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Are you considering investing in some new art supplies? Would you like to step-up your art game but want to make sure you're not wasting money on unnecessary tools? Are you curious if it's REALLY necessary to invest in the highest quality supplies in order to improve your work?
Preferred mediums and brands are going to vary from artist to artist. Though you can listen to recommendations from others, it's all going to come down to first-hand exploration. It is through direct exploration than an artist is able to discover his/her personal likes, dislikes and style!
This said, I 100% believe that it is NOT necessary to acquire the most expensive supplies in order to produce high quality work. A good drawing/painting medium and/or substrate can certainly make the art-making process easier, and it SHOULD be a goal to arrive at a point at which you're able to use higher quality supplies. However, you CAN and SHOULD always find a way to keep progressing your artistic skills continuously, with or without them.
In the beginning I recommend doing some research prior to buying, in order to arrive at a brand and product that offer a relatively good product at an accessible price. Sure, you're bound to buy a few supplies that you will not like along the way, but as your journey progresses, you will slowly but surely "weed" out brands and mediums in general that do not appeal to you. And this is a beautiful thing because it means you are discovering yourself as an artist!
In this post I will be sharing a list of my current favorite and most used painting mediums, sketchbooks, pens, and other art supplies. Though I am exploring mediums like gouache and oil paints, I've included only the items which I use on a weekly basis. I hope you get some ideas!
*All of the artwork I'm sharing throughout this post has been created with a combination of two or more of these supplies.
1. Watercolor Paper
I have been able to try out a few different brands of watercolor paper by this point. Though I am far from being a paper connoisseur, I am slowly reaching a conclusion about which brands and varieties I should continue buying and which I shouldn't. Three of the brands I have had a chance to experiment with are Canson, Fabriano and Strathmore.
I have had good experiences with the heavier weight varieties of these brands because, even though I rarely do wet-on-wet, I do have a tendency to be a bit rough when painting and enjoy being able to apply many layers. Even though the Fabriano paper I bought was heavy weight and allowed for lifting, blending, and layering, it ended up being way too textured for my taste, especially when trying to add colored pencils.
I have liked both the 300 and 400 series of Strathmore paper and hope to try out the 500 series soon. The Canson watercolor pad is my latest watercolor paper acquisition and I have just started using it. What I can tell so far is that its texture is smoother and it can take a beating, which I think complements my painting style.
2. Idea Notebook and Planner
The reason why I've decided to include these two items in the list is because planning and keeping track of ideas has been a FUNDAMENTAL part of my development as an artist. I believe in setting plans and goals when trying to improve at pretty much anything in life and love writing things down. Because it is one of my objectives to improve my artistic skills, I set plans each week for myself.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you probably already know that I start my days with sketching specific subjects I want to improve at (last month it was the female figure and this week it's hands).
In my personal planner, along with every other important thing I have to do, I include daily and weekly art goals that I make sure I complete. I also have mentioned that I love carrying a small notebook with me wherever I go so I have somewhere to jot down ideas if I need to. I bought this little red notebook at Target and my planner was ordered through Amazon. You can find the link to order this beautiful planner for yourself here.
I have bought very few individual expensive paintbrushes and am using them mostly for painting with oils. For the most part, I use round and angled paintbrushes from sets that I have ordered through Amazon. I ordered this Artify set a while ago and they are still going strong (even though the ones I use most have chipped handles due to my cat attacking them mid-painting session). Their bristles have also endured my not-so-delicate usage as well. Most recently, I ordered this set of smaller detail brushes and they are working pretty well so far.
4. Small Mixed-Media Strathmore Sketchbook
Almost every sketchbook I have bought so far is of the spiral, mixed-media variety. I like being able to use all sorts of different supplies in them for any kind of study/exploration I feel like doing. I have even used oils in this little sketchbook (having gesso-ed the paper). I love this smaller sketchbook because Strathmore paper has worked for me and I can take it with me wherever I go.
