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5 Thrifty Artist Tools to Make Life Awesome

by Shaking Bird 3 years ago in crafts

For Budget-Friendly Studio Fun!

Wouldn't it be bliss if creating a masterpiece was as easy as picking up a brush and laying down paint? No cleanup, no mismatched eyes, no losing bristles, no losing patience. There was a time when I thought oil painting in particular was too much trouble to bother with. I didn't realize that having the right tools was half the battle!

Here are a few of my favorite toys for cutting down cleanup time, making precise measurements, and staying on budget with a couple common household items. (And some professional items). Don't know what I ever did without them!

Kabob Skewers

Art supplies and dinner ideas at the same time? Cool.

A dime-a-dozen, and worth more than their weight in gold!

Anyone who's used a pencil for sighting and measuring a subject, squinting down the length of your arm towards that tiny graphite tip and tilting it back and forth to get the length right, knows how accuracy can be a difficult thing. A long, thin, straight skewer is so much better! Leave the poor pencils alone to do their real job. You can also lay the skewers over your sketches to determine if your angles match the reference photo or if your lines are straight enough. I recommend the metal ones though. Wooden ones can warp and don't last so long. I mention skewers because of ready availability, but piano wire can also be employed effectively.


Huh. Bathroom Supplies in the Studio

A fellow art student shared this useful tip with me. (Pun not intended.) Q-tips are great for blending small areas on a painting. They don't leave fibers and don't move too much paint around at a time, unless you apply more pressure. Plus, they're biodegradable!

Accurasee Proportional Dividers

Say goodbye to misshapen eyes and noses! These'll fix 'em!

Seriously, measuring has never been easier! It feels almost like cheating. Especially for portraits. With the adjustable holes, you can make sure your drawings are exactly same size, 1/2 up, 2x, etc. Takes a lot of the guesswork out of lines and shapes!

Silicoil Brush Cleaning Tank

Finally... the Answer!

I used to HATE cleaning my brushes! The paint just never came out! And then they'd dry stiff and be ruined, or the bristles would fall out, or the ferrule would be sticky, and I was not a happy camper. Until I met my new best friend, the Silicoil. You fill it with mineral spirits and gently scrub your bristles back and forth over the coils, releasing the paint trapped inside. It's still a good idea to finish cleaning your brushes in the sink with warm water and soap, but the time it takes now from start to finish is a fraction of what it once was. Headache solved! Just remember to change out the mineral spirits regularly, or a sludge will build up on the bottom and it'll stir up when you use the Silicoil, getting back into your brush. Yich!

Old T-Shirts

I love cutting clothes to shreds. It feels like rebellion.

Finally, those yucky old tees are good for something! I hoard everybody's stained, torn, or shrunken shirts now, and cut them up for scrap. Lint free, they're perfect for blending oil colors and smoothing out washes, or toning canvas. You can also use them in lieu of paper towels and save the planet a little, too.


Slap Rulers

Don't be too professional—celebrate your inner kid and have some fun!

Yaaaaas! I love these things! Of course they're strictly used as an artist tool and I don't play with them ever, because I'm a professional, and that would be immature. 🙄 But if you're like me, you like to carry supplies simply and compactly, and these fun little back-to-school inventions are awesome for rolling up and fitting inside the pencil box. They snap, they roll, they fit! And who can say no to all those fabulous colors? (Mine is purple, sparkly, and says "This Girl Can.") I mean, who could possibly object to a little encouragement like that every time you lift the lid on your sketch box? At least my supplies will always believe in me!

Well, that's my two-cents worth. If I find any more awesome toys I'll certainly let you know! I recommend Jerry's Artarama for the best deals on the Silicoil and proportional dividers (especially if you wait for a flash sale), but the rest can be found at Walmart for a bargain. If you can think of any more thrifty tools I may have missed, send me a message on Facebook and I'll gladly check it out and add it to the list! My page:


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About the author

Shaking Bird

I'm an artist, an Aspie, a square peg in a world of round holes. Tring to be kind and kind of strange, sometimes making progress, sometimes making a mess, but always trying to improve. I write advice and how-tos for beginning artists.

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