Sketching - Tools and Tips

Our artist friend Colleen has agreed to share some drawing tips and techniques. We will also showcase some of her sketches. If you have any questions please email her here.


5 mm Mechanical pencil replace the lead with 2B lead
kneaded eraser (this is like silly putty almost, craft stores and art stores sell it)

soft bristled paint brush (for brushing your eraser crumbs off of the paper)

click eraser

blending stumps or tortillions (these are wrapped paper tubes that come to a point on one end – used for blending in and shading)

paper – Bristol paper is good, because it is strong enough to withstand erasing, however until you have more practice with your blending I wouldn't recommend it. Pencil smudges very easily on this paper.

I actually use plain photocopy paper… but the trick is to buy one with a very high brightness factor. The higher the brightness, the stronger and whiter the paper. I have seen ones with a brightness factor as high as 108, but 90 or 92 brightness will work fine as well. Almost all of my drawings that are posted on this site are done on 92 brightness photocopy paper. Plus, I find it much easier to spend a couple of dollars on a package of photocopy paper… whereas Bristol can be quite expensive.


  • Sticky tac works well if you can't find a kneaded eraser
  • Never blow the eraser crumbs off your page, you may accidentally spit on your paper… always use your paint brush to brush the crumbs away.
  • Click erasers are awesome, because you can actually sharpen these with a pencil sharpener-the better to get those small spots with them
  • Tracing is an excellent way to practice getting your proportions right, it also helps you with the placement of all the parts of your chosen picture
  • Kneaded erasers are wonderful… they are like putty and you can mold them to whatever shape you want… even to a very fine point… perfect for getting in those little teensy spots that you're sharpened click eraser can't even get to.
  • At the beginning, you'll find it useful to leave your gridlines until the drawing is almost finished and you have all the detail drawn in. As you practice and get more skilled, you'll be able to erase the gridlines before you start filling in the detail, you may even find that after lots of practice, you won't even need to use gridlines.
  • While drawing, keep a Kleenex or extra piece of blank paper placed between your drawing hand and the paper you are drawing on… this will prevent unwanted smudging.
  • Look through coloring books, story books, magazines, etc. for pictures you can practice with. Coloring books have excellent practice pictures for beginners… trace them, draw them using the grid system, and practice, practice, practice. Practice drawing just noses, just eyes, just mouths, just ears, then practice drawing faces, hair, clothes. The more you practice, the better you will get.
  • Keep in mind that BLENDING is the key to making any picture look realistic. Look at your picture as if it were a black and white picture or photograph. If you can… scan your picture into the computer and print it out in black and white. This will help you to see the different shades in it.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice your shading… shading should not look like “pencil lines”, it should transition from one shade to the next.