How & Where You Can Save Money on Painting Supplies

How & Where You Can Save Money on Painting Supplies

I've found several students finding ways to cut down on the cost of painting. I want to tell you of some things that I think work well, others, not so well. There are ways to cut down on costs.

There are four things that you absolutely need to paint and they are: paint, brushes, canvas and easel. Most other things can be found around your house. Let's start with the four things your need. What can you cut down on and what do you need to spend your money on?

Paint - I can't stress this enough. DO NOT BUY STUDENT GRADE PAINT. What you will find with student grade paint is that it has less pigment in it and more oil or fillers. What does that mean to you? You won't be able to get as rich of a color as you will want. It is weaker. Titanium White is relatively inexpensive in paints. So, if you mix a student grade paint you will need more of the color to mix with your white than you will of a professional grade. Also, your colors will not be as vibrant, fresh and clean. I've seen this repeatedly with some of the colors and the frustration of the student in trying to get a nice, vibrant color.

There are some colors that are more expensive than others. Cadmium colors are expensive. Try hansa yellows instead of cadmium yellows. Use a perylene red instead of cadmium red. It's not exactly the same, but Gamblin's Perylene Red is closest to a true red. Don't use cobalt. Try mixing Ultramarine and a little Manganese Blue Hue together instead. A lot of the choices in colors is just habit. There are often alternatives. Then, learn to mix the colors together. Also, start with a limited palette. It's much better to buy a small amount of colors and learn to mix rather than buying more. You learn more and it costs less. If you haven't signed up for my  FREE email course on colors, do so. In it there is a video lesson on learning to mix colors.  

Brushes - I've had students come to my workshop with mangled, old brushes with dried paint in them. Then wonder why they can't get a nice, clean, crisp brushstroke. It amazes me. There are certain brushes that you can buy cheaper. The block in brush, a big brush to quickly put in the pattern of the painting on canvas. I've used throwaway, bristle hardware brushes and also, an inexpensive nylon flat brush from the craft store. While at the craft store, I will look for small liner brushes, or small round brushes. These are sizes that always seem to splay out pretty quickly, cheap or expensive. At least, that is my experience. So, I buy less expensive ones and then throw away once they splay out. I don't have the guilt of throwing a brush away when it costs $1 instead of $10. Other than that, save your sanity and frustration and buy good quality of brushes. If you want more information on supplies, I have a  FREE email course on Beginning Painting


Canvas - Now here is a place that you can save money, at least when you are starting to paint. Use a pad of painting paper or buy matboard and apply two coats of shellac from the hardware store to the matboard. You can cut matboard with an exacto knife. It's lightweight and inexpensive. I also use it for traveling when space and weight is an issue. I know that you will be much more likely to experiment and throw away when you have an inexpensive, easy to get painting surface. I've had students bring linen panels to a class and then decide the will save it for when they are better. Now, isn't the time to buy it.

Easel - I wouldn't go out and purchase one that is expensive. Until you start painting, you really won't know your needs with an easel. If you can, buy a used one or inexpensive and later think about what you want. Here's an article with more info on choosing an easel. Other supplies With a palette there  are a number of surfaces that you can use - glass, a piece of formica, plastic sheet, cookie sheet or piece of wood that has been oiled with vegetable oil. Paper towels (porous ones like Viva or Blue shop towels), Palette knife ( a medium size triangular knife) and solvent or oil. I use a glass palette on my cabinet. With my plein air easels, I have wood and plastic ones. With the plastic, I have to use a plastic scraper. Glass is my preference, but not always convenient for plein air or travel.  One surface that I often see students use if disposable palettes. The problem that I see is that the majority of people don't clean it off and they are searching for a clean place to mix their paint. It's possible to use it, but you need to transfer your paint to the next page more often to have a clean space. The next item is the solvent. For safety, I would skimp here. I use Gamsol, which is the safest on the market. But, you can recycle your solvent. I keep my old can and pour the used solvent into it. Then let it settle and pour off the clear into my clean can.


