Studio Snacks

A little taste of some of my art supply favorites.

Let’s talk art supplies.

First things first.

Just getting started? Your hand knows how to hold a pencil, so colored pencil the easiest place to begin!

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QUALITY MATTERS.

As with anything in life, get the best quality you can afford. Cheap supplies won’t speed up your success at all.

You don't need it all.

While “all the colors” is tempting, don’t do that to yourself. You don’t need everything to start learning!

Links used may be affiliate links; I receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support of my work!

Navigate to a section with these text links, or simply scroll through the studio below! Snacks will be updated every few months or so—visit again!

Watercolor

The hardest but most rewarding medium requires a lifetime of learning. If you love the process of growing, get your brushes and paints ready!

2 Watercolor Course recommendations:

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Watercolor pros and cons

PRO: It’s so relaxing to watch watercolor pigments moving and blending on paper. Just a few tubes mix into all the colors of the rainbow. Easiest paintings are abstract applications of color.

CON: The learning curve to paint more than abstractions is long, but is helped with drawing experience. It’s too easy to cut corners on supplies, but learning techniques on cheap paper doesn’t translate to good rag paper (100% cotton)….so you’re wasting time trying to go that route.

Watercolor Storage

Tube paints are squeezed into palettes; use half pans if you use small brushes, full pans for big brushes. Sheets of paper should be stored flat. pads can be vertical, but both should be out of sunlight and in consistent cool dry temperatures. Brushes must be dried FLAT, and then can safely be stored upright in cups or in brush rolls.

Watercolor supply recommendations

I buy full sheets of Arches Cold Press and Rough, as well as Saunders Waterford Cold Press and Rough — it’s cheaper per square inch than pads are.

My favorite watercolors are by Daniel Smith, due to their consistency over time, quality, and lightfastness. I squeeze them into a fancy palette from House of Hoffman – but nobody needs that much fancy! My next favorite palette is a Schminke or Whiskey painters makes nice travel palettes too. Most palettes come with pans in them but you can buy half pans or full pans separately to trade them out.

Favorite brushes: DaVinci Maestro Round 12 (expensive!) is my current favorite brush, and it pairs well with a DaVinci wash brush and the small Round 4. For those on a budget, the Silver Black Velvet line is a synthetic blend and work fine for beginners.

Copic markers

Alcohol markers have bright colors and the ability to blend smoothly with technique practice. Copics are my favorites of brands I’ve tested.

2 Copic Course Recommendations:

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Copic marker pros and cons

PRO: These can achieve very smooth blends once you learn techniques. Lots of colors are available, and since they’re transparent, they layer beautifully. The nibs are replaceable and markers can be refilled.

CON: Colors are not very realistic so layering is required for that. Markers are not cheap, nor are refills. Alcohol inks are not lightfast so will fade with time. Techniques take time to learn and some do find them frustrating.

Copic Marker Storage

Most alcohol markers can be stored vertically OR horizontally, but look to see what kind of storage solutions are shown or sold by the manufacturer. I store mine in a bag that’s no longer sold, and they’re kept vertically.

In general you can take markers in carry-on airplanes, but some TSA agents may get confused. Markers may need to be “burped” upon landing (take off both lids and remove and re-insert the chisel nib to readjust air pressure.)

Copic Marker supply recommendations

I get my markers at Blick, and if you want a starter set, download this free handout for blending group ideas.

I work on Neenah Classic Crest 80lb cardstock.

For Copic airbrush you need the Airbrush System Set 3, a compressor like this one, and a cord to connect the two if your compressor doesn’t come with one.

Colored Pencil

Easiest to learn because we’ve all used pencils since childhood! A vast array of techniques can keep you learning for years.

2 Colored Pencil Course Recommendations:

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Colored pencil pros and cons

PRO: An inexpensive medium that is usually learned more easily. There are options to create a textured piece or smoother blending. Realistic color as well as more whimsical art are possible.

CON: Regular sharpening is a must, which eventually ends in a pencil’s demise. And if a pencil is dropped, the lead can shatter inside the wood and make a pencil unsharpenable.

Colored pencil Storage

Most pencils come in some kind of storage box, or you can get a zipper case (they come in many sizes). I store multiple brands in a drawer unit since I don’t travel with my pencils, but I keep a case on hand for trips. 

Above all, do. not. drop. pencils. That can shatter leads inside the wood casing.

Colored pencil supply recommendations

I’m a long time Prismacolor user (since the 1980s!) and added Polychromos and Luminance a decade ago. I love all three enough that I made charts for them:

Sharpeners: I use a variety! For a day to day workhose, the electric Quietsharp. For a long point, the AFMAT (it helps me see around the pencil point easier, I like this much more for graphite drawing). And for the finest sharpest points, the Dahle “Chubby” is pretty amazing for such an affordable little hand sharpener.

Paper: By far my favorite paper is Stonehenge Drawing Paper! Pick up a pad at Amazon or Blick, you won’t regret it.

Drawing

Learning to draw improves all other mediums. (Srsly.) Basic drawing is the foundation that makes markers and paints and colored pencils sing.

2 Course recommendations:

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Drawing pros and cons

PRO:  Graphite is very erasable – unlike colored pencil – and can achieve soft edges and hard edges, very very dark and very very light tones. Almost an infinite value range! Inexpensive medium. 

