The Ultimate ‘Back-to-School’ Shopping List for Artists

It is an exciting time to be an artist. Technological advancements and cultural trends have ushered in a new wave of digital and analog tools to help creators do more than ever before. So what are the must-haves of the season? We asked painters, illustrators, photographers, and 3D artists from around the world to tell us a bit about their go-to art supplies for 2019. They talked about groundbreaking digital gear, and also reflected a movement towards traditional analog tools, providing us with a refreshing list of old and new items to take your art to the next level.

For illustrators, we recommend… 

Cray-Pas-min.jpg

Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist Oil Pastels ($32.16)

“A couple of years ago, I rediscovered Cray-Pas oil pastels--the same type many of us use in art class as children,” illustrator and children’s book author Brendan Wenzel tells us. “I make art primarily for young people, so this works well. It's helpful to use materials that keep me in a playful frame of mind. Cray-Pas are dense, bright, and if you work like me, usually end up being a bit messy. I'm really into it. They have been a great tool to lean on when I feel like my approach to illustrating is becoming too stiff or narrow.” 

Faber-Castell.jpg

Faber-Castell Polychromos Color Pencils Tin Set ($124.99)

Illustrator and animator Dream Chen uses all sorts of materials, but the ones she always returns to are her Faber-Castell color pencils. The brand is best-known for providing vibrant color and easy blending--without any waxy build-up. “I use these pencils to add final details,” Chen tells us. 

Pigma Micron-min.jpg

Pigma Micron Pen Set ($11.49)

“I love these pens,” graphic designer and illustrator Zuzana Smolkova tells us. “The ink is light-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the constancy of your drawings. They’re easy to use and you can choose from many stroke sizes.” She’s not alone; these pens are popular among designers, cartoonists, illustrators, and even engineers and scientists. These pens use pigment ink, so they’re more reliable and permanent than your typical dye-based ink. 

For digital artists, we recommend… 

Apple-min.jpg

Apple Pencil ($99.00)

Perfect for drawing in Procreate and similar apps, the Apple Pencil is the go-to stylus for artists who prefer the mobile, lightweight iPad to heavier tablets. “Until I added the Apple Pencil, iPad, and Procreate to my workflow, I illustrated everything with pencil, then inked it with pen, then scanned it to my laptop, and then cleaned it up in Photoshop,” illustrator and creative director John Larigakis tells us. “With my new workflow, I’m able to illustrate directly on the iPad with the same organic feel and fewer steps.” 

Procreate.jpg

Procreate Pocket ($4.99)

While we’re on the subject, the latest version of Procreate Pocket brings the beauty of Procreate to your iPhone. It doesn’t have all the same features and flexibility of the iPad app, it does have some of our favorite tools like QuickShape, isometric drawing guides, and Clipping Masks in an easy, portable package. 

Wacom Bamboo-min.jpg

Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad ($113.16)

When it comes to tablets, there are tons of fantastic options on the market, but the Wacom Bamboo Slate is unique. Fix a piece of paper (any paper will do) to the slate, and draw away. You can take notes or sketch--and it’ll save those files digitally so you can edit them on your computer. It’s a great option for artists and writers who crave the ease of a digital workflow but love the feeling of putting ink to paper.

For designers, we recommend… 

Nix.jpg

Nix Pro Color Sensor ($349.00)

Scan any real-life surface, and this sensor will reveal exactly what color it is. In addition to in-app paint matches, it’ll give you the exact digital color values, so you can implement the right hue into your designs, illustrations, textiles, and prints. 

3Doodler-min.jpg

3Doodler Create+ Master Creator 3D Printing Pen Set ($149.99)

Artists use the 3Doodler for everything from model-building to 3D sketching. Draw any shape you want with heated plastic, and watch it harden in seconds before your eyes. 

Alvin Mat-min.jpg

Alvin Reversible Self-Healing Cutting Mat Kit ($21.00)

Recommended to us by mixed media artist Vanessa Marsh, this kit includes an art knife, spare blades, and the self-healing mat. You can slash, slice and dice this mat any way you please (using rotary blades and straight blades) without leaving annoying marks. It also has a grid pattern, perfect for designers, paper, and textile artists. 