Your solvent jar can be any jar or can with a water tight lid. As far as the oil that I spoke about, you don't have to use solvent to paint. Oil removes oil, so try some oil to remove the paint in your brushes. At one time I didn't use solvent, I used vegetable oil and I've used it since while traveling when I'm in a pinch. I don't like it as well myself, but it is a matter of getting used to it and making sure that all the oil is wiped out of your brush before getting into the paint. You can always give it a try. Another link to a related article. Easy Cleaning of Your Solvent Container

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Brush Sizes to Use, Resist the Little Brushes!

Brush Sizes to Use, Resist the Little Brushes!

Whether you are painting with a bristle brush of soft-haired brush:
  1. With your paint thinned with solvent , sketch in the main shapes using a small, round brush. Now, put it away!
  2. Using a BIG, FLAT brush, and paint thinned just a little to a creamy stage with medium or a touch of solvent, block in the big shapes.
  3. Start to refine and adjust your shapes and colors, still using the large brushes.
  4. Now you can move down to a smaller brush, not small, just smaller.
  5. As a final touch move down to your smallest brush to put in a few details and adjustments. Don't overdo the small detail. Think of it as being in the focal point, not much anywhere else.
The right size brush to use is the largest one you can use to do the job. It may seem to big, but it will be more efficient, more effective and fresher looking with a larger brush rather than smaller. And remember, hold that brush by the end of the handle, not like a pencil!

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What Does Your "War Chest" of Studio Art Supplies Look Like?

What Does Your "War Chest" of Studio Art Supplies Look Like?

I thought I would give you a peak into my "dirty little secrets". I buy too many art supplies. I guess I think I'm going to live and paint for many, many years. (I know I will) At any rate, I won't have to buy much when the day comes that I don't have the money to buy as many supplies. But then, if I didn't buy so much I would have more money. Hmmm.... now that's a novel thought

The things that I always have extra of are paint and brushes. You know, you never want to caught with a brush that is splayed or that last tube of ultramarine. Actually, that happened to me recently. With all the paint I have, I ran out of ultramarine. Can you believe it?

Now, if we get down to it, I have too many tripods, pochade boxes and panels. But then, someone might need to borrow one. I've actually had students I lent some to in classes.

Whoa! I gotta stop  stashing things into my "war chest". What does yours look like? Becky PS, Maybe I'll go through my brushes and throw some out and pull out some new ones. After all, the plein air convention is coming up I can always get some more.

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How Do You Know When to Varnish?

How Do You Know When to Varnish?

This is a question I've heard lots of artists talk about when to varnish paintings. It's easy if you can have your paintings sit in the studio for 6 months or so. Just let it dry then varnish the painting. But what if the painting is sold, a commission, or needs to be shipped to a show or gallery.

Of course, the painting needs to be dry to the touch before it can be shipped. Some paintings with thin paint, fast drying paints will be dry in two weeks. But it can take up to 6 months for it to dry enough for varnish.

The painting must be dry to the touch (not soft) before being varnished. In the past I did varnish some paintings too soon. What I found was that the painting always remained "sticky". It picked up lint like crazy. Now I usually will first use a light coat of spray varnish if the painting has to go out quickly.

I use gamvar as a varnish diluting the varnish with gamsol, 3 parts varnish to one part solvent. Then I can varnish it sooner, just making sure that the paint is not soft to the touch. Living in Arizona with our famous "dry" heat the paintings will dry sooner. I have even put a painting outside in the sun for a few days. That dries it very quickly.

Of course, the summers here will dry everything out. I guess that's one advantage with the summer heat here. Gamvar can also be diluted with more solvent, 5 parts solvent to 1 part gamvar. That will give you a retouch varnish. I will put this or a spray retouch on as a last resort rather than nothing.

I like varnish on a painting to unify the dull and shiny areas and to bring out the richness in the colors. In this case I will give a note with the painting and explain to the client that in 6 months or a year the painting can be permanently varnished. It is usually easier to let the client use a spray varnish. I give them instructions and tell them the kind of spray if I know they will be varnishing the painting.

You can also use the time frame as a way to reconnect with your client. For years I have done the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale. I will often sell a painting "off the easel" or shortly after. In that case, there isn't enough time to permanently varnish the painting.

