Useful equipment

Whilst you may not have to invest heavily in a huge book list, as with all design courses, you will need art equipment. Whilst you have access to a lot of specialist equipment within the School, the consumable equipment, pens, pencils, paper and marker pens, you have to supply yourself. There is also equipment that will help you draw, rulers, guides etc and we also recommend that you collect some basic model making equipment.

Model making equipment

From early on in the course you will be expected to undertake 3D exploration and modelling in the workshop. Whilst the workshop is well equipped, it is useful to have a small collection of personal equipment for when the workshop is busy. You should think about getting a plastic or metal tool box that contains……..

•         300mm steel ruler.

•         Stanley knife blades.

•         A Swan Morton scalpel handle no. 3(with 10a blades)

•         Double sided tape.

•         Masking tape.

•         Vernier callipers (doesn’t have to be digital)

•         A tube of super glue.

•         An engineers steel set square.

•         Pencils, pack of 12 ‘h’ (2h and 3h should also be considered)

•         100mm circular protractor

•         A compass

•         A set of 12 needle files 16cm cut no2

•         A compass cutter

•         A5 (minimum size) cutting matt.

•         Safety glasses

White lab coat.

This is needed for working in the workshop environment.  essentially it will prevent your clothes from being damaged and protect you from materials and substances that you will come into contact with.  These are available at other reputable industrial clothing stores.

Things to make marks with

You will already possess a number of pens and pencils and other such media. At the outset do not buy any new and expensive media, work with what you know. It is suggested you add to this as you progress on the course. The only recommendation is that you favour ‘clean’ media such as pen and inks rather than paints and charcoal.

A3 Presentation folder

This is not needed until the end of each project when you will be presenting your finished work. You will need a black A2 ring binder folder with plastic sleeves for presentation of final work for assessment.

Art equipment – an overview

You will need to invest in various pieces of equipment to allow you to undertake your design and visualising activities. What follows is a general overview of the main sorts of art equipment you will use while studying with us. you will have these pieces of equipment explained to you when you arrive

Please resist the temptation to go and buy a fortune of art equipment before you arrive – you might get the wrong things, or buy too much!


It would be a misconception to assume that a “piece of paper” is just a “piece of paper”. The designer has available to him/her a huge selection of different papers that have been specially created to be used with particular materials, or to provide different finishes. Papers may be available in pads, rolls or separate sheets; they may be of different weights, colours, or surface finish.

To make the job easier when choosing a paper, the papers different characteristics are summarised by a general name, e.g.. layout, marker, tracing, cartridge, sugar.

For the purposes of creating a visual, the designer will initially come into contact with layout and marker paper.

Layout paper

Layout paper is a white, transparent light weight material, produced by companies such as Daler and Letraset. An excepted method of working through a layout pad is to start at the back sheet so that each subsequent sheet of the pad is then placed on the previous. in this way, a design can be developed and traced off from one page to another. Possibly a perspective view may be constructed, which because of its construction lines, rubbings out etc., may look dirty or overly complicated – the next sheet can be taken and the drawing retraced, without the presence of errors or construction details, to produce a clean uncluttered drawing.

Marker paper

Marker paper is typically a brilliant white, less transparent, slightly heavier version of layout paper. As its name suggests, this material has been developed for use in conjunction with marker pens. This paper because of the media it has been developed for has additional less obvious characteristics. As with layout paper, marker paper is transparent enough to allow a drawing to be placed underneath so that it can then be traced off prior to rendering.

It is advisable to get into the practice of always tracing the original drawing onto a second sheet that will then be rendered. The reason for this is simple. If you have spent 3 hours constructing a perspective view, only to realise after the first pass of the marker that you have made a mistake, or the construction lines have not been able to be rubbed out properly, you must start redrawing all over again. If instead each drawing is originally just a tracing of the master underlay several versions of the concept can be produced without the need to individually construct each drawing in turn.

