Wet Stuff : The Art of Painting a Business

Saving Money on Art Supplies

Wet Stuff: The Art of Painting a Business
Episode 2
Saving Money on Art Supplies


Today’s podcast is short and sweet. I’ll be talking about ways to save money on art supplies. I’ll start with the short list and then go into a little more detail before wrapping things up with a refresher.

Seven ways you can save money on art supplies are

  • Discounts and Coupons
  • Shopping Online
  • Shopping at Alternate Locations for Art Supplies
  • Save and Extend Your Paint
  • Saving on Paintbrushes
  • Recycling Supplies
  • Save on Framing and Canvases

Let’s start by talking about Discounts and Coupons

Before you go shopping for art supplies, get yourself the 40% off coupons for Michaels or Hobby Lobby--Unless you’re a Humanist, in which case you’ll only shop at Michaels because Hobby Lobby is, sadly, owned by people who don’t support women’s rights. If you have more than one item to purchase consider shopping with friends so they can purchase some items on your behalf using their own coupons.  If you’re a student, a teacher, or a veteran remember to ask if there’s any discounts available for you. Lowes offers discounts to Veterans and Artisans offers discounts to students and teachers.
Look for specials at Art Supply stores. Before you go to the store do a search for the name of the store you’re shopping at plus the word “coupons”. Especially for major chains like Michaels, you’ll find a plethora of deals and discounts running. Print these out before you go.

Let’s Talk About Shopping at Alternate Locations

Consider locations other than art supply stores to purchase some of your items. If you check the paint section of hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot, you can often find mis-tinted paint available at discount prices. Look for locations that resell household goods, here in Albuquerque we have Green Sheen Paint and ReStore— both of which carry used and recycled paint. Use Craigslist. You can create a free account and log in. Then do a search for exactly what you hope to find, like “paint” or “picture frames”. Once the search is just the way you want it select the option to receive email notifications on that search. This way whenever “paint” or “picture frames” are posted for sale you’ll be notified.


Join Free stuff and trade groups on Facebook Harbor Freight is another great location to purchase some of the tools you need for less. Don’t forget to check for items at Dollar Stores too, and Thrift stores. You’d be amazed what you might come across in the Dollar Store. I’ve found boxes, picture frames, photo albums that work for prints, handy clips, markers, containers, and even displays at The Dollar Store.

Now let’s talk about Shopping Online

If you’re shopping online, do a search for “apps to price compare and find coupon codes”. The one I’ve personally used and enjoyed is Honey, it works on Google Chrome. Honey automatically searches for coupon codes and applies the best deals it finds to your cart at checkout. To use Honey, go to joinhoney.com. To save money on shipping look for bulk deals online and always order in bulk. You can also coordinate with fellow artists and teachers on bulk orders to purchase items for less and save on shipping. You can get great bulk deals on some supplies at Uline.com--They carry shipping boxes, cardboard backing, and clear-bags you can use to prepare your prints for sale. This is also a great way to order shop towels and gloves.


If you purchase specialty items like Art Resin, write to the company and ask them if they offer bulk discounts to professionals. Art Resin does. They’ll send you a form to fill out your business information and then you can place your bulk order with them via email.
Also search for art supplies on Ebay. You might get lucky there! Just like Craigslist, Ebay offers you the ability to save searches and receive email notifications when items are added to your search. This could be a great way to catch the best deals first. Other places to shop online are DickBlick, which often has great bulk deals, Amazon which often has select materials available at the best price, Jerry’s Artarama which as a discounted section, and Utrecht.

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of Extending and Saving Your Paint

To make your oil paint last longer keep your oils in a freezer. This will prevent them from drying out between painting sessions. You can vivify your Acrylics and extend them with Floetrol. Floetrol is a brilliant medium available at the hardware store. My experiences with Floetrol have been equally as good as any of the more expensive Liquitex acrylic mediums used for extending acrylics and mixing glazes. Adding Floetrol to your acrylics makes them less viscous and more transparent without breaking down the polymers that bond and harden as the water evaporates from your paint.


