reasonably priced art supplies

Collective Wisdom | Tips for Finding Reasonably Priced Art Supplies

by Jason Horejs on February 6, 2014 · 159 comments

I have long advocated the importance of creating the highest quality work in order to maximize your sales and your chances for gallery representation. A discussion of quality begins with materials. Are you investing in the highest quality materials you can obtain? Setting aside framing for two-dimensional artists and basing for three-dimensional artists, it’s critical you strive to find the best materials you can obtain for your art. I find that many artists, early on in their careers, are tempted to skimp with materials in order to save money. This is completely understandable, your material costs are a huge portion of your outlay, and often budgets are limited. The problem with skimping on materials, however, is that it has a direct impact on the marketability of your work. Gallery owners and seasoned collectors will perceive any shortcomings in the quality of the materials. Saving a few dollars on materials can actually ending up costing you in the long-run if it prevents you from finding good gallery representation or making sales.

Of course, getting the highest quality materials doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank. You can often find suppliers for the materials you are using and order in bulk to save. I know artists who have created small co-operatives (sometimes with just one or two other artists) to order supplies together to spread the cost.

Please Share What you Know About Buying High Quality Art Supplies

I thought it could be helpful to set up a page where artists could share advice about where to find and how to obtain high-quality art supplies at the best value. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below. It will be helpful if you format your comment so that artists can search for the tips that would apply to them. So please first state who the advice applies to by medium, and then share your tip. For example:

OIL PAINTERS buy oil paint by the gallon and in bulk at wholesale prices. Order from

This is a real tip, by the way – this is the supplier that my father, John Horejs, uses.

Thanks for sharing your tips!


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Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 158 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian February 6, 2014 at 10:59 am

Great post! I use acrylic and I like Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick. They are always having specials and free shipping for orders over a certain $ amount. I always buy in bulk to get the best deal and it’s fun when you get a mound of boxes delivered to your door.
As far as canvas goes, I buy in rolls. I have had problems with pre-stretched canvas when going from AZ to somewhere with humidity. I make my own stretcher bars, so I end up with better quality, cheaper and I add a special touch by adding rounded edges to create a unique look to the canvas.


Kim Bowen February 12, 2014 at 8:39 am

I have been hoping to have (husband and brother) both great with wood to make my stretcher bars. I totally do not trust store bought stretch canvases because I have had to re-stretch them after loosening or warping. But I am concerned about having tried and true plans. I would love to have a resource for a plan and instructions.


Peter Rossing February 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

As not only an artists, but also the owner of a small, independent art-materials store, I’d like to speak up and remind artists that if they are lucky enough to have a locally owned retailer in their community, building a relationship with that supplier can be very beneficial in not only terms of costs, but in staying up to date on the most current knowledge of materials and techniques. A good local retailer who is passionate about serving their customers will be willing to source materials suited to specific needs and tastes. They’ll also be able to provide more than the “top-40″ brands that are mass marketed online and in magazines. Get to know your local retailers and take advantage of their eagerness to contribute to their community by serving regional artists’ needs!
A tip about art-materials pricing: Unfortunately, hype and false discounts run rampant in this industry. Chain stores are constantly touting discounts of 40-60% for their own and other brands. These “discounts” are usually mark downs from made-up “list” pricing that almost nobody really charges. Do a little price comparing and you may find that the store down the street who advertises 10% off actually has a lower price than an online store that claims to offer a bigger discount! It all has to do with what the “discount” marked down from in the first place.


dawn josey February 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm

yes you are correct and I do like to buy local but in the end Iwill go for the deal as long as I am sure that what I am purchasing is a product I know to be good quality and has longevity. so when my local art stores can’t match the price I must go elsewhere. I am tired of being overcharged in a pinch.


Jason Horejs February 6, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Great point Peter – and even if your local retailer charges the same or a little more, it can still be worth it in terms of convenience and the value that is added by the other activities the store provides.


Victoria Storey March 30, 2014 at 10:32 am

I agree with supporting your local art store. Our store offers free demos on new products. They will often bring in a represenitive from a product line to show the effects and technique of a new product., (Golden open acrylics and mediums ) Very helpful and inspiring!
Some items I do order in bulk on line from Jerry’s Artarama.


brian billings February 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I’m all for independent stores but never had luck when it comes to art supplies. I only buy name brand and high quality products and I get much better prices from online retailers when I buy in bulk. I’ve tried independent places but they would always be low on stock and wouldn’t be able to meet my entire order and then would have to order it anyways at a much higher price. I’m sure there are a few good ones out there but I haven’t found any in my area. You just have to do your research and see what fits your needs best, there are pro’s and con’s to both retail and independent merchants. A fantastic independent brush company is Rosemary brushes in England, hand made amazing quality at good prices!


Marsha Hamby Savage February 7, 2014 at 6:10 am

I totally agree about supporting your local independent art supply store. We have Binders in Atlanta, and they are so responsive to the needs of an artist that supports them. They will order from the manufacturer for me, and give me the best price they possibly can … all to keep my business. And, when I have problems, they are spot on about correcting it for me … because I am a loyal customer! It is nice to have a place to “run” to when you are out of something instead of waiting on a delivery. They have ordered “special” sizes in boards from the manufacturer of two different companies for me… and I don’t think I had to pay any shipping fees. I picked up at their store … and I would assume since they have orders coming in from the company, the special order just gets shipped with their normal stocking orders. When they have not carried a particular manufacturer, they have looked into the company and returned to me with information about what they can do.


Rebecca February 20, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Absolutely – here’s a shout out to Art Essentials in Santa Barbara, California. They have a great range of products and always offer discounts to professional artists and to schools, so I buy some of my teaching materials there as well. They have ordered me acases of a particular size/brand of high-end supports when they don’t have them in stock and they offer me a discount for the bulk order. I can’t say enough about having them in town – if they closed, we would be stuck with the big chains that offer poor selection and poor quality (Michaels and Aaron Brothers), and that would be tragic. I find that when I add the price of shipping when mail ordering from Blick or Jerry’s, it balances out.

That said, I very much like the supports from Sourcetek which can be ordered online. high quality, available in bulk discounts and they occasionally have sales. They’re a good little company with great customer service.


Mary Manning March 26, 2014 at 8:31 am

Agree with you, but I do comparison shop before buying supplies. Life after retiring from a career has cut income quite a bit, so I wait, watch sales, and shop local, after comparing prices.


Renee Michelle June 26, 2014 at 11:55 pm


I agree! Getting to know a local art retail shop was my advice, but you’ve said it all so well. I was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon this when I signed up to take a class my local art shop was offering. My savings started right there, for upon signing up (right AT the store), I was told I now could purchase anything at a 10% discount. It wasn’t just the class, of course, but becoming a member (like getting a discount card for a bookstore).

So, here is my recommendation, based on this experience. If you can find a local art supplies shop, and NOT a franchise, as Peter mentioned wisely), it would be much more beneficial for you if the art store was also a gallery, and offered classes by experienced artists. I learned so much from taking a few classes, including Intro to Oil Painting, Learn to Draw (each class focused on different things….people, scenes, animals, flowers, water, etc.), and my predominant choice – pastels.

The art supplies at this store were PREMIUM, meaning high quality, and yes…a bit higher in price than I ws used to paying, but I already knew the value of using quality materials. I spent a fortune there, and have a fairly well-stocked base of all mediums, except watercolor.

To find quality materials, I did my research also – when I wanted to buy colored pencils, I exhaustively searched for expert reviewers and from all the articles I read, I always was able to determine the highest quality product, and of those, I chose the best I could afford.

Hopes this helps!
Renee Michelle


Chelsea McGraw July 16, 2014 at 9:47 am

I have to post a big “thank you” here to Jack Quick who has created an artist’s oasis at Rhino Art Co. in Encinitas CA. He has been providing and maintaining high quality product to local artists for over twenty years. Rhino Art Co. is a hub for our creative community. Just as we need support in building our business, it is good business and good karma to support those who support us. Of necessity I take full advantage of the semi-annual Blick sales but on a regular basis I am so fortunate to have my local supplier five minutes away. Jack, you and Rhino are The Best!


Catie Barron February 6, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Brian, you made a very interesting point regarding stretched canvas and changing environments that I hadn’t considered previously. I would love to hear more about that experience!

I agree with you Peter regarding relationships with local businesses. It is so beneficial, in so many ways, to work with local people. I have purchased and stretched my own canvas. Every year Dick Blick has their gigantic canvas sale and when you purchase in bulk the discounts are amazing! For years I have organized a small group of artists and we buy together in that bulk quantity to take advantage of it. Dick Blick has even been gracious enough to split our payments up for just what we have purchased.


Katy Borden February 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I am the artist services coordinator for a small non-profit arts organization in Washington State. We have opened an Art Supply Thrift Store in a portion of our space. The community donates gently used arts and craft supplies and we re-sell it as a fundraiser for us as well as distribute supplies to other non-profits in town. We are a college town, and those art students are always looking for cheap supplies (we joke about the bottle of india ink that every art student must have but never uses up). We have had tons of artists come in and buy things from us just to experiment with, but then we send them across the street to a local art supply store to buy larger quantities, its been a great relationship.

We based our thrift store off of similar ones in Vancouver BC (Urban Source) and Portland, OR (Scrap) but we have heard of similar stores in the mid-west as well.


Kim Kissinger Marino February 7, 2014 at 5:29 am

Katy- Well done on your non-profit art supply thrift store. I am in the Midwest and our town (Champaign, IL) has a successful art thrift store called, The I.D.E.A. Store. It has strong support from the community and is run by the CU Schools Foundation. The store also has a Creative ReUse Art Festival each year called “Hatch”. I am amazed at all of the fun materials available at minimal prices- I am inspired each time I visit.
Here is the website


Monique Kendikian-Sarkessian February 12, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Art Supply thrift store! Brilliant!!! I need a great supplier of simple wood deep floater frames for larger canvas. I sometime use but shipping is steep from west coast to east coast. Also they lie you to order in sets of 3 of the same size. Any ideas??


Coleen June 16, 2014 at 11:46 am

That IS brilliant!
We have Arts&Scraps in Detroit which I love to shop as well as donate to. Good place for teachers to buy inexpensive kits and lots of random items like fabric swatches and plastic molds for car parts to be inventive and creative.
But having a clearing house or supply swapping business could be cool…
Monique – have you considered getting a miter box and biscuit cutter (I think that’s what they’re called) and a square and make your own frames with lumber? You might be able to sweet-talk a local lumber yard to make one for you or at least ask how much they’d charge. Sending creative solution thoughts your way!


