Have you ever tried to draw a perfect circle? You slowly sketch the outline and then carefully go over it with darker marks hoping that it’s round enough or… you could just use a compass. There are many tools in an artist’s arsenal that make their lives easier and improve their drawing.
Erasers for a Clean Slate
An eraser is an essential tool for any artist. The ability to quickly erase your mistakes and start again makes graphite drawing the most welcoming medium for beginners. Erasers don’t just help with mistakes, though. They also allow you to draw out sketch marks and general outlines that can be erased later after the permanent, darker lines are added.
- Paper Mate White Pearl Premium Erasers: These White Pearl erasers from Paper Mate are a great choice if you’re looking for the classic eraser. They cleanly remove pencil marks without crumbling and falling apart, but are still stiff enough to get out accidental dark lines and marks.
- Faber-Castell Kneaded Erasers 4-Pack: Faber-Castell makes great kneaded erasers. These are soft and can be molded to form any shape, making them perfect for highlighting and erasing highly-detailed drawings. The erasers come in packs of four, and each eraser has its own plastic case that protects it from getting covered in dirt and ruined in your bag.
- Vanish 4-in-1 Artist Eraser: The Vanish is a multi-purpose eraser that is great for mixed media artwork. It’s a four-in-one eraser that can remove charcoal, colored pencils, pastels as well as regular graphite.
Compasses and Protractors for Precise Circles and Angles
Circles and angles are one of the hardest things to freehand accurately when drawing. You can’t just run your pencil along the edge of a ruler to create a perfect circle, and it’s impossible to tell precisely what angle you are drawing at without help. Compasses are great tools that let you draw different sized circles perfectly every time. Protractors let you draw adjustable angles quickly and are an essential tool for any perspective drawing.
- Mr. Pen Professional Compass: This compass has an extra attachment arm that lets you draw huge circles up to 18 inches in diameter. The Mr. Pen Professional Compass set also comes with replacement lead, needles, and screws in case something gets lost or broken.
- Shinwa Japanese Stainless Steel Protractor: This protractor from Shinwa is made of stainless steel, not cheap plastic. The protractor also has a swiveling arm. After you rotate the arm to the angle you desire, you can just run your pencil along the arm creating a perfectly straight line at any angle you want.
- GemRed Digital Protractor: If you have the extra cash and want something incredibly precise and easy to use, GemRed makes a great digital protractor. This protractor immediately recognizes the angle the two arms are making and displays it on the small screen. Precision on this protractor is guaranteed to be accurate within ±0.3 degrees.
Straight Edges for Drawing Perfect Lines
Straight edges make drawing clear, dark lines incredibly easy. When you’re first starting to draw using reference images, it’s a good idea to create a drawing grid. This helps you focus on small sections of the drawing without worrying about the flow of the larger picture. T-squares help you draw perfectly straight grids by maintaining a perfect right angle with your desk. Rulers and triangles can also be used in the same way, but provide a more flexible edge that can be moved around and used to draw straight lines at any angle.
- Staedtler Mars 4 pc Combination Math Set: This four-piece set from Staedtler is made of stainless steel so they won’t shatter from being crushed in a backpack. The set includes a double-sided ruler, protractor, and two right triangles, giving you a good set of straight edges to work with.
- Ludwig Precision Standard T-Square: If you create a lot of drawing grids or want to draw a lot of perspective or architectural images, then a good T-square will save you a lot of time drawing lines. This model from Ludwig is 24-inches long and is perfect for large projects.
Paper Specifically for Drawing
When looking at tools to improve your drawing, it is easy to forget that there are many different kinds of paper (insert The Office meme here). Different kinds of paper are designed to be better at absorbing various types of media. Sketch paper is made for using graphite, charcoal, pens, and other dry media, while mixed media paper is designed to absorb water and acrylic based paints on top of being compatible with pens and pencils.
- Strathmore 400 Series Sketch Pad: If you’re just interested in drawing and sketching, the Strathmore 400 Series is 100 sheets of high-quality paper. The surface is fine-toothed with little grooves that collect graphite and charcoal easier. This means you don’t have to push as hard to make darker lines, and the lighter lines you make won’t just get rubbed and smudged away.
- Canson XL Series Mix Media Pad: The Canson XL Mix Media Pad lets you combine your pen and pencil sketches with acrylic and watercolors. The paper is extra thick and made to absorb different paints without soaking through to the next page. It’s also made to dry quickly and evenly, so you aren’t spending all day waiting for layers to dry.
Art Blenders to Make Shading Easier
Blending stumps and tortillons are great tools for shading and creating fluid art. Real-life isn’t made of lines and edges—everything is smooth and blended. Realistic art should be the same. Blending tools smudge the graphite or charcoal around that’s already on the paper. They let you mix it around almost like wet paint, which allows you to make seamless transitions between sections of your drawing and more easily create even gradients. Blending stumps are made from compressed paper and have a flat exposed surface that makes for smooth but slow blending. Tortillons are made from rolled paper that is tapered on the end. This tapered edge will blend out more aggressively and thinner.
- US Art Supply Art Blenders: This is a simple set of blenders with four double-ended stumps and six-pointed tortillons. The set includes multiple size blenders for easy switching between highly-detailed shading and covering large areas.
- Wowoss Art Blender Set: This set from Wowoss includes eight stumps and nine tortillons for blending. This set also includes a felt bag to hold all the blenders, two sandpaper pencil sharpeners, and a pencil extender, all for a low price.
Pencils and Pens for Smooth Drawing
The pens and pencils you use will affect the quality of the art you produce. Different pens and pencils are better at doing different things. Pens never need to be sharpened and deliver consistent, vibrant lines. The trade-off is a harder time drawing lighter tones, and of course, you can’t erase your mistakes. Pencils are more forgiving and come in a wide range of tones, but can make your hands cramp faster and have trouble producing true blacks. If you want more information about pencils, specifically, we have an article that goes more in-depth into what makes one good for drawing.
- Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils: If you’re looking for a good set of pencils, you can’t go wrong with Derwent. There are multiple set options you can choose from to buy pencils ranging from 9B to 9H, covering a full range of pencil tones. If you’re looking to improve your drawing, understanding pencil hardness and when to use each pencil is very important.
- Sakura Pigma 30067 Ink Pen Set: These Micron pens come in varying sizes ranging from 0.20-mm to 1.00-mm. This gives you a bunch of options for line thickness. These felt-tipped pens won’t bleed out or feather on the page either. These Pigma pens are made specifically for drawing, but even a standard BIC pen can produce gorgeous, photorealistic art.