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Unusual Essential Drawing Tools

You expect to see certain things on an artist's drawing desk: pencils, paper, erasers, makeup brush . . . . Wait, did I say makeup brush?! Some items on my desk may seem out of place, but they all serve a useful purpose. Below I've compiled a list of unusual objects found on my drawing desk that I find essential when I draw.

Read on and find some tools you won't want to be without!


I keep a small, 4x6 mirror at my desk to check the perspective in my drawings. A mirror forces your eye to see inconsistencies in the perspective, and can help you correct them. I like having my small mirror nearby so I don't have to leave the room to check the drawings. My mirror has a magnet on the back, which I find convenient since my desk has metal legs. I can attach the mirror to the side of my desk to keep it out of the way.

Make-Up Brush

I have several soft, fluffy make-up brushes handy for removing eraser shavings and excess graphite or charcoal. I find them indispensable. Really any soft paintbrush will work, but I like full, round blush brushes better. They will not smudge drawings like swiping with your hand. Also, brushing with some pressure across a graphite or charcoal drawing creates some soft blending effects. I try to keep my brushes separated: some are used for blending and others for removing shavings. The brushes used for blending hold some graphite in the bristles, so I don't want to accidentally swipe them across a work in progress. All the brushes need to be washed occasionally in soapy water.

Magnifying Glass

Well, maybe this one isn't so unusual, but you will find it essential! I have a couple magnifying glasses on my desk. One is the typical handheld style, the other sits on a pedestal and has arms that clasp a picture and hold it in place. This is perfect for looking at reference photos and catching small details. I use the handheld magnifying glasses to look at my drawings if I find a flaw in the paper, need to erase a small area, or want to critique part of my drawing.

Exacto Knife

Ok, again it's not unusual to find this item on an artists desk since we often need to cut paper down to size. However, it is unusual to use this as a drawing tool, not just a paper cutter. An Exacto knife can be the perfect tool for adding small highlights or removing stubborn marks. This method only works on thick paper. I prefer Strathmore Bristol 300 series or Mixed Media 400 series paper. These thick papers allow you to remove some of the surface of the paper without causing serious damage. For example, when I want to add small highlights to an eye, and the eraser is too big, or not fully removing the graphite, I use the point of the Exacto knife to make small cuts in the paper and create highlights. I have also used this method when I have accidentally indented my paper and the graphite is embedded below the surface. Scratching lightly with the Exacto knife loosens the graphite and lets me fully erase it.


Do you have some unusual tools on your drawing desk too? Tweet me @NHamiltonArt, I'd love to hear about them!



All content and original art works © Nicole I. Hamilton.

Reproduction or use of any content or works without permission is strictly prohibited.

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