Your equipment

photograph of Paul Rudolph in his office by Kelvin Dickinson


there are a number of rulers you will use in visual communications. They all have specific uses.


The scale ruler is a (generally) opaque plastic ruler which has bevelled edges. On each side and each face there are different numbers and associated scales such as 1:1, 1:20, 1:50 and 1:100 (these are the most important scales for environmental design, but 1:2, 1:5, 1:10 are used for interior and graphic design more frequently and larger scales such as 1:200 and 1:500 are also used for very large items in planning and engineering). Use this scale for measuring and marking out increments. Do not use this ruler for drawing or cutting lines. The bevel makes it an unstable guide.


The metal (or straight edge ruler) is ideally for cutting against. You can also use it for measuring (at full 1:1 scale only), creating guidelines and ruling. You should be looking to use it when assembling your final elements and presentation boards.


The wooden or plastic rulers, which are usually what you carry in your pencil case are for general purpose measuring or ruling only. Do not use them for cutting. Do not use them for measuring your technical drawings. Use them for working out page and presentation layouts (at full 1:1 scale).



The Tee-square is used with your drawing table. The top of the tee is placed hard up against the left (if you are left handed) side of your desk. the leg of the square enables you to draw straight lines along the top edge (only). You also use the leg to rest other equipment to draw at right angles (or orthogonally) to the horizontal lines you have drawn.


The set square when placed on the leg of the tee square enables you to draw (against its edge) either vertical or (any other) angle lines relative to the horizontal line via using an adjustable hinged set square (such as the one above)


The circle template enables you to draw circles of different diameters. You can place it against the Tee-square or set square or use it freely. There are many different templates for various well used shapes including elipses.


for more complex curves you may use either french curve templates (above) or a flexible curve (below)


but you may have to use a compass for much larger radius curves or circles
notice the compass below is not like your usual one. an arm and screw allows minute adjustments of the compass measurement to ensure accuracy while measuring and no slippage during drawing




Technical drawing is best achieved with use of mechanical pencils. Above (on the left) you will probably be familiar with the “pacer style” pencil which holds a very fine lead. Most technical drawers prefer to use the clutch pencil (on the right), which you can sharpen to varying point width using the removable end of the pencil.

A note about “lead” weights. Pencil weights are measured in hardness….the H scale and blackness….the B scale. B is the softest and H is the hardest. The range of leads from hardest to softest is 9H, 8H, 7H, 6H, 5H, 4H, 3H, 2H, H, HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B and 9B.

When technical drawing generally the H scale is used (at least to start). Construct your lines (on cartridge) generally using 2H pencil. Press not DIG into the paper surface. Later when you are happy, it may be appropriate to go over lines in B and 2B or sometimes softer lead.

When rendering, the opposite is generally true, the B scale is used. Use a variety of B scale leads to achieve the depth and grain of tone you desire. Build up your shading. Less is more to start with. See below for pencils used for freehand and rendered drawings.

NEVER use HB pencil for technical or rendered drawing. HB weight pencils are for general classwork. NOT for drawing.

Note: that many different coloured leads are available for mechanical and clutch pencils.



We won’t be using these pens in our work, but many examples shown in the blog use technical pens such as these. Their popularity is dwindling for several reasons. a) they are expensive items to buy and maintain….without constant use they tend to become clogged, dried out and unusable. b) felt-tip, rollerball and gel-ink pen technology is now so advanced that many of these alternatives provide similar effects (especially for occasional users) and c) computer aided drafting is now so wide spread…it is the industry norm for technical drawing. (although we are not using any CAD programs in this course, if and when you go on to tertiary training it WILL be what you use to construct and present your work)

Pens come in thicknesses that match Australian (and international) Standard drawing thicknesses: 0.03, 0.05, 0.08, 0.13, 0.25, 0.35, 0.5, 0.7 and 1.0 mm. Many coloured inks are available. The most widely used (by architects making technical drawings are black, red and blue).



