Inexpensive Alternatives to Expensive Art Supplies


One of the toughest parts of being an artist is the expense. Art supplies are just expensive, particularly the higher quality supplies. Paper, paint, photography printing, and even simple drawing supplies can boast a shocking sticker price even in stores marketed to students or hobbyists.

Money can be tough to come by for the busy working artist. As tuition prices skyrocket, many artists are struggling to make even the basic payments on their education — let alone the supplies they need to complete their degrees. The last thing you want to do is sacrifice your practice due to lack of funds. Fortunately, with a little ingenuity (which most artists already have to spare), there are ways to get around the prohibitive cost of certain art supplies.

Alternative Painting Surfaces

For painters, paper and canvas costs can be extreme. Mid quality heavier papers can easily cost upwards of $20 for a single sheet — and when your surface is that expensive, it can be easy to get anxious about marking it up at all, for fear of making a mistake. Affordable canvases tend to be pre-stretched and low quality, compared to the higher quality linens.

A great way to save if you’re a painter is to paint on a surface other than canvas or paper. If you’re an oil painter, you can prime a surface of wood or masonite to be perfect for your paint, and much easier on your wallet than canvas. Acrylic painters too can find success on similar surfaces.

Think outside the box. Paint can be applied to any flat surface. What do you have around your home which you could paint on? Once the paint is applied, a surface transforms — the viewer will never know it used to be a piece of your bookshelf.

Order Bulk

If you’re not scraping by paycheck to paycheck, you may have a bit of money to spare. If you can afford it, fronting the money for bulk purchases is a smart choice. Canvas, paper, gesso, and paint mediums are all worth buying in bulk if you know you’ll use them.

Make sure to protect your bulk buys from damage. Don’t allow mold or household pests to destroy your investment.

Get Inspired

Sometimes, buying art materials is a way to get out of a creative rut. While retail therapy may be an effective solution to artist’s block sometimes, it’s not great for your wallet. Don’t spend yourself dry on art supplies you don’t actually need. Instead, try other ways to inspire yourself to make different (and less expensive) work. Visit local galleries like Park West Gallery to see what other artists are doing, and get a fresh perspective on your own work.


Art supplies may be expensive, but they don’t have to bleed you dry. Keep an eye out for sales and deals so you can save. Ask other artists you know for advice on where you should buy your supplies, and what you may be spending too much on. With care, you can cut your art supply spending and still make great work.


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