Bob Hunt February 6, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I don’t think anyone can argue that it’s best to get the highest quality supplies one can afford. But there is the flip side of this issue, and that is letting the expense of the supplies (usually paints) intimidate, and sometimes restrict the artist’s creativity. For many new or mid career artists, I think there is a mind set that once they start using very expensive paints there is an expectation of doing a successful painting, and that can be very daunting and sometimes prevent the artist from truly stretching the boundaries of their creativity. They don’t want to waste the expensive paints.

I would be willing to bet there isn’t an artist alive that doesn’t have a great drawing or sketch that was done on cheap paper and regrets not doing it on a quality surface. I think one of the reasons why it was so successful was there wasn’t any expectations and the creativity flowed without any concern about the use of quality supplies.

Jackson Pollock is a good example. When he started doing his drip paintings, I think he used cheap enamel house paint. The reason, I suspect was because of the way he painted and the cost of oil paints would be prohibitive. With the cheap enamel paints he could be as free and spontaneous as he wanted without worrying about the cost.

Always try to use top quality paper and canvas, and the best quality paints you can afford. If you feel the cost of the paints are preventing you from doing your best work and preventing you from taking risks, find some cheaper paint, be free, take chances and see where it takes you.


Alli Farkas February 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

As soon as Blick’s moves into a neighborhood the independents are dead meat. That’s what happened to the wonderful art supply store that was conveniently located right across the back alley from my house. Anyhow, no matter where you buy your supplies I totally agree that if the price is affecting your risk-taking (I’ve been there too) then you definitely need to buy more economically to encourage your creativity. I like to buy tube paints in at least a 150mm size. If you become an expert at mixing your colors, you don’t ever have to buy more than a dozen. I can usually find my chosen dozen in that size or even larger, and it saves me lots of expense.


Peter Rossing February 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Great point! If materials are too “precious,” creativity can be stifled. There’s a place for all levels of quality in art materials. Knowing when to use what is something we learn with practice as we become more sensitive to how different materials handle. Sometimes you need the very best, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the best supplies cost more and sometimes they don’t. But if artists get frustrated with what their materials will do, I often recommend that they go up a step in the quality of their supplies before they give up and blame themselves!


Christopher Marion Thomas February 6, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Does anyone out there have a source for affordable quality wooden panels? I have found prices to be expensive for larger sizes.


Peter Rossing February 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Have you looked into the panels that American Easel makes? They sell them direct online and through quite a few stores. The problem with ordering panels online is shipping can be expensive because of the large sizes. If you can’t find a local source, check with framing shops — sometimes they are set up to build panels but don’t advertise that service.


Christopher Marion Thomas February 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Wow, Peter thank you for the great suggestions. I appreciate it :)


Joyce Wynes February 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I have tried the cradled wooden panels at Dick Blick recently and I like their gessoed ones best. Even though I put on more layers of gesso, I like starting with a smooth surface. I found that their non-gessoed cradled panels are harder to work with. Dick Blick has an online sale going on now and I usually wait for the sale and order as much as I can afford or will use until the next sale.
I use name brands in paint and gesso because they have been around for many years and have been proven with time. I find that Hobby Lobby is a great place for my Liquitex heavy duty acrylic paints and mediums for the large size tubes. They have a 40% off coupon every week on one regular priced item so the big tube of paint (4.5 fl. oz) which costs reg. price 11.99 with 40% off. Good price.


Jean Mazur February 7, 2014 at 7:20 am

Check into your local wood supplier for wood panels to use. I know of several artists who get their quality panels cut to standard sizes as well as custom ones. One artist buys bare moulding and builds his frames. It’s cost effective since his painting are on average larger than 30 x 30.


Christopher Marion Thomas February 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Thanks Joyce, I have a Hobby Lobby near but they never carry big panels, I will take a look at Blick though. Thanks


Daniel E. Borup February 7, 2014 at 8:02 am

I buy wood panels from hardware stores. You can get the same quality of panel as you can from an art supplier at a fraction of the cost. The drawback is you have to cut it up yourself. This is also a plus because you have more flexibility for the size of panel you want. I started using wood panels when I discovered I could get them far cheaper then canvas panels. They also fit my style of painting better.


Marsha Hamby Savage February 12, 2014 at 8:41 am

There is a company here in Atlanta … when I was looking for large cradled birch panels. They are called “Diamondback” … not sure of the exact name. But look them up on the internet. I also found a company that was near New York … and was asking Binders here in Atlanta could they order from them. That is when Binders told me about Diamondback. I lover their panels … and I think they produce several different formats.


Lynn Sisler April 25, 2014 at 8:30 am

Hi Marsha,
Does Binders carry Diamondback?


Kim Bowen February 12, 2014 at 8:50 am

I love using wood panels and my husband can cut them whatever sizes I want. But I have been discouraged to find there is always a small amount of warping after painting. So I have been discouraged with them. We used .25 sandable plywood. What kind of wood are you using?


mary marczak March 27, 2014 at 11:01 am

Did you seal both sides? I noticed warping as soon as I gessoed the first side so I sealed the back with acrylic varnish and it stayed flat. I stopped using mdf (similar to Masonite) and now use Russian (Baltic) birch plywood available at my local hardwood lumber store. It is very stable and comes in different thicknesses and a more convenient (3 ft x 5 ft) size. I candle my boards with 1/2 inch or thicker Russian birch.


Christopher Marion Thomas February 24, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Daniel, have you ever known something but had a “brain fart”, excuse my potty mouth :) and totally forgotten about it. I used to get panels from Home Depot back in the day when I was making no money, sold a couple of pieces, and evidently lost my mind :) Daniel you just helped me to gain my senses Sir. My wife thanks you I’m sure :)


Coleen June 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

Many lumber yards will even cut them for you. The last time I needed something cut, it was $1 per cut.
I love my independent art stores and local hardware stores and lumber yards fall into those categories for me. Metal scrappers, too.
I reverse paint on “up-cycled” windows in acrylic; I paint the window frames with latex house paint. I also cut and etch copper and other metal into smaller art pieces and wearable art.
Finally, I am starting to dye scarves. After my first order, I already plan on upgrading my base scarf and experiment with other dyes, too. Dharma Trading is a great resource for that avenue.


Tobie Liedes July 16, 2014 at 8:48 am

I used to paint on canvas until someone gave me a gessoed masonite board. I loved working on it. Now, I go to the hardware store, too. You can buy a 4×8 foot sheet of untreated masonite for a low price and have the store cut it up for you. After sanding and putting gesso on it (I give it a coat of medium cadmium red acrylic, too), and I’m ready to paint. I don’t like going larger than 18×24 inches because masonite tends to get woobly. I also like painting on wood panels, but they are more expensive. For frames, I surf the net, and find I’m a regular customer at


Lori Woodward July 1, 2014 at 9:15 am

I use Cenurion linen panels. They are archival and reasonably priced. They come in both acrylic and oil primed. The oil primed works about as well as the expensive lead primed panels.

For framing, I’ve been using Omega Moulding’s gallery frames. An artist must have a tax ID number and order about $500 worth to get started and get the lowest price. I order a box of 6 for each style/size. Eventually I will raise prices for my originals and order custom framing. Many custom framers have a metal leaf option, which of course, is less expensive than real gold leaf or bole clay. A friend of mine recently ordered custom frames from Rhett Ashby, and for the work involved they were quite reasonably priced.

Rosemary and CO brushes are made well. It’s a family business and they don’t outsource labor. The brushes are quite reasonably priced because Rosemary has no retail outlets/middle man. That said, she is lining up a few artist distributors in the US, so we here can get our orders faster. The company is in the UK.

Price your original work so that when it sells, you cover commissions, materials, shipping, etc….And make a profit over that! Im in the process of making sure I make a decent profit while using quality materials. One thing about beginners using inferior materials… A good quality canvas will make it easier to paint with oil while not sucking the life/shine outnofnthe oil paint. Cheap substrates make it more difficult to get good results. That’s especially true with watercolor paper.


Trisha Adams February 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Tip for painters – frame source
* awesome prices
* custom sizes do not cost extra
* good quality materials
* no retail certificate required
Call to get a price list and sample pieces of your favorite molding styles
They make your frames to order, so allow 10-14 days for that.


Lori Woodward July 1, 2014 at 9:20 am

Tricia, my studio mate uses Florida frames and has gotten good service and the frames are joined well.

I have also used JFM frames and NJ Frame and Moulding, but they do require tax ID numbers, as they well wholesale to the trade.


Katalin Luczay February 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

I like your suggestion. Art supplies are really expensive and framing even more so. I been painting for 30 years and find that each time I have an exhibit the layout up front gets to be quiet a bit. One always takes a chance because not necessarily is every show a grand success. You are right the better quality looks better. Recently however I started painting in oil or acrylic on good quality panels instead of canvas. I wander what are your thoughts on that
Katalin Luczay


Kim Bowen February 12, 2014 at 8:58 am

I also wonder how sales are affected by panels vs canvas, or canvas on panel.


Loretta March 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

I use panels since AMIEN says they are better for longevity of oil paints. Smaller panels are not a problem unless you are shipping-the cost is based on weight and canvas is certainly lighter. I find the bigger panels are harder to sell because in addition to the panels weight there may need to be additional supports glued on the rear; so a little more weight and not everybody wants that heavy of a painting on their walls………….


Charlotte Mertz February 6, 2014 at 6:39 pm

One of most valuable and cost-effective purchases I’ve made in the way of WATERCOLOR paints is not in the paints themselves but in a reference book that helps me select the most appropriate paints for my projects before I buy. It’s Hilary Page’s “Guide to Watercolor Paints,” in which she not only catalogs (by color family) the paints available in the best known brands but also discusses the pigments used, what can be expected of each in the way of value range, transparency/opacity, lifting capability, permanence/lightfastness, and mixing potential. It’s the cost of about two or three medium-sized tubes of good paint (only $25 or so, the last time I checked) and has saved me bundles by steering me away from many selections less appropriate for my needs. She also makes available, free on her website, an updated list (by manufacturer) that rates new and upgraded paints since the book’s publication.


Judith Glover March 10, 2014 at 9:35 am

Charlotte, I am so glad to hear about Hilary Page’s updates. Like you, I always check out any new pigment purchase with her book, but I have been frustrated lately when a brand/pigment can’t be found. Thanks, I ordered the update from


Suzanne LeBeau February 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I’ve been a fan of Jerry’s for a while. I especially like their Lukas water mixable oils. They are so buttery and smooth! Overall, I think Blick’s prices are a bit better. You can also sometimes buy things from school supply arts and crafts catalogs like Triarco, especially if you are buying for classes/kids.
Does anyone know of good places for mats /frames for decent prices? I was NOT happy with Jerry’s frames.


