Before You Buy Pencil Drawing Equipment

Pencil set with ruler, eraser and sharpener
Dagmar Koss / Getty Images

The requirements for pencil drawing are pretty basic, but there are a few essentials that you really need to do it properly. Here is the low-down on basic kit plus a few extras.

Pencil Sharpeners

Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned two-hole metal pencil sharpener. A canister sharpener which holds the shavings is perfect for traveling. To reduce wastage and breakage, especially of poorly centered cores, many artists prefer to use a craft knife. If you choose this option, be sure to take great care and always cut with the knife moving away from the body. If you use a lot of pencil, you might prefer an electric pencil sharpener, the choice of many professionals.


Very fine sandpaper is useful for brightening the point of your pencil during drawing. Also use it to effectively clean a tortillon (paper blending stump)

Tortillon and other Blending Tools

A tortillon, or paper blending stump, is a tight spiral stick of fibrous paper, for smudging and blending. Using a tortillon rather than fingers prevents skin oils from damaging the paper and allows the marks to be reworked - greasy fingertips can make finger-smudges dirty and difficult to erase. Rubber-tipped 'color shapers' and pastel blenders are also useful for other media, allowing small areas to be worked. A chamois leather can be used to apply, lift and blend media.

Kneadable Erasers

Kneadable erasers are immensely useful for erasing all kinds of media. When one surface gets dirty you can pull and fold it to a clean surface. Use a large piece for large areas, or form it into a point and apply with a twist to erase small spots. Many artists swear by 'Blue Tack' or similar removable poster adhesives as an effective alternative.

White Plastic Erasers

A good quality white plastic eraser will be fairly soft and smooth to the touch - avoid those cheap, crumbly, hard ones that usually come with an advertising logo printed on them. I usually keep several on the go, so that I always have one clean for erasing light areas or highlights. Trim with a knife for a clean surface. Electric erasers are popular with illustrators as they enable precise spot-erasing and rapid cleanup of large areas.

Ruler, ​T-Square, and Flexicurve

Drawing a frame to work in can help you work on a complete composition rather than just floating an object on your page, and also keeps a border on the paper should you wish to frame the piece. A ruler and T-square are essential for perspective drawing. Buy sizes appropriate to the scale of work that you do. A flexicurve is not essential, but can be very useful for creating smooth curves, especially when drawing manufactured objects which need to be perfectly drawn.

Line Incising Tools

Many artists use incised/impressed line to draw fine white detail, pressing the line down then shading across the top. A plastic knitting needle works well; for very fine work, a large darning needle is ideal. You can tape it to a pencil, or snap off the eye and use a clutch pencil as a holder (as recommended by Mike Sibley). You could put a large rustproof nail through a piece of dowel, and sand the point to a suitable diameter.