My Favorite Art Materials
First, let me say that if you want to make art, you don't have to have anything fancy or expensive to get started and create good work. I first started painting with these craft paints (which you can usually find for about $1 at a Michaels or Hobby Lobby). The backstory there is that, when I was in college, my friends Korrie and Caitlyn were moving out and gave me a box of about 50-100 of them. I had really only been painting quotes on canvases at that point, but, with so many colors in front of me, I was inspired to try flowers, which led to painting perfumes, and landscapes, and pets, and so on! I painted with those paints for a year straight without ever buying a paint tube that was more than a few dollars. I would also buy canvases at the nearby Walmart in good ole Travelers Rest, SC. This, this, and this were all painted during that time period, and I still love all three (scroll through the @evelyn_henson instagram for more archives). I've since fallen in love with pricier materials because the quality is so much better, but I just wanted to preface with this so that you know it's possible to learn to paint at any price point. At the end of the day, I promise you that you just need to passion for it :)
That said, below are my current favorite products to work with.
I typically work with a mix of acrylics, gouache, and watercolor, and I don’t have a single go-to brand for anything. I enjoy experimenting with a myriad of textures, colors, etc. and since I’m always mixing it up, my favorite paints are always changing. I’ll keep you posted on my new discoveries and obsessions as I find them, but right now I’m most loving------
- All the Holbein Artists Gouache (but especially this pink!)
- Winsor & Newton Designers' Gouache (this set would be a great place to begin)
- Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colors (I love this Ultramarine)
- Liquitex Soft Body Professional Artist Acrylic Colors (I'm always running low on this emerald green)
- Golden Fluid Acrylics (I can't get enough of this green gold)
I’m not sure if you should take my advice on this because I have pretty unusual paper choices that aren’t technically recommended for the mediums I work with, but here we are. For some reason I hate almost all the watercolor papers my artist friends swear by, and I’ve ended up with strange choices in my hunt for something else.
The one consistent element you’ll see is that I love rag paper (which is why all my art prints are printed on it). In my experience, it’s best to stick to something that’s bright white and has a smooth surface. It makes scanning in your work SO much easier. If you get anything with texture or with a warm hue to it, you’re going to have a much more difficult time turning the final piece into an art print. Anyway, my go to paper choices are----
I’ve been using this paper for years. I don’t know how I started using it because it’s not technically meant for painting (It’s definitely not for sale in any art store I’ve ever been it)! It’s also impossible to erase on so I wouldn’t use this if you’re a perfectionist who erases a lot. I just love the size, smooth texture, and thickness of it...and the fact that I can get it on Amazon Prime ;)
I just bought this last week and love the beautiful uneven edges. I think it might replace my long time go-to above because it’s a similar price point, but the edges are BEAUTIFUL! Just to re-emphasize----this is paper is technically meant for printmaking and not for any of my choice mediums. As a result, the watercolors sometimes bleed in an unusual way.
This paper is universally loved by all the artists I know and/or admire. The texture and weight is perfect!
I have no idea what brand of brushes I use and, because I don't take good care of them, I usually buy brushes on the cheaper side. I usually just need one small ¾ inch angular brush, pointed brush, and a super tiny brush for the details. When I used to teach art classes I would use the same angled brushed the ENTIRE class, so I sort of just make whatever I have work.
OTHER RANDOM MUST HAVES
What you mix your paint on is totally personal preference. I like this because I can tear off the sheets and start over on a new page when needed. Some people find it easier to work with trays that have little grooves for paint.
I get a lot of questions about what scanner I work with, but I honestly just chose this one because I could travel with it and it fits in a desk drawer. You just want to make sure you can scan in your art at a minimum of 300 dpi (and actually the art printer I work with requests files at 150). I’ve only had it since January, but it’s been working fine so far. I had previously used a Kodak printer/scanner that was honestly probably from the early 2000s.
- Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
To edit my art, I mostly work in Photoshop. I am currently in the process of learning Illustrator as well. Even after an online class on Skillshare, a local Skill Pop class in Charlotte, and the help of several friends, I'm still struggling to get the hang of it! So don't be discouraged if you find either of the programs challenging :)
WHAT I WOULD BUY IF I WAS STARTING FROM SCRATCH
I usually hate any sort of “set” and think they are total rip offs, but this one is the best beginners set I've ever seen or used. I got this when I was first trying gouache and have used every single color. It’s a great buy if you’re starting with nothing. I’d get this and then a few of my favorite paints listed above just so you have a few different colors and mediums to play around with.
PS- SHOP MY ART LOOK BELOW:
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