Over the years I have learned many things about painting (I am learning all the time) and because I used to love it when artists would talk about what they did or used I decided I would do the same on the off-chance I help someone with their art. :)
You can't spend enough on a quality brush. I cannot stress that enough. I own in the region of 100 brushes of various sizes that I use for various jobs like covering a very large area of the canvas or super fine detail work and everything in between. If you buy cheap brushes you will soon see why you should avoid them, the bristles fall out and mix into your paint, they feel cheap to hold which is distracting and generally they are just awful to work with.
If you're in the U.K then find the nearest branch of Granthams art supplies and invest in a decent set of brushes from there, they will cost around £10 for a nice mixed set but you'll get a decent mix of quality brush sizes.
I also use Windsor and Newton Series 7 brushes for fine and super fine work, these brushes are expensive but the quality is simply stunning. All brushes are nicely weighted and so sit in your hand perfectly. No, I am not sponsored by them. :) Buy one and you'll soon see what I am talking about.
I paint on allsorts of canvases, heavyweight canvases bought from expensive shops and also some of the less expensive ones and I can tell you a few things about what I have learned about that. The cheaper canvases tend to have a very thin coat of gesso on them, so you'll need to paint another coat of gesso on them OR a coat of white emulsion paint will do (a little trick another artist friend taught me, it's cheaper than gesso and does the same job).
Heavyweight canvas is the best, again, Windsor and Newton canvases are lovely to work on, they're nicely stretched and primed. They have a more solid feel to them too as they use better quality canvas and wood for the stretcher bars than the cheaper canvases.
Another tip I can offer is to buy artist's canvas on a roll and stretch your own canvases. There's something very satisfying about doing this but it is a lot of work and will be daunting to newbies. You can source stretcher bars online and tutorials on how to do it can be found on Youtube. This will be cost effective of a long period of time. For larger sized canvases a support strut will have to be added to stop the stretcher bars from warping due to the tension of the canvas.
Spraying the back of a slack canvas with water will help the canvas tighten up again after a few minutes.
There are many different types of quality acrylic paint available out there, System 3 by Daler Rowney, Cryla (also by Daler Rowney but I tend to use Galleria paints by Windsor and Newton (there's that brand again, and no...I repeat I am not sponsored by them. Yet).
This is all personal preference though as the paints I mentioned (there are many many more available but I haven't worked with those brands) are all superb quality paints. It all depends on how you like to work. I love how smooth Galleria paints are and how well they mix (the others mix well too but I am used to the consistency of Galleria paints).
If you're looking to make a REALLY nice black to work with try mixing in some burnt senna or windsor blue (or both) to mars black, it gives a really nice black compared to using black straight out of the tube. This was another tip I picked up along my travels.
Don't forget a nice quality easel too. The one I have can be picked up for around £100, it's good solid wood and can be adjusted for large canvases. Back in the day I would hammer a couple of nails into the wall and hang my canvas on those while I worked but unless you want walls like swiss cheese please don't do that.
This is the same type of easel I use as my main easel.
This makes a great display easel for smaller canvases at events.
I also place in progress pieces on mine so that they can dry while I work on other canvases.
This is the easel I would like to own. It's easily twice the size of my current easel and is much sturdier and less prone to wobbling.
It's also expensive and superbly made.
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