Everything I Know About Drawing Tools I Learned in College
It was a real eye opener when my professor talked about pencils my first day of drawing class in college. It sounds so trifle, but most beginning drawing students struggle with getting enough contrast in their drawings. By using drawing pencil of varying hardness and softness an artist can achieve a wide range of lightness and darkness in a work. It is the interplay of light and dark that gives a drawing contrast. Good contrast gives a drawing depth. Depth makes a drawing seem more real to the eye. It makes the drawing more interesting.
A good set of drawing pencils comes with pencils with a varying degree of hardness. On the end of the pencil there is a letter or a letter and a number. H stands for hard, B for soft, and F is a medium pencil. The larger the number the softer or harder the pencil is. An 8H is very hard. A B8 is very soft. F and HB, H and B are medium pencils. A hard pencil leaves less lead on the paper because it is made with more filler. Hard pencils can be used to render light areas of a drawing. You control the lightness with the amount or pressure. When you want a light area or line you use a hard pencil with light or medium pressure. If you want a dark line or area it is best to use a B or soft pencil. You won’t have to use a lot of pressure to achieve the effect you want although dark areas may require repeated applications of lead. Learn to let the pencils do the work for you.
Before you begin a drawing study the light, dark and medium areas and decide what type of pencil you are going to use in each area.
A good eraser is important too. A kneaded rubber eraser or a soft plastic eraser will erase pencil more effectively without tearing the paper. An eraser can be used as a pencil, but in reverse. So think of it that way, an eraser is a pencil. It is like a white pencil. Sometimes it is more effective to draw a shaded area and then erase what you want to be white or lighter. The use of an eraser guard will help. A metal eraser guard or shield helps you control exactly where you erase. It is especially good to use when you want to erase a very small portion of a drawing or create a hard edge around a shape. An eraser stick or pencil looks like a large mechanical pencil with a hard eraser as the “lead”. It can be used very effectively to draw with.
There are more tools to help achieve a better drawing. A paper stump is tightly rolled sheet of paper made from pulp that is pointed on each end. It can also be used to subtract lead or graphite from the paper. Stumps are usually used to blend the lead together to get smooth surfaces and transitions. A tortillon is like a stump in that it is made of paper, but it is not as tightly rolled as a stump so it doesn’t blend the lead in the drawing as well. Both instruments come in a variety of sizes and can be cleaned with an eraser.
Other common household items can be used for blending such as facial tissues, paper towel or a soft cloth. A 1 inch soft paint brush is an excellent tool to blend or smooth areas of a drawing. It can also be used to keep the paper clean after erasing and when excess lead accumulates in an area of a drawing.
A board can be used for a drawing surface when you are using sheets of drawing paper as opposed to a stretch book. You can purchase at sketch board at an art supply store or make one yourself. Purchase a piece of 1/8" thick Masonite at a hardware store. Most stores will cut the board to any size you want for a small fee. Just add large clips that can be purchased at an office supply store.
Carefully tape the corners of the drawing paper to the board with scotch tape or masking tape if you are going to spend a lot of time rendering a drawing. If you are just doing quick sketches the clips are easier to use.
If you are sketching to warm up or to practice, the quality of your paper isn’t all that important. Sketch pads are made from newspaper like sheets of paper. But as you improve and when you want to invest a lot of time in a drawing, start investing in good paper. A paper that has a smooth finish is better for pencil drawings. Really good paper for fine art drawing is hot press watercolor paper of any weight or printing paper of any weight. You can order the paper online or purchase it at an art supply store.