Today we’re talking all about what art supplies will give you the best value. We want to make great archival quality work that will have vibrant colors and look really professional… but we don’t want to break the bank. Today, I’m sharing how to get the best bang for your buck with acrylic paint, watercolor paint, paint brushes, paper, canvases, gesso, varnish, and more.
PLUS there’s an exclusive freebie for all you wonderful listeners. I put all these supplies into a **mega list** with photos, descriptions, and even some prices to help you wade through the overwhelming options of art supplies. It’s printable if you want to take it to the art supply store or you can just bookmark it to come back to it as needed. Best of all, it’s totally free. So if you want to get the companion guide to this episode, head to [link is moving – TBD].
Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. It has been a fun week and I’ve been seeing a trend in the messages that I’ve received from listeners. A lot of people are asking about art supplies, what I like, and what they should buy. Most importantly, they’re asking what art supplies will give you the best bang for your buck. Today, we’re talking all about art supplies that will give you the best value.
We want to make great archival quality work that will last, that will have vibrant colors, and look really professional. But of course, we don’t want to break the bank. I’ve given bits and pieces of this information in different podcast episodes. But I figure it’s great to have it all in one place for easy reference.
Before we get to the episode, I have a huge announcement to make. This weekend I worked on something really special for all of you wonderful listeners. I put all of the supplies that I’m recommending into one mega list with photos, descriptions, and even some prices for reference for you listing where I found the supplies for the best deal and it’s all in one handy reference guide. The guide is printable if you want to take it to the art supply store with you, or you can just bookmark it to come back to as a reference. Best of all, it is totally free. It’s my way of thanking you for listening to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. So if you want to get this handy dandy companion guide, go ahead and go to laurenkristineart.com. The link is in the show notes.
This week’s review of the week comes to us from Ali M, titled “Super Useful Must Listen.” They write on Apple podcasts: “I love this podcast. LK is a warm and gracious host, ready to share all her tips and tricks. Each episode is full of useful info. Highly recommended!” Thank you so much, Ali M. This review really makes my day and I so appreciate you taking the time to post that. If you are out there listening and you have not yet left a review, please take a minute to rate review and subscribe. It really keeps me going.
Alright, on to the good stuff, the best budget supplies. I’ve tried a lot of art supplies and I’ve had my fair share of disappointments along the way. From paints that cracked or dried in different colors, to paint brushes falling apart, to paper that just didn’t hold up. Today, I’m letting you fast forward past all of my mistakes.
Every single thing I talk about on this episode is something that I have personally tried and have had a really good experience with. I do not receive any sponsorships or money or incentives of any kind for reviewing any of these products. So you can be really confident in my reviews. If I say it’s good, well, it’s because I actually love it and I use it myself.
I’ll start with the most important ingredient for painters and that is the paints themselves. As I’ve mentioned, I mostly paint in acrylic paints and watercolors. So I focus today on what I can recommend with confidence.
1. Acrylic Paints. I look for acrylic paints with four main qualities. I’m looking for good coverage, meaning it will cover the canvas reasonably well. And when the paint says it’s going to be opaque, it is opaque. Number two, I’m looking for high quality pigments. I want pigments that are vibrant and beautiful and high quality, meaning that they will last. I also want a smooth consistency. Something that’s easy to spread on the canvas or thick and heavy bodied when I’m looking for that texture. Last, I want paint that is permanent and lightfast, meaning they won’t fade or change colors. Of course, this is a huge aspect of making archival quality work, I want my paintings to last. And when you use bad paints, the colors can actually change and fade with time. I look for the highest lightfast ratings in my paints.
