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Drawing Supplies I Use for Longer Drawings

January 22, 201459 Comments

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

  • Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder
  • Lead Refills – HB, 2B and 4B 
  • Lead Pointer (thats what they call their sharpener)
  • Strathmore 400 Series Bristol Board
  • OR Strathmore 500 Series Bristol Board
    * paper – look for ‘hot press’, ‘smooth’, or ‘plate’ – they all mean smooth.
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Charcoal Powder
  • Brushes – any Flat Bristol and Large Filbert/Round Sable
  • Scrap paper or Bridge to rest your hand on 
  • Spray Fixative

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

full range of values graphite pencils

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.

Staedtler Individual wooden pencils

My favorites are the Staedtler brand. Individual wooden pencils are good, but I like the mechanical even more.

Staedtler Individual mechanical pencils

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.

halftone and shadow shading graphite values

Staedtler Individual mechanical pencil refill

lead sharpener pointer

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.

kneaded eraser bulb point blade

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…

charcoal powder and brushes
yoni add layer of charcoal under the graphite pencil

I use this same approach in my video on Shading.

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.

scrap paper over charcoal drawing
plastic bridge over charcoal drawing

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.


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.

spray fixative

Charcoal Drawings

  • Conte 1710 B or 2B Charcoal Pencil
  • Arches 88 Silk Screen Paper – great alternative to newsprint
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Charcoal Powder 
  • Brushes – any Flat Bristol and Large Filbert/Round Sable
  • Scrap paper or Bridge to rest your hand on
  • Spray Fixative

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 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, check out this video which includes a pencil sharpening demo.

Conte 1710 Pierre Noire Pencils

arches 88 silk screen paper

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.


To see an example of how I use these supplies, watch my next video.

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Comments (59)

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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. 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!

  11. Pavel says:

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

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  13. Tejesh says:

    hey meghana I have already tried dat, it it makes the area glossy but also ugly looking patches. so I recommend u to use only one type charcoal for dark values. and graphite for lower valure range

  14. Anastasia says:

    Stan, your videos are the best I’ve found so far on the web and believe me I did A LOT of research. Yours are professional, funny and to the point without those hours of blahblahs I often see in otherwise good online lessons. You are awesome! Thank you so much 🙂

  15. Loretta says:

    Love the information and injections of humor. Keep on keepin’ on.

  16. Pedro says:

    I really want to get some of the stuff in this video but no stores around me carry it. And I don’t have internet so I can’t get any online. What should I do?

  17. Bryce says:

    Do you sharpen your soft leads with the same method as your charcoal pencils?

  18. Finlay Downes says:

    Hi Stan, thanks to you and your team for making such excellent tutorials!

    I have a question about drawing on the go. I commute a lot and often have to draw on the go. What materials would you recommend for drawing in a smaller format, where it’s much more difficult to use your shoulder and draw with the side of the pencil. I’ve been using the staedtler clutch pencil and a moleskine, but I just can’t seem to get a decent line quality or control.

    • That’s going to be hard. Can you tell me a little bit more about your situation? Are you really not able to carve out 30 minutes a day to just draw at home?

      • Finlay Downes says:

        Oh, I definitely draw at home as well, I’m just trying to cram in as much study as possible. I have a long commute to work, so I might as well use that time. Studying on the train is a real challenge though, especially when the train is crowded and bumpy. The overhand grip just doesn’t quite cut it.

        There might not be a solution, but I appreciate your time!

        (I also should have proofread my previous comment, I didn’t mean to repeat myself.)

        • Well, you won’t be able to use a large drawing pad and draw from your shoulder, but get the largest sketchbook you can carry with you. You can use shoulder, elbow and wrist with a large sketchbook. If you practice a lot at home, don’t worry too much about practicing with perfect form when you’re in the train. Just do the best you can and use that time to have fun. Draw what you’re interested in and draw the people on the train. Check out James Gurney’s blog . He does a lot of sketching on the go. I’m sure there’s something on the topic on his blog. And you can ask him too.

  19. Pritish sanghvi says:

    Simply Love You STAN, you’re too good. Bless you for everything you do!

  20. Julian L says:

    Proko, why do you not use the side of graphite for shading? Thanks for the great info as usual!

