31 Essential Tools for Architecture Students


Starting architecture school (and any other new course for that matter) can be stressful and intimidating, and none more so that not knowing what you’ll need to give yourself the best chance of doing well.

So here we provide a shopping list of the equipment we feel is the most necessary for any first year architectural student about to start architecture school, and in fact any architectural student for that matter.

But please note that not all of this needs to be bought at once, it can be built up over time.

To summarise the Architects tool list:

The things that first year architects need...


  • 101 things I learned in architecture school

  • A good set of drawing pens

  • A good set drawing of pencils

  • Modelling scalpel

  • Architect student bag

  • Scale ruler

  • Steel ruler

  • Cutting mat

  • Tablet

  • Architects hand book

  • Drawings tube

  • Metric handbook

  • Tracing paper

  • Ear Phones

  • Yes is more

  • Laptop


  • Laptop sleeve

  • Mouse

  • Sketch book

  • Note book

  • Sketch book

  • Tape measure

  • Book of your favourite architect

  • Drawing board

  • UHU glue

  • Architectural graphics

  • Adjustable triangle

  • Mechanical pencil

  • Note taking pen

  • Mitre Box Kit

  • Tool Box

When we first started architecture school, we were given the classic book and equipment architecture tool kit list that had been recycled year upon year, with a lot of it just not being relevant.

It was a good list, but we barely used half of what was recommended, with a lot of the books still collecting dust even now.

Every architecture school is different, and will have specific reading lists for specific units and projects. What we provide here is an essentials list that can be applied to any school, which will hopefully guide and help you through your first year and the years to come…

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The materials required for architecture students are...

- 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

This is a great little book that offers a wonderful insight into what to expect and what can be gained from architecture school. We actually read this after we had finished, and wish we had it before and during.

The author provides insights, observations, and quite a few tips and snippets of advice to help students negotiate their way through the course and student life itself.

…a very good and light-hearted read

- A good set of drawing pens

As first year architecture students one of the most essential items of equipment you will need, is a good set of pens that you can both draw and take notes with.

Architecture school almost always starts off with drawing and sketching, and so these will become your best friend.

…Even when you eventually start working digitally.

- A good set drawing of pencils

Much like the above pens, first year architecture is all about exploring different media and developing your drawing and sketching skills.

These pencils provide the range of hardness and softness required for just about any sketching situation.

The metal case they come in also helps to protect and keep them together.

Modelling scalpel

A large part of Architecture school is model making, and in your first year it will be encouraged, if not made mandatory to produce everything by hand, and so a good, sharp scalpel is a fundamental tool to have.

It will also be one of the first of many model making tools you accumulate over the years, and if you buy a good quality one at the beginning, it will last you all the way though to when you’re qualified. 

- Architect student Bag

We have a list the bags we would currently recommend for architects here, and we think it goes without saying that you’ll need one on a day to day basis.

Students often find themselves having to carry large amounts of equipment, so please don’t think you won’t need one.

Try to choose one that will be both versatile and comfortable to carry on field trips and site visits.

- Scale ruler

Architects work with a selection and varying set of scales, and learning how to use them can at first be confusing. But it will very quickly become second nature, and so it’s best to start using one from the very beginning.

We have a further section of our favourite rulers here and if you can, we recommend buying both a large and small variation for ease of use.

- Steel ruler

Steel rulers are a great tool for jobs requiring precise measurements, and are often different to scale rulers in that they just have the normal 1:1 mm, cm and inches measurements.

We prominently use ours for model making, as if your rule is not made from metal, you will soon cut into it and ruin its clean drawing line …making it useless for both modelling and for drawing!

 …a good steel rule lasts forever

- Cutting mat

One that is often overlooked if you haven’t had much experience with making models is a cutting matt. This provides a stable non-slip surface to work on but more importantly protects the surface below.

There is nothing worse than putting a fresh scalpel line across your desk, or even worse, a whole set across your studios glass meeting room table!

- Tablet

Tablets are a great addition to your studio equipment and life as a student in general. With them being small and light enough to carry just about anywhere, they are an excellent everyday tool for studio work, tutorials and lectures.

In our opinion an iPad’s our favourite product, but there are many more to choose from.


- Architects pocket book

As a first year student you’re unlikely to initially find this interesting, as it full with information and data on regulations and design statistics. However as you progress through the year, this little book will quickly become your best friend with its quick referenced information.

