Many people with a passion to be an artist are often overwhelmed by the huge variety and options of art supplies out there.
For many of these, the best pick is to go for the supplies the professionals use.
That’s a good starting point and I have compiled a list of some essential art supplies that professional artists commonly use and recommend.
1. Good-Quality Pencils
This one is a no brainer
Everyone in their life, artist or hobbyist, has started with a pencil.
If you are someone who uses graphite pencils regularly you might be aware that not all brands offer the same quality.
This means to create smooth and fine pieces of art you need to have some high-quality pencils.
The main two brands I would recommend are Derwent and Staedtler:
You can check out my article on the best pencils for drawing and shading for some more insight.
If you find the time to read my above article you might notice I also labeled the Palomino Blackwing as one of the greatest pencils ever made.
Both the pencil brands offer great consistency, smooth lines, and no scratching;
|Smooth, flowing lines|
|Wide range of grading (12B to 10H)|
The only main issue I saw was a very few people on Amazon commenting that the pencils were hard to erase.
However, other professionals who have also reviewed these brands didn’t have any complaints.
As humans, we make mistakes, more often than not…
But that’s okay! Because we can usually undo them with the right set of tools.
The erasers I suggest for the best quality and great value for money is the Prismacolor Premier Eraser Set of 3
For only $3 on Amazon, the set includes a kneaded rubber, art gum, and a plastic eraser.
- Kneaded rubber – this is a moldable rubber that can also be used to make highlights and rub some tight edges in your drawings without accidentally erasing other parts of your drawing.
- Art gum – the art gum eraser is designed to easily erase dry media and absorb graphite.
- Plastic eraser – this is better than a rubber eraser as it erases pencil marks more effectively and doesn’t smear as much.
The Prismacolor Premier Eraser set is a must-have for every artist.
Good supplies won’t do much without a good drawing surface
Having the right sketchbook is crucial for better drawings and a good finish
If this is your first time buying a professional sketchbook you may not notice many differences
However, as you progress you will start to notice a difference between certain textures and the effect they have on your artistic ability.
You will also start to get an idea of which one suits your artistic expression as well.
These are the best Sketchbooks used by Artists
- Strathmore Series
- Pentalic Wirebound Sketchbook
- Canson Series
Don’t let the word “series” confuse you.
I used the word series as they have numerous options for sketchbooks specified for different mediums.
The links for the Canson and Strathmore series below will take you to a broad selection of sketchbooks on Amazon
You can choose the one you want accordingly.
However, the Pentalic Wirebound Sketchbook is a must-have for artists on the go.
It has a durable hardcover and its size is perfect to be carried around in your hand.
Pentalic Wirebound Sketchbook
|Easy to tear pages||Expensive compared to other brands|
|Perfect for dry medium|
The main disadvantage to this great sketchbook is its price.
It’s quite expensive especially compared to other professional sketchbooks.
You can buy it for $14.39 on Amazon.
Canson Sketchbook Series
|Sturdy, good quality paper||Paper might cause graphite smudging|
|Fine texture||Wet medium might bleed through, though this is rare|
|Allows for good blending||Paper is prone to accidental tearing|
You can check out the Canson series sketchbooks from Amazon and choose the one most suitable for your medium and one that fits your budget.
Strathmore Sketchbook Series
|Extremely high-quality||Not best for watercolor|
|Most commonly used sketchbook||New versions have poorer paper quality|
|Trusted by professionals||Bit expensive compared to Canson|
You can check out the Strathmore series sketchbooks from Amazon and choose the one most suitable for your medium and one that fits your budget.
Markers are great for filling in art because of their contrasting color and their variety of hues.
There are 2 types of Artist Markers
- Alcohol-Based – these are made with a combination of pigment and alcohol. They dry quickly and are permanent, meaning they won’t smudge. However, these markers do have an odor to them.
- Water-Based – these are made with a combination of water and glycerin. They take some time to dry up and will bleed if water touches them. However, they do not leave behind the odor which alcohol-based markers do.
These markers are the biggest brands out there and every artist’s favorite:
- Copic Markers
- Prismacolor 3620 Premier Double-Ended Art Markers
The great thing about these famous marker brands is that they come in sets of 12, 24, 36, and even 72 colors.
Both Markers are alcohol-based.
|Best marker brand||Expensive|
|Refillable markers and replaceable nibs|
|Double-ended tip, brush tip, and chisel tip|
You can buy the 12 Copic markers set on Amazon for $66
Prismacolor Premier Marker
|Double-ended tip, fine tip, and chisel tip||Non-refillable|
|Rich saturation||Do not have a brush tip|
|Cheaper compared to other brands|
You can buy yourself the Prismacolor double-ended markers on Amazon for $23.21.
5. Good-quality paints
Painting is everyone’s favorite past time
At the beginner stage, cheap, low-quality poster paints tend to get the job done for most hobbyists.
However, as you progress you might find yourself wanting newer, richer paints.
There are 3 types of paint most commonly used by industry artists:
- Acrylic Paints
- Oil Paints
For the best quality acrylic paints people use:
These paints are high-quality, consistent, and rich in contrast and color.
