favourite materials

love for art materials

Ok, I must admit. I am quite possibly addicted to art materials! One of the things I love about making art is learning how to use different materials and experimenting with their characteristics. In general I work with water based materials on paper but do on occasion try other surfaces, like wood panels. I get a lot of questions about the materials I use so I have put together a list of my absolute favourites. As I try new things I will keep this list updated.


collaborations with paper den

There are a number of great (online) art material shops in The Netherlands. I am very proud to have collaborations with two of them. I often work together with De Kwast in choosing products to use in workshops and starter kits. De Kwast is a lovely family-run business with an online store and a brick-and-mortar store in the Dutch city of Den Bosch. 


The products at Splendith* are carefully selected by owner Judith because of their high quality and also the materials are often not available anywhere else in The Netherlands! Paper Den is a Splendith affiliate member, which means that if you buy something in the Splendith shop using the links I provide below, I will receive a small commission of that sale. This collaboration is important for my small business at it gives me more time to spend on making and teaching art. 


the basics

If you are just starting out with art and illustration (maybe you are joining De Tekentafel for the first time), then it is a good idea to have at least the following materials on hand:

- graphite pencil, eraser and pencil sharpener

- drawing paper and/or simple sketchbook

- waterbased paint such as watercolour, acrylic or gouache

- a paintbrush (like a size 6) and a mixing palette

- coloured pencils and/or markers

- watercolour block and/or (mixed-media) sketchbook that you can use with wet media

- a large jar for water (pickle jars work great!) and an old rag or paper towel for wiping bushes. 


Below is a comprehensive list, starting with the basics, of my favourite materials. All affiliate links with Splendith are noted with *.

tried & tested

I am very particular about the materials I like so you can be assured that all of the items below have been tried and tested by me. I would not recommend something that I do not believe in. If you have any questions about materials or perhaps suggestions of new things to try I would love to hear from you. Send an email to karen@paper-den.nl

TIPS & links

graphite pencil Cretacolor (Cleos)


TIP: Buy at least two different shades (light and dark) such as HB and 4B.

eraser Faber Castell


pencil sharpener Dux

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/dux-puntenslijper-zwart-dubbel?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: My absolute favourite pencil sharpener. Very robust and makes a great sharp point. I think they look good too!

drawing paper Fabriano Accademia Artist Pack https://www.gerstaecker.nl/FABRIANO-Accademia-Artist-tekenpapier-pak.html
TIP: Choose the heavier paper (200 gram) as you can use water based paints on it.
sketchbook Talens Art Creation https://www.dekwast.nl/artikel/artcreation-dummy-zwarte-kaft
watercolour set Winsor & Newton Cotman

https://splendith.nl/collections/aquarelverf/products/winsor-and-newton-cotman-aquarel-palette-12-kleuren?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This set includes a lovely travel brush. 
gouache Talens


TIP: This is a great beginners set. If you need more colours (and do not want to mix as much) you can buy tubes of Talens gouache separately.

gouache Winsor & Newton

https://splendith.nl/collections/gouache/products/winsor-and-newton-primary-set?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This set is of higher quality (more pigments) than Talens. If you need more colours (and do not want to mix as much) you can buy tubes of Winsor and Newton gouache separately.

acrylic paint Talens Amsterdam https://splendith.nl/collections/acrylverf/products/amsterdam-acryl-verf-20ml?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU&variant=28170720477256 *
paintbrush Princeton Heritage

https://splendith.nl/collections/aquarelpenselen/products/princeton-heritage-4050-synthetic-sable-6?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU * 

TIP: This paintbrush is definitely worth the investment! Make sure to rinse your brush clean after each use and always let it dry lying down to keep the hairs in a nice point.

mixing palette  

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/groot-mengpalet-voor-verf?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Buying watercolours in tubes is more economical than in pans. You can put a little of each colour in a pallet like this one and have your paints ready to use when needed. Or if you have watercolour in pans then you can just use this palette for mixing. 

coloured pencils Faber Castell Polychromos

https://splendith.nl/collections/kleurpotloden/products/faber-castell-polychromos-set-12?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

coloured markers Bruynzeel superpoint


TIP: There are so many types of markers for all kinds of uses. If you just want a simple set to add colour I recommend to buy a simple set like this one.

black fineliner Sakura Pigma Micron

https://splendith.nl/collections/fineliners/products/sakura-pigma-micron-fineliner-zwart-set-3?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: The Sakura pigma micron fineliner is waterproof once dry. This means you can use it in combination with water based media like watercolour. It is probably the most used tool of the trade for illustrators. The number 05 is good to start with but you may want to buy a set with different sizes as it is more economical.

watercolour paper

Fabriano aquarello


TIP: This is great value paper to start with. The block has 75 sheets and the pages are large but you can of course cut them down. The paper has a light structure to it.

watercolour sketchbook Strathmore

https://splendith.nl/collections/aquarelpapier/products/strathmore-400-aquarel-journal-a4?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This sketchbook is excellent quality with lovely thick pages to work on with wet media. Use a bulldog clip to hold the pages down while working. 

