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Art Studio Essentials

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

Welcome to my studio! I am excited to give you a glimpse into my creative space, share a few tips and tricks to make the most of your studio, and recommend some of the best craft and art supplies on the market.


*Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Amazon, which means that if you choose to make a purchase within 24 hours of clicking the links in this post, I earn a commission. A win-win for everyone! This is at no additional cost to you, and it in no way alters my opinions of the products I recommend.


Let's dive in!



Inspiration


First and foremost, prioritize inspiration in your studio. For me, this means an abundance of fake flower arrangements and artwork by artists I admire. My desk includes a Claude Monet notecard box and business cards by Minneapolis artist Patricia A. Canney. The loose, elegant style of these two artists is something I aspire towards. Choose items that remind you of the subjects and styles you want to incorporate in your own work. Be selective, as less is often more -- there is a fine line between sources of inspiration and sources of clutter. Every art studio should be a haven of ideas that enables and encourages your creative abilities!



Organization


Step two is to organize. Art studios are notorious for their messiness. Mine is no exception. The difference is that mine begins each project simple and clean and can be easily returned to this state. Let's be honest; art is a messy process, but there is no need for your studio to always be a mess. Like I mentioned previously, clutter inhibits most artists. You may find the most success by starting out each art piece or craft project with a tidy studio.


The best way to organize a studio is to have plenty of functional storage. One of my favorite pieces is the versatile, spinning desktop organizer pictured above. It conveniently holds large and small paint brushes, pens, and pencils. I found this for a reasonable price at Home Goods. A similar desktop organizer is also available at Amazon!


Mason jars and ceramic cups also work well for holding colored pencils, graphite pencils, pens, and markers.


Plastic storage containers are also a great resource. You can see below how I organized my overflowing stamp collection. On the side of the container, I have labels for each category: animals, plants, flowers, holidays, birthdays, etc. Michaels has a fantastic array of container options in all sizes and for all purposes. Amazon offers a storage container with adjustable compartment walls.


Another organization essential is simply having designated spots for your supplies. For instance, I have a drawer for my paper punches and double-sided tapes, and another drawer solely for my ink pads. Try this method and you will always know exactly where to find what you need!


Organization is a two-part game. One half of the puzzle is investing in quality storage equipment; the other half is grouping and arranging your supplies in a way that maximizes your efficiency.




Supplies


Onto the fun part! Over the course of two decades of making everything from handmade cards to from-scratch hardcover books to traditional drawings and paintings, I have learned which art and craft supplies work like a charm and which are best left on the store shelf. The following products are staples for any comprehensive art studio.


Painting


My painting specialities are oil and acrylic (emphasizing the former); therefore, I can only justly comment on products for these disciplines. Watercolor is not my area of expertise, so I will leave that for someone else. You may notice a common trend in my recommendations, I am a big fan of the Winsor & Newton brand. Winsor & Newton has been a leader in the fine art industry for nearly 200 years, and there is no wonder as to why.


  • Oil paint: Winsor & Newton Winton oil paints are rich and the consistency is unparalleled. The Winsor & Newton paint set linked below has all of the fundamental pigments to create nearly any color you could want. This includes ten 37 mL tubes in Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue (dandelion yellow), Cadmium Red Deep Hue (fire-engine red), French Ultramarine (intense, deep sky blue; the word "ultramarine" translates to "above the sea," in essence the sky above the sea), Phthalo Blue (deep blue with a navy, almost purple undertone), Viridian Hue (blue-green), Permanent Green Light (intense light green green), Yellow Ochre (an earthy, yellow-brown), Burnt Siena (another earthy, slightly red-toned yellow-brown), Ivory Black (should be used sparingly, make your own black instead! I will make a blog post on how to make your own black and grey), and Titanium White (a crisp, opaque white). This is an awesome beginner set that should last for quite a while. I have had my 37 mL tubes for more than four years and I still haven't finished any of them. This is a great price per tube at only $3.80 each. If purchased in-store, each tube is between $6 and $7. My two favorite colors are unfortunately not included in this set, but can be purchased separately! They are Prussian Blue (a very dark, rich blue with an uncommon old-world quality to it) and Permanent Alizarin Crimson (the most beautiful red-pink that mixes with white to make luminescent shades of pink). If you want more information on oil paints, please leave a comment or question!