So my top three favorite brands: Number one is Liquitex Basics. I use Liquitex Basics a lot in my art. Why? Well, it’s because they’re a good quality paint for the price. The pigments are pretty high quality. And in fact, they’re actually the same exact pigments as the Liquitex Professional paints use, but they’re just in a lesser quantity in the Liquitex Basics paints. Additionally, there’s a ton of colors available in this line. There’s actually 72 different ones. And these paints are archival quality, meaning that they’re mostly all ASTM rated I or II and considered permanent and lightfast for 50 to 100 plus years in gallery conditions. Liquitex Basics colors all cost the same price, which makes it a great value for you and also makes it really easy to choose paint colors. Some other brands price differently based on the expense of the pigment. So each color has a different price, and that can get a bit confusing and difficult to do on a budget. Another great thing about Liquitex Basics is that they are incredibly easy to find. You can buy them at any craft store or art supply store and tons of places online.
My next favorite brand is LuKas Cryl Studio Acrylic Paint. I think this is one of the best kept secrets of acrylic painting. Lukas is a German brand that is well known in Europe, but it’s quickly making a name for itself here in the USA. They’re light fast and permanent. They have high quality pigments with a high pigment concentration. In total, there are 60 different colors available in the Lukas Cryl Studio line. And that’s a pretty good range of colors. But there’s one big reason why Lukas really stands out for me, and that is the consistency. These paints are thick and creamy with such a nice body to them. It has a really high-end feel to it. I just love painting with this Lukas line because it’s so buttery and luscious. Lukas paints are a really great price especially for the larger bottles. They sell them in 250 milliliter bottles and 500 milliliter bottles. All the paint colors are the same price pretty much which also makes it easy to shop. They have some really nice colors that are unique to their brand. So for example, I especially like their unique Indigo color. I use that as a dark in some of my work when I don’t want to use black or something too dark. It provides a nice dark value without being black. My favorite colors so far in this line are Indigo as I mentioned, Cadmium Red Deep Hue, Cadmium Yellow Hue, and Titanium White. I get great coverage and thick consistency on all of these. I also love their containers, the bigger ones come in bottles that stand upright, and they’re super convenient and easy to use. I buy Lukas paints from Jerry’s Artarama online here in the USA. And so far, that’s the only place I’ve been able to find them.
My third paint recommendation is Golden Artists Colors, but only their Titanium White Color. Yes, I know Golden is one of the most expensive brands of acrylic paint out there. And this is the “Best Value” art supplies episode. But just wait and hear me out on this one. There’s one color that you probably use more than any other in acrylic painting. And that’s white. It’s a critical must-have color for mixing and it’s probably most artists’ most used color. I know I go through white paint the fastest of all of my paint colors. If you want to feel fancy on a shoestring budget, then buying Titanium White from Golden can be a wonderful hack to use in your art. Golden paints are made for professional artists and, in my opinion, they have the highest quality paint on the market. But that means they’re also much more expensive. However, Golden paints are priced by color, meaning the most expensive colors to produce come with the highest price tag. Lucky for us, Titanium White is a Series 1 paint, which means it’s the cheapest tier of Golden paints that you can buy. When you mix a student grade paint with this buttery golden titanium white, the mixture will typically take on the lovely texture of the Golden paint and it kind of levels up your paint. The heavy bodied Golden paints hold brushstrokes pretty well if applied thickly to the canvas of the paper. And you can create some really nice texture on your paintings if you like that textured look. What’s nice about Golden is a little bit goes a long way. And this white is very strong and very opaque. So you actually use less of this paint than you would have a student grade white paint, or at least that’s what I’ve found is true as I’ve used it. In my experience, I have found the best prices on Golden acrylic paints from Dick Blick or Jerry’s Artarama in the USA. At stores like Michaels or other craft stores, it will usually have a higher price tag. Galleria paints that I have tried have all been really solid, too.
My last recommendation is Masters Touch acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby. If you find Masters Touch paint on sale, it’s a fine choice if you’re on a budget. However, it’s not one of my top favorites. If it’s the same price as the other brands listed before, then I recommend you choose one of my other top brands instead because it’s higher quality.