Our copy in constantly sat on our desk, and used almost daily. 


- Drawing tube

These fantastic adjustable tubes enable you to carry your drawings without the paper getting torn and/or damaged, and as a first year architecture student you will have a lot of drawings!

So for a relatively low price, they can be a life saver.

- Metric handbook

Similar to the architects pocket book, this is a very useful design guide that is full of data on just about anything you can think of, from the width of a hospital parking bay to the size of a football pitch stand.

It’s one of the most useful books you can own as a student and professional.

Tracing paper

It hopefully goes without saying that a roll of tracing paper will be required. You are likely to need this on a daily basis when designing and sketching by hand.

Its very useful to be able to overlay plans, sections and elevational compositions on top of each other.

- Ear phones

A good set of earphones will be a lifesaver for when you need to zone out and focus on deadlines.

Nothing says do not disturb, like a pair of earphones.

- Yes is More

This book by Bjarke Ingles (BIG) demonstrates how to present and break down your work in a way that can be easily understood. As an architect he is very good at bringing and creating architecture to and for the public.

BIG not only inspires and demonstrates how to communicate architecture projects well, but also presents a fine example of how critical an architecture concept is and even more, how important it is to share its process and development coherently.


If they can, every student should have a laptop, and we’ve provided a guide to choosing the right one here.

As architecture students you will find that you will be working in variety of locations and won’t always be able to guarantee the same space, so flexibility and portability are very important.

- Laptop sleeve

With all the moving around you’ll be doing, you will need to protect your laptop.

So at least buy a sleeve for it, and protect it from your other architecture tools and equipment that may be knocking around your bag.

- Mouse

Don’t think you can get away with using the tracking pad on your laptop, it’s almost impossible to work within any CAD or 3D software without a mouse.

You need that middle button! …We have a guide on this here


- Sketch book

A good sketch book is obviously for sketching, but will also double up as an everyday journal of inspiration and observations.

This and its contents, will prove to be very useful when bringing together your projects story and background.

- Note Book

A note book will also be required to record information from lectures and tutorials, it’s nice to not mix this up with your sketch book.

Your note book will also almost always be out and become more tired looking than your sketch book, so a hard wearing cover like these by Black n' Red are perfect. 

- Eraser

Invest in an eraser, especially as a first year student 

- Tape measure

If you can, always carry a tape measure with you in your bag, and when you’re unsure of how high or wide something should be, simply measure it.

Even when you’re in say a hotel room, if something that feels too tight or too wide, measure it, and then you’ll start to get a feel for what dimensions work well and what don’t.

This is a good way of building up general design knowledge.

- Book of your favourite architect

We describe here how useful it can be to know everything (or as much as possible) about your favourite architect, and as a first year architecture student, even just one of their books can be an invaluable resource.

If you don’t yet know, then start looking on Pinterest first and discover the type and style of architecture you like, and go from there.

We recommend a couple here also.

- Drawing Board

Drawing boards aren’t essential, as there should be some in your college and university studios, but they can quickly get used up, especially when close to deadline.

So having your own can be a life saver, even just an A3 one.

- UHU Glue

UHU will be become your best friend throughout architecture school, we think it’s one of the best glues for model making, that can get you through just about any scenario.

It’s best to buy more than one tube at a time if you can, to be the most cost efficient.

- Architectural Graphics by Francis Ching

This book and any other of Francis Ching’s guides are brilliant in describing architectural techniques and methods.

This one in particular is perfect for first year students and even second and third years in describing architectural graphics and hand drawn techniques.

- Adjustable triangle

This is an invaluable tool for drawing board work, when getting the right and straight angle are incredibly important.

We also used ours for model making

- Mechanical pencil

Mechanical pencils are good because they are hard wearing, last, and don’t require a sharpener.

So they can be left in your bag or model making tool box, knowing that when you need it, it will be there and ready.

- Pen

Same goes for a pen. Notes often need to be taken quickly and fast, and so it needs to be reliable and quickly accessible.

These Rotring pens last for years …so far 10 for us! (With re-fills of course)

- Small mitre box kit 

Not essential for a brand new student, but once you start making models these are really useful for cutting edges at an angle, which when done by freehand can be really hard to get right.

- Small tool box

You going to need something to carry all these model making tools in, and so a small tool box will provide a safe and portable store.


Further reading…

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