Beginner Art · Drawing · Pencils · Resources and Materials

4 Tools That Don’t Have a Place in The Art Room?

I get asked fairly regularly about certain tools by learners who are confused if they are suitable for art.  Often they have been told by previous art teachers that they weren’t tools for artists and in some cases ‘banned’ from the art room.  The classic ones that crop up are:

Automatic Pencil

The Automatic Pencil
The Automatic Pencil

A fine pointed pencil which lengthens when you push down on the top, a bit like a pen, often used for technical art or graphic design.

Why is it unpopular?

Mainly to do with the lack of tonal range that can be achieved and the limited types of line it can produce.

What can it be used for?

Tones can be build up in layers rather than by pressure as you would with a softer pencil.  Useful for high realistic, detailed work, cross-hatching and can be used in conjunction with softer pencils for finer detailed work.


The ruler
The ruler


Why is it unpopular?

Again it is associated with technical drawing and getting accuracy in measurements. It can inhibit the ‘free’ line and make work look static and mechanical.

What can it be used for?

It is useful for perspective to draw the converging lines and in general to draw guidelines.



Why are they unpopular?

They can encourage perfectionism and the rubbing out of ‘mistakes’.  Some teachers believe it is important to see our mistakes in order to correct them. The argument I have heard is that rubbing out is associated with shame and mistakes should not be shameful.

What they can be used for?

They are good for blending/smudging, the cheaper more ‘plastic’ erasers are good for this.  Although smudging of pencil by plastic erasers is seen as undesirable it can be used as a technique.

Erasers are also great for learning about tone by covering your paper with graphite or charcoal and rubbing off with an eraser to reveal lighter tones.  This type of drawing is know as subtractive drawing (taking away). Putty rubbers are best for this type of work because they can absorb pigment brilliantly.

Fine Nibbed Pens

Fine nibbed pen
Fine nibbed pen

Why are they unpopular?

They are very much associated with graphic design and fine, detailed work.  The pen gives you one tone and the fine nib is seen as limited in terms of expressive lines you can create.

What can they be used for?

They are good for fine detailed work, dots, crosshatching, dashes, swirls can all be achieved.  Tones can be built up through layering and mark-making.  They work well in combination with other media such as watercolour, pencil and pastel.

A fine nibbed pen used with pastel
A fine nibbed pen used with pastel

I have used all of the above and I only see them as tools like any other art material. Although I understand the reasons they are unpopular with some art teachers,  I think they can be used creatively.   I haven’t banned them in my art classes!

Is there any material that you have come across that has been ‘banned’ in the art class?  Do share…

2 thoughts on “4 Tools That Don’t Have a Place in The Art Room?

  1. Automatic pencils are ideal for drawing out and about, and a good alternative to fine nibbed pens. The grey line is gentler on the eye than black ink, can be erased(!), and you don’t have to worry about carrying a sharpener. They’re also ideal for small sketchbooks as you can draw small or fine detail with the fine point. I bought some disposable ones in the autumn, and love them. I find I tend to draw differently than I would with a regular pencil, and you can twist the graphite away to stop it breaking when you’re done.


    1. Yes there is so much you can do with different pencils including the automatic pencil. It is great with a light watercolour wash underneath or a bit of pastel smudged in lightly, so many possibilities!

      Liked by 1 person

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