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The Arts For Life Guide to Art Supplies: Paper + Pencils

It’s not about having the fanciest or most expensive materials, it’s about having the right materials for the project want to do. 



You’ll want to use paper that is made for whatever art material you are using on it. If you’re using a relatively “dry” marking tool — like, say a pencil, crayon, or washable marker– you don’t have to worry too much about the thickness or texture of your paper. On the other hand, if you’re using paint or pastels, thickness and texture are a little more important.

That said, if you’re more interested in the process of creating, and less concerned with the end result (which we are ALL FOR), don’t let paper choice weigh you down. All paper works with all materials, just not always in conventional ways. These guidelines are designed with the artist who has a specific outcome in mind.


Watercolor paper is thick so it will be stable when it gets wet. Typically, it has a “toothy” or rough texture in order to ‘hold’ the paint in place. Brands: Canson, Strathmore, Jack Richeson


Drawing paper is usually thinner and will hold up well when you’re using markers, pencils, or crayons. Copier paper makes fine drawing paper. Brands: Artist Loft and Strathmore 


Cardstock is nice and thick and works well with permanent markers and thicker paints like acrylic and tempera. It has a smooth surface though, so it doesn’t work quite as well with watercolor (which it usually just absorbs) or oil pastel (which needs a little more resistance.) Brands: Bristol or Canson



Pencils are the workhorse of the art world. We use them for sketching and drawing, and we often paint or color right over them later. There are different types of pencils for different jobs, and here are just a couple.


Drawing Pencils
Drawing pencils come in a graphite scale. A #2B pencil is the typical pencil you use in school. The H on pencils tells you it’s hard graphite while the B is softer and black. Higher H numbers mean harder lead and lighter markings, which are ideal for very detailed work and/or sketches you want to be able to erase. Higher B numbers mean softer lead, and darker markings that create more contrast and are more difficult to erase completely.”

If you are doing a lot of pencil drawing and shading it’s best to get a drawing pencil set. Brands: General or Sargent Arts

If you are using a pencil to sketch for other mediums a #2 will work just fine! Brand: Ticonderoga


Colored Pencils
Colored pencils are good for coloring small places, detailed coloring books, and detailed drawings. They are not good for coloring in large spaces or large-scale projects (try markers or oil pastels instead.) Brands: Prismacolor for fine arts, Crayola for everyday use. 


Remember that no matter what kind of pencil you’re using, you should always keep them sharp! Use a hand sharpener for drawing and colored pencils and an electric sharpener for your good ol’ #2s.


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