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Have you ever gone art supply shopping at the Dollar Store? I found so many great art supplies on my latest trip to the Dollar Store I knew I had to make a podcast about it. Despite passing this store 2 or 3 times a week for many years, I had completely overlooked Dollar Tree as a great source for art supplies. Today on the Self Taught Artist podcast I’m talking about what art supplies I bought at the Dollar Store, and what art supplies I recommend you avoid buying at the Dollar Store. You know I love talking about art supplies, and good value art supplies are my favorite! Artist friends, tune in to find out more. 

Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the Self Taught Artist Podcast. I’m Lauren Kristine, your host. Today you are in for a treat. I am all fired up and excited to talk about cheap art supplies that I got at the dollar store.

Recently, there has been this joke going around on social media amongst artists, and it says, Now, I don’t know the secret to happiness. But I do know I’ve never been sad inside of an art supply store. I got quite a laugh out of that one. Because it’s mostly true. I love going art supply shopping. And I’m sure a lot of you do too. But sometimes I do get sad in the art supply store. Because art supplies are really expensive. Sometimes.

However, I found a place where all the art supplies are very affordable. And that is the dollar store. I had completely been overlooking the Dollar Store as a source of cheap art supplies. For years. I pass by this particular Dollar Tree store, like I kid you not two to three times a week. And it had never dawned on me to go in there and look for art supplies.

That all changed last weekend, when I changed that. I said why don’t I go see what they have there. I actually needed some greeting cards. And I knew that the dollar store was a great place to get them and my stash was running low. So I went into Dollar Tree and it packed quite the surprise.

Of course, there are some limitations. I don’t want to get all of my art supplies from the Dollar Tree. But I found a lot of things that would be great additions to my extensive art supply collection. Let’s put it that way. All right, I’m going to break down some of my favorite things that I have gotten at Dollar Tree so far. If you liked this episode, let me know. Leave me a Review pretty please. So I can feature you as my Review of the Week in an upcoming episode. And if you liked this, I will probably do some follow ups about other places to get cheap art supplies that you may not think of.

So today I’m talking about Dollar Tree in particular, if you do not have Dollar Tree near you, you may have another brand at Dollar Store or a five and dime. I don’t care what dollar store you go to. I am not sponsored by Dollar Tree in any way. I just want to be as specific as possible so that I’m not getting a bunch of questions after this episode about where exactly I went. I figured the more specific I can be, the better I can help you actually find the supplies. The brand of dollar store doesn’t matter. And of course, even if you do go to Dollar Tree, your store may not have exactly the same things that my store has. But I do know there’s dollar trees all throughout the US and even Canada.

All right, so let’s dive into what to buy Dollar Tree and what they have Dollar Tree that I would recommend you skip over and actually buy at the art supply store.

Alright, so my favorite thing that I got from Dollar Tree is actually a paint brush holder. This one I think is particular to me because my brush collection has expanded quite a lot. And I had it sitting in some cups, multiple cups. And this brush holder is nice and compact. It has slots for I don’t know 50 or 60 brushes I want to say and it cost $1.25 at Dollar Tree and it’s doing a great job. It can’t hold super large brushes, but for your average size paintbrush. It is perfect and it has really organized my art table space here in my studio slash office. That is a great find. So if you have one of those for $1.25 You really can’t go wrong. It’s round and it doesn’t look like much up on the shelf because they sell it kind of compacted you have to sort of put it together and make it 3d But it’s, it’s pretty great. Can’t beat it for a buck 25

All right. The second thing that I have been loving is dollar store permanent markers. Now I’m not talking about the Sharpie brand, I love those. But the dollar store that I went to Dollar Tree actually has their own brand. And it’s called jot. And they sell for nice and juicy permanent markers for again, $1.25, which is a great deal. I love to use permanent markers either for blind contour drawings, sketching out compositions at the beginning, and sometimes just adding line work and random things. And then of course, signing my art on the back of the canvas and putting the title and the date and that kind of thing. sharpies are one of my go to, but I am really enjoying these permanent markers from the dollar store. They are very cheap and are working really well.

All right, number three is tacky glue, they actually had name brand tacky glue, which I use quite a lot for assorted things in my studio. Sometimes when a canvas is just kind of fraying up a little bit, I’ll put a little tacky glue in there, tack it down, I use it to fasten sequence to my work. A lot of times especially during Christmas, I do some multimedia using sequence. And that uses tacky glue. I just use it for a bunch of different things and collage it’s great for that. So that’s that was one thing I was surprised to find there.

One staple I almost forgot to mention is a spray bottle. They have them at the dollar store and I find spray bottles to be super useful as I paint. First, they are the best way to get lovely acrylic paint drips in your painting. If you’re into that look, I went through a phase where I wanted organic looking paint drips on every painting I made. I love them. I’ve grown out of that phase. But I still do use paint drips from time to time. It’s nice to get them on a canvas even in an under layer. watercolors also have a million different ways to use water and a spray bottle adds some fun new techniques to the mix for watercolorists.

