Making Art on a Budget- for the Beginner

Everyone’s felt it: walking into a store and experience sensory overload with all the products on the shelf. I used to face it when entering any art supply store. But after years of buying supplies ranging from the busted to boujee, I can now confidently walk in and know what I’m going to get myself into. 

For those that have been wanting to embark on their artistic journey, but do not know where to begin- I’ve created a collection of materials for myself that I use on the daily, and feel are affordable, accessible, and easy to use! Let’s dive in.

I’ve tried to stick with one store for now, Michaels, as the anchor point to all the products. I personally like to go into the store to see and (if possible) test the materials before purchasing. Of course you can find these materials elsewhere like amazon or but Michaels always and I mean always has a coupon.


The Paper/Sketchbooks

I usually feel that the cheaper material I work with, the better the work comes out. For some reason junky brown kraft paper always excites me more than the high end Arches paper. I think it has to do with the fact there’s less stress in making a “perfect” image on paper based off of cost of product.

I’ve acquired many, many sketchbook’s and I have to say there’s two in particular I like to use the most.

  1. Artist loft: Artist Loft brand is the basic of the basic for all starting materials. Their sketchbooks always excited me because of the crappy quality it brings. I find that it allows me to be more relaxed when I work, less focus on perfectionism and more focus on making work with a wandering mind. they start at 5$ to purchase and come in sizes from 5.5×8 in, 9×12 in and 11×14 in.

*Suggestion: purchase the 5.5x8in for travel purposes, it make life easier when you want to go traveling and need to pack lightly.

      2. Canson XL Mix Media: Canson is also a great, low cost, sketchbook brand. The mix media book size 7×9 is listed for about 8$. The weight in the paper is 160g, basically meaning it can take a punch if you are trying to do some serious watercoloring and are afraid of the water saturation turning the paper back to pulp. There are other sizes listed on the site as well.

       3. *Bee Paper: Bee paper brand is perhaps the best quality out of these three, and for 15$. I personally have not used this sketchbook before but I’ve used their other papers and enjoy the fact that they are  archival. Archival quality meaning the paper is acid free and you wont have to worry about your paper turning yellow for years to come.

Drawing materials:

For those that are timid of any color whatsoever, don’t fret because starting out with a simple graphite set is an great way to dip your feet into the water.

  1. To start out with, I would suggest Faber Castells 6piece set for 12.99 because if you don’t understand the differences between hardness of pencils (hb, 2b, 4b…) it can be a bit much.

I think the 6 piece set is a great way to play around and understand the various hardness/softeness. My favorite thing to use actually is a  flat and wide chunky graphite stick for my large scale drawings because it gives me the movement basic pencils don’t allow me to have. 

*Suggestion: Get a wide 4b graphite stick because it has that sweet spot of hard and soft pressure when you use it. 

       2. Colored pencil, the sister of the useful, but not as vibrant, pencil! I like to use the Woodless Colored Pencils from Progresso. They last a WHILE. The perks of these baby’s are that the whole pencil is straight color meaning  no constant sharpening wood pencils to get to the pigmented center. Just be careful where you store them because they can break  when dropped on a hard surface! You can get them for 12.99 for a 12 pack.

     3. like to use markers from time to time, but honestly you do not need to buy the Prismacolor’s/Copic markers just yet if you’re not ready to make that splurge and don’t know how to use them.

I have Prismas and honestly i don’t use them as often as I thought I did. Dreamy as they may be, you can find quality markers for beginners using Artist Loft Markers. they come in a variety of packs ranging for about 20$ for 6 markers. It may sound much but once you compare it to 12 pack of Copic brand markers running for over 100$, it’s a steal.

Finally the last thing I feel every artist should experiment starting out with are water colors.

       4. I own Grumbacher, Winsor and Newton watercolors and surprisingly my favorite palate I keep going back to is Prang! These scholastic style palates have high saturation and have a nice drying time. They cost 12.99 for the set of 16 color pots. Again, just because a brands name is well known doesn’t mean its going to be the best for you.

I hope that this inspired you to go out and make some art after reading about these affordable materials. I tried to pick out items that are reasonable for price and quality. If you REALLY want a deal, go with someone to split up the purchase for the coupon deals or sweet talk the cashier into using select coupons on certain items to get most bang for your buck. I’ve listed links to the materials below, happy arting! *couldn’t find the graphite stick on Michael’s, but for almost 6$ you cant go wrong.



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