For watercolor many artists tend to go with:
Both sets are professional-grade, high-quality, and great for mixed media.
For oil painting the most popular are:
Both the oil color brands have a consistent gloss, a smooth buttery finish, and a high level of pigmentation making them rich in color.
Many artists, beginner or professional, go crazy over the vast amounts and variety of brushes out there.
However, most professionals just use a good set of brushes for painting.
If you are planning on buying paint along with these brushes it’s important to note that some painting sets might come with their own brushes like the Winsor and Newton Watercolor set.
The most commonly used brushes are:
The above two brush sets come in packs of 4, 5, and 7 brushes enough for the majority of your artworks
A good paintbrush comes down to its quality of bristles, which includes its paint-spreading capability and durability.
However, I’ve noticed as long as you’re skilled at painting any brush can get the job done.
You need a good-quality canvas to make your paints “pop”.
That’s is hip-hop for good contrast.
The best kind of canvases are the ones that are durable, lasting a long time hanging on walls, are flexible, have good wood and high-quality fabric to make your colors appear vibrant and consistent.
The ones I’ve seen most people recommend are:
Both the canvases are excellent for painting.
U.S. Art Supply Cotton Canvas
|Heavy-weight||Not great for watercolors|
|Triple-primed surface||Thin surface|
|Great for mixed media|
|Many different sizes available|
The main issue most people have with this canvas is the fact that it’s thin with many saying it was like “painting on cardboard.”
You can buy the U.S Art Supply Canvas in bulk on Amazon.
Darice Stretched Canvas
|Double-primed surface||Quality issues regarding staple tearing|
|11 different sizes available|
You can buy the Darice Stretched canvas in bulk on Amazon.
8. Colored Pencils
The best color pencils have higher pigmentation making the colors rich and blend together easily.
The best color pencils are:
Both the pencil brands are:
- Easy to sharpen
- Vibrant, rich in color
- Smooth and consistent
- Soft lead
- Available in a range of sets (24, 48, 72, 132)
You can check out the Prismacolor premier colored pencils 48 pack for $37.49:
And the Faber-Castell Classic Colored Pencils 48 pack tin set for $27.61 on Amazon:
|Pencil sharpeners recommended by professional artists|
A great sharpener is crucial for better drawings and coloring
It may seem insignificant but having a good sharpener can give you full control over the precision of your pencil by sharpening to a full point.
Most professional artists specializing in fine arts prefer to use knives or a sharpening block to sharpen their pencils.
If you are looking for a tool made specifically for sharpening you need a sharpener
These 2 are the best sharpeners in the industry:
Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener:
Derwent Super Point Manual Sharpener:
Both the sharpeners are of high quality and made by well-trusted and established brands.
Both of them will give your pencils a sharp point perfect for blending together color pencils and fine sketching.
10. Blending stump/Tortillon
|Blending stumps recommended by professional artists (image source)|
A blending stump or tortillon is a compressed piece of cylindrical paper with a point at the end.
This is a must-have for artists into sketching and drawing.
It is best to create realistic shades and add value to your shading.
Most artists use any type of blending stump as there isn’t much difference in quality regarding different brands.
These are the 2 I’ve seen most commonly used:
Pro Art Blending Paper Stumps:
Derwent Paper Stump Blisters:
Both will get the job done and give you smooth, consistent shading.
11. Display Drawing Tablet
|Display drawing tablets recommended by artists|
This one is for digital artists
Digital art is on the rise, according to 360ResearchReports, Digital Art Board Market Size is Expected to Reach USD 460.1 million by 2026, from USD 279.4 million in 2021, at a CAGR of 8.7%.
There are 2 types of drawing tablets that are used for painting digitally:
- Display Tablets – these are tablets with a screen on them and don’t necessarily require a computer to be plugged in with.
- Non-display Tablets – these tablets do not have a screen built-in with them. These are connected to your computer and as you draw on the tablet, the lines appear on the computer screen. This requires good hand-to-eye coordination.
Even though non-display tablets are great for beginners to excel in digital art many digital artists recommend you buy yourself a display drawing tablet.
These artists also use industry-standard software to create their artworks which are also an important part of drawing digitally
These are the best display tablets:
Wacom Cintiq 22
Huion Kamvas Pro 24
|Display drawing tablets recommended by professional digital artists|
Even though I can guarantee you these are the best tablets the main downside for these are the prices.
These tablets are expensive ranging from $700 to over $1000.
However, there is another professional-grade display drawing tablet, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 which is available on Amazon for $249 though these are rarely available.
If you are a beginner on a budget you might want to take a look at my best picks on drawing tablets for beginners (these will be non-display tablets).
You can also check my buying guide on buying your first drawing tablet.
It is advised to learn from the best and having knowledge of what materials the best artists use will give you a good head start in your journey on becoming a better artist.
The purpose to list all these items was to familiarize yourself with all the art supplies that professionals in this industry use.
This article should give you a clear idea of what tools to buy and why.
Ibrahim Ahmed is the founder and CEO of Mediacaterer – an Art & Design blog covering the latest news, tips, guides, and product reviews for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. He’s a self-taught graphic designer and writer hoping to help aspiring artists and designers make it big in the industry