Materials and equipment list

Take a look at the items you will be using throughout the course - you can also download the handy shopping list!

The list is separated into modules for convenience, building into a complete basic art kit. You will need to allow extra time for shopping for materials occasionally throughout the course. The initial list is large, but these materials and pieces of equipment will be used throughout and beyond the course and the number of items you need to buy decreases as you move through the course. You may find you already have some of these items at home, if not, always buy the best you can afford, these items are an investment and if treated well they will last a long time. You will use some equipment faster than others due to the nature of the material, e.g. charcoal or it may be your preferred ways of working and as a result need to replenish and extend your materials in those areas from time to time.

Before purchasing any of the items, read and make a note of the exact requirements from the detailed descriptions that follow the list. Find a good art supplier who will be able to offer advice as well as good quality products, which are available online as well as on the high street. We often refer to 'A' sizes which are (in mm); A1 =594 x 841. A2 =420 x 594. A3 =297 x 420. A4 =210 x 297. A5 =148 x 210. If A sizes are not stocked by your supplier, find the nearest size available.

An art material is often referred to as a medium, and what they are applied with is equipment.

Module 1 - drawing

  • 2H, HB, B, 2B, 4B / 6B pencils and a 2B thick graphite stick
  • Soft rubber
  • Putty / kneaded rubber
  • Paper stump or cotton buds
  • Metal pencil sharpener or craft knife
  • A 30cm metal ruler
  • Box of mixed willow charcoal
  • A piece of white and a piece of grey chalk/pastel
  • Ballpoint, a fineliner pen, 0.7 waterproof and fade-proof (and a fountain pen if you have one) all with black ink
  • Dip / mapping / drawing pen
  • Black or Indian drawing ink
  • Paper, A3 ring bound medium surface, medium weight cartridge pad, 70lbs/150gsm, coloured and sketching paper to be replenished when stocks run low
  • Fixative, a can will last you a long time but it is expensive, a cheaper alternative is hairspray
  • Drawing board
  • Drawing board or bulldog clips are also very useful for securing work without damaging it
  • Easel is a very useful but not essential piece of equipment for this course
  • Sketchbooks, A4 hardback, A5 and pocket sized notepad, to be replaced as needed
  • Cardboard to make a portfolio, two sheets slightly larger than A1
  • A piece of card, the side of a breakfast cereal packet is ideal
  • Brushes, No. 2 and No. 6 Round Synthetic
  • Tool box
  • Glue stick
  • Overalls or a painting apron / shirt
  • Dust sheets for the floor
  • handheld mirror

Module 2 - colour

  • Chalk pastels or oil pastels in at least these colours, red, yellow, blue, green, white, black, grey, brown
  • Colouring pencils (in colours as above)
  • A sheet of A3 Water colour paper, 90lbs/190gsm cold pressed/not, available from good art shops (sizes may vary)
  • 5 Small tubes of acrylic paint;  Look for a true bright red, the name varies with different manufacturers, for example cadmium red deep or naphthol red, if in doubt unscrew the cap of a tube to look at the paint –cadmium yellow – cobalt or Ultramarine Blue – titanium white – mars black
  • Brushes – synthetic round, No 2, 6 and 10 – hog /bristle flat, No 6 – hog/bristle filbert, No 8 – synthetic filbert No 6
  • A painting and palette knife, in plastic or steel
  • Small roll of gum strip / gum paper tape
  • Palette or old plates can be used

Module 3 - explore and create

  • Portable seat or stool this is mainly for when work goes outdoors
  • A jar with lid for water when working outdoors and a plastic bottle to carry water in
  • A tube to transport brushes in to prevent damage to the hair / bristles, a cardboard tube from a roll of cling film or foil with tape over the ends is ideal
  • Textured objects e.g. cardboard, string, seeds, rice, tissue paper
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • PVA glue can be expensive in art shops, cheaper in DIY stores or decorators merchants

Module 4 - refine and find your way

  • A handheld and a full length mirror
  • A willing (adult) friend or member of your family who is willing to sit and pose for you as a model. Life models are normally nude, but generally, this isn't appropriate for personal or cultural reasons. The model can wear swim or tightly fitting sports wear. The majority of our students use models who are partially clothed, the most important factor is that you can see their limbs and body shape clearly
  • 5 -10 sheets of A1 sugar paper, dark grey or black

The equipment, materials and their uses

This summary of materials is designed to form a point of reference for use throughout the course.

