Painting At Home

Posted on January 7, 2019 by

Painting, Acrylic Paint, Background

Most people know now that personal financing will be getting tighter and tighter. Everything is going up in price, such as art materials. How are we to maintain painting, whether we’re selling our job or not?

There are various ways that costs can be kept down. This article aims to explore and find out what some of them are.

Online Shopping (and indeed offline).

Always keep an eye open for discount offers. If you buy from various online suppliers as I do, you will be on their mailing lists. When discounts are operating, it is a good time to buy things which are normally quite expensive, such as oil paints or very heavy-weight watercolour paper. If you can stretch your purse, consider larger tubes of paint (like 200ml) especially oils and particularly if they’re the more expensive colors. The top brands will last for years (unless you are painting huge yacht-sail canvases).

EBay is worth a punt, but notice that many sellers are very aware of what things normally go for and, although their costs may appear lower, they then have to add the postage on. A tube of paint priced #2 or so lower than the standard may not end up being a great deal of saving from the time you’ve paid #3 postage for this single product. Having said this, if you trawl regularly through the art supplies sections, you can encounter bargains. I once purchased a full set of Daler-Rowney pastel pencils for nearly half-price, only because the firm had made alterations to the pastel formula and had ceased the present boxes of pencils.

Similarly, there are branded paints that are actually very good quality, but are not household names to the vast majority of people… these sometimes come up for sale and can be obtained with no competing bids simply because most people aren’t familiar with them.

If you sell your work, you will likely prefer artist-grade paintbut it’s not unusual to find professional artists picking certain student-grade colors for their work simply because they enjoy the shade or the handling of the paint. Student grade paints from the big names are generally excellent value; especially in acrylics, where they often come in large volume.


Piles of canvases come from several areas in the East these days. You can purchase whole boxes of them at discounted prices from online suppliers, including eBay.

The one thing I would note is the build quality. Many are OK; but some are badly assembled. I’ve 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 resulting canvas looks absolutely awful when hung on the wall and it’s 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 complete roll of canvas. Expensive outlay but you’ll be able to cut off exactly what you want, if you want, and prepare it as you wish… and it may last you simply years.

Another way to save is to utilize canvas-boards. Canvas-boards are made from compressed card overlaid with a proper sheet of decent quality canvas and glued in place. They last for a long time; I still have canvas-board paintings from the 1970’s and they’re absolutely fine.

You can buy boxes of them from some online suppliers and eBay is not a bad place to look .

And even cheaper…


Bear in mind the edges as well. If you reduce your own, use a dust mask, MDF does create a lot of flying particles.

However, MDF is not quite as stable as people think. There is a problem sometimes with what’s called substrate-induced discolouration (SID). There are some solutions on the artists’ marketplace that will deal with this.

Conservation experts aren’t convinced about the long-term stability of MDF, but most people aren’t going to be painting masterpieces that need to last for several hundred years. Properly prepared, MDF is fine. Some artists find it is too smooth for their own liking. Additionally it is feasible to prepare a panel and then paste proper canvas around itthis may provide the additional tooth that some favor.

And really really cheapskates…


You can paint oils on watercolour paper so long as you prime the surface , acrylic gesso is ideal. This creates a barrier, preventing (or certainly reevaluate ) destruction of the newspaper by the oils. How long it lasts for, I really don’t know but I’d suggest not generating a lot of trainings this way; just to be on the safe side. Acrylics on watercolour paper do not cause a problem.

There are now special papers available for oil-painting; these look just like watercolour paper but have been specially treated to manage the harmful properties of oil-paint. They are not always cheap per sheet… but… a whole sheet for six or seven pounds will cut up into whatever size you want, and you will receive several work surfaces for the money.

I am not sure about this one. The perfect hardboard is one without oils inside (untempered) but I have no means of telling you from the other. If you use it, sand the surface , use SID therapy and give several good coats of primer.

Attempt to use artists’ primers rather than those from a DIY shop. I know this is a penny-pinching article but these primers have fungicides and other chemicals in that may react with your paints.

It is possible to make rather good panels by gluing sections of cotton shirts or old bedsheets on MDF or hardboard. Use pva or an acrylic medium to do the sticking. Wrap the material over the edges and fix to the back, before adding a primer on the surface.

Acrylics can be painted onto plastic surfaces, opening up several ideas for using acrylic-sheet, perspex and other similar substances. One of the best places to trawl is, again, eBay, look for offcuts or someone promoting panels.

Other Media… Watercolour.

Good quality watercolour paper could be costly. So why not look at the lightweight papers such as 90lb? I have read about artists spreading water on both sides of the 90lb paper and simply letting it stick flat–with no taping– into a very clean smooth board such as formica or marble (an older kitchen work-surface would likely do). The sheet remains in place for a reasonable length of time. Other people do not tape it, but only place bulldog-style clips to affix it to a board, allowing the paper to stretch, cockle and then dry without fiddly taping.


There are options for creating many different surfaces which can make you less dependent on”ready-done” papers.

Gritty or grainy papers are extremely popular today for pastel work. You can make your own gritty surfaces using several materials along with a kettle of pastel-primer paint. Try using the primer on mountboard (which is conveniently acid-free), or other thick card. There is a tendency to using MDF as well, painted and prepared with a gritty primer. Even metal and plastics will maintain a proprietary pastel-primer.

This medium really has a fantastic tooth and a few 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 in your surfaces.

I’ve known people use sandpaper from the hardware store; yes it does work, but the paper is not acid-free.


The main thing is that you are able to find ways of maintaining your skills alive when cash 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 away and things improve .

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