15 cost cutting tips for artists – and where to draw the line

Extend - 5x7 Oils on Canvas

Extend - 5x7 Oils on Canvas

The GFC has tightened everyone’s belt. this is a reality, but sticking to a budget doesn’t have to be a bore and it doesn’t have to be temporary. every cost saving tip you learn now will help you out when things improve. I actually do better on a tighter budget! my post last week inspired me to create this list of tips. I’m very cheap, I search to buy everything at the best possible price and I try to save wherever possible. I do not, however, like cutting corners or losing out on quality. I want my collectors to have the best I can do while maintaining a great price and standard. I want to know that everything will last. I know you do too, so here are my tips for where to cut your costs without appearing to and where to spend those savings!

  1. many places provide cheap canvasses. these are a mixed bag. take a look at the thickness, the composition and the stretchers. whatever you do, get 100% cotton, if the canvasses are a cotton/poly blend they will warp and age badly. if they don’t state their composition you can bet they aren’t cotton!
  2. there are some companies that create excellent inexpensive canvasses, it pays to shop around and the key for these is the stretchers – often the thin stretchers on less expensive canvasses will warp, but the double wide ones not only look better but are more stable as well! plus you can save on framing.
  3. if the gesso is a little thin, or toothy you can fix that yourself by adding more or sanding it down – companies will save money by providing less ground or by not refining the surface as much.
  4. use natural earth pigments wherever possible. pigments such as sepia and umber are very common and cheap so they are inexpensive to produce in paints (no this isn’t why I use those colors.. well, not the entire reason!)
  5. buy a limited palette and blend your own colors. not only will you get better results but you can save on the more expensive real pigments by buying them in bulk
  6. use hues instead. if you have a family or you are just lazy about hazmat safety (me on both counts!) while painting you can get reasonable substitutes for the pure pigments. I have both types and while the pure pigment is often brighter I’m not sure it is worth paying double the price and having to constantly worry about heavy metals. it is pretty hard to distinguish the two in a painting in the end
  7. buy the best for the colors you use the most, you can substitute student quality or a lesser brand for tiny touches- no need to go out and buy a whole new tube of the best quality for one painting or a small accent.
  8. invest in some generic tube squeezers. my grocery store has them near the toothpaste – you will be amazed at how much you can get from that seemingly empty tube!
  9. duct tape fixes tube leaks.
  10. save your old student quality paints for playing, experimenting and random events. you never know when someone will want to borrow them. in fact, save everything – you just never know.
  11. wrap your palette in recycled plastic bags or use lunch wrap to save that unused paint for another day.
  12. buy really good brushes and take good care of them or buy cheap brushes and don’t worry as much. personally, I take the middle road and buy medium quality brushes because sometimes I take good care of them and other times I forget. this way I don’t mind so much.
  13. online companies like moo create wonderful supplies like business cards and exhibition postcards with different images for each card. Vistaprint often has free offers on their newsletter.
  14. check online art supply stores like dick blick and jerry’s artarama and sign up for their newsletters. keep an eye out for their sales and get a bargain!
  15. the most important tip I can give is to assess your 6 monthly expenditure on supplies, your output of art during that time and use those numbers to factor into your art pricing. ideally you want to make back your art supply expenses on one sale. keep track of those numbers and it will help you keep your pricing current and appropriate.

One thought on “15 cost cutting tips for artists – and where to draw the line

  1. this is such a timely list, as I’ve just hit upon the dilemma of quality vs budget. I’m starting my journey as an artist, so I’m conscious of my budget, but like you, I want my future collectors to have something that they CAN pass to the next generation.
    I like the idea of a limited palette. I find thinking ahead of the colours saved on wasted paint. Plus I have one cheaper canvas that is my leftover paint painting. It creates an interesting work, and works as a practice painting too.

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