Save 50% on videos and courses! Shop now >

5 Essential Artist Supplies


Artist Jorge Santiago Jr. Shares His Greatest “Muse”

Artists are always on the search for their next muse, that great new inspiration that will bring them to the next plateau of their expressive works. While muses can be found anywhere and in anything, I’ve found that sometimes the greatest muse is simply the materials and artist supplies we use to make art. Every tool is selected for a reason, and when you begin to think more about how best to apply your artist supplies, you’ll find new methods of expression opening up before you. Here are my five 5 essential art supplies, plus how and why I use them.

artist supplies 1-Soft-Pencils
All images and artwork courtesy Jorge Santiago Jr.

Choosing Your Pencil

The pencil is, for most artists, the beginning of every piece that we make. I have found that I tend to have more control over my strokes when I am using a soft pencil on a medium to cold press paper, and harder pencils feel best on smoother paper. I’ve found that these combinations work because the graphite is not actively fighting the surface of the paper. A soft lead on a smooth paper will skate across the surface so you have less control, and a harder pencil will have a harder time running over the peaks and valleys of a cold press paper.

artist supplies 2-Mixed-Media

The Right Paper for the Right Project

With paper, you should experiment and play with your surfaces to see what your paper can and cannot withstand. Most paper producers create paper that is specialized for one specific media. It may not hold up to others or it may even result in damage to the paper or the artist supplies and materials you use.

If you are a mixed media artist, make sure you’re finding the best paper for your needs, although thankfully there are companies making exceptional mixed media papers that can be used with a variety of media.

artist supplies 3-Order

Switch Your Order for Different Results

Ink is a lovely tool to use for sketchers and illustrators alike, but ink can be a fickle material depending on your source. If you try to use markers or watercolor over your dry ink lines you may find them being absorbed into your paint. You can spend time testing new inks to find one that is alcohol proof and waterproof. Or you can just work in the opposite order: paint or marker up your work first, and then use ink last. You’ll find that your painting skills will improve and you’ll rely on the ink less and less!

artist supplies 4-Markers

Resist the Grind

If you love your felt tip pens and markers (I have a sizable collection of Copic Markers) then you also know the pain of having to replace the tips or even the markers themselves because the tips have worn down or become too frayed to use accurately. This is honestly a part of using the tool. But you can dramatically save the tips of your markers by using them on smooth paper. Plate surface papers allow your markers to glide over them with no resistance. You’ll have more fun drawing and you’ll save money on having to buy replacement tips for your tools!

artist supplies toned paper

Toned Paper Excitement

Recently, I have discovered the power of toned papers. Toned papers can be found beige, gray, and black tones. Each has its own amazing potential for capturing a subject!

If I were to paint a forested mountain kissing a warm blue sky, using a beige paper as my foundation would be best.

Let’s say I was going to visit New York and paint the cool dignity of the city. Using a gray toned paper would best capture the concrete structure of city life!

If I was going to render light, like fireworks streaking across the sky, or a spider crawling on a delicate web, starting on a black toned paper and rending forward from that would be the most fun!

artist supplies toned paper grey

Now with toned papers built for mixed media, artists can use opaque, wet media on a toned surface the same way an oil painter or pastel artist would!

Good quality artist supplies are the foundation of every artist’s career. They really can propel our imaginations forward in incredible ways. What tools have you used that got your creative gears turning, and how could you use those tools to help you make better choices when it comes to your art? Leave a comment and let us know.


Once you have selected the art supplies that could be your next best “muse,” you are ready for an art escape. Incorporate creativity into your everyday life with a variety of art journal ideas, techniques, and project suggestions from Art Escapes, an eBook that is just a click away!


Jorge Santiago Jr. is a creative powerhouse, making comics and art with huge amounts of passion. He earned his MFA in Sequential Art from SCAD Atlanta and was recently one of the featured artists at SketchKon, the first-ever convention devoted to sketching. 

Join the conversation!

2 comments on “5 Essential Artist Supplies

  1. David Walker says:

    It’s interesting to learn that you can use a soft pencil to easily do art on a medium to cold press paper. My wife is wanting to get into art and she was wondering what kind of paper she should use when using a soft pencil. I’ll be sure to tell her that she should use medium to cold press paper when drawing. https://jacksons.com.au

Become a member today!

Choose an option below to join now.

$9.99/month$99.99/year

Save 16.59% with our annual plan and get a FREE GIFT!

  • Videos: Stream 850+ instructional workshops, specially designed for every medium and skill level.
  • Discounts: Unlock 30% off additional magazines + offers with our retail partners!
  • eBooks: Explore our library of how-to topics, tips, and techniques.
  • Magazines: Access Artists Magazine archives and new issues with a print subscription.
  • Newsletter: A weekly email featuring a selection of videos and more.
View Membership Benefits

*Membership cannot be purchased with Gift Cards or PayPal.