I’ve always loved to keep things fresh when it comes to creating art. For that reason, I keep a variety of core art supplies at hand! These tools help me to make a myriad of projects from sketchbook pages to cards to display-worthy calligraphy. Today, I’m sharing a list of my versatile, must-have supplies.
A person’s art supplies collection is a personal thing that reflects the projects they most enjoy making. Personally, my loves include calligraphy, watercolor painting, general drawing, and making beautiful cards and envelopes. If your creative interests align with those activities, then you’ll appreciate this article! Here are the items that enable me to create and help me to feel inspired:
1. Pencils and a Reliable Eraser
I keep three types of pencils at hand, which you can see in action by clicking through the slideshow above. They include:
For erasers, I’d love to use what’s on the back of the pencil, but it always ends up getting gunky and smudges my work. My reliable go-to is a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. I also keep a black eraser around to cleanly erase guidelines on dark cardstock.
2. Parallel Glider (“Rolling Ruler”)
Whether you are creating illustrations or drawing calligraphy guidelines, a parallel glider will help you immensely. I use my rolling ruler constantly because I love having the ability to draw perfectly parallel calligraphy guidelines!
3. A Nice Sketchbook
A sketchbook represents creative freedom. It’s a very personal thing that you can use to explore feelings, create memories, and try out new art supplies and techniques. The Shinola sketchbook is my go-to (it’s the perfect size and paper weight), but it can be tough to get a hold of. Search around online, and you’ll find your own “Goldilocks” sketchbook!
4. Everyday Pens
While I prefer a dip pen for most projects, there are some instances where “normal pens” come in handy. These four pens are important tools in my art supplies toolbox:
Muji pens – I like that these pens are waterproof, so you can use them to make cool illustrations with a consistent line width (Let the ink dry overnight before applying watercolor, though!)
Glass dip pen – This is definitely a “just for fun” pen, but I use it all the time for writing letters. I love that you can change ink colors on a whim!
Watercolor paint is one of my favorite art supplies because it is capable of covering large areas, blends easily, and dries quickly. Dry watercolor palettes transport very well, and you can transform any watercolor pan into a unique calligraphy ink. I keep four main palettes at hand:
You can browse all of the watercolor tutorials on the TPK site here.
I’ve never had a strong preference as far as paintbrush brands or types go. Mainly, I’m concerned with size, and I keep round paintbrushes ranging from size 000 to size 6 on my desk. About half of my brushes are synthetic brushes from Michael’s, while the other half are expensive kolinsky brushes (from Paper & Ink Arts). To be honest, I don’t notice a huge difference between the two. If you’re looking for a detailed brush explanation from a true expert, though, Greenleaf & Blueberry’s Watercolor Brush Basics article is an incredible resource!
7. Pen Holders + Nibs
I use pen holders and nibs as all-purpose workhorses. They’re fabulous for calligraphy, obviously, but they also take the spotlight in illustration and lettering. Here are tutorial links for the three photos shown in the slideshow above (so you can really put your pens to work!):
Iron gall ink – Iron gall ink is amazing for making hairline upstrokes and thick downstrokes. My favorite is Walker’s Copperplate, which has to be ordered from Scribblers in the UK.
9. Light Box
A light box is a splurge of a supply — and not strictly necessary. That said, I use my Artograph 930 constantly for illustration and calligraphy. It just makes life easier when it comes to getting proportions right if you’re drawing from a photo! If you’re creating calligraphy, a light box offers you the opportunity to only draw guidelines once. After that, you can use them again and again (on light-colored paper or envelopes). You can read more about how to use a light box, and whether owning one would benefit you, in this article.
10. Nice Paper and Envelopes
I keep a variety of papers and envelopes around for different projects and purposes. Here are the papers I tend to use the most:
While there are other art supplies that I use here and there, this list describes my core toolbox. I hope that it inspires you to build up your own collection of useful supplies! If you have the time, I’m curious to hear about your go-to tools. I’m always looking to add to my collection! After all, you really can’t have too many art supplies.
This post was originally published in January of 2015. My art supplies preferences have changed considerably since then, so it underwent a rewrite in March 2021!