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Sketching & Drawing: Choosing The Right Tools

The trusty pencil is, of course, a fundamental tool for every artist. Our guide runs through how to choose the best tool for creating your sketches and drawings.

Sketching Pencils

The standard pencil grading scale is the HB scale, which is used by most pencil manufacturers in the industry. The letter ‘H’ indicates a hard pencil and the letter ‘B’ indicates the blackness of the pencil’s mark.  The letter ‘F’ is also used to indicate that the pencil sharpens to a fine point. There is currently no specific industry standard for the darkness of the mark of a pencil, so a HB from one brand will not necessarily leave the same mark as a HB from another. Finding what works best for your own artistic and writing needs is generally a matter of personal preference and experimentation with different brands.

Pencil Grades

For true artist quality sketching pencils look no further than the Faber-Castell 9000 range. These high-quality graphite pencils come in varying degrees of hardness, and are perfect for shading and depth, professional sketches, and mixed-media. We sell these in both Art and Designers sets of 12. For everyday use the Daler-Rowney Sketching Tin offers smooth and reliable coverage, distinguished by their soft, oil-free stroke and lightfast pigments. They’re a solid choice for students and artists of all abilities.

Faber Graphite

Colour Pencils

Caran d’Ache Swisscolor pencils are a premium and economical solution for artists looking to create excellent quality dry drawings and watercolour effects. They’re great for adding fine detail to your paintings and since they’re extremely break-resistant, they last for a long time, proving excellent value for money. Faber-Castell Polychromos colour pencils contain soft and smooth waterproof leads that are resistant to smudging. They’re great for completely covering extended areas and the colours remain intense and vibrant for an incredibly long time.


Pens & Markers

ProMarkers are the ultimate marker pen for illustrators and designers. Each pen is twin-tipped, allowing for a variety of strokes within one marker, and they can be used on a variety of surfaces such as paper, card, vellum, acetate, glass, wood, metal and plastic. The colours have a translucent quality and can be layered to achieve varying depth and opacity, so going over the same spot creates a darker tone of the same colour, enabling a versatile range of shading effects.

For long-lasting artworks with incredible light-fastness, PITT Artist Pens from Faber-Castell are the ideal solution. The high quality brush point provides maximum flexibility for spontaneous freehand sketches and accurate detail, with a reliable and even flow of ink meaning that the point glides softly and smoothly over the paper. PITT Artist Pens are ideal for graphic artists, designers, illustrators and architects. They are especially suitable for drawings and plans, lettering, layout work and many similar uses.



To add a touch of vibrancy to your work try adding drawing ink. Winsor & Newton offer two excellent sets – William and Henry – that both offer a fantastic selection of colours. These inks can be applied with a brush, pen or airbrush and are widely used by illustrators, designers, calligraphers and artists for many different techniques.

Sketchbooks & Pads

For any artist a sketchbook is essential. They are an easy tool to record ideas, make studies, and experiment with new techniques. Sometimes sketchbooks themselves are treated as finished pieces of art. Since sketchbooks need to stand the test of time, they need to be sturdy, conveniently sized and suitable to the type of media the artist uses. Daler-Rowney Hard Back Sketchbooks are made with acid-free cartridge paper, to ensure longevity, and each sheet is perforated along the edge to allow for easy removal. They are available in two styles: one is case bound with a classic leather effect and the second is in a wire-o style binding. Each comes in various sizes and GSMs. Daler-Rowney Smooth Cartridge Paper is an excellent quality illustration paper suitable for pencil, pen and ink artwork. It’s also a good practice paper for marker pen and calligraphy artists. For pastel and chalk sketches try Seawhite Black Card. These large wire bound books are made with stiff black cloth covers and contain high intensity black card, which opens flat for professional presentation.


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