Top 15 Must Have Tools for Architecture Students – The Best Tools for Architecture School

Want to be a good architecture student? You need the best tools.

Here are 15 of the top essential tools for architecture students.

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The Best Tools For Architecture Students

You might be starting architecture school soon or you might just want to upgrade the architectural tools you have. It can get overwhelming as to what tools are essential and which are not needed.

I thought I’d collate 15 of the best tools for architecture students because I never had a resource like this when I first started architecture school.

In fact, I was sold a $260 “essential” tool pack by my local art shop who presented at my Uni on orientation day. … I haven’t touched 75% of those tools.

In this episode, I only share tools and equipment that I use myself. I’m not going to push you into buying “essential tools” that you won’t ever use.

I share this list of best tools through the experiences I’ve had in architecture school and hope you find it useful.

If you want to support my work with Successful Archi Student, feel free to shop for these tools using the affiliate links below. I do receive a small commission for each sale and appreciate you choosing to buy through them.

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Top 15 Best Tools For Architecture Students

Best Tools for Architecture Students #1: A COMPUTER

You need a computer of some sort. Whether this is a laptop or desktop is completely dependent on how you’re going to use the computer.

I have a couple of videos already about computers, firstly deciding whether you actually need a laptop or a desktop?

The next video explains the various specs of computers and helps you choose the best computer to buy for your situation.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #2: SCALE RULER

You absolutely need one of these bad boys.

Architecture students and architects create drawings to scale. Especially in your first years you’ll be doing a lot of architectural drawing. Drawing sections, plans and elevation and you need to be able to draw these to scale.

Don’t be that kid that scabs a ruler off everyone else

“Hey, I forgot my scale ruler can I borrow yours?’

“NO. No you can’t Jerry can’t you see I’m using it?”

Scale rulers come in different sizes, my recommendation is to find one that has 1:1, 1:5, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100 and 1:200 scales. Some rulers come in 1:75 or 1:125 and you’re just never going to use those. Ever. If you do you’ll get roasted for it because it’s not convention.

Another tip with scale rulers is to find a metal one, that way you can use it for model making as if you get a plastic scale ruler, and you decide to use your knife to cut something and slip, you’re going to be cutting into your poor plastic ruler. Get a metal scale ruler.

My recommendations:

IMPERIAL: 12” Solid Aluminium Architectural Scale Ruler

METRIC: 30cm Solid Aluminium Architectural Scale Ruler

Best Tools for Architecture Students #3: DRAWING BOARD

At first I was like, why can’t I just draw on a table?

The purpose of a drawing board is to draft parallel vertical and or horizontal lines. You have this ruler that slides along your working plane and means you can draw lines at the same angle every time.

It’s necessary in first years as you’ll be doing a lot of hand drafting.

I’d grab one that has locks and tilters so you save your back. Trust me, these seem insignificant but after 14 hours of drafting your back really starts to feel it.

My recommendation:

Best Tools for Architecture Students #4: CUTTING MAT

This is self-explanatory – get a mat for cutting things on. Save your desk, save the university’s tables from abuse.

They’re relatively cheap and I’ve actually laid a few together to make model making super easy.

My recommendations:

A3 (bigger)

A4 (smaller)

Best Tools for Architecture Students #5: MODEL MAKING RULER

My advice here is to get one of these black metal rulers for model making.

They’ve got an anti-slip base so you don’t go moving it around and stuffing up your project.

They’ve got an anti-smudge groove to stop your drawing from smudging.

Additionally, there’s a baffle for keeping your fingers safe. I can’t explain my love for this ruler – without it, I’m 90% sure I would have lost at least 3 of my fingers

My recommendation

Best Tools for Architecture Students #6: MODEL MAKING KNIFE

model making knife set scalpel blade replacement high quality xacto style knives for cutting model making material

So, you need a knife to cut model material with. It’s essential and this is something where I say you don’t need the top of the line model knife.

Model knives come in different shapes and sizes and the one I’ve found best for model making is the X-ACTO knife.

