Art Supplies Shopping List for Acrylic Painting

When you first decide to try painting, the choice of art supplies available can be overwhelming and confusing. So here's an art supplies list of everything you need to start painting with acrylics.

  • 01 of 15

    Acrylic Paint Colors to Start

    Tubes of Acrylic Paints
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    Don't get seduced by all the paint colors available. Start with a few essential colors and get to know each look and mixes. Buy a tube of these colors:

    • Naphthol red medium or cadmium red 
    • Phthalo blue
    • Azo yellow medium or cadmium yellow 
    • Burnt umber
    • Phthalo green
    • Titanium white and
    • Payne’s grey

    You don't need black to darken colors or for shadows as mixtures of the other colors will give dark colors. We personally like cadmium red medium and cadmium yellow, but you must be careful not to get the paint on your skin as cadmium pigments are poisonous.

  • 02 of 15

    Paint Brushes

    Painting samples of Different colorful size brushes

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    Again, you don't need handfuls of brushes in different sizes and shapes. With time you'll develop a preference for the size of brush and shape, as well as type of hair. To start, we recommend two different sized filbert brushes, with stiff hairs. A filbert is a versatile brush shape that gives a range of brush strokes depending on how you're holding it, from narrow to wide. Many paintings are done with just one filbert.

  • 03 of 15

    Palette Knife

    Marrywindix Stainless Steel Spatula Palette Knives


    If you use a palette knife rather than a brush to mix paint colors together on your palette you don't end up wasting the paint that stays stuck in the brush. It's also easier to mix colors together well. A palette knife can also be used to scrape paint off a canvas when things go wrong (if the paint hasn't dried yet).

  • 04 of 15

    Moisture-Retaining Paint Palette

    Directly Above Shot Of Colorful Palette On Black Background

    Syed Mahabubul Kader/Getty Images

    It's convenient to have a bit of each paint color squeezed out of the tube onto a palette, ready to be picked up with a brush. Because acrylic paints dry fast, you need a moisture-retaining palette, not a traditional wooden one. If you squeeze paint out on an ordinary palette, a lot of it will dry before you've used it.

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  • 05 of 15

    Paper for Practicing

    Person drawing on paper

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    You're not going to paint a masterpiece every time you pick up your brush. Sometimes you need to play and practice. If you do this on paper rather than a canvas it's not only cheaper but storage is less of a problem too. You may like using a large, wire-bound sketchbook, but another option to consider is a pad of canvas-texture paper.

  • 06 of 15

    Painting Canvas

    Blank art canvas in mess artist's studio

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    Buying canvas that's already stretched and primed gives you more time for painting. Buy a few different sizes and shapes. Long and thin are great for landscapes.

  • 07 of 15

    Water Container

    Art Advantage Brush Wash Bucket With Removable Inner Basins


    You need a container for water for both rinsing your brush clean and for thinning the paint. An empty jam jar will do the trick, though you may prefer a plastic container that won't break if you drop it. You can buy all sorts of containers, including ones with holes along the edges for storing brushes that are drying.

  • 08 of 15

    Rags or Paper Towels

    Artist's palette with bright paint clusters.

    Oleksandra Korobova/Getty Images

    You'll need something for wiping excess paint off a brush, and for getting most of the paint out before you wash it. A roll of paper towels is commonly used, but an old shirt or sheet torn into rags also works. Avoid anything that's got moisturizer or cleanser in it as you don't want to be adding anything to your paint.

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  • 09 of 15

    An Apron

    Caucasian artist holding paintbrush in studio

    Janet Kimber/Getty Images

    Once dried acrylic paint doesn't like to wash out of clothes, so wear a heavy-duty apron to protect your clothes.

  • 10 of 15

    An Easel

    Blank canvas on easel and paint in artist studio.

    Dougal Waters/Getty Images

    Easels come in various designs but our favorite is a floor-standing, h-frame easel because it's very sturdy. If space is limited, consider the table-top version.

  • 11 of 15

    Drawing Board

    Woman sketching portrait of little girl in background

    Kymberlie Dozois Photography/Getty Images

    When painting on paper, you'll need a rigid drawing board or panel to put behind the sheet of paper. Pick one that's larger than you think you might need, as it's very annoying suddenly discovering it's too small.

  • 12 of 15

    Bulldog Clips

    A Row of Binder Clip

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    Sturdy bulldog clips (or large binder clips) are the easiest way to keep a piece of paper on a board. Use two at the top and one on the sides (sometimes only one side, if the piece of paper is small).

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  • 13 of 15


    Liquitex Professional Gloss Fluid, Medium and Varnish


    When you've finished a painting you're particularly pleased with, give it another level of protection by varnishing it.

  • 14 of 15

    Varnishing Brush

    Liquitex Professional Freestyle Large Scale Brush, Broad Flat/Varnish 2-inch, Long Handle


    A varnishing brush has soft hairs, helping you to apply varnish thinly and evenly. It makes the job much easier!

  • 15 of 15

    Fingerless Gloves

    Teal Blue Crochet Fingerless Glove Mittens

    JPrescott/Getty Images

    A pair of fingerless gloves help keep your hands warm while still leaving your fingertips free to get a good grip on a brush or pencil. Use a pair in a rather distinctive green (it does make them easy to spot!) from Creative Comforts. They're made from a stretchy cotton/lycra mix for a snug fit, so you'll find they don't obstruct movement or get in the way.