Recommended equipment and materials
In short, I use:
The details of what I use and recommend are below with some affiliate links to Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk. This means I get a small commission for recommending these products with no extra cost to you. For stores in the UK and their online stores, I've listed them further below.
If you enjoy the free resources, donations/tips of any amount are welcome to help sustain my work!
There are excellent new & modern quality compasses and geometry sets available from: Helix, Staedtler, Rotring, Faber Castell, Jakar, Maped, Linex, Alvin and so many more international brands that I am not familiar with. I asked on Instagram and here are some brand suggestions: Ecobra, Draftex, Pelkan, Dux, Camel/Camlin, Nobel, Kronos, Koh I Noor Hardtmuth, Botti, S&A. I therefore suggest looking for reputable brands and build quality. Try to look at their top to middle range products, not ones aimed at school children. Don't be tempted by cheap, mass produced, brandless kit online, they really won't work so well.
Look for these particular features that are useful for constructing patterns:
A thumb wheel: allows for small adjustments and remains fixed in the position you set.
A sharp point: School compasses are often blunt and rounded, look for a sharp point, a shouldered point is even better.
A 2mm lead holder: This you can switch to a hard lead, sharpen with a lead sharpener or emery board.
The following are generally very useful:
A well built universal pen attachment: to switch from the 2mm lead provided to any pen or pencil of your own;
A quick release mechanism for major adjustments (although I think it can impede on the accuracy over time if it doesn't have excellent build quality).
Be careful of confusing the technical pen attachament with a universal pen attchament. As one has a threaded "interior" which can only take technical pens with a threaded barrel, not any pen/pencil.
Buying new is fine, but I would also say some of the best sets were manufactured 20 or more years ago and can be found on Ebay or second hand on Etsy and in charity or vintage shops. The build quality of a vintage HAFF, Kern, Harling or Rotring compass is superb, their weight, their small & spare parts are of the highest quality. Pergelistan (Turkey), Mike Wyndham (Canada) and Ayla Sina(Germany) often sell via their Instagram accounts. A good range brilliant geometry sets have been shipped and enjoyed by many I know from all three. Scroll through their feeds to get a sense of vintage brand names and admire the build quality! Also visit www.drawingislamicgeometricdesigns.com/ where the knowledgeable Alan Adams shares a wealth of detailed information about compasses and tools. I also love visiting www.mathsinstruments.me.uk a museum of great geometry sets of the past complete with photographs and history. A place to find information & photographs to help age and identify some of those mysterious vintage compasses. I always think people like us are giving these old tools such good homes!
The following are my recommendations depending on your budget:
Up to £13:
Up to $14:
£13 to £25:
$15 to $25:
Premium or go hunting for vintage geometry sets!
DROP BOW COMPASS: Drawing small circles is useful for drawing channels, a drop bow compass is perfect for this, however buying them individually, at a reasonable price, isn't so easy. Ofcourse try Ebay too. There is the Rotring 233410 Centro Universal Geometry set (amazon.co.uk) , (amazon.com link), an eight piece geometry set which comes with a simple compass, dividers, a small bow compass, the drow bow compass, drawing pen and drawing pen holder, spare needles and leads and an extension bar.
A Straight Edge
My preference is a transparent thin ruler, which has a bevelled edge (this is normal for most rulers). Gridded rulers are particularly useful, but fairly rare in the UK stationery departments. Venture in to the Haberdashery or crafting departments and you will find cutting or quilting/patchwork rulers make for a good alternative but can be pricey. They can be a little thicker, so then you feel you have lean over them a bit more. In addition to the recommended 30cm ruler, you will find it useful to have a shorter 15cm ruler as well as a longer 45/50/60cm ruler:
As we start talking about pencils and pens, I *have* to mention my favourite online retailer: www.cultpens.com
I often buy from them, they have competitive prices and amazing range, especially when it comes to refills and full colour ranges. They always throw in
sweets in to their orders and well I'm a loyal fan!
Tis good to support the small businesses.
12 inch rulers
24 inch rulers
I use a hard lead, 2H/3H, for construction and a soft lead, 2B/B pencil for tracing the pattern when working on tracing paper. You can certainly go harder, up to grade 7H, but I wouldn't use anything softer than 2B.
I use all sorts of pencils:
Traditional pencils - so easy to sharpen and maintain. I dont buy a set with a range of grades, as I won't use them all. So individually, or multipacks:
Amazon.co.uk - Staedtler Tradition 110, 2B Pencil, Box of 12
Mechanical pencils - I use 0.3mm 2H and 3H leads especially for constructions & the HB leads they often come with I use for tracing the pattern when working on tracing paper, usually a 0.5mm HB lead. I don't have anything harder then 3H for mechanical pencils, they're fairly brittle and I don't have a light touch!
