I’m an artist and writer who shares tutorials, tips, and information for anyone who wants to learn how to paint or draw.
Essential Tools for Artists
If you want to learn how to draw or paint and are wondering what materials you'll need, this list of art supplies for beginners covers ten products every new artist should have. In this article, you'll learn about each supply and find out how to choose the best ones for a beginner, as well as where to buy them.
What Art Supplies Do I Need to Draw or Paint?
Here are the supplies you'll learn about in this article:
- Graphite Drawing Pencils
- Kneaded Eraser
- Art Pencil Sharpener
- Watercolor or Acrylic Paint Set
- Paint Brushes
- Watercolor Paper Pad or Canvas Pad
- Plastic Paint Palette or Palette Paper Pad
- Color Wheel
A sketchbook is an essential supply for those learning to draw. Whether you plan to take a drawing class or learn on your own, this item should be the first on your list. Sketchbooks can be used for drawing shapes, practicing composition, shading, and other drawing skills. Even if your primary interest is painting, a sketchbook is the perfect place to plan out a painting before working on other materials.
What kind of sketchbook should I get?
- 9x12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm) is a good size for beginners
- Look for 50 to 65 lb. weight paper (74 to 96 GSM)
Tip: Once you've learned the basics of drawing, consider getting a drawing pad too. Drawing pads are made with heavier weight paper, which is better for finished work.
2. Graphite Drawing Pencils
Graphite pencils can be used to draw everything from the simplest of sketches to highly detailed drawings. They can be bought individually, or in sets. Sets are great for beginners because they have an assortment of pencil types for drawing and shading. The average six-pencil set will have a 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, and a 6B. These numbers correspond with the hardness of the graphite.
Drawing Pencils 101
- Harder pencils make lighter lines (Pencil numbers with an "H")
- Softer pencils make darker lines (Pencil numbers with a "B")
3. Kneaded Eraser
A kneaded eraser is a must-have supply for removing pencil marks. This special type of art eraser won’t damage paper or leave a residue behind. It can be molded into various shapes and used to erase large or small areas.
4. Art Pencil Sharpener
A pencil sharpener will keep your pencils sharp for your drawings. Metal hand-held sharpeners are easy to use and allow you to see the pencil tip as it's being sharpened. This helps prevent over-sharpening and broken pencil tips.
What kind of pencil sharpener should I get for sketching?
- An 8 mm single (standard pencil size) or double sharpener with 8 mm and 10.5 mm holes for thicker pencils
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Tip: Replace the pencil sharpener or the blade when it's not sharpening well.
A ruler is a necessary tool for drawing horizon lines, streets, structures, or anything else with straight lines. Choose a 12 or 18" (30 or 45 cm) ruler made with stainless steel or anodized aluminum. These types of rulers are easy to keep clean.
Tip: Some artists like "cork-back" rulers because they stay in place on the paper or canvas.
6. Watercolor or Acrylic Paint Set
Watercolor and acrylic paints are two of the best choices for those learning to paint. They're both water-based, so paint thinners aren't needed for painting or clean-up. Beginners can learn basic painting skills by taking a class, or from books, videos, or online tutorials.
Here's some information about choosing watercolor paints:
What type of watercolors should I buy?
- Choose a transparent watercolor pan set with eight to twelve colors.
What are transparent watercolors?
- The three types of watercolor paints are transparent, semi-opaque, and opaque. Transparent watercolors have the sheer appearance most people associate with this type of paint.
Choosing Acrylic Paint
What kind of acrylic paints should I buy?
- Look for a set of heavy body acrylics in tubes. Heavy body paint shows brush strokes but can be thinned with water for a smoother appearance.
What colors of acrylic paint should I buy?
- Buy a beginner's set that includes at least six colors: red, yellow, green, blue, black, and white.