For photographers, we recommend… 

Prynt-min.jpg

Prynt Pocket iPhone Printer Set ($179.95)

Shooting on a phone doesn’t mean your photos have to stay in the cloud. With this pocket-sized printer, you can print your photos instantly. Think Polaroid or Instax--but with a phone. Another bonus? If you download the Prynt app, you can edit any photos you’ve taken previously before printing them out. 

Sunprint-min.jpg

Super Sunprint Kit by the Lawrence Hall of Science ($19.99)

Sunprints have been around since the Victorian botanist Anna Atkins published her first book of cyanotypes, but now they’re available in a quick and handy package. Create “cameraless” photographs in your own backyard using sunlight and flowers, and watch them develop in water. This kit is appropriate for the whole family, from children age 6+ to professional artists.  

Universal Tripod.jpg

Universal Tripod ($59.95)

This isn’t your standard selfie-stick! This adjustable aluminum alloy tripod works with any phone, SLR, and action camera, and it also works with a bluetooth remote control. Gone are the days of using beanbags and rocks as makeshift tripods when you’re on the road--this lightweight tool has you covered. 

For painters, we recommend… 

Liquitex-min.jpg

Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Medium ($12.00)

This fluid eliminates the issue of fast-drying acrylics--you can add up to 50% without affecting the strength of your paint, and it slows drying times by 40%. “It works great to give you more blending time with your paints,” artist Shaikara David tells us. 

Koh-I-Noor-min.jpg

Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Set ($6.41)

These compact watercolor wheels include twenty-four pans, arranged over four interlocking trays. The plastic lids double as a mixing tray, making it a great option for artists on the go. Combine them with some Strathmore watercolor postcards and a water brush like these offered by Pentel Arts, and you’re all set. 

Organic Artist-min.jpg

The Organic Artist: Make Your Own Paint, Paper, Pigments and Prints from Nature by Nick Neddo ($15.71)

Learn how to make your own art supplies with natural materials like wild ink, soapstone, paper, and clay with this book from artist and author Nick Neddo. These DIY projects will push you out of your comfort zone and save you money--all while serving as a crash-course in the historical relationship between art and nature. 

For all artists, we recommend… 

MiMind-min.jpg

miMind by CryptoBees LLC ($5.99)

“For effective work on ideas, I use the miMind application on my phone,” illustrator Anton Gudim tells us. “It helps to create mind-maps and sometimes it is more convenient than just writing ideas in a notebook.” The brainstorming app comes with dozens of layouts, and you can even collaborate with colleagues. It’s available in a free version and also a full version for $5.99. 

Hemostat-min.jpg

Locking Hemostat Set ($5.49)

This unconventional tool comes recommended by Warren King, a New York-based artist who creates incredible, lifesize sculptures out of cardboard---often inspired by the village in China where his grandparents lived. But they’ll work for any number of mixed media artists. 

“I’m constantly using these for all kinds of things--to maneuver small pieces into place, to grab parts that have fallen into crevices, to hold things together temporarily,” King tells us. “When I’m attaching two parts together, I need one hand to hold each piece, and another hand to hold a glue gun. Three hands would be nice, but this is the next best thing.”

Mackie Studio-min.jpg

Mackie Studio Monitor CR3 ($99.00)

“Since I spend a lot of time at the computer creating and editing artwork, I’ve invested in a nice set of computer speakers: the Mackie Studio CR3,” photographer, product designer, and digital artist Tony Nahra tells us. “I love to listen to music from my music streaming service when I’m working, and having great sound makes a big difference in my enjoyment. Sometimes I feel what I’m listening to can even affect the ‘mood’ of my final image, so the sound has to be good!” 


A fresh season is a perfect time to take on something new, and Skillshare has thousands of classes that will help you do just that. Click here to get started.

 

Thumbnail/Banner image by Skillshare student Ian B. for Tom Froese’s Inky Illustrations: Combining Analogue and Digital Media. To learn more about Feature Shoot, click here.