Cheap Canvas and Supports

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We have discussed Cheap Paints and Mediums, and now it is time to look at how to save money when buying painting supports.

We’ll take a look at Watercolor Paper, Acrylic and Oil Supports, as well as alternative inexpensive supports like Gessoed Masonite, Stretched Canvas and Boards, Slate, Wood and even talk about Recycling! :) Let’s begin!

Watercolor Paper

Unfortunately, for watercolorists there is not any suitable, inexpensive substitute for watercolor paper. However, there are ways to save on watercolor paper costs.

Student watercolorists make a lot of mistakes. That is the nature of the beast and part of the learning curve. The student can use smaller sheets of paper and use the back of the sheet.

If a lesson is a study of one object or technique, use a ruler and pencil to divide a piece of paper into small squares. Use each square to practice that lesson. A 16 by 20 inch piece of watercolor paper can be divided into 20 four by five inch rectangles, both on the front and back. The artist now has 40 squares for practice.

Always keep plain paper or butcher paper to test colors or practice a brushstroke. A roll of craft paper or a ream of printer paper is far less expensive and is always useful for checking colors, jotting down notes or comparing brushstrokes.

If an artist has decided that watercolor is the medium of choice, he can invest in a roll of watercolor paper. This varies in weight, texture and size, but is significantly less expensive than buying pads, sheets or blocks.

Acrylic And Oil Supports

We would all like to think that our work deserves preservation for future generations to appreciate. The reality is far different. An artist can spend a good deal of money on archival quality supports. He should if he has reached a place in his artistic life that his work is purchased as investment pieces.

The truth is that folks who want a pretty painting to accent the colors of their living room purchase most of our paintings. Of course, they want quality materials, but there is a great difference between a support that will last 10 years and one that will last for generations.

There is a variety of supports suitable for both oil and acrylic painting, some standard and others not your typical painting surface. A substantial cost of supports is in the labor required to construct them. The more able you are to do the work yourself, the more money you can save on your painting surface.

Canvas Board

Typically, a student does not start out using stretched canvas. A common painting surface is canvas board. Stiff cardboard is wrapped and bonded to canvas. It is available in many sizes and is a great surface for a beginner. Multi-packs are generally less costly, and smaller sized boards are more economically priced.

Gessoed Masonite

Gessoed Masonite is an alternative many artists employ. This rigid surface is easy for a beginner to use. Some students find the giving nature of stretched canvas a little unnerving and beginning with a rigid support eases them gently into painting.

Masonite boards are available, pre-gessoed in many sizes. However, making your own panels is easy and saves a lot on the cost of supports.

Buy untempered Masonite or high-density fiberboard in ¼-inch or 1/8-inch sheets. Cut it to size, lightly sand and paint with gesso. Sanding between coats, apply at least two layers of gesso, adding a textured layer if desired.

Stretched Canvas

Artists have used stretched canvas or linen for generations. Pre-stretched canvas is available in many sizes and shapes, as well as a variety of textures or fiber weaves. This is probably the most costly choice as a surface for your painting. Building your own canvases, however, is a skill you can learn for economizing your painting costs.

It takes some time and proficiency to learn the art of canvas stretching, as well as the need for a few tools. Since this is a time consuming procedure, an artist should decide if the savings he can expect outweighs the time required to build his supports.

Alternative Inexpensive Paint Supports

There are plenty of alternative supports that can be used as well. Things like recycled paper, canvas and boards. Let’s take a look…

Recycling Painting Surfaces

A student can recycle his less-than-wonderful paintings. The canvas, canvas board or gessoed Masonite panels can be re-gessoed and reused. Make sure to sand well if the painting underneath has definite textures and apply sufficient coats of gesso to bring the surface back to pure white.

Alternatively, if the student is going to do an impasto or palette knife painting, the underlying texture should not be a problem and may add to the overall feel of the new painting’s textural qualities.

Another recycling ploy is to salvage the supports of others. You may find a wealth of used canvases or canvas boards available very inexpensively at garage sales, flea markets or estate sales. Add to that the possibility of great frames for pennies on the dollar and you have a treasure trove of supplies on an ongoing basis.

Another possibility is the discount stores, dollar stores and thrift shops. Discount stores sometimes have closeouts of inexpensive reproductions printed on stretched canvas. These can be very inexpensive, and with a couple of coats of gesso, they add to your ever-growing inventory of painting substrates.

Slate And Wooden Panels

Rustic and primitive décor often features artwork done on a thin slab of slate or piece of wood or old lumber. These types of supports are not suitable for every subject or technique, but they do make attractive pieces and are certainly a possibility for an alternative paint support.

Crafters use decorator objects as painting supports. Metal and wooden trays, ceramic plates, wooden figurines and objects are all suitable painting surfaces. A coat of acrylic polyurethane protects the paint and surface of porous materials such as wood and provides protection against soil and the subsequent cleaning decorative items require.

A little creativity and effort can cut an artist’s costs for paint supports substantially, leaving a little extra to buy a new paint you have been dying to try or that cool specialty paintbrush that guarantees results.

There are many more methods to save money on your painting costs. Next time we will look at ways to save on the brushes and tools of the trade.

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