Tutorials & Tips

Oni’s Essential Art Supplies

Every artist does their thing differently. I have changed how I do things so many times since I started working in art. This is a list of things that I personally use right now beside a scanner and a computer:

1. Alvin Draftmatic mechanical pencil:
Where to get it: Art store or Amazon

The $10 pricetag might seem a bit expensive for just a pencil. Trust me, it is worth the investment. This pencil gives such a dark line that I use it almost like ink. I go over sketches I’ve done in plain HB (#2) pencil or I just draw freehand with it.

I have 3 Alvin Draftmatics. One is filled with HB lead, one is filled with red lead, and the last is filled with blue lead.

2. Plain HB (AKA a #2 Pencil):
Where to get it: Any place that sells school or art supplies or Amazon.

The Draftmatic is awesome, but I find that I also need a plain, wooden HB pencil to get softer shading. I will often start a drawing in an HB, then finish it with the Alvin Draftmatic. This is like the amazing Voltron of drawing, especially if I am doing photo realism.

3. Copic Sketch Markers:
Where to get it: Amazon or your local art store.

Years ago I got a set of Prismacolors as a gift. I’ve seen some good work done with them by other people, but I could never get them to work for me. The ink dried out, the nibs didn’t work well, and the ink flow was bad. I had been skeptical about Copics for years until I finally had a chance to try them. I sold my Prismacolors for a set of Copics and never looked back.

In my experience, Copics are so much better than Prismacolors that it is almost insane. Copics have great ink flow, superior replaceable nibs that just plain handle better and so far I’ve not had any dry out. For the first time I was able to get markers to work for me thanks to Copic. Yes they are expensive, but if you are a serious artist that wants to work in marker, I highly suggest you check them out.

4. T-Square:
Where to get it: Office supply, art store, or Amazon.

A plain old T-Square is really handy to have around. I use mine to measure stuff and to draw straight lines. Also I can pretend it is a funny pick-axe.

5. An adjustable desk:
Where to get it: Dick Blick.

Edit: I just found this one with drawers.

Here is mine (slightly different):

Any desk will do as long as it’s flat, but I like mine because you can raise or lower the desk like an easel. (It is great for painting.) I have a cutting mat on mine to protect the desk. I can’t remember the name of mine and I am not sure they still make it. The desk linked here is slightly different than the one I have because it has more drawers. Yes that is a plastic lizard named Milo in the left storage tray. I’m still moving into my new office space, but Milo already has his home.

6. Flat-panel lightbox
Where to get it: Dick Blick or your local art store.

When I sketch, I am the type of person that does not think about what I am drawing first. My sketches tend to be very messy because I use that stage to plan. It’s really helpful to redraw the image once you figure out what it’s supposed to look like. I love my flat panel lightbox. You can even store it on the wall like a painting.

If you can’t afford one, just use your computer monitor set to a white screen. I did that for awhile before I decided to buy a lightbox.

7. Digital Camera:
Where to get it: Your local computer store. (Google it first to make sure you are getting the best price!)

If you don’t have a scanner or your art is too big, you can photograph your art with a digital camera. I have a Canon Powershot SD600 Digital Elph. There is a newer model out now, though.

8. A phone/organizer that allows you to always be connected to the internet:
Where to get it: It varies.

If you intend to sell your art, marketing and keeping an online presence is just as important as making the art. The best way to do that is to have a phone with internet access that has a browser that can handle most web pages. You can use whatever you feel comfortable with. I’m using an iPhone right now, but I still haven’t found my absolutely perfect device. The iPhone is one keyboard short of being almost perfect…

I do find it indispensable for keeping track of my appointments and staying in touch with business partners…but I’d still like a keyboard. It’s the best I have found so far. If I did not have my iPhone, I would never be in touch with anyone because I also work at day job and sometimes I don’t have time to do clerical things when I am at my desk at home. I can only reply to emails on my break during work, and I like being able to do it discreetly to avoid passers by prying into my business. I wish I could recommend to you a perfect one-size-fits-all solution, but I can’t yet.


All of these things are items that I personally like, but they are by no means necessary for you to make great art. If you are just a hobbyist or a beginner, you certainly don’t need to spend a lot of money. I did not start out with anything more than a half-broken PC and a notebook because I had no money. I gradually worked up to having a small office for my business after many years of long hours.

You can make great art with a #2 pencil, a scanner or camera, a computer, and a piece of unlined paper. My advice would be to start off small and make sure that you truly need something before investing a lot of money.

I’d love to hear what some of you guys consider as your “essential” supplies!

2 Comments on “Oni’s Essential Art Supplies

  1. I draw using Sumo Grip pencils from Sakura. They’re cheaper than the draftomatics and much easier to hold IMO.

    I usually do layouts in pencil and a majority of my line work and inking digitally. One of the major problems these days is that its cheaper to buy a tablet than it is to buy a scanner capable of accommodating your art board.

    I have a few inked pieces from Fred Perry’s Gold Digger that are on 8 x 11 Bristol. I had no idea he created composites of his pages until I bought these.

    I’d use a digital camera, but I’m mildly OCD about balancing the camera right and not distorting the art by holding it at an angle.

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