My Virtual Studio: Preclass -Which medium?

Welcome to My Virtual Studio! This class is chock full of all kinds of content – and is aimed at several audiences:

  • People who want to know what *I* am using in my studio currently. This class will be updated as things change; when I add a new tool or replace colors in a palette, I’ll make those revisions in this class.
  • People who have an urge to get started but don’t know where to begin and what supplies would be helpful. There’s tons of advice out there, and not every tool is required to make art! In this course there are descriptions for items that will explain whether it’s crucial for success, recommended, or optional.

How class works

This course is a little different than others here on this site.

  1. It’s free. Yes, there are a few other free classes here (Paintalong Watercolor and Holiday Card Backgrounds, for example), but this class is, too! There are compensated affiliate links throughout the class, which means if you make a purchase I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can also opt to buy supplies elsewhere, but the affiliate purchases from these links in the class and PDFs help defray the cost of having some free classes available on this site.
  2. It’s non-linear. That means you can skip to the lesson out of the 25 that you’re most interested in. (Most classes here require you complete lesson 1, then move to 2, etc. and they won’t open the next lesson til you’ve marked the previous one complete.)
  3. It’s not project- based. While most lessons includes some videos (some have several, and many are already public on YouTube), there is only one tutorial for a project to create. The focus in class is the art supplies themselves, and how to care for them, troubleshoot what’s wrong, and figure out if you actually need an item or not.

You can scroll through the 25 or so lessons and pick out what you want to view; no lesson needs to be seen “before” any other lesson, and if another lesson has helpful related supplies, it’ll be mentioned.

Where do I start in choosing a medium?

If you’re just beginning on your creative journey, the vast amount of shelf space in your local art store or number of pages on an art store website can be mind boggling. Where do you start?

That depends on what YOU want to do.

If you want to learn to draw and paint, whether as an end in itself or as an aid to making scenes in crafty projects, my first advice is to learn to draw. I tell young people that all the time – if you have solid drawing skills and can begin to tackle perspective and shading, you’ll do far better with any medium. (Same advice for crafty folks too – the basics are the basics no matter what you create!)

Start with Drawing. There’s a Drawing 101 class here that you can accomplish with a cheap sketchbook and a pencil (though there are lots of other fun supplies you can try!).

Or Jumpstart with a medium. Mediums are more expensive than just a pencil, of course, but can be lots of fun! Colored pencil is most intuitive/easiest, watercolor is hardest, Copic is most expensive – read below for the pros and cons of each. For learning on this site, each medium has a “Jumpstart” class that introduces the medium, how to apply it, some techniques to get you started, and a few tricks to light up your creative thinking. Most all of them include basic color theory to set students up for success in understanding color. To create scenes, drawing skills will be helpful, but sometimes learning to do the basics of coloring is enough to get you excited and making things!

There are other mediums planned to be introduced on this site (airbrush and pastel are on my wishlist), as well as more intermediate and advanced classes in each medium that will keep artists growing, whether they’re starting with blank paper or using their skills to create papercraft projects.

Which medium is good for what?

Similar works can be created sometimes in a variety of mediums, but some styles and projects are better suited to one thing or another. This section discusses that to one extent or another and includes a few pros/cons for each. They’re generally arranged from entry level to more challenging, but for some, skipping right to the end is ok too!

Graphite Pencil: Simple or complex, pencil drawings have been a staple for artists for centuries. Different styles and techniques make each person’s drawings like a fingerprint: unique to that artist alone!

  • PROS: Inexpensive – a simple #2 pencil can do amazing work, and add in a range of soft and hard pencils adds to the variety. Pencils are easy to travel with, and cleanup is easy. Most any kind of paper works, and that means supplies are easily available.
  • CONS: Forces an artist to draw! (For some that’s a drawback- ha!)

Colored Pencil: Since we all have operated pencils throughout our lives, colored pencils are one of the most intuitive mediums to begin with. Works can be highly detailed, very simple, or expressive – but the precise control that can be gained from a sharpened pencil are great for people drawn to creating with fine details. For papercrafters, colored pencils are great for small stamps with tiny details.

  • PROS: The ease of learning colored pencil makes them a great starting medium. The hand knows how to hold a pencil, and only the techniques need to be learned, so it’s not a long journey to making beautiful work. A nice full set of quality colored pencils can also be more reasonable than supplies for other mediums. Smaller sets also can create beautiful works!
  • CONS: Colored pencils are best suited for smaller works, unless one has a lot of time available! The medium can not cover a large page with a flood of color easily.

Watercolor Pencils: Similar to colored pencils, these rely on existing pencil-holding skills. The color melts away (to one extent or another) with water, so these are a great transition tool to become used to watercolor.

  • PROS: The hand already knows how to hold a pencil – and the coloring need not be precise, as the water moves the color to create blends and fill in open spaces easily. Watercolor pencil grows brush skills that can lead to more expansive learning in regular watercolor. Also good for people who like to watercolor but not see pencil lines.
  • CONS: Watercolor pencils are a little more supply-intensive than colored pencil, as these require a brush and watercolor paper. The higher the quality of the paper, the more pigment remains. The better the pencil quality, the more easily it blends, so that also adds to the cost.

Water-based Markers: An inexpensive option for coloring, with the ease of applying in a familiar hand motion as it’s a pen – but the ability to move it with water and create interesting techniques. Some brands blend better than others; and certain papers will work much better than others.

  • PROS: Very inexpensive, and easy to find in all kinds of stores. Colors are most often more intense than many other types of coloring mediums. These markers are excellent for stamped watercolor techniques – and stamped watercolor classes! A free conversion chart for 20 colors is avaiilable HERE.
  • CONS: Each brand works a little differently, and requires some testing to find the right papers for the desired effects.

Copic Markers: Many gorgeous projects shared all over the internet are colored with Copic markers. When strong color is desired, with smooth blends, Copics are up to the task. All sorts of stamps work well with them, but if tiny detail is needed, combine colored pencil on top for detail.

  • PROS: Copics are an alcohol marker, and they blend beautifully! The markers come in up to 358 colors, and the nibs are replaceable and inks are refillable—so once you buy a marker, it’s yours for life with a little maintenance! Learning basic blending requires practice, but it’s doable!
  • CONS: Copics are more expensive than other types of art supplies; buying them carefully in groups that blend well is important, so that you’ve got colors that play nicely together. Copics are not lightfast – meaning if art is left out in the light, colors will fade.

Watercolor paints: The artistic beauty of watercolors has been around for hundreds of years, and can achieve highly realistic or highly expressive styles, and anywhere in between. For crafters: focus on stamps with large open areas for best/easiest application.

  • PROS: Not many colors are needed once you learn to mix colors, which cuts down on expense. (The Watercolor Jumpstart class really helps understand that well.) The variety of styles and techniques that can be done in watercolor make it an exciting medium to learn, and it’s great for those who are lifelong learners. You’ll never know everything about painting in watercolor!
  • CONS: Watercolor is, in the opinion of many, the hardest medium to conquer. It takes lots of practice and patience; quick success is not always in the cards. The cost of good brands of paint, paper and brushes can be a barrier to some, but once invested in good supplies, the rewards pay off.

For more on each of these mediums along with suggested supplies, tips, and shopping links, see the appropriate lesson.


A while ago I created this video for Ellen Hutson talking about four mediums, and this could be helpful for you too! I produce a coloring video for her channel once a month, so subscribing to her channel means more of me in your inbox!

View on YT

Join our creative community! Our Student Facebook Group is for all classes here …and while there are no finished projects in this class, you’re welcome to join the group and get an idea of what kind of beautiful works can be created from learnings in classes on this website!