CON: It takes time to gain and improve drawing skills; daily practice makes a big difference. For some it feels like “school” to practice that much. Also….no color, it’s dealing with values only.

Drawing Storage

I use a drawer unit for all my dry media tools like pencils and charcoals and blending stumps. Larger items like erasers are kept in a drawer at the side of my desk. Don’t ever drop pencils by the way, you’ll shatter the leads. 

Drawing supply recommendations

Favorite graphite brands are Caran d’Ache Grafwood and Staedtler – Lumograph; you can get sets for a variety of hardnesses, or just live on 9Bs like I do. Great sketchbooks for graphite are Stillman and Birn Alpha (shown here) or Zeta.

The Afmat sharpener gives a long point, and a Chubby by Dahle a fine point. I also have an electric

The electric eraser is cheaper than you’d think…..as is the kneaded eraser! You might also want a stick eraser in your stash.

Bible Journaling

Drawing in your Bible can be a wonderful way to process and remember important messages received while reading or studying – and a lovely expression of faith, too.

2 Bible Journaling Course Recommendations:

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Bible Journaling pros and cons

PRO: An act of creative worship to respond to Scripture. Flipping past previously drawn pages can remind you of truths learned long ago. Bibles can become a family legacy and a wonderful group activity.

CON: Not all mediums work, and bleeding panics many users. (See supply list for recommendations.) Some believe adding drawings or even notes is sacriligeous.

Bible Journaling Storage

Storage depends on you – some choose to have a bag or cart to keep supplies at hand, or a small area to leave them out and ready. 

Bible Journaling supply recommendations

Getting a journaling Bible is a personal choice – whether columns or interleaved (full blank pages between text pages)…what version, what size font, what color cover.

To test mediums, try the Bible Journaling Made Simple workbook – it’s printed on Bible-like paper and is great for practicing …. or use index pages at the back of your Bible to test things out. (The Bible Journaling Made Simple instructional book is a heck of a lot of help too!)

Mediums I love: Albrecht Durer Watercolor Pencils (most brands will work just fine), Prismacolor or Polychromos Colored Pencils, and Daniel Smith Watercolors….while most brands of watercolor won’t bleed, always always always test on one of the index pages at the back.

You’ll need a brush for either watercolor type – and I recommend a Silver Black Velvet Round 6 ot 8. I also move color often with baby wipes (Costco’s brand) because it moves without adding excess water. If pages get wrinkly, iron them between two sheets of computer paper for about 15 seconds or so to smooth them back out.

As far as pens – a Micron set will get you far, and I also use pens with a super fine line like Pentel’s Technica or Pilot’s Hi Tec-C. 

Pen and Ink

Fountain pens were a gamechanger for me in drawing — but there are tons of options for pens, and inks, too. Draw realism or abstract designs, all with the same tools!

2 Pen and Ink Course Recommendations:

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Pen and Ink pros and cons

PRO: Pen and ink can really capture your style – loose and whimsical or mechanical and precise. Lines can be added to other pieces or stand on its own. Pens come in a variety of styles, inks in many colors! Many find doodling a relaxing activity.

CON: When a line is made, the line is made, usually not eraseable. Achieving midtones is challenging, requiring crosshatching and other techniques. If coloring over lines with other mediums, paying attention to types of inks used is important to keep from smearing work.

Pen and Ink Storage

In general, pens can be stored in a cup or drawer, just as any pen can be. But check with manufacturers to be certain. Any art supplies, including ink bottles and papers, should be kept in cool dry conditions. 

Pen and Ink supply recommendations

My favorite fountain pen is TWSBI’s Eco pen – you can get it in medium, fine, or extra fine; if getting more than one I recommend different color caps so you know what you’re grabbing. Other pens with a super fine line are Pentel’s Technica or Pilot’s Hi Tec-C.

Favorite ink is Platinum’s Carbon Black Ink – it’s waterproof.

For papers, it depends on your project. For pen and ink by itself, no water or other media, I like Hahnemule’s Lettering Pads – no “feathering” of ink lines, they stay crisp. Also any “mineral” paper works great without feathering, like Yupo, Yasutomo’s mineral paper, or an Etched sketchbook. But as long as you’re drawing on TOP of color, you don’t have to worry about waterproof inks and pens.

Got a comment or question?

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6 Comments

  1. Marlene

    Hi,
    Could you tell me where I could get a needle brush please
    Thank you

    Reply
  2. Keith friesth

    Alcohol ink. You used a small hand held compressor to blow alcohol ink. Can you tell me the brand where to buy etc

    Reply
  3. June Stengel

    LOVE your pen and ink work! I find it a bit intimidating to try yet another “medium”. I would like to find my own “style”, but I am like a squirrel hunting for nuts…stamping then water color then die cutting then stitching- oooooh look there is pen and ink!
    Your teaching style is relaxed and easy to follow. I do appreciate the way you have changed your video blog to one “subject” per week. It helps me to focus on a subject and get comfortable before I’m searching for nuts again 🙂
    Keep up the GREAT work!

    Reply
  4. Lisa Spangler

    What an awesome resource, Sandy!!! Thank you so much!! Bookmarked!

    Reply

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