Raise your hands if you classify yourself a hoarder of art supplies
Come on, be honest… my hand is raised…yup typing with one hand!
I’m not as bad as I used to be and had to downsize quite a bit when we moved to Hamilton. I think hoarding is a negative word and we should be saying “we are collectors of art supplies.”
Yes, that wording makes me feel better.
As I was picking through stuff in the studio for my next video, I laughed that a lot of this stuff is being sold in art stores for stupid amounts of money but can so easily be found in your own home. I call this my “blue box finds” and I just have to share this with you.
Before I create my list, in no way do I mean to offend anyone who buys trending art supplies. I’m a person who likes to work with what I have.
I’m going to list out supplies that you’ll need for any type of mixed media art. Some you can buy and some you can find around your home. I’m not going to mention brands unless it’s very specific. The idea is to use stuff you have already and not feed the art supply collector habit 🙂
too many supplies can hinder your creativity
- Craft Knife: no you don’t need the $30 one with the fancy handle. There are basically 2 different types of blades. So choose a knife that is comfortable in your hands. If you can’t hold it, don’t buy it.
- Cutting Mat: a self sealing mat is invaluable and will save your table from cut marks. I have a small one and large one.
- Scissors: sounds pretty basic and I’m not a scissor snob, I abuse my scissors. But have found that I need to keep a pair of scissors just for paper when I need to do fussy cutting.
- Steel Ruler: I love my Staples cheapy steel ruler. Why steel? if you are using a craft knife and need to cut a straight line, plastic and wood will splinter off.
- Double Sided Tape: helps to stick down elements i your artwork where Matte medium won’t work, super for cardmaking. I have a tape gun for the 1/4″ double sided tape. Scor tape is amazing and super strong.
- Paint Brushes: for mixed media and experiments, don’t use expensive brushes. All that scrubbing and medium wears them down. My favourite brush is $3.99 CDN without a coupon at the big box art store.
- Glue: This is a personal preference and I use Matte medium and Decou-page medium as my glue, but if there is something that just won’t stick, I’ll use Weldbond.
- Sandpaper: useful for distressing artwork. You can also use a clean brown kraft paper or lunch bags.
- Paint Palette: palette paper, formal palette, foam plate.. all of these can be used as a palette. I also use a large sheet of tempered glass when I need to do a lot of colour mixing. Here’s a two for one tip: check out my video on using a no-stick mat baking mat which is much cheaper than the “no stick craft mat” at the big box art store. There will be an update to this video as I’m in discussions with the developer of “unstick” which was featured on Dragons Den. You can use this as your palette and protect your table at the same time.
- Container of water: sounds simple, I have coffee cans, soup cans.. anything that holds water. But if you have a kitty like my Chaos that prefers drinking paint water over the water in her bowl, put a cover on it and weigh it down. My square brush basin has a lid that goes inside the container, so Chaos can’t knock it over. It has small ridges that helps clean your brushes, although I prefer cleaning them by hand.
Be creative and try to use what you have before buying new art supplies.
- Scraper tool: you can use old credit cards and drivers licenses if you want to scrape paint for a micro-thin layer. I find that they are too stiff when burnishing collage material, so I prefer using a texture tool which is made of thin, flexible plastic.
- Chipboard and thin cardboard: this one makes me laugh… you can buy chipboard, thin cardboard and manila card stock at the art stores and pay 3 times the price. Try cereal boxes, the backing off a pad of paper. $store file folders.
- Gel pens: you can get them at Staples and sometimes at the big box discount stores. If you like to add words to your art or do a lot of journaling, just pickup white (so you can write on dark backgrounds, black (so you can write on light backgrounds) and gold or silver (for accents.
- Spray bottle: extremely useful if you use any type of water soluable media, such as acrylics, watercolours, crayons and inks. You can get little bottles at discount stores in the cosmetic department. You can also get a larger bottle at the $ store.
