The Value of Art Supplies: Finding the Perfect Balance Between Quality and Creativity

Cover image: The Value of Art Supplies: Finding the Perfect Balance Between Quality and Creativity

When it comes to art supplies and investing in materials for creative projects, the common perception is that you get what you pay for. Using cheap materials often results in artwork that won’t withstand the test of time. However, during a cost-of-living crisis, especially in places like the UK, investing in high-quality art supplies might not be a priority. Despite this, having a hobby is crucial for well-beingOpens in a new tab., and a creative outlet can sometimes outweigh the need for top-notch materials.

In this article, we explore The Value of Art Supplies: Finding the Perfect Balance Between Quality and Creativity. We’ll consider the importance of your artistic intent, how to evaluate the materials you have, and when to invest in higher-quality, sustainable supplies.

Defining Your Purpose: Hobbyist, Aspiring Professional, or Commercial Artist

As a Hobbyist

Creating art is a uniquely human act of self-expression. It allows us to express our thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires, activating reward pathways in the brain and enhancing emotional resilience and social connectionOpens in a new tab.. As such, the act of creation is valuable in itself.

As an Aspiring Professional

Art students and those honing their craft professionally need to learn about materials, techniques, and artistic perspectives. This education helps them recreate the imagery they have in mind and express their feelings and thoughts effectively.

As a Commercial Artist

For those selling their art, receiving monetary appreciation adds another layer of reward. Commercial artists aim to gain recognition through their creations.

No matter your purpose, having a clear point of view will benefit your artistic journey. Understanding and expressing your perspective can often outweigh the use of high-quality materials. However, notice that particularly for those aiming to be Commercial Artists there is also a duty to offer the best product possible.


Cheap Materials vs. Quality: Evaluating Intent and Abilities

Skill Development

Learning technical skills is crucial, and practiceOpens in a new tab. is key. Using cheaper materials for practice is fine and should not hinder your artistic development. However, recognizing the difference in end results between low-quality and high-quality materials is important.

Archival quality materials like Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic PaintOpens in a new tab. will very likely give you a better result than the set you received for Secret Santa from Flying Tiger CopenhagenOpens in a new tab..

Artistic Intent

Sometimes, artistic intent can overshadow the need for high-quality materials. For public displays or awareness campaigns, longevity might not be as crucial. If you’re learning a new technique or are at the beginning of your artistic journey, don’t let the lack of high-quality materials stop you from creatingOpens in a new tab.. Ephemeral art is also valid, just as creating for your heart’s content.

Evaluating Your Current Art Supplies

Assess What You Have

Regularly evaluate your existing supplies. Check for expired materials and dispose of them safely. Consider reusing or exchanging materials with friendsOpens in a new tab..

Test for Usability

Ensure your materials are still usable. Test them on paper or fabric to see if they perform as expected. Don’t know where to start? Keren Tamir does a lot of mixed media work, and she shows in this video the feel of testing new art supplies called terrages – hand-made dry pastels.

“How to TEST New ART SUPPLIES?” By Keren TamirOpens in a new tab..

Prioritize Upgrades

Identify essential items that need upgrading based on your current skill level and artistic intent. Focus your resources on the materials you use most frequently.

When and How to Upgrade to Quality Materials

Recognize Frustrations

If you’re consistently unhappy with your results despite practice, it might be time to upgrade to higher-quality materials. Recognizing the limitations of your current supplies comes with experience and practice (i.e. if no matter how much you practice, change paint brushes or try to thin it your acrylic painting is still looking streakyOpens in a new tab., then it may be the time to change your WHSmith cadmium for a higher quality one).

Tusc & Pine Artist Oil Paint - Cadmium Yellow Lemon, 40 ml, Non-Yellowing, Rich & Creamy Consistency, Maximum Pigment Load, Small Batch Milled Oil Paints Made in the USA for Professional Artists
Opens in a new tab.
18 Reviews
Tusc & Pine Artist Oil Paint - Cadmium Yellow Lemon, 40 ml, Non-Yellowing, Rich & Creamy Consistency, Maximum Pigment Load, Small Batch Milled Oil Paints Made in the USA for Professional Artists
  • Artist Oil Paints : Meticulously developed one color at a time to elevate the painting experience
  • Artisans mix and mill the oil color paints in small batches per each pigment's unique properties
  • Superior Lightfastness: Each oil color boasts maximum pigment load and outstanding lightfastness

Last update on 2024-07-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Invest in Fewer but Higher-Quality Items

Sometimes, it’s better to have a few high-quality items than a large array of cheap supplies. Consider buying in bulk for items you use frequently.

Research and Review

Visit art stores that allow product testing. If this isn’t possible, read reviews and watch videos to make informed decisions. Resources like The Art Gear GuideOpens in a new tab. and Makoccino’sOpens in a new tab. videos are great places to start.


Final Words

Knowing the purpose of the artworks you create is fundamental to balancing the level of quality with your end goal or intent. Don’t let the lack of high-quality materials deter you from expressing yourself.

  • Create with Intention: Match your supplies to your goals and workflow.
  • Experiment While You Grow: Use lower-quality supplies for practice, transitioning to better quality for final pieces.
  • Maintain Your Supplies: Proper care extends their life; storage conditions matter.
  • Replace with Sustainable MaterialsOpens in a new tab.: Aim for sustainability whenever possible.

Investing in quality can save frustration and money in the long run, but we believe this can be done in a smart way by continuously assessing and adjusting the materials you use based on your evolving skills and goals.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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