Recommended materials, activities, and resources lists

A palette knife on a palette covered in oil paint, with two beakers of oil on the side.

Our Cambridge School of Art Course Leaders have put together a list of recommended resources and materials to help you get ARU-ready before your course starts in September.

Please bear in mind these are all recommendations. You are not required to purchase any of these materials or read all the resources before your course starts. For Fine Art, we strongly recommend you read or make a start on reading, Michael Archer – ‘Art Since 1960’.

Once you are fully registered, you'll be able to access a few of these resources from our online library as well. So take your time - you're not expected to access them before you register.

Materials list for Animation and Illustration - Course-specific requirements

You will use most of these materials throughout your degree and beyond graduation. Please ensure you order these asap, otherwise, it may restrict your participation in various Modules as you start your Course. All books recommended for your course throughout your degree are also available in the University library. The studios are equipped with desktop Macs and Wacom Cintiqs. The optional devices listed below are for when working from home.

IT resources

  • Essential: WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive 1000GB or USB drive min 16GB
  • Optional: AV laptop: Recommended is a MacBook Pro 13-inch Software instructions are on Apple systems, but you can also opt for a Windows system. (You can access the computers in the studio every day and during the weekend, so this is only recommended for completing projects outside studio hours).
  • Optional: A4 LED drawing lightbox (from Amazon or can be borrowed from Media Services)
  • Optional: A5/A4 WACOM drawing tablet or equivalent (from Currys or can be borrowed from Media Services)

Art materials

  • A4 Sketchbooks (available at the university Students' Union shop)
  • Black fine liner pens (a range, waterproof ink)
  • Black India ink
  • A range of paintbrushes
  • At least two different colour pencils: Faber-Castell Polychromos or Caran D’Ache (Level 4 week 4, will be explained in class)
  • Erasers (soft and hard)
  • Box of willow charcoal
  • 2x bulldog clips or masking tape
  • Fixative or a strong-hold hairspray
  • Pritt stick
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel
  • Cutting board (can be shared)
  • Acrylic paints & palette knife (Level 4 week 6, you will be instructed in class which colours to buy. If you live far away and have acrylics at home, bring them to Cambridge)

Optional

  • A4 Piece of Perspex and whiteboard pen (Level 4, optional, will be explained in week 1)
  • Plastic A1-A2 Folder or other storage solutions (optional)
  • 2-hole office puncher (optional - can be shared among peers)
  • Mid grey tone marker pen
  • A colour range of chalk pastels, such as Derwent Academy Soft Pastels Pack of 24
  • Any other art materials that you already own, may be useful to bring with you

Book

Richard Williams, The Animation Survival Guide (Optional, available to borrow from the library).

Read more about more recommended materials.

Suggested summer activities

On campus, you fill find all the material you need to fully engage with your course, but, if you want you can try and do the following during the summer:

  • Think about what you would like to get out of the course, and write some ideas down (we will be making a course manifesto together in September)
  • You can try and keep a summer diary, include, photos, video, sound, drawing or whatever you like use. I challenge you to make it into an interesting format.

Most of all, come in September, ready to learn and to say YES to all opportunities; we have lots of exciting projects for you!

You will find all the resources you need on campus once you start your course, including Mac Suite workstations running Adobe software, and laptops you can take out on loan free of charge. However, you may want your own laptop or tablet for homeworking.

You will have access to Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) as well as Adobe Suite, via the university for free when you start in September.

You may want to start your course with the following equipment ready for each of your modules:

  • A4 notebook with lined paper
  • A4 or A5 sketchbook with plain paper
  • A range of pens and pencils to draw and write with.

Over the summer, you may want to get a head start on keeping up to date with the world of fashion. We encourage you to read magazines, newspapers, and engage with social media such as:

We also suggest you visit fashion and textile exhibitions and museums which are often free or low cost to students, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and Dundee, the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, the Fashion Museum in Bath, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Blandford Fashion Museum in Dorset, and the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

You will be able to access eBooks via our ARU library once you register. When you've done that, you might want to look at the following books. However, please don't feel obliged to purchase or read them before your course starts. You'll be able to get them from the library once fully registered and on campus.

  • Joseph H. Hancock II (2022) Fashion Brand Stories. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Kirsten K. Swanson, Judith C. Everett, and Jenny B. Davis (2022) Writing for the Fashion Business. New York: Fairchild Books.
  • Akiko Fukai (Ed.) (2019) Fashion History: From the 18th to the 20th Century. Koln: Taschen.

