You wish to begin drawing on your own or take classes to master the basics. From colored and graphite pencils to erasers and paper, how to be sure of selecting the right supplies the first time when setting out to draw landscapes, still lives or portraits?

To help you find the right tools and materials, let us guide you with our technical and practical guide.


Unlike other techniques such as watercolor, acrylic or oil painting that require purchasing several different items before starting, when learning to draw you can buy your supplies as you go along. Experienced artists are even able to produce works with fountain pens or technical pens.

That said, there are some essential supplies that are sure to be useful and are recommended by art teachers. Here is the list:


1.1. Paper

To start, you'll need quality drawing paper - choose between loose sheets of paper, a notebook and a sketchpad. An A3 or A4 sketch pad is easy to carry around and ideal for those beginning their first still lives or landscape studies.

1.2. Graphite pencils

When you start drawing and sketching you're going to need several graphite pencils. These come in different grades, and are graded according to their hardness or softness. The letter H on a graphite pencil means it it is harder while the letter B indicates softer graphite.

We’ll explain how to choose the right graphite pencils when beginning drawing a little further down.

1.3. A sharpener

When you draw, the small details make all the difference. The quality of your pencil sharpener and its blade illustrate this perfectly. If you’re a beginner, choose a metal two-hole pencil sharpener with replaceable blades. You can choose it with or without a shavings collector according to your preference.

For lovers of beautiful objects, Caran d'Ache's iconic pencil sharpening machine is a hand-operated manual pencil sharpener that allows you to sharpen pencils with diameters of 4 to 10 mm (1/8" to 3/8").

Other pencil sharpening options include a sandpaper block that is mainly used for delicate pencils such as pastel pencils. Utility knives (Stanley knives) are also recommended for more fragile points such as charcoal.

1.4. Erasers (standard rubber and kneaded)

Essential for beginners and professional artists alike, erasers can be relied upon to remove pencil markings but also lighten an area of the drawing or soften lines. There are several types of eraser including the standard rubber eraser and the kneaded eraser (also called putty eraser). Because of their composition, our high quality standard erasers are perfect for removing graphite and colored pencil markings on different types of paper.

All our erasers are guaranteed phthalate-free.

The kneaded or putty eraser is best for lifting up and retaining the charcoal dust without leaving any residue on the paper.

1.5. Blending stumps (tortillons)

Blending stumps
, or tortillons, are made of tightly rolled paper twisted into a cyclindrical shape and tapered at the ends like a pencil. This tool allows you to blend, smudge, darken and soften lines, edges and solid patches of color.

To avoid mixing your colors by mistake, we recommend that when using several colors that you use multiple blending stamps, one per color.

Tip: If your blending stump is dirty and worn, you can clean and sharpen the end with a sandpaper block.

1.6. Charcoal

Natural charcoal is a thin stick of carbonized willow wood. Compressed charcoal is charcoal powder that has been compressed and shaped into blocks or sticks. As charcoal is versatile and allows for many creative effects it is a classic tool for drawing and sketching and is used by the greatest artists, all while being useful for beginners who are just starting out.

Use it for deep, intense black areas or for fine delicate lines.

Charcoal is easy to work and blends well. Painters also like to use it when sketching on canvas as it has the advantage of not damaging it, and provides incomparably rich, velvety blacks and grays.


1.7. Fixative

Protect your sketches and drawings from the wear and tear of time with a fixative. Available in spray, the fixative will stabilize your drawings and is necessary if you’re working with charcoal or pastels.

An alternative solution is to use hairspray, as many artists do.

Recommendation: Always privilege quality materials.
Not only will they be more agreeable to use and work with, they will also last longer. Over time and according to your needs, wishes and new techniques, you will be able to complete your basic supplies kit with other accessories.


You’d like to start art classes to learn basic techniques or perfect your skills.

In most cases, a list of supplies is provided when you enroll or at the beginning of the course. Depending on the themes and the techniques studied, certain specific tools might be required.

