My favourite art supplies

My favourite art supplies

I remember when I first moved to London, one of my favourite places to go was Cass Art in Angel station. I never really bought anything, and I had no clue what everything was, but I was so interested. I often just went wandering around and looked at everything. It just a nice place to be and maybe it was in a way my escape of everyday life.

inside cassart art store

Inside Cass Art Islington

Now, where I live, there aren’t many art supplies stores around. The nearest one is a 10-minute drive, and the one in town (The Works) is targeted towards students, but the good thing is it's very cheap.

inside hobby craft art store
Inside Hobby Craft Stevenage

It wasn't until two years ago when I started going to art classes that I learned there is so much to know about the materials! No wonder I didn’t understand. They are complicated, no doubt. Always new things coming out too. One drawback of being an artist is art supplies hoarding, and you know you don’t need everything, but you want to. Everything.

a table full of art supplies
My art supplies shopping of colour pencils, posca pen, and inks.

Although I am still early in my career (see my previous blog about my art journey), I have discovered the importance of materials and how they influence my art practice. Here are a few I am drawn to.

oil painting in progress
Oil painting in progress


I am quite basic in my colour palette, so I mostly use colours that I can mix. Obviously, it’s about the budget, and I like to learn how to mix my own colours, but for colours like purple or neon pink, sometimes I do splurge.

abstract art studies 5 x 7"
Acrylic and oil studies on canvas board 5 x 7"

Holbein Acryla gouache

These are my go-to paints for illustrations/small-scale painting on paper. The colours of these paints are amazing. I don’t know what it is, but they are simply juicy colours. A lot of the time, I have a hard time trying to recreate the same colour in other paints that I use. I am not sure if that’s because I need to up my colour mixing game (need to do that anyway), or they have some kind of secret formula that keeps me coming back. One thing is that as they are acrylic gouache, they act pretty much like acrylics, so they dry faster and you cannot re-wet them once they’re dry. Also, they are quite pricey and available from limited suppliers such as Jackson’s, as they are Japan-made.

Holbein and W&N gouache

Holbein acryla gouache and W&N designer gouache

I usually use them together with Winsor & Newton gouache (these are re-wettable); they are good, but I don’t find a particular attraction. I just like the fact that I can leave them on the palette and use them again.

Lefranc and Bourgeois Flashe Vinyl Emulsion Paint

Admittedly, I was influenced by YouTuber Sandi Hester when I was binge-watching her videos. I felt I must get these paints. Again, they’re not available widely, but I got them from Jackson’s. I don’t think any of my local art supplies stores have them.

Lefranc vinyl paint
Upgraded from small tubes to big jars of Flashe paint

Liquitex basics acrylic

Because I like matte, I prefer the basics to the original Liquitex. Maybe I don’t. I never use them. They’re affordable and have a good colour range. I actually am curious about trying Golden, as I realised I do like a bit of texture. Just hope they’re not shiny.

trolley of art supplies including liquitex basics
My ikea trolley with art supplies in order at my old garage studio

M. Graham Oil Paints

These are the best oil paints I've tried. I have been on and off with oil, as I preferred not to use solvents. The only medium I use is Walnut oil or Walnut alkyd oil. I also tried water-soluble oil, but I don't really enjoy using them. I don't know why. I would probably use water-soluble oil or acrylic paint for the background.

Oil paint dries slowly, which I don't really have the patience for. I am still trying to figure out good solvent-free ways of painting with them. If you have any tips, please let me know. I love how the colour and texture come out in oil. I tried to use Winsor & Newton's fast-drying white (alkyd) to increase the drying speed. However, it smells a bit. Maybe next time I'll get the M. Graham brand.

M. graham oil paint and rosemary brush
M. Graham oil paint, Rosemary and Silver brushes for xmas 2022

Winsor & Newton Watercolour

I don't usually use watercolour. The only one I have is a pan of Winsor & Newton which I have had forever, way before I started painting regularly. I still use them from time to time. I think the only thing stopping me is probably because I don't have any proper watercolour paper.

W&N watercolour and sketchbook
W&N watercolour pan & mind mapping in art class


I realised I'm not so picky about brushes. I have some fancy Rosemary brushes for oil painting from xmas, although I probably didn't care for them properly. I also have many cheaper ones, but I always tend to use the more expensive brush in my pot. The only cheaper ones I keep using are probably from The Works strangely. I wouldn't recommend buying in a set. Usually, I end up not using them very much. But it depends. I can be totally contradictory here.

the works brushes
Brushes from The Works

Winsor and Newton Sceptre Gold ll

My favourite brush for acrylic/gouache painting.

