Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Back To Art School: Student Grade Faves and Awesome Art Books

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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. 

Image of Art class art supplies from
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Student Grade Art Stuff

This is a huge category, but I am listing only items that I still use even though I am more inclined to choose artist grade supplies these days. I will start with the classic Prismacolor Scholar colored pencils, which I  reviewed extensively in a 2011 post . My offspring asked me about them the other day, and I plugged my blog (no, I didn't really). I have had more reviews and comments on that old review than on any other blog post, so I am happy to share it with you eight (WOW eight!) years later. TLDR: Prismacolor Scholar pencil cores are slightly harder than the Premier cores, and they are packaged more economically to make them affordable to student artists. The color selection is also smaller than what the Premier line offers. 

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. 

Image of school art supplies from Pexels
Photo by Camargo Anthony from Pexels

Drawing and Painting Books 

I have so many art instruction books in just about every format, from hardcover to ebook, but I will keep this list succinct by providing the title, author, available formats, and medium. 

I hope everyone is having a great start to the school year, whether you are a student, teacher, school admin, or parent. While I doubt any of the products or titles I have listed will show up on your student supply lists (except college, maybe), I would love to know which ones do get listed. I do not have any school-age kids, so I have no idea what parents buy these days for grade school art classes. What are the young artists using in class these days? Please share in the comments!


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