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My 5 Must Have Art Supplies

The Art Supplies I Always Have on Hand

Not much is more frustrating to me than when I am just about to start (or finish) a piece, and I realize that one of my most used and needed art supplies is running dangerously low or has run out already. Talk about full on panic mode if I realize that I need it ASAP and don’t have much time to shop! It’s the worst. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen TOO often, because I am pretty good at restocking things as I run out.  But what is it that I would panic MOST over if I was running low?  What art supplies can I not live without?  Which ones are the ones I will buy in bulk if given the chance?  I’m going to reveal my favorite, “always in stock, gotta have ’em” art supplies to you in a just a second.  But first, I have to let you know – this post contains affiliate links through Amazon.  What that means, is that for no additional cost to you, by purchasing through these links, I will earn a small commission.  That being said, I wholeheartedly believe in each and every product I endorse, and my first and most important goal is to bring you real, honest reviews of products I actually use and love.  [end legal stuff, begin fun, art stuff]

  1. My first “can’t live without it, must have it on hand any time I’m working on art” item is a set of Prismacolor – Premier Turquoise Soft Grade Graphite Pencils. While there are TONS of drawing options out there, for whatever reason, I always come back to these.  I trust Prismacolor.  I always have.  These pencils run the range from H to 9B, so they cover almost every possible shading area I could need.  I tried this pack once, and I fell in love.  They’re graphite pencils that are specifically designed for sketching, portrait and figure drawing.  They draw smoothly, don’t dust/flake off easily, smudge nicely and they erase like a charm.  What I like even better is that they don’t break easily.  When you sharpen them, you rarely have to worry if the tip you just got to pinpoint precision is going to crumble.  I love these pencils, and until I magically discover a new set, they will be my go-to drawing pencil, forever.  You can find them at almost any art supply store, or pick them up on Amazon through the link I’ve provided.
  2. The second item I just absolutely cannot be without is my paper. Specifically, Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Pad, 18″x24″ .  Again, there are tons of paper options out there, and you should always use what you like best, but I have been using this paper for a while now, and I just love it.  I tend to keep 18”x24” on hand at all times because if I need to do something smaller, I can always trim it down.  Better to have too large than too small, in my opinion.  This paper is 80 lb. (which means 500 sheets of this paper would weigh 80 lbs.) and acid free.  That means, for me, that it’s heavy enough to be more durable than regular copy paper, but not quite heavy duty enough to be considered cardstock.  I don’t know, I like that weight.  The texture of the paper is ideal for what I like to do and how I like to work – it’s a medium textured surface, and my pencils (both graphite and my colored pencils) take to it nicely.  The edges where it is wire-bound are perforated, which makes it super easy to get a sheet out without those stupid notebook edges.  24 sheets may not seem like a lot, but a pack of this paper tends to last me about 4 months, since many of my pieces end up being smaller than 18×24 in final size.  This paper can be found at almost any art store you can think of – and I’ve even seen it in smaller sizes at Walmart and various other places.  But of course, as a big fan of Amazon, I don’t hesitate to order it here:
  3. If I’m working in color, obviously I need to make sure I have all of the colors I need on hand before I start. But there are a few colors that I run out of faster than others.  My colored pencil loyalty again lies with Prismacolor.  The pencils are like butter when I use them, and I just haven’t found a single brand that offers the same color variety, are as easy to find, and that I like better.  As far as art supplies go, they’re tops with me.  If there’s better out there, I haven’t seen it, so I stick with Prismacolor.  Prismacolor pencils can be sold individually or in various sets.  I started off with the big girl kit, the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils, Soft Core, 132-Count, but if you’re just starting out with colored pencils, they offer smaller, starter kits.  Obviously, the colors I use most often I will run out of quickly. I most frequently run out of black, indigo, various shades of red and white.  Which, if you’re following what pieces I do frequently, shouldn’t surprise you.  When I run out of those, I am on Amazon or in my local Michael’s store or making a Blick Art run to pick up those colors ASAP.  You can get the big, 132 count kit here, or you can check out the stock of individual pencils on Blick Art’s website or in your local art supply store.
  4. If you’ve ever wondered how I make my colored pencil works so smooth and ‘line free,’ it’s because of this next GOTTA HAVE IT AT ALL TIMES item – it’s probably one of my favorite art supplies OF ALL TIME. The Prismacolor wax colorless blender is my best friend.  It helps to intensify the colors, smooth out the lines, blend the transitions and really make my pieces pop.  They are like MAGIC.  The only downside is that because I use them with every colored pencil piece I go through them REALLY quickly – especially if I’m on a “large scale project” kick.  This Zach Miller piece I’ve been working on?  Yeah, I’m about halfway through it and I’ve already used one complete blender.  But you know what, the end result is so worth it, and there’s nothing else like it that I’ve found. Plus, they’re really inexpensive, so I don’t hesitate to stock up. Art supplies are even cooler when they’re low priced!  These are – for whatever reason – harder for me to find in stores though, so I will usually order a large number of them online.  They come in packs of two or four, usually, but sometimes you can find a bulk deal and stock up while saving yourself a little money.  Amazon is the best place to find those, but again, check your local art stores too if you need one like…RIGHT NOW.
  5. Finally, I am NEVER without some kind of sealant for my art pieces. This is one of those random, afterthought art supplies that sometimes gets overlooked.  With my drawings, I will usually make sure to put some kind of workable fixative (Krylon’s Workable Fixatif is the one I have most often) and then I will give it a final coat with a spray that has UV protectant, preserves the work and protects it from yellowing.  My go-to is the Krylon Gallery Series Artist and Clear Coatings Aerosol UV-Resistant Clear Gloss.  Make sure to open up a window or two when you use it, because it’s basically a form of clear spray paint.  But this stuff is absolutely VITAL to my pieces.  It helps to finalize everything, keep things from smudging and protect it so my clients can have a piece that lasts them a long, long time.  There are sealants for paintings as well, but since painting is new to me, I haven’t found a favorite yet.  I’d love to hear about what yours might be.  Let me know what you think!

Once again, all of these art supplies can be found on Amazon using the links I’ve provided.  But if you’re out and about doing some shopping, check your local stores for these items.  They have more than made up for the small amount that they cost by being awesome.  I love them, always have them, and can’t live without them.

Fellow artists – whatever medium you work in most often, tell me what YOUR favorite, “can’t live without it” item is in the comments below.  Or, let me know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Also, if you have a recommendation for me to try out, let me know that as well!  I love to try out new stuff, and you know I’ll tell you what I think.

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