11 Art Supplies Artists CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT | Design Tools

Art supplies recommended by professional artists

Many people with a passion to be an artist are often overwhelmed by the huge variety and options of art supplies out there.

For many of these the best pick is to go for the supplies the professionals use.

That’s a good starting point and I have compiled a list of some essential art supplies that professional artists commonly use and recommend.

1. Good-Quality Pencils

This one is a no brainer

Everyone in their life, artist or hobbyist, has started with a pencil.

If you are someone who uses graphite pencils regularly you might be aware that not all brands offer the same quality.

This means to create smooth and fine pieces of art you need to have some high-quality pencils.

The main two brands I would recommend are:

Derwent Graphite Pencils
Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencils

You can check out my article on the 8 best pencils for drawing and shading for some more insight.

If you find the time to read my above article you might notice I also labelled the Palomino Blackwing one of the greatest pencils ever made.

However, the reason I didn’t list them here is that it’s not the main go-to pencil for every artist and the most common ones used and recommended by professionals are Derwent and Staedtler Mars.

Both the pencil brands offer great consistency, smooth lines and no scratching;


  • Consistent
  • Smooth, flowing lines
  • No scratching
  • Very minimal smudging
  • A wide range of grading from 12B to 10H

As for the cons, I couldn’t find any.

The only main issue I saw was a very small number of people on Amazon commenting that the pencils were hard to erase.

However, other professionals who have also reviewed these brands, didn’t have any complaints.

2. Erasers

As humans we make mistakes, more often than not

But that’s okay because we can usually undo them with the right set of tools.

The erasers I suggest for the best quality and great value for money is the:


For only $3 on Amazon the set includes a kneaded rubber, artgum and a plastic eraser.

  • Kneaded rubber – this is a moldable rubber which can also be used to make highlights and rub some tight edges in your drawings without accidently erasing other parts of your drawing.
  • Artgum – the artgum eraser is designed to easily erase dry media and absorb graphite
  • Plastic eraser – this is better than a rubber eraser as it erases pencil marks more effectively and doesn’t smear as much

The Prismacolor Premier Eraser set is a must have for every Artist.

3. Sketchbooks

Sketchbooks recommended by professional artists

Good supplies won’t do much without a good drawing surface

Having the right sketchbook is crucial for better drawings and a good finish

If this is your first time buying a professional sketchbook you may not notice many differences

However, as you progress you will start to notice a difference between certain textures and the effect they have on you artistic ability.

You will also start to get an idea of which one suits your artistic expression as well.

These are the best Sketchbooks used by Artists

Best sketchbooks recommended by professional artists

Don’t let the word “series” confuse you.

I used the word series as they have numerous options for sketchbooks specified for different mediums.

The links for the Canson and Strathmore series above will take you to a broad selection of sketchbooks on Amazon

You can choose the one you want accordingly.

However the Pentalic Wirebound Sketchbook is a must-have for artists on the go.

It has a durable hardcover and its size is perfect to be carried around in your hand.

For the Pentalic Wirebound Sketchbook the pros are:

  • Easy to tear pages
  • Perfect for dry media
  • Durable hardcover
  • Double wire bound

The main disadvantage to this great sketchbook is its price.

It’s quite expensive especially compared to other professional sketchbooks.

You can buy it for $14.39 on Amazon.

For the Canson series the pros are:

  • Sturdy, good-quality paper
  • Fine texture
  • Allows for good blending and erases well


  • Sometimes the paper is victim too graphite smudging
  • Some wet medium might bleed through, though this is rare
  • Paper is prone to accidental tearing

You can check out the Canson series sketchbooks from Amazon and choose the one most suitable for your medium and one that fits your budget.

For the Strathmore series the pros are:

  • Extremely high-quality
  • Most commonly used and trusted by many professionals


  • Not best for watercolor
  • Some people complained that the newer versions had poorer paper quality
  • A bit expensive as compared with the Canson series

You can check out the Strathmore series sketchbooks from Amazon and choose the one most suitable for your medium and one that fits your budget.

4. Markers

Markers recommended by professional artists

If you like binge-watching big YouTube artists such as Jazza and SuperRaeDizzle you’ll know how much they love markers.

Markers are great for filling in art because of their contrasting color and their variety of hues.

There are 2 types of Artist Markers

  • Alcohol-Based – these are made with a combination of pigment and alcohol. They dry quickly and are permanent, meaning they won’t smudge. However, these markers do have an odor to them.
  • Water-Based – these are made with a combination of water and glycerin. They take some time to dry up and will bleed if water touches them. However, they do not leave behind the odor which alcohol-based markers do.

These markers are the biggest brands out there and every artist’s favorite:

  • Copic Markers
  • Prismacolor 3620 Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

The great thing about these famous marker brands are that they come in sets of 12, 24, 36 and even 72 colors.

Both Markers are alcohol-based.

Copic Pros:

  • Best marker brand
  • Refillable markers and replaceable nibs
  • Double-ended tip, Brush tip and chisel tip


  • Expensive

You can buy the 12 Copic markers set on Amazon for $66

Prismacolor Pros:

  • Double-ended tip, Fine tip, Chisel tip
  • Rich Saturation
  • Cheaper compared to other brands


  • Non-refillable
  • Do not have brush tip

You can buy yourself the Prismacolor double-ended markers on Amazon for $23.21.

5. Good-quality paints

Paints recommended by professional Artists

Painting is every ones favorite past time

At the beginner stage, cheap, low-quality poster paints tend to get the job done for most hobbyists.

