Art Materials for Artists



I've learned about art materials in the past from many different artists whose recommendations I valued.  My philosophy is that it is good to share and we all have something to learn. 
You may learn something new from me.
Scroll down - and on this page you will find: 
Details of the art materials and equipment that work for me and which I use
- both at home and while travelling.
click on a heading to be taken direct to that section
provide wider perspectives on different media, art supplies and equipment, subject matter, techniques, and the art business


Advice about art materials   
This is the approach I follow and essentially represents my advice to others.
  • Be an intelligent consumer and learn all you can about the art materials you use
  • Aim to buy good quality art materials.  These normally indicate that they are designated artist standard and/or have archival and permanence qualities and/or meet relevant international quality standards (where developed).
  • Be discriminating and check manufacturers' claims. The reality is that not all art materials are the same and not all materials meet internationally recognised quality standards. 
  • Find good and reliable suppliers for preferred brands - the brand that is easiest to find isn't always the quality I want.
  • Find out what does the job and works for me within my budget - the best is not always the most expensive.


Making a Mark reviews......

My Art Supplies - art materials & suppliers I use

 Media and associated tools

Supports (Paper / Board)

Original artwork for sale is completed using light fast and archival quality artist materials.

Whether I'm using pastels or coloured pencils, my approach tends to be the same

The look of a piece can depend on the type of support. 

Work completed on smoother surfaces tends to be coloured pencil only and less 'sketchy' than work completed on more abrasive surfaces. 



My 'workhorse' pastels are now Unison pastels - made in the UK. 

Other brands of soft pastel that have been well used in the past (see left) include

  • Rowney, 
  • Sennelier,
  • Schminke and
  • Rembrandt.

I always use an abrasive support which include:
  • Sennelier La Carte (previously known as Rembrandt and Frisk pastel card - used for a lot of my paintings
  • Art Spectrum Colourfix board - in various colours, and
  • Wallis Board
 See my site Pastels - Resources for Artists and Pastel Paper and Pastel Boards for more about the different brands and their different characteristics and qualities of both pastels and different types of support

I have a variety of ways to carry pastels when travelling or working plein air
These are links to
  • The Art Bin for Pastels - see picture on left of my two Art Bins (now discontinued but worth getting hold of if you can find one still in stock or being sold second hand)
  • The ArtBin Studio Pak-Backpack - purchased  in the USA and also discontinued.  This is great for transporting Unison boxes of pastels due to its design.

Coloured Pencils


Various brands of coloured pencils are used, including

You can see my pencils laid out here in their Derwent Pencil Wraps (see below)

Coloured pencil paintings are completed on a variety of media:
  • Arches, Fabriano or Saunders Waterford HP - usually 300gsm.  Arches blocks are especially useful when travelling as the block replaces the need for a drawing board.
  • Art Spectrum Colourfix board
  • Wallis Board - in white or belgian mist
  • Canson Mi-Teintes paper - various colours
  • Ampersand Pastelbord is very nice indeed - it just needs a UK supplier and it would be perfect!

 See my site Coloured Pencils - Resources for Artists for more about different brands and their different characteristics and qualities including information about lightfastness
 See my site Paper and Support - Resources for Artists for more about the different kinds of support I use

I carry my coloured pencils around in a variety of ways and spend a lot of time staring at pencil cases to see if I can find the perfect one!
These are links to:
  • my Art Bin Sketch Box - bought in the USA - it has travelled the world!  This has a transparent divider which separates the storage in the lid from the base but different sized compartments
  • I use canvas pencil wraps produced by Jakar and Derwent
  • I have a useful heavy canvas pencil case designed by Ally Cappellino and bought from the Tate

Watercolour Pencils

I use Talens Van Gogh Watercolour Pencils

 I have a small Pentelbrush with an in-built water reservoir for use with watercolour pencils

Pentelbrush with in-built water reservoir

Art Boards
5mm Foam Core provides an excellent lightweight support when travelling. I usually have a piece cut to the size of the bottom of my suitcase.  As a rigid support it means I don't need a heavy portfolio to protect paper while travelling.


