How to Properly Clean and Maintain Drawing Tools

Drawing is a popular form of art that has been around for centuries. From charcoal and graphite pencils to colored pencils and markers, there are a variety of drawing tools available for artists to create their masterpieces. However, like any other tool, drawing tools require proper maintenance and cleaning to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. In this article, we will discuss the importance of cleaning and maintaining drawing tools, the different types of drawing tools and how to clean them, and some tips for maintaining their quality.

The Importance of Cleaning and Maintaining Drawing Tools

Drawing tools, just like any other art supplies, can be quite expensive. Therefore, it is essential to take care of them to ensure they last for a long time. Proper cleaning and maintenance not only prolong the life of your drawing tools but also ensure that they perform at their best. Here are some reasons why cleaning and maintaining your drawing tools is crucial:

  • Prevents contamination: Drawing tools come in contact with various surfaces, such as paper, canvas, and even skin. Over time, dust, dirt, and oils from your hands can build upon the tools, affecting their performance and causing contamination. Regular cleaning helps to remove these impurities and keep your tools in top condition.
  • Improves performance: As mentioned earlier, dirt and oils can affect the performance of your drawing tools. For example, a dirty pencil may not produce smooth and consistent lines, while a dirty marker may not distribute ink evenly. Cleaning your tools regularly can help maintain their quality and ensure they work as intended.
  • Prevents damage: Neglecting to clean and maintain your drawing tools can lead to damage over time. For instance, if you leave a marker uncapped, the tip may dry out, making it unusable. Similarly, if you do not clean your brushes properly, the bristles may become stiff and unusable. Regular maintenance can prevent such damage and save you from having to replace your tools frequently.

The Different Types of Drawing Tools and How to Clean Them

There are various types of drawing tools, each with its unique characteristics and cleaning methods. Here are some of the most common drawing tools and how to clean them:


Pencils are one of the most basic and versatile drawing tools. They come in different grades, from soft to hard, and are suitable for various techniques such as shading, hatching, and cross-hatching. Here’s how you can clean your pencils:

  • Sharpening: The first step to cleaning a pencil is to sharpen it. Use a sharpener to create a fine point, which will help you achieve precise lines and details in your drawings.
  • Erasing: If you have made any mistakes or want to lighten a particular area, you can use an eraser to remove the graphite. However, be careful not to press too hard, as it can damage the paper or leave marks.
  • Brushing: After using the eraser, you may notice some graphite residue on your paper. Use a soft-bristled brush to gently sweep away the excess graphite. This step is especially crucial if you are using a soft pencil, as it tends to leave more residue.

Colored Pencils

Colored pencils are a popular choice for artists who want to add vibrant colors to their drawings. They come in a wide range of colors and are suitable for various techniques such as layering and blending. Here’s how you can clean your colored pencils:

  • Sharpening: Just like regular pencils, colored pencils also need to be sharpened to achieve a fine point. However, make sure to use a sharpener specifically designed for colored pencils, as regular sharpeners may damage the soft lead.
  • Erasing: If you make any mistakes or want to lighten a particular area, you can use a kneaded eraser. These erasers are gentle and do not leave any residue, making them perfect for colored pencils.
  • Blending: To achieve a smooth and blended look, you can use a blending tool such as a blending stump or a tortillon. These tools help to mix and spread the colors, giving your drawing a more polished look.


Markers are a popular choice for artists who want to add bold and vibrant colors to their drawings. They come in various types, such as alcohol-based and water-based, and are suitable for different surfaces such as paper, canvas, and even wood. Here’s how you can clean your markers:

  • Capping: The most crucial step in maintaining markers is to cap them after use. Leaving a marker uncapped can cause the tip to dry out, making it unusable. Make sure to cap your markers tightly to prevent any air from entering.
  • Storing: When not in use, store your markers horizontally to prevent the ink from pooling at one end. This will also help to keep the ink evenly distributed throughout the marker.
  • Cleaning: If your marker has dried out or is not producing ink evenly, you can try cleaning the tip with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. This will help to remove any dried ink and unclog the tip.


Paintbrushes are an essential tool for artists who work with paints. They come in various shapes and sizes and are suitable for different techniques such as blending, glazing, and detailing. Here’s how you can clean your paintbrushes:

  • Rinsing: After using your paintbrush, rinse it with warm water to remove any excess paint. Make sure to use a gentle soap or brush cleaner to remove any stubborn paint.
  • Drying: After rinsing, gently squeeze the bristles to remove any excess water. Then, reshape the bristles with your fingers and lay the brush flat to dry. Avoid standing the brush upright, as this can cause the water to seep into the ferrule and loosen the bristles.
  • Conditioning: To keep your paintbrushes soft and pliable, you can use a brush conditioner or a small amount of hair conditioner. This will help to prevent the bristles from becoming stiff and unusable.

Tips for Maintaining the Quality of Your Drawing Tools

In addition to regular cleaning, there are some other things you can do to maintain the quality of your drawing tools. Here are some tips:

  • Store your tools properly: Make sure to store your drawing tools in a cool and dry place. Exposure to heat and humidity can cause the tools to warp or become unusable.
  • Use a protective case: If you are traveling with your drawing tools, make sure to use a protective case to prevent any damage. This is especially important for delicate tools such as pastels and charcoal pencils.
  • Replace damaged tools: If you notice any damage to your drawing tools, such as a broken tip or a bent bristle, it is best to replace them. Using damaged tools can affect the quality of your work and may even cause further damage.


Cleaning and maintaining your drawing tools is essential for any artist who wants to create high-quality and long-lasting artwork. By following the tips mentioned in this article, you can ensure that your drawing tools perform at their best and last for a long time. Remember to clean your tools regularly, store them properly, and replace any damaged tools to maintain their quality. With proper care and maintenance, your drawing tools will continue to help you create beautiful and inspiring art for years to come.