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. Items I am introducing here are based on my own experiences. Links are just for reference. 

When you click the images, they will guide you to the site, there you will see other offers with various sizes, prices and sellers. Select the correct items.  

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. The other sharpener that fits for this pencil is Prisma, Click here!  https://www.dickblick.com/products/prismacolor-pencil-sharpener/    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 had to change the whole recommendations in this section since the change of Fabriano, as you all know about it, perhaps.

I used to use Fabriano extra white 300 lb for watercolor, but I went through my own paper surface test lately, and ended up with Winsor&Newton hot pressed paper. I often paint fairly large scale that needs washes on large area, and many layers. This paper is sturdy, and best part of it is "not getting linty". I recently used Arches and Winsor&Newton at the same time with pretty serious level of details and lots of layers and liftings. Both papers held all the abuses pretty well. However, I prefer W&N, though. The surface of  W&N is much rougher/textured than other hot pressed paper, but I didn't have any issue in keeping the edge and details sharp. I recommend this one especially to those who heavy handed :) and need a lot of lifting and fixing. I would like to write more about this in my blog, after my student show is mounted, maybe mid November. :)

Unfortunately, 300lb hot pressed W/N paper is not available in USA. So, I order them through Ken Bromley from UK. Here is the website. https://www.artsupplies.co.uk/item-winsor-&-newton-professional-watercolour-paper.htm  Shipping from UK is expensive, but tax deduction compensates shipping fee. So it is not too bad, and their packing is very reliable. So, I order my paper from them. 

I use watermarked side with 300 lb. 

Pads, blocks, or single 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.). I always use sheets. When you buy several sheets and cut them into suitable sizes, costs are pretty much the same. 


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). I recommend this set, because you often find a good deal from Ken Bromley. Keep an eye on their advertisement! :).  You might add 2 or 3 Miniatures (#4, #3, #1, #0) 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. Dick Blick stores carry this brand, too.  

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) 

One important advice: go to the paint producer's website and read through the resource pages, and see if the paint you like to buy is transparent or not, and the degree of light fastness test. 

You can order them through Dick Blick website or sometimes you can find better price through Amazon. 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. In USA, Menard has a similar lamp, which is not technically daylight lamp, but it is pretty good under $50. 


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.