Lori Woodward July 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

Suzanne, I answered about inexpensive, but decent, corners finished, frames above. I no longer mat my watercolors, I fix and varnish them with UV acrylic protective varnish after adhering the 300lb watercolor paper to a panel.. Either MDF or birch plywood. Been doing this for more than a decade and none of my watercolors have faded. I frame them with an oil type frame. They can be wiped off with a damp cloth. Robert M cFarland uses a similar technique by varnishing his watercolors with Kmar spray. He sells in top galleries.

They sell better too, because they have no reflections that glass causes, and I save money because I need no mats or anti reflective glass,which costs a small fortune. I do frame my giclee prints with mat and glass… To differentiate between my originals and reproductions.


bryan ida February 6, 2014 at 6:54 pm

try nova color for acrylics. you buy directly from the manufacturer so prices are very good. they are in los angeles very close to my studio. good quality , not the best, but a very good value. they have been around for a long time, in the same building.


chandra April 29, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Nova Color Paint is the absolute best!
Long time fan and painter of Nova Color.

Lucky for you that they are so close to your studio.
Lucky for me they ship paint speedily! ;)


Nancy Cupp February 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm

In response to the quality of art materials, there is another thing to know…the protection of the finished work. I think most oil painters know to varnish their work to protect it for many years to come. However, I know some artists that work in acrylics that do not realize that they should also protect their paintings from dust, scratches, handling, lightfastness of colors, fading, etc. I go to the paint manufacturers websites and learn all I can about the paints, varnishes, etc. Learn the proper way of applying varnishes to your acrylic painting to protect it. Most paint manufacturers have websites that teach you how to do it correctly. If you are going to sell your acrylic paintings, protect it first with the proper varnish. I didn’t know I had to protect acrylic paintings for a long time because we didn’t do that in college. A few years ago, someone wanted to buy one of my paintings that I did way back in college days. The painting was done back in 1974. I wanted to clean it up a bit before selling it and wiped it with a damp cloth. Some of the paint came off! Yipes! I thought acrylics were waterproof, especially after 35+ years. After that, I varnished it and it looked fabulous.
Since then, I’ve been reading up on the recommendations from paint manufacturers and learned a lot. For instance, using too much water in acrylics can weaken the bonding of the paint to the surface, making it flake off over the years. Even though acrylics may be water soluable, doesn’t mean the artist should weaken them so much that it changes the chemistry of the paint. As artists we need to do our homework and keep learning about our medium, to keep the quality as good as we can so that our art lasts a long, long time.


Joyce Wynes February 7, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Nancy, I learned this from my professor, that you needed to varnish your acrylic work after painting it. I usually wait about a week to make sure the paint is solidly dry and then varnish it. I found that Windsor Newton spray varnish for acrylics and oils works great and have been using it for 20+ years. Paintings that I painted 20+ years ago still look fresh today. I was really lucky to have a professor to teach me how to prepare the surface of a painting. She said that you should prepare wood or canvas (and paper) for painting with 4-6 layers of gesso going in the opposite direction for each layer and sanding each layer with extra fine sandpaper. Her teachings were spot on for quality and longevity. I make sure that I use the best products available and also that I prepare my paintings to stand the test of time. For an article I just wrote about tips on buying art go to my blog at:


Kim Bowen February 12, 2014 at 9:02 am

Saved a Link to your blog, thanks for the tips.


Victoria Storey March 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

I have been varnishing my acrylic paintings with a brush. I worry that spray varnishing will drip. Do you have any tips?


Lynn Sisler April 25, 2014 at 8:34 am

What varnish do you use, specifically?


David Gomm February 6, 2014 at 9:46 pm

My wife and I work as volunteers at a community building where we sponsor ten (10) art shows each year. As we hung this recent show which had a great deal of beginning artists, we noticed a distinct difference from those who used best quality materials and those that tried to do something on a budget. One artist went so far as to construct a frame for a painting using foam core board. To look at looked normal but as soon as you lifted it, you knew it was a flimsy and cheap product. Many of the pieces in show were framed and presented well and were more saleable than the “cheaped” pieces.

As stained glass artists, we always finish a piece off with metal outer bar but have found that a wooden frame gives a piece a much better presentation. I have occasionally used mdf to frame a piece but find that oak is much better because it’s strong, doesn’t split and takes a finish almost as well as the mdf. But it’s a bit more expensive. Poplar is better because it doesn’t have as heavy a grain but is strong enough to be used in furniture construction.

As we’ve gained experience, we have found that the more effort and quality we put in, the better the finished piece.


Kari Youkey February 6, 2014 at 10:59 pm

It sounds like ‘quality’ comes down to archival quality, so colorfastness and durability are the main variables I am picking up in this thread along with a sturdy frame and/or base. How does a product like Polycrylic compare to high gloss acrylic medium. I have been experimenting with different binders and pigments. I love creating my own paints, but use them mainly for practice and experiments. However, lately my ‘experiments’ have garnered customer interest. I use OSB sealed with waterproof, paintable wood glue, then a coat of acrylic gesso mixed with plaster of paris, then ‘mixed media’ (mainly water soluble paints and pastels) ….but I like layering with high gloss acrylic medium and my own mix of pigment to control the opacity. I recently saw Polycrylic Gloss on sale at the hardware store and thought maybe I would try that instead to save money, thinking it would be colorfast and durable and varnish too. I like to use stained wood trim as a frame around the OSB. My question is, do these ‘art’ supplies qualify as ‘quality’ or would I be laughed right out of a gallery? I am pretty sure my work would last into the next century, and my ‘experiments are proving to be some of my best works according to potential buyers.


Laurel Sternberg February 7, 2014 at 12:33 am

I think in the long term for every painting I make, so I use best quality linen canvas, best quality oil paints and gesso. Because I paint in a blended style, I use cheap, soft children’s water color brushes. These achieve the technique I want, but don’t negatively affect the longevity of the work.


Ray Hassard February 7, 2014 at 7:27 am

General supplies: I use Blick and Jerry’s most. When I am going to place an order, I send an email to all my students, past and present, asking them if they want to be included and to send me a specific list of what they want with the catalog numbers. This always brings it over the “free shipping” point. I check to see who has an outlet in what state. Blick has an outlet store in Columbus OH, for example, so having it shipped to my home in Ohio would incur state sales tax. I have those orders sent to where I teach in Kentucky to avoid the taxes. I feel bad that I really can’t use my local art supply stores as much as I would like, but they can’t match the inventory of the big guys. And I won’t support Hobby Lobby anymore because of their politics.


Nancy Nuce March 29, 2014 at 11:31 am

Thank you for not supporting Hobby Lobby


Linda Mullola February 7, 2014 at 7:27 am

Does anyone know where I can find good frames in Canada at a reasonable price. I only paint on standard size canvases and gesso boards. Also, are gold frames and liners on frames not wanted anymore. I found a site that said liners on frames are a thing of the past and a lot of people don’t seem to like gold frames.
Thank you


Daniel E. Borup February 7, 2014 at 8:09 am

I recently ordered my plastiline clay from dick blick. If you are a fan of any of the sculpture house clays, dick blick is the way to go. They usually have discounts (my last one was %20 off and free shipping). I ended up spending $163 for 50 lbs from blick instead of $225 + shipping from sculpture house.


David Randolph February 7, 2014 at 8:14 am

In wood sculpture, about the only way to get large size chunks of wood is to start collecting logs. However, it is important to choose the right kind of logs. Many woods won’t sell. Work with local landscape and tree service people to get logs of the right kinds. (Walnut is preferred. Henry Moore started his career working with Elm.)

But do not skimp on tools. If you can only afford a couple of tools, buy the absolute best you can get. For working with hard woods, I prefer Japanese gouges.

Same way with stone. You can always start with local stones you find. But the tools are where you have to spend the money.


Daniel E. Borup February 7, 2014 at 8:34 am

I have been troubled about having my sculptures bronzed. This past year I have actively been trying to find gallery representation. One of the biggest comments I get from gallery owners is they won’t deal with ceramics. I have a passion for bronze figurative sculpture but it is so expensive to have done. My original thought was to get my ceramic pottery into some galleries and when I start making money doing that then I can justify spending the money on my bronze sculptures. I realize now that in doing this I was sacrificing my true passion for one that I only enjoyed. I was doing this because it is much less expensive.

Yesterday I went and talked to a local foundry to see if they could bronze my sculptures for me (they usually just do door nobs and things) As they were talking to me about I realized that they had little to no experience bronzing fine art sculpture. Jason’s voice kept popping into my head (or my imagined voice for Jason) telling me to focus on a quality casting from someone who knows what they are doing. I determined to send my sculpture to a fine art foundry rather than try to save a little money at a local door nob foundry.

I know some artists save money by learning how to cast there own work. I am of the opinion that I would rather spend the rest of my life getting really good at sculpture then getting really good at foundry work and end up being mediocre at both. I will make my sculptures and leave the casting to the professionals. Maybe that opinion will change some day. That being said I do have experience making rubber molds and can cast my sculptures in wax as long as the sculpture is not to complicated.

Here is my worry. I have no gallery representation. Do I want to spend the money (possibly go into debt) to get my sculptures bronzed in hopes that a gallery will pick me up. Or do I make my sculptures out of plastiline, leave them in a “ready to bronze” state, and take those images to galleries? Once I find gallery representation then get them bronzed. Will a gallery want all of my work bronzed first to consider me a serious artist? Maybe this is a question for Jason. If any of you have any input or suggestions I would love to hear it.


janese hexon February 7, 2014 at 11:24 am

Dear Daniel

I want to wish you the very best in getting your work into a good gallery. You have to realize that sculpture is a very difficult medium to sell. I have been to many galleries in New York to scope out their inventory, I don’t mention that I am an artist. And talking to the managers or owners of the galleries they tell me that selling bronze sculptures is very difficult. I am lucky to belong to a gallery in Chelsea, so I have the time when I’m there monthly to look around at other areas of NY for galleries. Most are showing installation pieces or large works of very famous artist. Very few smaller works, but you never know what will be considered by a gallery. It just has to be professional and well done. I doubt taking plastiline would ever work, the work should be ready for exhibit.

So all of that said, continue on with your work and get a professional foundry to do your bronze, that is extremely important. Do good work and one day it will all work out for you.

I’d love to hear what other sculptors have found, it seems there are very few of us out there talking about our art.

Good luck to you
janese hexon


Mark Chapman February 18, 2014 at 6:08 pm


I am like you as far as casting my own bronzes. I already have a job. You are absolutely right that foundry work is a specific skill. It is also dangerous, like “burn your house down” dangerous to pour bronze. I have done a fair amount of foundry work over the years strictly for fun and its a rewarding hobby if proper precautions are taken. Also, I mostly cast aluminum which is safer by far. You can even make beer money at it if you are good but I am not talking about art so much as crafts. Google “backyard foundry” to see what I mean.

