What’s in My Toolbox? My Art Store Shopping List

Art stores can be quite nerve wracking and confusing with rows of 10,000 colors, and shelves stacked to the tippy-top with possibilities. There are SO many options, everything costs a pretty penny, and each item comes with its own set of chemical reactions and tricky techniques.  It can be so overwhelming!!


I have been a professional oil painter for 10 years and, 1,000+ paintings later, I’m getting a good grasp on the tools and products I love most through a lot of trial and error.   Below is a list of my very favorite tools, paints, and brushes.   Happy shopping!




Oh, but first, If you are just starting your collection of art supplies, keep in mind that these items are a little pricier than an “intro” set and you may want to opt for student grade supplies just to be sure you love this medium before diving in with the fine stuff. For reference, I think I spent $250 to start my paint/brush collection when I was in college and $100-150 per month maintaining it as a full time artist.  


I am a big believer in the idea that you can use literally anything to create artwork – dirt and a stick will do!  However, nice, beautiful quality supplies will do WONDERS for your process if you understand how to use them.  I’m a huge convert to these items.  




Let’s start with the most important part: brushes! 
If you are going to splurge on one thing, let it be a good brush.  They act as your fingers on the canvas and are SO important to the success and finesse of your painting – more so than fine paints or canvases.
1)  I love to use Winsor Newton’s Artist Oil Brushes.  They are great “workhorse” brushes and can also be tender and gentle. I find myself reaching for these brushes every day.
2) I am also a huge fan of Rosemary Brushes.  They are handmade with beautiful quality, totally perfect, and last relatively long.  When I splurge on brushes I pick these every time.  Beautiful quality and reasonable prices.
These are a few of my favorites:
– The Ivories are very smooth and hold a lot of paint:
– The Ebony brushes are very gentle and great for blending and smoothing messy parts.  😉
– The Classics: I have a couple larger brushes in this line and use them to add larges areas of color.  They hold a lot of paint and texture, but can also blend beautifully.
– The Eclipse Long Filbert is great for refining the painting – a good finishing brush.
– The Hog bristle brushes are the most efficient as they can take some abuse while still holding a ton of paint.  Buy a long bristle variety if you find one you like as they do wear down quickly.  These brushes are great for covering the canvas but not quite as good for refined details – In my opinion.
I tried 3 of the finest handmade oil paints to see which ones I liked best and I cannot decide!
– I have many, many Williamsburg Oil Paints in my paint box (like nearly all my paints are Williamsburg now – because they are AMAZING)
– However my collection of Old Holland paints is growing slowly and gosh they’re beautiful and perfect.  The benefit of this brand is that their pigment count is CRAZY high so the color is really dense.  They are a little thicker than Williamsburg so I need to use a little more oil than I’m used to – but it’s kind of worth it.  I think I’ll be buying more of this brand!
– Holbein Vernét Superior Artists’ Oil Colors is the final super fine artist I tried (and is the one I liked the least).  It is really nice quality so if you want to try it out – go for it!!  It is still a fantastic paint.  The only thing I disliked about it was the smell.  It has a slightly more chemically smell – but this is totally just my personal weirdness.  Don’t let this dissuade you.  It’s a good, good paint.  I just personally go for the other two first.


– Gamsol.  This is the most healthy odorless mineral spirit option available.  If you’re going to be painting frequently, be sure to use this product.
– Gamblin Linseed Oil.  I’m not crazy loyal to this brand, but good linseed oil is a must.  Lower qualities can yellow or crack (found out the hard way!)
– Varnish: I use both Winsor & Newton spray varnish and/or Gamblin’s Gamvar Varnish.  These products both help to freshen up a dry painting and protect it against all the crazy things the world is about to throw at it.  Light, wind, dust…
Canvases and Surfaces:
So, this is the last place I tend to splurge, but even I have some standards…  Canvas isn’t too expensive, so just get the “artist” grade cotton canvases.  The student grade and the multi-value packs are just terrible and will frustrate you for dayzzzzz……  
I usually order my canvases online and, yes, I have to wait for a few days, but… I’m lazy, and tired, and they just deliver beautiful canvases to my door and I think that’s a win.
– Dick Blick Premier Gallery Wrapped canvases are beautiful and they come in nearly every size imaginable.
– You can paint on anything if it is sealed correctly.  Paper, wood, walls… whatever inspires you!  I normally seal paper and wood with Acrylic Matte Medium (from Golden Paints) or Clear Gesso.  If I want the surface to be white, I’ll opt for regular gesso (which is traditionally creamy white and covers thickly).
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it helps you next time you find yourself wandering glassy-eyed through the art store.
What art supplies have you tried and loved?  Leave a comment with your favorites!  I would love to get your advice.


oh, and P.S. I feel like I should say that this blog post was NOT sponsored at all.  All these opinions are totally and genuinely my very own.  So there.  

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 EmilyJeffords.com


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