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  • Writer's pictureNicole

How to Start Acrylic Painting for Less than $30

So, you think you might want to give this painting thing a go, huh? Sweet! I’m cheering you on!

Oh, and you’re on a budget? I hear that. Below are some of my tips and tricks to starting out on the cheap.

Which medium do I start with?

Short answer: Acrylics

If you are a total beginner and you just aren’t sure if art is even your passion, my strong recommendation is to start with acrylics. The reasons are many, but for the purposes of this post, they are extremely budget friendly. Unlike oils, you can use them right out of the tube without having to add mediums. You don’t have to worry about purchasing paint thinners, linseed oil, solvents, cotton rags, jars, or any of the “extra” things that are must-haves for oil paintings. In my experience, you can also get a cheaper set and still wind up with a good painting.

All you really need for acrylics when starting out are:

· brushes

· paints

· water

· soap

· a surface to paint on.

The good news is you probably have at least two of those things around your house.


Let’s start with the big kahuna—paints. Look, art supplies are easily the black hole of any artist’s wallet. It’s easy to get carried away when you see all of the fancy colors you can buy. Luckily, you have some budget-friendly choices to make:

1) Get a kit. This is where I started. I bought small paint kit from Michael’s similar to this one. The tubes are small, but they will get you through a couple of paintings depending on how much paint (and which paints) you are using. (12 Color Acrylic Paints by Artist's Loft™ Necessities™, $5.99)

If you want a kit with larger tubes, you can try this one for $19.99. (24 Color Acrylic Paint Set by Artist's Loft™)

2) You can buy separate tubes. This method tends to be a little bit more expensive. Single tubes of paint tend to run between $4 and $20 each depending on the brand, but if you don’t want to have a whole lot of paint tubes lying around, then going this route might be beneficial.

I’d recommend sticking to store brand, or Basics by Liquitex, or any Level 1 paint. They will be cheaper and you can get some decent sized tubes for the money.

In terms of colors, I would recommend:

- Cadmium Red Medium

- Titanium White

- Cadmium Yellow Medium

- Ivory Black

- Ultramarine

- Alizarin Crimson

Extra credit would include:

- Burnt Sienna

- Burnt Umber

- Payne’s Gray

- Cadmium Red Light

These hit your general basic/primary colors, so you are able to mix and match to your heart’s content.


Similar to paints, you can buy brushes in a kit. I will warn that many of them tend to be cheap and fall apart easily. If you go this route, just be aware that you may wind up with some loose bristles in your painting.

Now, if you don’t have any brushes at all, I recommend getting a set that has a nice variety. This set from Blick is really nice. It has nice variation—synthetic, bristle, sponge—and different sizes and tips. ($11.99)

If you want a smaller set, I recommend this 5 piece set, which gives you a nice variety of sizes and tips. ($9.99)

Surface to Paint On

You can go almost any direction with this. You can get canvases (usually Michaels or Blick’s has some sort of sweet sale going on for cheap canvases) or canvas paper pads. You could also paint on wood if you have any plywood or something lying around or stone. You can also paint on glass. The world is your oyster.

If you are going with canvas, I recommend looking out for any art sale that Michael’s has. They often have super-packs on sale for cheap. A 7-pack of 12”x12” canvases are $10.99.

If you are more a paper kind of person, you can get a 9”x16” Canva-paper pad for $10.99.

Whichever route you choose, make sure that you get multiple so you have enough opportunity to test out your skills.

Other Things you’ll Need that you Hopefully Have!

You’ll need water and some sort of jar or container to put it in to wash your brushes off as you paint. You’ll also want to have some paper towels or a rag with you too. Soap is a must for clean-up. Regular dish soap will do. Make sure you don’t leave paint dry on your brush because once you do, it’s difficult to remove.

Finally, you’ll need a paper plate, wax paper, cellophane, aluminum foil, a little palette—something—to put your paints on. You also have the option of painting right from the tube, but you won’t be able to have the option of mixing paints off of your canvas (or other surface).

All in all, you could reasonably expect to get started in acrylics for less than $30 (look out for coupons and sales too). Once you determine whether you actually like to paint, you can start to level up the things you have bit by bit.

Additionally, you can find several tutorials on YouTube for free. I recommend some of the following:

If you are going with the online tutorial route, I would recommend picking a tutorial and then getting your supplies for the thing you are making. John Beckley in particular uses a lot more than just paints in his pieces, so they might come a higher cost to you.

You can also check out your local library for books on acrylic painting if you prefer to read about it.

I hope this was helpful! Leave me a comment if you have any questions 😊

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