In my sketchbooks I use:
  • pen and ink
  • pencil
  • coloured pencils
I mainly use two types of sketchbooks - Daler Rowney and a large Moleskine sketchbook (see below). 
See how I use them here.
Read more about them here.
 See Travels with a Sketchbook - Resources for Artists for more about the use of sketchbooks by travellers and artists in the past and the present day.

See  The Best Books about Drawing and Sketching for useful guides:
  • for people wanting to learn to draw
  • about drawing at an advanced level - for people wanting to develop their drawing skills
  • for those wanting to learn about drawing by masters through the ages

Daler Rowney black hardbook sketchbooks

For nearly 20 years I've used black hardback Daler Rowney sketchbooks and have them in different sizes.  My favourite is the large A4 size which is excellent for large sketches.  It contains a pale creamy white bond type paper.  Each page is perforated near the binding making it very easy to either remove pages or to fold a page to enable easy sketching across a double page spread (making an image of approx. 11" x 18").  This paper is absolutely brilliant for use with coloured pencils. 
Warning:  The paper really does not like water at all.  Using even a limited amount of water with watercolour pencils generated wrinkles.  Take a look at the effect on my sketch ofSydney Opera House when I used water on the reverse!

Moleskine sketchbooks
Moleskine sketchbook (large)I started using a Moleskine sketchbook at the end of 2005 and find them very easy to carry around.  There are three sizes - a small, medium (A5ish) and large (A4) and very large (A3).  I have all of them but prefer to use the medium and large version.  The main advantages for me are:
  • the sketchbook has a hard back but lies flat very easily.  Working over a double page spread is not a problem. 
  • This gives an image 8" x 10" when using the medium and 11" x 17" when using the large sketchbook
  • The heavy weight paper in the Moleskine sketchbook is ideal for coloured pencil
  • the folder on the inside back cover is great for saving tickets and other records of my travels
Watercolourists should not that this sketchbook does not like watercolour - and that there is a separate watercolour sketchbook available (pink wrapper).

Pen and Ink
I mainly use three different pens (see below) for pen and ink drawings.  Pen and ink work is executed
  • either in sketchbooks (see above)
  • or on very smooth drawing paper eg Bristol

 See Pen and Ink - Resources for Artists for information and advice from various websites for artists using pen and ink. Topics covered include information about pen and ink brands and associated products and tips and techniques for working with pen and ink.
Pentel G-TEC-C4 gel ink rollerball
The Pilot G-TEC-C4 gel ink rollerball in either black or brown (sepia) ink is my pen of choice as it has a 0.4mm point which produces a beautiful 0.2mm fine line. In addition the ink never ever gets messy on the page.  It's brilliant for sketching in a sketchbook with coloured pencils (but is not water resistant so don't use with watercolour!  See instead the Edding pen below). 
You can read more about this wonderful pen here.  It's difficult to find and I buy masses of them every time I come across them.  See Cult Pens below if you want to order a supply.

 Rotring Art PenEarly pen and ink drawings were done using a Rotring Art Pen with an EF (extra fine) nib with Rotring Drawing Inks(black and sepia). 
It's a very nicely balanced pen which uses ink cartridges (various colours) but it can be converted.   There is a choice of five calligraphy nibs as well as fine and extra fine sketching nibs.  I often turn mine over and use the nib the wrong way up to get very fine lines.

