Tools of the trade

In this blog post I’m going to introduce the equipment that I use to produce my drawings.  These have been refined after trial and error over time and I now pretty much stick to using the same ‘kit’ for all of my artwork.

Drawing tools:

The above photograph illustrates the tools that I use to create a graphite drawing.  My artwork focuses on the detail and so for the majority of my work, I use mechanical clutch pencils. I ensure that my marks are as fine as possible by using 0.3mm and 0.5mm lead and find that four grades enable me to obtain a sufficient spread of tone for my drawings (2H, HB, 2B and 4B). I also use the mechanical pencils for indenting techniques by retracting the lead back into the casing. The two extra chunky silver mechanical pencils I use only occasionally for background work.

I also use wood cased pencils a lot in my drawings for the areas where I need the marks to be softer.  I use a whole spread of grades with these depending on the feature I am drawing and they enable me to use slightly different drawing techniques to the mechanical pencils.

Equally as vital to drawing as pencils, are erasers.  Think of these as another drawing tool, used to sculpt, define and support the graphite.  The two I use the most are Blu Tack and the pencil eraser.  The Blu Tack has an endless number of uses, for example, it can be moulded into a fine point to lift away the smallest bit of graphite where required, it can also be rolled to lift graphite from larger areas.  The pencil eraser I use much the same as a wood cased pencil, as an essential drawing tool.  The hard eraser I use to remove any stray graphite from around the drawing at the end, as necessary.

The tortillons are used for blending of tones, the compass for cross-referencing dimensions from the reference drawing where needed, and the soft brush is used to remove any eraser bits and loose graphite from the page.


You can see from the selection above that I use a variety of Stathmore (and Canson) Bristol Board.  It may sound obvious, but paper is crucial to the drawing.  It needs to be durable in order to hold up to erasing without the surface of the paper being ruined, it needs to have a surface that holds the graphite whilst allowing blending of tones, it also needs to be made to last by being acid free.  Paper comes in different thicknesses and finishes, from vellum to a very smooth surface.  I have tried a number of paper finishes for my drawings and these days tend to use vellum.

Drawing setup: 

I use a wooden drawing board for my artwork that has three levels of angle adjustment available.  It has a smooth finish so that the paper doesn’t pick up any of the grain from the underlying board when drawing. I fix the paper to the board using artist’s tape which is firm enough to hold the paper in place, but can be easily peeled away at the end without leaving any marks on the paper.

The hand guard, for me, comprises a sheet of clean paper.  I use this to cover areas of the paper whilst I work and to rest my hand on when drawing.  This keeps the surface pristine and avoids unintended smudging of the graphite.

In terms of lighting, I have a daylight bulb in an artist’s lamp that I use for all of my drawing work.  It is rectangular in shape and the arm is fully adjustable so that it gives excellent coverage over my work area at all times.

Lastly, when the drawing is complete, I give it a light coating of fixative spray, which as the name suggests, ‘fixes’ the graphite ready for mounting and framing and takes any lead sheen from the drawing, which may occur in darker toned areas.

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