As for the doorknob foundry, the main stumbling block for an operation like that would be can they do a large enough pour? They are probably using cope & drag sand molds which can work but it takes planning and you may need to weld together a figure sculpture from various cast pieces in the round because of pattern draft not to mention there will probably be more polishing needed due to the coarser mold material which does not do highly textured and detailed work any favors. But overall their prices will be better than a fine art foundry. I would say let them do something simple for you to try them out, say a lion head door knocker. I think that would be a learning experience for you and the foundry.

I posted below that I know a bronze sculptor that has switched (because of the costs) to urethane and Modern Masters Reactive Metallic Paint for a patina. He uses the same molds that used to produce the wax for the foundry so he did not need new molds. His finished product looks great so that might be worth checking out.


Keith Barnett February 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

Get to know your materials, especially your pigments. Sometimes paints are expensive because the pigments themselves are expensive, other times you are paying more for the convenience of cheaper pigments that are premixed. An example: Payne’s Grey which can be a mid-range expensive paint is typically composed of Bone Black and Ultramarine Blue. Both of which are very cheep paints. There are websites that can help you learn what the pigment codes signify as well as how they interact chemically with each other.


Tiffany February 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

I recommend checking out the American Science and Surplus website, which has an arts and crafts department:

Because they sell surplus, their inventory varies, but I have found some great things there, like basic paintbrushes and brush cleaners. They have pottery tools most of the time, as well as a selection of other tools that could be used for sculpting or carving. Right now they also have oil pastels, markers, and paints. It would also be a fun resource for technically inclined artists, as they sell motors and other electronic parts. If you’re near Chicago, you should check out their store. It’s a treasure trove of unusual finds.


Jeff Seenah May 13, 2014 at 8:13 am

Wow, where has this place been all my life?! Thanks for the link!


Nicole Lemelin February 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm


I am a painter myself and I am buying all my art material at
This is a great place with hight quality material for almost any medium. They are in Montreal but they have distributors in the State. You can order online too – they ship where ever you are.
Personnaly I am using dry pigments, aqua dispersion and oil (oil sticks, pastel, etc.). I also buy rolls of linen and my canvas there.

Nicole L.

You can see some of my work at: Xanadu studio – also


Sallie Wolf February 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I work in watercolor and mixed media. I usually order or shop at Dick Blick. I am using DaVinci watercolor paints in 37ml tubes, which while expensive individually, are much cheaper than smaller tubes. The paint is clear and mixes really well. I look for specials on quality papers in bulk. I buy brushes whenever I find a good sale or closeout and I tend to prefer a really good synthetic over sable, so that helps with the cost. A great thing about watercolor is that dried up paint reconstitutes with water so it never goes to waste. Framing is a huge expense that I try not to take on. I have my work at a gallery that is in an old barn and it looks great pinned to the walls or even spread across the floor for prospective buyers. I know a great framer whom I steer people toward. Occasionally I will frame a piece or two to show people what framed work can look like.


Judy Dunn February 8, 2014 at 8:14 pm

There can be a false sense of economy in buying less expensive paints. When I first had to buy a large assortment of oil paints, I set up a spreadsheet, analyzing cost per ml, versus ratings on Blick and Jerry’s for about 10 different brands. The usual suspects came out on top; Old Holland, and Williamsburg, but up very close in ratings, but about half the cost was M.Graham paints. I liked that they used walnut oil as a medium, rather than linseed oil. It dries a bit slower, has no odor, and it also is less likely to yellow over time. They didn’t have any ultramarine blue at the time, and so I bought a small tube of another moderate rated brand to use until I could get some M. Graham. I immediately saw a difference in the pigment load with the other paint. I had to use twice as much to get the same mix effect. There is no savings in that. I have found consistently, the higher quality paints live up to their billing. In addition to M. Graham, I have used Williamsburg, and Michael Harding paints and find each is loaded with pigment, and very creamy and smooth. And, I find that the prices at the online stores are often similar to the local art supply store.
M. Graham recommends using walnut oil to clean brushes, but that can be quite pricey. Instead I use canola oil and/or baby oil, followed by dishwashing detergent. Does a great job, and it is easier on the brush than turpenoids….and it is cheap!
Another choice I have made is to use Arches Oil Paper as my surface. At a paper talk with a paper representative I found out that this paper could be stretched. I soak it in the tub, and then staple it on to stretcher bars while wet. It comes in large rolls that are 10 yds. in length, and about 50″ wide, or sheets about 22″ by 30″. As it dries, it tightens up like a drum. It is a fantastic surface to paint on, and ultimately is more archival than linen or canvas. There is no need for further prep, but I add an oil ground because I like the way it performs better with this addition. But it is also much less expensive than linen or canvas, and it is lighter than panels, yet has a nice firm surface. I always buy my stretcher bars in person. I do not want to end up with warped bars, and have to try and get credit for them after the fact. Better to be able to check them in the store.
For those who want to use panels, I had a teacher who makes his own by adhering muslin (unbleached) from Joann’s Fabrics to birch or poplar plywood. He then will adhere 1 x 1′s to the back of the panel using wood glue and clamps, to create a cradle. Inexpensive, and makes a great panel, and does not require extensive carpentry skills. It does require an investment in time….always a trade off.
Bottom line, research, research, research. The cheapest up front may not be the cheapest in the end.


Donia February 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Wow Judy – I never knew you could stretch paper onto stretcher bars like that! You may have opened my eyes with this and your last comment in reply to my comment on the State of the Art post – Mahalo nui loa!!!


Diana Adams March 15, 2014 at 4:28 am

Wow, this is fascinating. Thanks for sharing.


Linda Christian-Herot March 15, 2014 at 8:53 am

I’m an oil painter and I’ve also tried out Arches oil paper. I found it very similar to painting on BFK Rives paper. A smooth surface for those who like that. Thanks for the tip about stretching it.
I also like M. Graham paint.
I’ve found the least expensive and non toxic method of cleaning brushes is to do an initial rinse with safflower oil (from the supermarket) and a final wash with Murphy’s oil soap.


Elizabeth May 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

I like the way you think.


Jane Wilcoxson February 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

Does anyone know what happened to ASW art supply ? I used to buy all my art materials online through them as they stocked the best variety of oil pastels. Now it looks like they have turned into a club store where you have to buy a $80 membership for the year in order to make a purchase. I ended up buying from Blick online this year as I could not see the value of paying $80. Now I worry that ASW will be going out of business because of this weird business decision that they made.
One other point I would like to make is that many of the really good named brands started messing round with their formulas a few years ago in order to compete with the cheap Chinese imports. So it was difficult to trust a brand without first checking the product ratings as far as light fastness was concerned. Hopefully his has all settled down now.


Lin Beribak February 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Thank you, Jane. I have been a loyal ASW customer (pre-online catalog) and many others purchased from them because of my referrals. I don’t purchase in large enough volume to take advantage of the annual membership and I miss their excellent variety and quality, too.


Donia February 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Yes – ASW was great for art and framing supplies. I was shocked when I saw that “subscription” format and would be curious to know if anyone has come across a similarly great value site (pre-subscription)

As for those asking about FRAMING SUPPLIES – I have done a lot of internet research and found that has fantastic prices. Granted, they have limited variety, but they’re a family run business so if you need what they sell, they’re a great alternative to the internet art-giants!


Jason Rafferty February 11, 2014 at 4:27 pm


I just talked with a representative from ASW the other day, they are gearing themselves mainly as a wholesaler. Their wholesale buying club is set up in a similar way to big food wholesale stores, in that you will pay for a yearly membership yet if you buy in large enough quantities it will actually result in saving quite a bit of money.

If anyone lives in the Southeast US, or anywhere in the US for that matter, I like to highly recommend our local oil paint maker, Blue Ridge Oil Colors.
It is a small operation based in Asheville, NC. their quality is superb, the colors are rich, durable, and reasonable in price. They ship from Asheville, NC.


Jason Rafferty


Sergio March 4, 2014 at 11:42 am

The problem with ASW’s new model, you may save a bit on the cost of the materials but then they really jack up the price of shipping. If you compare total prices, Jerry’s Artarama usually beats them after all total prices are calculated.


Kim February 24, 2014 at 7:38 am

I totally agree with you about ASW! I am very sad about their business decision, because not only were their prices good, but you could also find some products there which were not easy to find in other US outlets. While I may be able to make the membership work for me, it is just something else I have to keep up with. I am not interested in going down that road right now. I do miss them, though.


Aletha February 10, 2014 at 11:55 am

Bob Hunt above makes some good points about the flip side to which I’d like to add some comments. Yes, it is important to use durable materials, however I find that lots of artists are too quick to put the cart before the horse. Before sales comes education. An aspiring artist needs to be working a lot and trying out all kinds of ideas. Bob noted that expensive materials can intimidate. However, when you have developed skill to the proper degree you are ready for the expensive stuff — you know you’re ready by virtue of what you know you can do — and by that juncture you have the skills to really exploit the possibilities that the better materials allow.

I bought some Nideggen paper in a huge supply maybe thirty years or so ago, bought it because it was on sale. When I got it and first started using it, I really only used it sparingly and somewhat timidly. It happened that the paper was way ahead of my skills set. Now I pull out a sheet and don’t give it a second thought — which is to say I pull out a sheet of that same supply that I purchased thirty years ago, something I can do because good paper lasts. Please note, though, that I caught up with my paper’s quality by drawing all the time. I have made innumerable drawings on ordinary papers. Indeed, the longer I have been working the more I use a wide spectrum of materials. So, for instance, I make studies using ball point pen in dime store notebooks. For most of my paintings, there will be dozens of preparatory drawings made using all sorts of materials — from pencil drawings and pen drawings, to oil pastel drawings, to watercolors — you name it. The great artist Ingres drew on anything, sometimes making drawings on scraps of paper that happened to be lying around and produced over 4500 drawings during his life.

Materials are important, but skill is even more important so for artists who are just starting out I would actually advise them simply to use what they can afford — WORK A LOT — and exploit to the furthest extent whatever imagery they do. It’s better to make a fabulous image on an inferior surface than to make something very bland and ordinary using the best that money can buy. Anyway, you’d be surprised how good the general art materials are these days. Often times the regular grades function very well and can prepare you for the more expensive things. In contrast, you cannot purchase skill, you can only learn and develop it. For drawing my staple surface is Strathmore 400 series drawing paper 80lb. You can buy it almost anywhere, it comes in various sizes in notebooks. It provides a very flexible and sensitive surface suitable for lots of media. And it is permanent. For sketches, compositional ideas, rapid thoughts, for freedom, for total flexibility, I use ball point pen in a variety of cheap notebooks usually with lined pages.

Buying a Strad does not transform you into Isaac Stern. First you have to learn to play the instrument, beginning with an ordinary student violin.