mixed-media sketchbook Stillman & Birn

https://splendith.nl/collections/schets-en-tekenpapier/products/stillman-birn-beta-14x21-6cm-270gsm?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: The mixed media sketchbooks from Stillman & Birn are my absolute favourite! They come in different sizes and paper weights. Choose a heavy paper if you like to work wet. 




indian ink Talens

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/oostindische-inkt-11ml?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Indian ink is waterproof when dry so can be easily used in combination with other wet media like watercolour. You can draw with it using a dip pen or brush or paint with it. Diluted with water you can create beautiful shades of grey. 

drawing pen Conte


TIP: This tiny and inexpensive dip pen is one I use very often with indian ink to make detailed ink drawings. 

white gel pen Sakura

https://splendith.nl/collections/gelpennen/products/sakura-gelly-roll-white-10?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Use this great pen to add small white details to illustrations. It works on all types of media, even gouache and Indian ink as long as the surface is dry. Use on coloured paper too.

white acrylic marker Posca

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/posca-pc-1mr?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Posca pens are acrylic paint and can therefore be used on a lot of different surfaces, including wood and canvas. They are more opaque than a gel pen.

opaque white watercolour Dr. Ph Martin's Bleed Proof White https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/bleed-proof-white-dr-ph-martins?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This is perfect to add larger areas of white on top of other media or for small white details with a small paint brush. It can be used thickly or watered down slightly. It can also be used an a drawing ink in a dip pen. It can be used on all kinds of paper and will not bleed. 

watercolour Kuratake Gansai Tambi https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/gansai-tambi-watercolor-set-18?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Traditional Japanese watercolour paint that is rich in pigment with a beautiful selection of colours. Some of the colours are quite opaque especially when put on thickly, which means you can even layer light colours on dark. 

watercolour Prima Watercolour Confections


https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/prima-watercolor-confections-decadent-pies?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU * 

TIP: This watercolour comes in super sweet small pallets. I already have three of them! My favourite is this one called Decadent pies. The paint is highly pigmented and very creamy to work with. The box it comes in is really handy as it has an surface for mixing. Great for taking with you to paint on location. 

liquid watercolour Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/hydrus-fine-art-watercolor-set-1?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This ready-made watercolour is already liquid and only needs a small amount of water to work with. It is highly concentrated and the colours are very bright. I used this paint to make colourful fruit and vegetables in this Dille and Kamille online workshop (in Dutch). 

watercolour pencils Caran d'Ache Prismalo


TIP: These watercolour pencils can be used with or without water. Buy a small set to start with and add extra colours. These can be bought separately. 

ink pencils Derwent Inktense


TIP: These pencils are bursting with colour. When used with water the colour intensifies and once dry the ink layer is waterproof; which is not the case with watercolour pencils that can be activated on paper with water. Buy a small set to start with and add more colours. These can be bought separately. 

hot pressed watercolour paper Arches https://splendith.nl/collections/aquarelpapier/products/arches-aquarel-papier-a4?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Hot pressed means a smooth surface. Good for working with fine detail and if you need to scan your work it is easier because the background is nice and white and you see no structure.

cold pressed watercolour paper Arches

https://splendith.nl/collections/aquarelpapier/products/arches-cold-pressed-a4?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Cold pressed means a rough surface. The texture gives a beautiful extra dimension to you work. If you use a ‘dry brush’ technique in painting or shade with pencils you can make amazing effects.

black mixed paper Clairefontaine Paint On

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/zwart-papier-a5?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This paper works with all kinds of media. Try painting with gouache or even just drawing with a white gel pen. The effect is just stunning.

mixed-media sketchbook Mossery

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/mossery-medium-wire-o-hardcover-schetsboek-mixed-media-galaxy?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: This is a wonderful little sketchbook as it can lay completely flat and the pages are lovely and thick. You can use any media on it and work quite wet. It’s hard cover means you can take it anywhere and it will stay in good shape. 

acryla gouache Holbein

https://splendith.nl/collections/holbein-acryla/products/holbein-acryla-gouache-master-set-12?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: Very popular with illustrators as it is easy to use, straight out of tube like acrylic paint, but dries to a matt finish like traditional gouache. There are also a lot of great colours to choose from. 

ceramic palette  

https://splendith.nl/collections/paperden/products/keramiek-palet-bloemvorm?ref=9fU4zvNLprDNU *

TIP: A small ceramic pallet like this one is perfect for working with gouache. You can leave your paint on the pallet and just reactivate it with water to start painting again on another day. Keep it stored in a drawer so that it does not get too dusty. 

large enamel palette Dille & Kamille


TIP: This is not meant to be a palette but works really well as one! The large enamel surface means you can make large pools of watercolour mixes. It is easy to clean and paint pigments do not leave stains on the surface. I used an enamel palette during these free online Dille & Kamille workshops (in Dutch).

masking tape Cresa crepetape


TIP: This tape can be used to created sharp edges around paintings or to mask off areas that need to stay white for example. It does not easily dammage paper, but always take care and remove slowly once the paint has completely dried. 

other online art material shops

These are other shops in The Netherlands that I would recommend.

Van Beek