How to Save on Materials

Painting, Acrylic Paint, Background
Most men and women know now that private financing will be getting tighter and tighter. Everything is going up in price, including art materials. How are we to keep painting, whether we’re selling our job or not?
There are various ways in which costs can be kept down. This article aims to explore and find out what some of them are.
Online Shopping (and indeed offline).
If you buy from several online suppliers as I do, you will be on their mailing lists. When discounts are operating, it’s an excellent time to buy things which are normally quite expensive, such as oil paints or quite heavy-weight watercolour paper. If you can stretch your purse, consider bigger tubes of paint (like 200ml) especially oils and particularly if they’re the more expensive colors. The best brands will last for a long time (unless you’re painting enormous yacht-sail canvases).
EBay is worth a punt, but note that many sellers are very conscious of what things normally go for and, although their prices may appear lower, they then have to add the postage on. A tube of paint priced #2 or so lower than the norm may not prove to be a great deal of saving by the time you’ve paid #3 postage for this single product. Having said that, if you trawl frequently through the art supplies segments, you can encounter bargains. I once purchased a full set of Daler-Rowney pastel pencils for almost half-price, only because the firm had made adjustments to the pastel formula and had discontinued the present boxes of pencils.
Likewise there are branded paints that are actually very good quality, but are not household names to the majority of people… these occasionally come up for sale and are available with no competing bids simply because most individuals aren’t familiar with them.
Grade of Paints.
If you market your work, you will likely prefer artist-grade paintbut it is not uncommon to find professional artists choosing certain student-grade colours for their work only because they enjoy the colour or the handling of the paint. Student grade paints in the big names are generally excellent value; especially in acrylics, where they frequently come in large quantity.
Canvases.
Piles of canvases come from many places in the East these days. You can buy whole boxes of them at discounted prices from online providers, including eBay.
The 1 thing I’d note is that the build quality. Many are OK; but some are poorly assembled. I have had”square” canvases looking anything but square. What happens is that if a single stretcher-bar is a little more than the rest, a perfect square or rectangle is not obtained. The subsequent canvas looks absolutely awful when hung on the wall and it is not fit for purpose… even if you ARE a penny-pinching artist.
Dud canvas? Cut off the canvas and use it to make a panel; or just practise on. Better yet, invest in a whole roll of canvas. Expensive outlay but you will have the ability to cut off precisely what you want, when you want, and prepare it as you wish… and it could last you simply years.
Another way to save is to use canvas-boards. They last for a long time; I still have canvas-board paintings in the 1970’s and they are absolutely fine.
You can purchase boxes of them from some online suppliers and eBay is not a bad place to look either.
MDF
Available in several thicknesses, the 3mm and 4mm sizes prove popular. Easily cut into any size (and shape) that you want, MDF needs sealing and priming before use. You can use a normal sealer followed by several coats of acrylic gesso, with light sanding in between. Bear in mind the edges also. If you reduce your own, use a dust mask, MDF does produce a good deal of flying particles.
However, MDF isn’t quite as stable as people think. There is a problem sometimes with what’s known as substrate-induced discolouration (SID). There are some solutions on the artists’ market that will deal with this.
Conservation experts are not convinced about the long-term stability of MDF, but most people aren’t necessarily going to be painting masterpieces that need to last for a few hundred years. Properly prepared, MDF is fine. Some artists find it is too smooth for their liking. It is also possible to prepare a panel and then paste proper canvas around it; this may offer the extra tooth that some prefer.
And really really cheapskates…
Paper
It’s possible to paint oils on watercolour paper as long as you prime the surface first, acrylic gesso is ideal. This forms a barrier, preventing (or certainly delaying) destruction of this newspaper by the oils. How long it lasts for, I really don’t know but I would suggest not producing too many masterpieces this way; just to be on the safe side. Acrylics on watercolour paper do not cause a problem.
There are now special papers offered for oil-painting; these look just like watercolour paper but have been specially treated to handle the harmful properties of oil-paint. They aren’t always cheap per sheet… however… a whole sheet for six or seven pounds will cut up into whatever size you need, and you’ll receive several work surfaces for the money.
Hardboard.
The perfect hardboard is one without oils in it (untempered) but I don’t have any way of telling you from the other. If you use it, sand the surface first, use SID treatment and provide several good coats of primer.
Try and use artists’ primers rather than those from a DIY shop.
Making your own…
It is possible to make rather good panels by gluing sections of cotton shirts or old bedsheets onto MDF or hardboard. Use pva or an acrylic medium to perform the sticking. Wrap the material over the edges and fix to the trunk, before adding a primer on the surface.
Acrylics can be painted onto plastic surfaces, opening up several ideas for the use of acrylic-sheet, perspex and other similar materials. One of the best places to trawl is, again, eBay, start looking for offcuts or someone selling panels.
Other Media… Watercolour.
Fantastic quality watercolour paper could be costly. So why not look at the lightweight papers like 90lb? I have read about artists spreading water on each side of the 90lb paper and just letting it stand flat–without any taping– into a very clean smooth board such as formica or marble (an old kitchen work-surface would probably do). The sheet remains in place for a reasonable length of time. Other folks don’t tape it, but simply place bulldog-style clips to affix it to a board, allowing the paper to elongate, cockle and then dry again without fiddly taping.
Pastels
There are options for developing a variety of surfaces that will make you less dependent on”ready-done” papers.
Gritty or grainy papers are very common now for pastel work. You can create your own tiled surfaces using several materials along with a pot of pastel-primer paint. There is a trend to using MDF also, painted and ready with a gritty primer. Even plastics and metal will maintain a proprietary pastel-primer.
This medium actually has a good tooth and a couple of coats will probably give you all of the grip you require.
If you’re keen you can purchase a bag of 4+ fine-grade pumice stone and mix it with white gesso, to paint on your surfaces.
I’ve known people use sandpaper from the hardware store; yes it does work, but the newspaper isn’t acid-free. Pastel is however a sterile medium, so if you really want to be experimental then get yourself a sheet or two of fine-grade sandpaper.
Eventually… PAINT SMALLER!
The main thing is that you have the ability to find ways of keeping your skills alive when money is somewhat tight. If you can paint,… or even just DRAW… during those times, you will have a collection of work ready to sell when the dark clouds draw out and things improve .

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