How to Draw: The Drawing Tools

This is the first post of a series about how to draw. In the series, we will be covering anything from noses to ears to hair. By the time we get through them all, I am confident that you will be quite prepared to draw a beautiful face! But first things first, we’ve got to start with some tools in hand. A portrait can be drawn with just a regular pencil/eraser/paper, but the results will not be half as pleasing. I see most of the following items as the artist’s most essential items.

The great thing about graphite (pencil) drawing, is that the prices are way lower than painting. Good news for the beginner!

The very most important thing in an aspiring artist, is not the tools, but passion. A love for drawing, not particularly a very developed love yet, but one that doesn’t give up easily.


Pencils are the artist’s very best friends because you won’t get anywhere without them. For most portrait work, you will need HB and 6B pencils. HB is actually just a “regular” pencil, but getting one purposed for artwork is best. The handsomely fat leaded 6B, will be used for shading purposes only, because the lead is softer than the HB.

TIP: Remember to always keep your HB pencil very sharp. This is especially important when drawing the eyes and hair.


Plastic Erasers


The assumption of the beginner is to use one of the famous pink erasers. They really grab the graphite, but will also wear down your paper. Plastic erasers will do a fantastic job with the graphite and leave your paper smooth. They are easy to obtain at any art or office supply store.

Kneaded Eraser


This is my very favorite eraser which is so much fun to use. We all make mistakes. Yes, even experienced artists. Often times we don’t want to erase all the graphite in the area and that where this guy comes in. You can push and squeeze him into any shape and lightly pick up however much graphite you need.

If the eraser gets covered in graphite, simply bend it into itself and, voila! You have a clean eraser again. They do eventually have to be replaced.


The electric eraser is not a must, but is a wonderful little gadget to get at some point. I found mine on Amazon. It is especially nice for creative white dots in eyes or light strands of hair.

TIP: If you press too hard it can leave a shiny spot that will be hard to shade. Because of the fast turning speed, a light touch generally works perfectly!


These are the most important of the blending tools. Tortillions are used mainly on their point for shading small areas such as the ears, eyes, mouth and wrinkles. If used on their sides, the effect will not be smooth but more like corduroy.

Paper Stumps


Papers stumps lay down a smooth layer of graphite. They will do the job of shading larger areas such as shirt fronts. They’re never used on their points as that will smash them out and give a quite unpredictable result.

Pencil Sharpener


Sharpeners are very important. Okay, this one might seem like, duh! But nonetheless, a dull pencil will create a dull drawing. 😉 The one above is a metal one I can rely on. When my parents gave me my first set of graphite and charcoal drawing supplies, it came with a plastic sharpener which worked for a little while until the screw stripped out. I’ve also had trouble with others that usually broke the pencil lead. Really, use what works the best for you.

The Paper


I have found that Bristol Board is definitely the best when it comes to graphite portraits. It is very smooth and doesn’t bend easily. The cost per page is higher though, so I would recommend practicing in one of Strathmore’s amazing sketch books. Make sure it’s smooth paper and not toothed as the graphite can “bounce” around. In the end, for your masterpieces (and even ones that aren’t) Bristol Board is key.

Tracing Paper


Rule of the graphite artist: NEVER TOUCH YOUR DRAWING! The oils from your skin will damage your artwork. Shading is not what your fingers should do. That’s why we have these cool shading tools! Tracing paper comes in handy for keeping the hands off the drawing and preventing smudging. I lay a sheet over the portion of the portrait that I’m not working on where my hand is resting. That provides a confidence that I can work without worry!

And last, but not least… The Grid!

I don’t have a picture to show you yet, but you will most certainly see it in the next post where I will show you how to use it.

Until next week,

Happy drawing!

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