Module 1 - materials and equipment

The Pencil

The pencil is perhaps the most familiar of materials although not to be underestimated, as like all equipment will take a great deal of practise to get the best out of this versatile medium. The graphite can be encased in; wood, which is the most familiar, plastic, or paper.

When encased in paper or plastic, it is usually referred to as a graphite stick, available in different thicknesses and is preferred for drawing in a more expressive style producing a thicker, denser line.

One grade of pencil is usually used for a drawing but interesting tones can be achieved when mixed, e.g. an H pencil used in conjunction with a 2B pencil. Always sharpen before use but make sure the end is slightly rounded as if the tip is too sharp it is likely to snap.

Although commonly referred to as a lead pencil, they have never actually contained lead; they are made from graphite which was mistaken for lead in appearance when it was first discovered. The more clay that is mixed with graphite powder the harder the pencil is, making it lighter in appearance and useful for sketching when you do not want the pencil marks to be visible, e.g. marking out basic shapes in a water colour painting.

An easy way to remember the pencil grading is that the ‘H’ stands for hard and the ’B’ for black, so the higher the number, the blacker or harder the graphite, therefore a 4B is much softer and therefore darker than a 2H which is very light. If a pencil does not show a grading, it is not of high enough quality and not suitable for drawing.

A putty or kneaded rubber

This is useful when using charcoal or pastels and chalk as it is used by lifting the medium off the surface to remove marks rather than rubbing and smearing the drawing across the surface as with a traditional rubber. It can be shaped into a point for very fine work and also used to create highlights and soften lines.

Paper stumps

They are used for blending tones in charcoal and pencil. Care must be taken to avoid over blending in a drawing as the whole drawing can become dull and mono-tonal. If you cannot source a paper stump, cotton buds can be used as a cheaper, but less effective alternative.

Craft knives

Useful for sharpening pencils and cutting paper, they are however extremely sharp and great care must be taken when using; scissors and a metal pencil sharpener can be used in their place.


Charcoal is most commonly produced from willow and has been produced for hundreds of years. Lengths are available in thin, medium and thick as well as assorted boxes. It is useful for drawing out a painting as it can be rubbed off the surface to leave a faint line behind although it must not be used with watercolour painting as it would discolour and bleed into the delicate washes of paint.

Charcoal can be difficult to use at first but it is worth pursuing, as it is great for capturing ideas and subjects quickly and can give a wonderful velvet like quality with great density of tone. Charcoal is used by turning to find a point as it is quickly worn down. It can be rubbed or lifted out with a putty rubber but this can quickly becomes messy so it is best used with the working lines left in place and worked into the drawing. It rubs off the page easily, and onto you, so work from the top, keeping your hand and arm off the page.

It has a tactile quality and sense of simplicity as no other artists’ medium, it is so natural and favoured as a drawing medium by so many artists.

Charcoal pencils

They are widely available and although they remove the immediate contact with the charcoal and are not as versatile, they are popular as they are cleaner and not brittle so more pressure can be used with them allowing for denser mark-making.

Compressed charcoal

It is not actually made from charcoal but is made from pigments that have been compressed into a stick. Some people find them easier and less messy to work with whilst they still retain the dense blackness associated with charcoal.


Fixative may be required when the drawing is finished to help the charcoal adhere to the page. Fixative is a useful tool but do not soak the page, a light spray from an arms length away should be sufficient although it will not prevent smudging altogether. A cheaper alternative is hairspray.