Read more about it in my very popular blog post Rotring Art Pen.  I understand that these pens may not be produced anymore.   My blog post represents my attempt to create demand for a pen which is much loved pen by me and other artists.  The post contains links to suppliers and more technical details
Edding 1800 pigment ink pen
I'm experimenting with the Edding e-1800 Profipen. This is a high-tech fibrepen with metal-framed round tip.  It comes in 4 stroke widths and uses water-resistant, lightfast pigment ink, colours 001-004. This one you can use with watercolour

Graphite and Pencil


I use a mix of:
  • mechanical drawing pencils
  • Pentel or Faber Castell drawing leads and
  • Faber Castell Pure graphite drawing sticks
Battery powered
eraser pen
Jakar battery powered eraser penI absolutely LOVE my Jakar battery powered eraser pen.   Read more about this particular eraser in this post on my blog 'Making a Mark'. Also read about my technique for drawing using this eraser and see pictures developed as a result here and here

Find more more information about erasers on Art Equipment - Resources for Artists - erasers
Tuff Stuff eraser
for abrasive surfaces
Recommended to me by Diana Ponting, thisTuff Stuff Eraser stick by Paper Mate is absolutely perfect for erasing pastel on an abrasive surface.  It gets right back to the original surface.

Blu-Tak - for erasing
Blu Tack is very effective at removing coloured pencil marks from paper.  It is a reusable adhesive which can be molded to different shapes - such as cylinder shapes (for rolling) or 'spikes' for dabbing at very small areas.  This is not a material suitable for fast and easy erasure of large areas but works well at removing marks from smaller areas.
Blu Tack is readily available in the UK (but not in the USA).
Pencil sharpeners
I use hand operated, battery powered and electric pencil sharpeners (see below for more details). 

I recommend using battery or electric sharpeners for anybody who has arthritis or who suffers from tenosynovitis in their hand/arm as I do.  You too can have pencils with needle sharp points like this!

Hand held sharpeners
This is my favourite handheld sharpener and is great for sketching. It is made of brass, is well designed, easy to hold and its weight means that it doesn't get lost easily.  It has two holes for different sized pencils (hence it can sharpen the Derwent Pencils) Replaceable blades mean that it can be used over the long term. The compact size also means it fits easily into pencil cases. Speaking personally, I carry this very effective sharpener around with me all the time in my purse.
Read my Product Review - Round Solid Brass Double-Hole Pencil Sharpener
 This is an excellent manual pencil sharpener for those who like their pencil leads to have a long point.  I recommend it for occasional use eg when sketching. It's made by KUM - a manufacturer with lot of experience in the manufacture of manual pencil sharpeners.  Read my Product Review: KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil Sharpener

Hand Sharpeners with containers for pencils shavings
The advantage of this Prismcolor sharpener is that it contains all the shavings and is designed for coloured pencils.  

I prefer my Faber Castell 'Grip' hand sharpenerwhich also has a slot for colour pencils!

Prismacolor pencil sharpenerFaber Castell 'Grip' pencil sharpener 
Electric pencil sharpener
Jakar 5151 mains powered electric pencil sharpener My Jakar 5151 mains powered electric pencil sharpener is my heavy duty / use all the time indoors sharpener.   It's suitable for graphite and good qualitycoloured pencils up to 8mm thick.  It has a couple of safety features.  
  • It won't work if the shavings receptacle is removed
  • it also has a safety cut-out which prevents over-use when sharpening lots of pencils one after another.
Tips:  If it ever stops producing nice pointy pencils the chances are you need to empty the shavings receptacle!  Feeding it a soft graphite stick (all graphite/no wood) for lubrication once in a while keeps it happy.  If all else fails it's possible to purchase a replacement spiral cutting tool.
Read more about it in my Product review: Jakar Electric Pencil Sharpener
Battery powered pencil sharpener
Panasonic KP - 4A battery powered sharpenerMy Panasonic KP - 4A battery powered sharpener is amazing.  It has
  • a revolving sharpener like big electric sharpeners and consequently is capable of producing produces needle sharp points. 
  • a removable shavings compartment
It used to go with me on all my travels - and usually attracted an audience - however it has recently died (probably due to overuse!) and I need to get a replacement!  A battery powered sharpener which looks almost identical to this was available in Staples stores in the USA but apparently can no longer be obtained

Drafting Brush
The waste products of erasure and sharpening coloured pencils need to be removed to avoid spoiling a paper. 
I use a Drafting Brush (sometimes called a Drafting Broom) to clean paper when using coloured pencils. 
A 2" paint brush of decent quality is a good substitute (and is easier to keep me in my tubs of pencils).  Wiping a freshly sharpened pencil through a brush after sharpening removes all small shavings.