Here is a list of recommended tools you will need as you start your course. You will use most of these throughout your degree and beyond graduation. All the books recommended for your course throughout your degree are available in the University library.

Suggested sources: Morplan / Amazon (Student discounts available)

Product: Pattern Master (metric)
Description: A ruler used for pattern cutting and adding seam allowance
Approx cost (subject to change): £23.95

Product: Tape Measure
Description: Measuring
Approx cost (subject to change): £0.99

Product: 1 meter rule
Description: For pattern cutting large patterns (Perspex)
Approx cost (subject to change): £18.95

Product: Tracing wheel
Description: Re-patterning - tracing patterns
Approx cost (subject to change): £9.25

Product: Varyform Curve
Description: Pattern drafting
Approx cost (subject to change): £14.95

Product: Graders Set square
Description: Pattern drafting
Approx cost (subject to change): £15.95

Product: French curves
Description: Pattern drafting (set)
Approx cost (subject to change): £3.59

Product: Flexicurve
Description: Pattern drafting
Approx cost (subject to change): £6.95

Product: Tailors chalk
Description: For marking out patterns onto fabric (box of 50)
Approx cost (subject to change): £9.25

Product: Awl
Description: Used to make holes and pattern manipulation
Approx cost (subject to change): £2.79

Product: Pattern Notcher
Description: Mark notches in patterns/blocks
Approx cost (subject to change): £19.95

Product: Pattern drill
Description: Creates neat, 4mm dart holes
Approx cost (subject to change): £8.95

Product: Pins
Description: Pinning for toiling, during manufacture
Approx cost (subject to change): £4.50

Product: Pin Cushion
Description: Manufacturing of garments
Approx cost (subject to change): £4.35

Product: Stitch unpicker
Description: Unpicking stitches
Approx cost (subject to change): £0.89

Product: Tailor shears
Description: Fabric use only (Wilkinson 25 cm)
Approx cost (subject to change): £42.95

Product: General purpose scissors and small scissors
Description: General use and manufacturing - as a pack
Approx cost (subject to change): £12.50

Product: Propelling pencil (2H,0.5mm leads)
Description: Pattern drafting/technical drawing/illustration
Approx cost (subject to change): £2.41

Product: Pencils HB, 2B
Description: Drawing (pack of 12)
Approx cost (subject to change): £1.29

Product: Coloured pencils
Description: Drawing/illustration (as a set)
Approx cost (subject to change): £10.75

Product: Mapac Clear Project Bag A3
Description: Clear plastic folio for transporting patterns and other work to studio and to submit work
Approx cost (subject to change): £2.99

Product: Masking Tape
Description: Pattern cutting manipulation
Approx cost (subject to change): £1.09

Product: Fine Tipped Pens
Description: Technical drawing and fashion illustration, e.g. Pilot box of 12 (or buy as a single item)
Approx cost (subject to change): £22.95 (box of 12)

Product: Eraser
Description: Technical drawing and fashion illustration
Approx cost (subject to change): £0.79

Product: Pritt stick glue
Description: General use
Approx cost (subject to change): £1.39

Product: Scalpel / craft knife
Description: General use
Approx cost (subject to change): £2.09

Product: Hand sewing needles
Description: General use
Approx cost (subject to change): £0.69

Read more about more recommended materials.

Art activity

Start a small sketchbook (either A6, A5 or A4) and visit an exhibition, and make a few pages of drawings/notes on what you see, including some thumbnail studies of artworks.

Try to make each page interesting as an artistic statement in itself, thinking about composition, editing, mark-making, negative space, etc.

Drawing "thumbnail studies" of individual artworks may help animate each page and enhance your understanding of each work. (See below for some examples of lively studies of artworks based on a museum visit).

Please write details of the exhibition, location and individual artworks alongside, and please also include a short reflective comment on what you have learnt from each artwork / artist, identifying where their interests might lie, and to start understanding their thoughts about art.

The exhibition can be in a local art museum or gallery near where you live, and could be as part of a trip to Cambridge or London.

Larger museums and galleries currently require visitors to book in before visiting, via the gallery website.

Please remember the excellent range of free exhibitions which are available to see in different locations, such as Tate Modern or Tate Britain in London, or the Fitzwilliam Museum or Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.

The New Exhibitions website will be a helpful point of reference when planning a trip to a gallery.