  • Linseed oil: Linseed oil is a stellar oil paint medium. A paint medium increases the paint's dying time, makes the paint thicker, and changes the paint's texture. I have not used much or any of this on my recent paintings as it tends to results in some areas of the painting being more glossy than others and occasionally leaves an unintended glob here or there. This could easily be user error and I may simply need more practice using linseed oil. Always remember to go from lean to fat, meaning that the base layer of your painting should come directly from the tube and then, with each layer, add slightly more linseed oil. Layering paint from the tube on top of a linseed-heavy base will ultimately destroy your painting as the fat rises to the surface over time. If you do choose to use linseed oil, I recommend Winsor & Newton's Refined Linseed Oil:



  • Paint thinner: In place of linseed oil, I tend to break the rules and use regular paint thinner for medium -- what can I say, it works for me! Of course, this is also perfect for cleaning oil paint out of brushes. A tip here, instead of dirtying your clean paint thinner by swishing your paint brush in it, make your thinner last longer by dipping your paint brush it in and carefully wiping the paint off on a paper towel. Repeat this process until your brush is clean. This is a lifesaver for your brush and your paint thinner. Any turpentine-based paint thinner will do the trick. I use Mona Lisa odorless paint thinner:



  • Acrylic paint: Frequently, artists prefer acrylic paint over oil because acrylic is faster-drying and less expensive. A medium can be added to acrylic paint, much like linseed oil can be added to oil paint (but do not add linseed oil to acrylic). The only paint thinner or brush-cleaning liquid needed for acrylic paint is water (aka free!). For this reason, acrylic is all-rounded a less technical process than oil. Those who prefer oil, like myself, enjoy the depth and richness of the colors. That said, the vast majority of craft projects call for acrylic paint. Craftsmart and Apple Barrel acrylic paints are inexpensive and versatile -- great for both craft projects and fine art. The paints have either matte or glossy finishes and have a fluid consistency (much like mustard). This is definitely a beginner-level paint brand, so if you are looking for acrylic paint that will only be used for fine art, Winsor & Newton is your go-to! The Winsor & Newton Acrylic paint set linked below includes six 60 mL tubes in the following colors: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Hue, Winsor Blue, Phthalo Green, Burnt Umber, and Titanium White. Again, these shades lend a complete palette of color possibilities. The cost per tube is only $2.80, which is a good deal for professional-quality paints.





  • Paint brushes: I'll tell you a secret, I prefer cheap no-name paint brushes over expensive brandname oil paint brushes. Here's why: the oil paint brushes are actually too coarse to get the smooth finishes I am looking for in a painting. The inexpensive, synthetic brushes work wonders. I picked up a few $3 brushes from Michaels recently and they are awesome. No matter where they come from or how nicely they are cared for, paint brushes can become tattered quickly (especially with oil), so I feel that it is better to buy a new, inexpensive brush every six months or a year if needed. I still do use my Winsor & Newton brushes for certain oil paintings.



  • Strathmore Palette Paper: I was introduced to the palette paper in my first painting class back in 2016. Before this class, my paints went on paper plates and in paper bowls. Some artists use the old-fashioned wooden palette. Once you try palette paper, you will never look back. As the Strathmore brand itself faithfully states, "This paper is poly-coated so you can easily use it as a disposable paint-mixing palette for simple and easy mixing without the clean up. Simply tear off the sheet you mixed on and throw it away. The next sheet will provide a clean palette to work from." Forget trying to separate colors on a small paper plate as it slips and slides around your desk. Forget about trying to hold the traditional palette and arduously scrubbing it afterward. Palette paper is a must-have for oil and acrylic painters!



