I cannot find within the Prismacolor line:

Studio: Flesh Pink, Pale Vermilion, Rose Pink

Signature: Diazo Yellow (Hue), Holland Brown, Pink Oxide, Orange Oxide, Red Oxide, Rutile Yellow,

These are colors I use for portrait work. I have many other colors as well—blues, greens, purples, bright yellows, and so on, to use on other subjects (landscapes, etc.).

To learn more about working in colored pencil, read my Colored Pencil Portrait Tutorial.

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