Materials for acrylic painting classes

This post reviews art supplies for acrylic painting classes and workshops. Note: pictures show Golden brand, we ARE NOT using Golden as a medium of our choice any longer. Tubes are difficult to open, they break and quality does not go hand in hand with the high price. Please keep reading to see what we prefer.

Summary: 1-2 brushes for acrylic, pencil, acrylic marker/s; 8 or 9 colors of acrylic paint; 12 x 16 in or up to 16 x 20 inch canvas, white plastic disposable plate, 5 sheets of paper towel, please see below what brushes and paints.

You will need for almost every  first class or workshop acrylic marker with medium fine tip which do not bleed with application of water in black color.  For initial sketching we are using any graphite pencil. Medium softness works the best.

Please get rather separate paint tubes than any sets. Do not buy beginner sets which consist of different low quality brushes and paints which won’t work for any medium: neither watercolor, nor acrylic, nor oil.  If you would like your paintings last, you should always use artist grade paints which won’t fade away that easily, and provide better covering and curing effects.

The colors we are using most often are:

White: Titanium white, required more than other colors, please get a good brand because the student’s grade white does not work too well. White is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

For darks: Black, and/or Raw umber, Black and/or Payne’s grey; if you can afford only one, please get Black

Red is important color: Primary magenta or Cadmium medium red; Quinacridone crimson, Crimson pyrrole, Naphtol red light or medium. Generally speaking, one dark red and one light red would do. Primary magenta covers the broadest range of necessary reds, but we love Carmine red (Crimson lake, Carmine lake) and Pyrrole red also.

2 yellow shades: Hansa or Lemon yellow for light greenish yellow shades; Cadmium yellow medium for warm yellow. Yellow is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.

Yellow ochre or golden ochre, yellow oxide: we use them quite often

Much used: Burnt sienna

Much used: Burnt umber (warm deep brown shade) or Raw umber (almost black brown which is used in many mixes for dark shades), we are also mixing it with lemon yellow for attractive green shades

We use a lot of blue: Sky blue, Prussian blue, Cobalt blue and Ultramarine blue

Prussian blue: very much recommended, we use it almost always

Cold shade  premixed grey: to save time, but you can mix it up from black and other shades

You do not need any premixed green paint unless you are using large amounts of straight green. We are mixing up different shades of green.

Orange is useful for mixing up good other colors.

It is better to buy only a few tubes/jars of a good paint than have very many of bad paint. Other paints you will get as you go depending on what you like more/what you paint more. If you are limited to only 8 paints, you should get white, black, lemon yellow and Cadmium yellow medium, Prussian blue, Primary magenta, burnt sienna and burnt umber. It is great to have golden or yellow ochre, as well.

We like Liquitex heavy body most because of easy to use tubes, and Graham has fairly good quality acrylic paints, good option for starting out is Amsterdam brand acrylic paints and Liquitex Basics. Both have easy to use tubes, their whites, yellows and other light colors make sense. Golden is acceptable, but not recommended: bad tubes, difficult to open and close, and they have really bad Titanium white. Do not buy Open Golden acrylics, they are sticky and bad for use in the class. We find the other brands unsatisfactory for many reasons. So called Galleria acrylics by Winsor and Newton practically don’t work, they act rather as a paste than paint, if you need something inexpensive, please stick with Amsterdam or Liquitex Basics.

Do not buy paints at Wallmart or Dollar store, crafter’s acrylics do not work for our painting style; but they have some really inexpensive good size canvas/canvas boards which are good for practicing. If you are buying at Curry’s or other art store, choose canvas/canvas boards  16 x 12 in (if you are rather slow learner) to 16 x 20 in. Curry’s has better art products than Michael’s, and prices are more reasonable at Curry’s art store.

There are value packs of stretched canvas, 3 or 2, or even 5 together. Canvas boards are very inexpensive. Painting on a ready to use stretched canvas allows to hang painting on the wall without a frame straight after you have finished it.

You will need at least 1 flat brush,  3/4 in wide, and 1 flat 1 in wide; fairly soft, synthetic, inexpensive (look for something cheaper for acrylic or watercolor, not the stiff one for oils) and a round brush with fine tip, size 6 to 8. Generally speaking, the larger your canvas, the larger brushes. We use fan brushes, stiff cut out brushes for spotting (like the brushes for window or wood painting, just a smaller width). We adjust also flat oil brushes for this purpose. Bristles have to be uneven, we cut these brushes out using scissors. Please remember not to get oil brushes (they are not soft on touch and have visibly rough bristles) for basic painting with acrylics.