I tell the client that I'm not able to varnish it, but that I will come out to their house or they can bring the painting back to the show the next year. Then I will varnish it for them. I make a note in a file box with the month they can have their painting varnished and send them a card or call to remind them. If the client isn't in the local area, I send them a card to remind them with instructions on how they can do it themselves.

I have found that people are appreciative that I give my paintings the proper care by waiting. They also like the fact that I care about them enough to remind them. This has worked out to be a positive, not a negative. When the painting is going to a gallery, the very least I do is spray a light coat of varnish on the painting. That may be all the time I have before it is shipped.

But of course, again, it will be dry to the touch before shipping. I have heard of artists painting a medium on their paintings. Mediums are not designed to be used as a varnish. Mediums can't be removed from a painting as easily as a varnish without damage to the painting. I hope this helps you with your varnishing time frame. For more information about varnishing go to

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How to Start Painting – Brushes

How to Start Painting – Brushes

Now, what kind of brushes to buy? This is another area that I find students come with inadequate brushes that are very frustrating to use. Obviously, the brushes vary a lot and with each artist in their choices and it can be a daunting task to choose which brushes will work for you.  So, I’ll explain the uses of different brushes and tell you about what I look for and the parts of a brush.

Parts of the Brush

There are 4 main parts to a brush: 1. the bristles or hairs, which can be natural, synthetic or a combination of both 2. the ferrule is the metal part that holds the hairs into place 3. the crimp which is where the ferrule and the wood handle join. 4. the handle usually made of wood or plastic Oil or Acrylic Paint Brushes There are 10 different types of brushes, at least.

The flat “curved edge” is a new brush by Rosemary & Co. This is one I want to try next time I order. It works as a flat, but with softened edges.

The fan brush is used to blend and smooth and for textural effects.

The long flat brush can be used for covering large areas. The longer brush can be loaded with more paint. It makes hard edges, thin lines on edge and sweeping strokes. The bright brush is a shorter flat brush. It has more control and sharper edges. It can be used for thick and heavy paint.

The round brush is used for detail and depending on the size creates thin or thick lines.

The filbert brush creates soft, rounded edges and used for blending.

The angle brush paints, well, angles.

The rigger brush makes long, sweeping lines. Because of the length they will carry a lot of paint.

The egbert brush is similar to the filbert brush, but longer. Because of the length they will carry a lot of paint.

The dagger brush is a specialized brush that Rosemary & Co. carries. It has a lot of control and carries a lot of paint. Long handled brushes are made for standing at the easel.  Short handles are for when you are working over a piece of art on a table. Bristle brushes create harder texture in a painting. The softer “hair” brushes make softer marks.  

A palette knife is for mixing paint and is sturdier than a painting knife.

A painting knife is designed to have the hand lifted from the canvas when painting. If you had one knife, I would use the painting knife. It can be used for both jobs. A couple more  blog posts about supplies for the beginning painter.

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How to Start Painting – The Paints

How to Start Painting – The Paints

I started this series and got overwhelmed with some legal issues to take care of before leaving for Italy. I lost the thought from my mind. I was reminded when I got back from Italy by a reader who left a comment that “this article is incomplete”. And, she is right.

While teaching in Italy, I had a beginning student which has helped to remind me of the things that the student needs to understand to help them on their way.

So, let me continue.

The paint!

I’m first going to speak about the quality of the paint. It is absolutely a must to have professional quality paints, not student grade. The student grade has more fillers in it and tends to get muddy when mixed with other colors. It is difficult to get clean, rich colors. I’ve had many students that have been very frustrated with not being able to mix some of the colors that I mix.  Winton is one of the student grade paints. There are several brands that are reasonably priced for the quality, two being Gamblin and Utrecht. Watch for sales or free shipping at Dick Blick’s or Jerry’s Artarama.

Start with a very limited palette.  Learn to mix the paints and use them, before adding to them. No sense spending the money on extra paints when you will learn more with less. Always set up your palette in the same order and use a palette knife to mix your paints. You will be able to instinctively go for the colors that you need. Keep your palette clean and mix with the palette knife, not a brush. It will keep your paints cleaner.

