How To Buy Art Supplies On A Budget

I have one rule when it comes to buying art materials on a budget. Don’t go cheap on mediums, it will show in your work. Get the high quality stuff when you can.

Creative ways to buy art supplies on a budget:


  • Thrift store are the Sh*t. I like to go to the thrift store once or twice a week. Because I go so often, I always find hidden gems. Days are hit and miss but I usually find some interesting items. 
  • Often, I find really nice canvases that I can paint over, old art supplies, easels, art supply organization materials, brushes, and random artsy objects. 
  • Once I even found a huge masterpiece pro canvas that only had one layer of paint on it for $24!!! Normally $300 at the art store! It was in excellent condition and was even wired on the back.
  • Haggling with thrift stores is always an option. Some people say no, some people say yes. It doesn’t hurt to try. Sometimes I’ll just be honest with thrift stores and say I am an artist and I don’t have a ton of extra money and they are usually understanding of prices. 
  • Once I found really high quality matts that had art from the 80’s in them for about $2 each. They were very unique matts and I still use them for gifting or selling my pieces on paper. 
  • If you live near Santa Rosa, Ca, I would recommend going to the thrift stores on Piner Road often. There are 4 out there that are pretty close together, making it easier to visit several in one day.

Buy at the art store when there are sales

  • Usually art stores have a few big sales a year, especially around back to school time.
  • Art stores often have clearance tables as well. 

Ask your local art store about clearance, tampered, or damaged items

  • Art stores usually have some products that are damaged or tampered and they will be priced at a clearance rate. Ask your local store about what tampered, damaged, or extra items they might have. 
  • The damage is usually very minor.
  • I find that things like gesso and mediums are best bought on clearance. A big thing of gesso or gamsol is expensive af. Try to get those on sale.

See if your local art store gives discounts to professionals or students

  • Some art stores will give a small discount to professionals or students. Ask around at your local art stores. 
  • Tip: Get to know your local art stores, you never know what kinds of information they might have. Maybe they know of some opportunities for you or know a good contact for you. Try to learn everyone’s name at the store you go to the most. It can go a long way. 

Don’t over buy

  • Truy to just buy what you really need if you can’t find what you need for a reduced price. 
  • It’s easy to overdo it at the art store. Try and limit yourself to a budget before you get inside.

Craigslist / Ebay

  • I always see people’s old and usually unused art supplies on Craigslist. People try to get into art and give up, they have extra supplies for you. Haggle over the price… you deserve a discount you hard working artist!
  • Ebay is another good place to look for used art supplies.

Buy in Bulk

  • If it makes sense for you, buy in bulk. 
  • Some things to consider buying in bulk are canvas, gesso, paint, and anything you use a lot. 

Check Out Yard Sales and Estate Sales

  • Yard sales and estate sales often have easels and old art supplies. Keep your ear open to the ones in your area. 
  • I usually find that yard sales in fancy neighborhoods have the best stuff but they price everything so high. Haggle your ass off. They are trying to get rid of the stuff anyways right?

Cheap brushes are still good

I love my cheap brushes. They work great if you take care of them well.

If you must go for more expensive brushes, take care of them

  • Properly take care of your materials 
  • Check out this blog post from Fantastic Handyman about how to care for paint brushes

Get creative with what you can make art on or with

  • Use paper bags, pizza boxes, cardboard, brown paper bags, manila files, to make art on.
  • I’ve noticed that pizza box art is a bit of a trend right now. I’ve even seen people sell them. 
  • Repurpose garbage/scraps into art.
  • Use charcoal from the beach. 
  • Think outside the box.

Shop Online

  • While I really think people should shop locally, prices online are often a lot better. 
  • At the local art store spray paint for example is way more expensive in store than on DickBlick
  • If you can afford to shop locally, please do. If you can’t, don’t sweat it, do what’s best for you.

What are your tips for buying art supplies on a budget? Let me know in the comments below.


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