If possible, a trip to Tate Modern is strongly recommended to see the main collection (Level 2 and Level 4 of the main building are always worth seeing and are free to visit), and if possible to view the current exhibitions, Expressionists and Yoko Ono.

Please be aware that as a student aged 16-25, you can gain entry for £5 to all specialist exhibitions at any of the Tate's galleries, if you join via the Tate Collective beforehand.

Thumbnail study examples

Various sketches and notes of art studies
Various sketches and notes of art studies

Recommended reading prior to starting at ARU

Books

We strongly recommend you read or make a start on reading:

Michael Archer – Art Since 1960

We're able to provide you with the first chapter of the book as a digital file. (NB copyright restrictions will not allow further chapters to be scanned).

This book is a key text which we use when teaching the course, so we suggest that you buy a copy. You might prefer to get a good quality used copy, as these are much more affordable.

Please read chapters 1, 2 and 3:

  • Chapter 1: The Real and its Objects (pages: 11-59)
  • Chapter 2: The Expanded Field (pages: 60-108)
  • Chapter 3: Ideology, Identity and Difference (pages: 109-141)

Here are some more recommended books that you can buy, or find in the ARU library.

  • Art in Theory 1900 – 2000, Harrison, C and Wood, P.J. (Wiley-Blackwell 2002). An important text book containing key essays / statements by artists and critics that will help support studies in both studio and contextual modules. The course will draw heavily on this book, so we would advise you to buy a copy.
  • After Modern Art 1945-2000, Hopkins, D. (Oxford 2000). The course will draw on this book, so you may wish to buy a copy, but there are also copies available in the ARU library.
  • This is Modern Art, Collings, M. (London: Seven Dials 1999). An additional book that may be of interest to you as a fine art student. It accompanied a tv series of the same name, which is available on DVD in the ARU library, along with copies of the book.
  • Harvard Referencing Guide. A crucial guide on how to reference in your essays at ARU.

Websites

Key websites that will be a very useful resource when you're researching artists and exhibitions:

Websites for local galleries and art organisations in the Cambridge area:

Kit list

Basic materials

Useful websites for books, tools and materials:

Required materials

Please purchase these materials before arriving - they will provide your basic needs for studying the practical modules on our BA Fine Art course.

Art storage
  • Tools and art materials box (lockable)
  • Padlock
  • USB memory stick
  • A1 portfolio
Painting and drawing materials
  • B, 2B and 4B pencils
  • Medium sized charcoal
  • Acrylic paint (a range of colours inc. black and white)
  • A range of paint brushes
  • (2x) A4 or A5 sketchbooks
  • Rubber
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Scissors
  • 1” masking tape
  • Painting pallet
  • Pallet knife
  • Painting apron or shirt
  • Glass jars
  • Painting rags
Tools
  • Craft knife (or Stanley knife)
  • 30cm metal ruler
  • Small claw hammer
  • Steel tape measure
  • Phillips screwdriver (medium size)
  • Pliers
  • 1.5” panel pins
  • Staple gun
  • Bradawl

Optional materials

These may be be useful for your studio work:

  • Digital camera
  • Coloured pencils
  • Pastels or Conté crayons
  • Oil paints and mediums
  • Black drawing ink

First Year Cohorts will have access to Mac Suite workstations running Adobe software for both taught sessions and within timetabled open access times, in order to complete their project work. However, you may ultimately wish to progress work from home or during commuting to and from University, and you may want to consider the list below for Agile Working.

Home and Agile Working

  • Home workstation area, incl. appropriate height desk and adjustable office chair
  • Laptop, preferably a Mac running latest OS
  • Laptop riser plinth, mouse and keyboard
  • Internet broadband provider, minimum of 8mbs
  • Internet Browsers: Safari, and Chrome

 

Work Backup and File Transport

Although some server storage is made available to students on campus. Every student will also need to utilise a Mac compatible External Hard Drive device for storage and back-up of work (this is vital to prevent any loss of ongoing work). You will also need on occasion a USB Memory Stick for transporting an individual project

 

Mobile Camera and Device Software

  • Smartphone with hi-res camera
  • ARU app, Canvas app, SLACK app, Microsoft apps including Teams

 

Materials

  • A4 Black Hardback Sketchbook is recommended for each module
  • A5 Black Hardback Notebooks or a small Sketchbook is needed for each module
  • Black Fine Line Pens
  • The usual – good quality pencils, sharpener, ruler, rubber etc.

