Sketch Kit Supplies Perfect for Creatives
Create| By Amy Vagne | May 27, 2021
Your go-to guide for everything you need for a great sketch kit, from the best pencils to the best paper, canvas, inks and more.
Whether you’re an amateur artist or a seasoned professional, the tools you choose to use can help unlock your artistic potential. Here’s how to curate your very own drawing and sketch kit, with a little help from experts in the field.
Paper & Canvas
Before you begin a drawing project you need to select a canvas for your work. “A sketch book is great as you can easily refer back to past drawings,” says graphic designer and art teacher Sharon Westin. “Keep in mind that paper quality makes a big difference to your final drawing.” Sharon likes to use paper that’s at least 125gsm for sketching – gsm [grams per square metre] refers to the weight of the paper. By comparison, paper for everyday use is around 80 gsm; using a heavier paper for sketching gives a more firm surface to draw on, and erase mistakes.
Whether you choose a sketch book or sheets of drawing paper, it’s best to go with acid-free or archival paper as it won’t turn yellow over time and won’t react with art supplies. “I love paper with a lot of texture,” says artist, illustrator and prop maker Brigid Vidler. “I buy expensive sheets of good-quality cotton paper for final drawings. I also like to have a big A3 90gsm sketch book handy – something not too expensive because there’s nothing worse than wanting to start a drawing but being too cautious because the paper is too precious. I use this type of sketchbook to quickly generate ideas and images, work up tones and test patterns.”
What To Try
It’s common practice for artists and illustrators to begin their work with graphite or “lead” pencils before building up to pen and ink for colour and detail. There are many different types of pencils available – do you choose 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B and 6B as your best sketching pencils? “The easy way to remember the difference is H is for hard,” says Sharon. “The H pencils make lighter marks and are great for details. The B pencils are softer and are perfect for sketching. The higher the number, the harder or softer the pencil is.”
It’s a good idea to have a variety of H and B pencils in your sketch kit so you’re ready to tackle any task but you might quickly find you have a favourite. “I only ever use B pencils,” says Brigid. “They’re wonderful for tone and filling in space rapidly. I like 2B pencils because they’re easy to rub out; 4B and 6B are good to develop tone and texture.”
There are drawing pencils to suit any and every budget, from the inexpensive to big-name brands such as Derwent and Prismacolor. “Buy what you can afford,” says Sharon. “And try testing out products first. An expensive product isn't necessarily the best for you.”
What To Try
Pen, Ink & Other Mediums
There’s an endless list of techniques to try when it comes to sketching mediums. Charcoals and pastels are wonderful for quick and expressive sketching – both mediums allow you to blend and layer colours, and play with tone, shadow and light. Some artists play around with creating strong areas of contrast with pen and ink: try using dark-coloured ink on white paper and building the intensity of colour. Other techniques include cross-hatching, stippling and drawing lines to create texture and depth. The type of drawing you plan on doing may impact the type of medium you need. Experiment with various nibs and tips until you find what suits you best. “I like using fine point Sharpies and also Indian ink,” says Sharon. “And here’s a tip – when you’re looking for pens, make sure they’re permanent ones.” Why? Water-based markers smear more easily. Permanent markers “reduce the possibility of smudging your work.”
What To Try
Coloured Pencils & Markers
Coloured pencils are another essential for the ultimate sketch kit. If you invest in high-quality expensive colouring pencils, make sure you treat them right. Dropping pencils can damage their inner core and lead to breakages, so always store them in a box or case. Another popular option for colouring tools among artists and illustrators is Copic markers. Made in Japan, these double-sided markers are highly regarded for their smooth application and high-quality ink that can be layered and blended. “I love Copic markers. I’ve used them for a couple of projects and have been pleased with the range of vivid colours,” says Brigid.
What To Try
Any artist worth his or her pencils needs to sharpen those points every now and again. Opt for a basic two-hole sharpener, or splurge on a battery-operated model for a sharp point in mere seconds. “A regular sharpener is great when you want a fine, sharp point,” says Sharon. “However I like to use a blade, like a Stanley knife, to sharpen my pencils. I find I don't lose as much lead that way.”
A soft gum eraser will let you gently clean up any mistakes without tearing or damaging your work. “I always use a kneadable eraser,” says Sharon. “ You can control the amount of graphite you erase and also shape it to suit what you need to erase.” “Go gently,” Brigid warns. “Erasers can damage the surface of cotton papers and leave smudges on your page. I always have a piece of scrap paper on my desk to clean off my rubber, particularly when using B pencils.”