Aletha February 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

PS – I have an avatar that appears with my comments. The avatar drawing was made using ordinary 2B pencil from a department store drawn on the very special and lovely blue Magnani Pescia paper. I used two mirrors and drew myself from life, inspired by having seen Andrew Wyeth’s Helga drawings at the National Gallery of Art. The Helga drawings were like getting a master class in visual thought. Wyeth made it quite plain that ordinary graphite can be utterly magical. I spent hours looking at Wyeth’s drawings. And along those lines, I would urge artists to invest in their educations — in ideas — as sincerely as in materials. Look at the best art that exists and study it assiduously, tirelessly, let it enthrall you. I wrote about my drawing and how I made it here:


thomasa dwyer nielsen February 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I like to order on line from Utrecht and Blick. I like the Utrecht brand for canvasses and their prices for prestretched are reasonable. I have a local indepemdent store locally where I like to buy brushes, papers and canvas. And I buy my paints there or at oneof the local chains (using coupons)that carries the brand acrylics I like.


Cindy Berg February 24, 2014 at 8:12 am

I agree I use alot of the Utrecht products. I paint in acrylic and have pretty much settled on Golden and Utrecht as my two go to paint brands. Although Utrecht is now owned by Blick they maintain a separate presence. It is my understanding that Blick is committed to not changing any of the Utrecht brand products. They have a big following at our local colleges as well.


Susan Klinger February 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm

For pastels, I use Dakota Art Pastels. They carry all of the major high quality brands and do a nce job of listing them by the degree of hardness or softness. Wallis paper is great as my support but they have had production issues. Dakota is holding all orders until the production issues are resolved.


Karen Lundquist February 15, 2014 at 6:09 am

I have successfully used for two exhibitions. They have enormous variety in framing and will assemble your frames for you. They ship fast if you are in a time crunch. While they are by no means cheap, framing my large oil paintings myself in their assembled frames saved me considerably over going to a framer for the whole thing. Also bear in mind that if you use the wide gallery-wrap canvases and paint the edges, you can frequently do without a frame entirely. At least around here (New York area) an unframed canvas is very acceptable and sometimes even preferred. I always use Dick Blick for my canvases and oils and get great discounts and service. Good luck, everyone, it’s tough out there!


Mark Chapman February 17, 2014 at 10:32 am

For many sculptors the material to aspire to is bronze. I have not made it there yet, except for little items that I cast myself in my backyard foundry. Most of my sculptures these days are hand built ceramics which suits my wallet while my skills are maturing. Sculpture is an expensive mistress. I was talking last week with a successful local sculptor who has done hundreds of bronze sculptures over a period of decades. He has switched to casting urethane and applying a painted on patina. He alluded that with the current cost of metals, a gallery taking its share and other costs fluctuating, the artist might make very little when selling a bronze despite a historically reasonable selling price. Not to mention the need to have a LOT of money tied up in inventory.


Margretta Perry February 18, 2014 at 9:49 am

PASTELS: Hi all, If you want to try some fabulous soft pastels, check out Terry Ludwig’s in south Denver. He has a “garage sale” each year if you are in the area where tables and tables of his individual sticks are around half price. It is a great sale! The pastels are buttery and he has great colors. They make all their own pastels, so they can keep their quality high. Check them out on-line if you aren’t in the Rocky Mountain area. I wish I had discovered them sooner!


Susan Williamson February 19, 2014 at 5:44 am

I’ll second that …love Terry Ludwig pastels!


Janet Butler February 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I agree about the productivity – but for the reason that if we paint we love it, so of course we have many many hopefully good paintings ready to exhibit. My problem is not having the paintings, my problem is having my watercolors framed and matted. I will be having a one-woman show in a few months, but again, I will be showing older watercolors (framed while I lived in Italy, which I found much more reasonable in pricing – I also had a greater selection of frames, it seemed to me) but I simply don’t have the several thousand dollars it would cost me to frame say 20 to 30 of my more recent watercolors, so all I can do is post them to my Fine Art America site where at least they can be seen. Oils and acrylics at least have the advantage in that they can often be hung without a frame, if need be.


Susan Williamson February 19, 2014 at 5:43 am

I’m looking for reasonably priced Plein air frames and do not have a tax id# which limits my options. I had a good supplier but they eliminated that part of their business.


Tish Murphy February 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm

I have been ordering from Franken frames for the last two years and I am very pleased with their pricing, wide selection, and excellent service.


Linda Christian-Herot March 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

I while ago I took a framing class at at The Decordova Museum School and Franken Frames was one source they recommended. I’ve been using them and have found their frames to be of excellent quality and their prices are reasonable.


Mason Parker February 28, 2014 at 8:46 pm

My short answer is stock up when things are on sale, and keep your eyes and ears open for news of people with stuff you need that are moving, or going out of business, whatever.

I live in Portland Oregon, Craigslist is huge here, for finding almost anything used. We also have S.C.R.A.P. and I’ve Been Framed. Bullseye Glass has a big sale twice a year if you do stained glass like I do, and they have retail centers in NYC and Santa Fe. There is also a Dick Blick retail store in town that is constantly having sales, only a matter of time before you can get exactly what you need at a huge discount. Ditto for their website no matter where you live.

Extrapolate accordingly for tour location and medium you work in.


Charlotte Mertz March 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I haven’t seen anyone yet mention Cheap Joe’s ( I’ve used them almost exclusively for the past several years and have found both their selection and prices to be quite competitive with the other mail-order houses. They always seem to have a sale of some kind running, so if you watch and can be patient, you can find the basics (paint, paper, canvas, brushes, etc.) and often much more on sale at great prices. They offer free (or radically reduced) shipping over a certain cut-off point, which can vary as part of their changing offers. You can call directly or email them with questions about their products, but it’s cheaper to do the actual ordering online than by phone. I don’t recommend their own-brand paints (their American Journey watercolors are student quality–high in binder, low in pigment; I had several tubes swell and one actually spewed its pressurized paint when I unscrewed the cap), but their paper (Kilimanjaro) seems okay for everyday studio and classroom exercises (for which I also use a lot of Strathmore products. For “serious” pieces, I stick with artist quality W&N watercolors, for the most part, and Arches paper.) Some of their other own-brand products are fine.

For experimenting with new media, I’ll start with a “beginner’s set” to get a feel for the medium to see if it’s worth my pursuing. If I decide to continue with it, I’ll invest in higher quality materials to proceed.


Terrye J Philley March 3, 2014 at 9:47 am

I usually trek into Houston for supplies at Texas Art Supply; but I also use the internet suppliers from time to time, especially when frames are on sale. I also do use our local frame shop, Katy Art & Frame for works that are gifts. TAS has various qualities in materials in paints, brushes and canvas. I like Graham and Gamblin professional quality paints.


Karen Lastre July 5, 2014 at 6:50 am

Hi, I see you come in to Houston. My studio and our art supply store (one of the best and most knowledgeable) is Art Supply (Vikki Trammel) 2711 Main 77006. She carries the best supplies and one of the most informed people I know when you are looking for new products. Not sure how her pricing compares as I do not buy any where else. I used to buy on line from Daniel Smith but it is cheaper from Vikki. If you visit, my studio is #113 on first floor.
Karen Lastre


Sergio March 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

You can buy quality oil paint in bulk for relatively inexpensive prices at RGH. It’s a good deal if you buy them by the jar, especially cadmiums and lead whites (if you use them). You can then tube them yourself to make them last longer.


Cara Lawson-Ball March 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm

A great place for sculpture supplies is in Loveland, Colorado. They have just about everything you would need from beginning to end. They have always been able to answer any questions I’ve thrown them. For foundry work, I would suggest The Crucible in Norman, Oklahoma. Quite the characters, but they know their business!

I am fortunate to have an architectural moulding company,, within just a few miles that makes custom frames for artists as a service to the community. Unfortunately, I don’t think they ship. But if you’re close, check them out. The rest of my flat work materials I order online as we don’t have an outlet close which carries quality materials.


Darren Robinson March 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I don’t stretch my own canvases because I never learned how. I have tried cradled hardboard but prefer gallery wrapped canvas. I get some of these from Michaels they often have a sale coupon for half off a regular priced item and their top grade canvas is well constructed. I also buy in quantity from
that is a good place to buy paint as well. The prices are about the best I have found online but don’t order in the winter months if you live in a colder climate like I do as they can freeze during shipping.


Karen Kyle Ericson July 23, 2014 at 9:41 am

Thanks for that tip Darren. We have almost all the stores in NJ. But I get a little nervous with AC Moore and Michaels. Good to know they have professional materials. I’ve been nervous about how I would do the canvas.


Mary Helmreich March 14, 2014 at 6:47 pm

I like Jerry’s Artarama for my main supplier. I also like to support our local art supply shop Rhino Art Supplies in Encinitas because they have quality professional supplies. If I run out of something or need something PDQ they are there for me.


Sharon DiGiulio March 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I worked at Jerry’s Artarama for 13 years (now I have my own business and contract for them) and have used most of the supplies they offer! From brushes to paints, easels, canvas and more. I am a mixed media artist working mostly in acrylic, collage and encaustic. Jerry’s offers deep discounts and lots of sales throughout the year representing an array of manufacturers from all over the world. I am also the director of Art of the Carolinas which is a consumer art materials show in Raleigh, NC presented by Jerry’s Artarama. At Art of the Carolinas, artists are able to “try before you buy” and speak directly with the manufacturers or representatives of the companies that offer products at the show. Most of the artists that attend the show buy products for the year. They purchase art supplies for themselves and also for their students since the prices are so low. It really is a great way to save and have fun at the same time! Another option is through the sister company of Jerry’s Artarama, ASW Wholesale Club. This is a new concept that you may be interested in. It’s geared toward folks that purchase supplies in bulk, much like a Sam’s Club or a Costco membership.
Please check out the following resources:


Gayla Hollis March 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Utilizing knowledge from my recent university studies AND research; the highest quality paper from France “arches” is all I use when painting on paper. Anyone have a different favorite? Thanks :)


Christine March 26, 2014 at 9:29 am

Since I work primarily in pastel, I know the importance of only using the very BEST. There seems to be a built in prejudice towards the medium, so I want to let galleries and collectors know I do not skimp on quality.
It is a hands on medium, with much variety of handling. One type of stick will work better for one artist than another. So, I highly recommend Dakota art supply. On their site, you can compare softness and stick size…and therefore saving the expense of working with a type that may not be suited.

I also work in oil. The very best brushes…so important to good work are Rosemary brushes. Period.

I do like to support the local folks, when I can, but I know what products work for me, and they do not always have them, nor are they in a position to stock my items.


Harjit March 26, 2014 at 10:20 am

I do not think there is an easy answer to the matter. Those who live in big/cosmopolitan cities have the advantage of having big art store where you can find a choice of materials. The only store that I have in my vicinity is Michael’s, which doesn’t always have the best of materials (and all the materials). I wonder if someone would suggest a list of online resources that supply quality materials.