Lettering stencils are available in all sizes, cases and some variance of fonts. They are best used with drawing pens and very difficult to use with other pens and even mechanical pencils. They are very expensive. Buy and use only with large amounts of practise.



an eraser is essential for technical drawing. The type shown (left) is the ONLY one you should be using – soft, white and firm. Erasing shields (middle) can be of benefit when rubbing out tiny details parts of your drawings.


A brush is very useful for removing rubbings and generally keeping your drawing clean. Drawings which have a buildup can become smudged and hard to read, using your hand to rub away mess can leave oils on the paper which then cause everything to become grubby.



An ideal knife for light pressure, delicate, detailed freehand cutting . Use with paper or other very thin materials only. When not using protect the blade with a cover. Always dispose of used blades carefully.


An ideal knife for cutting foamcore, cardboard and other thicker items against the guide of a metal straightedge. Use a knife that has a safety catch (or screw wheel) and always keep retracted. When cutting off blunt sections of blades point away from you and others deep into waste bin.

With all knives, always cat toward you, never place your free hand in path of knife – keep your free hand alongside or behind the knife. Never walk with an exposed blade pointed out from your body – keep pointed down and blade covered.


Always use a protective surface under your cutting work. Cutting mats are ideal but can be expensive. At least use heavy board that is solid and at least 3mm thick. Do not use corrugated cardboard, it will affect the smoothness and straightness of your cutting and provides variable protection to the work surface below.

8. PENCILS, PENS, PAINTS and other stuff

graphite pencils


As talked about before lead or graphite pencils come in many weights. They also come in many sizes and some are watersoluble and others are all graphite. There are so many types and variations. When you are rendering it is best to not use your mechanical style pencil. The design of the standard pencil is easier on your hand and suits the variety of angles and holds you will adopt when using the pencil. Have a variety at the ready…a 2B, 4B and 6B is a good start. Read here about how pencils are made.

coloured pencils


there a many types and brands of coloured pencils. Only you can decide which you prefer. The pencils vary in regard to their clay and oil content. Clay based pencils are harder, wax based pencils are medium and oil based pencils are softer. Many pencils are now also water soluble (known as aquarelle) which means you can achieve water colour paint type effects when using them. Experiment and try different ones. Look at this page for lots of information about coloured pencils

pens and markers

Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens full range

Again with pens, there are seemingly endless types, thickness and point types of them. They can be used for fine and thick outline drawing, texture creation including hatching, stippling and scribbling and can be used as thicker infills, buildups and overlays. Alberto Lung has created a whole blog dedicated to looking at various art materials and reviewing them.

paint and ink


There are many types of paints: watercolour, acrylic, impasto, poster, oil or even ink. In your final presentation work watercolour and ink are probably the best choices, but that doesn’t preclude the use of other types, particularly in your exploratory work and shrine making. You need to decide what is most applicable to your work and the overall composition and appearance of your work. You need to think about your choices and justify and expand upon your reasons for your choices. Winsor & Newton (fine english paint makers) have a beautiful website which explains all things paint: how they investigate it, formulate their recipes, and produce and market their products…well worth checking out.



Brush selection depends upon the paint you are using. GENERALLY – Softer rounder brushes are used for watercolour application. Very full round brushes are used for applying a wash to large surfaces of your paper. Very fine brushes are used for fine linework and detail. Flat medium hair thickness brushes are used for acrylics and very stiff bristled brushes are used for oil.

One final thought

Brushes traditionally have been made using the hair from animals, particularly fur bearing animals such as sable, fox and cat but also from other animals such as pigs and horses. Over the last 50 years technology has improved so much that use of animals to make brushes is not necessary. The quality of work from synthetic brushes is not affected or any less. Take some time to consider the lives and horrible death of animals kept for their fur and hair, and for the environment. Animal based agriculture contributes more to greenhouse gas and climate effects than all transportation (planes, trains, cars and trucks) combined. Use only synthetic brushes, they are generally much cheaper, more resilient and are just as beautiful to use in applying paint, ink and pigment.


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