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Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Tools > Erasers > Getting Started in Graphite

Getting Started in Graphite

How do I get started in graphite?  What tools do I need?

If you’ve visited my tools page you’ve no doubt seen all my pencils, gadgets and doodads.   While graphite is a fairly inexpensive medium to work in, you can easily put quite an investment in your supplies and tools.   When you’re just starting out you probably don’t have a budget for all those nifty things you think you’ll need.  So what do you need, what are the bare necessities?

Pencils.

You don’t need the highest price pencils, nor do you need a full set to get started. Find a brand you like, maybe buy 1 or 2 pencils in a few different brands and see which you like best. I would suggest getting:  4H, 2H, HB, 2B, 3B, 4B and 6B.  Those should give you a nice range to begin. If you want the ability to go very dark/black, I suggest General Pencil Company’s Kimberly 9XXB and charcoal pencils. The Kimberly 9XXB will get incredible darks with no graphite shine.  Charcoal pencils will give you black, a nice velvety black which I love to use in animal fur.

Erasers:

If you can have only 1 eraser I strongly suggest a kneaded eraser.  General’s, Prismacolor and Faber-Castell all make good kneaded erasers. Why a kneaded eraser?  They will lift the graphite off your paper gently (no need to rub).  The best part is after you get them warm in your hands they become pliable, letting you form them into any shape you need.  If you need a tiny spot erased, roll it into a teardrop shape with a small point.  Need a larger spot?  Flatten it out and lay it onto the area.  They are so versatile!!! The next eraser purchase I would suggest is a Tombow Mono 0 round eraser (and refills).  This is perfect for fine detailing and negative drawing! Lastly, investing in a battery operated eraser.  I am currently using the Derwent Battery Eraser and love it!  It makes negative drawing (especially white whiskers) so much easier to accomplish!

Paper:

Draw on whatever paper you have available to you!  In the beginning the important thing is that you are drawing. When you are able I’d suggest getting a Strathmore 400 sketch book – what ever size you like.  Then draw, draw and draw some more!  The more you draw the more you improve.  Also, don’t be afraid to search YouTube for videos made by graphite artists.  I’ve found so many wonderful videos and learned new techniques or tips! When you feel you’re ready to begin selling your art and or doing commissions, then invest in actual drawing paper.  I’ve used both Canson Foundation Drawing Paper and Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper.  There are quite a few papers out there from which you can choose.  Paper choice really comes down to your own personal preference.  Do you like a smooth tooth or more of a rough surface?  Take time to look (and feel) the various papers, maybe even by a sample of a few to try out.  Make sure it’s acid free if you want it to last.

Blending Tools:

You’ll want to have some tools for blending areas of your work.  While Tortillons / Paper blending stumps are inexpensive, there are other things you can use that you probably have around the house.  I frequently use cotton swabs, cotton balls, soft cloths and even tissue or paper towels.

Fixatives:

When you finish your drawing you will want to protect it.  That’s where fixatives come into play.  There are workable fixatives, which keep your work from smudging before it’s finished.  Then there are final fixatives that will protect your finished drawing.  Be aware, final fixatives will not allow you to erase or rework any parts of your drawings, so be sure you’re finished before you spray it!

Rulers:

If you choose to use the grid method, I should also suggest you have a good ruler.  Blick Art carries a variety of aluminum straight edges that are very inexpensive.   I think for now that’s all I have to suggest. Grab some paper, some pencils and start drawing!  Most of all HAVE FUN!!!    

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