I do want to mention two other brands that I use occasionally. Although they’re not my top brands, I do use them. So first that would be Windsor and Newton Galleria line of acrylic paints. There are a few colors of Windsor Newton that I really like and prefer. For example, I love the Galleria Cobalt Blue Hue. I haven’t tried a ton of colors in this line, but the Windsor Newton is a nice pick.
Now moving right along to watercolor paints. The best value I’ve found in watercolors are the Kuretake Gansi Tambi watercolor pan sets. This is a Japanese brand and I’ve been really impressed with the quality. They have a much higher pigment to binder ratio than most western watercolors that I’ve tried. That’s what makes their colors so bright and vivid. Depending on how you apply them, the colors can be made transparent or more opaque. I’d recommend buying the set that you can afford. They sell them in sets of 12, 18, 24, or 36 colors. But you can mix any colors you don’t have in the set. For a value set, the colors really do pop which I absolutely love in my watercolor art. Pigments are incredibly important in watercolor, and this Japanese set does not disappoint. I know it can be hard to spell Kuretake Gansi Tambi. So do check out my free guide on laurenkristineart.com If you want to see it spelled out for you.
Now you cannot paint without paint brushes. So let’s talk about those next. Personally, I do not like to spend too much money on paint brushes. I would prefer to have a variety of shapes and sizes of cheaper paint brushes than just a few very expensive brushes. Plus, I’m not the kindest to my paint brushes and sometimes leave them soaking in water too long. I’ve found two brands that seem to hold up really well and are sold at a great price point. First, Simply Simmons. I use their synthetic line. Simply Simmons synthetic paint brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. And I love them all. I have quite a collection of Simply Simmons brushes that I have built up over time and I find that I consistently reach for them even over some of my more expensive brushes. I love them because they are durable. They don’t lose bristles. They don’t crack or lose their enamel over time. They hold their shape well with reasonably good care. And they also work with any medium oils, acrylics, watercolors or gouache. They’re just a really versatile brush at a very affordable price.
The other brand of paint brushes that I use is the Princeton Select 3750 series. Princeton Select 3750s are a great value line of brushes from Princeton. The ones that I use from this brand are their small liner brushes and spotter brushes. I really like these small brushes for detail work, and I’ve been really pleased with their durability. I use them for acrylics, watercolors, and gouache.
Chip brushes are another great thing to have on hand, especially if you’re doing acrylic painting. Chip brushes are a well kept secret by House Painters. But you can find them at any hardware supply store or even Walmart. These house painting brushes are really cheap, usually just like $1 to $3, but I use the one inch size the most. And I also have some two inch and three inch chip brushes for covering large areas of my canvas quickly. Sometimes I’ll use it for Gesso as well. Sometimes chip brushes do lose some of their bristles, so you have to keep an eye out. But overall, I still use them because I love their uneven rough bristles and some of the scraggly texture that I can get with them.
All right, we’re moving on to substrates, or painting surfaces next. For both acrylic painting or watercolor, paper it is really important to have on hand. It’s obvious for watercolor painters, but I think many Acrylic Painters are too quick to think that they have to paint on canvas. You don’t. Paper works great too. It’s more affordable than canvas. It’s easier to store. It’s cheaper to mail. And it’s just as great to paint on. It cost less per sheet. And so it relieves a lot of that pressure that I feel to create a masterpiece when I get out a fancy canvas. Plus a stack of paper paintings takes up a fraction of the space that a stack of canvases do, so it’s a win-win-win in my book. So what’s the best value paper for both acrylic or watercolor painting Canson XL watercolor paper. It’s thick, it absorbs water pretty well, and it doesn’t rip. All in all, it is a great value by for acrylic, you never need better paper than this, it really gets the job done well for watercolor art. However, there are better quality watercolor papers out there, but they are way more expensive. I recommend using this to get started.