For texture effects, we can use seaweed sponges. Some have surface which is compiled of tiny sharp tops, choose those ones.

For strong textures, we are using modeling paste. However, drying takes a lot of time and we cannot apply it during every first class. Whenever we need it, you’ll get instructions.

Mediums help with blending or glazing, or keep the paint moist for longer time. Blending medium is a fairly good thing. However, we usually survive just using mist out of spray bottle.

Spray bottle with water helps.

We are using quite a lot of strong/thick paper towel, minimum 5-6 sheets for class; and any medium or larger size white plastic plate can be used instead of palette; very small paper plates do not work for this purpose, paper absorbs paint. If you have mixing paper, please place it in a flat box like a lid of a shoe box.

Plastic knives can be used for mixing up paint.

Please dress so that possible paint spots don’t damage your clothes, wear something which can be made dirty. We get spots even on sleeves, shoes, etc.

When it is snowy, muddy or dirty, you will need to switch to slippers or similar footwear.

I hope I covered the most often asked questions, and see you in my art classes!

Fall Art Show at Camp Samac: Sunday

The Fall Art Festival at Camp Samac not only allows one to explore a wide variety of different artists works, but also gathers many hundreds of people interested in art, crafts and creative achievements. It was not surprising that the majority of artists presented smaller size art, art prints and art cards. Even though, there was a fairly large crowd of visitors at some art displays throughout the show, the most buying activity involved smaller, more inexpensive original pieces and art prints. The impression was that the original art was loved and admired, but not that much purchased.

However, taking into account the large number of participating artists (71) and the even larger number of art presented, I must say this event had great success and resulted in many nice transactions for artists and gorgeous acquisitions for art lovers.

We had many thoughtful conversations and discussions, but I only could get a few pictures from this event (with kind consent of the respective artists) since general photo taking was not allowed.

Judith Harper

Judith presented nature, floral, landscape and even figurative paintings in warm attractive colors. We had a great talk about different art issues and this show, and I was really happy to meet her in person.

Light in some of her landscapes was really impressive, and the gentle capture of nature made me think that Judith loves to paint objects which are meaningful and close to her.

Mike McGowan

Mike told his painting ideas originated in his imagination, and he had no need for photo references or direct object set-ups. His colorful abstract paintings and collages attracted many visitors, and he was very often involved in enthusiastic conversations with them.

The vivid colors were really  eye-catching, and he couldn’t complain about lack of interest. Mike also helped me with advice and explanations which I highly appreciated.

More info about Mike’s art can be found at:

Anne Labelle Johnson

Anne is well-known for her sensitive beautiful watercolor and acrylic paintings which depict various nature themes. She finds the beauty and magnificence in simple objects which we are often just passing by.

Anne uses a very specific dreamy blue in many of her paintings, and maybe the symbolism of blue is adding another feminine touch to these impressive paintings.

More information about Anne’s art can be found at her website:

More information about these and other participating artists can be found at:


I was very satisfied with this show. This was a great opportunity to get better understanding of the local art scene, make friends, get to know other artists, and sell some paintings. 3 of my originals were sold, and I thought that was great because I did not bother with printing cards or getting art prints.

Fall Art Festival at Camp Samac: Friday

I belong to people who have lots of duties, responsibilities, appointments, arrangements, etc. I am always planning ahead, but I often find myself balancing on knife-edge to meet all deadlines and to make all things happen. Generally speaking, I cannot avoid some rush with whatever I’m trying to do. Getting ready for art shows always involves some frantic adding of last strokes to some time ago created paintings, some sudden new painting idea just the night before the show; and, yes, that’s me typing the art sales sheets and printing labels just half an hour before I leave to set up the show.

This is how it looks at 10pm the night before the art show. I need my watercolors for signatures and small corrections, I need acrylics for adding some highlights or freshening up the lost darks. I need everything to be right there and all around. What a mess, really! However, this photo was taken before I started to do all of these adjustments. It looked much messier at 1 am when I decided to leave everything alone and get some sleep.

These paintings are waiting far labels, they are also getting checked for imperfections or missing signatures.

This is such a happy moment when the provided space is set up. It seems like nothing to it, and I really have to wonder, how could it take so incredibly much time and efforts?

I decided to do mostly trees this year, and when I stopped by, I found out that 3 paintings were already sold. Great news.

Why trees? I find them extremely human, having so much of character which people are often lacking. I don’t think there can be ever painted too many trees or flowers, these silent guards of our living space.