  • Wooden easel: My large, wooden Trident easel is ideal for a permanent spot in your studio, while a smaller, portable easel is best for painting outside, in a small apartment, or in a college dorm. Check out these highly-rated options:




Drawing


  • Gelly Roll pens: These opaque gel, ballpoint pens from Gelly Roll show up on any paper surface! These made my projects for a college design course truly stand out from the crowd. See the projects below!



  • Pilot G-2 07 metallic ballpoint pens: So many handmade cards have been made with these super shiny, metallic ballpoint pens!

  • Tombow calligraphy pens: Tombow pens are a work of art in their own right. Wonderful for all hand-lettering projects!

  • Micron archival ink pens: A studio staple, these black, Micron felt-tipped pens come in all sizes, as to be used for filling in shapes or adding the tinniest of details. The mock shoe advertisement below was made entirely with Micron pens!






Extra Goodness

  • Ink pads: I have inherited a lot of ink pads over the years, from kind friends and a crafty mother. I have also added a few of my own to the collection. Now at 44 ink pads and counting, there are definitely a few brands that have stood the test of time and some that simply have not. We can go through them the western way, beginning with the good, continuing with the bad, and ending with the ugly. Good: ColorBox, Inkadinkado, Martha Stewart Crafts, Versamark and Kaleidacolor. Bad: InkXpressions and Stampin' Up! Ugly: Target no-name ink and Ditto. The "Good" ink brands have remained spongy and pigmented after many years and tend to self-clean. The "Bad" have dried out and were not made from a spongy material in the first place. The "Ugly" have translucent ink or have too spongy of ink pads that do not self-clean. Of the first five brands, ColorBox is certainly a favorite. Find your own ColorBox inks on Michaels!


  • Gold scissors: This desktop essential is adds much-needed classiness to a messy space. The scissors are equally as functional as they are pretty!



  • Silhouette Cameo 3: This outstanding machine is an investment, but for crafters, this simplifies life in so many ways. The Silhouette Cameo 3 can cut, emboss, stipple, or ink almost anything. With this machine, I have made completely custom paper greeting cards that I would never have been able to make with an X-ACTO knife -- and in a matter of minutes. I have also made stencils, holiday decorations, and a variety of other detailed projects. The software is easy to use and you can design anything you want for free. In an upcoming tutorial, I will share how to create completely custom designs! It is liberating to have such a powerful tool at one's crafting disposal. Learn more about the Silhouette Cameo 3 and its many applications on the Silhouette website!




  • Planner & Laptop: Keep yourself on-track and inspired with a calendar and laptop fit for an artist! I get kind compliments all the time on my laptop cover. It is colorful, sturdy, and unique -- everything one might need in a laptop cover. The same can be said of this Target planner!




  • Headphones: If you don't already have a sound system for your studio, try a pair of wireless headphones! This beautiful rose gold pair from Bose is one of the highest-rated headphones on Amazon with almost 70% of 3,000 reviews rating them at 5/5 stars! At a lower price point, the COWIN E7 headphones are only $60 and have 5/5 and 4/5 stars from 83% of their 11,400+ reviewers! Music improves my art process more than anything else. You may be amazed by the results of an investment in your creativity!



  • Comfy chair: As we come to a close on this post, let's end with the comfiest part of the studio: the chair. Art is a time-consuming process. I sometimes spend 10 hours at a time sitting and painting. Don't let something as mundane as a chair keep you from finishing your artwork and projects! The chair linked below comes in black, brown, and white. My studio chair is black, but, for a white-walled studio, a matching white chair would be lovely -- just don't spill any paint on it!



Wow! That was a lot of products! Begin that Christmas list early (or just treat yourself now)! How did you enjoy exploring my art studio?! Did you find any new arts and crafts supplies? Let me know what caught your eye in the comments! What suggestions do you have for me and my studio? I would love to hear them! Maybe someday I will have a new and improved studio to share with you, but in the meantime, I am enjoying making the most of my small space, as I hope you will with yours!


Thank you for reading!




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