John March 26, 2014 at 9:49 pm

On the subject of paper :

#1) Gayla, I use quite a bit of Arches too … bit there are lots of other really good “western” style papers out there. Fabriano is superb. Twin Rocker is excellent too.

#2) I used to get most of my paper through the Stephen Kinsella company out of Missouri because they had an excellent selection, great customer service, and THE BEST prices. Since they have gone out of business (he retired) … does anyone have any recommendations for paper suppliers? (Pearl, Blick, and Daniel Smith are all already on my list … only D. Smith comes close in terms of a wide selection online.)


John March 26, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I am afraid Sharon D … your espousal of jerry’s Art-A-Rama needs some tempering.

First, I am a long time customer of their … and have purchased thousands of dollars of materials and equipment from them. They are relatively close to my location so I get great elapsed shipping times. Their pricing is quite good too.

BUT, I am pained to say that … having order several hundreds of dollars of Ampersand Deep Cradled Aquabord from Jerry’s … I can attest to some severely poor quality of packing and shipping of these delicate materials. It finally reached a point where multiple shipments 30%+ of the Aquabords were arriving damaged and un-usable.

I tried working with Jerry’s … was very patient … even receiving 30% damage rates on REPLACEMENT ORDERS of that product. It took an intervention of Ampersand’s president to rectify the problem.

I said before, I still order from Jerry’s. But in the case of Aquabord, I can not recommend Jerry’s. This is despite the fact that they: 1) have a the best selection of sizes, 2) offer a very competitive price and 3) the shortest shipping times.
A thirty percent damage rate is a waste of my time and energy. I would rather be painting, selling, and running my business.


Paula Day March 27, 2014 at 6:58 am

I live in an area where it is almost impossible to find quality materials. The only nearby art supplier is Hobby Lobby which is 20 miles away, so I purchase almost everything online. I use Jerry’s and Daniel Smith. I found Daniel Smith watercolors when I saw a painting by Alvaro Castagnet and loved the pigments he used. I almost totally use Daniel Smith watercolors now. They can be a little pricey but I find not much more than a good Windsor Newton or any other paint.
When I first started watercolor painting back in 1973, my instructor suggested using the best materials and I’m glad he did. I’ve always used Arches watercolor paper since that day. I find other papers to be inferior. The best bets for that are Jerry’s.
I have been experimenting with watercolor canvas and I love to do watercolor on them. The watercolor canvases are running about $9 – $25 on up depending on size of course. If anyone knows of a good place to purchase them a little less expensive, I would appreciate it.
As for brushes, I have been collecting them throughout the years, but recently, I have found a site called “The Brush Guys.” Pretty good for all kinds of brushes and not terribly costly.
I also like to use clay board for watercolor and they, too, can get expensive. But I love experimenting with new substrates so I will splurge every once in a while. Again, I find Jerry’s to be about the best all round supplier. Open to new suggestions, however.


Lynde Young March 27, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I haunt clearance shelves, never walk into a purchase without a coupon and check with store to see if they accept competitors coupons. These are my basic before I shop habits.


Donald Smith March 28, 2014 at 3:12 am

A lot of great tips on where to buy supplies on this thread. One suggestion that I’ve found very useful, I don’t remember the author’s name, “buy your expensive colors from in a cheaper brand, and your cheaper colors from an expensive brand of paint.” I LOVE Cobalt Blue, but I cannot afford it in some brands because it is well over $20.00. Old Holland’s is $53.81 from Dick Blick. I like Richeson Oils, so I only pay $10.81. Richeson oils are an artist’s grade, but affordable.

I buy my Gallery Wrapped canvas from They like for you to purchase a minimum of $100.00 but they are great to work with. I ran across this supplier while reading “Mystery of Making It.”


Bev Chudey March 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

I love, Utrecht Professional grade acrylics, the best in fact They are the only ones that I use for the full body type. They are very reasonable and you can purchase them in tubes or pints. I buy pints for colors I use most and tubes for the other colors. Also I like Holbein for Watercolor because they stay wet longer. Also like American Journey by Cheap Joes.


Donna Branson March 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I am a pastel artist and our paintings must be framed under glass. Does anyone know a source for museum glass at a reasonable price?


Chris Erickson March 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

This is a great blog–thanks for all the good suggestions! I paint in oil and I’ve been using the Centurion oil-primed linen panels–available on a few of the on-line retail sites–very reasonable on the site.


Susan April 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

As I live out in the sticks- no art supply stores of any kind- I order Everything online- I really like Jerry’s- their service has gotten better each year. I like Sourcetek for panels and Miracle Muck- they are quick to ship and a nice company to deal with.


rothko April 3, 2014 at 11:26 am

i paint with encaustic on panel. cheap joe’s art supply ( has nice unprimed panels for really good prices, and i cover them with R&F’s encaustic gesso. it’s a lot cheaper than buying ampersand encausticbord and looks just as nice.


Magdalena April 25, 2014 at 10:04 am

As an artist at the start of my career I have made the mistake of buying supplies from the local art store and the quality is pretty weak. So now 4 years into it I have stepped up my quality of canvases and finish my work with more thought to quality. I will assess my work and find 3 ways to improve my work . Thanks this information is very valuable and I can see my business savvy getting stronger and am excited with how this thing can grow.


Katharine Weber April 29, 2014 at 10:03 am

Utrecht here, too.


Barbara Noll April 30, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I order my supplies from Jerry’s because the service is good. However , I have received old ,thick paint on occasion when trying an uncommon color. I will investigate some others mentioned here. Thanks.


Deborah Czarny May 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

I usually buy art supplies local. It helps our economy here in a small town. I also will make use of found objects in my art to make things more interesting.


Ruth Clegg May 5, 2014 at 2:05 pm

As a printmaker I order my supplies from Utrecht, Daniel Smith, McClain’s, and Jerry’s. As a photographer I order from WBHunt in the New England area and Red River Paper in Texas (great quality and prices). If I have to have the lab print something due to a larger size I use Millers Lab in Columbia MO and Image Wizards for printing on metal (both excellent!). I also live near and have a studio in Providence, RI, the home of Rhode Island School of Design and their school store is quite nice.


Bernice Cayco Cosme July 18, 2014 at 10:58 am

Thank you for your post about Photography! This is the second post I’ve seen out of the many. Very helpful! :-)


Kate Klingensmith May 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm

I really wish I lived near a local retailer of good art supplies, i.e. not Michaels, etc. The closest is about 2 hours away. They would see my face a lot. Utrecht’s certainly saw me a lot when I lived in Salt Lake City. I liked being able to select an easel there since I could see it in person. When I’m visiting Kansas City I always go to Creative Coldsnow as well as Dick Blick (formerly Utrecht’s) . There is nothing like seeing and feeling the motion of palette knives to find the best one.

Two years ago I discovered Rosemary and Co. for brushes. I have 31 of her brushes and I think one bristle has come off. I had a “professional” grade bright brush from Michael’s that turned into a filbert by the second day of a workshop. I looked elsewhere after that and found Rosemary on Scott Christiansen’s website under his list of supplies for his workshops. Often when I see a painter that I like I will look on their website to see if they do workshops, and see what their supply list contains. That’s a good way to find out about supplies and paints that I haven’t heard of.

Living in Nowheresville MO I do mail order with Dick Blick. Their prices have consistently been the best, although Creative Coldsnow in Kansas City can be right up there with them. Their customer service is terrific. Two weeks ago I placed a large order of Gamblin oils with Dick Blick that included a tube of 150ml cobalt teal. Because the order was large I could have free shipping that took the longest. I chose the next longest for three bucks. When the order arrived, the cobalt teal had a different looking box but had the cobalt teal seal on one end. I opened it up and found a tube with cadmium yellow indicators but labeled as student grade yellow ochre. The paint was yellow ochre. I called customer service and they gave me credit for the paint, told me to keep the yellow ochre and sent out a new tube of cobalt teal. They are very reasonable to talk with and resolve issues like that. They have a huge range of paint brands and other painting supplies. But sometimes there’s nothing like going to a real art supply store and looking at the paint in the tube. Rembrandt brand cobalt violet is different from Gamblin’s cobalt violet. There is cobalt violet, cobalt violet pale and cobalt violet deep. You better want what’s in the tube when you’re going to spend up to $60 for a tube of paint.

I have found it very helpful to call or look at the website of the manufacturers of the paint I use. Golden has an excellent website for acrylics. That where I learned it’s probably more important to varnish acrylic paintings because they attract dust more that oils do. Gamblin has an excellent website too–several YouTube videos about their products as well as written information. They also have a great customer service line that does call back if you miss them and have to leave a message. Thinking of product quality, I recently bought a tube of Alizarin Permanent to replace Alizarin Crimson because the old color was not lightfast, whereas the new one is. I don’t want my painting to look weird down the road. It’s important to read about products and learn from other artists about the best products and how they are used.

Ray-Mar has great lightweight carriers for transporting wet canvas panels. They’re rain resistant too.

I’ve gotten a lot more serious about frames. Typically I select a black frame with a gold fillet for my little landscapes. I’ve learned I want it to be classy and simple, not something I just found. If a customer is paying good money for a painting, I want the frame to really work with the painting. Haven’t figured out what I’ll do when I’m working big. I’ve bought good frames from Very reasonable and beautiful. The best and worst packaging I saw was when I ordered Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima II Collector’s series with a signed book and signed lithograph. The big box was way under filled and the tape across the top was on the verge of opening. However the book and lithograph were in a beautiful white box specifically made for this with Richard Schmid’s name embossed in silver on the top. Presentation is so important. It reflects how much I care about my product and how much I want the customer to feel good about what they are purchasing. Maybe it’s the former jeweler and goldsmith in me. It’s all gotta look good!


Adriana Bantcheva May 7, 2014 at 9:08 am

I buy art supplies from Blick. Usually at the local (St. Louis, MO) store. Rarely online from


Mary May 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

I was using ASW especially for frames and a great shipping price. Since they have begun their yearly fee I stopped using them. I since have switched to using large gallery wrap canvas negating the need for a costly frame. There is only Michael’s as a local art store for me and even though it’s a ride to get there, I regularly use their weekly coupons and it saves me a lot. I save a tremendous amount on their yearly canvas sales.


Tonya Brill May 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

For Prints I use WHCC: I use the velvet (cotton) paper for the print.

For Mats and Backing Board I use: I use the blanks and cut the mats myself. I order the size I need in blanks because it saves me time since I don’t have to cut the outside of the mat.

For Frames: I just started using Lighthouse Photo Packaging: I have only tried the 8×10 frames so far for another project. I am pleased with those frames and do plan on ordering a frame to try out for the art I’m doing. Their customer service is very nice and personable. I like that.