Drawing Aids
There are various aids which can make drawing 'en plein air' or otherwise a little bit easier

Derwent Pencil Wrap
I have a number of Derwent Pencil Wraps which are invaluable when travelling - you can see them in the picture near the top.   The wraps are made from tough canvas and have leather look trim and a secure closure.  This means it lies flat when in use and rolls up for travelling (and is also very light).  Inside it has individual compartments to hold and protect up to 30 standard-size pencils.

Value scales
This grey scale and value fiinder by the Color Wheel Company is excellent for being to surround an area to check out what sort of value it is and then whether I've managed to achieve the right values. See How to identify and assess value and tone quickly
Color Wheel Company: Grey scale and value finder
Val-U-ViewerVal-U-ViewerAs recommended to me by Sally Strand
This provides a very good basis for both identifying a crop of an image and assessing the correct  strength of the values that can be seen. 
Read more about it in my blog post here.  This contains a link to the website of the chap who makes them.

Viewfinder - rule of thirds
This viewfinder is by Teaching Art Ltd - but they don't seem to make it anymore.  It's used much less since the advent of the digital camera and large viewfinder but this still comes out with me on plein air trips. 
The viewfinder includes a clear plastic window (which doesn't scratch) which is 2.5 inches wide and 1.75 inches high (which gives is a 10:8 ratio).  It's also clearly marked with lines for the 'rule of thirds' to help with compositions and finding the 'sweet spots'.  It's possible to create and print one out using good quality perspex. 

Viewfinder - for scale
Some people measure with their pencils - and while that's great for simple scenes, I find this viewfinder with a grid very helpful for any scenes which might have a a complicated structure - particularly buildings.  It helps me to check which lines are really vertical and which ones have got a distinct lean.

Scale finder
Sketching Chair
- Phillips Folding Chair
My Phillips Folding Chair has a lightweight metal frame and strong canvas seat and back.  The folding mechanism is very easy to work.  It is excellent for travelling.  I've had two travelling around the UK and the world sketching and painting in the last 20 years or so.  I only had to get the second as the first went AWOL after it was left behind on a luggage trolley by mistake at the end of a 26 hour flight!
  • They are very difficult to get hold of. Click the image of me sat on my first chair next to Lake Bedugal in Bali to find the only place I know which sells them.
  • The chair always has to go in the hold of the aircraft and very often has to go to a separate desk to be checked in at airports.  It's adviseable to allow a little extra time for drop-off and pick-up.
  • Get a very strong bungee cord to hold it together while travelling
  • Always label the chair very clearly with its own luggage label when travelling.  My latest chair has now done more miles than I have.  I've never had a problem in the Far East - but in the USA it tends to take a diversion to other destinations and only arrives at my intended destination about 24 hours after I do.  I think the tubular metal frame (which is extremely robust) is what causes the problem and raises suspicions amongst airport security staff.

 See Art Equipment - Resources for Artists for more details about various items of equipment.

Links to suppliers - UK


Paintworks Art Materials
Based in hackney, in East London, this is the UK main stockist for Talens.  Van Gogh pencils are available from open stock - I know because this is where I get mine from!
Heaton Cooper Online Catalogue
great for pastel supplies - both pastels and supports.  Supplies always arrive very well packaged
  Cult Pens - supply Pilot G-TEC-C4 drawing pens and a wide range of other pens and pencils for drawing as well as writing.  A very helpful company who know even more than you can read about on their very helpful ebsite
Links to suppliers - USA
San Clemente Art Supply Store, San Clemente, California. 
I used this store during a pastel workshop in California (see my blog post about this).  This store had virtually everything I would ever want to buy plus extremely friendly and helpful staff!  If you ever visit say hello to Patti from me!
Dick Blick in San Diego, California
Another very impressive art store - I wish the ones at home were more like this.

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Last updated: 6 June 2017

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