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Drawing Supplies I Use for Longer Drawings

January 22, 201422 Comments

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In my last supplies video I went over supplies I use in my videos. Now let’s go over the ones I use for longer drawings intended to be hung at a gallery or someone’s home.

I commonly use charcoal on newsprint paper when sketching and demonstrating. Newsprint is very cheap and an enjoyable surface to draw on because of how cleanly it takes the charcoal. However newsprint is not archival. It will yellow and wrinkle over time. So, if you’re doing a longer drawing that you want to preserve, it’s not a good option. So, let’s go over some archival options.

Graphite Drawings

So, the first option I’m gonna go over is using graphite pencils, instead of charcoal.

Graphite pencils are great! They get you almost a full range of values, you can get a bunch of them with varying degrees of hardness, they allow for very precise detail drawing, and they don’t smudge much.. Most of us have been using graphite pencils since first grade. It’s your everyday #2 pencil. So, we’re comfortable using it.

Graphite works best when using only the tip of a finely sharpened pencil. Since you’re always using the tip, the drawing ends up being very detailed. The medium wants to be very precise, but it also takes a much longer time to shade.

Though you can just use any old #2 pencil to do a drawing, I recommend getting some professional grade tools. When I made the switch I noticed a significant improvement in my line quality and precision.

My favorites are the Staedtler brand. Individual wooden pencils are good, but I like the mechanical even more. I like that it’s slightly heavier and the sharpener that you get for it gets the tip very sharp, and mechanical pencils stay the same length no matter how many times you sharpen them, so you don’t have to deal with tiny little pencils. With wooden pencils you have to rely on access to an electric sharpener wherever you go or carry one of those crappy portable ones. The sharpener for the staedtler mechanical pencil is portable AND it works beautifully.

The whole pencil setup will cost you a bit, but it’s worth it. Let’s go through each item.

Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder & Lead Refills

You’ll need a Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder. Now this doesn’t hold your regular 0.5 and 0.7 mm lead. Oh no, you’re working with the big boys now. This guy holds 2mm lead! I get the hb, 2b and 4b refill packs. I use the hb for the initial layin and light halftone shading, the 2b for darker halftones and some shadows, and the 4b for the darker shadows.

Lead Pointer (sharpener)

You’re gonna need a ‘lead pointer’, that’s what they call their sharpener. Pull out about 1.5 cm of the lead, put it in the hole and spin! Just be careful not to get too wild with the sharpener because you can break the tip.

Strathmore 400/500 Series Bristol Board

For the paper, I like to use the Strathmore 400 or 500 Series Bristol Board. I prefer the smoothest surface possible, so I look for the words ‘smooth’, ‘plate’ or ‘hot press’. They all basically mean ‘smooth’.

Kneaded Eraser

To erase, I like a kneaded eraser, or as the british call them, “rubbers”. I like ‘em because I can shape them to erase large areas, or small details. They also don’t poop crumbs all over the paper like some others do. And when they get dirty, just knead them to clean ‘em up.

Charcoal Powder and Brushes

Optionally you can add a layer of charcoal under the graphite pencil. Though I do use it for most of my longer drawings, you could manage without it.. The powder is applied with a brush, which I’ll show in the shading video. This allows you to create very soft gradations which are hard to do with the pencil. And it allows you to quickly cover large areas of dark which is tedious to do with the pencil. When you use the powder you blend a lot of your shapes together which can reveal some lost edges. And lost edges look totally awesome in a drawing…

I use this same approach in my upcoming video on shading. Look out for that.

Scrap Paper or Bridge

You’ll also see me using a scrap paper or bridge to rest my hand on. If you’re like me, by the time you’re done with the drawing, the bottom of your hand is completely covered in charcoal. Use this to rest your hand on to keep your hand AND your drawing clean.

Spray Fixative

Once you’re done, you can spray the drawing with fixative to prevent any smudging. If you used powder, I really recommend you fix it. After you spray the drawing, you can draw on top of it, but you can’t erase what you sprayed.

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One thing many people dislike about graphite is the shine. When you go dark with graphite it starts to become reflective. If this glossiness bothers you, then consider using charcoal pencils.

Charcoal Drawings

So, a lot of the materials for my charcoal drawings is the same as graphite. We still have the kneaded eraser, powder, brushes, scrap paper or bridge, and the spray fixative. The only two differences are the pencils (obviously, they’re charcoal instead of graphite) and the paper. You could use the same paper for both, but these are just my preferences.

Conte 1710 Pierre Noire Pencils

The pencil I use is a Conte 1710 HB, B or 2B. I like to use the hb or b for layins and shading the light halftones, and the 2b for shading the shadows. If you’re wondering how to sharpen it like that, check out this video which includes a pencil sharpening demo.

Arches 88 Silk Screen Paper

I’ve been looking for a paper that takes a charcoal pencil cleanly without much texture breaking up the strokes, especially when using the side of the pencil to get soft gradations of tone. Most of them just don’t do it for me.“Arches 88 silk screen paper” is the best I’ve found. It has very little texture, it’s soft, and doesn’t fall apart much when erasing. If you’re used to drawing on newsprint this is a good archival alternative

Where do you get this stuff?

