Princeton Blog

4 Simple Money Saving Tips for Artists on a Budget

Most artists are all too familiar with the struggle of sticking to a budget that can’t keep up with their creativity. If you’re not careful, costs can add up quickly and put a strain on both your wallet and your aspirations.

But an artist will always find a way to make art, and we have a few simple tips that can make it easier when money is tight.

Try mixing your own colors

A lot of artists try to stock up a large set of paint colors so they’ll have the perfect hues and shades ready whenever inspiration strikes. But we sometimes end up spending money on a tube of one very specific color, only to use it once and leave it in the back of a drawer for the next year.

Having a ready-to-go selection of paint can definitely be convenient but you’d be surprised how far you can get with just the primary colors and little know-how. Building up your understanding of how various colors blend will be beneficial to both your art and your wallet.

Bonus tip:

Experimentation is a great way to gain more insight into the colors you use, but if you’re in a pinch you can find free color mixing guides online that let you preview possible color combinations.

Prep and recycle canvases

Canvases can be one of the biggest expenses for a painter, especially if you buy them stretched, primed and ready to use. Priming your own canvases can seem like an inconvenience but it’s an easy way to bring expenses down.

Reusing canvases is another great cost-saving practice if you have some older pieces that you’re unhappy with. Keep an eye out for inexpensive paintings at garage sales and thrift shops that can be turned into a fresh blank canvas with a couple coats of gesso.

If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, you can even try stretching canvases yourself and substantially reduce costs.

Bonus Tip:

While your at it, look out for used frames that can be salvaged, even those that might need a little touching up or re-glueing. You’ll save big bucks if you can skip custom framing.

Save a ton of wasted supplies by planning ahead

When creating your next masterpiece, you can save money at almost every step of the process with a little planning.

Start by making a list of all the supplies you may need in the near future and budgeting to buy them in bulk. This will let you get the most out of discounts and coupons at your local art supply shop, or allow you to hit a minimum-purchase-limit for free shipping online.

If your style allows for it, you can also prevent a lot of paint from going to waste by being mindful on how much you’ll need before you start mixing. Just don’t let yourself feel creatively bound by this tip – think of what the art world would have missed out on if Jackson Pollock was focused on his paint budget.

Bonus Tip:

If you’ve been at this long enough to have a good feel for the different brushes available, you probably have some favorites. When you know you’ll be getting a lot of use out of it, it can be a worthwhile investment to buy some higher end brushes. With proper care, a good brush can outlast budget brushes many times over, so you can save money in the long run while improving the quality of your tools.

Run out of canvases? Get creative!


Growing up, we all knew that one kid who couldn’t resist drawing or painting over every new binder and backpack they ever had. By the third day of school, half of their belongings were covered in doodles.

Okay, most of us in this community were that kid.

Graduating to a sketchbook and canvas is an important step for growing artists, but there are still many everyday items that can become an unconventional work of art. Shoes, t-shirts, and other clothing are a great way to display your talent to the world everyday. Redesign paint over worn out book covers, give your old side table the Starry Night treatment, or even paint custom cases for your phone and laptop.

This can be a great way to get in some practice, but if you want your art to last, make sure to research the best kind of paint to use for each surface.

Bonus Tip:

The rise of indie-art in recent years has seen a huge market developing for hand painted objects, from shoes to video game consoles. People like unique items with a personal touch, and you might be surprised how much value you can add with a creative paint job. If you’ve thought about selling your art before, you should consider adding some outside-the-box pieces to your online shop or craft-sale table.

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