Starting To Draw With Basic Mediums

Most art teachers would advise starting to draw with a basic medium, like pencils, and mastering a set of drawing techniques before even considering moving on to more specialist tools.

For example, you can learn to draw incredibly detailed drawings using just a humble pencil from your pencil case (with a rubber sometimes permitted for those easy-to-make mistakes).

Graphite pencils, just like their lead alternatives, can be used to create a range of markings so whether you wish to create a contemporary sketch or a traditional, true to life observation, you can achieve almost any finish by manipulating your tool. Pencils are a great way to produce rough sketches but also a tool to practice techniques in blending, and create simply tones and shades in your drawing - techniques you can also use in charcoal drawing, but without the dust.

For instance, try applying different amounts of pressure or smudging the product on the paper or even scratching some of the pigment off at the point of the pencil to create a powdery medium to work with.

Important Questions Before You Start

Before you start sketching, you should first of all consider a number of factors:

  • The type of drawing you want to produce,
  • Whether or not your background will stay white (if you have started off with a white surface),
  • The type of paper you want to use,
  • What medium or combination of mediums will you use.

These are basic questions you should be asking yourself each and every time you set out to draw, but do also allow yourself some freedom as an initial idea might evolve into something far greater.

Using Graphite Pencils To Create Texture And Depth

If all you have is a HB pencil, it doesn't mean you can't create something great. However, for artists hoping to create real texture and depth in their drawings, a wider selection of pencils might be necessary.

Graphite pencils can be used to create realistic looking artwork, combining smooth and rough textures as well darkness and light to make images jump out at you. They are particularly good for developing tones, including skin tone in portraits, for example. Astonishingly, very talented graphite pencil artists can make a flat drawing look 3-dimensional.

Find out about various drawing tutorial techniques here.

You can create very realistic images using just a pencil.
Using just a pencil, you can make a drawing look 3-dimensional. Photo credit: pedrosimoes7 on

Going back to the idea of rubbing out unintentional markings, some tutors will discourage you from altering any part of your work once you have out pencil to paper. Instead, they will encourage you to work with what you have produced and keep on striving in your technique to improve it until you are happy with the result.

You can’t create a perfect image in a matter of minutes, and even professional artists get it wrong sometimes, but ideas grow and you need to be patient in trying to get what is in front of you to resemble what you want it to.

Drawing Lifelike Pictures With Colouring Pencils

Colouring pencils, more so Crayola crayons, are often associated with toddlers or school-aged children but interestingly the tools are used by many successful illustrators. All you need to do is search for the #pencilart or similar on Instagram in order to see some truly stunning images of artwork created with the modest medium.

Furthermore, coloured pencils are a popular choice for children’s book illustrators and general immustration, along with oil pastels, mainly due to the soft appearance of their application. Designers and architects also consider wax crayons as their friend as they are so easy to use and add a touch of colour and a rough texture to any sketch or design.

While it is unlikely that you will learn to draw with crayons, as they don’t offer much in the way of definition or precision, you could be asked by a tutor to create a drawing using colouring pencils.

Colouring pencils can be just as effective as paints if you build them up.
You can use colouring pencils to create colour, shape, light and dark. Photo credit: ElizabethHudy on VisualHunt

A particularly good use for colouring pencils, due to their thin and detailed appearance on application, is drawing animals. Debra Kauffman is an artist who specialises in drawing strikingly realistic images of all types of animals. She is so influential in the field of colouring pencil art that she has published books with tutorials on how to draw animals.

Choosing And Sticking With The Best Brand

While it may seem odd, a 2B pencil from one art supply brand might be completely different to another. Just think of it as being like buying clothes from different high street shops in the same size – they are almost never perfectly true to size!

You can research the best brands of mediums online or ask someone who has experience using them, but the best way to decide which is right for you is to actually try them yourself. Get a good feel for what they are like to hold, how smooth the application is and so on. Even the tiniest elements can make a big difference in how happy you are drawing with them.

If you feel comfortable using a particular brand, then you will be more confident and this will be reflected in your drawing.

The Benefits Of Basic Drawing Materials

Above all, just like drawing in penone of the biggest positives of materials such as crayons and pencils has to be the cost.

Most grocery stores will stock a range of art supplies, with colouring pencils and crayons included. Some of the larger superstores may even offer a range of graphite pencils as well as a larger selection of alternative materials.

You don't need to venture far to find some basic art mediums.
Most supermarkets will sell basic art supplies like pencils and crayons. Photo credit: WrightstyleLtd on Visualhunt

In addition, the nature of these mediums means that they can be used on equally inexpensive surfaces like ordinary white paper (again, most shops will stock packs of printing paper). There is therefore no need to go out to specialist art stores and buy special textured paper or card, which will ultimately keep your costs down.

This is particularly useful if you are already paying for a drawing tutor or are taking part in drawing classes.

With accessibility and cost at a low, these mediums are perfect for beginners or for those turning to art as a hobby or pastime.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.