Buying art supplies is about personal preference, creative goals, the technical requirements of your medium — and cash. Sometimes, a good amount of cash. Materials can get pricey, and you don't want to waste money on stuff you don't need. But whether you paint in watercolors or oils, are a beginner or pro, there are certain supplies you definitely want. Here are seven essentials.
1. Graphite pencils
Most of the time you'll sketch your subject (or at least the trickier parts of it) before pulling out the paints. That's why it's crucial to have a reliable set of graphite pencils. No need to go wild; three or four are enough. Just be sure to get a 2B for general sketching and shading, a 6B for creating dark shadows and a 4H for lighter shading.
2. Kneaded eraser
Yes, you need a white eraser for rubbing out mistakes, especially if you want to start the sketch over. But you want a kneaded eraser too. These soft, pliable, putty-like blobs can be shaped in different ways so you can erase small details or create subtle shading. Plus they also don't leave any annoying "crumbs" behind.
3. Drawing paper
You don't need fancy sketching paper to draw like a pro. An inexpensive sketch pad, like the one by Artist's Loft, will do you just fine.
4. Painting paper pads
After you've finished your sketches, you’ll want to start painting on heavier paper stock. The best choice for you depends on the type of paint you plan to use.
If watercolors are your jam, the most convenient option is a pre-stretched pad. Otherwise, you'll have to stretch the paper yourself, which involves soaking each sheet in water and taping it to a board until it dries. Why stretch paper all, you ask? Because it helps the paper remain flat when wet, preventing paint from pooling.
For acrylics, you have two choices: canvas or heavyweight acrylic paper. Paper pads can save you space. They're also slightly cheaper than canvas, so you may feel freer to experiment with new techniques. But canvas is stiffer than paper, so it will always lay flat, even when you're painting outdoors. Bottom line: Try both, and see which one suits your style.
Here's another basic supply where you don't have to get too spendy. You can pick up an inexpensive plastic paint palette, perfect for watercolors or acrylics, at Michael's, Walmart or your local art supply store. Plastic palettes are easier to wash, too!
If you're painting in acrylics, these are your power trio:
- A filbert for general painting and smoothing out details (a size 6 is perfect for medium size paintings).
- A flat wash brush (1 inch), mostly for painting backgrounds.
- A small liner brush for fine details.
For watercolors, your three go-to brushes are:
- A medium or large sized flat brush (¾ inch), mostly for washes.
- A round brush (size 8, 10 or 14), for general painting.
- A liner brush (size 6), for smaller detail.
You don't need a gazillion paint tubes to produce beautiful art, especially if you're a beginner. This is true for watercolors, oils or acrylics. All you really need is at least one tube each of blue, red, brown and yellow. You can mix 'em to create new hues.
For example, you might just need:
- Phthalo blue
- Phthalo green
- Gamboge yellow
- Cadmium red
- Alizarin crimson
- Burnt umber
So there you have it. With these basics, you can start creating art — along with a few messy experiments too!