The New Studio

I’m just starting out; what do I need?

Some of us are rebuilding a studio; some of us are brand new to the game. But either way, supplies are an intimidating prospect. The cost alone is a deterrent–and if I’m not even buying the right thing? There’s no one size fits all answer, of course; there are as many supply lists as there are people asking what should be on them. That being said, there’s my answer based on my own experience. I’m going to break things down by price point; start at the first step, collect those supplies and when you can (and want to) move onto the next step.

Step one: mechanical pencils, q-tips, and a sketchbook. Which, at the time of this writing, cost 4.82 USD, 13.02 USD, and 6.10 USD respectively. This is really all you need, and all I’ve used for the majority of my art career. For under 20 bucks, you can do a whole heck of a lot.

Step two: add a drawing board. A cheapo board like this what I use. Of course, like with anything, fancier versions are available. And by fancier, I mean more expensive. Because really, when it comes to art supplies, you should always ask: what utility, exactly, is this extra money bringing? Sometimes, the answer is obvious; with some supplies, like colored pencils, you get what you pay for. With others…a board is a board.

Step three: add stumps. Although the terms stump (or stomp) and tortillon are often used interchangeably, they’re two entirely different things. Stumps blend better, and are cheaper. My favorites are made from recycled Chinese newspaper. Everyone likes different sizes; find out what size(s) work for you with a pack of assorted sizes. And we’ve still spent under 35 USD.

Step four should come, ideally, after you’re completely comfortable with the tools of steps one through three. After all, there’s no problem you’ll experience plain old graphite that color will fix. If anything, color magnifies problems. Trying to learn both how to draw, as well as how to use color in your drawings, at the same time, is setting yourself up for failure. Never fight a multi-front war. But when you are ready for color, you have a few different options. This is a list of expensive supplies that should be purchased over time, as your budget permits.

  1. Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils. You can purchase the complete set here. You can also buy pencils, individually, as you need them.
  2. Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils. These are my own single favorite item. I recommend the full set, but likewise if you’re either budget conscious or looking to trim waste I recommend the following colors:
    1. titanium white (100)
    2. ivory (105)
    3. carmine red (310)
    4. magenta (335)
    5. violet deep (385)
    6. ultramarine blue middle (430)
    7. leaf green middle (570)
    8. leaf green (575)
    9. olive green (585)
    10. leaf green deep (595)
    11. dark ochre (615)
    12. burnt ochre (620)
    13. burnt umber (625)
    14. bister (635)
    15. caput mortuum violet (640)
    16. caput mortuum violet light (642)
    17. caput mortuum red (645)
    18. burnt sienna (670)
    19. dark flesh tint (681)
    20. sienna (685)
    21. neutral black (750)
  3. PanPastel pastels. These come in so many amazing sets, each of which is personally inspiring to me. But I recommend, to start, the basic painting set. Because the colors blend so easily, you can do more with even just a few colors than you might imagine.

Step five, if you’re working with pastels (especially PanPastels) is especially vital: blenders. I use these. They’re extremely high quality, and can be washed with soap and water. I’ve used mine (with pastels of all types, as well as to blend graphite) for years. I recommend springing for the combo pack and then experimenting. The right tool for me might not be the right tool for you; there’s no way to know for sure until you experience it in your hand.

Step six: storage. This is what I use. Your mileage, of course, will vary.

So, reading world, I hope this helps. I’d also like to hear your thoughts! What, if anything, did I forget? What are your essentials?