My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, wants to go to art school in two years. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design Pre-College Program last summer, which exposed her to many different art supplies. Her favorite birthday gift from us these past few years is an annual subscription to art supply box ArtSnacks which is how she discovered Copic Markers. These days she watches arty kids wax poetic on YouTube with their favorite art supplies. Today, she does the same here.
Grasshopper and Sensei at the RISD Pre-College Art Show in front of her piece.
She has tried everything on this list — and more — to hone down her favorite art supplies for serious arty kids. She thinks this list is for high school students, but I’d suggest using her suggestions for your arty kid as the situation warrants. For example, her brother, now 12 years old, started out drawing stick figure comics using pencil and spiral bound lined notebooks when he was 9 and 10. He progressed to sketch books and inexpensive Crayola markers that I bought from Target, and his art became more manga based. For his 12th birthday, he requested a small set of Copic Markers and Rendr Paper Sketchbook which does not bleed through. His manga art, self taught through YouTube videos, has now included more anatomically correct manga figures.
Her best work from the RISD Pre College Summer Art Program. It’s seed pods rendered in pencil.
In this list, my daughter who is very price conscious since she buys many of these materials with her own money, suggests different options: INVESTMENT, INEXPENSIVE, SPECIALTY, and MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I hope this helps you find the right art supplies for your seriously arty kid!
p.s. More Art Gift Ideas for Kids here:
Art Supply Gift Guide for SERIOUS Arty Kids
This is a monthly subscription kit in which you will receive 4-5 full size premium art supplies including unique items that are not available elsewhere. They are starting to make their own art supplies as well. My daughter gets really excited about the kit every month! When she was at RISD, she discovered other students who also subscribed to ArtSnacks from the stickers on their stuff and it was a bonding moment for her!
Alcohol Based Markers for SERIOUS Arty Kids
Investment Refillable Markers for Arty Kids
Copic Markers, about $8 each and also come in sets.
They are really expensive but they are worth it because they are refillable and have the best brushes and nibs. The ink is also very high quality. These are alcohol-based professional markers that you can use for a lifetime.
As long as you take care of your Copic Markers (store horizontally NOT vertically) and don’t press really hard on the nibs, they should last a lifetime. You can REFILL each marker and the ink is readily available. You can also start out with a small set and keep adding over your lifetime.
Here are two starter sets: the first is just basic colors, the second is skin tones. If you have both, you can draw manga figures though you might want to fill in specific colors that you use most and in several hues.
A less expensive alternative for Copics is Winsor & Newton Water Color Brush Markers and Nib Markers. They also have dual nibs. About $6 each and also comes in sets.
Affordable Refillable Markers for Arty Kids
Blick Studio Markers are Copic knock-offs and they are good too and less expensive than Copics but the nibs are really, really stiff and you want your nibs to be flexible. They have good ink that is alcohol-based. These pens have a brush on one side and chisel nibs on the other. The assorted set of 12 is $25.
Affordable Non-Refillable Markers for Arty Kids
Prismacolor Markers are not refillable but they have a brush nib and a bullet nib rather than the brush nib and chisel nib that the Copics have. They have really nice alcohol-based ink so you can use them with Copics or any other alcohol-based markers. They are significantly cheaper than Copics, and they have a big barrel so the ink lasts a long time. This set of 12 double-tipped fine and chisel tip is $24.
Shin Han Touch Twin Markers also very expensive but you get more for your money for these than Copics but they are very expensive. They are refillable but the inks are hard to procure. This is a set of 60 markers for $282.
Liners & Art Pens for Arty Kids
You don’t have to be a professional artist or illustrator to try these archival ink illustration liners and pens. In fact, this is an affordable category for arty kids to try out. You can use the pens for any kind of art, from manga to mixed media to illustration. What’s really important to my daughter is how smoothly the ink comes out, if it clogs, how it reacts to water, and if the ink fades over time. It’s a tough call but judging by the sheer quantity of items that my daughter wholeheartedly recommends, this is her favorite category of art supplies (right now).