Colors for a warm/cool limited palette:

Titanium White (You can replace this with an alkyd or quick dry titanium white to speed drying)

cool – Hansa Yellow Light (less expensive and less hazardous than Cadmium Yellow)

warm – Cadmium Orange Light (Or use Transparent Orange, if you want to get away from Cadmiums)

warm – Cadmium Red Light (Can be replaced with Napthol Scarlett to get away from Cadmiums)

cool – Alizarin Permanent (More lightfast than Alizarin Crimson)

Ultramarine Blue

Manganese Blue Hue (Gamblin, mixes cleaner than Cerulean)

These are the colors that I use. I have been slowly going through my Cadmium colors and replacing them. I’m trying to make my studio as safe as possible and Europe has banned cadmium colors (I thought, but apparently not so.)  and I travel to Europe for painting. If you are trying to have as safe of a studio as possible consider wearing gloves while painting or not using harmful colors.

For more information about mixing a warm/cool palette, click here to go to the FREE email workshop.

Learn to set up your palette for clean, fresh colors.  

I have had a few students work with acrylics in my workshops. Unless, you are proficient with it, I wouldn’t recommend using them outdoors to start with. I’ve seen some very frustrated students. If you want to use acrylics, try Open M Paints. They dry slower and give you time to blend and mix. Some people use water based oils and love them. I prefer my standard oils. But I have been using alternatives to solvents and have spent 2 weeks to 2 months while traveling using no solvents.

I have suggested to beginners to start out using alternatives from the beginning and not to get used to the solvents. As with all things, it’s difficult to break habits.  The alternative that I use is to use Gamblin’s Solvent Free Gel to thin and move my paint instead of solvent.  You can also use oils to clean and remove paint. Unless it is an oil used for painting, make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned your brushes of the oils. Some oils I’ve heard of artists using are walnut oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, baby oil (I also heard this isn’t a good choice, not sure about it.)

It’s a good idea to have enough brushes that you don’t always have to clean the colors out. Many artists will use a brush for darks and one for lights. Without the normal solvents to clean my brushes, I have used oils, bars of soap, murphy’s oil soap, orange cleaners and brush cleaners. Just make sure you thoroughly clean and rinse your brushes so that you don’t have any residue left in the brushes when painting.

OK, that’s it for today. I’m sure I will think of more by the end of the day. But, I will continue this. I would say tomorrow, but I hate to promise when I didn’t follow up on the last one. Anyway, it will be soon.

If you would like to get more art tips from my blog, sign up for the emails by clicking HERE.

Tomorrow was the day I scheduled my first auction. Two days ago I found out there was a problem with the setup with paypal, so I will be down again waiting to have it worked one, again! So, the date is up in the air. ?

Have fun with your color charts and next painting project!


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Mineral Versus Modern Colors

Mineral Versus Modern Colors

You may have read a past blog post about me slowly switching my palette of colors from Mineral colors to Modern Colors in the last few months. I told you about the modern colors being more intense than the .mineral colors. The reason I like working with the Modern Colors is that I feel it gives me more options than the Mineral Colors.

The colors are more intense and can be mixed with white without killing the intensity of the colors. I also can gray my Modern Colors as easily as I can gray the Mineral Colors. I want to compare the limited palette of mineral colors versus the limited palette of modern colors sometimes called the spectral palette. A traditional limited palette of warm cool colors would often consist of the mineral colors: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, and Cerulean Blue.

To correspond with these colors in the Mineral Colors I might use the following colors: Titanium White, Hansa Yellow Light, Hansa Yellow Deep, Napthol Scarlett, Quinacridone Red, Pthalo Blue and Manganese Blue Hue.