Winsor & Newton Cotman

These are the best watercolour/gouache paint brushes I have.

Fred Aldous

I got one filbert brush from this art supplies store in Leeds, and I loved it. It's the perfect size and perfect texture. Filbert brush is probably my favourite because of how flexible it is. It says how important it is to try the brush in-store. I would have gone back and bought many more of them. I was being greedy and tried to use them both for oil and acrylic. Not a good idea. I think it is probably true that once the brush you use for oil can't go back to acrylic anymore. I still can't clean it 100%.

art supplies i got from leeds
My art supplies shopping from Fred Aldous in Leeds
and sewing bits from John Lewis

Drawing materials

Although I enjoy painting, drawing still comes most intuitively to me. Also, less pressure of having to clean up. When I go into the studio, if I don't feel like painting yet, I could just pick up some drawing material and start playing. Often, it leads to either creating sketches for future ideas, or sometimes I end up painting.

sketchbook and pencil

Drawings from book 'Humans of New York
by Brandon Stanton' using Prismacolor Col-erase pencil

Caran D'ache Neocolor II

These are another pick influenced by fellow artists. Many people have used them and recommended. There's Neocolor I (non-water-soluble) & Neocolor II (water-soluble). I don't really use water with them, so it actually doesn't make much difference. These are really easy to use and are so portable. I think I probably would pick other colours rather than the ones that come in the set.

caran d'ache neocolor II
Caran D'ache Neoclor II 15 colours

Pentel Oil Pastels

This actually was a bonus buy. I saw them on sale in my local bookstore and they're only about £5, so I thought let's take them home and play. They didn't disappoint. It is really fun! It reminds me of playing as a kid, although I remember I used to hate them. I have definitely used them more than I thought I would. A very good way to remove friction as it feels less like 'working'. The only thing is, I'll have to spray a fixative or add a sheet between the pages to avoid smudges.

pentel oil pastel
Pentel oil pastels 25 colours

Tombow Dual Brush Pen

One of my first acquisitions. These water-soluble brush pens are so much pleasure to use. The colours are great, and I have always returned to them. They are perfect for sketchbooks. Copic pens are oil-based markers that are also nice but even more expensive, so I've only got a few. I also have Posca acrylic paint markers that don't get enough love. I am only starting to use them a bit more.

tombow dual brushes
Tombow dual brush and muji sketchbook


I have always had an obsession with pencils. I collected many pencils during my life not knowing when I can use them. Now I am an artist. I get to use them all the time, and that's perfect. I have more than enough for a lifetime, I think.

Blackwing 602

I know. These are quite expensive for an ordinary pencil. I bought them when I had money. Probably won't be able to afford them anytime soon. It's a joy and a luxury for sure. Who wouldn't love to use the pencil that famous people used before? I also like the fact that you can replace the eraser. Okay, not a deal breaker, but it is such a beautiful pencil. I feel it's just the right shade and right softness. I don't bother about any other variants.

blackwing 602 on notebook
Blackwing 602 at close

Liberty classics

Lovely pencil and a very good price. I got them during my last trip home in Taiwan. They are a good alternative to the more expensive Japanese Mitsubishi pencils, and I love the retro look they have. Overall, a good classic HB pencil to have for everyday use.


liberty pencil and otter drawing on paper
Liberty pencil with otter sketch in progress

Mitsubishi Vermillion and Prussian Blue pencils

I admit I got them out of novelty and internet trolling. They're so cute, but I think I only need the red. Probably won't use the blue all that much. But I love the idea of just needing one pencil for all your colouring needs. Maybe. When I was doing the research, I discovered there was an entire world of these pencils. A total black hole. I got another one from Caran Dache too, which is totally unnecessary.

Colour pencil

I have so many colour pencils, but I don't really use them in a traditional sense. I use them more as a regular pencil for sketches. But if I have to pick a few, Caran D'ache Luminance probably is my favourite. Although I also like Prismacolors and their Col-Erase erasable colour pencils, just don't like the fact they are harder to get in the UK. For everyday use, I like Faber-Castell Polychromos. I know all of the above is probably much fancier than what I actually need. It's just that I got really cheap pencils before, and they were absolutely awful. Probably had made me scarred for life. Otherwise, many people also recommended Faber-Castell's basic colour pencils for beginners.

prismacolor pencils in a box
Prismacolor 72 colours


I cannot mention art supplies without sketchbooks. I used to have an obsession with notebooks, and now it has turned to sketchbooks. I like to use a smaller square one and a B5 or A4 size. I debated over this. In the end, I caved for A4 as it’s more cost-effective (I think). Naturally, I probably would go with B5 as usually that’s my notebook format.


