A beginning art student is seduced by the notion that buying all the pretty colors, brushes, tools and accessories will ensure that their works of art are worthy of a trendy Manhattan art gallery.
Unless they have a doting relative or a trust fund, they find that the cost of all those painterly baubles can be quite staggering.
One thing that most instructors fail to talk about in their beginners’ painting classes is how to save money on paint supplies. The student leaves his first lesson with a list of needed supplies, and no idea how to economize. After that first costly set of purchases, he may be a bit gun shy at other buying sprees the instructor may have in mind for his students.
Save Money Buying Paints
The first thing to avoid is purchasing unnecessary colors. A beginner’s palette should consist of the basic colors, from which he will learn to create a full range of hues.
There are a vast number of colors, and many are remarkably similar. A basic set of primary colors, an earth color and a tube of white for acrylic or oil painters is all that should be on the short list. Buy a large tube of white paint, as that is used most often.
As you refine your skill and palette, it will become apparent which colors are favorites. Those colors should be purchased in larger size tubes, as the jumbo sizes are generally more economical.
Be frugal with your Paints
Purchase a mechanical tube squeezing device to remove every trace of paint out of your tubes. This inexpensive tool will pay for itself quickly. Use up every bit of paint on your palette. A watercolorist can simply allow his paint to dry on his palette, rewetting them at his next painting session. An acrylic painter can moisten a small piece of sponge, place it on the palette and cover the tray with plastic wrap. The paint will remain usable for a day or two. Oil painters can take advantage of this as well, without the need to add the wet sponge.
Scrape up all the paint from the palette and conserve that muddy mixture of paint. That neutral tone you’ve concocted can be useful later in the progress of the painting or perhaps in the next one. Place it in a container with a tight-fitting lid and store it in the freezer. Take it out when you are in need of neutral paint & let it thaw.
A professional grade of paint is often only slightly more expensive than student grade paint. Use the best paint your budget will allow. The paint usually contains more pigment, and therefore extends further than student paint. It is a false economy to buy inexpensive paint and then need to apply many layers to get the covering power of a quality paint.
Mediums Extend And Enhance Your Paint
The watercolorist needs no further medium, but those artists using oil or acrylic paint may require additional medium for basic or specialty techniques.
Oil painters need mineral spirits and oil to thin paint. They also need Turpenoid for cleaning their brushes. Mineral spirits and oil thin the paint, allowing it to go further. However, they do make the paint more translucent.
A number of oils are commonly used in oil painting. They have different drying times and some will darken or change color with age. Consider these characteristics when purchasing oil. Inexpensive oil that darkens or yellows over time will ruin a painting. There are times that you just can’t skimp. Compare sizes, price and shelf life when buying oil. A huge quantity that thickens and dries before it can be used is a poor investment.
Turpenoid and Turpentine
Turpenoid or turpentine should not be used as an inexpensive substitute for mineral spirits. Turpentine is hazardous, unless there is proper ventilation and protection from physical contact. To use Turpenoid frugally, pour a few inches in a glass container with a secure, screw-on lid. Wipe as much paint out of your brush as possible with paper towels, and then stir it in the jar of cleaner. Wipe and squeeze the cleaner out of the brush several times to remove all the paint, and proceed with the final cleaning with soap and water.
Leave the Turpenoid in the jar and seal it. The paint will settle to the bottom. This liquid can be reused repeatedly. When the mixture gets too sludgy, let it settle and pour off the cleaner, top layer into another jar and dispose of the sludge-filled container.
Painting in the impasto method uses a lot of paint. Use thick medium to extend your paint. Consult with the manufacturer’s specifications for the maximum ratio that can be used without losing opacity. This is far less expensive than using paint directly from the tube to build up heavy applications. Large containers are usually more economical, so if you consider painting a lot of impasto canvases, buy the economy size vat of medium for maximum savings.
An acrylic artist needs no particular cleaners or thinner for his paint. However, if he wishes to work in the impasto method, he would follow the same principle indicated for oil painters. He can purchase heavy acrylic medium to extend his paint. This is available in both opaque and translucent formulas.
Both oil and acrylic may need a final glaze to equalize the sheen of the work. Satin and high gloss finish coats are available, and the choice is strictly personal. If you are planning to use a satin finish as a final coat, many artists recommend using a gloss coat before using the final satin coat. This increases the clarity and intensity of the paint before the final satin glaze.
A final varnish should be a removable varnish. If the artist changes his mind and wants to revise his work, this allows him to remove the varnish before repainting. If the varnish darkens, discolors or becomes heavily soiled, this removable feature is also essential to preserve the painting.
Since this is such a specific type of varnish, it does not pay to use an inexpensive substitute. You may produce a beautiful sheen with a standard acrylic clear finish or permanent varnish, but you run the risk of the painting becoming irreparably discolored later. If you are painting a short-term project, this potential problem may not be an issue. However, using the proper materials is necessary for work that you intend to be permanent and enduring images.
Stay tuned for the next installment of How to Paint on the Cheap. Frugal artists have many ways of cutting down costs, and there are lots of ideas to make your painting dollar go further.