Which drawing materials to use and where to buy them?

There are so many different kinds of drawing materials out there that you can use, that it can be a bit difficult to know where to start!  I’ve listed here a few of my favorite materials which I use regularly, and which you might like to invest in for getting started with your drawing.

All of the materials below are available from all good art shops and online.  With the pens and pencils, these are normally better value in sets, but if you aren’t sure about them you can buy one of each to try out before you invest.  Which drawing materials you like to use is a really personal thing, so it is great to be able to try a few out and see which you like the feel of.

Paper and sketchbooks

If you are wanting to get yourself some nice paper or a sketchbook for your drawing, then cartridge paper is the way to go.  It can be a little confusing, as you get different weights of paper. For just plain pencil and pen drawing, then something like 130gsm paper is fine.  If you are wanting to use the watercolour pencils and brush pens listed below (or watercolours too), then a heavier weight paper is better – something around 200gsm weight.  If in doubt, go for the heavier one! 

For sketchbooks I am a particular fan of Moleskin Sketchbooks in their notebook range – which come in pocket size, A4 and A5 and with 165gsm paper (which I find works well).  They feel quite special and the paper is really nice.  But you can’t go wrong with most sketchbooks (just try not to get the really budget ones as the paper won’t be as good).

Moleskine Classic Sketchbook

Black fineline pens

I really enjoy using fineline pens for drawing, which are really good for drawing shapes and patterns, as well as doing outlines which you can then colour in.  A good example of these are Staedtler Pigment Liners.  You can get these in sizes from 0.05mm to 1mm thick – and individually or in sets (which are often better value).  My favourite is size 0.5mm.  You might like to buy one to start with just to try them out.

Drawing pencils

Drawing pencils can be a bit confusing – when you realise there are many different grades!  Here is a handy chart to give you an idea of what they look like, and which you can buy.


The pencils in the B range are softer and better for shading shapes, and creating bold dark lines, and the H pencils are harder, lighter and have a more precise line to them.  My favourite (through trying out different ones over time) is the 4B.  You can buy some good starter sets of pencils – normally with about 4-8 pencils in across the range of grades. Pencils are pretty standard really so I wouldn’t worry too much about brand.

Watercolour pencils

If you are thinking of getting some coloured pencils to use for your drawing, I would definitely recommend getting watercolour pencils.  They are a bit more expensive, but they are both pencils and watercolours in one!  You can use them as regular pencils, and then add water to them with a brush for some great effects.  You can also dip them in water and then draw with them too.  And once the picture is dry you can then draw into them some more if you feel like it too.  A very versatile and worthwhile investment!  I’d recommend the Cass Art own brand ones to start off with.  You can go up to some really expensive ones but best to start with the basics and see if you like them!

Brush pens

Another great way to add colour to your drawings (either colouring in or doing a line drawing using a coloured pen) is using brush pens.  They are kind of magic because once you have done your drawing you can then add water to this with a small paint brush, and they act like watercolours – like the watercolour pencils do!  Great for filling in larger areas of colours or blending colours too.  I use the Tombow Dual Brush Pens – which have 2 tips – a fine one for drawing details and a flexible brush on the other end.  I normally end up mostly using the brush end because you can make so many great marks with it.  They are a bit costly, but do last a long time.  You can buy them individually (why not buy a few of your favourite colours and try them out?), or in sets.

Where to buy your materials?

If you have a local art shop (for example Broad Canvas in Oxford), it is well worth popping in there, as you can often try out the different drawing pens and pencils before you buy them.  And you will find they often do a discounted rate if you are on an art course too (just ask at the till).  Broad Canvas does a loyalty card too.

You can also get some good deals online and my online shop of choice (which also has some brilliant stores if you are in London) is Cass Art.  Although Jackson’s Art, Art Discount and Amazon are also good options.