I have suggested you purchase ballpoint pen and a fineliner; both give a constant thickness of line. A fountain pen can also be a useful addition to your equipment, with a more varied and sensitive line. Ink can be a fast medium to work with, ideal for practising the accuracy of your drawing skills. People shy away from using this permanent medium afraid of ‘going wrong’. At this beginners stage you need to be producing a large volume of work and not thinking of finished pieces, but learning through experimentation.

Using ink forces you to work through mistakes when sketching and ‘working lines’ as we call them will help you learn and improve as your mind’s eye will quickly tell you when your drawing is incorrect. Rubbing out lines can slow your progress down as you may keep drawing the in the same line without realising.

Dip pens

Dip, mapping or drawing pens are more versatile to use than manufactured pens with their steady and controlled supply of ink. They can be bought in the form of a pen holder with various sized nibs specifically designed for drawing that slot into the holder.

They have a more ‘painterly’ feel to them and a greater scope and variety of mark-making than ready made pens. The nibs can feel quite fragile and must be used with sensitivity and a light hand at first. Dip pens as the name would suggest have to be dipped into ink as it runs out. There is a great range of sizes and styles of nib, the larger the nib, the thicker the line and quicker the ink will run out, making the working time shorter with each dip. Experiment with a few nibs to see which suits your drawing style. The quality of line varies greatly allowing greater freedom and control. Dip pen and ink is one of the oldest forms of drawing with a strong Oriental origin.

Drawing ink

Drawing/Indian Ink is different to ink that is used in fountain pens, and should only be used with dip pens. It is manufactured using
pigments which sink to bottom of the bottle, so always shake before each use. Drawing ink is available in a wide range of colours and should ideally be used with smooth paper. Water based inks are available which can be used more like watercolour paint, blended and worked into once dry. The depth of pigment in the ink is generally deeper than in ready made pens. It is water based so can be diluted (with distilled water) but if it is to be thinned and used in large quantities, a wash for example, the paper is likely to buckle as it would with watercolour paint and will need stretching (how to stretch paper is described in module 2). It is available as a permanent, waterproof formula, containing shellac, as does French polish, so as you can imagine dries with a glossy sheen. It is popular with artists as it allows for over-painting in colour with watercolour paints without the ink smudging.


Buy paper with different textures and tones, single sheets of textured paper and a few A4 sheets of coloured paper all of which are available from art or hobby shops, do not be afraid to use found bits of paper from around the house for different surfaces to work on. For practice sketching and mark-making, a roll of fine grade lining paper available from DIY stores is an inexpensive way of acquiring a large volume of paper. Be aware however that this paper tends to discolour so it great for sketching and practising, but not so much for 'finished' pieces of work. Computer or newsprint paper is another cheap option for sketching and practising techniques. Throughout the course, this paper will be referred to as sketching paper.

There is a huge array of paper available and to the beginner the choice can be quite daunting, as there are specific papers for almost every art product. 'A' sizes are (in mm); A1 =594 x 841. A2 =420 x 594. A3 =297 x 420. A4 =210 x 297. A5 =148 x 210. If A sizes are not stocked by your supplier, find the nearest size available.

Generally, paper is available as

  • Light, medium and heavy weight
  • Smooth, medium and textured surface
  • Separate sheets or pads
  • Pads are ring bound or gummed, with watercolour paper available gummed on four sides to eliminate the need for stretching, ideal when working outdoors

A ring bound pad of A3 medium surface and medium weight cartridge pad, 70lbs/150gsm, provides a good surface for most dry work including pencil and pastel and can also be stretched for limited painting, hence this versatile paper is recommended for this course.

Drawing boards

A piece of MDF is perfect due to its rigidity and smooth surface it can however only be used for dry work. A 12mm thick piece of plywood can be used for both drawing and painting on as it is waterproof and more resilient to damage; as a result it is advisable to buy the latter. A good size is 650mm x 470mm which fits A2 paper with room around the sides to attach paper to the board. A smaller board, suitable for A3, 470mm x 340mm will be sufficient for most of the exercises in the first chapter although it is useful to buy both at the same time; cut from one larger sheet (most DIY stores will cut it to size) as you will need the larger size in module 2.


