So… you’ve decided that you want to start drawing but just don’t know where to start.
Maybe you’re wondering what kind of pencil is best, or what kind of paper you’ll need, or what other kinds of materials will be useful to help along the process?
I will try my best to give you answers to these questions to the best of my ability.
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The first thing I think is important is to decide what kind of paper you want to draw with. There are many kinds, and the type of paper you buy makes a huge difference in the quality, look, and feel of your artwork!
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. There are many, many types of paper that you can choose from, and here are some of them:
This is the kind of paper you’ll find in most sketch pads, and the purpose behind it is to give you something to practice on. You wouldn’t want to use it to create a finished drawing to give away or sell because it’s not durable; it is easily torn or damaged by erasing. It is perfect for the purpose of making quick sketches, and it is very affordable.
This has been my preferred paper for 20 years. I absolutely love this paper! It is thick like card stock and can withstand lots of erasing. It is acid-free, which means that it will not yellow over time. It has a very smooth surface so is great for achieving a delightfully smooth skin tone in portraits.
This paper is very similar to the smooth bristol and works great for pencil work if you like a little texture. It has a toothy surface that is able to be used well with media such as pastel, charcoal or crayon since it can grab onto those better. It can also achieve darker darks without as much effort.
This is another rough surface paper that makes it very useful for charcoal pencils and pastels (or any media you’d like to create a textured surface with).
Note: If I were to pick my favorite brand of any of these papers, it would be Strathmore, although I don’t really see a difference of quality in other brands…it’s just conveniently located at Hobby Lobby, and that’s a plus for me.
Next, as for pencils, here are a few to consider:
There are so many different kinds of wooden pencils that it would be pointless (pun intended) to go through all the ones I’ve tried. However, I will tell you that my favorite wooden pencil of all time is the Staedtler brand.
The #1 reason for this is that the lead is not so easily broken. I’ve bought dozens of brands of pencils that have frustrated me to no end because sharpening them caused the lead to break.
Second, the tones are smooth and rich in ways I’ve not been able to achieve with other brands. I can achieve darker darks with their softer lead pencils.
But while Staedtler is my favorite, there are many other brands that will give you similar results. The Kimberly drawing pencils at Hobby Lobby are a close second (mostly due to convenience), and Faber Castell would be my third favorite.
I used to hate mechanical pencils because I used to constantly find myself breaking the leads and I got frustrated with myself. But later on, I decided to try using them again, with a more experienced hand… now, it’s almost exclusively what I use for multiple reasons:
1. For soft facial tones, I can draw using the mechanical pencil and smooth it out (with some of the tools I’ll be mentioning in a few minutes) with almost perfectly even results because of the fact that the pencil lead is always consistent in size.
2. For hair or animal fur, it’s so easy to make the fine, wispy lines, which again are more consistent since the pencil lead is never blunt.
3. I can be extremely precise with the fine lead which can help with the tiny details I’m so used to working with.
I never have actually used any professional mechanical pencils, so I can’t give you any advice on the different artist’s brands, however, I can tell you that I love the Bic brand pencils that are available at any dollar general. They do the job and I’m happy with them!
The following picture was drawn using Bic mechanical pencils. Notice the fine hairs on the outside edges of the sloth, which adds to the realistic effect.
If you don’t mind getting messy, charcoal can be a really fun medium to work with. It’s black and not shiny like graphite. It is difficult to erase so you want to be sure of your lines, but it can be quite freeing drawing with charcoal once you get the hang of it.
Now I want to talk about erasers. I adore erasers and use them for drawing almost as much as I use pencils. A little info on the different types of erasers and their functions:
A gum eraser is gummy and crumbles pieces off as you use it, which helps preserve your paper.
This is the kind you’ll see on top of (most) pencils. Pink pearl is also a rubber eraser. Tougher than the gum eraser, it does a good job of removing pencil lead from paper. Be careful not to overuse it, though, because it can damage paper.
I’m just going to come right out and say that I really hate this type of eraser since lead can stick to it and be transferred to the paper. It also has caused damage to my paper because I rubbed too hard. However, it can get out deep lead stains if you’re careful and make sure the eraser is clean before you start.
This is the eraser I use every single day. It’s called a kneaded eraser because, well… you NEED it! 🤪
It is fabulous for working with skin tones or anything that needs a subtle highlight.
You can tap it to lift lead right off the paper. You can make it into a ball, or you can knead it into a tiny point. Because of being able to mold it into whatever shape you need at the time, it is an extremely versatile tool.
These are the erasers we all used to have as a child in school. They’re brightly colored and have an arrowhead point. I use them a lot for fine details and adding hair like this…they are very useful:
There are several tools you can use for blending on your portraits- all of them are used basically the same way- rub in circular strokes onto your paper where you wish for the pencil strokes to be smoothed out. Each of these has a unique texture and you should play around with all of them to see which kind you prefer!
So this list is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it will help you to get started on your journey with drawing!
If you have any ideas for what I should add to this list, or any thoughts on what has helped you, I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to share in the comment box below!