Amazon.com - Pentel shop
Clutch pencils - I rediscovered these only recently. I have a box of 2H 2mm leads I use in the clutch pencil that can also be used as compass leads. If you add in a lead sharpener, it makes for a great kit.
Here's what I've been using:
2mm leads for clutch pencils & compasses & their sharpeners
Firstly and cheaply, sand paper or emery board is useful for compass & clutch pencil leads .
Sharpeners - for traditional pencils
If a traditional pencil, then a good sharpener is necessary, I use:
KUM Long Point Pencil & Lead Sharpener ( amazon.co.uk) a sharpener with a two stage sharpening process, first the pencil and then the lead. (Amazon.com link).
Jelly Comb Electic Pencil Sharpener (amazon.co.uk) , (amazon.com link). An Electric sharpener with mains and battery operated options, three settings, but i only use sharpest option, so far so excellent!
Erasers of any sort are useful, especially when you slice them on the diagonal to get two wedge shaped pieces!
The ones that are "pen" shaped, are excellent, there are two that I always have by my side when drawing and weaving patterns:
Once the drawing has been transferred to watercolour paper, erasing from classic eraser become irritating, so a putty eraser can be dabbed, rubbed lightly to take off marks and lead, also good for the painting is full dry to erase all exposed pencil lines : Faber Castell Putty Kneadable Eraser on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Pens: Fineliners, Technical & Metallic.
Non waterproof fineliner pens
I often use fine liner pens to highlight/circle intersections - as this is for the drawing stage and I will not be painting directly on these lines, non water proof quality fineliners are sufficient. Also if you want to construct/draw in pen or outline a pattern after painting then these are also fine for that purpose too:
Magnetip Fine liners These pens are refillable and gorgeous. Playing with them is a must, as is using them for constructions... I also got the magnetic balls, so end up making tetrahedra every time! (Direct from their website)
Arteza Inkonic 0.4mm fineliner pens Arteza.co.uk or Arteza.com
I was sent a set of 48 pens to test out and I was pretty pleased with the packaging, fullness of colour range. The are built well and are nice and inky!
Waterproof Fineliner Pens
If I want to draw in ink and then paint on top of the construction lines then I use waterproof, pigment fast, fade resistant fineliner pens. Do this on bristol board paper or watercolour paper, otherwise it's fairly pointless.
If I want to draw in ink, these are fabulous, they have steel nibs, and fluid ink in them, from either cartridges (rapidograph) or refill from bottles (Isograph). I prefer cartridges. They can dry up and be tricky to maintain and do need to be rinsed/cleaned, but I do love drawing in them. They have a screw thread that allows you to use them in the good quality and vintage compasses which have threaded pen attachments.
Again use them on bristol board paper or watercolour paper, otherwise it's fairly pointless. They are expensive and although you can buy sets, I have brought them individually in size 0.1mm, 0.13mm and 0.2mm. For anything thicker I use the fineliner pens above.
Metallic marker pens
These are often oil based, painting within a metallic outlined shape is easy as the watercolour paints resist mixing with the metallic outline, maintaining a neat outline fairly effortlessly. If your painting isn't so great, you can always outline aftwards to neaten up the edges. A less harsh outline than black and entirely attractive and effective.
If you'd like more sheen and shine, these are great at 0.5mm, be warned if not used carefully, it may splodge on your page.
4ARTIST PEBEO Marker Set - on Amazon.co.uk or set of two on Amazon.com
This pack of 4 metallic pens are thicker but consistent and reliable with a decent shine.
These fibrepens with lightfast waterbased ink and a bullet tip are really quite vibrant on both light and dark paper. The colours are Gold, Silver, Metallic Red, Metallic Blue, Metallic Green and Metallic Violet.
These have been really lovely to finish off a painting with (gold, silver, blue, green and pink metallic outline, They give a fairly thick outline varying from 1mm to 2mm depending on how firmly you use the fibre tip pen.
Paper for drawing
I prefer using plain loose sheets of paper and storing them in folders. Every time I've worked in a book or pad, the lumps & bumps of the binding, especially ring binding irritate me. I wish they didnt as I do love the idea of a sketch book full of patterns.
I also prefer smooth paper, so buy reams of premium printer paper, 100gsm or heavier (the standard is 80gsm). This can be brought in both A3 and A4 size, I use both and file my papers in A3 Pocket Dispaly folders and also A3 plastic wallets for when I'm taking my work to workshops.
A3 Bristol Board paper pads - these are super smooth, thick bright white 250gsm paper that is wonderful to construct on with hard, sharp and fine pencils or fineliners. Although you could paint on it, I prefer not to, and would use smooth hot press 300gsm watercolour paper instead.
