Selecting Art Media: What Tools Help You Draw Better?

When we are just starting to sketch, deciding what tools of the trade, or media as it’s referred to, to use can be a daunting task. Eventually, most artists find some tools they are more comfortable with than others, just from using different media while sketching.

Tools really don't make the artist. Click To Tweet

Obviously, this can become a little expensive. Few of us has the money to run out and buy one of everything, so let me give you some helpful pointers.

Selecting Art Media: What tools will help you draw better?

It’s Not About the Tools (Mostly)

Tools really don’t make the artist. Someone who really loves to sketch, and has developed some basic skills can probably create a sketch out of a poor ball point pen and the back of a receipt. If you love to draw, less than perfect tools should never stop you.

If you love to draw, less than ideal tools should never stop you. Click To Tweet

Now, when creating specific things, you need the right tools for the job…in any field. However, if you are wanting to learn to draw, or if you have a kid who is just learning to draw, a huge selection of drawing materials will not turn them into an artist without skill and practice.

A big selection of art supplies will not turn anyone into an artist w/o skill + practice Click To Tweet

I often have fellow moms ask me what to get their kid who wants to draw.

The truth? All you need is simply a Pencil with eraser and paper.

That’s the basics. After that:

  • A fine tipped black marker is helpful.
  • A Sketchbook can be fun.
  • A Folder to put loose paper into when you’re done.
  • Some kind of blending tool is useful if you’re starting to work on shading, but you can use Q-tips for that.

Really, practice and building a habit of a daily drawing are both more important than buying tools to draw with. 

Practice + the habit of daily drawing are more important than buying fancy art supplies Click To Tweet

Choosing Sketching Tools

With that said, when looking for tools for sketching, there is one thing I look for. The best tools you can use when doing a sketch are those that allow you to keep your sketching loose. Let me explain.

The biggest problem that most beginning sketchers face is the need to complete details on every individual segment of the sketch before moving on to the next space.

This is not how you sketch. Sketching involves getting as much information down on paper in a short amount of time and then going back in to tighten things up, add details, and build on your sketch.

The reason for this, especially in nature drawing, is that animals, plants in the breeze, and nature, in general, don’t stay still for us. We need to observe as well as we can, then get as much information down on paper, and add details later.

The second reason is that focusing in on one small area without having the basic framework of your drawing in place causes your entire drawing to look a little skewed when you are done. When starting, keep it loose.

My Choice for Sketching

I find, for right now, a regular #2 office pencil (preferably one from Dixon Ticonderoga, which I find have nice leads, break less, have a great eraser, and are widely available) is the optimal starting tool, no matter how you are going to finish off your drawing’s details. I also like to use a Staedtler Lead Holder, with a darker lead, although that’s more of a “pro” tool, which I’ve come to love. Mechanical pencils of any variety are good for drawing too.

Don’t Worry About Color When Sketching

When I’m asked about getting started sketching, usually someone has looked at an amazing “sketchbook” that is truly a work of art, such as the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. It’s gorgeous. It’s also not the work of a novice.

However, if you really want to get started in sketching, and improving your drawing skills, I want to stress putting color aside for a while and focus first of all on shapes. Color theory is a separate, and complicated entity. Get your ability to draw shapes accurately down first. Worry about color later. 

When beginning to draw, put color aside for a while + focus first of all on shapes Click To Tweet

When I first started sketching, I was all about color. Now, I focus more on creating black and white art first and figuring in color later after I am able to “see” my finished drawing. This goes for fine art and it also applies to sketching, graphic illustration, and any kind of art I might create. I get the shapes down first.

Finish What You Start

The other “beginners tip” I’d like to offer you is also free. It costs you nothing out of your wallet, but it does cost you in terms of commitment. This beginner’s tip is quite simply, “Finish what you start”.

A classic novice mistake is to have a sketchbook full of half finished drawings.

Instead, try this. Don’t judge your drawings while you’re doing them. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. Simply finish them. Even if they are not perfect…finish your drawings.

You will thank me for this in ten years.

Even if they are not perfect...finish your drawings. Click To Tweet

In Summary: A Pencil is Hard to Beat

You need something that you can comfortably hold onto, control loosely, and which you feel comfortable using after working with it for a time. For most people, the trusty #2 pencil is hard to beat.

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