Drawing Tools Guide

drawing tipsHere is everything you ever wanted to know about drawing mediums, from choosing the right medium for you, to learning what each type of medium does.

Drawing Tools Every Artist Needs

When you think of drawing you may just think of pencils, but there are many other drawing tools out there to try next time you want to create a drawing, sketch, comic, or cartoon. 

Every artist should know the value of using charcoal, pens, markers, and watercolor pencils for their drawings, sketches, comics, or cartoons. Here is an overview of each tool and how it can be used. 


Charcoal drawing by Alina Bradford

Charcoal is a classic sketching tool that has been used since cavemen times. Many artists love charcoal, shown in the image below, because of its very black, dense color. 

It is a bit messy because it smudges easily, so it is not usually used for quick sketches. Drawings can be set with fixative to prevent smudges to a finished piece.

There are several different kinds of charcoal. HB charcoal pencils are lighter in color and have harder leads. 2B charcoal pencils are soft, dark, and very smudgy. Vine charcoal is made from willow and is very soft. You can make your own vine charcoal by burning willow branches and then soaking them in mineral oil. 

Pens and Markers 

Pens and markers are used in illustration and comic-type drawings, primarily. Depending on the brand and type, they can make very fine lines to very thick, black lines. 

It is usually better to go over a finished pencil drawing with pens or markers because you can’t correct pens or markers, but you can erase pencil until your heart’s content. 

The example shows lines done with different pens and markers. Here is a description of each: 

  • China Marker- Not really a pencil and not really a marker, the China marker is a self-sharpening drawing tool that makes wide black marks. It’s not great for detailed drawings, but great for sketching.
  • Pilot G-2- These pens are very fluid and glide on paper like silk.
  • Bic Ballpoint- Bic is one of the most common pens out there. They are great in a pinch, but tend to be hard to pull along over the paper and have a tendency to have line breaks.
  • Uni-Ball Signo Pen- This pen falls in-between the Pilot G-2 and a Bic. The line is smooth, but it isn’t as dark as a G-2. It is great for shading.
  • Sharpie- Who hasn’t used a Sharpie? Today, they come in all types of colors, shapes, and sizes. Keep at least one black ultra fine, fine, chisel, and regular point if you illustrate or like to draw comics or cartoons.
  • Felt Tip Pen- Felt tip pens don’t glide as smoothly as Sharpies, but they don’t bleed through the paper quite as much and they are much easier to blend.

Watercolor Pencils 

Watercolor pencils are a cross between colored pencils and watercolor paints. Used dry, they look very much like colored pencils. When the drawing is moistened or when the pencils are dipped in water, the tool takes on a very painterly look and feel. 

Once you have tried these different items, you will have a better idea of what drawing tool you need for each situation. This will build your skill as an artist and make your drawings stronger over time.

Pencil Grades: Pencil Hardness Chart

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you switched pencils? Different pencil have different lead hardnesses. The softer the lead the darker the pencil mark. To find a pencil that matches your needs, take a look at this pencil hardness chart (the line and name of the pencil is written with with pencil it lists):


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