Using high quality materials can sometimes be the difference between feeling uninspired and WOWed by your creative journey. That said, if your options are to go with cheaper options or not making art, go to the dollar store and hook yourself up! I often mix and match cheap and more pricey paints that I find special. If you are thinking of setting yourself up with a home studio kit, here are some of the supplies that we use in class...
Easels - Optional. I often paint on the floor either kneeling or sitting on a cushion. Sometimes I've even covered a chair with a dropcloth as a makeshift easle and sat in a chair across from it. Otherwise, aluminium, lightweight, easy to store easels are a great lower cost option. There are also lovely wood ones if you have a more permanent space you can set up.
Painting surface - In terms of painting on canvas, I prefer to use heavy texture, pre-stretched/pre-primed canvas. At Michaels, these are the highest quality (green label) canvases they carry. Other fun painting surfaces include watercolour paper, wood, reclaimed second-hand store art (a coat of primer and you are set!) Another favourite and super low cost option is to go to the hardware store and pick up a 4x8' sheet of wall panel. This runs about $12 a sheet. They will also cut the sheet down for you so you have several panels to play on. I've cut a panel down to 12 smaller pieces, which means each one is only $1!!! This is a great way to take the pressure off if you are hung up on painting on an expensive canvas. These panels can be framed and hung just as beautifully. Always prime these before you dive in. If you are painting on paper, choose the 140lb mixed media papers so they don't bubble from the paint.
Paint - In terms of brands, I prefer Golden Fluid Acrylics, Golden Heavy Body Acrylics, or Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics. Keep in mind the fluid paints are great for semi-transparent layering, drippy bits, and liner work. Heavy bodies are awesome for thick vibrant accents later on in your painting, creating texture, or for the greatest coverage. And of course, basic craft paint is great too in its own way.... there are definitely more colour choices if you go cheaper.
Brushes - It’s fun to experiment with brushes in your painting practice. Different shapes give you a variety of thicknesses and feelings to your painting. Try square, round, long, short, fluffy, and stiff brushes. Hog hair brushes are great for dry-brushing techniques, and they are cheap so they are low-risk when you are scrubbing them hard on the canvas. Synthetic brushes in a variety of sizes are useful for outlining, drawing, and details.
Palette - There are lots of different palette options. My favourite is to have a piece of glass, or small old window to use as a palette. Both can be found at the restore or probably in your shed. A large piece of glass could cover your entire painting table, or a small window could be held or placed nearby. I prefer this type of palette as I never have to wash the paint down the drain. At the end of a painting session I just let any smeared paint leftover dry on the glass. The next time I go to paint I spray the glass with my spray bottle, let sit 1 min, and scrape paint off with a window scraper and toss into the garbage. Its the most eco-friendly solution I've found thus far. Other options include, plates, baby wipe container (travel variety), art palette (wood or plastic).
Other Tools - Spray bottle for dripping and/or thinning paint, rag, charcoal for sketching on canvas (optional), apron, floor protection, foamy brushes, found objects that make interesting marks (lids in all sizes, bubble wrap, pinecones, sponges, old pencils or pokey things to make dots, stencils, straws,etc.)
Where to Buy
Painted Turtle is a great little local shop that carries almost all of the supplies we used in class… golden fluid acrylics (in small quantities), brushes, and best of all they carry Canadian made hand stretched canvases in all sizes. Their canvases are surprisingly reasonable in price and can also be purchased in 2 packs. Lorraine, the owner, is lovely, and supporting them always feels good.
Blick is where I often order large quantities of paint and canvases for classes. It is an American company so you need to figure in exchange rates and duty if you have it shipped for free to Rydens. You can’t really beat the prices on canvases if you buy in bulk.
I’ve created a supply list so you can see all of the paints, brushes, easels, etc, that I regularly use, here…. BLICKU
Opus is Canada’s version of Blick. They carry just about everything as well, and it is in Canadian dollars which is a bonus. They also have developed their own line of Opus Fluid Acrylic paints that I have tested, and are equally as beautiful as Golden’s line…. and cheaper on the whole.
Michaels is my last option for supplies since they are by far the most expensive option. They do however sell great multi packs on smaller canvases that you won’t find anywhere else, and their mid-priced craft paint is descent quality as well. You can find good deals, particularly on big fancy canvases, when they have 40-50% off sales. Our class hog-hair brushes are all from there too. There is a Michaels app you can download to your phone that will basically always give you a coupon.