Don’t Let Your Materials Hold You Back

Ok, time to get back on topic!

It’s also time for me to get back to painting. I’ve been away from it for a couple of months now, due to other commitments.

First, I got married in September (YAY!), so the weeks leading up to that were pretty hectic and didn’t leave much time for painting.

Then we were on honeymoon in Italy and France for a couple of weeks, and then not long after we got back I headed to San Francisco for 10 days, for our company’s annual WooTrip.

So it’s been a busy couple of months, and I’m still just settling back into a normal routine. Now I’m keen to get the paint flowing again!

Anyway, back to the main point…

One thing that puts many people off painting is the cost of materials.

Most books you’ll read and courses you’ll take will tell you you need to paint on Belgian linen (which you must prime yourself, with a lead-based primer), using professional grade oil pigment, with specific expensive brushes and a painting medium made of 7 different rare earth minerals.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but there is definitely a lot of emphasis placed on using certain materials that don’t always come cheap.

This can be enough to make people think they’ll never be able to afford to paint, so they might as well not bother.

Paint with what you can afford

Especially when you’re just starting out with painting, there’s no point in spending huge amounts of money on the most expensive materials you can find (unless money is no object for you, in which case go for it!)

It’s said that it takes 1000 bad paintings before you produce anything you’ll be pleased with (don’t let that put you off either, it’s just emphasising the point that you need to practice a lot to master any skill).

So you don’t want to waste 1000 expensive linen canvases and tons of expensive paint on these crappy practice paintings that you’re never even going to show to anyone.

Some cheaper alternatives

Painting surface

For a professional commissioned painting, sure, you might want to splash out on a nice linen painting surface. If you’re going to sell the painting, perhaps for hundreds or even thousands of pounds, then the cost of the canvas will be well worth it.

But if you’re just practicing, and the work isn’t intended for sale or even to be seen by anyone other than you, my favourite painting surface is a special oil painting paper by Daler Rowney.

You don’t even need to prime this stuff, you can just apply the paint to it directly, and it goes on pretty nicely. Most of my recent paintings and studies have been done on this kind of paper, and it costs less than £5 on Amazon for 12 sheets of the smallest size.

Oil Paints

It’s true that you should paint with “artist’s grade” pigments, rather than “student grade” if you can afford to, as the pigments will be much more pure, and the colour will last longer.

Personally, I like to use Talens Rembrandt oils, but Daler Rowney’s Georgian oils are a decent cheaper alternative.


Paint brushes can get crazy expensive, but a lot of brands sell several series of brushes at different price ranges. For example, ProArte Series A bristle brushes are great if you can afford them, but they also have a slightly cheaper Series B, which are almost as good in my opinion.

Painting Medium

There’s a staggering variety of oil painting mediums available, which you can mix with your paint to achieve different effects.

Currently, I’m using a popular medium, which is a mixture of rectified turpentine, stand oil and damar varnish. However, some of those ingredients can get pretty pricey, especially the turp, not to mention the hassle of combining it all, so a good alternative is simply to use Liquin Original. It’s cheap, and keeps things nice and simple.

Walnut oil is another popular choice, which is usually  just slightly more expensive than the Liquin.

Just Paint

My point here is that although it’s nice to have the best equipment possible, the most important thing is that you just paint with whatever you’ve got access to.

If you can’t afford any of this stuff, just mix some mud with water and paint with your fingers!


Let me know if you have any other cheap alternatives you can recommend.





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