Don't be a Poor Starving Artist

a wooden figure looking at its reflection in a drawing

It's no wonder that we have the “poor starving artist” stereotype—art supplies are notoriously expensive! But I've learned over the years that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for good art supplies. If you are still an art student, make sure that you show your student ID to get a store discount. If you are a working artist, look for deductions on your income tax. Many stores, like Michaels Arts & Crafts, have tons of coupons so be sure to clip a few. Look for stores that give discounts to repeat buyers and make that your go-to art store.

Don't go to the store without a plan! I always like to have at least twenty thumbnail sketches and measurements before I buy supplies for a big project. Your art supplies, like paintbrushes, can last you a lifetime, I kid you not—so buy what you really need and take good care of what you have.

girl painting a sky mural

For instance, a small dab of paint can go a long way if you thin it out with oil (or water). You also don't have to buy the best art supplies to make the best art. If you aren't selling your work, or it’s a school assignment, you don't need name brand products.

Try to buy your supplies in bulk. Artist Lori McNee says, “It's a good idea to buy a lot of supplies at a decent bulk price, especially since that means a higher profit for you when it comes time to sell your piece.” But have some common sense, don't buy a ton of art supplies you don't need just because you see a good deal!

While I think it is important to support smaller stores, they do have tendency to crank up the price. Try to buy online from private sellers, or buying supplies on an auction site. Make small purchases and build your supplies as you become more experienced.

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