Tools of the Trade | Paints

I have a confession when it comes to paint. I use acrylic for everything. I use it to paint wood, clothing, canvas, paper, and almost anything else you might imagine.  The great thing is, it generally works well on every surface I've tried.  However, there are a lot of better paints for various jobs, so let me fill you in.

1 | SPRAY PAINT: Most avid crafters will admit to a passionate affair with spray paints. These paints score fairly high in the awesome department for a few reasons. First, spray paints don't require brushes, meaning less supplies to buy, quick application, and no brush marks on the finished product. Second, spray paints allow you to exponentially up your "thug-ness" as you conquer your inner graffiti artist. (Let's pause for a moment and dream we could all have that kind of mad skill. One day I will.) I'm saddened to encourage this behavior, but for those scared by excessive creativity, spray paint doesn't require mixing or many design choices. On the down side, my fingers hurt for days after any spray paint project, regardless of how I hold the can, and then I get awful drips from the excessive sprays as I rush to finish painting. Spray paint also puts off a lot of fumes so it's best to do in a spray booth.

2 | PAINT PALETTE: For acrylics and watercolors, this is a must. It gives you space to mix custom colors and lets you keep multiple colors right at your fingertips. This one's pretty dirty, but I kind of like it that way; it makes it looks like I'm a really intense artist, right?

3 | WATERCOLOR: Watercolor is a difficult medium, but if you can conquer it you won't be disappointed with the results. When purchasing these, skip the rectangular tray filled with hard paint medallions. We're not in kindergarten anymore. Instead, look for small tubes that allow you much more freedom to mix and get your painting groove on. The tubes may seem small and a waste of money, but remember you'll still be mixing lots of water into the paints so those tiny tubes really go a long way. Generally, you only want to watercolor on paper that is designated for that purpose. Otherwise, your project paper will get all sorts of bumps and lumps and look like an old lady. Save yourself the tears and get the right paper from the start.

4, 5, 6 | ACRYLIC: Like I said, I use it on everything. It's a water-based paint, which means if you catch a spill quickly you can remove it from porous materials (like clothing you didn't mean to paint) and your paintbrushes with water. Depending on your project needs, prices can range from the super-cheap, student quality paint, to more expensive brands for experts. Unless you have a very specific project in mind, I would suggest stocking up on large tubes in a medium quality of red, blue, yellow, black, white, and brown. It may seem intimidating to mix your own colors from there, but once you push yourself you'll unleash a whole new creative animal! If you mess up horribly, wait for the paint to dry and you can begin anew right on top of your first try. Also, don't get too worried over the difference between craft acrylics and artistic acrylics. They essentially all do the same thing, and price-wise it's often a tie between which variety is cheapest.

7 | WOOD STAIN: This isn't technically a paint, but consider using it on your next wood project. Stains allow you to change the appearance of wood while maintaining the intricate detail of natural wood grain and stained woods tend to go well with most decorating schemes. If you do choose this path, be sure to stock up on gloves (if you stain your hands they're staying that way for at least a week), a cheap, disposable paint brush, lots of rags to apply the stain, and consider a mask if fumes tend to bother you. This method also takes time as you should allow the layers of stain to dry between applications.

OIL PAINT: I had the privilege of studying oil paints for a short time under my great-grandma, and the aromatic medley of oils and paint thinner will forever bring me nostalgic happiness. Like watercolors, these paints can be difficult to master, but you will feel like you've reached "the top" if you can conquer oils. Oils do require patience, as they sometimes take several days to dry. This can be a perk, however, as it allows you to constantly mold your colors around one another, much like a sculptor reworks clay every day. Oils look great in finished work, with sculpted edges following your brush strokes and the capacity for amazingly vibrant colors.

FABRIC PAINT: I'm honestly not too fond of these paints. I think acrylics generally accomplish the same thing, and I tend to associate puffy fabric paints with 90's applique sweatshirts. It's not an era of clothing I really want to remember. If you insist on purchasing fabric paints though, I've heard that Tulip offers the best selection of varieties and colors.

There isn't always a "right" paint for every project, so don't be discouraged if you don't know where to start. Explore and struggle a little bit, and you'll ultimately be satisfied with what you've learned along the way, whether your project was a success or a painful memory pushed to the back of your mind. If you'd like some advice before starting a project, leave me a comment and I'll let you know what I think!

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