As an artist, I understand the importance of finding the right materials to work with, since they have a strong impact on the result of the illustrations.
So far I have tried different types of pencils, papers and erasers; here you can find the ones I love most and links to view them in detail on Amazon.
Faber-Castell is the best brand I tested, from the Grip Matic mechanical pencil to the classic graphites (line 9000).
Again, I find that Faber-Castell is very good for what about the kneaded eraser and the extra soft.
To add interesting light strokes to the drawings, it is important to have a battery operated eraser; I use a Derwent and it works well.
In this case, it depends on the type of illustration you want to create; I love the realistic effect, therefore I love using Prismacolor Premier, very soft and with many beautiful shades.
If you prefer a less “realistic” but a more “pastel” effect, Faber-Castell Polychromos or Lyra Rembrandt Polycolor are very good too (although the sets on sale must be integrated with some skin tones if you work on portraits).
I would like to try also the Caran d’Ache Luminance, since I have seen interesting work done with these colored pencils, but they are quite expensive so I suggest you to start with Prismacolor, especially if you are still at the beginning or looking for your style. I’ve got a set of 72 pieces and found it more than reasonable for the shades I need (add the blender for the final shades).
If you work exclusively on realistic portraits, this 24 color set is specially created with all the perfect shades to achieve excellent results:
American artists have the opportunity to use a good paper: Strathmore; for me, living in Italy, it is hard to find this brand at a reasonable price (and online), so I had to look for a replacement and I fell in love with Canson Bristol, very smooth and wonderful with colored pencils. For graphite illustrations, Fabriano is really good too.
Sometimes you need to add extra light effects to your art, and these pens are very interesting to use.