This art making can be an expensive business. Really decent paints are not cheap, and they add up quickly if you want all the colours, which of course you do. :) Then there’s all the paraphernalia, depending on your medium of choice; canvases, paper, brushes, mediums, easel etc.

I was thinking about this just now, and how frequently I supplement my studio supplies with often quite unexpected things and how that has saved me money to buy the good paint, so to speak.

I know that often people want to get painty and have a go at exploring their inner artist, but one of the reasons they don’t is the fear of the potential financial outlay, and even worse, wasting it by not using what they buy, or buying the wrong things, or making ‘bad’ art with them.

So here’s a list of things I’ve used that have helped me to cut some of the costs associated with art making, and what I’ve used them for, to inspire you and show you that you can totally do this without it costing a fortune. Some of them are obviously a bit ridiculous or so unusual that it’s unlikely you’ll follow suit, but I’m aiming to expand boundaries here, not hand out shoulds.

Things I’ve actually used

  • mesh fruit bags; great for collage
  • finds from nature ~ feathers, stones, shells, leaves; to draw with, on or add into paintings as collage elements
  • plastic mesh I found on the street; one of my favourite finds to date, used as collage and to stamp with and through
  • the plastic wrapping from dry cleaning; floor or table top covering, or cut into sections and used as a throwaway palette
  • cling film; stretched over a flat oven tray makes a decent palette
  • greaseproof paper over wet paper towels on an oven tray makes a good stay-wet palette
  • water spray bottle {or old cleaning product spray bottle washed out}; for moving paint around and creating drips, also for keeping paint wet
  • yoghurt pots and old glass jars; water containers, brush holders, containers to mix paint
  • found objects; old keys, playing cards, postage stamps, maps, greeting cards, wrapping paper… all great for mixed media paintings and collage
  • potatoes, celery, apples; for printing!
  • coffee and tea; for staining paper to make a ‘vintage’ look
  • gesso; doubles as white paint and comes in larger quantities for less than the cost of white paint
  • masking tape; to hold paper in place and create a neat white border, can then be used afterwards with paint all over it as collage/art journal supply
  • asking for art supplies for Christmas or birthday; guilt free treats
  • old clothes and sheets or tablecloths; cut up to make rags, or lay down to protect surfaces
  • sponges; cut them up small, super cheap and great for moving paint around or spreading it across big spaces quickly
  • hairspray; a cheap, albeit not quite as effective, fixative for charcoal
  • kitchen utensils; to make interesting marks and patterns
  • copper tubing from some building work; for stamping circles
  • those plastic protective tubes that come with new paintbrushes; for stamping smaller circles
  • bubble wrap; for stamping with
  • old make up brushes {wash first}; not as good as actual paintbrushes but can be used
  • wood offcuts; for painting on ~ I used to pick them up outside a carpenters where they left remnants for free
  • plastic bottle lids; for stamping circles or rolling in paint and making interesting patterns
  • cotton buds; excellent for making dots
  • old credit cards; for scraping, smearing and making marks in paint {especially if you cut one edge with pinking shears}, these will replace a palette knife quite satisfactorily

So I’m betting you have a lot of the above in your house already; the money you save not buying palettes, fixative, rubber stamps, fancy collage materials, protective coverings for your work surface, or even, at a push, paintbrushes, can go towards some juicy paint colours. And if you can wangle a few gifts, you don’t actually have to spend any money at all!!

Not to mention how good it is for developing your creative muscles to think laterally about what you can use to make art without going bankrupt.

What do you use to make art with that requires no investment? Anything weird or unusual? Share your ideas here ~ the more the merrier!

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The Creative Spark ecourse is now available with instant access!  Six weeks’ worth of gently paced lessons designed for the beginner or returner to art. And because being a newbie can be a bit scary, it comes with an invitation to my private Facebook art group so you can share your journey with other artistic souls, and receive support and feedback. 

“Your course was truly wonderful and I am sooooo glad I took it! It has opened up my creative mind no end! It was a delight to share in such a nurturing environment and get to see so many wonderful creations. Thank you one hundred times over!” Jo, Creative Spark 

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