Painters are incredible. They carry in them a set of skills that leave the rest of us baffled and fascinated – they look at a landscape and replicate it faithfully, they see a man smiling and manage to convey the emotion on a simple canvas. But there is hope, being a creative genius is not something that only a few gifted individuals are born with, we can all benefit from honing our inner artist.

The following cheat sheet covers all the materials you need to begin your journey to becoming a great artist. We show you how to build an essential painter’s kit, from a colour mixing guide to the basic knowledge behind applicators, applicants and surfaces to ensure you next go into the world ready to interpret the world in your own personal and expressive way.

The Painter's Essentials Cheat Sheet, From Zippi.

Text-Friendly Version
The Painter’s Essentials Cheat SheetThis guide aims to pull together the most common aspects of drawing and painting, from colours to brushes and to surfaces, this cheat sheet is everything you need in a beginner’s guide to what is what and when to use it.Every artist wants a full array of artistic equipment to choose from when the creative spark strikes.You don’t need a kitted-out workshop, a small rucksack’s worth of materials is enough to kick-start productivity. Here is our preferred painter’s pack that allows for explosions of creativity whenever the mood hits.Red, Yellow and Blue watercolour paints
2B, HB and 2H Pencils – An optimum, basic range of pencils is sufficient for sketching shapes and outlines.
Scalpel or Stanley Knife – To sharpen pencils, trim the eraser and cut the paper.
2 Paint Brushes – 1 Filbert, 1 Pointed Round
Smartphone or Camera
Sketch Book
Tip: Take your painter’s pack with you wherever you go. Take a camera with you to avoid regrettably missed inspiration and use your sketchbook in a way that best suits your style – test, mess, dabble and doodle.

Basic Paint Colour Guide


“I am a simple man, and I use simple materials: ivory, black, vermilion, Prussian blue, yellow ochre, flake white and no medium. That’s all I’ve ever used in my paintings.” – L. S Lowry

Fill your painter’s pack with whatever you wish and use the following guide to cherry-pick the best tools and techniques that fit your needs.



[Inspiration ]

Good for: Sketching, outlining and detailing work. Controlled washes in small areas. Best used with thinned paint.
Pointed Round
Good for: The finer, more delicate details and retouching.
Good for: Big, bold strokes, washes and filling wide spaces. Impasto – the process or technique of laying on paint or pigment thickly so that it stands out from a surface.
Good for: Short, sharp controlled strokes and thick, heavy colour.
Good for: A sort of a versatile combination of the rounds and flats, this can be used for blending and soft rounded edges.
Good for: Smoothing, blending, and feathering. Textural effects like clouds.
Angular Flat
Good for: Curved strokes and filling corners. They are versatile – can reach small areas but also be used to cover lots of space.
Detail Round
Good for: Precise details and short, purposeful strokes.

Palette knives
Designed for mixing, many choose to use it for painting. A palette knife with a pointed head will allow for impasto style, smooth-stroke painting and for scraping away with the point of the knife for effect. Best used with oil paints.


H, B and HB Pencils

‘H’ > Hard

Hard lead doesn’t leave a lot of lead on the paper. This creates a lighter shade the harder the pencil. Graded 1 to 9 – 9 being the hardest, i.e. lightest, shade.

‘B’ > for Bold (or black)

A bold lead leaves a lot of lead on the paper, giving deeper, darker shades. Graded from 1 to 9 – 9 being the softest, i.e. darkest, shade.


Halfway between hard and bold. A perfect all-rounder.

‘F’ > Fine Point

They are relatively hard with a sharp, fine point.



• Can be thinned with water
• Dries very fast
• Once dried can be overpainted
• Can be used thick – like oils
• Or thin easily with water to use like watercolours
• Doesn’t crack
• Cheap
• Do not fade over time in sun light
• Dries very fast, difficult to blend
• Completely waterproof once dry
• Difficult to remove from your brush if dried in
• The pigments appear darker when wet – can be difficult to judge exactly which hues to choose

• Dries slowly – allowing plenty of time to blend colours
• Rich deep colours that retain their intensity when dry
• Can be over painted [Design Note: Tip bubble that explains, Make sure that lower layers of paint are dry before applying upper layers, i.e. Paint ‘fat over lean’. To ensure lower layers are thinner, combine with turpentine – and paint over with layers of increasingly ‘thicker’ paint
• Can be applied thickly
• Or thin in smooth glazes.
• Slow drying
• Time consuming due to the speed it dries
• The colours can easily be over worked resulting in a brownish muddy mess!
• More expensive
• Oil paints and thinners are generally more toxic – always use in a well ventilated area
• Brushes cannot be cleaned in water – must be cleaned in thinner/turps

• Can be mixed with water
• Brushes can be cleaned with water
• Paint can be lifted by wetting
• Paint is reusable by adding water
• Cheaper than other paints
• Can be used at different levels of viscosity for different effects
• Hard to rectify or hide mistakes in a watercolour painting

Oil Pastels vs Soft (Chalk) Pastels
• No waiting to dry
• Mix colours on the paper rather than in a palette
• No brushes to clean
• Easy to use
• Intense colours

Soft (Chalk) Pastels
• No waiting to dry
• Mix colours on the paper rather than in a palette
• No brushes to clean
• Easy to use
• Soft, less intense colour
Observation for both:
• Liable to smudging [Design Notes: Tip Bubble – also an advantage – depending on the effect you wish to achieve]

Compressed Stick
Comes hard, producing a greyer shade or soft, producing a deep black. Good for gesture drawing
Pressed Charcoal
Comes as a pencil, sharpens to a fine point. Good for drawing and shading
Vine Charcoal
Vine is very light and produces soft, powdery lines. Good for preliminary drawings on canvas


Canvas [Design Note: suggested paintings –]
Brushes – specifically designed acrylic or oil paint brushes will be a good choice, with longer handles and stiffer bristles which both hold and spread the thicker paint better on canvas
Ideal for – Acrylics, Oils, Charcoal or Watercolour (on watercolour canvas)
Types – Cotton Duck Canvas, Linen Canvas, Watercolour Canvas

Selecting your paper – Consider:
• Absorbency
• Weight
• Texture
• Cost

Different types of paper to choose:

Wet Strength Cartridge Paper
This varies by weight, from 80gsm to 170gm, suitable for almost all drawing and painting exercises.
Great for: Almost anything

Brown Kraft Paper
Cheap, brown paper similar to that used for paper bags.
Great for: Charcoal, white charcoal and chalk drawings

Black Drawing Cartridge
Black paper for negative effect
Great for: White paints, white charcoal and chalk

Watercolour Paper
Available in a variety of weights and textures
Great For: Watercolours and inks

Canvas paper
A heavyweight paper with a surface that replicates a canvas.
Great for: Oils and Acrylics.

Lightweight Cardboard
Easy to cut, useful for creating raised areas within a painting.

“Cutting directly into colour reminds me of a sculptor’s carving into stone.” Matisse

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