Drawing Tools and Surfaces / by Angela Bandurka

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I teach an Atelier class on Thursday nights at Cole Gallery, and this month I'm focusing on drawing. There is so much stuff out there that you can draw with and on, that I decided to list some of my favourite options. Please know that this is not, in any way, a complete list. These are just some of the ones I tend to demonstrate with. 

Drawing Implements:

  • Graphite Pencils: The "B" pencils are "bold" and soft, and make dark lines without much pressure. The "H" pencils are "hard" and make light lights without much pressure. Light pressure must be used with the H pencils because they can easily groove into your paper. 
  • Watersoluble Graphite pencils: These fun pencils can be manipulated with a brush and water, making them a very fun and versatile sketching tool.
  • Carbon pencils: Very sturdy and soft, dark marks can be made with carbon pencils.
  • Charcoal: (In all forms, I prefer to use compressed charcoal as they are less prone to breakage and make a little less mess.)
    • Pencils: I like to have at least a soft and a hard plus white charcoal. General's is my favourite brand :)
    • Sticks: Using a stick is fun because you can get nice, wide strokes using the side of the stick.
    • Loose: Loose charcoal is super messy but helpful when creating a very large drawing. I use a brush and/or a chamois dipped into my jar.
  • Conté crayons: these are chalky crayons mixed with some clay. They have a very nice touch and rich colours, and a matte finish. There's a reason these have been loved for years by many artists! 
  • Pens: I love the Faber Castell pens, they use India Ink and are permanent once dry, making them a great tool to use with water based paints when you don't want to bleed the ink. Plus the hold a fine tip better than their popular tan-coloured competitor.
  • Pentel Brush Pen: This is a great brush pen, and it can be refilled. I believe ARTspot has one there - not sure if it's refillable or not, but the brush itself is very nice and makes tiny fine lines up to large sweeping strokes either way! (Click to see what it looks like, here.)
  • Pan Pastels: I use pan pastels for the first stage of my portrait work, working them like a palette knife as I lay in my features. I will have a sample for viewing at the next class (I demonstrated its use in the Taste of Atelier class back in August :).

Paper/Surfaces (see samples, below):

  • Newsprint Pads: These are great for sketching quick studies. Inexpensive and the greyish-white colour of the paper allows for some white charcoal to show a bit.
  • Sketch Paper: inexpensive, has a nice texture that shows in your work. Great for working out the details of a drawing and creating a piece that can be transferred to a final sheet of archival quality paper.
  • Stonehenge, Hot-Pressed Watercolor Paper or other 100% archival rag paper: Very sturdy and can withhold some water based media for a customized surface. Will allow deep grooves for creating texture. Beautiful surface for final drawings.
  • Pastelbord by Ampersand: A slightly sandy texture that picks up charcoal marks easily and quickly. Doesn't require a drawing tablet or table and is easy to frame.
  • Matte Acetate: a very translucent, plastic surface with a matte finish allows you to draw right on it with a very smooth outcome. Can be extremely trick to work with - as any fingerprints will show, and erasing damages the surface instantly.
  • Toned paper: a light grey or tan paper is fun to work on - it has all of the middle values ready to go - just add black and white to create contrast :)
  • Create your own surface: Paint a little "Pastel Ground" medium on to almost any surface - Golden makes a nice version. It's slightly sandy texture picks up marks easily and its translucent nature allows you to apply it over a painting so that you can draw over it with charcoal or graphite or pastel!


(Note: you should save your eraser for the final step in your drawing, unless it is one of your drawing implements used to "draw" within dark areas as you work. Erasers do slightly damage the surface of your paper):

  • Electric Erasers: allow you to quickly and easily pick up graphite/charcoal to make bright highlights. ARTspot carries these handy tools.
  • Kneadable Erasers: have many uses, but my favourite is to use it when I've made a value too dark. I can press the eraser onto the area and lift off some of the darkness.
  • White Eraser: I like the stick kind of eraser. This one is my fave - I can use it for drawing with!

Graphite on Sketch paper. The test strip on the top left show the effect of using a blending stump on this surface (bottom half).

Graphite on Bristol paper. The test strip on the top left show the effect of using a blending stump on this surface (bottom half).

Graphite on Matte Acetate. The test strip on the top left show the effect of using a blending stump on this surface (bottom half).