I’m not alone saying this, I’ve sold over 700 of these and they are my most popular tool with something like 99.95% positive feedback (one person didn’t know how to screw the blade in properly and thought it was broken so gave me negative feedback) 🙁

Best Tools for Architecture Students #7: PENCILS

best tools for architecture students pencils

I would grab a pencil set.

These are great because architectural drawings need different line weights to show thicker objects, to show what’s been cut through plan and section. Having an organised set of pencils in order of size is just perfect for architectural drawing.

This set also come with graphites, charcoals, erasers and some other cool things

Best Tools for Architecture Students #8: TRACE PAPER

best architectural tools for students trace paper

Trace paper is transparent, the purpose behind using trace paper is to easily make iterations or changes to drawings.

When you’re drawing along, you might make a mistake – you can easily recover by either scratching it out with an exacto knife, or by laying up on trace and starting again. You might have a new idea while sketching and you can easily chuck it over the top and sketch away.

However, trace paper is quite expensive. Roll’s are about $40 AUD which is bloody expensive.

So, what I do now – (throws away trace) – is use baking paper.

The shit you put in the oven to cook. It’s pretty well the exact same thing – but 40x cheaper.

Some brands can be a bit oily so try testing out different baking paper to see what works best.

This is a tip that’ll be in my new free ebook – 70 hacks for architecture students which isn’t out yet but will be released soon.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #9: LED LIGHT PAD

If you don’t want to spend money on trace paper, these LED light pads are brilliant. It means you can easily layer up bond paper (normal, white printer paper) and it gives it the same transparency as trace.

Although not an essential – it can be super helpful and comes in real handy when you need to draw over a printed image or draw straight onto your final project, rather than on trace paper.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #10: FINE LINERS

If I could go back in time, I would get a set of these amazing coloured fineliners and then a set of different thickness black fineliners.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #11: SKETCH MARKERS

best tools for architecture students sketch markers

On the topic of sketching and drawing, these sketch markers are brilliant for diagramming and touching up finished drawings. You can go the more expensive route (and I mean, the really expensive route) and buy copics, or you can get a cheaper option from elsewhere. I don’t really find there’s much of a difference between brands but most people tend to trust copics despite them being so freakin expensive.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #12: SCALE PEOPLE

best tools for architecture students scale people

I write about this in my new ebook coming out soon – it’s so important to populate your models with scale people.

The final touches on a model is what makes it stand out.

The difference between a bad looking model, and a great looking model, is usually just the final touches or “post-production”.

By populating your models using scale people and trees, it gives the audience (your client, teacher, friends, pet dog) an ability to realise the model in terms of its size compared to real-life things.

Not only does it help the audience understand your design, but it makes it look a TON more interesting and engaging.

If you compare a blank model with no context to a model populated with scale people and scale trees, the latter will always look better.

My recommendations:

1:100 Scale People

1:50 Scale People

Best Tools for Architecture Students #13: CIRCLE TEMPLATE

I’ll be real – I’ve only used this tool for one semester – but I had to have it and it was so helpful that I did.

It’s this circle template that comes with different circles at different diameters, so for drawing trees, or rainwater tanks, or anything that is a circle, you can be consistent and neat.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #14: ERASER SHIELD

Again, this is just such a hack for architecture students.

If you’ve ever been drawing along and overextended your pencil line or made a mess in a small little spot, you’ve had to erase a large section just to touch it up.

An eraser shield is used to erase small little details without erasing anything else. It gives erasing a precision and makes life so much easier.

Best Tools for Architecture Students #15: DAILY/WEEKLY PLANNER

If you know anything about architecture students, it’s that we can’t organise ourselves for shit.

We forget things, we miss events and are late to class. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The unchallenged undisputed best tool I’ve ever used as an architecture student – is a planner

Get yourself a daily planner, write in your classes, write in your goals, write in your deadlines, write in events, meetings and anything you can in your planner. Use your planner and you’ll find yourself winning in architecture school.

There you have it.

15 of the most essential, best architectural items, tools and equipment for architecture students.

I hope you found this helpful 🙂


Kyle Sinko // Successful Archi Student