Young beautiful woman with closing eyes sitting on yoga mat in lotus pose and meditating dreamily spending time in workshop with modern paintings on background

Painting Supplies & Ways to Use ‘Em

Feeling motivated to explore your artistry, setting aside some playtential time to experiment with painting? Let’s get to the action! With bountiful materials and methods available, let’s talk about painting supplies. 

The Modern Market

Throughout history and especially the last century, new technologies and evolving tastes have seen an explosion in new painting supplies and styles. We are even more fortunate that the online and global markets have made them more affordable and accessible. The modern painting market has never been more diverse and competitive, from dollar stores to swanky high-end specialist shops.

I will lay out a general (though non-exhaustive) list of painting supplies to more easily compare the qualities of materials and methods to play within your playtential time.

Did you know?
Early artists created painting by mixing their pigments into water, fruit juices, saliva, urine, blood, or animal fats. Using animal or human hair brushes, their fingers, or by blowing them through hollow bones, these early, ‘organic’ materials left artists struggling most with weather-proofing their works. More on the history of paint, here.

Phew…we sure can be thankful for the 21st Century artist’s market, which provides centuries of effort to preserve the color, malleability, longevity, hygiene (and veganism?) of materials!

RELATED Oh dear… Where to start?

Supplies: Types of Paint

Considering what types of paint to invest in, ask yourself: What are your needs and preferences as a painter?

Naturally, the way your painting will appear may float to the top of your list of things to think about. However, there are so many more qualities to consider! To help your process, I will summarize each of these painting supplies to compare relative prices, availability on the market, benefits, and limitations.

There are great ‘beginners’ or budget kits providing low to mid-range price & quality paints (though those do not always hand in hand…) available online and in retail supply stores. Give those a try, or consider a pro tip:

A major money saver (and fun skill to learn) in my painting journey has been to learn to mix my own colors. While this takes some practice, this skill has enabled me to 1) better customize my color palette, 2) learn color mixing chemistry, and 3) saved so much $$$ buying fewer color tubes!

For any painter seeking eco-friendly and/or more sustainable paint products, I recommend checking out this article.

Oil

Oil paints found their popularity among Medieval and Reinassance artists, and still today with the reputation of linseed or walnut oils proving luminous, vivid pigments and slow drying times. As a product of this, you can apply thick brush strokes to add great texture and depth to the final product. There are a few more things to consider: 

  • Messy and Stainy
    • Pigment is suspended in oil which may stain/saturate surfaces it touches, rather permanent on clothing, furniture, canvases.
  • Time and sunlight will affect the piece’s appearance.
    • Being oil-based comes with a shelf-life. Some colors may darken or fade over time (months to years, especially well-exposed to sunlight)
  • Slow-drying
    • Pros: takes time (days) to continue working on wet areas, enhancing the blending and malleability of the subject matter
    • Cons: artists may reluctantly have to wait for paint layers to dry before adding opaque layers
  • It can be more expensive than other common mediums.
    • Out of the dollar store league, oil paints are more available at specialist art stores, still varying widely with quality and prices.
    • Common city chain supply stores may offer cheaper prices (*and quality) for beginner oil paint kits. Cheaper usually implies more fillers than pure pigment, which may affect color quality and blend-ability. Look at ratings online, or ask store staff who may have experience evaluating price + quality.
  • Toxicity
    • Sadly, this is one of the major downfalls of oil paints. Not to deter curiosities completely, ensure to paint in well-ventilated places, near windows, and take breaks. Some painters even wear masks (nowadays, everyone is equipped!…)
  • Washing brushes is essential 

This article is a great place to start if you seek specific recommendations for brands and qualities of oil paints on the market.

Styles and Tutorials

This sweet French gentleman has a lovely Youtube Channel providing nice introductions to oil painting, including lessons on composition and techniques for painters new and seasoned. Do check him out!

Acrylic 

Many amateurs find acrylic both affordable and widely available in stores and online markets. Acrylic dries rather quickly, pressing the artist to prioritize blending with a smaller window of time. As mentioned above, price is not always the indicator of true quality, yet acrylics really show their true colors when put to the test.

  • Acrylic quality really shows with viscosity in the tube and transparency on the canvas.
    • Student or beginner’s quality acrylics often appear watery/present with fillers beyond desired pigment.
    • Artists’/Professional quality often boasts more and brighter color choices and smoother texture in your paint strokes.
  • Water-soluble, yet dries water-proof
    • You can use water to clean brushes and dilute wet paint throughout the artist’s project.
    • Once dried, paint is secured to canvas/paper surfaces with little to no water contact damage.

Check out this awesome article going further into acrylic products on the market, including a breakdown of some common Professional and Beginner-grade acrylic brands.

Styles and Tutorials

I highly recommend this the Acrylic Painting Techniques Youtube channel for step-by-step acrylic tutorials, including brush stroke techniques, texture applications, and painting composition!

I personally also love and frequent this site for neatly laying out tutorials for different acrylic painting styles. Check them out, too!

Egg Tempura

Dating back to the European Middle Ages, egg tempera paints also made popular painter’s pick as the finished product, often compared to watercolor, was easier to apply, care for, and afford than oil paints. Truly made from egg yolks mixed with bits of desired pigments and water, this medium delivers a specific, glossy/shiny finish

  • Glossy/shiny finish can add some element of design and a ‘finished’ look but may also reflect direct light affecting visibility
  • Dries more quickly and translucent than oil paints
    • Requires the artist to focus and work on smaller areas at a time
    • You may need several layers to cover layers visible beneath
  • Inexpensive in-store and DIY

Styles and Tutorials

If you’d like to try making egg tempura-like the ancients did, see this Instructables article for step-by-step DIY tempura.