If you're buying tubes of paint individually, here's a selection of colors to start with:
- Red (Cadmium Red Medium or Naphthol Crimson)
- Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Medium)
- Green (Phthalocyanine Green, Blue Shade, a.k.a. "Phthalo Green")
- Blue (Ultramarine Blue, Green Shade)
- Purple (Dioxazine Purple)
- Brown (Raw Umber)
- Black (Mars Black)
- White (Titanium White)
Tip: Buy two tubes of white because it's helpful to have extra for mixing colors.
7. Paint Brushes
Once you have paints, you’ll need some brushes. If you visit an art supply store, you’ll find many types to choose from: natural or synthetic bristle, long handle or short handle, and various shapes and sizes.
To keep things simple as you’re learning how to paint, choose a beginner’s brush set for watercolors or acrylics. Sets include an assortment of brushes for different painting techniques.
What type of paint brushes should I use?
- Both natural and synthetic bristle brushes can be used for watercolor and acrylics. Natural bristle brushes tend to show brush strokes, while synthetic bristles leave smooth lines. If you're not sure which one to choose, try both to see which you like best.
- If you plan to paint with watercolors and acrylics, golden Taklon brushes are a good option. This synthetic brush material is durable and can be used with many types of paint. One of my favorite sets is the Royal Langnickel Soft-Grip 5-Piece Starter Set. They’re well-made brushes for the price and work with watercolors and acrylics.
Tip: As you gain experience, experiment with different shapes and sizes of brushes.
8. Watercolor Paper Pad or Canvas Pad
Watercolor and acrylic painting can be done on various surfaces, but pads are one of the easiest for a beginner learning how to paint.
- Watercolor Paper Pad: Watercolor paper is thick enough to handle water without warping. Look for a "cold pressed" watercolor paper pad with 140 lb. (300 GSM) weight paper. Cold pressed paper has some texture, which makes it easier to paint on.
- Canvas Pad: A canvas pad is a good surface for those starting out with acrylic paints. It has tear-out sheets which are primed and ready to paint on.
Tip: Start with a 9x12" (22.9 x 30.5 cm) watercolor or canvas pad
9. Plastic Paint Palette or Palette Paper Pad
You'll need a paint palette for mixing colors or diluting them with water for painting. Plastic palettes can be used with watercolors and acrylics. Choose one at least 7" (approx. 17.5 cm).
A pad of disposable palette paper is another option for painting. It offers more space to mix colors and makes clean-up a little easier.
10. Color Wheel
A color wheel is another helpful tool for new artists. It explains some basic facts about color and shows which colors to mix to create a new color.
Where to Buy Art Supplies
- Local Art Supply Stores - The supplies listed in this article should be available at local art supply stores. The advantages of buying locally are seeing the supplies before you buy them, having someone available to answer any questions you might have, and supporting local businesses.
- Buying Art Supplies Online - These supplies can also be found at online art supply stores and other online retailers. Some advantages of buying art supplies online include having access to more brands, reading customer reviews of products, and sometimes more competitive prices.
Other Helpful Supplies for Artists
Small Water Container for Painting
Art Smock or Apron
Roll of Masking Tape
Paint Brush Cleaner
Art Supply Storage Box
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Carrie Kelley
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on July 06, 2020:
Thanks, JC. I hope you decide to get back into it sometime if you enjoy it. Thanks for your comments :)
JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on July 04, 2020:
Excellent article. You have almost succeeded in convincing me to get back into drawing and painting. I gave it up a couple of years ago. In addition to the fact I was making too big of a mess, the pieces I was producing weren't all that good. So I figured I would stick with writing. At least I don't destroy the garage!!
Debra on May 30, 2020:
Hey im not that new to art but its hard to find those essential materials were i live but i love your tips thank you
Barbara on April 07, 2020:
I have not drawn in a long time and trying to get skills back. Drawing is my fav but i like painting also. Its been since highschool since i painted. Wish i knew where to start and minumum supplies i need. Also any great tips to start again
Carrie Kelley (author) from USA on January 19, 2020:
Hi Sarah, You're welcome! I'm glad you found it helpful :) Thanks for your comments.
Sarah on January 18, 2020:
this was very helpful and im kinda new to art so this would help alot