Schools are back in session here in my area, so I was inspired by the shift in atmosphere to share a few of my favorite student grade art supplies and art books that have helped me improve my skills. To keep this post from becoming a novel, I won't be giving extensive reviews of each item. I have reviewed some of these items in the past, so I will link those reviews when applicable.
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Student Grade Art Stuff
Travel Watercolor Pan Sets
There are so many watercolors available now that I could not possibly try all of the travel sets without going bankrupt. However, there are two brands that I would still use today: the Windsor & Newton Cotman pocket set, and the Daler Rowney Aquafine pocket set. If you are able to spend $25 on a set, you are better off buying the W&N Cotman 12 pan set as the colors are beautiful and transparent with little to no chalkiness. I no longer own this product because I used my old one until the pans were empty. I replaced it with the $10 Daler Rowney set a few years ago, and I still have and sometimes use that one. There is a difference in quality, but I don't think it is as drastic as the price difference. Still, the Cotman colors offer more pigmentation and longevity. If you only have the budget for DR, you will enjoy the Aquafine colors, but make sure you get the Aquafine rather than the Simply line. The Simply colors are not as bright or transparent as the Aquafine, and they can be chalky and hard to work with.
I tend to use Strathmore papers for most mediums, but the different series numbers can be confusing. The brand numbers their products from the 100 series ("Youth" for 5 years and up) to the 500 series ("Premium" for professional artists). The prices get higher and page counts gets lower as the series number increases, but the brand is high quality and affordable over all. I tend to stay with the 400 ("Best") and 500 series these days, but students will enjoy the 200 ("Practice") and 300 ("Better") series, especially for sketching and concept art. Also, if you use wet media, you may want to consider the higher series numbers as they do not buckle nearly as much as lower series items.
Canson is also a great student brand. I use their artist and XL series paper sketch books, XL mixed media pads, and Mi Tientes pastel papers. The XL mixed media pads are nice, but the paper cannot handle extreme wet-on-wet watercolor layering. It does take thin layers of acrylics, ink, water soluble pencils and markers very well, however. I have a bunch of these pads in various sizes. The XL watercolor pads are better for advanced watercolor techniques. Canson XL series papers are easy to find and very affordable for students and hobbyists. Canson also makes the Artist Series papers for sketching, drawing, concept art, mixed media, watercolor, and acrylics.
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Drawing and Painting Books
- Drawing in Pen & Ink by Claudia Nice, Kindle, paperback, hardcover (Pen and ink, technical pens)
- Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor by Claudia Nice, Kindle, paperback, hardcover (Penand ink, watercolors)
- Drawing the Head and Hands by Andrew Loomis, Hardcover - *I have this in the Kindle format, but I do not see that format available at the time of this writing. (any drawing medium)
- Colored Pencil Painting Bible by Alyona Nickelsen, Kindle, paperback (colored pencil)
- Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson, Kindle, paperback, harcover (any drawing medium)
- Painting Vibrant Watercolors by Soon Y Warren, Kindle, Paperback (watercolors)
- Color Mixing Recipes For Portraits by William F Powell, Harcover, spiral bound (oils, acrylic, watercolor)