Also, if you ever have used Golden High Flow paints, or airbrush medium, or you aspire to use those things, then you know that you need a spray bottle, just a spritz of water really brings that paint to life. It’s so cool to watch it as it spreads out on the canvas so easily once you spray it. Like there’s no other way to explain it. It’s just a unique spreading of the paint with those high flow paints that are made by Golden. I have some of those and I’ve experimented with them. But honestly, I have not found a way to really incorporate it into my work. So if anybody has any tips for that, you let me know.

Sometimes I will also spritz my whole canvas with water to help me spread paint over a big area. This is especially helpful when I’m doing a ground on my canvas. That’s where you start a painting by painting the entire canvas one solid color. I really find so many uses for spray bottles in my art. So for $1.25 at the dollar store, I’d say it’s worth adding to your supply chest as well.

The third thing on my list is probably the thing that I am most excited to really put into good use. And that is foam mounting tape. They also had what’s called pop dot tape, I got some of both. And this is a foam tape that you can use to elevate certain elements of a collage or something that you’re putting inside of a shadow box. Now a shadow box is a really thick 3d frame that has glass on the outside. And so with that you can make really cool collage things on the inside and use dimension to make things literally pop out.

So I’m excited to use this pop dot tape you and pre cut foam mounting tape to add different levels to my collages inside of these shadow boxes. I know you can also use them on cards or crafty things that you do.

They are not what I would call archival quality fixtures to add to artwork that maybe you’re looking to sell as fine art. So that’s the one limitation here, I would say that this foam mounting tape and pop dot tape is something that I’m going to use on fun art, crafts, cards, things like that. I would not use this on a canvas that I was going to sell to a collector. Because I don’t know how many years that adhesive is going to hold up. And I know I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. But my definition of archival quality professional artwork is that I’m using materials that I expect to last 100 years. And that is a tall bar for something like foam tape from the dollar store. So this is something for fun.

But if you have been looking to do things in 3d, for fun, or inside of shadow boxes, or elevate things on cards, go to the Dollar Tree. Check out this popped on tape, it comes in three different widths. So you can do all different things with it. And they also had the foam mounting tape which was sort of pre cut into rectangles. So this is going to be something that I am looking forward to experimenting with. And who knows it may pop up on my Instagram soon. So you may be able to see what I do with it.

All right, let’s see what else do I have here in my treasure trove. I did pick up a few little wooden pieces to paint. And then they also had some metal pieces that you can paint or craft with. So they had different shapes. They had stars and hearts and plaques and rectangles, lots of different options of wood items and metal items to paint. Some were targeted towards children and others I could use for all kinds of things or decorating my home or gifts. But I would also encourage you to look past just that section of blank wooden and metal crafting items, I would also encourage you to look over at the seasonal decor section of Dollar Tree and look at what they have there.

I saw quite an array of seasonal decor wooden items. In particular, there were some signs that had welcome already pre painted on them with like with pumpkins and gourds. They were very much seasonally themed, because that’s the season we’re heading into. Technically, I mean, it’s still very much feels like summer, but they have all their fall stuff out on display already. So don’t overlook those things because you could very easily gesso over what they painted on there and paint over it yourself with your own art. And I did find that some of these seasonal decor, wooden signs are actually bigger than the ones that they had in the crafting section that were blank. So that can be a little arbitrage opportunity for you. Let’s see.

Another thing they had was very cheap wreath forms. So if you have been looking to make a seasonal wreath for your door, or for gift or to sell, you can get very inexpensive wreath forms at Dollar Tree.

They also had a collection of squeeze bottles and empty jars. That can be very helpful if you’re the kind of person who likes to pre mix paint and put it in a little jar. Sometimes I’ll do that but most of the time I don’t anymore. You know, that’s just personal preference. I think as I’ve gotten better at color mixing using some of the tricks I’ve talked about in recent episodes. I have just kind of gone to always mixing fresh paint but in the past I have stored some in little bottles. So you can find some little bottles that could be used for that at Dollar Tree, but they also had squeeze bottles which I got a couple of, and I’m, I’m excited to see what I do with that I’m not quite sure what I’m going to use it for. But I don’t know, it looked like fun.

They also had a plastic pallet there, that would be good if you were looking to travel. Especially, I didn’t buy one myself, because I already have quite a few palettes. But if you’re looking for one, you can get one there for $1.25.

They also next to the palette, had some plastic pallet knives. So if you’ve been looking to experiment with palette knives, but you haven’t wanted to invest in a set of wooden and metal ones, you can try these plastic ones. I have a set of nicer ones that I use, but I can tell you, the plastic ones still work. So that can be something to try. If you have been interested in doing impasto work or thicker painting, or just using them to paint loose as I talked about in the painting loose episode A while back.