I attach tracing paper to my drawing using masking tape and then trace the pattern using a sharp softer leaded pencil (2B or B). I then turn it upside down, carefully attach it to watercolour paper and use a spoon to rub the pattern. This leaves a soft drawing on the watercolour paper ready to paint around. I use a putty eraser to erase these lines once all is dry. I've used 62gsm, 72 gsm and 90 gsm weights of tracing paper and all work fine for me. It is something that some do really poorly and thus they think it introduces inaccuracy, but not if you draw and transfer carefully.
In short, get:
Good watercolour paper (usually expensive);
A decent brush (doesn't have to be expensive);
Decent watercolour paints (some cheap ones can be spectacular).
accompanied by a paper towel, pot of water & pipette we are good to go!
I have limited knowledge and a fairly disciplined approach, sticking to a brand once I'm happy with it. So when people want to know about a wide range of brands, comparing and contrasting their pros and cons, I can't help you. I can only offer up what I have used, but as they may or may not be available in your country, I recommend your own online research and visiting your local art supplies online or in shops and speak to the staff & read blogs & reviews.
Firstly, I'm going to send you to a great blog post by Jeea Mirza on watercolour papers . My preference is for cold press 300 gsm paper, I have bought and used 3 or 4 gummed pads for my own use by Sennelier, Fabriano and Arches, but tend to leave them aside for occasional use or commissions and therefore regularly use:
I really enjoy using this great quality and good value paper. It's cold pressed, so has a slightly rough texture. Coming in a pad of 50 sheets lasting a long time! I dont stretch my paper (the process of taping down the paper and fully wetting it before painting). I dont work that wet, so the warping that may occur is manageable. The paper is really quite hardy and can easily be rolled and flattened (with heavy books) when dry. I am more than a but impatient and tend to paint quickly, my level of preciousness is fairly low, so please take that into account when you do what you do.
Anytime I've bought a set of cheap painting brushes in a non specialist shop, they've been a waste of money. Buying one decent brush is sufficient. It does not have to be expensive, but neither should it be a non branded generic brush poorly made from non descript materials with brush hairs falling out.
This series of brushes, in size 0, 1 and 3 are my typical brishes, I uses 1 and 0 for the fine work and size 3 to mix the colours.
This series of brushes, I discovered whilst in an art store, I liked their length, tip and bulbousness!? They were not expensive, so I bought size 0, 1, 2 and 3 and regularly use them.
Raphael Series 835, Petit Gris round brush
I was gifted a set of these paint brushes from a french artist friend. I really enjoy how much thei can hold, and their fine point, these feel like the typical watercolour brushes that many artists use for a wider range of painting.
Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens
Some people are rather intimidated by painting, I know this feeling well, but overcame it. A decent stepping stone in this process was using water brushes. They come with a refillable water chamber that you let flow or squeeze gently to paint and blend. They can be used with watercolour pencils or paints and come in three different sized synthetic tip brushes (fine, medium and broad).
Watercolour pencils, paints & gouache (to be updated)
I am pretty restricted in what I use, I prefer to master the resources I do have, rather then collect & try many different brands. Therefore there will be gaps in my knowledge and recommendations.
I use this pack of 48 watercolour pencils which comes in cardboard packaging with sharpener and brush. I've enjoyed using them on watercolour paper with the Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens.
Derwent Inktense Watercolour Pencils (on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com)
A great set of intense Inktense 24 watercolour pencils which comes in a metal tin. Again, enjoyable on watercolour paper with the Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens.
Metallic Gouache paints
These were recommended to a friend of mine, by an artist, as an excellent alternative to real gold leaf and metallics. I was hooked immediately, they give such a sold opaque metallic shine, a delight to work with.
Arteza Premium Gouache from Arteza.co.uk or Arteza.com
I was sent a set of 24 gouache paints and was a little taken aback by their behaviour. Gouache paints usually require a little bit of water to get a solid block of colour. They did this, but then also worked really well when I watered them down. Pretty much behaving like watercolours and the transparency we usually get with them. A decent set with some different/uncommon colours which are really good for me to step out my usual/go to colours!
Koh-i-noor Watercolour Pan Set Assorted Colours
A cleverly packaged and very portable set of vibrant watercolours, reasonably priced too!
An extremely cheap ( under £5) dye based behaves like ink more thank watercolours paint set. Give such intense colours so needs to be watered down, mixed in the lid palette.
UK based Art Suppliers & Stationers
Sign up any news letters to keep a look out for sales and discounts as well as product reviews & tutorials. All are UK based and most offer discounts on delivery when orderinng over a given amount. I always compare prices at several retailers before making a purchase. Besides these suppliers, I also use Amazon and Ebay and for many basics, www.wilko.com.
If you ever get a chance to visit their stores, please do, it's a whole world of joy to be surrounted bt beautiful art supplies!