For Certificate of Authenticity and Artist Statement: I chose Southworth Paper: I also use their Certificate Holders.

To package the paperwork in I use Clearbags:

Hope this helps :)


Christine Holzschuh May 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm

I make my own panels with generous layers of gesso on both sides, sanded smooth between layers. It so far is the best quality panel at an affordable price I have used. I like birch panels that I get locally. I am in a constant state of trying to find the best quality oils that really are reasonably priced. I like them creamy, but not too oily. It would be nice to buy one brand but I don’t…I use a variety based on color. I use walnut oil as medium and murphy’s to clean everything! I use Viva paper towels. I hate throwing so many out, but they are quite absorbent. I cut them to different sizes for various purposes. I agree that is a great source. Rosemary brushes are great.


Chris May 13, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I’m a pastel artist. I shop Dick Blick and Dakota Pastels on line if I need something right away.
Otherwise, every other year the International Association of Pastel Artists (IAPS) has a convention in Albuquerque NM. During the event is a trade show know as the “Candy Store”. All the art supplies are available at super discounts. You also have the opportunity to try out the colors and papers and supports! I try and buy as much as my wallet will allow.


Tom May 21, 2014 at 8:11 pm

I use an airbrush to create my art and I shop for EVERYTHING. My wife calls me Thrifty Dad. The local guys need you to buy from them or they’ll go out of business so I like to give as much business to my local guy as possible because there may be a time when I need something NOW and don’t have time to wait for shipping, but there are limits. I recently needed two parts for my airbrush and my local guy wanted $10 more for one and $20 more for the other part than my most expensive on line sources. I went on line and added $20 in paint that I needed to my order and got free shipping. For airbrush stuff Coast ( is probably the best; they are more knowledgeable than any local store and take the time to talk with you if you call. Chicago Airbrush Supply ( is also excellent. For paint I’ll go local if I am using Golden acrylic. I use stuff called Wicked and Createx Illustration paint and some Createx Auto Air. They are all acrylics with various properties. I get them direct or from one of the airbrush guys mentioned above. I won’t buy the Auto Air local because my local guy does such low volume that the paint is old and some is obsolescent formulas. I use pre-stretched canvas from Michaels or Hobby Lobby or my local specialty shop, depending on what is on sale. If I have a problem with ripples or something I squirt the back with water and they tighten right up. I am starting to paint on Marlite panels I build. Marlite is a version of masonite with a white finish. Lowes sells the marlite and firring strips. Gorilla Glue, Liquid nails and a nail gun. I use a palm sander and 220 grit, a couple of coats of Kilz, then a couple of gesso and away I go. Both HL and Michaels have coupons accessible from smart phone so I always have a 40 or 50% off one item. Helps when I buy strange stuff like liquid latex for masking. Speaking of that, I looked in “art” supplies for a pint of liquid latex and everybody was asking about $45. At Hobby Lobby in their model train section they had a pint for $16 and with a 40% off coupon I ended up paying about $10. Isn’t that about what 2 oz of Winsor Newton liquid mask goes for? I always look for the same stuff being sold for a different purpose or under a different name. I also take suppliers up on their free offers. I was investigating a new frisket material and saw a ” call for free sample ad.” I called expecting an 8×10 sheet or two and they sent me whole roll of the stuff. It is great stuff so their investment paid off. I will be buying it when I run out.


Sarah Gren May 23, 2014 at 10:25 pm

I buy most of my art supplies from They offer the best prices and have amazing selctions. I prefer to stick to one.
Jerry’s runs a lot of coupons and even without that they have the best prices overall hands down. In addition, they support a lot of artists, invest in education and videos and they are active in community. How I know…They sponsored a full book launch for an artist Jamal Igle to help him get out there… so I support them in my purchases and I get to save money and create more.

It amazes me at how many artists fall for the 40% off 1 item trick and overpay for everything else. I found Jerry’s years ago and have been with them ever since! All I can say is, thankful for a Jerry’s or we would all be over paying!

Here is their page


Richard Munson May 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I paint in acrylics. I amuse a lot of paint for dripping and abstracts. I personally like Jerry,s art o Rama and I watch the sales at michaels and hobby lobby but jerrys is first choice for quality paints such as grumbacher.


C Cart June 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

Does anyone know of a place to buy molding paste or some type of acrylic texture in bulk? Or perhaps a recipe for making it? I use a TON of the Golden Molding Paste and would like to find a way to buy it in large containers to save on my cost.


Susan June 19, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Not sure of your definition of bulk. I get mine by the gallons from Jerry’s or Utrecht. The cost has gone up significantly the last 2 years. Hope this helps.


Wally Bistrich July 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

If per gallon is to small for your purpose why not contacting Golden? – or looking for change in technique ( less material consuming)?


Marc Plouffe June 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Since I do photography, most of my suppliers will be different from what I read here. I order printers, paper, ink and related supplies from

I order my mats, some frames mostly smaller and standard sizes from, my stretcher bars from, not because they are cheaper, but they make from solid pieces of poplar which are better quality and more rigid. For all my other frames, odd sizes and larger, I order Nielsen Bainbridge from Dick Blick. As far as the glass is concerned, I buy Museum glass locally from a wholesaler.


Bernice Cayco Cosme July 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post! I have been scrolling again and again to find somebody post about Photography. What a lifesaver! Thank you and have a lovely, beautiful day ahead! :-)


Tony Torres June 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Looking for art materials that I can afford has limited me, and on top of that I can’t experiment because I’m afraid to waste materials. I like working in oil, but because of the cost I can’t do large paintings.


Fleta Monaghan June 21, 2014 at 4:36 am

For oil paints I use Blue Ridge Oil Paints for high quality hand ground paints using walnut and linseed oil. I also love Gamblin Oil paints, both these are American companies. For encaustic supplies I buy wax and damar in bulk from Swans candles, use Evans Encaustics paints, R & F and Encaustikos when purchasing commercially made products, usually from the company or from Dick Blick. I have my panels custom made usually. I like Paul deMarris’ oil sticks (he is an artist who makes his own sticks) and R & F oil sticks. I use Gamblin traditional gesso for all my wood panels. I love Sennelier oil pastels, and use these in both oils paintings, encaustics and alone. I use Dorlands and Gamblin cold wax. That is about the sum of it.


kathryn arnold June 21, 2014 at 11:36 am

I have found Daniel Smith/Seattle to be a great resource for me – their gallons of gesso have never discolored and they offer large-size containers of high quality linseed oil, damar varnish – used to with the great quality of gum turpentine but now they can only ship the quart size to california. They do free shipping usually with large orders. Also they offer high quality paper and have sales on 100 sheets of bfk rives/bulk. Along with them Utrecht which is now owned by Dick Blick has free shipping even on large size stretcher bars and canvas rolls. Purchasing in bulk and building your own shaves down the cost. They also have these amazing canvas sales – the Renaissance and Master are an amazing high quality canvas/stretchers and allow your to remove the canvas and begin again as at times is necessary. Dick Blick often has 40% off coupons which can be used for Golden Gesso or Mediums and both are excellent and you can purchase by the gallons. I hope Daniel Smith, Utrecht and Dick Blick read this :-)


Paul Berenson June 26, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Oil painting is expensive. I use only top grade colors from Winsor Newton, Holbein, Sennelier and other comparable quality oils. I have found a few Utrecht Artists Oil Colors to be excellent quality at a great price. Their Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine are colors that I that I use as base colors everywhere. This is the ONLY paint store colors I use, though. I have never found any others to meet my standards. I buy mostly from Jerry’s Artarama, Blick, Daniel Smith. Brushes are a particular problem though, as the only ones I’ve found that I like are DS Series 55, which appear to have ended production.


JoLoBx July 1, 2014 at 1:14 pm

A good resource for lead-primed canvases (and other types of priming) for oil painting (lead is the best surface to oil paint on) is A&E Art Canvas in NYC. The owner, Angel ships worldwide and is well known in artist circles. He’s the only person in the world, I believe, who does lead priming. Providing a variety of archival quality canvases and linens. Any size you want, any depth you want. I have used him for many years.
Contact Angel for more info (and tell him JoAnne in Riverdale sent you):
605 East 132nd Street
Bronx, New York 10454


Jakki Kouffman July 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

As an acrylic artist and longtime painting instructor, my policy is to buy only the highest quality art supplies. Jason is absolutely correct: there is no compromising in this area, as lesser materials produce paintings of compromised appearance and value. The issue is that lower quality materials contain fillers, so you end up using more of the inferior brand, anyway. When placing a large order, I always do a price comparison among the different outlets. The best art supply store here in Santa Fe is called Artisan. They offer artist discounts and will also match online prices if requested. Otherwise, I watch for online sales at Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick, particularly those involving free shipping. (I get ads from these folks almost every day.) For acrylic painters, Golden is a fabulous brand. Their line of pigments, as well as liquid mediums, solid gels and opaque pastes are top of the line. Plus the company is very responsive to artists, through their informative web site and tech hotline, where they willingly interact with the acrylic community. Brushes are always the most difficult item, as I prefer to handle each brush before I purchase it. So that is an item that I tend to buy locally. A word of caution however: the price of natural hair brushes has soared lately, so I reluctantly tried a number of synthetic brushes, often marketed as “acrylic brushes,” which they are not. (Animal hair brushes work fine with acrylics, as with oils.) Unfortunately most synthetics and synthetic mix brushes lose their snap and their shape. Again, better not to skimp on the inferior product if you can get the real thing, which in this case, is natural hair or bristle brushes.


Pamela Kirkham July 2, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I paint in acrylics and prefer Golden because of the quality and great customer service. We recently had a rep from the company come to one of our local art centers and give a free workshop to show us all the cool, new products, one of which is called “Interference acrylic paint” which I love. As far as canvas, I buy pre-stretched because I suck at stretching large canvases myself and I have no help to stretch it. I like the Blick Premier Gallery 1-1/2″ Profile Cotton Canvas. Have tried 3/4″ profile and have found that it warps easily. The 1-1/2″ profile does not, the corners are more carefully done, and the canvas itself is better quality.


Jamie July 4, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I live in a very small town so rely on ordering online for supplies mainly Kerry’s Artarama.


Karen Lastre July 5, 2014 at 6:42 am

I purchase my canvas already stretched from the art supply store (Art Supply) in my studio complex. They carry high quality materials such as Daniel Smith stretchers (heavy duty) and high quality paints. Should I wish to stretch my own canvas (I paint on unprimed canvas which has been an approved technique with conservators for some time) I use nothing but high quality materials as skimping is dangerous for the life of your work.


Michael Billie July 10, 2014 at 8:24 am

I get my cradle panels from They come in mahogany or birch. They’re great quality and custom made. I’ve been a long time customer with them and am always happy with the service. I’ve researched other carpenters that make panels but haven’t found another that’s cheaper and still have a great professional look. And I always get them by the bulk to get the price down.