The Dollar Store is also great for crafty items like glitter and rhinestones and beads and glitter glue, they had, oh my gosh, it was like 10 different colors of glitter glue in a packet, it probably wasn’t 10, it was probably like five or six in a packet all for $1.25. It was an amazing value. Especially because I had just bought some at Michaels. And I know I paid more than that. And I only got one color of glitter glue. So lesson learned.

And of course, one other thing, it’s not in the art supplies section of Dollar Tree. But if you go walk around, they have lots of little containers that you could use to organize art supplies. I am always looking to get more organized in my home, and especially here in the art studio, because all these art supplies, you know, if I don’t contain them, they have a way of taking over. So they have a lot of different storage options that again, you can get very inexpensively. So don’t forget to check that out before you leave. So those are some of the things that I was really excited to find Dollar Tree. And I really look forward to using.

But there were a few things that I do want to kindly steer you away from. First of all would be the canvas that I saw Dollar Tree, they did have a lot of packs of Canvas. And I would not recommend it. I took a look at the quality it was wrapped in plastic, so I couldn’t quite get a full feel of it. But from what I could see, I would not trust this canvas if you are painting to sell your work or you want it to last for a long time.

Now, if you’re learning and you’re just practicing, and you are working with a really tight budget, look, I am not here to put down anything, any art supply is fine for that. But I would tell you, you can get a better quality for a very similar price if you buy the value packs at Michaels. So I would tell you to go to a true art supply store and buy the cheapest canvas that they have. Just because it’s going to be a little bit better quality than the stuff that I saw at Dollar Tree.

Bad Canvas is just a bummer. It’s kind of like a shortcut that you probably don’t want to take. If you can avoid it. It really sucks to make a painting, love it and then have something go wrong with a canvas, whether that’s a hole, whether it gets really stretched out and you can’t, you know, stretch it back. Or it’s you know, just kind of falling apart. It gets warped in the wooden stretcher boards. That’s another possibility with a cheap canvas.

You know, I would just tell you, you can’t build a good house on a cheap foundation. So, you know, just spend a few more cents and you can get a value Canvas at Michaels. All right, just do it.

And if you can’t afford canvas, paint on watercolor paper, that is a way more affordable option. And you can make just as high quality of art. So that’s one thing I’d say to avoid.

I would also tell you that if you want to sell work, I would also probably tell you to avoid the wooden cradle boards that they sell. You just don’t know what’s going to happen to those over time with humidity, and warping. So I don’t know, I just wouldn’t take that risk would be my guess, if you want to get it and test it and see how it works and how it lasts over a period of time, I would suggest doing that before you do any work to sell on that substrate. Again, substrates are just super important to have confidence in if you are looking to sell your work, if you’re just making art for you for fun or for learning. Fine, fine, but my warning is here, just in case you’re selling your work. Alright, enough on that.

One other thing I would say to stay away from at the Dollar Store is the paint in the paint markers. You know, the quality is just not the best. And I would tell you that you would be better off putting those dollars toward fewer quantity of a better quality paint pen, or better quality paint.

Again, you don’t have to break the bank with paint, you can get a great student grade paint. But I don’t know Dollar Store paint is probably worse than craft paint. And I know I’ve talked about that extensively in past episodes. Paint is important. If you want good art, you’re going to need some quality pigments. So I do recommend student grade paint at the minimum. Let’s see. paint markers. I mentioned that those you know they clog up really easily. I’ve tried even just the off brand. Michaels artists loved ones and those, I think are nothing in comparison to the high quality Posca pen. So I would tell you just save up and get one pasta and your favorite color and use that one.

The last thing I’ll tell you to stay away from was the palette paper that I saw at Dollar Tree. Now the pad of palette paper was smaller than the typical pad of palette palette paper that I get at Michaels or Jerry’s Artarama or Dick Blick. And I also think it was not that good of quality. So I would tell you to skip the palette paper, it looks like it’s a good deal because again, it’s only $1.25. However, it’s a small pad and there’s only like 10 sheets in it, I think. So if you do the math on it, per sheet, I think you’re going to end up spending less money if you go and get the Artist Loft kind at Michaels, or the cheapest one that you can find at your local art supply store.

That pretty much wraps up my overview of my Dollar Tree shopping. This ended up being a way longer episode than I ever anticipated. And I think it’s just because I have a lot of opinions on art supplies. I think at this point in my artistic journey, I have tried a little bit of everything. I’ve tried all different kinds of brushes and paints and canvases and craft supplies and everything in between. And I know what I like and there were some things at Dollar Tree that definitely fall into that bucket and I’m very excited about so I’m glad to share that with you today.

I hope to do another episode soon on art supplies that you can find at the hardware store for example, because I get a lot of great cheap art supplies from the hardware store. So I think I’m going to do another episode on that soon. So stay tuned.

Alright my friends. Make sure you are rating the podcast wherever you’re listening, especially Apple Podcasts and Spotify. That would be wonderful. Make sure you’re subscribed so you never miss an episode. And come hang out with me on Instagram. I’m at LaurenKristineART The link is in the show notes. All right. Until next time, my friends. Happy Creating!

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