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More About Gamblin’s Radiant Colors

More About Gamblin’s Radiant Colors

In my last post, I showed some examples of Gamblin’s Radiant Colors that I have used in my paintings. I got an email asking why I used them and could the colors be mixed. So, I thought I would answer that here for you. The colors are more convenience than anything. Most of the colors are made from synthetic pure pigments, which when white is added to the colors, gives you brighter, richer colors than organic pigments. This is a general rule – when white is added, synthetics are brighter than organics. The mixtures of the Radiant colors that I use.
  • Radiant Blue is Ultramarine Blue and TitaniumWhite
  • My two favs are Radiant Turquoise which is Pthalocyanine Blue and Radiant Violet which is Dioxazene Purple, which I use a lot. But I find this is mixed to just the right value for me. But I do mix darker values with the Dioxazene Purple when mixing darker mixtures.
  • Radiant Red is Perylene Red which is again a synthetic and stays vibrant when mixed with white.
  • Radiant Yellow is Indian Yellow another synthetic which mixes well with Titanium White.So now you know, the colors can be mixed. For several months, I’ve been gravitating to more synthetic colors which gives me brighter colors. I can always gray the colors, but I can only make them as bright as they are out of the tube. The organics tend to gray more when mixed with white.

I labeled the paint colors above. The Cadmium Red Light and the Cadmium Yellow Medium are both organic pigments. The Perylene Red and the Indian Yellow are both synthetic pigments.

It may be hard to see online the differences, but you can see more paint with the synthetic pigments. That is because to lighten the color as much as the Cadmiums I had to add more Titanium White to the mixture.

Both Perylene Red and Indian Yellow have a very strong tinting power. A lot of white can be added to them and they still keep their color without losing vibrancy or turning gray.

The Radiant Colors are mixed to a number 7 on the value scale. Although, I find the Radiant Red appears to be slightly darker than the others, but maybe that’s just me. When I’m painting skies,

I use the Radiants right out of the tube, except the lower part of the sky which is lighter. In those places I add more white to the mixture.I hope this better clarifies how and why I use the Radiant Colors.

For more information about Gamblin’s Radiant Colors, click here.

Happy Painting! Becky

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Panels, Painting Supports Used in Europe

Panels, Painting Supports Used in Europe

When I first decided that I was going to be traveling and painting through Europe for 2 1/2 months, I knew that I would need to be creative and judicious in the supplies that I carried with me. My first thought was to bring cut pieces of canvas with me that I would tape onto a rigid surface. But, I really don't like the feel of painting on cut pieces of canvas. I prefer a hard surface.

I already had some archival white mat boards in the studio leftover from my old watercolor days. So, I took out a full size sheet and painted each side with two coats of shellac. Once they dried, I cut them with the mat cutter into 5"x7" panels, 6"x8" panels and a few 8"x10" panels. I was able to travel with enough to paint 4 paintings a day for 4 days a week. That made 16 panels a week. I wasn't sure how much painting I would get done, because I knew that I would have traveling time and being a plain ol' tourist also. So, eventually, I made about 120 panels in all that I took with me. And, I didn't use them all. There was more touring time in which I didn't paint than I anticipated. But, that's OK, I've got lots of reference material to paint from.

These panels are not only great for traveling because of the light weight and small space that they take up, they are also great for beginning artists and for experimentation.  I wouldn't go any larger than 8"x 10" with the panels. They just are not thick enough or rigid enough for larger sizes.

The mat board is inexpensive and easy to cut, using only a straight edge and an exacto knife or razor. I think it is important for student artists to be able to have some of their materials be inexpensive enough to feel that they can throw them away. People are not afraid to experiment and try new things when they are using something that doesn't feel too precious, such as linen panels. Save the linen panels for later.


Arles, France Church Rooftop    5"x7" oil

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Saturated Colors Versus Unsaturated Colors

Saturated Colors Versus Unsaturated Colors

Saturation of a color is how clean, vivid and pure the paint is. A color straight out of the tube is usually saturated. As an example Cadmium Red Light is a saturated color as opposed to a Mars Red which has all three primaries mixed into it to gray the color somewhat.

Cadmium Orange is a saturated color as opposed to Burnt Sienna. Cadmium Orange is more vivid in color. Saturation of colors is all relative in painting. One color might be more saturated that another. Or, I can take Cadmium Orange and add just smallest amount of it's complement, blue, to it to mix an orange that isn't as as saturated as the original Cadmium Orange. If I add a little more blue to that same mixture, it becomes even less saturated.

Saturation of colors has nothing to do with the hue which is the color of paint or the value, the lightness of darkness of the color. It is only the intensity of the color. 

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