10 top tools for traditional artists this February

We've hit that time of year when resolutions start to wobble. So we've got a stack of cool new art books to keep you ticking over creatively. One title looks at the big ideas every artist needs to know. Another focuses on how to draw with the humble coloured pencil. And we also have a book that introduces the 'painting party'. 

We're also getting stuck into watercolour techniques this month. Whether you've let your painting skills slip or you're just starting out, we've got a great new book on watercolour 'experiments' for you to get stuck into. We also look at the art of Star Wars, a smart new art journal, and some of the best art supplies around. 

01. Drink Laugh Paint

Drink Laugh Paint book cover

Just don't mix up your drinks and your paints

Ever heard a painting party? The authors of this book, Kerner Schon and Jackie Schon, run The Paint Bar in Boston (it's a 'paint-and-sip studio'). Here they tell you how to host your own boozy art party. It includes a list of the materials you'll need, theme suggestions, drinks ideas, and postcard invitations. It doesn't speculate on what time the drinking usurps the painting as the party's main activity.

02. Magisso ceramic shot glasses

Ceramic shot glasses with a slate finish

These ought to get your creative juices flowing

If you're going to host a painting party, host it right. Soak these shot glasses in water for a minute, then, when the water has evaporated, the ceramic's natural cooling effect kicks in, keeping your drink of choice nice and cold. That's not all though – you can also draw on the chalkboard surface. So next time you shoot a few tequilas, you can do it in the name of art.

03. The Art of Star Wars

The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi book cover

Includes lots of cute Porg concept art

The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets stuck into the work of Lucasfilm's 'visualists' – costume sketches, storyboards, concept art – and offers a look behind the scenes at the development of the movie from the bottom up. It includes interviews with the key players, while the Lucasfilm team comment on the art. Not just one for the diehards, this is a proper insight into how artists help make a movie.

04. Watercolor Workshop

Cover and spread from Watercolor Workshop

Beginners and watercolour veterans will find something to enjoy in this book

Sasha Prood puts a new spin on the traditional how-to book. She teaches you how to paint contemporary art by following her watercolour tips. They take the form of 100 experiments – wet-on-dry, wet-on-wet, flat washes, and so on – as well as colour and texture lessons. There's something here for both beginners and more advanced watercolour artists. 

05. Watercolour Workshop journal

Cover and spread from Watercolour Workshop journal

Start planning your next project with this journal

Prood has released a journal to accompanying her watercolour how-to guide. But this isn't just an add-on. It's a smart journal in its own right – the cover, especially, with foil-stamped accents on Prood’s watercolour swatches – and has stained edges, full-colour art by Prood, and lined paper, for journaling or noting down your next big watercolour project. 

06. Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours

Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour case and brush

The set won't stay this neat and clean for long...

Cotman is Winsor & Newton's entry-level range, aimed specifically at students and beginners. They're a good price, but come with the quality you'd expect from the brand. This sketchers pocket box is nice and portable, with 12 half pans and a brush, more than enough to get started or to paint on the go, and the lid doubles as a mixing palette.

07. Holbein watercolors: 24 colour set

Set of 24 watercolour tubes

Take your watercolours to the next level with this set

Once you've really got going in watercolours, you'll want to invest in some better materials. Holbein watercolours are "more finely ground than any other artist watercolour". That means you get smooth, non-bitty textures. The Japanese brand is also know for its big, lively, intense colours. This 24-piece sits right in the middles of a range that begins with a 12-piecer and goes up to 108. To complete your kit, take a look at guide to finding the right watercolour brush.

08. The Pocket Universal Principles of Art

The Pocket Universal Principles of Art cover featuring Michelangelo's David

Learn all about art in an approachable way

A good one if you're just getting serious about art, or if you're after a handy reference book for your studio. The Pocket Universal Principles of Art tackles 100 big ideas to help you better make and analyse art. The author, the artist and art teacher John A. Parks, aims to write "a book that presents the whole world of art in a way that is simple, clear and accessible".

09. Love Colored Pencils

Love Colored Pencils cover

Get awesome at drawing with this vibrant book

Vivian Wong shares her love of the humble coloured pencil in this book that promises to show you "how to get awesome at drawing". If you're already awesome, there's a ton of activities to work on within its pages, with each section demonstrating a particular technique before giving you space to practise it yourself.

10. Prismacolor Premier pencils

Prismacolor Premier pencils set

Low cost and high quality - what's not to love?

Prismacolour makes some of the best pencils around, and this Prismacolor Premier set is a top choice if you're after a great all-round set of coloured pencils. They're great for beginners (the price per pencil is low) but have the high-quality pigment more advanced artists look for. They blend well and are known for their buttery application. Really good for colouring books too.

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