However, as you progress you might find yourself wanting newer, richer paints.

There are 3 types of paint most commonly used by industry artists:

  • Acrylic Paints
  • Watercolor
  • Oil Paints

For the best quality Acrylic paints people use:

These paints are high-quality, consistent and rich in contrast and color

For Watercolor many artists tend to go with:

Both sets are professional grade, high-quality and great for mixed media

For oil painting the most popular are:

Both the oil color brands have a consistent gloss, a smooth buttery finish, and a high-level of pigmentation making them rich in color.

6. Paintbrushes

Paint brushes recommended by professional Artists

Many artists, beginner or professional, go crazy over the vast amounts and variety of brushes out there.

However, most professionals just use a good set of brushes for a painting.

If you are planning on buying paint along with these brushes it’s important to note that some painting sets might come with their own brushes like the Winsor and Newton Watercolor set.

The most commonly used brushes are:

The above two brush sets come in packs of 4, 5 and 7 brushes enough for majority of your artworks

A good paintbrush comes down to its quality of bristles, which includes their paint-spreading capability and durability.

However, I’ve noticed as long as you’re skilled at painting any brush can get the job done.

7. Canvases

Canvases recommended by professional artists

You need a good-quality canvas to make your paints “pop."

That's is hip-hop for good contrast.

The best kind of canvases are the one that are durable, lasting a long time hanging on walls, are flexible, have good wood and high-quality fabric to make your colors appear vibrant and consistent.

The one I’ve seen most people recommend are:

Both the canvases are excellent for painting.

U.S Art Supply Canvas Pros:

  • Heavy-weight 
  • Triple-primed surface
  • Durable
  • Great for mixed media
  • Many different sizes available


  • Not the best for Watercolors
  • Thin surface

The main issue most people have with this canvas is the fact that its thin with many saying it was like “painting on cardboard.”

U.S. Art Supply cotton canvases

You can buy the U.S Art Supply Canvas in bulk on Amazon.

The pros for the Darice Stretched Canvas are:

  • Double-primed
  • Stretcher keys
  • 11 different sizes
  • Many different sizes available
  • Budget-friendly


  • Some reviews had quality issues regarding staple tearing
Darice Stretched canvas

You can buy the Darice Stretched canvas in bulk on Amazon.

8. Colored Pencils

Color pencils recommended by professional artists

Finding the best colored pencils might be easy

The best color pencils have higher pigmentation making the colors rich and blend together easily

The best color pencils are:

Both the pencil brands are:

  • Break-resistant
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Vibrant, rich in color
  • Smooth and consistent
  • Soft
  • Available in a range of sets (24, 48, 72, 132)
You can check out the Prismacolor premier colored pencils 48 pack for $37.49

Prismacolor premier color pencils

Faber-Castell classic color pencil set

9. Sharpener

Pencil sharpeners recommended by professional artists

A great sharpener is crucial for better drawings and coloring

It may seem insignificant but having a good sharpener can give you full control over the precision of your pencil by sharpening to a full point.

Most professional artists specializing in fine arts prefer to use knives or a sharpening block to sharpen their pencils. 

If you are looking for a tool made specifically for sharpening you need a sharpener

These 2 are the best sharpeners in the industry:

Both the sharpeners are of high-quality and made by well-trusted and established brands.

Both of them will give your pencils a sharp point perfect for blending together color pencils and fine sketching.

10. Blending stump/Tortillon

Blending stumps recommended by professional artists (image source)

A blending stump or tortillon is a compressed piece of cylindrical paper with a point at the end.

This is a must have for artists into sketching and drawing

It is best to create realistic shades and add value to your shading

Most artists use any type of blending stump as there isn’t much difference in quality regarding different brands

These are the 2 I’ve seen most commonly used:

Both will get the job done and give you smooth, consistent shading.

11. Display Drawing Tablet

Display drawing tablets recommended by artists

This one is for digital artists

Digital art is on the rise, according to 360ResearchReports, Digital Art Board Market Size is Expected to Reach USD 460.1 million by 2026, from USD 279.4 million in 2021, at a CAGR of 8.7%.

There are 2 types of drawing tablets that are used for painting digitally:

  • Display Tablets – these are tablets with a screen on them and don’t necessarily require a computer to be plugged in with.
  • Non-display Tablets – these tablets do not have a screen built in with them. These are connected to your computer and as you draw on the tablet, the lines appear on the computer screen. This requires good hand-to-eye coordination.

Even though non-display tablets are great for beginners to excel in digital art many digital artists recommend you buy yourself a display drawing tablet.

These artists also use the industry-standard software to create their artworks which are also an important part of drawing digitally

These are the best display tablets:

Display drawing tablets recommended by professional digital artists

Even though I can guarantee you these are the best tablets the main downside for these are the prices.

These tablets are expensive ranging from $700 to over a $1000+

However, there is another professional grade display drawing tablet, the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 which is available on Amazon for $249 though these are rarely available.

If you are a beginner on a budget you might want to take a look at my best picks on drawing tablets for beginners (these will be non-display tablets.)

You can also check my buying guide on buying your first drawing tablet.


It is advised to learn from the best and having knowledge of what materials the best artists use will give you a good head start in your journey on becoming a better artist.

The purpose to list all these items were so that you are familiar with all the art supplies that professionals in this industry use.

This article should give you a clear idea of what tools to buy and why.

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