Why good art supplies matter

I often read comments that suggest starting artists should just buy the cheapest art supplies because they’re not making good art anyway. I highly disagree (on both accounts). 

I always felt frustrated and disappointed when I started out painting with the student grade paints. They are so cheap because they have more fillers and less pigments in them.

Everything changed for me when I finally decided to try heavy body acrylic paints by Golden and Liquitex. Golden is my absolute favourite, the colours are just so beautiful. But Liquitex is a great runner up!

This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get you started. I would suggest starting out with two or three colours. For example black and white (you could even use white gesso instead of paint). Payne’s Grey is also very nice to use instead of black.

With these colour palettes you can really focus on your values (the lights and darks in your painting) first to understand shading and creating form before trying to figure out how to do this in colour. You won’t accidentally create muddy colours. Simplify your learning process and take it step by step. This is why I created my class Tiny Portraits, Tiny Palette.

You can always pick up one additional colour each month or so and expand your collection gradually. One tip: keep a list on your phone with the colours you already have so you won’t end up with a lot of doubles like me. 

There are some supplies that I do save money on, such as:

  • gesso;
  • Brushes (as long as the metal part is sturdy enough so that they won’t shed while painting. I really like the Daler Rowney Graduate brushes);
  • Mixed media papers for practice purposes (I gesso them first anyway).

Another tip: buy pastels, neocolour crayons, etc. seperately instead of one big box with a lot of colours in them that you will never use. This is another good way to gather a big collection of them over time without you having to spend a lot of money at once. 

There’s something that I would like to address. If you are painting with cheap art supplies and you are rocking them, good for you! Don’t ever feel bad about that. Keep creating beautiful art with them. I know that there are a lot of artists out there that are doing just fine with them. The most important thing is that you’re enjoying what you’re doing. If you haven’t invested in a good varnish yet, then maybe that is interesting to look into. Because the light fastness of your paint could be lower and I wouldn’t want your beautiful art to fade over time.

Also, if you decide to invest in some high end brands, there’s no need to throw out your old paints. You can continue using them, building up layers while making awesome textured backgrounds without any hesitation or anxiety about “wasting” expensive paint.

I hope you liked these tips and please feel free to share your own below!


  1. Aneen Graupe on March 22, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you for the tips. I also find working with less colour options makes it easier.

    • jerneymarisha on March 28, 2020 at 9:44 am

      My pleasure Aneen! Me too! Taking colour out of the equation really helps to focus on value and expression.

  2. Cher Lashley on March 23, 2020 at 11:10 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. This is what I used to tell my students when I was teaching. One of my granddaughters loves art and I have taught and bought her the same good quality that I use and she totally gets it. She even did a comparison of a technique using the supplies I (and she with her own allowance) bought compared to the children’s type of materials that her other grandmother bought. When she saw for herself she had to, of course, take it into her art teacher. Luckily she has an open minded instructor who gave her bonus points instead of a lecture on who knew best. Thanks so much for passing this onto your subscribers. Even the slightest difference will build confidence, which we know is the first hurdle of all aspiring, as well as, established artists.

    • jerneymarisha on March 28, 2020 at 9:47 am

      I love this story so much, how great that you have helped your granddaughter to experience this for herself!

      Yes, it’s all about gathering confidence and joy in the process. Thank you so much for pointing that out. ❤️

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