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We have all done it at one point or another, been happily sketching away only to lift your hand to find all the detail on one side of a delicate pencil drawing to be a fine grey smudge. Mucky hands aside this can be a real problem for artists at times when it comes to keeping a steady hand, preventing smudges and or trying for super fine detail. As always there is a right tool for the job. In this article we will take a look at some of the painting and drawing aides available that will help you keep a steady hand and a keen eye when it comes your work.
Derived from the Dutch maalstock meaning “painter’s stick”, the mahl stick is painting tool for steadying the hand that has seen consistent use in painting since the 16th century at the very least. In its simplest form the design consists of a stick with a padded end which rests on the edge or on a dry section of a large painting. This then provides the painter with a support to rest their painting arm on when a steady hand is required. The most common design of mahl stick frequently used screws together in the middle so the stick can be used at a half or full length as needed. The end of the stick is usually a soft material like cork and is wrapped and with a material like chamois leather, such materials are soft enough to leave dry paint layers undamaged if leant on. Not exclusively used by painters mahl sticks are used by draftsmen working on large plans, graffiti artist if they are working on murals with paint pens and by traditional sign writers as well.
A drawing hand rest, sometimes called an artist bridge, is a clear acrylic ledge that rests over a piece of paper or board to provide the artist with a steady perch from which to draw or paint. The main purpose of a hand rest is to keep your hands from touching your work when you do not want to risk smudging something or touching wet media but still need to work close to it. Incredibly useful for long-haul painting sessions where your arm might tire from hovering over a piece of work. It offers an anchor point for keeping a stable grip and helps when precise marks need to be made. We offer a range of sizes for drawing over paper sized from A6 to A1. Acrylic hand rests are an inch or so up off the table which means there should be nothing touching the underside and this leaves ample room even if you are using a standard edge canvas, providing you are not working too thickly with your paints.
Sometimes we need to take a closer look, especially when it regards the finest of details. As such there are a whole range of magnifiers for artists on the market, stretching all the way from tabletop size to free standing floor-based units. Magnifiers come in a variety of shapes and sizes featuring a magnification lens with an adjustable angle and sometimes they offer inbuilt lights to provide an even better view of things. Some such as the Starmag Flexilens has a base clamp for attaching to easels, table or boards. Alternatively, the MAGnificent magnifying lamp is an adjustable height floor lamp with a large magnifying lens and features an inbuilt led light system to provide a bright, directed light where you need it most. If you are interested in a magnifier, it is best to consider which one will best suit your working practices and choose accordingly. Click here for a wide range of magnifiers.
We hope that we have brought to your attention the advantages of these useful tools. It is never a bad thing to rely on an extra piece of equipment if it helps in the creative process and assists you in achieving the best result. As always there is a right tool for the job and we trust you will keep that in mind when next you reach for your brush or pencil. There is always something we can do to keep improving our skills as artists, whether it is honing a skill or integrating a new tool into your repertoire.
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