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Technical drawings, graphic images and sketches can be created using a variety of instruments, ranging from traditional tools such as pencils, compasses, rulers and a variety of triangles as well as by computer. Drawing tools are used to make accurate and legible drawings and models. Whilst the computer can be used for most drawing and modeling requirements today, traditional drawing instruments such as those mentioned above are still important very important, particularly for freehand sketching and experimenting with shapes and lines. When drawing, sketching or attempting basic graphics work the pieces of equipment shown below are very useful and often essential.


A protractor is used to measure angles. A typical protractor is a semi-circular piece of plastic with 180 degrees printed around its curve. This piece of equipment is not only used in graphics for constructing accurate drawings but is also used in subjects like Mathematics. Also available for graphics is a full circle protractor which can be used to accurately measure angles greater than 180 degrees.

180 degree protractor
Diagram 1 – 180 degree protractor

Mechanical Pencil

A Mechanical pencil (sometimes known as a clutch pencil or refillable pencil) are used in drawings such as Orthogonal or Isometric drawings as they provide a very constant line thickness. The pencils come in a number of line thicknesses with the more common being 0.35, 0.5, and 0.7. These pencils can be very expensive as are the refills. (Diagram 2)

Mechanical Pencil
Diagram 2 – Mechanical Pencil


A compass (diagram 3) (or pair of compasses) is a technical drawing instrument that can be used for drawing circles or arcs. As dividers, they can also be used as tools to measure distances, in particular on maps. Compasses can be used for mathematics, drafting, navigation, and other purposes.

Compasses are usually made of metal and consist of two parts connected by a hinge. One part has a spike at its end which stops it from sliding on the paper when drawing a circle or arc, and the other part a pencil. The distance between the legs can be adjusted to allow the changing of the radius of the circle drawn.

Drawing compass
Diagram 3 – Compass

Set squares

Set Squares are used to draw accurate angles. The most common set squares are 45 degrees and 60/30 degrees. When using set squares they should always be used along with a T-Square. The Set-square rest on the straight edge of the T-Square and this ensures that the angle is drawn straight and with accuracy.

Set square set
Diagram 4 – Set squares


A ruler is one of the most important pieces of drawing equipment. An opaque-type rulers should only to used to measure distances with lines being drawn with T-Squares and Set Squares. But it must be remembered that the edge of a ruler is not guaranteed to have a perfectly straight edge unlike a good T-Square or Set Square. Rulers used in technical drawing are usually made of polystyrene. Rulers come in two types according to the design of their edge. Straight edge can be used with lead and felt pens, whereas when technical pen is used the edge must be grooved to prevent the spread of the ink.

Diagram 5 – Ruler


Used for erasing or rubbing out unwanted pencil lines on your drawings. They are often used with the aid of an erasing shield.

Staedtler eraser
Diagram 6 – Staedtler eraser

French Curves

A French curve is a template which is generally made out of plastic and is composed of many different curves and are normally purchased in a set of three or four (Diagram 7). They are used in manual drafting to draw smooth curves of varying radii. The shapes are segments of the Euler spiral or clothoid curve. The curve is placed on the drawing material, and a pencil is traced around its curves to produce the desired result.

French Curves set of three
Diagram 7 – French Curves

 Flexi Curve

A flexi-curve, also known as a flexible curve or flex curve is a flexible drawing tool that can be moulded to almost any curve or contour. It is usually made from lead which is wrapped in steel ribbons and covered in flexible plastic or rubber. They are used to draw curves  such as lines connecting points on a pattern.

Flexi Curves
Diagram 8 – Felix Curves

Ellipse template

An Ellipse template is used for drawing ellipse or oval shapes accurately. Diagram 9 shows 30/60 ellipse template. It is particularly useful for drawing ellipses on isometric drawings.

Elipse template
Diagram 9 – Ellipse template

Circle Template

A circle template is used to draw circles of set diameters. They are particularly useful if the circle is to small to be able to use a compass. They are plastic with a number of accurate circles cut out.  The circle template has its centers indicated at the edge of the circle. These are used to assist in locating the template accurately on your drawing. The diameter is selected and a sharp pencil is used to draw the circle or arc.

Circle Template
Diagram 10 – Circle Template

Drawing Board

A drawing board is a flat, smooth board on which to attach paper for making drawings or designs. Traditionally they are made of timber however modern day boards are constructed out of plastic. The board can be purchased in A4 size although they are more commonly found in schools as an A3 size format.

A3 Drawing Board

Board Clips

Board clips are used to hold the drawing paper in position when drawing board is not available. They are designed to clip on to the edge of a table or portable timber board and hold the paper down firmly against the flat surface. (Drawing board or table)

Drawing Board Clip
Diagram 12 – Drawing Board Clip

Eraser Shield

The  eraser shield is a simple metal or plastic plate, with openings of different sizes and shapes. These openings allow precise masking of small areas which allows you to erase without smearing or the accidental erasure of surrounding areas. An eraser shield is useful when correcting and editing a drawing.

Erasing Shield
Diagram 13 – Erasing Shield

Click here to find my Essential list for Graphics or Technical Drawing students

Click here to download the Drawing Equipment worksheet and printable version of this page