- Sponges: cosmetic sponges are great for aging and distressing edges of artwork, inking a stamp, creating a blended background and I love using them when I’m working with watercolour crayons. Sea sponges are good for texture, but don’t forget kitchen sponges (use new ones) for texture and creating interesting backgrounds and patterns.
- Rubber, Clear and Cling stamps: If you must have stamps, get ones that are versatile enough that they can be used many times over a variety of projects. They can get very pricey and I have to admit, I’m a typography addict. I love text based stamps and stencils (coming later), so I experimented. Went to the $ store in the kids section and they had the most amazing fun foam letters in a type style that was clean and basic. I can mount these (in reverse) on scrap cardboard and voila. If I need to stamp something cleanly, I can mount it onto a piece of acrylic plexiglass. As a sidenote: if I’m creating a card to hold a memorial print of a pet portrait drawing, I will use my professional theme rubber stamps for the card front.
- Paints: paints that do their job for the style of art you want to create is all you need. You don’t need to buy a $20 tube of blue to create art journal or mixed media backgrounds if it’s a hobby. I would use a professional line of paint for gifts or commercial artwork. Some tips to help you save money…invest in learning a bit on colour theory and mixing. Even in my professional palette, I only use 10-12 pigments and I can create hundreds and hundreds of paint mixtures. It’s easier to colour-mix when you know what’s in the bottle, transparency, and pigment types are important, so look on the tube or bottle for pigment numbers. If you see one number, such as PY3, it’s a single pigment. But if you see more than one, such as PB15, PW6, it’s a pre-made mixture.Sidenote: ok readers, what pigment is PY3 and what mixture do you get when you mix PB15 and PW6?
- Gesso: the ultimate art supply. I’ve used Gesso so many times as a replacement for Titanium White (thank you Jerry Yarnell). Not only is it great for priming a surface, but you can use a thin layer to diffuse a busy background, used thickly for texture and as a glue to hold fabric. There are many recipes on the Internet on making your own Gesso. So if you are selling your artwork, I would suggest buying Gesso, so your customer doesn’t get artwork that might yellow over time.
- Collage Material: create multiple layers using printed tissue, add an interesting background with book paper, collage a photo.. there are so many things you can “glue” into your artwork. Instead of buying printed tissue, why not make your own.
- Inks and Stamp Pads: You can go wild with inks and stamp pads, all those pretty colours! Good brands now not only make the stamp pad but also have the inks in bottles for reinking your pad. You can also use this ink in your art projects. You’ll need to decide if you want permanent ink or water soluble. If you have stamps, you should have at minimum one permanent stamp pad. You can also use your stamps to create printed tissue. Don’t have a stamp pad, not to worry. Use a marker to lightly colour the stamp, make your impression and clean your stamp. Don’t have a marker? not to worry. Roll out a very thin layer of a acrylic paint and gently press your stamp in that, make your impression and clean immediately.
- Scrapbooking and cardstock paper: in addition to cardmaking and scrapbooking, you can use these decorative papers to create instant backgrounds for your art. Cardstock is useful for creating embellishments or accents on your artwork. Checkout an office supply store for white or pastel cardstock.
- Embellishments: vintage buttons (high five), rhinestones, glitter, metalworks, keys and cogs. All those little things to punch up your artwork. Next time, go to a second-hand store and look in the sewing section. You can find some cool vintage buttons. Hit up the hardware store for metalworks in the section where you’d find all the screws, nuts and bolts. Washers can be coloured with alcohol ink and you can grab them for a few pennies.
- Tape: washi tape, duct tape, aluminum tape oh my! I must admit, I love my drywall tape to use for texture (hello big box DIY store), love my aluminum tape (hello other big box DIY store) and duct tape in all different colours (hello office supply store). I do have washi tape that I picked up at a clearance sale, but I don’t really use it.
- and then the typical general supplies such as paper towels, palette knives, q-tips and stuff like that.
What art supplies can’t you live without?
I’m pretty sure I missed something and I’m also pretty sure you’re saying “what about x”.
I’d love to know what art supplies you can’t do without and if there is something I should add to the list. Please comment below and let me know.