Walking into an art store can be a daunting experience even for the most seasoned artists. There are so many different supplies and brands to choose from so unless you’ve done your research, it’s hard to know where to start. Without a doubt, picking up painting or drawing as a hobby can present its challenges for beginners and navigating the endless aisles of supplies like a pro is the first step to success. There are many options that are suitable for someone looking to try a few different mediums without breaking the bank and we have rounded up our favorite tips and tricks to help you be prepared when inspiration strikes.
One of the biggest frustrations as an artist is trying to make something beautiful with the wrong tools. A pencil may seem pretty standard across the board, but that’s not the case. Artist pencils are categorized on a graphite scale with their hardness written on them from 9H (the hardest), to 9B (the softest). Choosing a pencil for your needs is a matter of personal preference and experimentation with different brands helps. I use a 2H drawing pencil for sketching my illustrations.
When it comes to colored pencils, Prismacolor pencils are the most popular brand. They blend together like butter and colors can be layered on top of each other to give more depth to your work. They can be purchased individually, but we recommend this set for beginners.
Paper, Canvas, and Brushes
Watercolor, oil, acrylic, and gouache paints are all fun to experiment with, but it is best to focus on one medium at first to keep costs down. It’s smart to start off with acrylics because they are considerably more affordable than oils, easier to control than watercolors, and they dry quickly (unlike oils). A good starter acrylic brand is Basics which costs about $4 per tube. If this is your first set, try a primary set of five.
Before you choose a medium, do some research about the type of paint so you’re prepared for all of the other supplies you will need to invest in. For example, when painting with oils, you’ll need to prime the canvas with gesso so the oil paints adhere better. Typically, you get what you pay for with watercolor sets. This is the one area where buying the professional paint set is definitely worth it. Reeves student watercolor sets are a great brand to start with, but Winsor & Newton professional watercolor is going to be the best pigment at $9 per tube. Skimping on watercolors will leave you with a very light and faded color once it has dried. For years, I was using the wrong watercolors and now I always buy one tiny tube of Reeves depending on what I’m working on. If you want to experiment with many colors of watercolors, I recommend this half pan travel set to start with. Gouache paint is similar to watercolor paint but it’s a bit thicker and it will cost you.
Remember, painting takes many years to master so if it doesn’t match your vision, that’s normal. It’s all part of the magic of creating and it’s best to enjoy the mistakes and embrace the creative process until you find your style.
Artist Tip: The sooner you understand color mixing, the better. This knowledge will allow you to know how certain colors look together and you will be able to mix up the perfect shade you’re looking for, rather than buying it in a tube.
If you have any specific questions about the supplies I use for my work, I’m always happy to share that knowledge! Please let me know if this was helpful for you.
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I’m Katie, the brand strategist, designer, dreamer, and entrepreneur behind Artful Brands. Dreamy typefaces, clean layouts, and soft color palettes are my love language— but more importantly designing strategic brands that book.