Essential Tools Every Artist Needs

Most people tried some drawing when they were young, and whether they left it alone or progressed and perhaps had some advice or tuition, the quality of materials wasn’t important back then. Most likely the medium was simply a pencil and whatever paper was laying around.


Drawing is gloriously simple and one of its attractions is it’s just a surface and something to make a mark. Here is a brief list of essentials to consider. Not all of these tools are necessary, by any means. But anybody beginning to take their creative work seriously will become serious too about getting the best equipment they can.


Quality pencils


A quick sketch with a range of soft and hard graphite grades will enlighten any budding artist that they’re more than “just a pencil”.


Sets ranging across the hardest 9H through the familiar neutral HB to the softest 6B are readily available, packaged beautifully and presented as serious tools of the trade.


…and quality sharpeners


With a precision set of mark makers like that, any old plastic handheld sharpener that’s been lying around for years won’t do. There is no need to spend a fortune, but a precise, mechanical sharpener can be a pleasure to use and make such a difference to the feel and effect of the artist’s medium. It may be that more than one sharpener works best, with a different design or shape for softer and harder pencils. A blunt or cheaply-made one will make the pencils break almost as soon as they’re drawn with.


A sketchbook


Any artist uses a sketchbook (and, as they’ll quickly fill them out, multiple sketchbooks). It’s the active artist’s place for exercise: a space to realize, explore and develop ideas. It’s also a gym for practice, repetition and drills, a place to work on technique. It may never be used or intended for public display, but sketchbooks are so often a driving force behind successful artists and their work.


Drawing surfaces


Just as different grades of pencil will create varying results, so will different qualities of surface, and here are a few considerations for drawing surfaces.


Tooth, or the texture of the paper, determines how the drawing material is received and accepted by the surface. A heavy texture, for example, may result in a more broken line and harder edge, while the same stroke on smoother paper will produce a fuller line. Different media will apply differently to light or heavy tooth, and artists may discover favorite combinations, but it’s a valuable learning process to experiment with as many as possible.


The weight of the paper is labeled in pounds, and relates to the total weight of a ream, or 500 sheets. This is usually a measure of the thickness of a sheet, but not always – denser materials may result in a thinner sheet weighing more than a softer, thicker sheet of paper.


Acid free paper is worth looking for, as it is more resistant to fading, yellowing and other damage caused by UV light.


A variety of erasers


Much more than just for rubbing out mistakes, different erasers are a useful range of mark-making tools in their own right. The standard rubber eraser is best used on graphite marks to remove them with friction, while a plastic or vinyl eraser is a tougher, harder version that can remove almost any kind of mark, but will also tear paper if used carelessly. A much gentler alternative for sensitive surfaces is the gum eraser, which crumbles as it applies friction and preserves the surface. A soft, pliant kneaded eraser avoids friction altogether, and lifts the mark from the surface. It is shaped and formed to produce different marks (and cleaned) by kneading, stretching and pulling.

Once some technique and style is mastered, and an improving artist begins to compare their work to other artists’ creations, the connection becomes clear between quality equipment and a high standard of artwork. Wanting the best quality materials is no surprise for any emerging artist.

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How to Buy an Airbrush Compressor

All levels of airbrushing prowess require different types of equipment. An airbrush compressor is one of the go-to tools used in airbrushing and is commonly one of the first considerations many professionals, artists, and casual users undertake when expanding their business or pursuing a personal endeavor. Regardless of your current skill set, it can be a challenge to assess the specific type of airbrush compressor best suited to your needs.


By far, the most popular tool used by people who airbrush is the airbrush compressor and choosing the right one is essential. Too often, airbrush users will choose a diaphragm compressor, an easy-to-access compressor commonly found in places like sports or hardware stores, which is not fully adapted to fulfill the demands and finesse required for airbrushing. Some advantages of taking time to finding an airbrush compressor suited to your specific needs are as follows:


Electing to invest in an airbrush compressor over a different type of compressor allows for a more controlled airbrushing experience. While other compressors, like the aforementioned diaphragm compressor, rely on pulsation, the airbrush compressor uses a very small amount and produces considerably smoother results that are more adapted to artistic pursuits, like make-up or tanning application.


Secondly, while other compressors generate a considerable amount of heat which causes condensation to build in the airline, airbrush compressors are built in a way which reduces that condensation. Individuals who use pneumatic tools are not as concerned with moisture build-up, but the condensation can result in noticeable flaws and inconsistencies in your work if you are airbrushing.


Something that may be important to you is noise control. If you are searching for a compressor which is not loud, an airbrush compressor is the ideal choice. The decibel ranges are from 30-60 db; this range is accommodating if you prefer to reduce sound as much as possible in your home or studio.


CFM and PSI Production


Depending on the airbrushing project you either are or plan on pursuing, you will want to consider the technical specifications of the airbrush compressor you plan to purchase. The level of air pressure, which is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and the level of air flow velocity, which is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), are important specifications which should be considered when selecting an airbrush compressor. Seeking the advice of a airbrush compressor or store consultant will be helpful in choosing the right tool for the project you are doing.


