When you’re starting a new illustration - be it a quick sketch or a highly realistic drawing, you want to have the right drawing tools at the ready. Experiment with different types of drawing tools to achieve the results that you want!


5 Essential Tools for Drawing

As you grow as an artist, you will soon find that you want to try out different techniques and new materials. Despite several technological advances, artists’ materials have modified little over the years. Nowadays, most materials are easier to use and there is a wider range of pigments available, but essentially, the way they were used remains virtually unchanged.

Graphite Pencils

The “lead” pencil is familiar to everybody, however, it is not and never was made from lead but from graphite. Graphite pencils are best sharpened using a sharp craft knife rather than a pencil sharpener. They are graded from hard (H) to soft (B). 9H being the hardest whereas 9B is the softest, with F (for fine) and HB in the middle range. H pencils are good for clear-cut, light lines, but will scratch the surface of your paper, so B pencils are better for softer, tonal work.

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are made from a strip of hard pastels secured in between wooden barrel. Avoid dropping them since the soft pigment strip is brittle. These pencils are harder than soft pastels and look like coloured pencils, although they have a scratchier, chalkier feel. They are good for detailed line work, as well as shading, as they are non-waxy and can be blended well. The colour made with a pastel pencil is not permanent and will need to be sprayed with a fixative.


Drawing inks, available in a range of colours, are either waterproof or water-soluble. Water-soluble inks are not as widely available as waterproof inks. Both inks can be blended with water to create tones, but whereas waterproof ink will dry fixed, water-soluble ink can be re-wetted and re-worked. Water-soluble inks enable the artist to soften line work.

Charcoal Sticks and Pencils

These are one of the oldest drawing materials. Made from carbonized wood (usually willow, but beech and vine can also be found), the sticks are graded as soft or hard and come in four thicknesses: thin, medium, thick, and extra-thick sticks. (Extra-thick sticks are also known as “scene painters’ charcoal.”) Thin sticks work well for fur, feathers, and other fine details, while block charcoal works well for large areas.


Fountain or cartridge pens, roller-ball, ballpoint, fineliners, and specialist art pens come with a wide range of nibs and can be used for both quick sketches and more detailed drawings. Ballpoint pens can be smooth and satisfying to use and are convenient for sketching. It is important to experiment with all types of pen to find the one that suits your style best!