Save your dirty paint water in bottles so that you can use it for washes in later works. Get every last drop of paint out of the tube. You can find a Paint Tube Wringer for yourself or just use pliers to squeeze out every last drop. You can also cut the tube open and scrape out the last of the paint and use a palette knife to dig the last splash of paint from the funnel.


Aside from adding mediums to your paint to extend it, pay attention to how you mix your paint. Use pipettes to add drops of your medium to control exactly how much medium you add to your paints and prevent wasting any medium and use palette knives to mix your paint. Don’t ever mix your paint on your palette using your brush because the paint will get gummed up in the deepest crevices of that brush and lessen its life span and it will waste paint. If you use a palette knife to mix you can use the knife right on the canvas or lift off paint from your knife using your brush so that you get some use out of every drop of paint.

Use a Sta Wet palette if you’re using Acrylics. A Sta Wet palette comes with a sponge and paper you can prepare by soaking it, along with an air tight lid. These palettes will keep your acrylics wet and ready to go for days and days. Also use a spray bottle filled with water to mist as you work to keep your acrylics from drying out.


If you’re working with oils use a glass palette that fits in your freezer tray. This will be easy to clean and use again and again and again and then you can just slide it right into your freezer to keep your oils wet and ready to go.


Next I’ll discuss several ways to save money on Paint Brushes. 

If you like natural hair brushes but can’t afford them, use packs of cheap, soft watercolor brushes, they’re really a close second! Take good care of your brushes (when you clean them, squeeze don’t pull). Don’t throw out your brushes, there are several things you can do to liven them up again…

Sometimes you can give your brushes new life by cutting off the crusty tips. You might have a different brush in the end but it’ll be one you can still use. If the ferrule is coming loose just re-crimp it. If the ferrule comes off put a dab of super glue inside of it and re-crimp your brush. If you have natural hair brushes and they’re getting dry and the bristles are starting to break and split, soak them in an oil bath to condition the hair and make them soft and flexible again. 


If you need tiny brushes for detail you can use feathers to make your own brushes.
This technique is demonstrated in a BBC documentary on the Tudor Monastary Farm.
The artist takes a feather and cuts away half of the vane at the tip of the feather Then He cuts off the calamus (That’s The hallow shaft at the other end of the feather) and uses the calamus as a ferrel by sliding it up to the feather tip to leave a pointed brush. The clip demonstrating this method has been shared on Facebook. I’ve posted it on my page at Facebook.com/Neeleyarts

How to make a paintbrush out of a feather


Instead of buying paper towels, Use microfiber towels that can be reused. Recycle your Gamsol. After you clean your brushes and your Gamsol is a tinted mess, pour it into a long thin jar to let the paint settle at the bottom than you can pour the clear Gamsol back into your cleaning jar. You can also use coffee filters to get the paint out of your gamsol by placing a coffee filter in a funnel and pouring your dirty gamsol through it to drain in a clean jar.

Save jars and cups when you do get coffee/drinks, reuse them for your work


Learn to stretch your own canvases and make your own wood panels. Use a gallery wrap so that you don’t always have to frame things. If you’re using wood panels you can mount them to your own gallery wraps using 1"x2”’s. Cut the 1"x2”s to cover the diameter of your panel and use the 2” side as the depth of your panel.

That’s It!
That’s every trick I can think of for saving money on art supplies

Extend your paint, and don’t let it dry out,
Get the most out of your brushes
Order in bulk, use coupons, shop online and use discount codes
Stretch your own canvas
Save on framing with Gallery wraps
Use Ebay, Craigslist, garage sales, flea markets, The Dollar Store and FREE STUFF groups on facebook
Don’t be shy about getting every last drop of paint out of the tube
Use Sta Wet palletes for Acrylics and glass palettes for oils


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