5. Prismacolor Premier Soft-Core Colored Pencils
At the beginning of my art journey I was very in much into mixed-media. I still like the idea of combining different media in one same piece, though lately, I am pushing myself to complete more paintings using only one type of medium. I think this will help me improve in each specific technique independently.
What led me to this conclusion was noticing that I was using colored pencils as a crutch whenever I couldn't achieve the effect I wanted using only paint, OR because I was being too lazy to continue painting layers. However, when a specific subject calls for finer details or specific textures, I do bring them out. I have bought myself a package of white Prismacolor pencils because they finish fast and I find them very handy.
6. Winsor and Newton Cotman Watercolor Pocket Box
This is my latest watercolor acquisition and I really love it! Colors are super vibrant and creamy. However, I have found that I do pull my Sakura Koi watercolor set out when I need specific colors that this set doesn't have (like gray and black). I'll probably go with Winsor and Newton when I finally decide to invest in fancier professional grade watercolors because I am loving them so far.
7. Sakura Koi Watercolor Set (24 Colors)
This was the watercolor set that started it all for me. At this point, I have already bought two. For the price, you get an incredibly wide array of colors of, in my opinion, excellent quality. These are not as creamy as the Winsor and Newton watercolors, but they are by no means chalky or grainy. The color payoff is great. They are great for those who paint outdoors because of its portable design.
8. Drawing Pens
Though I rarely mix ink and watercolor myself, I do enjoy creating ink sketches from time to time. I really like Micron Pens (who doesn't?) and have also used Staedtler pigment liners. I tend to reach for .3 and .5 points most. I bought the brush tip LePen Drawing Pen out of whim at my local art supply store and it has been a nice addition to my collection. I am still experimenting with it. Here is a sketch I created using a combination of the Staedtler and LePen pens (this sketch was made in my small mixed-media Strathmore sketchbook).
9. Canson Mix Media Sketchbook
This is the third Canson Mix Media Sketchbook I have bought. I love them for daily studies and explorations using all sorts of media. Though I love spiraled sketchbooks, I will probably be buying more and more non-spiraled varieties as my journey progresses. Even though the paper in these Canson sketchbooks is pretty smooth and it does buckle, I have been able to produce great watercolor paintings in them like the ones below.
10. Blue Scott Shop Towels
These towels are the best! I have used regular paper towels before and end up using so many! I use them throughout my painting process (they are great for lifting and drying when I get sloppy) and also for cleaning. I use them when painting with all different types of media, including oils.
11. Pencils, Mono Eraser, Kneaded Eraser, Charcoal Pencil and Blending Stump
I am not a pencil/eraser snob. I create my drawings with anything I can get my hands on. I have a wide array of pencil grades in my studio of both Prismacolor and cheaper brands. In many of the pictures I upload to Instagram and Twitter you can see my used-up ugly erasers that I refuse to replace, for some reason. I enjoy gum erasers very much and these are what I use in my quick pencil sketches.
For more realistic drawings that will take me longer, I use kneaded erasers and have also recently acquired a Mono eraser through Amazon that has worked pretty well for me. Mono Zero erasers (or similar) are essential for realistic drawings that require erasing very thin, delicate lines or small areas in general. I bought generic blending stumps and a kneaded eraser at my local art supply store that I use like a mad woman in my more realistic drawings (you can see the poor things beside the drawing below).
12. Wooden Desk Easel
Last but not least, I just HAD to include this easel in my list! I ordered it through Amazon a couple of months ago and I have found it incredibly useful so far. It is very inexpensive and its design is pretty practical. The reason I was looking for a desk easel is because I noticed the perspective was slightly distorted in some of my drawings because of the angle I was working on them. Sitting and drawing on a flat, horizontal surface can lead to distorted drawings. Having my reference photo and my drawing/painting at similar angles allows my eyes to better create an initial sketch to move forward from. You can find the easel here if you are interested.
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Do you have any favorite drawing or painting supplies? At what point in your art journey did you decide to invest in more expensive supplies? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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