Investment Liners for Arty Kids
Copic Multiliners, $11
My daughter really likes the Copic Multiliner pens. They are Copic proof so Copics won’t make them bleed. They also won’t bleed with water. She likes the quality of the good ink and also that they come out smoothly. She praises them for lasting a really long time. If you get the SP versions, they are expensive but refillable. They also come in different colors. She, however, does not like the Copic brush liners. This four-piece set of Copic Multiliners is $11.
Middle of the Road Liners for Arty Kids
These are also Copic and waterproof for the most part and they have archival ink. They are used by cartoonist and manga artists. They last for a really long time. They have a lot of different size nibs. These are reasonably priced but not refillable. They also come in different colors besides black. She doesn’t recommend the Sakura Micron brush markers though. This 6 piece set is $9.
Inexpensive Liners for Arty Kids
These are really good Copic alternatives and I like the narrow bodies of the pens better. They come in different colors and in sets. Not refillable. The brush liners are good. A set of 8 for about $13.
Investment Brush Pens for Arty Kids
They are refillable. You get a really big variation in line because it’s a brush, and it’s like a real brush. If you bring your art supplies to school and you use ink but you don’t want to bring bottled ink, this is a less messy alternative. This is an investment brush pen at around $11 which is a lot for a pen. You have to wait for it to dry for it to be waterproof. This brush pen with two ink refills is $12.
Inexpensive Brush Pens for Arty Kids
This is not refillable but it has a bigger brush than the Pentel one which is nice. It also has real bristles. It has really nice ink. You have to wait for it to dry for it to be waterproof.
This is another good alternative for the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. It’s finer than the Kuretaki Brush Pen but it’s not refillable.
It doesn’t have real bristles so it’s more like a felt tip pen but it’s good for manga. It’s not refillable.
It has a really big brush so it’s flexible but it’s a felt brush so it’s not real bristles. It feels like a Copic almost but not as fine. It dries pretty fast and the brush can wear down but it’s not super expensive. Not refillable. This set of 3 pens is about $12.
Inexpensive Liner Pens for Arty Kids
Uniball Signo White Gel Pen, 3 for $7
This by far the best white pen. It’s very opaque and the ink flow is great. It flows smoothly and doesn’t ever clog. It’s not refillable.
It’s good for cartoons and manga. It has archival ink so it won’t fade over time. It’s also good for lining. It’s not refillable. The set of five with different sizes is good too.
Best Sketchbooks for Arty Kids
Investment Sketchbooks for Arty Kids
Moleskin Art Pro Paper (paper isn’t heavy enough in the other Moleskin books), $17
The Art Pro Paper is really good for graphite, color pencil, watercolor, or anything. It’s really smooth thick paper. And it’s not bright white, it’s a creamy white which is nice.
This is a good sketchbook but it’s on the expensive side. It’s large with mixed media paper so most things don’t bleed through. The paper has a rougher texture which is nice if you like more textured paper. It’s especially good for paint, charcoal, pastel, and watercolor. This set of 2 is $16.
Great for mixed media, and smaller than the Stillman and Burns. Fewer pages but the pages are thicker. It’s has a pleather cover so it’s has a bendy cover which is nice when you want to bend the spine back. It feels the most like watercolor paper because the paper is really thick. Various sizes and prices. This one is 5.5 x 8.5 inches with 32 pages. It’s $14.
Middle of the Road Sketchbooks for Arty Kids
Rendr Paper Sketchbooks, various sizes and bindings
It’s really good for markers specifically because it doesn’t bleed through but for watercolor, it’s bad because it absorbs the water too fast. This is a sketchbook for MARKERS making it a perfect gift for young cartoonists or manga artists. This one is $11
Inexpensive Sketchbooks for Arty Kids
It’s really good for mixed media and is the most affordable option out of this list. The paper is really good. This one is 9 x 12 inches and just $10.
