Heeyoung Kim's favorite art supplies for botanical art

 Art materials are complicated and confusing especially to those who just start new painting/drawing adventure. To help you make  the exciting start a pleasant experience, I would like to share my materials with my personal tips through Amazon.com. Items I am introducing here are based on my own experiences. I carefully selected products sold and shipped by Amazon, or sold by a third party and fulfilled by Amazon.  

When you click the images, they will guide you to Amazon.com. There you will see other offers with various sizes, prices and sellers. 

Drawing MaterialsCaran d'Ache Grafwood Pencil set as a starter (the first image below). This pencil is much thicker than all other brands, both graphite and the wooden pencil body. That causes problem for sharpening, but the thick graphite is very useful to cover fairly large area quickly, when it is sharpened appropriately. It comes from 4H to 9B. Hard ones are very hard and clean, yet not scratchy at all, and soft ones are smooth like chocolate:).  Most small hand-held sharpners do not fit to this at all. The electronic pencil sharpner shown below is very useful for all sizes of pencils, so good to have one in studio. For portable one, Faber Castel hand-held pencil sharpner (the third image) does the job fairly well. It has 3 holes, and the smallest fit to this pencil. Faber-Castell Dust Free Vinyl Eraser is the best eraser ever (well, to me)! There are colored one, too, but I prefer white ones, because they are much softer, so you can minimize damage on the paper. When you use B pencils (soft ones), and try to erase, you will see black graphite smudges all over the paper and eraser. It is not because of the quality of eraser, it is due to the soft graphite. So, do not blame your eraser for that! Use kneaded eraser for B or softer pencil works. They pick up soft graphite dust better. 

Papers are very important and pricey. For the best results, you need to start with the right one, though. Here are some materials I use.

Initial drawing and layout paper: I use Bienfang 360 Graphic Marker instead of regular tracing paper, because it is 100% cotton, archival and thin enough to trace, yet extremely sturdy. It takes graphite, ink, and a little bit of watercolor application, too. You can make your own tracing paper with this paper, with which I can trace better than any other methods I have tried. It comes out various sizes, 9x12", 11x14", 14x17", 19x24" and roll. Select the right size.    

Watercolor paper (also for graphite pencil drawing): I use Fabriano Artistco Extra White, Hot Pressed. A little creamy Traditional White is good, too and more eye-friendly. Somehow, Extra White is a little more expensive. You have to be careful about what side you want to work, because paint and water behave a little differently on watermarked side and back side. I prefer working on back side of 140lb, and watermarked side of 300 lb. Some botanical artists prefer Arches, so if you are a beginner or not happy with paper you are using now, it is a good idea when you try both paper to see which one works better for you. Paper and brushes are very personal. Some like one brand, others recommend different ones. They all work differently depending on how you use them. So you need to try them in person and understand them thoroughly in order to achieve the best results.

140 lbBlocks are convenient and can be recommended for all usages at all levels, unless you really like to use sheets. The paper maker says sheets and blocks are of the same quality, but I personally feel that sheets are better in quality (I might be wrong about this, but I think so.)  The first one below is small block, 5x7", which is great to carry for fun outdoor sketch or recording color study. The second is 15 sheet block 14x20" extra white. The third is a pack of 5 sheets 16x20" extra white. The fourth is a pack of 10 sheets 22x30" traditional white.  

300 lb. When you get more serious with your painting, or you are planning to paint plant that has large painting area and you are concerned about buckling, 300 lb is good choice. Make sure to use watermarked side of 300 lb, because the backside is too soft and more textured, so it could be harder to control. The first one below is a pack of 4 sheets 11x14" extra white, which might be good to give it a try. The second is a pack of 2 sheets 16x20" extra white. Now, if you really like this paper and want to have stock, the rest two will be good: a pack of 10 sheets 22x30" extra white and traditional white respectively. Very often it is frustrating when you receive less than perfect paper, I mean the papers are already damaged through handling and transportation. In that case, take pictures of the packing situation or close ups of damaged parts as proof and email them and ask for return or exchange. That happens to me sometimes.   


Brushes. The most critical tool for artists! I would say a brush is an extension of the artist's hand. It is completely personal and extremely sensitive. I know you experienced that some brushes other artists or instructors recommended never worked well for you. I think your technique and the way you use them will tell you what kind of brushes you would choose. If you think you are heavy handed and like to work with big strokes with loaded paints, synthetic brushes will be fine, because you are not going to take advantage of the merits of expensive sable brushes. However, when your style is very delicate, like to work with details, or work with fine linear strokes, and like to add many layers to build up intense colors, sable brushes will give you better and cleaner results and protect paper surface better.

