Let’s start with the basic materials that every artist needs to own:
Blending stumps and tortillions are the most basic tools for blending any shade and value in your drawings. They can be purchased for cheap at any art store (even at Wal-Mart!). Blending stumps are the double-pointed and have a softer tip than a tortillion. Blending stumps are usually used for bigger areas in a drawing. Tortillions have a harder point and are used for smaller details because they have a smaller tip. Generally, you can interchange using them so they can best suit your needs. The proper way to use them is to blend from dark to light to keep value transitions even. NEVER use a back and forth motion with them as it will leave an uneven surface. Blend in circular motions to create an even tone. For cleaning, brush the tips of the stumps and tortillions against a piece of sandpaper. This way they will last for a long time before you need to buy yourself a new set!
Kneaded rubber erasers are great for creating soft highlights in any kind of drawing medium. You can get these for really cheap at any art store. The brand isn’t as important in erasers because they all generally work the same way. Kneaded erasers are just that, knead-able. You can form it into a fine tip in order to get small details. For hair, I usually form the eraser into a small crescent moon shape, but that is a personal preference. These also last a long time because you can keep folding the eraser to expose a new, clean area.
Gum erasers are excellent for erasing all traces of line. Ghost lines virtually disappear with these bad boys! These are also cheap at any art store, and I’m not brand specific on these either. These last a while, too. I highly recommend them.
Strathmore Smooth Bristol Paper is perfect for getting the smoothest shading. There is barely a tooth on the paper, so if you are drawing smooth skin, this would be the paper to use. You can get this at any art store. Bristol paper is more expensive than regular drawing paper, but you will find that the results are worth it. You can buy it in paper pad form in various sizes. Also, you can buy bristol board single sheets for larger projects. I am brand loyal to Strathmore bristol. It is the best to all others in comparison.
Canson Cold Press Watercolor Paper is great if you are looking for extra texture in your drawing. (Yes, I draw on paper meant for painting) It has a heavier tooth, so it creates texture. I typically use it if my reference image is grainy or if I am drawing a portrait and the person either has rough skin or if the skin is highly detailed. You can find this in any art store in various sizes. Canson is the best brand for this because it is a heavy weight paper (140lb), which means it can hold more medium and will not rip if it is overworked.
Zero erasers are used for smallest of details (hair, pores, etc.) I find this item necessary because it makes drawing details that much easier (no more creating sharp points in regular erasers!). I purchased mine from Amazon for a decent price. Trust me, this investment is well worth it.
Now for the specifics:
Graphite pencils are a MUST. I generally use General’s Kimberly graphite pencils. You can buy them in a kit (shown above). These pencils come in a range of sizes from hard lead (4H, 2H, H, F) to soft lead (HB, B, 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B). Hard leaded pencils will appear lighter and the soft leaded pencils are darker and they get darker as the number increases. I also prefer Faber-Castell pencils, which are a little more expensive than General’s pencils. It’s important to note that it is not all about quality of materials rather than how you use them.
Staedtler Lumograph pencils are a whole different kind of pencil. They have a darker opacity than regular graphite pencils, and they do not blend well. They appear black rather than silvery-gray like graphite pencils. I typically use these for really dark details. Note, these pencils do not give off the shine that graphite pencils do, so they can be paired with charcoal pencils no problem. I ordered these off Amazon, and to be honest, they’re not cheap. As always, they are worth it as they last a long time.
Graphite powder and charcoal powder are used to cover large areas in drawings. These two are very similar to one another as they both brush on the same. Charcoal is naturally darker than the graphite powder, but it all depends on the main media you are using for your drawing. With these powders you have to keeping brushing on layer after layer to get it as dark as you need it to be. This is the best way I get smooth blending. It gets a little messy using these powders and I recommend you do not use them for long periods at a time because it is harmful to ingest these powders in so use at your own risk! I ordered these two off of Amazon for super cheap. These will last you a long time.
Round tip brushes I use to brush on graphite and charcoal powder (above). You can buy these in any art store in various sizes (smaller for details and bigger for large areas). I dip these into the powder tubs, shake off excess powder, and blend in circular motions. The brand of these brushes do not matter, but they MUST BE SYNTHETIC FIBERS in order for it to work.
PanPastel is for the absolute darkest areas of your drawings. I brush it on in the same I do with the charcoal and graphite powder. I bought mine from Amazon for cheap because I have never seen them in any art store. This is really a best kept secret (AND I’M SHARING IT WITH YOU!). You won’t have to struggle with achieving darks with pastel cake.
Charcoal pencils are great to get specific small details. Also, they are not reflective, so no weird light will hit your drawing. You can get these at any art store. I am not brand specific with these, but for me, the cheaper the better with charcoal pencils. I sharpen them to a fine point using scissors, and be careful not to throw them around because the charcoal can break inside the wood binding.
White gel pens are the easiest way to make your bright highlights more pronounced. You can even smudge your gel pen lines a little to make the white seem less opaque. This is essential for realistic pieces. I got mine for cheap at Hobby Lobby in a pack of three.
Fixative is used to seal your drawings so they do not smudge over time. This is the last step in your drawing process. Always get a WORKABLE fixative, so you can go back and rework any are you need to. Make sure to coat your drawing at least twice to make sure you’ve covered the entire area. Note, spray in a ventilated area as the fumes can be harmful. This is fairly inexpensive and can be purchased at any art store.
Hope this helps, and happy drawing!