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The Essential Art Equipment for Drawing & Painting

Paper

The variety in the paper is at once wonderful and daunting. You have to read the covers of the pads carefully to find out what kind of paper it is. Most regular sketching papers come in two surfaces: “vellum,” slightly rough, and “plate,” smooth. They perform differently, so test each kind to determine what works for you. Smooth paper can be fast to sketch on and is excellent when working with pens. Rougher paper is slower, and its surface is ideal for pencil. Marker papers come in varying degrees of transparency, whiteness, and workability. You need to try out at least two separate brands and then test strip your markers on them. Always use the top or front of the paper because its back will probably perform differently. Watercolor papers come in pads or single sheets. For fashion use, the watercolor paper with a slightly pebbled surface, as opposed to the very rough surface, works better. Rough pieces are too “thirsty” and take too long to paint.

Tracing Paper

As with other papers, each paper company makes unique tracing paper. Some are more transparent than others; they can also vary in thickness. A few varieties are pretty smooth and can handle all media; others, of lesser quality, will not stand up to extensive use. Most tracing paper is used as a cover for your work or a preliminary test run for conceptual planning. Therefore, all tracing paper is limited in use except for its see-through abilities. It is also excellent for corrections and valuable as overlays on a sketch.

Graphite/Ebony Pencils

Graphite pencils look like regular writing pencils that are sheathed in wood. Ebony pencils can be all lead with just a plastic coating. The difference is that these drawing pencils come in hard or soft tips that vary from H for hard to B for quiet. You will need to test these leads to see how light the Hs are and how dark the buses are. All of these leads are delicate, however. If you drop them, the information in the wood casing can crack and will be difficult to sharpen because the authority will continue to break down the pencil’s shaft. There are also mechanical pencils. These are holders into which you place leads, which you buy separately. Again, these leads come in H (hard) and B (soft) designations.

Colored Pencils

There are three types that you will need:

(1) Those that have hard leads;

(2) The kind that has soft leads; and

(3) The type that is watercolor based.

As a rule, the thicker the lead in the pencil, the softer and darker the pencil will be. More complex tips in pencil will give you a crisper line quality. Watercolor pencils fall in between hard and soft leads. You want to learn control techniques for each type of pencil because they can perform very differently in the rendering process.

Pens

Pens come in as many types of points or nibs as markers do. There are fine, chiseled, broad, and medium. Some have felt tips, while others have metal or plastic tips. Some are supposed to be waterproof or permanent, which means that they will not run or bleed when you use them with other media. Be skeptical and always test the limits of your pens.

Markers

There are many different types of markers. Each manufacturer uses other chemicals that act as a coloring agent. Before you buy any tag, test it to ensure that it is “wet”—not dried out—and see if it can be used in conjunction with another brand of a marker. Most markers are compatible. There are different options for refills, many types of points, and a vast array of colors. Some features are toxic. Remember to always put the cap back on tightly after each use and keep markers out of the reach of children.

Water-based Paints

Gouache and watercolors mix with water; gouache is opaque, while watercolor is transparent. These paints are used to create washes. Experiment with both types to find which will work for you. There is an incredible range of possibilities for using these paints, varying from intense to delicate for any single color. Practice blending the water ratio to your paints slowly, so you do not create bubbles. Gouache and watercolor paints are very different, but they can be used together in your rendering. Inks can be used, too. Inks are much brighter colors and work well in conjunction with watercolors.

Lastly, comment

Gouache and watercolors mix with water; gouache is opaque, while watercolor is transparent. These paints are used to create washes. Experiment with both types to find which will work for you. There is an incredible range of possibilities for using these paints, varying from intense to delicate for any single color. Practice blending the water ratio to your paints slowly, so you do not create bubbles. Gouache and watercolor paints are very different, but they can be used together in your rendering. Inks can be used, too. Inks are much brighter colors and work well in conjunction with watercolors.

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