  21. Thank you for information

  22. Marek says:

    Hey Stan,

    can you also use pastel pencils (like the carbothello) in the way that you use charcoal pencils? I was not able to find any of the charcoal pencils you listed. Only one I could find was the one by Koh-I-Noor NEGRO. Is this also a good pencil in your opinion?

    • Angelique Roux says:

      The Generals carbon sketch pencils are a dream to work with. Personally, I found the Koh-I-Noor pencils too hard to properly take onto the smooth newsprint paper.

  23. VENCEDOR says:

    how can i buy your drawing supply?

  24. Miriam M Gutierrez says:

    LOL you dance like skelly!

  25. Gitesg says:

    Hello proko sir….,

    I am Gitesh from India. I like your video’s very much since when i was start watching on youtube. Its really apperciate for me do art batter manner. But if you dont mind….can i ask something?

  26. Gitesh says:

    Hello proko sir….,

    I am Gitesh from India. I like your video’s very much since when i was start watching on youtube. Its really apperciate for me do art batter manner. But if you dont mind….can i ask something?

  27. rod says:

    thanks alot for this knowledge uv shared…

  28. Nice one there I have l know the different using graphite powder, graphite pencil and also charcoal pencil. I really appreciate thanks for the good work promo.

  29. tokigami.kineko says:

    1) What exactly is conte 1710 made of?
    You say it is a charcoal pencil. But, Conte 1710 may not be charcoal.
    There are Conte 1710 Pierre Noir Pencils and Conte 728 Charcoal Pencils on

    2) As a beginner, conte 1710’s price feels expensive. Is there something very similar to conte 1710, but cheaper?

    • Angelique Roux says:

      I highly recommend the 1710B pencils! They are a dream to work with, especially combined with the recommended smooth newsprint. Don’t get the 2B versions or higher, though, they’re too soft to be sharpened. They’re wonderful to get very subtle variations out of, compared to needing to buy a bunch of different graphite pencils. And when you think of how the lead is strong enough to resist someone sharpening it with a blade and sandpaper, and the wood being soft enough to cut into without breaking anything or severing a limb, I’d definitely say it’s worth the price. The little things matter!

  30. Ronak sharma says:

    Suprub sketching tips

  31. MR. Jennefer Zamora says:

    Hi Sir Stan Proko, Have a good day!
    I would like to thanks your sharing tips and teaching draws technique also the some materials needed for the draws as well. So very usual for me as a beginner artist herein the Philippines. Hopefully i came out being a professional artist like you sir..Hmmmm…
    Thank you..

  32. Alex says:

    Can your premium courses be same benefitial if you draw with a Wacom tablet instead of traditional stuff? Thanks!

    • Angelique Roux says:

      Definitely. You will never waste your time, money and efforts studying the fundamentals from a skilled teacher like Stan Prokopenko. 🙂 No matter what medium you choose to use.

  33. Angelique Roux says:

    Hello Proko and team! Hope you are all safe and healthy.

    My question is regarding the Arches 88 silk screening paper. How much like smooth newsprint is it?

    I’ve been studying with Watts for a year now and started a little pet portrait business to fund classes. It’s grown now, but I’m used to drawing really fun effects on newsprint, and all the other types of papers I’ve tried are either much too textured (and required an uncomfortable amount of blending/smudging) or glossy smooth like smooth bristol that refuses to take my 1710B conte carbon pencils at all (it feels like trying to draw on glossy magazine paper).

    Now, I haven’t tried Arches 88 papers yet, because they are very expensive per sheet. Before I invest in a single sheet in order to test it out, how does it feel and take the Watts-approved carbon pencils compared to newsprint?

    I wish smooth newsprint was archival. It’s so lovely to work on.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Your fan

    • Don’t expect it to be just like smooth newsprint. It’s not. But it’s the best archival option I’ve tried so far. I think it’s worth the price of a single sheet to try it out.

      • Angelique says:

        Proko! Thank you so much for answering my question! I really appreciate it.

        I’ll take your advice and make the splurge to try it out. Hoping for the best!

        Thanks again 🙂

  34. Roh says:

    Thanks for the awesome tutorials. Just starting to get back into drawing and art again.
    I found out that the top of the Staedtler mechanical pencil has a little hole in it which works as an edge sharpener and also helps to powder the graphite.

  35. Yannick says:

    Hi Proko! Thanks for the advice!
    Do you only use a Conte 1710 b too when drawing a charcoal drawing? Or do you use it too with a regular (graphite) drawing ?

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