Marker pens work by transferring an ink from a cotton or felt wad through a nib to the paper, it is the same capillary action that draws the ink from the wad to the nib as it is from the nib to the paper. The problem is then how to limit the continued ink movement through the first sheet into several below it in the pad, or sideways, over the line on the page that you might be trying to render to.

A word usually found in conjunction with marker on the cover of a pad is bleed proof. Marker paper is treated so as to limit the spread of ink through it. This means the ink will spread less on a sheet, it also means that the ink that has been applied will stay wet – this property helps in applying an even, consistent body of colour when it comes to “colouring in” the visual.

Marker pens

A marker pen is more than just another ‘felt tip’ pen. Available in a bewildering range of colours, shapes and sizes, they are designed specifically for studio use.

It is difficult to recommend a particular brand of marker as users tend to develop a loyalty to a certain make without ever being able to rationally explain why.

Manufacturers names to look out for when going into an art shop for the first time include, pantone, Edding Copic, Magic Marker and Meccanorma, all produce ranges in excess of 200 colours. by choosing a range that is as broad as possible, one can more or less guarantee that you will always find that certain shade or colour that you may occasionally need.

On the course we specify Copic marker pens, simply because they are available in the student union, and also by specifying particular colours in visualising lists, students can ensure their visuals look exactly the same as the taught examples.

Other areas to consider are;

Colour consistency. If a marker begins to run out as you are working with it, you should be able to continue with a new marker without a detectable change in the colour. Ultramarine blue purchased in London should in principle be the same colour as an ultramarine blue purchased in New York.

Nib shape. it is an accepted standard that the marker should have a chisel shaped nib. This will allow for a range of basic line thicknesses simply by repositioning the pen in your hand. the current fashion is the double ended marker pen, one end has a chisel nib, and the other end of the pen contains a finer bullet nib for filling in smaller or fiddly areas.

Inks. Some manufacturers also provide refill bottles of ink for each pen in the range. Not only does this mean a pen can be refilled rather than discarded, but also that the inks can be used separately from the pens to apply very large areas of ink or to produce ‘special effects’.

Physical characteristics. The marker should be easy and comfortable to hold when in use. The lid should be easy to remove and replace and there should be a fairly accurate colour indicator on each marker that is easily visible, even if a large no. of pens are stored in a rack or holder.

As with most art materials, marker pens are not cheap, most brands residing in the £3 – £4 price range. For this reason it is wiser to buy a smaller number to begin with and add to that set gradually.


Typically used to sketch out ideas and concepts prior to producing visuals. Traditional wooden bodied pencils are still popular, available in degrees of hardness from 9h (very hard), to 8b (very soft). Whilst good for more artistic sketching, they require constant sharpening to maintain a fine accurate point. Clutch pencils accept the same variety of leads, but use a mechanical means of supplying more lead, a special sharpener – usually provided – is required to produce and maintain a sharp point. Mechanical or propelling pencils use leads that as well as varying in hardness, also vary in thickness. Widths of .3, .5, .7, and .9mm are common. Their narrow width means sharpening is unnecessary. Leads are available in different colours as well as standard graphite, which means they are useful for constructing underlays, as the construction lines can be produced in a different colour to the actual drawing.


Having constructed a basic sketch underlay, the drawing needs to be traced off onto a sheet that will be rendered. Sometimes a pencil can be used for this, but more usually a black line is more desirable for reasons of crispness, accuracy and permanence. Traditional tube drafting pens are an obvious choice, their fine, accurate lines are justification enough for their high price, however, extreme care needs to be taken with the particularly fine nibs and this can prove tedious if a large complex, or just a quick visual needs to be produced.

A better alternative is the “disposable” pigment ink pens available from Edding, Staedler and Tombo. Available in .1, .3, .5 and .9mm, they produce a less accurate, but still acceptable line quality at approximately 1/12 the price of traditional drafting tube drafting pens. by using a nylon tip, rather than a hollow steel tube, they can just as easily be used with a straight edge as freehand. care should always be taken that the ink does not dissolve or smear when a marker is passed over it, whilst not much of a problem if using dark inks, it could be disastrous if lighter colours are used.


