Money Saving Tips for Art School Students

by on March 8th, 2015
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If you are a college student attending art school, it is highly likely you have had to take out a large amount of student loans to finance your education. While art school is a great place to explore and embrace your creativity while furthering your artistic skills, it is generally extremely expensive. If you are struggling to afford your education, it is unlikely that you are able to afford the steep prices of supplies necessary to create art for school. Here are some ways you can easily save money on supplies while attending art school.

Build Your Own Canvas

Building your own canvas is an excellent way to save money if you are a fine arts major specializing in painting. Pre-built canvases are highly overpriced and only come in predetermined sizes. When building your own canvas, you will not only save money but will have full control over the size of your canvas. Purchase canvas fabric and boards from an art supply store and use a staple gun to build them. Stretching canvas is often difficult at first, but you will find it easier the more you build.

Make Your Own Palettes and Trays

Plastic palettes and trays are another supply item you will need in bulk that can become extremely costly over time. Instead of purchasing these items, make them yourself from recycled items at home. Plastic frozen TV dinner trays make excellent palettes, as do ice cube trays as both can easily be covered with plastic to keep your paint fresh. You can also use recycled butter and sour cream containers for large quantities of paint or as water cups to clean your brushes in.

Mix in Water

If you paint with acrylics, adding a small amount of water to your paint will make it spread further and last longer. Do not add water to your oil paint however.

Search for Coupons

Art supply stores are constantly offering sales on specific supply items, such as paint, brushes, charcoals, clay and sketchbooks. Visit stores in your area to pick up sale fliers and coupons, or look online for specialty coupons for even bigger savings. Even small coupons will add up to major savings on art supplies over time.

Shop with Frequent Shopper Programs

Some art supply stores offer frequent shopper programs for store regulars. With these programs, you will be sent special savings opportunities or your purchases can add up to a discount at a later time. Research art supply stores in your area that offer a program like this and do as much of your shopping there as possible to save money.

Don’t Shop at the School Supply Store

Most art schools have a school store that sells various art supply materials. While this is convenient, their prices are usually insanely marked up. For example, when I attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, art gum erasers were over $1.00 each and sketchbooks were a minimum of $10.00. These same items could be purchased at almost any art supply store for a fraction of that price. Avoid the supply store at your school like the plague.

Buy in Bulk with Other Students

Art supply warehouses often offer lower prices for bulk orders of supplies. While you may not need 30 pounds of clay for the semester, you can easily place one order with other students and split the cost equally. Talk with other students in your classes and find a few friends to invest in ordering in bulk together. Split the cost amongst yourselves and divide the supplies evenly.

Recycle Canvases and Paper

If you have an old painting that no longer reflects your artistic abilities or that you simply do not like, Gesso over it and reuse the canvas rather than spending money on another. As a drawing student, simply use the back of old, high-quality paper for your new drawing and matte the drawing so that the old drawing is never seen again.

Start With the Bare Minimum

When drawing with charcoal or mixing paint, always start small and add more later if you need to. It is easy to add more to make an area darker or mix more paint, but if you use to much you are wasting the excess.


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