How to put together an art supply collection


Over the summer, I seriously got back into my artwork. For years, I was a marker-based artist, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve switched to mostly colored pencils and pastels. Just as there are some writers who can successfully write in widely disparate genres, there are some artists who successfully create with a wide variety of media. However, the reality is that most people are going to find just a few special genres or media which speak to oneself, which one feels really confident and passionate about.

I still have a 72-count box of Roseart colored pencils, though I don’t really use them anymore. These are student-grade colored pencils, and not even the highest-quality student-grade colored pencils out there. They’re not as awful as many other people claim, but they’re also not what I’d recommend a serious artist keep using. To be blunt, they’re cheap for a reason.


These are Koh-I-Noor Progresso woodless colored pencils, 24-count. I really like these wax-based pencils as a good, basic artist-grade set. Certainly, the color spectrum is very limited, but they’ve got a nice variety of blues, greens, and reds. This company also makes a line of Polycolor Dry Color Drawing Pencils, which goes up to 72 colors. The packaging leaves a lot to be desired (the trays have to be stuffed back into the flimsy two-layered holder), but it’s really easy to transport a small, basic set like this when you want to draw outside the house.


These are my beautiful Caran d’Ache Pablos, the limousine among colored pencils. They’re oil-based, so there’s no dreaded wax bloom, and they go down smoother and softer than the typical wax-based pencil. They’re also conveniently hexagonal, so they don’t roll like my Koh-I-Noors.




Look at all those gorgeous colors! They even have gold, bronze, and silver in the last tray, and indicate lightfastness by star ratings on the pencils. I also love the unique names they give some of their colors, like peacock green, cinnamon, mouse grey, ivory black, Naples yellow, opaline green, and Veronese green. I draw with a lot of blues, greens, purples, reds, and oranges, so the dark, bright, vibrant colors are just what I want. Caran d’Ache also makes an ever higher-quality line called Luminance, which mostly has light, pastel colors with top of the line lightfastness.


This is my 24-count Derwent Inktense set. They’re watercolor pencils from a venerable British company which has been making pencils, both graphite and art, since 1832. Derwent makes all sorts of awesome pencils, for every artist’s want and need. Using a watercolor pencil as it’s intended is like painting with a pencil, though you can also draw with them dry. I love them so much I want to eventually upgrade to the full 72-count set. Most other reputable colored pencil companies also make watercolor pencils; it’s just a matter of finding which one you love most.


These are my Portfolio Series oil pastels, before some of them were more worn-down. Most of them are no longer this sharp! These are watersoluble, but can also be used dry. They’re amazingly soft, buttery, and smooth, like crayons for grownups. This is an awesome budget set for beginning pastelists, though it does happen to be student-grade. I personally don’t mind, since I’m still learning how to draw with pastels and find the texture and ease of application excellent.


These are my Caran d’Ache Neocolor II wax pastels, the basic 10-count set plus five extras I got from open stock. They’re also watersoluble, and definitely artist-grade. They look like crayons, but they’re very much adult art supplies. The two graphite pencils off to the side are from Koh-I-Noor, 8B and HB. If you’re interested in graphite pencil drawing, you’ll want to become familiar with the hardness/softness and dark/light grades.


You’ll need artist-grade erasers too. As you become more experienced, you’ll make less mistakes, but even experienced artists sometimes need to erase and start over. You can’t do that professionally with a child’s pink rubber eraser. I have a film eraser (the white pencil), a plastic eraser, a gum eraser (the beige square), and two kneaded rubber erasers. The one pictured is my larger rubber eraser, long since molded out of its original normal shape. On the far right is my pencil sharpener.


This pencil sharpener is from Faber-Castell, which is famous for its high-quality Polychromos colored pencils. It has three holes, for different sizes and for graphite vs. colored pencils. For the best results, you should actually hold the pencil and turn the sharpener, not the other way around.


My disorganized swatch in progress. Most artists create swatches to see what each color looks like on paper, dry vs. wet, blended with other colors, erased, burnished, etc.


Not required, but an important potential tool, is an artist’s manikin, particularly if you want to learn how to draw the human figure realistically. This one has magnetic joints and a ball to pose with. They also make hands, larger manikins, and dogs.


My carrying case, made from recycled materials and by a local artist, plus my open stock Prismacolors, from various Prismacolor lines—Verithin, Premier, Col-Erase. I was desperate for flesh-colored pencils and sharp, finely-detailed pencils when I got these. Luckily, I found a few made in the U.S., and a few which were uncharacteristically pre-sharpened. I’ve heard too many negative reports of how Prismacolor’s quality control has gone down the toilet since they moved to Mexico, with off-centered leads and constantly-breaking pencils. I personally haven’t had a problem with my Prismacolors so far, but I’m not going to get an entire set until I stop hearing so many negative reports.


6 thoughts on “How to put together an art supply collection

  1. What an amazing collection of art supplies! I’ve been getting into digital manipulation for a few years, and not long ago did my first hand-drawn, then screen-shaded cartoons. I LOVED the results, and I think if I took up my art side again, that’s the direction I would go. In fact, I’ve been tempted to go that route several times just because it sounds like so much fun…but there are other things that need doing first.

    Unleashing the Dreamworld


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