How to find good quality, cheap watercolor painting materials!
Know where to look for inexpensive, good quality art supplies
My painting "Sanctuary" - painted with good materials that didn't cost an arm and a leg
Finding good quality watercolor supplies at a good price
Van gogh had trouble budgeting for art supplies, why shouldn't I?
Trying to be an artist professionally or otherwise is all about being frugal. Probably part of the reason so many artists poisoned themselves over the centuries working away at grinding their pigments!
Finding the best for less
I happen to be a watercolorist, and watercolor painting, specifically, can get costly very quickly. So can oil painting and pastel painting, and if you work in those mediums, these same cost cutters will apply to you too. Over the years, teaching painting to others and trying to find high quality products for less myself, has become second nature. Not always, but most of the time I have found there are ways to save on just about everything from brushes, to paints, to paper. I've also learned what you cannot skimp on, and what products you can get by with for a little less without sacrificing quality.
Ebay- A treasure trove of art materials!
My first and most valuable piece of advice is going straight to ebay for most of your materials. Now this won't work if you're trying to get everything you need for a class- tomorrow, but if you keep your eye on things over time, you will find GREAT deals on absolutely everything. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who decide they will watercolor paint for a hobby, buy all the best materials, then decide it's not for them and sell their stuff on ebay. It's the best place to get the highest quality items at the lowest price, I'm convinced.
Great internet sites like Cheap Joe's and Jerry's Artarama
Second, I use a couple of sites that have good prices on all their art supplies, with sales and coupons that they will send you on a regular basis. Cheap Joes and Jerry's Artarama are my go-to internet sites for materials. Both sell high quality stuff, with reviews from customers on everything. They are also both very fast on delivery and have free shipping if you buy a certain amount.
Many times, estate sales are a fantastic place to find all kinds of art paraphanalia. It's quite interesting how many people at some point in their lives took up an artistic hobby, or two, or three! These are fun items to get also because of their history. I got a set of well loved and well used fine quality sable brushes at an estate sale once that are more meaningful because of the hands that held them before me.
I do not recommend going to your local chain hobby store if you are seeking good deals. Usually, most items are overpriced even if you get a good deal on something. But by using coupons and store sales and just buying that particular thing, you should come out alright.
What to buy, what not to buy
So let's start with what to look for and buy on Ebay or online or at an estate sale.
Watercolor paper: Aquarelle Arches, Lanaquarelle are both good. If it's professional quality and it's 140 lb or more, go for it. Do not buy Canson by Strathmore unless you are buying it for a child(just my opinion)
If you can, buy these over time from ebay to build the best collection. Sable is the best usually, Windsor Newton is good, so is Grumbacher, but there are some less expensive lines that are pretty good, like Sterling Edwards and Windsor-Newton Cotman watercolor brushes. The most important thing about watercolor brushes is that they can hold a lot of water so you can continuously paint with an even flow. Other considerations would be that the hair does not fall out- squirrel hair brushes have this problem often, and that a brush holds it's shape. This is one area where I might go to an art supply store such as Dick Blick or Art Mart and try out the brushes in person.
This is where I have done exceptionally well in saving money on Ebay. Tubes of professional watercolor paint range from $8- $50 a tube, and I have gotten collections of the colors I use most for less than a dollar a piece. Not old, or damaged, actually new and unused- just somebody not painting anymore. I recommend Windsor-Newton, Grumbacher pro lines, but there are many good watercolor companies. The student, lesser grades are Rembrant, DickBlick, Cotman, etc. will look and feel differently than the higher quality paints. It should be fairly easy to see the difference in quality by looking up the prices, unfortunately, in the retail world,I've found more money equals more quality when it comes to watercolor paints. So keep your eyes open on Ebay!
If you take your time, and keep your eyes open, you will build a quality storehouse of watercolor goods for a little bit of money. Have fun!