Beginners guide to buying painting/art materials

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As a keen amateur artist or beginner, trying and experimenting using different painting mediums can prove expensive. Books tell us "buy the best you can afford", which is true, but we are exposed to pictures of expensive and proper professional artist materials and are offered no alternative. From my experience and speaking to some art teachers, there are some affordable alternatives, even the big companies do cheaper ranges.

Painting Materials

Paints and Paper/Pads/Canvas

Whether its acrylic, oil or watercolour painting the principles are the same.

Student colours and inexpensive papers, pads or canvas are a great starting point, we can experiment, play and make lots of mistakes without worrying about wasting valuable materials. It is sometimes disconcerting staring at a blank canvas anyway, ready to cover in paint without worrying about the cost.

I use Reeves paints and any reasonably priced paper pads.

Some perfectionists will throw their arms in the air and gnash teeth, but one of my previous art teachers uses student paints and paper to experiment and 'play around' with and keeps his professional materials for his commissions and the like.


Brushes are a different story, they can make or break you - these are your tools. Cheap so-called 'professional' painting brushes are a complete waste of time and effort, at best they can be used for craft as glue brushes (pet hate). Good brushes are more economical in the long run as long as you look after them.

Before you ever commit to buy, if at all possible, go to an art shop and look, feel and practise invisible painting strokes with different size and types of brushes. This will give you an indication of the type of brushes you feel comfortable using and an idea of the costs.

If this is not possible, search around on-line and go for a mid range price (your painting books will recommend the sizes and types).

Watercolour - Cotman W&N (Winsor & Newton), Royal Taklon (but no cheaper).

Acrylic - Galleria W&N

Oils - Winton/Azanta W&N, Bristlewhite Daler Rowney


To start, cheap plastic will do or even an old ceramic plate, foil tray or anything else you can find!

Painting Knives

Any reasonably priced wooden handle knives.

I have a cheap set and buy one W&N knife at a time.

Pencils - Coloured

Similar to brushes, really cheap ones are a waste of time, as they are constantly being sharpened due to their broken lead (another pet hate).

Again middle price range, I recommend Caran D'Ache.

Responsible kids would appreciate good coloured pencils as they are more economical in the long run.


By all means, if you can afford the best materials, then good on you - as a whole you do get what you pay for. As you learn your 'tools of the trade' and progress it will become a natural transition to buy the proper professional stuff anyway.

But for some, having the opportunity of buying affordable art materials may lead them to a new painting or drawing medium they will love and enjoy.

Authors Note

I have and sometimes done acrylic, watercolour paintings and pastel drawings. The one I have settled on at the moment is water-soluble Oils, which unfortunately, is limited in choice of manufacturers.

The paints I use from affordable to more expensive are:

Acrylic - Reeves and Galleria W&N

WaterColour - Reeves and Cotman W&N

Pads/Paper/Canvas - no favourites, in the cheaper range.

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