This video outlines the basic differences between the qualities and finished appearance of egg tempura vs. acrylic. Both are more affordable choices on the market, and both are capable of beautiful results! The choices are endless, and exploring what suits you best, encouraged!

Watercolour

Delicate and fast-drying, watercolor paints are made with small amounts of pigment suspended in a water-based solution. It has historically been the dominant painting medium in Japanese, Korean and Chinese paintings, and more modernly across the world.

Watercolour paints are:

  • Fast-drying
    • Allows artist to build their artwork quickly by layering over dried strokes
  • Translucent and easily diluted to increase
  • Few strokes can produce beautiful imagery.
  • The wetness of the brush allows for many techniques (see links below for fantastic tutorials)
  • Using ‘negative’ space is a common tactic by watercolour artists to enhance image composition

Watercolor paper is specially made to counter the issues often discovered when paints are applied to thinner paper and canvases, though the latter may be prepared to yield beautiful results.

Styles and Tutorials

I love how many techniques Mr. Otter’s art channel on Youtube goes through to diversify and empower your watercolor painting. It is really a fun medium to experiment with, and as the teacher reminds in the video – less is often more in watercolor!

Another valuable and all-encompassing resource is www.watercolorpainting.com. This self-titled Watercolour University is a fabulous hub to reference as you play with and discover watercolor art!

Spray Paint

Spray paint is a permanent medium that offers an artist a great deal of control over paint delivery from the can. It is not just for city walls or underpasses – some absolutely stunning art pieces boast spray paint’s versatility in every city worldwide.

However, triers beware! This is considered one of the most technical applications of artists paints. Prepare your art station beyond the canvas to protect other surfaces and clothing.

  • Permanent – protect other surfaces around your work!
  • Varieties have been produced to give desired results from the can, such as more/less drip, transparency, and textures.
  • Toxic to inhale – use in ventilated spaces or with face coverings
  • Stencils are great ways to ensure paint evenly applies to surface with clean lines

Styles and Tutorials

This tutorial guides you through a common spray paint project, galaxy painting. Please take note of my own and the author’s advice on protecting yourself from vapors and your environment.

Supplies: Tools and Accessories

To paint, you’ll need methods to apply the medium itself! Consider the following tools and accessories to explore and play with. Many brushes and applicators are versatile enough to use with different mediums, and some are more picky.

Your Own Digits!

As young artists, children often try painting with their very own digits (it’s almost like we are born to be artists, yeah!?). Our many fingers and toes are just waiting to wet and press, squish, spread, and flick our (hopefully) non-toxic materials on any creative endeavor as we wish.

Now, let’s reinvite that youth into playtential time. Fingerpainting is not just for kids!

Tempura, specially-made body/face paints, or perhaps organic (mud’s a medium, too! Right?) liquids are all a safe bet. Avoid oil, acrylic, and spray paints, which can be highly toxic, dangerous (especially for ingesting or absorbing through the skin), and permanent/staining. Watercolors can be applied with fingers, though the skin does not absorb pigment.

Brushes

Blick Art Supplies has an excellent guide to buying and using brushes, including advising the types of paints and surfaces best paired with them:

Source: Blick Art Supplies
Chart explaining differences in artist brush types
Source: Blick Art Supplies

Cleaning and drying brushes preserve the brush hairs’ shape, prevents hairs from falling off, and general longevity of your tools!

Painting Knives

Expanding your painting tools beyond brushes can feel exciting and experimental. This article nicely outlines how painting knives can add great texture and dynamics to your pieces.

Many art supplies shops sell different shapes and flexibilities, which are great to play with shapes and textures.

Nature

Please, don’t harm or damage any live plants in the name of great art! 🙂 On the contrary, ‘upcycling’ naturally fallen or broken objects can be an exciting venture to collect and experiment with painting supplies!

Dead or fallen leaves, twigs, dried fruits, and other organic objects found outdoors or before their trip to the organics bin are all lovely tools for applying the medium of your choice.

Examples:

  • Fallen pinecones, leaves, twigs, berries, or fruits
  • Cut fruit or scraps (especially dried)
  • Fern leaves
  • Stones or rocks
  • Flowers

Stencils

Stencils are not cheating! As mentioned, stencils are trendy when used with spray paint projects, though sponges and brush applications can prove just as valuable. Stencils can aid the artist with repeating patterns, symmetry, and smooth outlines.

One recommendation I sometimes use myself is to paint a stencil pattern as a background and use my own creativity overtop!

Supplies: Surfaces

Pre-stretched canvases and art paper are common starting surfaces for painters, though wood, furniture, glass, and other surfaces can add cool textures and appeal to a project.

Some canvas producers decipher between student/amateur to professional qualities, comparable to the bedsheets’ quality count. Likewise, art paper also comes in varying qualities.’ Art stores often carry lots of choices. When starting, budget options often are more than fine.

Experiment and see what you come up with :)!

Take Action and Get Painting!

Evaluate your budget, take advantage of shops around you or the myriad of door-delivery shopping made available through the wide web, and gather some resources.

You’ve taken two big steps in the right direction towards painting: harnessing the courage to try and taking action, gathering your supplies.

Enjoy your journey!


We are artists, we need each other and thrive, together.

I would love to hear your questions or ideas that may resonate with you as we explore art, painting, and artistry together. Leave a public comment below, or write me personally to connect!

About the author:

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I am passionate about making the best of life through cherishing relationships, exploring worldly experiences, and cultivating a creative lifestyle of art, music, dance, and fitness. I am a self-taught painter, inspired by the sublimity of nature, consciousness, love and universal transcendence that binds all of humanity and nature, together.

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