Getting Started: Other Painting Supplies

Welcome!  I’m posting a series of tips for beginner artists, based on my own trial-and-error experiences as a self-taught painter. 

1. Paints   2. Brushes   3. Painting Surfaces

4. Other Essential Supplies

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Most of your supply budget should be spent on good quality paint, brushes and canvas, in that order. You don’t need a lot of other stuff, but here are some essentials that you should have before you get started. (Again, I’m posting examples and pictures from dickblick.com, but I am not affiliated with them in any way.)

1) Water bucket

There are a lot of fancy artist’s water pails out there, but you really just need a big jar or tin.  Don’t use a coffee cup or drinking glass or you’ll end up drinking the paintwater when you’re not paying attention!  Change your water in your jar often and never let your brushes sit in the water.  This brings us to…

2) Rags and Apron

I like to have a dedicated painting apron (and sometimes an old button-up shirt as well) to cover my clothes.  Acrylic paint will permanently stain clothes if it dries on.  Again, it doesn’t have to be a special painting apron, but you should have something.  I also like to keep a few rags on hand (old t-shirts work well) to keep under my water bucket to absorb drips and provide a place to rest wet brushes or wipe off excess paint.

3) Palette or palette paper

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You’ll need a place to mix wet paint.  I personally never liked using the traditional hand-held wood or plastic palettes because they’re a pain to clean.  To save hassle and water, I recommend using disposable palette paper (or in a pinch, glossy magazines) when you’re starting out.  When you’re done painting you just peel off the top layer and throw it out.  Disposable palette paper is ideal when you’re just getting started, but see my recommendation #7 below when you’re getting more serious.

4) Masking tape

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Masking tape is extremely useful for making straight edges in your paintings, such as horizons or edges of buildings.  The regular hardware store variety is fine, just make sure your paint is completely dry before you apply it.  I’ll make a post later on how to use masking tape in acrylic painting.

5) Storage

There are many fancy storage containers at the big art stores, but in my opinion these aren’t really worth your money if you’re on a tight budget.  Spend your money on better quality paints and brushes, and use a shoebox or zippered case to store your paint tubes. You can roll your brushes up in an old t-shirt, or in your painting apron, and secure with an elastic.

Nice to Have

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6) Tube wringer

You’ll want to use every drop of your new paints, so you might want to invest in a tube wringer.  It keeps the tubes tidy and makes them easier to store, plus you can use it around the house on toothpaste etc.  Speaking of saving paint…

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7) Sta-Wet palette

This is a special wet storage palette for acrylics that has a sponge inside and a tight fitting lid, so you can preserve your paints between sessions.  If sealed, you can keep your paint dabs wet for a month or more.  This will save you a ton of wasted paint, but more importantly, it’s easier to find time to paint frequently if you don’t have to set up and mix your colors each time.  I always have mine set up full of paints ready to go.  I would consider this an essential supply for anyone getting serious about acrylic painting, but it’s probably not worth the investment right at the beginning.

8) Easel

I’m putting this in the “nice to have” category because you don’t really need one when you’re starting.  Painting flat is fine, and sometimes preferred, for smaller canvases.  If you want to angle your canvas, tape a pencil or ruler to the desk or table to hold it in place, then prop up the other end on something.  When you’re choosing an easel, think about whether you plan to paint sitting or standing, and if you want to take it with you outdoors.

9) Brush cleaner

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Brush cleaner and conditioner is probably a good idea if you want to preserve your nice new brushes for longer.  The most important thing you can do for your brushes though (with or without cleaner) is just to keep them from resting in the water pail, rinse them well after use, and reshape the bristles with your fingers before you put them away.

I also recommend you keep some hand lotion in your painting kit, and put it on just before you start painting.  This will make it easier to clean the paint off your hands and arms afterward.

Next: Setting up your Painting Space

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