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In this series, we have covered a lot of ground already. 

We have learned about:

  • Drawing Surfaces
  • Jewelry Templates
  • Drawing/Design Paper

Now it is time, to take a good look at the pencils and other media used by the pros, to design jewelry.


A medium refers to the materials that are used to create a work of art. The plural of medium is media.

Today, I want to explore the media used in professional jewelry design.

I will be referencing a lot of what I have learned from my new book and from my research.

Drawing for Jewelers: Master Class in Professional Design

I am providing my affiliate links throughout this post for your convenience.

The media used in Jewelry Design are divided into two categories.

Dry Media – media that are used without thinners.

  1. Pencils
  2. Colored Pencils
  3. Felt-tip Markers
  4. Ballpoint and Fountain Pens

Wet Media – media that is thinned/diluted with water.

  1. Artist Inks
  2. Gouache

Other media, such as, Pastels, Watercolors, Crayons, Enamels and Acrylics are not typically used in the jewelry design field. However, you certainly can use them in artistic renderings of your work if you like.  

Dry Media

Graphite pencils come varying degrees of hardness.

The graphite is mixed with  different amounts of hardener, usually clay, to alter the degree of hardness or softness to the pencil lead. 

The lead is the formed into thin sticks and made into pencils.

A universal standardized system is used to differentiate the various degrees of hardness in the graphite pencil industry.

H Pencils are the hardest and B pencils are the softest.

H Pencils are numbered from 9H through H, with 9H being the lightest and hardest.

B Pencils are numbered from B through 9B with 9B being the darkest and softest.

The HB and F pencils fall, on the scale, between the H and B pencils in degree of hardness. 

The F, stands for a pencil that can be sharpened to a fine point. 

Softer leads are darker and are great for creating shadows and blends. 

Harder leads are lighter and are best used for drawing lines and precise details. 

There are also lead refills, for mechanical pencils, that vary in degree of hardness as well. These are numbered by the same standard system described above.  

Mechanical pencil leads come in a variety of diameters and produce fine to very fine lines. 

Colored Pencils

Colored Pencils have a core of colored pigment and protective casing made of wood.

As discussed earlier, standard pencils have a core of graphite and clay.

The cores of most common colored pencils are made with either a wax or an oil binder. Watercolor pencils have a water soluble gum arabic binder.

Wax Based Color Pencils

Wax-based colored pencils tend to show up lighter on the paper allowing you to work in layers.

There’s a wide range of wax-based pencils to choose from with the hard lead you probably used in grade school and a softer lead used by more experienced artists.

Wax-based pencils offer a softer core that can break easily.

It’s recommended to use a fixative with wax-based pencils as it prevents the wax from rising to the surface or “blooming”. 



  • Most Popular
  • Cheaper
  • Easier to find
  • More Color Selection
  • Easier to Erase

Wax bloom – the wax binder comes to the top layer of the color -creates a cloudy haze over the pigment.  

In some (but not all) wax-based cores there can also be issues with the pencils being less durable since the core is softer.

Oil Based Color Pencils

Oil-based pencils are much more expensive than wax-based ones but they offer a much more professional look.

Oil-based pencils on the other hand are more specialized, smear easily, and rely on the artist’s skill.

Oil-based pencils have a harder core

Oil-based pencils lay down a lot of color, eliminating the need to work in layers.

A fixative is not needed when working with oil-based colored pencils.



  • Most Durable
  • Can be sharpened to a finer point
  • Better for intricate work
  • Professional finish
  • Wax Bloom is not an issue

Oil based pencils can also smear somewhat easily.

Oil based pencils are more expensive and can be harder to find and have less selection. 

When it comes down to choosing either wax-based or oil-based colored pencils to work with, it’s all about personal preference. Both options have their pros and cons producing different looks. 

Soft Core vs. Hard Core

Very soft core pencils tend to produce the most intense and vibrant colors. They are especially good for blending colors that have been layered on top of each other. Being soft, they tend to break more easily and they won’t hold a point for very long.

Hard core pencils won’t give you the same color intensity and they are more difficult to blend and layer. However, they are great for fine detail and crisp edges because they hold a point really well.

Before we move on, I want to briefly share with you, the pencil set I chose to begin learning how to draw and design my jewelry professionally. 

Shuttle Art 123 Pack Art Pencil Set

  • 36 Watercolor Pencils
  • 36 Oil Based Pencils
  • 12 Sketch Pencils
  • 12 Metallic Color Pencils
  • 12 Charcoal Pencils
  • 15 Sharpeners, Blurring Tools and more

This set includes a wonderful variety of the dry media we have discussed today.

Although my new book states that pens and markers fall under the dry media category, a case could be made for assigning them to the wet media category. 

Let’s take a look and you can decide for yourself. 

Felt-tip Markers

Felt-tip markers come in a variety of inks and nibs. 

Water based inks are more opaque and alcohol based inks are more transparent.

Nibs can range from very fine point to chiseled tips and even brush tips to add texture and color to your work. 

Water Based with Fine and Brush Tips
Alcohol Based with Dual Tips and Blender Tool

Ballpoint and Fountain Pens

Pens are a great way to add color and highly defined lines to your artistic designs. 

Today, we have gel inks that come in a beautiful variety of colors and finishes. From metallic to glitter and everywhere in between, pens are a great addition to your design kit. 


Dipping Style Fountain Pen with Nibs
Cartridge Style Fountain Pen

Fountain pens offer another way to add ink and color to your work. You can change the stroke of ink simply by changing the angle of the nib. And there are numerous color options to choose from. You can use a fountain pen with water soluble artist inks. We will talk more about that in the next section.

Wet Media

Artists inks can be either water-soluble or non-water-soluble forms.

Water-soluble inks can be diluted with water or other media to achieve washings, shading and other effects. 

They can also be used with fountain pens and various nibs for defining lines and detail.


Water Soluble Inks
India Inks

Non-water-soluble inks contain a lacquer and are more dense.

They have a shiny finish when dry. 

These inks can also be diluted with water.

Droppers, brushes and nib pens are the most commonly used tools for using inks. 

Gouache is tempera with a gum arabic base. It differs from  the inks above in that it is very opaque and offers a generous covering property.

They are mixed with white gouache to dilute the intensity of the color.

And Gouache is very mixable to obtain a large spectrum of colors and ombré effect.

How does all of this info relate to beginner level jewelry drawing and design?

I decided that in the beginning, I would concentrate on sketching media and chose the Shuttle Art 123 Pack Art Pencil Set shown above. 

I already have a nice variety of gel pens and I do plan to add both water and alcohol based markers soon to my kit. 

Later, when my skill level reaches a much more advance stage, I may decide to add the inks and gouache. Until then, I don’t really think the expense is warranted. 

I hope you have found this post useful and you plan to join me for more in Jewelry Design Basics. 

In the next portion of the series, I will begin to explore the first book I bought to learn the basic processes, Drawing for Jewelers: Master Class in Professional Design.

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