Teyjah McAren July 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm

In Canada I use Opus Painting Supplies. They have a few stores throughout British Columbia. I also enjoy Daniel Smith supplies.


Teyjah McAren July 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm

“My average size work is:__18 x 24___ and my average cost of production for a piece this size is $___293___.”
Thank you Jason for another interesting opportunity to review our practices. I’ve never bothered to do this before.
I’m happy to say, however, that since I began painting I’ve used the best materials, the best paints, gotten my frames done professionally, the best supports, excellent brushes (most of the time). I’ve had a gallery owner visit my studio and the only recommendation was to have my photos done professionally.
so back to the assignment:
paint tubes: 6 to 10 Golden Artist Colors paints 2 oz including Interference and Irridescents at a cost of $50 for the 18 x 24
Various gels from Golden: 6 gels at a cost of $60 small jars of 4 oz for the 18 x 24
wc paper 300lbs or illustration board: $30
various tools from Thrift store and Hardware store: $15
illustration board support: $15 archival
Mat board: $15 archival
brushes: $80 based on 3
styrofoam palettes: $3
Varnish: $25


Elle Gould July 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

I know that I am in the minority, but I am a WATERCOLOR artist. I paint only on 300# paper and use framing materials that are the sturdiest that I can find. My husband and I have a wood working shop (we are not a business, but enjoy wood turning and carving), and I get 100% solid wood for frames. If I purchase a frame, I make certain that it is wood, and not wood materials. It makes a difference!!!

I generally use Dan Smith or Jerry’s Artarama for paints, and get these when on sale. Brushes, which can cost a fortune, are handled with care, washed out and dried FLAT. Taking care of equipment is important. Like putting away my bicycle as a kid….

If I paint in acrylic (less frequently), I use a board, cradled on stretchers. It is solid, and I don’t have to worry about it moving around. I don’t want to pour my heart out and then have material failures.

I used to rock climb when I was younger. Equipment failure could result in death. As an artist, I think that the same ideas apply. You don’t want to be known as a cheap or inferior artist.


Michele Baggenstoss July 17, 2014 at 11:22 am

It’s very sad that the one locally owned art supply store closed down due to the big chains. Now they only have one place in Ojai and what I spend in gas and time to get there is not cost effective. So I am forced in a pinch to go to either Aaron’s or Michael’s. I do not like to order things like liquin or turpenoid online, but I will order my paints and brushes and canvases. I look in a few online places, Cheap Joe’s and Jerry’s. Just recently I ordered oil paint from Dick Blick’s . It was a good price, bigger tubes than most standard sizes and a lot of their paints don’t have that toxic warning that goes with certain colors. When I am in no hurry I will also order from Pearl Paint.
But if anyone knows of another art supply store in the Ventura County area in California please let me know. Thanks


Deb Miller July 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I live in a small town one hour away from a big city. Ordering online makes a lot of sense for me and I use when I do. But… I need the art store experience. Just like you need to experiment and try new techniques with your painting – I like to see what is new out there. So many things that I have not thought about and would not have know they were available. I like to meander, search and need the tactile experience that a true art supply store gives you. They have great deals, new products and usually an artist there to help. It is the total creative experience. Asel Art Supply in Dallas and Austin Texas is a great professional store. Every city that I visit I find their local professional store – I love it.


Wally Bistrich July 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Because I´m spending a lot of time before a painting is ready to show, I think I also should use the best material appropriate to it. Of course I try to get it at a good price and make use of special offers. In France, Swiss, Germany and Austria, Boesner has a good quality/ price ratio. They have an internet store (, but also many local shops. If one of you spends some time in Europs I can recommend their shops. As I live 3 Km from their shop outside Munich can also go to their painting and new material presentations. Sometimes I occasionally meet an other painter and we have a cup of coffee in their cafeteria, so it is also a place of communication.
In Acrylics I use products of Lascaux, Golden, Schmincke and Liquitex. These products seem to be very expensive, even at bargain offer, but they are so intensive pigmented, that a tube lasts for long, especially
if you “stretch” the paint using transparent gels and mediums (although this makes the painting
process a bit delicate …). I order Golden products at a german internet shop (, it is difficult to get Golden in Germany at all.
For oil painting I use Norma and Mussini from Schmincke and M.Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium and M.Graham Walnut Oil. The walnut products I have to import but there is no equivalent. As others in this blog mentioned before walnut oil doesn´t yellow and the painting keeps its light colors as they where painted. Therefore it’s worth the trouble. I had been looking for walnut oil suited for painting in vain for a certain time. In the meantime I “washed” the oil as Leonardo did before (you are loosing 50% of the high quality oil), so I find it easy now to import it from Great Britain.
I heard others painters say: Using expensive paint doesn´t make sense because the higher costs are not compensated. This might be true if someone paints in dull colors. For my pictures in their intensive colors it is mandatory to use high quality paint.


Janet July 17, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Unfortunately the mediums I use most often are not sold in Australia so I import (in bulk to save costs) from either dickblick or Dakota pastels. I can thankfully buy good quality canvases and paints at a local store which often mark stock up to 50% off, which is the only time I buy. For framing I have found a local framer who discounts for bulk and for artists and because they are attached to a gallery where I display they also often give me yet another discount.


Mary Page July 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

I buy most of my art supplies from Dick Blick. I do sometimes buy from Jerry’s Artaram on line as their prices are competitive with quality supplies. They always have what I want and with their discounts, I can get my quality paints there. I use Golden Acrylic paints and they are by far the best. I agree that you should use high quality art supplies for your art work. I, also, buy prestretched canvas when I use canvas. In the past couple of years, I have been buying sintra board that I gesso to the consistency I want the board to be for painting. It doesn’t warp and was shown that by my workshop mentor/teacher (Rod Lawrence) that I have been going to for the past 18 years. There is some work to gessoing the board as it comes totally smooth, so to add tooth, you must gesso and sand to what you want it to be. I also agree on quality brushes and use natural hair as opposed to synthetic. I do have synthetic also, but by far the natural hair works better.


Cyn Terese July 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

As a frequent shopper at Lowes and Home Depot, I should have stocks by now. I construct my own stretchers from 1″x2″ x8″wood I buy from these stores when it goes on sale. That is why I find myself in these stores quite frequently, because when I find a bargain in oak, I buy up as much as I can afford at the time and I always have some in stock. I do the same with rolls of canvas from Hancock Fabrics and JoAnns. When I’m out of Gesso, I use plain flat white acrylic paint, especially when I want my canvas to have a rough texture. For framing, I build the frames up with a variety of trim, again from these stores. I sometimes will paint my frames in high gloss paint and seal them with polyurethane. As for the paintings themselves, I will sometimes use poly, if I have a variety of items in the paintings such as woods or metals, otherwise I seal my “traditional” oil and acrylic paintings with Windsor Newton Varnish.


Cyn Terese July 18, 2014 at 10:40 pm

I have questions for those of you who sell Giclees of your originals – where do you get them done? Or , if you DIY them, how do you do it? And, finally, where do you buy the Giclee ink?


Mark Haglund July 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm

That is a hard question to answer. Many opinions on this topic. Too many for this thread. That said, it took me several years of research to decide what I was going to do. A couple major thing to consider is, are you going to provide the image, or are you sending the original artwork to them? Do they work with you on color management, or do you get what they print? Will they guarantee the same color balance over many runs? What is the smallest amount that you can order?

Here is a good place to start your research on the history of Giclee printing and possible solutions. Many galleries have printers that they work with, you might start there. My advice to to start the search for the printing process you feel best fits your needs and go with that. Here are a couple more leads.

Good luck. You will find there is no cut and dry answer to your question. Everyone under the sun has an idea what Giclee printing is but not many agree.


Carolyn L July 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

I have been able to get some wonderful deals at Cheap Joe’s ( . Their American Journey Professional watercolors are excellent in quality and price. Cheap Joe’s has good sales and deals on shipping. Sign up for their newsletter to hear about some really great deals. I have also purchased tubes of Daniel Smith, M.Graham, DaVinci and Winsor Newton Watercolor for really good prices . Everything I have ordered has arrived well packaged and in a very timely manner. I have also ordered from Jerry’s Artarama and tend to compare prices between Jerry’s and Cheap Joe’s. I find that most of the time, they are very competitive with each other. But when Cheap Joe’s is having a sale, they (Cheap Joe’s) always win out.


Karen Kyle Ericson July 23, 2014 at 10:18 am

Hi everyone-

I’m a writer, artist and photographer. Been in business too long so I’m catching up with the latest goodies to use my Fine Art degree.

This is a cool topic. For the last year or so I’ve been saving up and buying art supplies. I can get great practice pads and canvas boards at AC Moore for a low price (for experimenting).

I’ve been able to get Faber Castell pens in all sizes, Tombow pens, Lyra and Caran D’Arche watercolor crayons (the pigments on these are very vibrant), pastel pencils, Sennelier acrylics, Prismacolor pencil sets and more. I have Yarka soft pastels from Jerry’s, and Sennelier oil pastels. After I left the business world I realized I had some catching up to do! Almost done shopping.

They are now selling soft pan pastels at They have little sponges you use to blend the color (so you don’t have to clean the whole studio after each use). The pigment comes in a round transparent plastic jar. It looks pretty cool. That’s what I want to get next. I got the sponges and holders to try out on my soft pastels. Blick has lots of top of the line stuff Holbein gouache and Windsor & Newton watercolor (these pigments are amazing).

Digital photography has become really inexpensive now. We don’t even have to bruise legs in a darkroom anymore, or try to avoid chemical vapors! For camera equipment and software I shop at I recommend for processing special effects. Adobe Lightroom for professional organization and processing. Photoshop has gone beyond logic and usefulness… But Camera Raw is still useful. So we’re all looking for alternatives now.

For professional processing I use a local printer who specializes in photos. Printer cartridges are outrageously expensive these days so it’s a lot cheaper to just go to the printer. Plus I can’t mother hen the photo then : ) It worked really well for a Nursing Home shoot and wedding.

I also found these $5 magazines online for artists from Europe. It has lots of techniques and ideas to inspire us. You can get a digital version and use the reader they provide. Didn’t work in my Kindle but it’s better on my Mac anyway-


Mark Haglund July 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I agree that quality materials are a must. I use Utrecht Artist Oil Paints for all my paintings. I paint using the primary colors plus burnt sienna and white, but still need a warm and cool of each. So eight colors only, but the cost still adds up. I like the large tubes best. I will try Classic Artist Oils. I have small tubes I can squeeze paint in so I do not have to take the large ones into the field. Thanks for the tip.

As for panels, I have made my own for years. I took a Carolyn Anderson workshop many years ago. Part of the workshop was how to make your own panels. I have been using her method ever since.



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