Above I have the full list of all these supplies with links to where you could buy them online. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find this stuff at your local art store. But, I don’t know. You guys are watching this video all around the world, so I have no idea about the availability of these where you might be. Hopefully you could at least buy them online and the shipping isn’t too expensive.

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Ok, that about wraps it up! To see an example of how I use these supplies, watch my next video.

Make sure to check out proko.com/store for all the online video courses I have available, such as Portrait Fundamentals and Figure Fundamentals, and a lot more on the way.

If you like this video, share the wealth, tell your friends. Post it on your favorite social network. Subscribe to the Proko newsletter if you want to be updated about new videos. Buh Bye!

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Comments (22)

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  1. Howard says:

    Very informative and humorous. Quite to the “point”.

  2. Proko, about the charcoal powder, is it better to use charcoal powder or graphite powder? Does it depend on how dark you want your darkest values?

  3. David says:

    This is great and use useful information. Thanks Proko, It cleared some questions I had. Thank you for all your educational videos. I know it might take a lot of time and effort creating them. I assure you, we are grateful. Thanks again.

  4. Jack says:

    The lead holder and pointer seems very handy. Wish someone would make one for charcoal.

  5. Thanks for this extremely informative video. I paint and work in Los Angeles and get my charcoal at Carter-Sexton on Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood. It is the oldest art store in Los Angeles and independently owned and operated. Great for illustrators and painters. They can get special orders in a day or two. Thanks again!

  6. Hi Stan
    I love you just a little bit I think ^_^ (not in a creepy way I promise!) I found your YouTube channel very recently and I’ve found the videos invaluable! Turns out I do a lot of the things in your tutorials naturally already do, but there’s a lot to be said for recognising what one does and why in order to understand your own technique and refine it. I had gotten to the point where I was stagnating with my drawings as I wasn’t in a great position to push forward. Now I feel all enthused again! Hopefully my drawing ability will improve and reflect this too! I never even knew you could buy charcole powder!!! What’s the best kind of brush to apply that with without making a god aweful mess? <3

    • Great Sarah! Glad to get you back into drawing. Why would you stop??

      I use any flat Bristol I have handy and any soft sable. The mess can happen with any brush if you use too much powder.

      • Oh I didn’t stop, I just wasn’t enjoying it the way I used to, or seeing any reall improvement. Cheers for the tip, I am now gonna try n get my hands on some charcole powder! ^.^

  7. Evangelyne says:

    Hi Stan!
    I was wondering wich graphite pencil brand do you recommend between Drewent and Steadler Mars Lumograph?

    I just love your videos, they are SO helpful for me! There is everything I’ve been searching for sooo long! I already draw much better! I will maybe take a premium member soon, and I’ll send you my work ;)
    Thanks for everything! :)

    (Sorry for my English :/ )

  8. Russell Smith says:

    Very informative and helpful! Pleased that I have a few of Staedtler bits.

    May I ask what you’d suggest is a good sketchbook for professional drawings? I’ve already purchased Bristol Board for home, but a sketchbook while I’m out and about would be lovely. Currently using the moleskine sketchbooks.

    Many thanks!

  9. Chris Scholten says:

    Every considered selling a ‘Proko’ drawing package? I wouldn’t be abled to get it anyway, but still.

    Those Staedtler items are impossible to get (I can find the holder and the refills, but never in the same store together). Next to that the Lead Pointer is nowhere to be found in Holland :(

    I’ll try to find something similar in an art-shop in Amsterdam, because it looks very helpful!

    Thanx for this video!

  10. Meghana Gauthier says:

    Hi!

    Why would you use powdered charcoal and not powdered graphite? I would think keeping the medium consistent allows for easier erasing? Can you layer graphite on charcoal, or the other way round?

    Thanks,
    Meghana

  11. juan pablo ficetti says:

    Hi Proko!, I hope your hand is healing fast! in the meantime….welcome to the lefties realm!!! mwahaha!!

    jokes aside!, here in Argentina the search for powdered charcoal is imposible, nobody sales it, and gaphite powder is to shiny, so, i came up with this idea, get my hands on a stone morter, like the one it’s use in cooking or chemistry,and and make my own powder, but, which charcoal use, the cheap wilow sticks or the more dark compressed charcoal?

    • I would try both and compare.

      • juan pablo ficetti says:

        Hi Stan! good morning, i just want to let you know , i buyed a mortar and give it a try, great results man!, willow sticks did the trick, very nice charcoal powder and works great, a bit messy but i guess is lack of practique and get a better brush.
        Before the end of the month i got my first individual show in a gallery, very thrill about it! portraits and scenes from life of north american natives, as soon i get the pictures i’ll submit to you so you can, if you got the time of course, to critique, or laugh, lol .

        please ignore any gramatical error i may have, i’m most used to read or listen english than writting it or less speaking it! have a great week Stan!

  12. Pavel says:

    Hi, is there any difference between conte and charcoal pencils? I cannot found any info anywhere about it.

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