And a quick note about paper and standard framing sizes. If you stick to standard framing sizes, then you’ll have an easier time framing your finished work if you want to frame it. That’s the one downside of working on paper is that typically it needs to be framed. Whereas canvases can just be put on the wall and they’re ready to go. Some watercolor paper pads come in some weird sizes, but it often works out so that if you cut off an inch on the end, you will make it a standard size. For example, I have the Canson XL watercolor pad in 11 inches by 15 inches. But if I cut off one inch, I have an 11 by 14 piece of paper, which is a very common framing size. It’s really easy to do and now I can buy a frame for this work at IKEA or any craft store, or even Target online, pretty much anywhere. That’s the beauty of using standard framing sizes.
Now onto Canvases. I’ve said it on the podcast before, my favorite Canvas is the Michael’s Level Three professional canvas. These are deep gallery profile canvases that are one and a half inches deep. They are sturdy and really well constructed. And clients are always so impressed when they receive one of these. It really makes my paintings look incredibly professional. And when you paint the edges it really adds something extra to take your art to the next level. However, these level three profesisonal canvases are expensive. I only buy them when they’re on sale, which happens approximately once per quarter, and I stock up. And the other downside to these thick sturdy canvases is that they are expensive to mail because they are so heavy and well constructed. I was surprised to find out that even mailing a small six by six or eight by eight Canvas could cost more than the canvas itself. So while these canvases are really nice and professional looking, if you’re really looking for a good value Canvas to practice on, these probably are not for you.
The best value canvases that I use are the Michaels Value Packs. When I’m practicing or making personal art for me, I use a lot of these value pack canvases. They’re really inexpensive. They’re about $10.99 each for 10 8×10 inch canvases, and you just cannot beat that value. For larger size canvases, the price does stay the same, but you receive fewer canvases in the value pack since larger canvases are more expensive. But I do want to note these are not the most sturdy canvases. So I would recommend sticking with only the smaller sizes. I’ve never had an issue with any 5×7, 8×10, or 11×14 inch value packs. But I have heard of issues as you buy the larger sizes. The canvas fabric is under a lot of pressure as the size gets bigger, so rips can happen in cheaper canvases.
Sometimes these value canvases come a bit loose, or they have minor dents in them. But really, never fear. All you have to do is apply a light coating of water or spritz some water on the back of the canvas. Rub it in gently and then use a hairdryer to apply some heat. Repeat this process until the canvas tightens up. I always want to strengthen these cheap canvases with a few coats of high quality gesso. I recommend the Liquitex Professional white gesso. I’d also recommend checking out the Self Taught Artist podcast episode number five. That one is all about gesso and priming canvases. And I go into more information on this.
Alright, the final step in the painting process barnish I recommend the Liquitex Professional line of varnishes. They come in different finish options that are gloss, matte, and satin. You should listen to episode eight of the self taught artists podcast if you have not already to get more information about varnishing and acrylic painting. My personal preference is the gloss finish on my paintings. But other artists prefer different things like matte or satin. So do what feels right for you and for your art. Varnish is another item where I recommend buying the good stuff, as it ends up being the best value. As I said, a small bottle goes a long way. And it’s important for the longevity of your art. You don’t want to use cheap varnish and have the painting fade due to it not being protected from UV rays, the sun, dust, and the elements. Liquitex products have done a great job with my art and I feel really confident selling them to clients and displaying them in my home.
Alright, that is a long list of supplies. But everything on this list is a really high quality product for a good price that will help you get great results. If you want to see this list in written form, along with photos and more details, including current prices and where to buy it, check out the companion guide that I created. Go to laurenkristineart.com to check it out. I can keep updating this list as I find more great value supplies to recommend to you. So the link is in the show notes.
Do you have other value art supplies that you love? If so, please share them with me so I can try them and possibly share them with other listeners. As always, DM me on Instagram at LaurenKristineArt or Email me at Lauren Kristine email@example.com If you love today’s episode, would you please take just one minute to leave me a review on Apple podcasts? It would really make me smile and help me to reach other other self taught artists out there so that we can encourage them in their artistic journeys. Even better, take a minute to share with one of your friends that is getting into art. Alright, until next time, my friends. Happy Creating!
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