5 Materials

Even those that haven’t been drawing long have a material they are more comfortable with than others. Very often that’s graphite pencil – if that’s you then read the section below ‘Escape the pencil trap’.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to master one material and make it your own. However, every once in a while it’s a good idea to change and experiment, even if you then go back to your favourite material.

Some materials are a little intimidating – especially those that are hard to erase and those which create strong marks. We would encourage you from time to time to go outside your comfort zone and experiment with a new material. Mixing things up this way can help break you out of ruts. You may also find that you discover an unexpected love for a material you haven’t properly tried before.

Broadening your horizons will only improve your drawing skills and break bad drawing habits. A sharp pencil makes you careful about how you use lines and refines your ability to draw detail. A stick of charcoal encourages you open up and draw a little more freely. Soft pastels encourage you to be bold with your marks, it cannot be erased and is quite powerful, and to explore colour combinations. If you are unsure what material to start with, we would recommend charcoal.

In this section we take you through the characteristics of different materials, which ones to buy and how to use them to create expressive lines and tone.

Escape the pencil trap

Pencil is good for highly accurate lines. Many people start with and then get comfortable with pencil. Pencil actually isn’t an easy material to use effectively though. It takes some quite advanced technique to get a lot of vibrance and life with a pencil when compared to other materials. You can get a variety of pencils, but the most common do not give much scope for varying widths or making strong sweeping lines. Also pencil doesn’t encourage correct use of your whole arm when drawing.

Charcoal, ink pens and brushes, watercolours and pastels are easier when you’re trying to put bold and energetic lines on the page. Ink and brushes though require a high degree of confidence, as there’s no ‘back button’ on those lines. Once it’s on the page, it’s hard to erase. Pastels and watercolours generally mean you are going to have to consider colour, which is an added dimension of complexity. Also, you’ll need specific types of paper for those media. So lets start with charcoal.

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