My all time favorite brushes are Winsor&Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7, both Miniature and Round Tip. As a starter, I can recommend a set of 4 round tip brushes, #0, 1, 2, 3 (the first image below). You might add 2 or 3 Miniatures to your collection, then you will be all set for serious painting. For extremely fine details, Miniature #000, or 00 will be good, but if these are too small for you depending on eyesight and hand stability, #0 might be better option. One more from Winsor&Newton I recommend is Miniature #4, which is my favorite among favorites. It is big enough to cover fairly large area, but had good tip to work on details, and very easy to control. You can buy individual brushes through Jerry's Artarama, Blick, or some other online art supply stores. Compare prices at these sites, as you will find different prices for the same products. When brush tips are worn out, do not throw away! You will find them very useful for some techniques such as creating texture or lifting. 

Lifting brush. I have to confess that this brush makes my painting process whole lot easier. Da Vinci Series 5880 Cosmotop Spin (the second image below).  I call this a Magic Brush! Believe it or not, it lifts so well. I think the density and stiffness of hair are perfect for lifting. I use #2, 6 and 10 depending on the size of lifting area. When you click the title of the brush at Amazon.com, you will be able to see various sizes of the brushes.  

Paints.  This world is full of wonderful colors. I wouldn't let "Limited palette" limit my artistic creativity :)  Some colors are impossible to mix. I need that tube.  

However, it is a good idea when we buy some basic paints in the beginning, then add colors when we need for specific painting projects. I use various brands: Winsor and Newton (WN), Daniel Smith (DS), Holbein (H), Schmincke (SCH) and M. Graham (MG). In my opinion, colors from various brand tubes with same names and pigment numbers are not the same. Sometimes they look alike but when I mix them with other colors, the results are different. So, here again, you need to study personally all the colors you have in your palette by trying them on paper one by one, and by mixing them with other colors. I try to use only transparent or semi-transparent colors, and I do not use Cadmium colors and white. 

Here are some basic colors I use. Blue ( French Ultra Marine-WN, Winsor Blue Green Shade-WN, Cerulean Blue-WN, Cerulean Blue Tone-Sch, Indigo-WN), Yellow ( Pure Yellow-Sch, Lemon Yellow-DS), Red ( Permanent Rose-WN, Permanent Alizarin Crimson-WN, Napthol Red-MG, Quinacridone Pink-DS, Carmine-DS, Magenta-WN, Brilliant Pink- H), Others (Raw Sienna-WN, Burnt Sienna-WN, Quinacridone Burnt Orange-DS, Neutral Tint-MG) 

Click the first image below for Winsor&Newton, second for Daniel Smith, then  click the arrow next to the color name, you will see other colors to select. Daniel Smith sells sample colors, so you can try before buy the tubs. 

Lamp: Daylight, long neck and almost like sun. Floorstand recommended for optimal adjustment. Attention: Cover the lense part from sun while not using, because all magnifying lenses can cause fire with strong sunshine. Also, handle the neck of the lamp very carefully because it is heavy and your finger can be squeezed in between the two metal parts. I know this lamp with floor stand is expensive, but it is a long term investment for those who want a good lamp. I have been using this for 7 years, and it is my treasure.


Miscellaneous items. Let's number images below from 1 to 15 from top left. 1. Palette. It has 40 wells. The arrangement of this one is particularly appealing, because I can use or mix the color right next to the well. 2. Well. good for wash. useful to keep paint from dust as it comes with lid. If you prefer small one, #3 will be good. #4 is plastic, but it is handy as it fits in #1 palette, and easy to travel for taking to classes. 5. Brushbox, This is a must for sable brush users. All other types of brush holders do not protect sensitive hair of the brush perfectly. Considering the prices of brushes, you'd better treat them nicely :) 6. Frog pin holder. You can use just regular bottle or vase, but with these, you can arrange your specimen as you like. # 7 is large and heavy, so you can arrange a bigger and heavier specimens. 8. Emory Board, yes the one for nails. This is much more refine, and easy to get and use for making pencil tip really pointed. 9. Artist Tape. Using acid free tape is very important for conservation of your artworks. 10. spray that you can moisturize paint in your palette. 11. knife for many uses, 12 divide: This one is fairly large and simple wood sticks, but I like this one, because other metal ones have very pointed needles that are pretty hazardous. This is very useful to those who like to work on enlarged scale. 13 ruler are for measuring specimens. 14. magnifying lense. It is not easy to find a good one at stores. Usually they are too small or not very appropriate for paining. I personally find this hand-held one works best for me. I bet you will love the large one- 5". 15. table-top easel. This is recommended for those who work on large pieces. Very sturdy and adjustable. It serves all my needs.