This would be my go-to if I can afford. Nothing to pick on, just perfect paper, perfect for light wash or pencil.

moleskine art sketchbook and colour pencils
Moleskine Art sketchbook and colour pencils

Talens Art Creation

What I am currently using. It’s a good alternative to Moleskine, and I feel less precious about it. The one comment I often hear is that they are a bit creamier if you’d prefer white paper, and obviously less luxurious.

art creation sketchbook a4 in red
Art Creation A4 sketchbook in red

Other brands

Seawhite usually has good enough paper and is reasonably priced. The Works actually has okay-ish sketchbooks. I usually get the ‘fancier’ one called Boldmere with thicker paper, roughly 115gsm.

art supplies from the works
Sketchbook, brushes, and paint from The Works


I am not that picky (I feel I should be) about paper. As long as it’s over 200gsm and it's a smooth cartridge, I am sold. I would love to try fancy watercolour paper by Fabriano. It is still sitting in my shopping basket. Gotta be patient. The one I am currently using is Cass Art brand, and I also used Clairefontaine Paint On. Both of them are good enough for my gouache paintings. I had a pad for Daler-Rowney System3 Acrylic Pad, but I didn’t like the texture, so I end up using them in reverse to get the smooth side.

cass art paper pad and brush
Cass Art heaveyweight catridge paper 200gsm


I don’t have a particular brand, but I have been using Cass Art canvas, and they are of good quality. One thing I would say is, don’t buy cheap canvas. I made the mistake. I won’t say from where. Lol. I would also like to stretch my own canvas one day! I don't know whether it will be more cost-effective since I don't have experience. I might end up ruining them. Next time I will get a canvas roll and supplies that go with it. I think every time when I realise I also need to get pliers, stapler, and eventually stretcher bars I end up giving up the idea. Good luck to me.

cass art canvas
Cass Art canvas 20 x 20" & 24 x 36"


Muji pencil sharpener & everything else

Joy to use, like many other Muji stationeries. I just love them. I would have everything if I could. My favourite pen is from there, and I get properly paranoid if I lose them. There are probably a lot more accessories I like, but I've also found most of them are nice to have not neccessary.

messy table with sketchbooks and pencil sharpener
WIP table with the Pencil sharpener in the background


From my experience, I would probably say pay for art supplies that are worth it. When I go cheap, I often regret it. I don't mind buying cheaper brushes as they are often alright, but I think for paint and painting surfaces it's the old saying 'you get what you pay for'. I still have yet to try going to places selling reused materials. That might be a good alternative. I have to remind myself to buy less rather than a lot of cheap rubbish. I think that also applies in most aspects of my life. Also, you probably already been doing this, go ahead and ask for art supplies for xmas, birthdays, and any sort of holidays! 

gouache painting of an astranout

gouache painting of an astranout
(excercise from 'Get Up and Gouache by Jessica Smith)

Art supplies store in the UK

I often shop at Cass Art or Jackson's. A lot of the specific materials that are imported will be more widely available at Jackson's. I find a lot of the materials I like are either from Japan or America. But I am trying to stick with local brands if possible unless I have a strong preference. It just saves the hassle of having to hunt them down. I should probably shop at local stores more often, but I do get some good deals at charity shops or buy at the marketplace online. There're many art stores in the UK, here are just some examples.

Cass art

Jackson's Art

London Graphic Centre

cass art building in angel station
Cass Art Islington

Final thoughts

There are a few problems I have with art supplies. I need to be very careful not to think of them as toys but rather just materials and tools. I can easily go into a collector mode rather than looking for essentials. Also, I need not to think about their price when I use them. That said, I think it's good to mix fancy artist-grade with good quality student-grade materials. Lastly, sometimes pencil and paper is all you need. Notes to myself. 

buddy painted in gouache
Painted Buddy with gouche


Thank you for reading! 
I would love to know what your favourite art supplies are, and if you think of something I need to try? Let me put them on my wish list, please!
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