Virtually anything can be called into service to make a drawing. The artist's imagination and invention are the only limitations. In art school we drew with stale coffee, using the chewed end of a matchstick as a brush. There are, however, more traditional materials, ones that have served the most purposes for most artists over time. This very brief survey is simply meant to give you something to work with as the book proceeds; I encourage you to explore many different materials, a process that can be the source of inspiration.
More drawings are made on paper than on any other surface. The papers [me artists use most often are classified by surface texture, of which [here are three types: hot~pressed papers, which have a smooth, hard, nonabsorbent surface well suited to pen and ink; rough papers, which are well suited to charcoal and pastel; and cold-pressed papers, which are medium-textured and best for pencil. Water media (wash, watercolor, gouache) are most frequently used on cold-pressed papers.
Artist's pencils come in a great variety of hardnesses, identified by a number and letter code on the shaft. An HB or an F is medium hard and produces a medium-gray mark. An H pencil is harder than an HB. It will produce a lighter gray mark and will hold its point longer. A 2H pencil is harder still and gives an even lighter gray. The H pencils go up to a 10H, a pencil so hard some people say you only have to sharpen it once. The B pencils are softer than the HB and produce a darker mark; their leads get softer and blacker as the numbers go up. An 8B is the darkest and softest. The softer leads tend to break and are therefore thicker. A way to tell the softness or hardness of different pencils is to look at the thickness of the leads; the thicker the lead, the softer it is and the darker its mark. An easy way to remember the pencil code is this: "H" stands for hard, "HB" stands for hardly breaks, and "8" stands for breaks easily.
You can work with pencils in either of these ways. In one approach, you divide the subject of your drawing into values of gray and use a variety of pencils to render these values... harder pencils for light values, softer pencils for dark ones... applying a uniform degree of pressure. The other approach, and the one I favor, is to vary the pressure on whatever pencil you are using to create the value range... lighter pressure for lighter makes, heavier pressure for darker ones. This method works best with an HB or softer pencil so that a wide range of values is possible. To achieve a finer coverage or a more distinct edge in dark values, you can go over an area created by a soft, dark pencil with a harder pencil. This manipulates the marks already on the paper.
For small drawings and my ceaseless doodles, I find a 5-millimeter mechanical pencil (which uses a clicker to advance the lead) very useful because the point never needs sharpening. The 5-mm leads are available in a wide variety of hardnesses.
Charcoal is probably the oldest drawing material, first used by prehistoric cave dwellers. It is incompletely burned wood-the same as the leftovers of your camp fire. Charcoal is generally used on rough paper and can produce a wide range of light and dark and thick and thin marks. There are two types: vine charcoal and compressed charcoal. Vine charcoal is usually made from willow branches and looks like a blackened stick.
Softer, lighter, and easier to erase than compressed charcoal, it is used on medium- or rough-surfaced papers. Compressed charcoal is finely ground charcoal compressed into a stick or into leads for use in charcoal pencils. It is used when greater contrast or control is desired. Both kinds of charcoal are available in various degrees of softness (the softer, the darker) and can be used together.
Pencil and charcoal drawings are vulnerable to smearing. If you want to preserve your drawings, you should mount them under glass and/or use a fixative. Fixative is a form of varnish that seals the graphite or charcoal to the paper. It is applied by spraying. There are two kinds, gloss and workable; both are suitable for preserving finished art. The gloss type leaves the paper's surface slick, meaning you can't add to your drawing after applying it. Workable fixative, however, lets you renew the surface of a drawing (isolate a layer) when the buildup of graphite or charcoal is so great that it becomes difficult to add more. But, because fixative prevents smearing, it also prevents erasures; thus, marks that have been fixed are permanent.
There are four types of erasers that artists commonly use. They are the kneaded eraser (usually a gray color), the rubber eraser (usually pink), the art gum eraser (usually a tan color), and the plastic eraser (usually white). All of these will effectively remove unwanted marks from your drawing. The most unusual of these is the kneaded eraser, which can be molded like clay into whatever form you need to efficiently erase a particular area; to clean this type of eraser, you simply knead it as you would bread dough. The kneaded eraser, the art gum eraser, and the plastic eraser have the least harmful effects on paper. An art gum eraser is best for removing light marks and smudges; for hard-to-remove marks the pink rubber eraser is most effective.
When your eraser is too large to remove small errors, you can use an eraser shield, a thin sheet of metal with convenient openings of different shapes to erase through. Homemade paper shields can also be used to isolate areas to be erased.
Pen and Ink
Pen and ink is another traditional drawing medium. Pen holders with various nibs (pen points) come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flexibilities. The more flexible the nib, the greater the variation in line thickness. I recommend you try several types to see which suits your style. When I draw with a dip pen, I have a scrap of paper close by to test the stroke after dipping to prevent surprises, such as having too much ink.
When working in this medium I prefer to draw with a fountain pen because it eliminates the need to dip the pen in ink every few moments. I find a gold-plated steel point the most responsive and smoothest flowing. If you use a fountain pen, it is important that you use only inks that are made for fountain pens. Waterproof inks contain shellac, which will ruin a fountain pen.
Virtually anything can be used to make a drawing. Pictured here are various pen nibs, drawing pencils, a fountain pen, white plastic eraser, gray kneaded eraser, art gum eraser, compressed charcoal, vine charcoal, ink, and workable fixative.