This is a really good sketchbook. It’s smaller than the one above but it has kinda the same paper but it looks like a Moleskin. The paper is good for mixed media. This is the sketchbook I’m currently using. This 6 x 4 inch sketchbook is $10.
Best Erasers for Arty Kids
This is good for a really large graphite piece and you want small details. It really erases well. This is just a really good eraser.
This is an even smaller diameter eraser than the one above.
Another good one if you are doing a huge graphite piece. 38 x 58 pieces. It’s recommended by one of the RISD professors. You can do more intricate things because you don’t have to rub with it; you just have to touch it onto the paper to erase.
Faber Castell Kneaded Eraser, Set of 2 $5
These are my favorite kneaded erasers because they are not rock hard and they just erase well.
Graphite Pencils for Arty Kids
Investment Graphite Pencils for Arty Kids
Palomino Black Wing 602 Pencils, 12 Pencils for $24
These are really soft pencils and they are really nice but very expensive. This is an artisanal pencil that people collect.
Middle of the Road Graphite Pencils for Arty Kids
These are good when you want variation of hardness at a reasonable price.
Prismacolor Premier Graphic Drawing Pencils, set of 12 for $18
This is a good set to start off with because it comes with two erasers, pencil sharpener sandpaper pad, and pencils. These are really high quality.
Inexpensive Graphite Pencils for Arty Kids
Prisma Color Ebony Graphite Drawing Pencils, set of 12 for $9
Those are good when you want a really dark mark but you don’t want it to be black; you want it to be gray. It’s pretty reasonably priced at about $1 per pencil.
Similar to the Staedtler pencils but slightly more expensive. It feels softer than the Staedtler ones. I like them better. Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils, Medium, Metal Tin, 12 Count (34214)
Specialty Graphite Pencils for Arty Kids
Peel and Sketch Charcoal Pencils, 3 for $4
With most charcoal pencils you have to sharpen it so it makes it into a point which makes it too intense. What is good about the Peel and Sketch is that the point is more rounded and you don’t waste any of the pencil since you can just peel it back.
Colored Pencils for Arty Kids
Prisma Color Premier Color Pencils Softcore, 72 for $39
Very vibrant colors in nearly every hue. It goes on very smoothly and blends easily. This is a very soft pencil with a waxy finish. This set is highly discounted at 72 pencils for $39.
Tombow Irojiten Colored Pencils with Enamel Finish, 10 pack for $30
Less expensive than Prisma color pencils but the texture and the finishing of the pencils is different than Prima but also good. This is a dustier finish but also goes on very smoothly. You can buy the pencils individually or in sets according to what you need. This is a basic set of primary and soft primary colors; 10 pencils for $3o.
Derwent Watercolor Pencils, 12 for $22
Really good water-soluble pencils that are very soft so they go on nicely. They are really good.
Faber Castell Art GRIP Aquarelle Colored Pencils, set of 60 for $60 OR 24 for $50
They don’t blend as well but they are chunkier and less expensive so they are perfect for younger kids.
Water Color Paint for Arty Kids
Pentel Art Aquash Water Brush, 3 pens for $5
It’s really good when you are painting on the go.
A good student quality watercolor paintbox is Windsor Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Water Brush, $30
It’s really good when you are painting on the go and it comes with a water brush like the Pentel ones. It’s less expensive than the Windsor and Newton but sometimes the pigment breaks apart if you add too much water.
Windsor and Newton Watercolor Markers, set of 12 for $50
Good for on the go and you want a watercolor effect but you don’t want to use watercolors. Use with water for the same effect as watercolors.
Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush Watercolor Brush Pens, Set of 48 for $52
Less expensive than Windsor and Newton but it has real bristles. It’s fun to line with if you don’t add water but if you add water, it gives it a watercolor effect. Versatile and well priced. They come in a ton of colors. The first set has colors; the other set of three can be used with water and has three brush sizes for $18.
p.s. More about Art Colleges from our college tours:
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