The list of essential supplies listed above is a perfect starting point, both for self-taught artists and for students following classes. They will allow you to practice at home and to perfect techniques learnt during the course. Supplies and materials may sometimes be provided, though having a set of your own supplies is essential if you want to practice and progress in your own time, at home and out sketching.


3.1. Choosing the right graphite pencils for you

Graphite pencils are graded from hard to soft:
H pencils (H for hard) are best for fine and clear cut lines. They are perfectly suited for technical drawings (architecture and design) and tracing guide lines for your artwork.
B pencils (B for black) are soft and are perfect for intensity and shadowing. The softer the graphite, the faster they will get used up as they leave more matter on the paper.
HB pencils are versatile and medium hard, being right in the center of the scale.
To help you get started we have put together the perfect set, the GRAPHITE LINE Book Nomad Set which brings together the essentials from our graphite pencil collection so that you can sketch, draw and create wherever and whenever you wish.

The ideal set to take everywhere when you're on the go!
We’ll see further in this article the other kits that we offer.


3.2. Colored pencils, tools for enjoyment

There are two main stages when it comes to learning to draw: first mastering the techniques for sketching, tracing lines, shading and depth, and then comes the time to learn to work with color, be it with pencils, felt tip pens, pastels, ink or watercolor. You may want to invest in coloring pencils as soon as you start learning to draw, but there is no obligation to do so.

Owning quality art supplies is not only a source of pleasure but proves to be a source of extra motivation to progress.


As we’ve previously mentioned, the golden rule when starting to draw or paint is to buy quality materials that are consistently reliable.

Working with good, quality materials will have a positive impact on your progress and give you the best drawing experience as you’re working in the best conditions, and can multiply your attempts more easily.
©Arnaud CHILDERIC - Studio Kalice

Here are just some recommendations when purchasing supplies according to the technique you would like to perfect:
• For portraits: it is first of all necessary to master the proportions and measures of the body and face. For work that is done in black-and-white, tools such as graphite pencils and charcoal are most appreciated when starting out.
For landscapes: we recommend that you buy some colors (felt tip pens, pastels, paints) to create the solid areas of color, as well as a graphite pencil for sketching.
For still lives: just as with portraits, the first things to take into account are proportions and measures, and also texture and light. Prefer materials such as charcoal which is ideal for shading and light effects thanks to its blending and smudging abilities, as well as a few colors.

To help you progress, we have selected the ART BY range of sets, that are perfectly adapted to the study of certain subjects. For life drawings, autumnal landscapes or warm still lives we recommend the ART BY Skin Tones & Earth set. With the ART BY Light & Shade set, you’ll be able to work the shading and light in your drawings, as well as perfect your gradient technique.


With a sketchbook or pad you have no chance of losing your sketches and can easily visualize your progress.

The purchase of a spiralbound sketchbook is an excellent option as the rings allow you to draw on a perfectly flat surface.

Sketchbooks or pads are also ideal for classifying and archiving your sketches by theme or by year. They will be easy to store in your bookcase, readily available for a quick overview of your progress, or to plunge into your drawing memories.


Yes, there are several complete sets for those who want to start drawing. To make your life easier, we have created kits bringing together all the essential tools to help you get started.

• The 6-piece GRAPHITE LINE set contains 6 grades of graphite pencils covering the range from hard to soft and contains all you need when starting out.

• The 14-piece ART BY sketching set from Caran d’Ache is an ideal first kit for beginners. Within it you shall find all the essential materials for your studies, shading and sketching.

• The 13-piece GRAPHITE LINE water-soluble set comes with complimentary tools to create exceptional effects.

• Complement these with our two other ART BY themed sets: Skin Tones & Earth and Light & Shade which each contain 15 pieces.

When choosing your beginner’s kit, check what is supplied by looking at the packaging or the product description on the website. Usually, paper is not included in beginner's kits and must be purchased separately.

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