The Basics: Tools, part 2

On the topic of pencils, I’ll talk a little about erasers.If you really want to get into sketching, I’d recommend spending a little extra money and investing in a few good erasers. I would not recommend using erasers on the end of pencils. Since they have a tendency to smudge and leave ugly marks on the paper. Aside from that, you may have to test out several different kinds and brands of erasers to find what works best for you. I personally use plastic erasers for erasing medium to large areas and stick (AKA retractable) erasers for everything else. Plain rubber erasers seem to work well too.
Another important eraser I’d like to mention is called a kneaded eraser. You kind find these online and in any art/craft store. They’re generally gray. The cool thing about these babies is that you can mold and shape them into anything. This is great for erasing very small, intricate areas, or for lightening dark areas. I seriously don’t know what I’d do without this eraser. I highly recommend getting one if you want realistic looking sketches.
Paintbrushes are a little broader subject because there are so many different kinds and each one can do a different thing. I won’t go into detail about each one, but most brushes are self-explanatory. If it’s large, it covers a large area, so you can do broad strokes. If it’s medium it does medium strokes. If it’s small… you get the idea. If you’re still not sure, most packaging will explain to you what it does.
Of course, the shape of the brush can make a difference in your strokes as well. I’ve personally never really paid much attention to the shape of the brush when I’m buying one. It’s really more about personal preference and what you’re comfortable with using. I will use rounded brushes interchangeably with square, flat brushes when I’m painting large areas, for example. I only really care about the shape, or type, of brush when I’m adding details. For example, a good brush to use to smooth the brush strokes (and to help with blending) is a fan brush. If you’ve ever browsed the paintbrush section at a craft store you’ve probably seen one and wondered, “Huh, that’s unusual looking, I wonder what it’s for?” Well now you know.
I won’t get into detail about painting techniques, or how to clean your brush, right now. I’m saving that for another day. But I do want to tell you the secret of finding a good quality brush. Paintbrushes are something you don’t want to go cheap with. I’m not saying that all expensive brushes are good and all cheap ones are bad, or even that you have to seek out the most expensive brush (although it would still be a good investment). But, most super cheap brushes that I’ve used are horrible. Bristles will fall out and they’re usually too soft and flexible.
The secret to finding a good brush is to run it through a couple of short tests. The first step is to simply hold the brush in one hand and then place the bristles between two fingers of your other hand. Secondly, very gently, but firmly, squeeze and pull from the base of the bristles (where they are attached to the handle), to the top. Do this a few times and if any bristles fall out, don’t buy it.

The second test is to simply bend the bristles back (whether you’re using the palm of your hand or a finger, it doesn’t matter). If they give the right amount of resistance, they should stand back up straight instantly when you let go. Generally you can feel the resistance while you’re bending it too. If it feels floppy, or bends too easily, don’t buy it.

Of course, this may be difficult to do if the brush is in an enclosed package. In that case you will have to go by sight. If it looks frayed or frizzy in any way, don’t buy it. Most cheaply made brushes will look frizzy, that I’ve noticed. That’s not always true of course, sometimes you may not know until you use it. I also want to add that there isn’t really a difference in artificial, plastic bristles and real hair bristles. It’s solely a personal preference.
Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!

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