There are many easels available and it is worth shopping around for as like every piece of art equipment they vary wildly in price and quality. As your work develops it will determine which type of easel best suits your needs and therefore need not be purchased initially.

Easels normally fit into one of three categories, table, sketching or studio.

Table easels are, like the name suggests, designed to sit on the table top, are small so convenient for limited space and sometimes include a box for storing materials and equipment. Sketching easels are the most versatile. Constructed with a tripod base, they can be collapsed for storage or transportation when working outdoors, but are not suitable for very large works as their lightweight construction can become unstable. Studio easels are not designed to be moved regularly, with a flat base, their sturdy construction can support larger works of art.


It is necessary to purchase a few sketchbooks during the course. Buy at least 2 to start with in sizes A4 and A5. A pocket-sized notebook is also useful to carry with you at all times. The size you work with is of course down to personal preference as you may naturally find your style of work increasing or decreasing in size as you progress and your needs in different projects change, the most important thing is to feel comfortable with the materials you work with although the convenience of carrying it around should always be a consideration.

Some artists prefer to use one sketchbook for each project, filling it with ideas, drawings and studies, whilst others use a range of sketchbooks, a small one for notes and larger books with better quality paper for studies in paint, with or without annotation, that take several hours to complete in themselves. It is important that it is robust with a hard front and back cover to withstand being a travelling companion for the next few months. A sketchbook is like a journal, a visual diary, where information is collected, ideas developed, experiences described, notes made on your own and others work and sketches made when you find inspiration.

This book will build into a valuable reference to chart your progress and reflect on your increasing knowledge and skill level. It is important not to restrict your sketchbook purely to sketches, fill it with written and visual information, cuttings from magazines, poems, postcards, whatever inspires and influences your work. The sketchbook is designed for your personal responses, you will not always be told when to use it but make it part of your work, adding to it daily, using it and complimenting the ongoing tasks.


Drawings can be stored in a portfolio, which can be made simply from securing 2 pieces of cardboard together with tape or string. Its purpose is to keep your work flat, safe and in one place. Your portfolio needs to be slightly larger than the work it contains, and can be stored upright, out of the way behind a desk for example. The portfolio should ideally be slightly larger than A1 in size (900mm x 660mm) to allow for the largest pieces of your work.

Round brushes

Round brushes literally are a good all rounder and are suitable for all types of paint and work well with ink. Traditionally they are made from sable which is the tail hair from a relation of the mink. They hold a good volume of the medium, be it paint or ink, and a wide range of marks and effects can be produced from fluid sweeping curves to adding fine detail to a drawing.

Round brushes are used for drawing in the first chapter of the course and provide a totally different experience from dry media to draw with, giving a sense of freedom, spontaneity and permanence. They are a good starting point to practise handling and working with a brush. Only a few brushes will be used to begin with so if you are buying them individually; Round No. 2 and 6 (Synthetic). Alternatively a pack of 4 brushes can be more cost effective if all the brushes are useful (they will be used later on in the course) i.e. a good range of various round from size 2 to 10 is a good starter pack. It is advisable to start with synthetic and work your way up to sable.


Kit / Tool box

A tool / kit box is a convenient method of storing your equipment and is a vital part of your equipment, a small inexpensive tool box with different sections is a good portable option and will keep your equipment safe, tidy and close to hand.

Glue stick

A glue stick is a useful addition to your equipment, used for collages or sticking magazines clippings into your sketchbook.



Module 2 - Materials and Equipment

The shopping list states chalk pastels or oil pastels because although they are very different to work with, the premise and technique is similar. Read the descriptions below, you may find that one type suits your way of working more than the other. Ideally of course try both.

Chalk pastels

Chalk pastels are used by artists to capture a subject quickly. They are easily transportable and enable the user to draw in colour which is a useful tool when time is an issue. They can be blended on the page or by using a paper stump or cotton bud. A greater range of colours is required as they are not as easily blended as paint. Pastels can be dusty to work with and need a fixative to help prevent smudging. The more expensive superior pastels are softer to work with and contain more pigment giving vibrant colours. They can be bought individually and it is advisable to try a few colours to see if you like working with the medium and build up your collection gradually rather than buying a cheaper set.

