Architecture Stationery List for Students

When I started my architecture studies I was presented with a lengthy and expensive list of recommended stationary. I studiously purchased everything on that list, draining a good chunk of my hard-earned savings, but some of the most expensive items were never used at all! My elite ink drafting pens were left in my draw to dry up, and I avoided using yellow trace paper due to the cost-per-sheet! Over the years I learned what items were essential, what wasn’t, and found cheaper versions of many of them. Below is my personally recommended list of essentials.

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Staple stationery items:

You really don’t need anything too fancy - the following is what I recommend as reliable essentials, along with some penny pinching secrets that I learned the hard way:

Black 0.4 Artline Fineliners (12 pack $26.85) - for everyday notes and quick sketching (I prefer to sketch in pen) - buy in bulk as you’ll work your way through many.

A set of different weight Fineliners ($25.05) - for more detailed drawings. Guard these carefully as they have a habit of going for a walk!

A simple sensible scale ruler ($10.85) - I made the mistake of getting a fancy triangular ruler, but I find it annoying to use and I’ve never required 1:400 or 1:250 scale. This ruler is cheap, keeps it simple, and covers all the scales you are most likely to come across; 1:1, 1:5, 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200 and 1:500.

A mechanical pencil, extra leads and suitable sharpener ($12.75) - When you do reach for a pencil to sketch, the mechanical pencil with a thick lead is far superior to the old 2B you may be used to. It can be manipulated while sketching to vary line thickness as you draw.

Recommended model making starter kit:

For your basic sketch model making (don’t buy final presentation model materials until later in the semester, when you know exactly what you want to use,) I suggest the following:

A Stanley knife ($6) - no more cutting with scissors! Use a knife and metal ruler for accurate cutting. A cheap Stanley knife will do just fine. Be sure to buy some blades for it too.

A metal ruler ($3.79) - for cutting with your Stanley knife. Get a simple cheap one so you’re not tempted to ruin your good scale ruler - ideally a small one to carry around at Uni, and a bigger 60cm one for larger models at home.

Cheat’s trace paper - you can buy the fancy ‘proper stuff’ (I’m embarrassed to admit how many of these bad-boys I wasted money on), but home brand baking paper does almost the same job, for a fraction of the price. My office even use this! So, no affiliate link here, just head to your nearest supermarket and buy the cheapest baking paper they have. I won’t tell anyone!

Cutting mat ($9.99) - if you can only afford one, get an A3, but if you can afford two, get a portable A4 one and a bigger A2 one for large models.

PVA craft glue ($3.95) - don’t get talked in to expensive glues until you’ve tried learning to use PVA sparingly and carefully.

Hot glue gun and glue sticks ($17) - you don’t need an expensive glue gun - my cheap plastic one has lasted me 12 years and is still going strong.

Model materials - for these ones I recommend you visit your local Eckersley’s Art and Craft Store. You’ll want some modelling foam (to quickly cut up shapes for mass studies), some foam core (3mm sheets are handy for representing a standard building storey at 1:1000), and maybe some balsa wood, brown card, and clear plastic sheets.