 

Note: You may also need to purchase further materials on occasion for working on-campus as directed by a Module Leader or Tutor.

Read more about more recommended materials.

We are really looking forward to working with you on the Illustration Course and thought it might be helpful to provide a list of materials that you will be using in the first few weeks of the course.

All of these materials can be purchased once you arrive in Cambridge, but given the cost of living and financial pressures, this list at least gives you the chance to purchase materials over the Summer and to spread the cost, rather than having to buy them all in one go.

  • A range of sketchbooks (available at the University if you can’t get them before) - A5/A4 for location work and A3 for studio work, hard backed if possible and no ring bound sketchbooks please
  • Faber-Castell 9000 Art Set 12 graphite pencils (only a couple)
  • Black fine liner pens (a range, waterproof ink)
  • Black ink – Waterproof and non waterproof (Waterproof for studio work and non waterproof for location drawing)
  • A range of paintbrushes from ¼” to 1” in size
  • A4 piece of Perspex. Otherwise known as acrylic sheet. Available online
  • At least two different colour pencils - Faber-Castell Polychromos or Caran D’Ache
  • Erasers (soft and hard)
  • A colour range of chalk pastels, such as Derwent Academy Soft Pastels (specified as 2 chalk pastels complimentary)
  • Box of willow charcoal
  • Masking tape
  • Fixative or a strong-hold hairspray (non perfumed)
  • Plastic A2 folder (doesn’t need to be ring bound). For keeping life drawings flat and together
  • Pritt Stick
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel. Swann Morton with a pack of 10a and or 11 blades
  • Craft Cutting mat at least A4 size
Read more about more recommended materials.

Materials

Although you can find computers and model-making tools on campus, you may also find it useful to have your own equipment for working on projects from home.

  • Your own laptop, with a dedicated (i.e. not shared) graphics card.
  • A3 cutting mat
  • 1:25 figures standing (pack of six)
  • 1:50 figures standing (pack of six)
  • Architect's scale ruler
  • Chromed steel safety ruler
  • UHU stick (40g)
  • Masking tape (18mm x 50mm)
  • 3M Magic Tape (19mm x 33m)
  • Scissors, large (190mm)
  • Scissors, small
  • Swann Morton scalpel blade remover
  • Swann Morton scalpel (No. 3) with blades
  • Large set square, big enough to draw on A3 paper. (The adjustable ones are good but more expensive).
  • Tracing paper - a pad of A3 will be useful for your technical drawings. We also recommend generally having a roll of tracing paper for this module and studio that is not so precious.
  • Long tape measure (for surveying spaces)
  • Graphite pencils (a range including HB, 2B and 4B), eraser and sharpener
  • Isometric paper - no need to buy a pad, if you have a sheet printed off on A3 you can use this multiple times with tracing paper over the top.
  • Drawing paper (A3 minimum)
  • A range of papers generally to collage is always useful, drawings on grey or brown packaging paper can be very successful particularly using a white crayon and ink or graphite. You may wish to bring a range of coloured or textured papers to lessons.
  • Uni Pin Fine Line pens - these can be purchased in multipacks of different widths.
  • Watercolour paper and watercolour paints/brushes.
  • Promarkers or other quality marker pens. The colours we find useful are not the primary bright ones that usually come in the multipacks but the softer tones, neutrals and greys. Think about what you are likely to draw before purchasing colours.
  • Inexpensive plain paper or sketchbook.

Books

In terms of books, these two are great introductions to interior design. However, please do not feel obliged to purchase them or read them before your course starts. Both are completely voluntary, and you'll be able to get them from the library once fully registered and on campus.

  • Thomas, H., 2018. Drawing Architecture (London, Phaidon Press).
  • Taylor, M. (Ed), 2006. Intimus: Interior Design Theory Reader (London, Academy Press).

You will find all the photography resources you need on campus, but you may want your own laptop for homeworking. For more information, see our specific technical requirements.

You’ll be able to access e-books once you register. When you’ve done that you might want to look at the introduction of Photography: a critical introduction, by Liz Wells (6th ed., 2021).

Also, if you are local to Cambridge and can get to Kettle’s Yard, it’s worth visiting the Howardena Pindell exhibition. Or do go in your first few weeks at ARU, as we will be experimenting with similar techniques. It will also be useful for your Photographic Practice and Context module, as her work conveys themes of racism, feminism, violence, slavery, and exploitation.