If you've been drawing and sketching for one day or longer, you know you need two things:
Pencil and paper.
Pretty simple, right?
I thought so too. Until I discovered a few art supplies that made my drawings go from pretty good to exceptional. Now, I know what you're thinking, could a different type of pencil and paper really make THAT much of a difference? Ohmygosh, yes.
Let me explain. If you have a basic or cheaply made drawing paper, you'll notice that the paper can be a little rough to the touch. This can be good for quick rough sketching, but this is usually not ideal for beautiful hyperrealist drawings. On a microscopic level, rough sketch paper has little "mountains" and "valleys". As your pencil glides over the paper, you are going to get undesirable variations in value (lightness and darkness), and uneven pencil strokes. Solution? Bristol paper. If you've never tried it, you need too. Seriously. This paper was a game changer for me.
Bristol paper is heavier and stiffer than normal paper, but extremely smooth to the touch. This is going to do wonders for your pencil strokes. My favorite Bristol paper is by Strathmore, and I've been using it for years. You can find it on Amazon.
The second thing you'll need to change your drawing game forever is quality charcoal pencils. Now, the first thing people ask when I say this is "What's wrong with graphite pencils?" Well, nothing, really, but it's my personal artistic opinion that charcoal is excellent for making your drawings more realistic vs. graphite for the following 3 reasons:
1.) Charcoal is soooo easy to blend (even easier with Bristol paper!)
2.) Charcoal "moves" on paper and can be "picked up" by other tools.
3.) Charcoal is capable of extremely dark value on paper - a necessity for realistic drawings.
Lastly, you'll need some blending tools. As an artist, I'm guilty of using my fingers to blend charcoal, but I suggest avoiding this since the natural oils of your skin can ruin your artwork. Blending tools are also wonderful for fine detail blending, and come in a variety of different sizes.
And just to show you the real difference on how a few different art supplies can change your artwork, here is an example of blending graphite on low quality sketch paper vs. blending on Bristol paper with charcoal.
If you're still not convinced, let me show an actual example of how this applies to making your artwork look more realistic. Below is a portrait I sketched of Billie Holiday. Being able to have smooth blending helps significantly with soft skin and hair texture. In addition, having extremely dark values on paper mimics more real life shadows and contrast. The result is much more life-like, similar to that of a black and white photograph.
Let me know about your results! Enjoy!
DISCLOSURE: I do use affiliate links on here, meaning if you purchase anything through my affiliate links I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. My opinions and views are never swayed because of this. I only recommend products that I love!