Supplies 101

An artist really only needs a form of writing utensil and a drawing surface to draw cartoons. Certainly, having the right tools will make a task easier to achieve and, likely, make it far more enjoyable. The proper tools can yield better results and, ultimately, a more pleasant experience.

Here’s where to start when it comes to filling your artists’ quivers with the right arrows.

Let’s start with the basics.

Sketchbooks, animators pencils, graphite pencils, sharpeners and erasers.

Sketch Books

There are a number of places where you can find decent sketchbooks but Curry’s has the best prices overall. These store brand hardcover sketchbooks have beautifully smooth paper, perfect for the animator’s pencils, and are the best price out there for approximately $8/ ea. Hardcover books  are my favourite, but they aren’t the only solution, some kids might prefer coil bound, or sketchbooks with perforated pages. Those are all fine to come to class with too. In fact Curry’s store brand coil sketchbooks are also priced around $8. You can also find sketchbooks at Dollarama for about $4, I would avoid these, as they are very course and provide too much resistance for the animator’s pencils I will recommend below.

Animator’s Pencils

Not mandatory, but highly recommended. Professional animators, comic book artists, illustrators – they all use erasable colour pencils. (Col-Erase) We use these pencils for a number of reasons. For Cartoon Coach, the focus is on character construction, having erasable coloured pencils means as our character construction builds up becoming messier and more convoluted, we can switch colours to understand our own construction better. We might start with blue to create the character mannequin and then switch to red to design the costuming and hair, we may even switch to a 3rd colour if the character is complicated enough to require a third pass before switching to graphite for the final pencil lines. Pencil crayons are not a good alternative, they are very difficult to erase. The ability to erase is key, in between stages we knock back our illustration by erasing the work done so far, not completely, but to a point where it has been lightened enough to build off of. Pencil crayons will make that task very difficult and yield poor results.

To make the best of Cartoon Coach, 1 red and 1 blue Col-Erase are highly recommended to start, but at $0.80 a piece why not get a green and a purple too. Avoid light colours like yellow, I’m not sure what they are used for because you can’t see yellow on a white page.

These pencils are only about $0.80 a piece, and you can find them at Curries, Deserres even Amazon. Although on Amazon, you’ll have to buy a box of 12. Alternately Amazon also features a brand called Ticonderoga, these are listed as teacher’s checking pencils. They work too, but Col-Erase are the standard.

Graphite Pencils

You might think a pencil is a pencil is a pencil. Well, honestly, you can clean up a drawing with any graphite pencil, this is true. But the artist may prefer one softness over another. Hard pencils are great for detail like in serious manga, softer pencils are great for that life-like feel the old Disney cartoons. You know, when you pause an old Disney movie and you can still see all those beautiful construction lines.

I recommend starting with 2b pencil. It is the best of both worlds. Then expand from there, let your artist decide what they like to use, but encourage them to switch it up from time to time. Try using a mechanical pencil! Note the softer you go, you may want to try drawing a different surface. For example, an 8b pencil pairs great with a news print pad. Note: “h” gage pencils can tear through the page if your artist has a heavy hand.

I recommend the Staedler pencils, shown here. You can buy them pretty much anywhere.


Any eraser will work for your artist at Cartoon Coach. So whatever you have around the house will be fine. That said, please make sure you test your eraser before coming to class, old erasers and well loved erasers may smudge a drawing rather than knock it back.

If you need a to purchase a new one, I recommend the the Prismacolor Scholar. The hardness and the edges make this eraser an ideal choice for those times when you need to target a very small mistake or smudge without too much redraw for the surrounding art.


Hand held sharpeners are a tough one to recommend. I have switched sharpeners many times over the years trying to find a good solution. I have an electric one, I allow the students to use in class, because I cannot find a decent hand held unit to date. The sharpeners they sell at Dollarama are, quite honestly, the best for emptying, although they don’t hold much.

Additionally, some Dollarama locations have a battery powered sharpener called X-Acto buzz for $4. It is surprisingly really good! It is not that noisy, the batteries last a good while and the reservoir is a decent size.

If you send your artist to class with one of those classic simple silver sharpeners with no reservoir, please include a sealable sandwich bag or Tupperware.

Those are the basics. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or recommendations. If kids wish to learn using their iPads with the Apple Pencil, I am ok with that. But they should know how to use the Autodesk Sketchbook or ProCreate well enough to sketch and save their work. I will not be able to pause the class to teach 1 artist to use the app for the first time.

Furthermore, the iPad and Apple Pencil are an efficient tool to create beautiful art, however, it should not replace traditional practical tools completely, please encourage your artists to pick up a pencil as often as they pick up the iPad.

Stay tuned for more posts on tools and supplies you can provide your artist to make their drawing experience even better. Rendering Markers, inking materials, light tables and more.

Cartoon Coach