Oil pastels

They are a medium created in the 1920’s and were considered a combination of paint, wax crayons and pastels. Oil pastels had the benefits of chalk based pastels but were more durable and could be applied smoothly and possessed some of the lustre of paint. They were initially considered a child’s medium, an upmarket crayon, but were refined and improved by the manufacturer when artists such as Picasso took an interest in them. Although they are often not considered a fine art medium, they are useful for developing drawing techniques and a working knowledge of colour. As they are oil based they can be blended with your finger or with a little white spirit on a cotton bud.

Pencil crayons

They are a versatile medium whose quality is greatly affected by cost. Some retailers will sell pencil crayons separately and it is advisable to start a collection with a few colours rather than buying a large set of poor quality pencils. Like pastels, pencil crayons allow you to draw directly with colour offering a great depth of tone but they also allow for very fine detail as they can be sharpened to a very fine point. Used like a graphite pencil, tone can be built up gradually in layers using several colours or blended with a paper stump.

Water-soluble crayons are recommended as it adds another dimension to the medium without a loss in quality, they can be worked into with a soft brush to soften lines and blend and give a painterly feel or drawn directly onto wet (stretched) paper where on contact the pigment disperses into the surface.

Watercolour paper

Watercolour paper is a superior surface to paint on and as your work progresses and you begin to find your style, preferred materials and ways of working, you can match your needs with choice of paper. Separate sheets are available from art shops.

More in depth information on paint is provided in module 2; the information here serves more as a shopping guide.


It is impractical to suggest that you purchase paint in all its forms as a beginner. As you develop an artistic style and an interest in a particular subject matter or technique, you may naturally lean towards one medium rather than another. You may for example greatly admire one particular artist and style and find that their medium is suited to your own intensions.

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is a versatile medium and can replicate both watercolour and oil paint on a limited level.

It has been chosen to give access for experimentation and to learn techniques and skills in a medium that is water based, quick drying, easy to use and not bound with rules and restrictions that can inhibit the beginner.

The main differences between acrylic and watercolour are that acrylic has a polymer as its binder and therefore it dries to a permanent film unlike watercolour that can be re-wetted and worked into once dry or oil which has an extended working time. It is also said that no other paint demonstrates the same luminescence as water colour and that acrylic cannot exhibit the same lustre and depth as an oil painting.


You will need no more than 5 or 6 brushes to start with.

There are many brushes to choose from, the most versatile and popular types of brush are;

  • Round, as described previously

introduction image 19



  • Flats have quite long springy bristles and are useful for painting large areas and blocking in areas in the initial stages of a painting with broad, smooth brush strokes.

introduction image 20



  • Filbert sits in between a flat and a round; it is similar to a flat as it is able to make long thick strokes. The tip has been rounded allowing the user greater control and detail.

introduction image 21



Please note that sizes vary with different manufacturers, aim for a good mix of shape, size and texture when buying brushes.

Painting knives 

Painting knives are used for applying paint thickly to a surface to give texture; layers can be built up quickly with bold strokes of colour. They have a flexible blade and a cranked/angled handle, to keep hands from coming into contact with the surface when working. Although the blade of the plastic painting knife is not as sharp or precise to work with, it is good way of trying this method of working before investing in a more expensive steel knife.

Palette knives

They are used for mixing paint on the palette, have a stiffer blade that is flat, and are again available in plastic.

Gum strip / gum paper tape

Gum strip is a brown roll of paper that has glue on one side that has to be moistened to become sticky. It is essential when stretching paper for painting on.


A palette is the surface that paint is mixed on. Available widely in plastic, depending on the viscosity of paint used, they can be flat or have recesses. An inexpensive alternative are old ceramic plates and dishes purchased from charity shops.


Module 3 - Materials and Equipment

Refer to the materials and equipment list for a sufficient description of items required in this module.


Module 4 - Materials and Equipment

Refer to the materials and equipment list for a sufficient description of items required in this chapter.