Art Supplies (the 10 things I can’t live without and the 10,000 I can)

Hello!  Today we’re going to talk about something I get asked about pretty much everyday and something I totally love!   Art supplies.

Being an artist is tough enough as it is without feeling confused about which tools are the right ones for the job — or which oils are going to be the best for archival purposes, which weave of canvas you need to get that delicate under painting, or how many bristles your brushes should have (natural or synthetic?)…   It can become overwhelming very quickly.

But you know what?  You’re already ahead of the game.  You have you.

You’re unique abilities, talents, perspective, skills, ideas, and visions…

Use every bit of this  goodness to create articulate on paper or canvas whatever is in your head.

To do this you need very little, actually.  A few basic painting supplies  and maybe a pencil and pen…  I know it’s fun to hoard bundles of brushes and paints and fancy charcoals (trust me, I know).   But you are you best asset – not them.

The tools you have at your fingertips are exactly the ones you need.

Art Supplies (the 10 things I can't live without and the 10,000 I can) Emily Jeffords, Beautiful Hello Blog

My 10 Must have art supplies for an oil painting:

1: Giant tube of titanium white paint.  I usually buy Winsor & Newton (or Gamblin when it’s on sale.)

2: of course, other colors too.  I splurge on these 4 shades because their hue has to be so exact:  cadmium yellow, cadmium red medium (williamsburg paint), ultramarine blue, &  prussian green.  Other colors aren’t quite as impacting to my paintings, so the pigment blend doesn’t have to be as refined or exactly balanced and I can get the slightly less expensive  blend paints.
Gamblin is a great brand to start with.  They are beautiful quality, but not quite as expensive as Williamsburg or Old Holland Oils.
Figure out your sweet-spot colors and splurge on those.

3:  Canvas – my only bit of advice: don’t buy value packs.  Totally not worth it.  You will find yourself fighting against the texture when the opposite should be taking place.  I use back stapled, quality canvases and they are worth the extra few dollars.

4:  Brushes: natural bristle suited for oils; tight, but still flexible…   I am not loyal to a brand but I usually know how I want the brush to feel on the canvas and shop accordingly.  (However, I really love Rosemary Brushes A LOT.)

5: Linseed oil – fancy pants oil or a bulk can, I’ve used both many many times and, don’t tell anyone this, but, both work just wonderfully.  But so you know, linseed oil does tend to yellow a bit over time .

6: Odorless mineral spirits.  I buy this in bulk from Gambin (Gamsol is the name of their Mineral Spirits) and really love the quality and, unlike any other mineral spirit, they don’t give me a sore throat – so that’s a win!  😉

7: glass or marble pallet.  This is a newer thing for me and it’s changed the way I mix paints forever.  Totally in love.  Mine is just a large piece of glass.  A mirror would probably work great too.  I love the way it can be completely wiped clean at the end of the day.

8: Varnish.  I have both spray varnish and the kind you brush on and personally get more use out of the spray.  But that’s just me.

9. Lemon essential oil sugar scrub (cleaning brushes and hands) or just some coconut oil to draw the oils out of the brush.

10. Nasty old rag.  My best friend.

And that’s all.  Really.  That’s all you need to make a completely professional, totally beautiful painting.  You will be given 10,000 options at the art store for every 1 thing you buy, but just stick to your gut and your budget and allow your creativity to take over from there.

Art supply stores know there are many options so they kindly label most things by “artist” or “academic” (or something along these lines) so you can shop accordingly.  The artist grade materials are going to be delightfully refined and really a better buy if you are a professional artist or serious hobbyist.   If you are still getting your artsy sea legs, start with the student grade paints and canvases and grow from there.

What art supplies can’t you live without? Any brands you have tried and fell in love with?

Emily Jeffords

Most days you can find me, in the studio with my little girls, speckled in oil paint (drinking too much coffee), creating artwork for collectors around the world and collaborating with select brands. Check out my artwork on


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