art supply store

As artists, we know that a trip to the art supply store can be expensive. Shopping for one item can quickly lead to a full cart, and it’s exactly these careless habits that can become dangerous, especially for artists trying to watch their budget or turn a profit.

Ideally, established artists making regular sales should be able to purchase the finest supplies. But in today’s economy, it’s smart for everyone to be budget conscious.

The good news is, this does not mean you’ll have to skimp on quality or go without a supply you need just because you can’t afford it. Happily, artists of all abilities and tax brackets can find awesome deals on great art supplies — it just takes a little time, research and careful shopping.

That’s where we come in! We have done the research for you by gathering up the 10 easiest ways to save money on art supplies

1. Be a repeat buyer:

If you’re a frequent customer of the same art supply store, ask if they offer a discount for repeat buyers. Usually this discount comes in the form of store credit and is a great deal if you know you’ll be back.

If your go-to art store doesn’t offer such deals, it may be smart to look for one in your area that does — but only if it offers what you need and is within your price range. There’s no sense in driving farther, paying more or being disappointed with your purchase just because you have store credit to spend.

2. Don’t over do it on paint:

Not using as much paint is a great way to keep costs down and avoid unnecessary waste. When portioning out your paint colors, be mindful of how much you’re using, as well as its intended use. Mix colors as you go and try to reuse or use up the paint you’ve mixed for previous works.

Another great way to save on paint is to buy tubes of glazes rather than impasto. Glazes are thinner and can be easily stretched. If your artwork requires more texture, don’t be afraid to use texture paste or get creative with collage. Fibrous paper or old newspaper scraps can be a great way to build up the body of your work. Student acrylic paint is also a great option for artists who desire a certain effect, but don’t want to break the bank.

3. Coupons:

To save money on everything from paint thinner to fiber-tip pens, cut and download coupons offered by major art supply chains or craft stores. Often times these stores offer great easy to find deals. Just type in the name of the store and “coupon” in any search engine and you’ll be amazed by the results. For even better results, sign up for the store’s email newsletter. They’ll send you their latest deals and coupons unavailable to the general public.

Of course, old-fashioned techniques are also still an effective way to save cash. Check out the major newspapers in your area for big brand coupon ads too.

4. Stretch Your Own Canvas:

There’s no way around it — pre-stretched and primed canvases are expensive, and this can present an interesting problem for fine artists who don’t want to blow their previous commission on a new canvas. However, since most artists agree that canvas is the perfect medium, stretching your own canvas can be a really fantastic way to save money and allow for more experimentation as an artist. By stretching your own, you’ll have more surfaces to play with, and you won’t be hoarding expensive canvas for only the “good paintings.” To get started, check out this ArtBistro tutorial, or peruse the web for helpful video tutorials.

stretch canvas

Another helpful money saving idea is to reuse old canvases. Too many artists throw away old works they no longer like or aren’t selling. This is wasteful, especially since a canvas can easily be reused by flipping it over or priming it with gesso. An alternative way to save money on canvas is to not use it at all. Experiment with painting on wood, glass or even properly prepared paper. Most artists find that anything primed with gesso becomes a sufficiently paintable surface.

5. Buy in bulk:

Artists who properly care for their supplies can keep their wares for years. If you have the space and know you will definitely use the product, it’s a good idea to buy a lot of it at a decent bulk price, especially since that means a higher profit for you when it comes time to sell your piece. However, don’t buy it if you’re not sure you’ll use it or have never tried it! Too many artists go crazy over a good deal and forget to be practical. This leads to a lot of waste, both in product and in studio space.

6. Keep your existing supplies in good condition:

Well-kept art supplies can last for years.

  • For example, a good set of paintbrushes or pallet knives can last a lifetime.
  • Unfortunately, many artists don’t properly maintain their supplies and this frivolity leads to the loss of hard-earned money.
  • Carefully clean all utensils with soap and water or turpentine (for oils only) after each use.
  • Always shake water out of the brushes and pat dry with a towel in the direction of the bristles.

Double-check that paint lids are on properly and stored at mild temperatures. And, never mix paintbrushes! If you’ve used it with oil-based paints, it’s only an oil-based paintbrush. This goes for water-based paintbrushes too.

It’s also a good idea to keep your studio neat and clean since it’s where the majority of your art supplies are stored. A clean space enables your supplies to be properly organized, accessible and easy to put away once you’re finished. Keep your workspace neat by laying down old sheets or plastic tablecloths and have multiple trashcans on hand.

7. Buy online:

Shopping at online art stores means you’ll save a bundle, even in your pajamas. Smaller art supply stores have a tendency to charge more due to less customer volume, so buying through bigger stores is a smart idea. Bigger brands also have a larger selection of online supplies and an easily accessible sale section.

Another great way to buy online is through private sellers. Utilize free online classified advertisements and auctions to buy the items you need. This method can also be a great way for artists to make money off old or outdated supplies. Turn your investments into cash by selling them online, then put that money into a newer tool.

8. Don’t discredit garage sales:

Like we mentioned before, canvases of any size can come with hefty price tags. Unfortunately, so can wooden easels or even high-quality pastels or pencils. Garage, estate or moving sales offer a great way to find great deals, and unlike online stores, allow buyers to thoroughly check out the merchandise before purchasing.

  • For example: mass produced prints can be easily primed to make super-cheap blank canvases and a few extra screws or wood glue can repair an old easel. With creative spending and a little elbow grease, you can save between $50-100 dollars on most supplies!

old picture frames

Just remember, stick to what you need. Don’t bring home a bunch of garage sale clutter just because it was a good price. And if you have trouble estimating an item’s worth or struggle with indecisiveness, bring a friend.

9. Evaluate what you actually need:

Being a profitable artist means deciphering between the supplies you need, the supplies you want and the supplies others may need but you can do without. For instance, if you paint better with your canvas lying flat on a table, don’t buy an expensive easel that will never get used. Counter tops and tables are usually an ideal height and are perfectly suitable surfaces to paint on.

  • Your artist palette is another piece of equipment that’s easy to forgo. Try using clean, dry Styrofoam plates from the butcher or produce stand. These surfaces are nice and flat, as well as easily washable. Plus, you’re doing the environment a favor by reusing a material that can’t be recycled.

10. Splurge once in a while:

No artist, or person for that matter, can be budget conscious always. There are just some supplies and tools you need no matter the cost. Items like this should be purchased occasionally and with much deliberation. That being said, sometimes it’s best to buy quality materials, but in smaller quantities. Start small and steadily build your supply. Keeping your supplies simple and valuable is a great strategy for creating strong artworks and solid bank accounts.


PS. Let’s meet on Facebook and Twitter! ~Lori (or if you want to see my paintings)

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