Favorite Sketching Supplies

In case it isn't obvious through my sketchdumps, I sketch a lot.   I do a lot of figure and facial studies, I tend to draw my environment if I go somewhere remotely interesting, and my sketchbook pages are full of what looks like black crayon renders.  Sketching is a form of near mindless entertainment that actually improves your artistic skills, the more you sketch, the better you'll learn how to translate what you see into what you want to put onto paper.  Sketching is nice in that there is very little pressure to produce a 'good' product, so you're free to experiment and try things that might otherwise be outside your comfort zone.

When sketching, I several materials on cheap sketchbook paper.  I sketch in china marker when I want to encourage a more gestural line, I sketch in blue lead and graphite when I'm trying to understand facial construction and am willing to make corrections for my own edification, I sketch in brushpen when I'm drawing organic things, gestural things, or have very little time to sketch, and I use a black gelpen (often rendered with Copic markers) for everything in between.

China Marker
Image via www.dickblick.com

My china marker is much shabbier
Doesn't smear
Gives a really nice line that can be darkened with pressure
Great for quick work
Works on a variety of surfaces
Cheap and easily available
Very easy to sharpen

Doesn't erase
No variation of lineweight
Terrible for detailed work


Brush Pen

There's a wide variety of brushpens available, including those you fill yourself.   The best cheap brush on the market is the Pentel Pocket Brush, but I use a Kuretake most of the time (I'm slowly switching over to a Akashiya natural hair brush though).

Pentel Pocket Brush:
Image via www.jetpens.com

Image via www.jetpens.com

Image via www.jetpens.com

Self filled:
Image via www.jetpens.com
Closeups of Kuretake and Akashiya:

I explain here how you can refill these cartridges with the ink of your choice.
If you're unsure which brushpen is right for you, you might be interested in my review.

Doesn't create a lot of mess
Great for quick gestures and organic shapes

Ink that comes in most cartridges is more grey than black, and may not be watersafe/Copic safe (you should test first)
May not be as springy as a real brush


Utilized with blue lead

Blue Lead and Graphite

Because Unicolor has stopped making light blue lead in a size .7, I've switched to Eno Color, and honestly, I prefer Eno Color lead.

Image via www.jetpens.com

I actually use two mechanical pencils- one that holds only graphite, and one that only holds blue lead, so I'm not constantly changing leads.  The blue lead pencil has a soft rubbery grip on it to protect my hands from long hours of abuse.

Commonly used by other artists
Easy to carry

Cons:  Blue lead may be hard to find (I order 10 packs at a time from Jetpens)
Graphite often rubs off of bluelead
Messy looking sketches (at least, in my case)


Gel Pen
I'm actually very picky and only use one type of gelpen for sketching because it never clogs (in my experience, which is nearly daily for three months).   One of the plus sides is that I can sketch in my sketchbook using this pen, wait an hour, and then use Copics over it, and it doesn't smear.
Image via www.jetpens.com
The pens I use are a size .3 and .4, and they're a lot of fun to ink with, moreso than tech pens, and I love taking notes with them as well.  All around, they're great disposable pens.

Fairly cheap
Fairly easy to find (at least in Savannah, try Primary.  Jetpens also has them, you might want to buy a few at a time)
Comes in teeny tiny small sizes
Rarely clogs
Works with Copics
Actually fun to use

Very little line variation, but for some, that isnt such a bad thing.
Can't ink over blue lead or graphite.

Bottom left, Nia (Gurren Lagann) fanart


  1. Nice overview of different sketching tools. I don't think I've ever tried a china marker before.

    Also, I found your notes on how sketching can be a "low pressure", just for fun activity very interesting. I must admit that I'm not very good at letting go of the thought that whatever I draw must look good. So I would like to thank you for reminding me to experiment and step outside my comfort zone.

    Cheap sketchbook paper is cheap, and I've already got a wide arsenal of different sketching tools (blue lead, brush pens, regular graphite pencils). I've also got a few of those Pilot G-Tec pens in 0.4 and 0.25, so I'll try to sketch more with those as well!


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