Expensive Art Supplies: Are They Worth the Extra Cost?

Whether or not expensive art supplies rank superior to their lesser counterparts is a notion many artists find themselves wondering.

In my personal experience, there are certain brands that exist in the art world that live up to the name they boast, and I have a few in my collection, but to say they're my main supply for creating would be untrue, as I'd rather use the expensive stuff more sparingly. 

With that said, what do I use? 

Have you ever walked down the art supply aisle at your local Walmart? You know those paints labeled Apple Barrel? Yeah, those; I use those: 50 cent, 2oz bottles that come in a multitude of colors. 

Picking up a new bottle every time I visit has become a habit I can't seem to break away from, but I always get my use out of the paints...well, most of the time...so, no harm, no foul on continuing routine. 

You may not be able to tell, from online photos or even in person, that I use Apple Barrel paints to create artworks like these:

and really, how could you? 

Other artists will surely proclaim you can tell the difference. 

If you know what you're looking for, yes, you may very well be able to do so-- but that's not the important part. What's important to understand, is that the dissimilarities between one paint brand and another (what one does better) does not grant an artwork superiority over its counterpart as some may believe, and that goes for all kinds of resources: colored pencil (Crayola, Fabercastell, Prismacolor), markers (Ohuhu markers, Copic) and paint (Apple Barrel, Arteza, Liquitex). 

What I really want to reiterate is that:

[ You can make great art with cheap supplies!

You just have to know how to use it. ]

Like in this Amazing Video below, the artist uses Crayola colored pencils to create a stunning artwork:


Absolutely Incredible! 

Now, I want to make one other thing clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting brand supplies. 

I myself have a few Liquitex Acrylic Paints, Windsor Oil Paints, have both the Arteza Acrylic Set and Watercolor Pens, and have Prismacolor Pencils. Do I think they're of good quality? Absolutely, yes. 

I mean, just look at Liquitex:

opaque, with a range of colors; they're perfect to make any artwork pop. 

One of my favorite artists, @theobanoth on tiktok, uses only liquitex paints:

@theobanoth Acrylic on wood panel 😈😘 #MyCostume #halloweenishere #timelapseart #artistsoftiktok #satisfying #acrylicpainting #vampire #exprESSIEyourself ♬ I Just Want to Be the One You Love - Boxout
but what's important about her work, is that the paint didn't come out from the tube that smooth, she had to mix it until she got the texture she wanted:
@theobanoth Brushes are cheapo, paint is Liquitex, mixing time elapsed is 20 seconds. Ask anything! #learnart #arttutorial #arttips #howtopaint #artistsoftiktok ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

So, that brings me back to my last note, knowing how to use your supplies.

It's important to know what to do and what not to do when handling certain brands. Like theobanoth demonstrates, technique (and style) are two very important things to consider when creating. 

Apple Barrel tends to be a thin paint, and gets even thinner over time [thicken it back up again] so when I use them, I may end up painting several layers of the same color. This benefits me personally because, when I paint portraits, for instance, it allows me to get subtle skin color variations without looking too overwhelming. 

Typically, I use my thicker paints as a base color to build upon, using my Apple Barrel paints afterward, which reduces the number of layers I would need versus if I had started on a white canvas (although there are other tricks). 

Liquitex, on the other hand, is known for its opaqueness and boldness. To bring my paints up to par, I use a glossy sealant on a painting; a simple but effective step that makes the colors I use stand out more. 

So, as an answer to the question in the title, yes and no. Whether or not buying and using expensive art supplies is worth what they cost really depends on a number of factors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I painting for fun or do I intend to make a career out of selling my artwork?
If selling, ask yourself:
  • Am I going to make enough money on said artwork to gain a profit and offset supply costs? 
If it's just a hobby:
  • Do I have a problem splurging on supplies for that hobby?
Ask yourself these other questions:
  • Is it the supplies that will improve my art or my technique?
  • Have I tried all the stops?
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. Do I recommend using well-known brands? Even just to try them out? Yes. Do I think you need them? No. 

If I can leave you with any advice today, it's this: any art supply you use is worth less than the time you put into learning it. It doesn't matter what you use, art is art, and with practice, you can make a great art piece out of anything!

Wishing you the best in your artistic endeavors,

see you next time!


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