Everyone will have a different sketchbook kit. As you develop and grow and commit to your sketching habit, the tools you choose to use will grow, change and develop as you do.

Over time you will discover new art techniques you favour above others which may require a different set of materials. You may appreciate pencil sketching over and above using watercolours for example, or go straight for the ink as opposed to using pencil.

As with all things, the more experienced and interested you become in sketching so too can the budgets required to maintain the habit.

I thought I would share the kit that I reach for when sketching. Although it has become quite expansive over the last few years I always revert back to a skeleton kit to work with which can be purchased for under £10 (or less) depending on budget. I should mention that the primary thing you need is a sketchbook which I will not go into too much detail here as a separate blog post and video of my painting in one exists for this and will be expanded upon imminently.

So here is my sketchbook kit;

  1. Pencil. So my favourite pencil of all time and one that actually promotes itself as “the world’s best pencil” is Dixon’s Ticonderoga.  I buy boxes of 12, 2B pencils.  I love this pencil. Its easy to grip and sharpens extremely well. Its black graphite lead has an easy, smooth writing style and there is something about how the point of the lead adapts and adjusts to the pressure I exert on paper with it.  It definitely helps me get into a sketching flow and rubs out well.
  2. I also carry a mechanical pencil. The Faber Castell TK 9400 with a 2B lead is great to have when you go sketching outdoors. No need to sharpen the lead.  The leads in these pencils last a long time, longer in fact if you opt for a harder lead.

(A note about pencils.  There is a broad range of pencil types you can buy based on the lead variations.  There are two graphite grading scales known as the “H” scales and “B” scales.  An excellent article that lays it out can be found here. I always opt for a 2B pencil when sketching as it is neither too soft or too hard. Just right.)

3. The Pigma Micron Pen. I always carry at least 2 different pens. Usually the Pigma range in a 01 and 03 in size (the size of the nib). If you’re getting started, however, you can purchase the pen set of around 5 pens with different pen nib sizes. Micro pigment ink is waterproof and fade proof when it comes to drawing. As you grow in confidence you may also like to try the Copic Multiliner Set. I’m a BIG fan of these. The pointed nibs are extremely delicate but create the most amazing, consistent lines on paper.  Again, they are pigment based, and waterproof.

4. Watercolours.  I was first given a set of watercolours when I was 10 years old and still have the original tin. You can buy inexpensive watercolour sets to work with that include 12 pans (a pan is the little box the paint comes in,  “half pan” are depicted in the sketch here and a “full pan” is double the size of a half pan). Where possible go for a good quality watercolour if you can.  Windsor and Newton, Daniel Smith or Sennelier (on the pricy side) or even Derwent are good starter brands to use.  As you progress and, more importantly, learn to enjoy this art medium, invest in buying your paint in tubes. This works out cheaper. You can also still squirt paint into the pans as you go. As a beginner, however, start with a small set.  You may decide that watercolour is not the medium for you.  I often think that if you can master watercolour you can master any paint medium.  Plus, its a fantastically quick way of adding colour to your sketchbook if you are pressed for time.

You can also invest in portable watercolour kits that are incredibly lightweight if you choose to paint outdoors. Or, if like me you have a heavy work handbag and you want to keep your art kit light. I found a great set called Art Toolkit made by Expeditionary Art . This kit is perfect and all you need. It is a little pricy though and comes from the States. Its metallic palette is forgiving in colder weathers as well as perfectly proportioned for the paint you need.

5. Paintbrushes.  When starting out go for a smaller brush.  A size 6 is one I always use when I sketch quickly. You can opt for a variety of brushes made out of different materials to create different effects and the articles on these are endless!  Most paint kits come with an accompanying starter brush to get you going. Use those to start.  A great place to buy authentic, well made and artisan crafted brushes is from Rosemary and Co. If you discover that you are serious about sketching and painting go straight to them. The difference that a quality paintbrush makes to a sketch can be quite dramatic. The great news is that they have some great starter kit brushes that are inexpensive.  I bought the starter set myself to just experiment.  Don’t be afraid to practise with different brushes to see what happens!

When I am out and about I use the Pentel Aquash Waterbrush.  You can buy a variety of different nibbed brushes. They hold their own water so you don’t have to carry a water jar around with you! They do the job really well and function like a chunky pen that you can slip into your pencil case.

6.  My trusty sharpener.  It took me YEARS!!!! (Screaming from the rooftop) to find a good one.  There is nothing more annoying than not being able to sharpen high quality pencils properly. I do have a specialist knife that I use on occasion but this is hardly portable and I’d probably get arrested!!! The sharpener I now opt for is the Kum brand. This is a two hole long point pencil sharpener that includes 2 replacement blades to swap in when you’ve exhausted the others. The blades are very sharp and create two different types of point.  For someone who uses a wood pencil as well as colouring pencils, ALOT, this is a crucial part of my kit.  It also comes enclosed so I can sharpen when out and about.

Well…that’s a glimspe into my sketchbook kit!

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Do share what you use!

Emily x