Autumn birch painting

Birches are stubbornly maintaining their white coats regardless of seasons. It’s not surprising they have found reflection in so many poems, paintings and stories. How to stay white is the lesson they teach.

We can respect maples for knowing how to lose their beauty in such a gracious and marvelous way, there are no regrets, just sadness for rapidly disappearing magnificence.

This maple road painting was done in my rich acrylic texture technique. Paintings of this type change colors as the surrounding light does, and depending on the viewing angle, foliage feels almost touchable at some moments. This painting was also sold straight after I put it out. These paintings exist only as single originals since no prints or similar reproductions can be made, and that’s what I like about them.

Materials for watercolor painting classes

Materials for watercolor classes are less expensive and last much longer than for other mediums.

You can use watercolor pencils, watercolor paints in tubes or set of pan watercolors when starting out. You do not have to buy everything right away, but small set or some paint tubes are necessary for the first class. If the class description specifies watercolor paints are provided, you can skip this paragraph.

Student grade watercolor paints will not have the same properties as artist grade paints because they contain more fillers and less pigment. There is still always something in between: not too expensive and with acceptable quality. However, it is better you get only a few tubes of excellent paint than 20 tubes or large set of bad quality paint. I love St. Petersburg watercolors for their brilliance and transparency.

It is extremely important to have a good watercolor paper because your painting results will directly depend on quality of paper and paint. We are using thick, rough, heavy, cold press watercolor paper. Not all brands will have the “ROUGH” paper, but all of them offer “COLD PRESS” paper. Please pay attention that we are using only cold press paper (it is written straight on a block of paper). The thickness of watercolor paper is measured by weight. So, the greater the weight, the thicker and better the paper. It is measured either in pounds per ream (lb) or grams per square meter (gsm). I would recommend, you look for paper which weighs at least 140 lb (300 gsm). The heavier papers are more expensive, so choose something from the medium range. I use either Arches, cold press, fairly heavy or we order online Saunders- Waterford paper.

Poor quality paper will buckle, warp and it will not allow to use some painting techniques because the number of washes is very limited on thin paper. Masking fluid can cause it to tear. Thin and poor quality paper simply does not have layers for paint to travel through them, therefore, water creates spots, sits on top of the paper surface, does not get absorbed and does not allow paint flowing and creating nice washes.

The size of your watercolor paper actually matters, too. It happens very often that beginners choose paper of a very small size. It is a wrong assumption that painting tiny stuff is easier. The smallest size you should go for is approximately 9 x 12 inches, and we are quite often using larger watercolor paper because it allows to understand painting techniques better and create art much easier.

To paint comfortably, you will need to attach your paper to some firm, but light base. It cannot be heavy, we need to lift, rotate, tilt it and so on, it has to be easy to hold and handle. Firm cardboard or something similar is fine. The base should exceed the painting paper size. Please attach it with the green painter’s tape to the cardboard or similar base.

We are using good pen for pen and watercolor drawings. I would recommend black pen which does not bleed with application of water, Micropen in sizes 0.2 or 0.3 is great.

Graphite pencils, medium soft or hard, and kneaded eraser, also known as putty rubber or artist grade eraser is also necessary. We cannot use the regular hard eraser since it damages the watercolor paper.

We do apply both: graphite transfer or copying paper for transferring our drawing onto watercolor paper and tracing paper for creation of large scale sketches when the drawing is complex or requires to show values clearly. These papers should be in size close to the watercolor paper. Please also have some testing paper which you can use for trying out colors or similar stuff. Cheap watercolor paper would do. I will teach you also how to transfer drawing without using any graphite transfer or copying paper.

We are using some small, medium and medium-large size brushes. Just make sure you buy watercolor brushes with soft bristles. Synthetic brushes are fine and inexpensive. We are usually fine with one flat brush (3/4 or 1 in wide) and two to four round brushes with fine tips. Sizes 6 to 12.

When painting with watercolor, it is highly recommended to use well absorbing paper towel. Paper towel is necessary for cleaning the brush, taking off extra paint or water and correcting your painting. Paper towel is necessary for every single step and class.

Palette can be very simple, just do not get something tiny since it is extremely difficult to mix up reasonable amounts of paint in something which is size of a quarter. If you think, you’d rather save the paint which is already on your palette, get some medium size palette with lid, that way you won’t have to dispose any paint, as long as it’s not dirty.

It is better to buy watercolor painting supplies in a specialized art store, I do not think Wallmart is an option for paper, brushes or paint, but you could get paper towel, painter’s tape, palette and base for attaching your painting there.