The finished underlay will usually require a quality of line that is simply not possible by hand, whether the line be straight or curved. a range of curves, both constant and changing are available, but most are too specialised to be worth mentioning.

 Several worth considering though, are;

Straight edges

Choose a clear plastic ruler so positioning is easier when applying highlights or shadows. try to find one made in p.v.c., as this material is resistant to most of the solvents found in the studio environment.


A wise purchase is a set of french curves, relatively cheap, most sets are likely to contain most of the curves you are ever likely to need.

Ellipse guides

Although ellipse templates are prohibitively expensive, it might be worth starting a small collection, if your visuals require a large number of circles or cylinders viewed from varying angles. They are available in increments of projection from 10˚ – 80˚ and in major axis sizes from 2mm to 250mm.

Clearly the use of such guides is not limited to the generation of the drawing itself; they are also useful as paths for a curved marker application and the placing of highlights. Always clean a guide after using a marker – not only might the marker ink attack the plastic, but also it is all too easy to ruin a visual by the transfer of a previous ink from a guide when using a second lighter, or different coloured ink.

Coloured pencils

An essential additional medium to marker pens. ideally the pencil should be soft enough to allow subtle gradations to be applied to the more abrupt tonal changes of marker. they should also be hard enough to provide clean crisp lines such as highlights. like markers, artists pencils are available in large (expensive) sets with good selections of tonal gradations, as with your marker collection, initially it might be wiser to buy selected colours and increase their numbers gradually. Comprehensive sets are available from manufacturers such as Derwent, Berol and Rowney.


Though pastels might be considered exclusively as the tools of artists, for the designer they represent a versatile media that can be used in many different ways. Pastels are excellent for creating subtle gradations of tone, far better than is possible with markers or pencils. before applying a pastel gradation or tone, the paper to be worked on should be primed with a standard talcum powder.

Close up, a sheet of paper looks almost like a mountain range, with pits and holes everywhere. Talcum powder is used to fill these imperfections, so that when the pastel is applied, it flows smoothly and evenly, without the talcum powder, the pastel would get trapped in the surface of the paper, which would result in streaking.

The pastel to be used should be hard (conté), rather than oil based and be available in a reasonable range of colours, though they can be mixed successfully to get specific tones. Having prepared the paper, a small pile of pastel dust is scraped from the stick. A small quantity of talc is added to the pastel to further smooth its application. The pastel dust is then picked up and applied using a ball of cotton wool. By pushing harder, the depth of the colour can be increased and by applying less and less pressure a subtle tonal gradation can be produced. Highlights can be produced in the pastel by removing areas with a white polymer rubber.

Miscellaneous  art equipment


A potentially huge choice is available, though probably best is the standard surgical scalpel. Available are a wide selection of extremely sharp, disposable blades (blade no. 10a is the most practical for cutting out marker paper visuals). The handle is well shaped for delicate cutting work. Try to resist the temptation to use a scalpel with a plastic ruler, it is far too easy to ruin the edge of the ruler – it is a good idea to purchase a steel ruler just for cutting out. Always try to cut out on a firm but soft base, the blade will last longer and the knife will tend to dig in slightly, preventing it from ‘running away’ across the visual. Cutting mats are available in various sizes, that as well as providing a custom made cutting surface are also self sealing, so the mat stays flat and does not become rutted by successive cuts.


Invariably things need to be held down from time to time. double sided, masking and magic tapes all have their uses in the studio.


Spray adhesives, 3M Spray, Photo & Display mount are most widely used professionally. A thin coat of adhesive can be applied and the piece stuck down, before being repositioned if necessary. Sprays are particularly useful if the piece is so delicate as to rule out physically touching it with a spreader or a brush. A thin coat of adhesive is also in certain cases transparent, so it can be used to fix a sheet of tracing paper over a picture or background to ‘knock it back’ to be mounted behind a visual on a finished presentation board. If your mounting requirements are small (in size as well as volume), then a Pritt Stick is as good a method as any.

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