The following are some examples of what levels of PSI/CFM should be used for different types of projects:


T-Shirt painting requires a PSI of 40-60.


Airbrushing small figurines only requires a PSI of roughly 20.


Using an additional tool with an airbrush, like a mini spray gun, will require at least 1.0 CFM.


As you may understand, the tool you utilize, how you intend to use it, and the type of paint you wish to use will greatly determine the amount of CFM and PSI you search for in an airbrush compressor. If a consultant is not available you may be able to refer to the label and product description on the package of the airbrush compressor.




The Iwata Silver Jet and Grex Aeris are two compact and portable airbrush compressors which are adapted for make-up application. The more PSI a compressor requires, the more space it occupies. If you are a t-shirt artist or muralist, the Power Jet Pro is constructed in a way which allows compactness that doesn’t detract from its ability to produce higher levels of PSI and CFM. Larger tasks will almost always require airbrush compressors with more power. Always regard the airbrush compressors size and weight before making a purchase if moving it frequently is something you plan on doing.


Additional Tools to Consider


A question airbrush artists often pose is in regards to whether or not a regulator and a gauge is necessary. For more precision, a regulator is a major plus. It allows you to regulate the airflow and often accompanies an airbrush compressor. While not a top priority on your airbrushing list, you may also want to ask whether or not a gauge will be necessary for your specific projects. The MAC valve or Micro Air Control valve are devices which allow you to adjust the airflow on the handle and is ideal for make-up focused airbrush artists. These additional pieces could make or break your work so strongly consider whether or not you should add these to your airbrush compressor purchase.


Levels of Moisture


Do you live in a hot and humid environment? If so, moisture control will likely be a top priority on your list. To get the best results, you will want the least amount of moisture building up in your airline. Additional moisture can build up from heat that is caused directly from the compressor you are using, so consider that as well in your decision as to what compressor you will purchase. The length of time you use a compressor and what size it is are factors which will affect the amount of heat your compressor uses.


Luckily, a moisture trap can work to reduce the moisture that would otherwise interfere with your work. Although you can avoid moisture build-up with very small compressors, like the Iwata Neo or Temptu Air, larger compressors will likely require a moisture trap. As moisture accumulates within the trap, you will need to empty it to ensure you are able to continuously filter it out. Many of the compressors come with the moisture trap built-in, however you may still require an additional trap if you live in a particularly humid environment or if the built in moisture trap simply isn’t performing its function to your liking. Even more radical of an approach to lowering moisture levels is cutting your hose in half and installing an In-Line moisture trap.


Additional steps you are able to take for moisture reduction are the automatic shut-off feature and tanks. The automatic shut-off feature on a compressor will shut the device off when it gets to a certain temperature. This mechanism is useful because the hotter the compressor gets, the more moisture it will produce. Tanks will make the air colder before it travels through the air hose.


Noise Considerations


If your airbrushing projects do not require a larger compressor and you would like the airbrushing experience to be a quieter one, always opt for the smallest compressor you can get. Average compressors will run at 50 decibels and people prefer their compressor to run at least under 60 decibels because an average conversation runs at about 70 decibels.


In addition to reducing moisture, a compressor with an automatic shut-off feature is also useful for noise reduction. If you enjoy listening to music or talking with others while airbrushing, this feature will allow you to hear better when you are not right in the middle of spraying something or someone.


If your compressor is enclosed in a compartment, which can be purchased or uniquely constructed by you (at your own discretion), it will be far less noisy. A bare compressor, like the Smart Jet, will be significantly louder than a device which is encased.


If you are someone who simply cannot stand noise of any kind emanating from an airbrush compressor, silent compressors are available. Although these options come at a higher price, it may be worth it for you to invest in one of the Supersilent compressor series. These devices will also require oil refills, which will be more costs on top of the higher purchasing price. However, for a better cost to performance ration, it is highly recommended that you put your money towards a device that may make a bit more noise.


Compressor Recommendation Based on Intended Use


We carry compressors of all sizes and functionality. We acknowledge that all airbrushing projects differ to some degree. The following is a list of a few airbrush compressors. Which one(s) would meet all of your needs the best?


Grex Series I, Iwata Neo Air, Iwata Silver Jet, SPARMAX DC-25, Temptu Air, Temptu S-One


These device are best suited for the application of make-up. If precise airbrushing is something you need, look into these options. These are all highly portable, low-pressure devices with a low PSI. These smaller compressors will not cause your subjects distress when you are working on their face make-up.


Badger 80-8N X-Air, Grex Series I, Badger 80-3N Breeze


These are also low-pressure compressor models and are best adapted to airbrushing projects like coloring food. For delicate frosting coloring, you need something that won’t make noticeable divots or indentations.


Iwata IS-900 Power Jet Pro, Badger TC910, CAT 6310, Paasche DA400R


Searching for a great tan application? These devices will allow for a large area, but thin, application and all have at least 1 CFM.


Most car painting tips will mention the need for a compressor for a quicker, more accurate way of painting. If you’re more interested, however, in car maintenance tools e.g. the best portable tire inflator, better visit for more details.

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