Equipment and materials

Equipment and materials

This list may look long but very few things here are essential. This is just based on what I use. Almost everything can be swapped out something else. Read all the alternative workflows in the tutorial before buying anything.

A computer

a computer

The Artist's Helper can run on Macs, Windows-PCs or Linux boxes (probably). They must have a keyboard and a mouse or trackpad. It won't work on tablets. Sorry.

A digital camera

a digital camera

Preferably a DSLR or a MILC with a manual mode, but a compact camera or the camera on a phone will do. The application can do its own white balancing and stuff.

a digital phone

A printer Optional (ish)

a printer

With paper and ink and whatnots. For transferring generated sketches and outlines to the canvas.

Cables or WIFI connectivity for the above

Hopefully you have the things above or their equivalents already, right?

And you know how to get them to talk to each other, don't you?

Paints (Obv).


Some acrylics or oils or both.


Acrylics dry very fast. They are water soluble which makes them easier to manage and to clean up. Once varnished, finished paintings can be difficult to distinguish from oils.

The fast drying times makes them great for quickly blocking in the initial base layer and then applying glazes to modify each area iteratively. Each layer can be ready to paint over with the next in under an hour.

Liquitex 6-piece starter set

I recommend getting something like the Liquitex BASICS 6-Piece - 4 oz (118ml) Starter Set. The nice large tubes will help us to be bold in our mixing and painting.

You can get them (it?) online at Michael's, Dickblick, Walmart or eBay

Hardware store paint. acrylic Behr I also use house painting acrylics for base-coats or large, flat, background areas. It would seem that all acrylic paints are compatible with each other. House paints are less viscous but all the same mixing rules apply.

Oils The king of all paints

oil paints

Oils tend to be a little more expensive than acrylics and can be a tad more finicky to use but their slower drying rates make them easier in many respects.

I recommend water miscible oils (WMOs). These are water soluble not water based, an important distinction. They are regular oil paints that are modified with an emulsifier. This enables them to be thinned with water and cleaned up with soap and water so you don't need any nasty white spirit / mineral turpentine.



You'll probably ruin a lot of brushes at first with so start cheap and only go for quality once you know what you're doing.

Princeton brush



Painting surfaces are known as supports or substrates. (Oh, la de da, aren't we posh). You can paint on a wide variety of supports: stretched / wrapped canvas, canvas panel board, hardwood panels, paper, cardboard, walls, sleeping friends…

To start with just get a canvas paper pad. They come in a variety of weights. The heavier ones are almost like a pad of canvas boards.

Fredrix canvas pad Strathmore canvas paper pad Canson canva paper pad

The lighter papers are great for sketches, experiments, swatches and colour charts.

Artist Loft canvas panel

Individual canvas panel boards are good too. I like that you can use pins to hold your sketches and then hide the holes later with a few blobs of paint.

stretched canvas

Stretched or wrapped canvases make you feel like an authentic artist.

Kitchen roll and rags

wipes kitchen roll

Lots and lots for wiping your brushes and palette knives. Also, no matter how careful you are, you will get in a mess at some stage.

Transfer paper Optional

Saral wax free transfer paper

It's not essential but transfer paper can help you transfer your sketch from print outs.

transfer paper Saral transfer paper sampler

An easel Optional

an easel

An easel helps make you look and feel like a real artist.

A mahl stick Optional

mahl stick

A mahl stick is held with your off-hand to provide a rest to steady your painting hand.

They really help make you feel the part.

A palette Optional (ish)

wooden palette
Beware the treacherous lies of the left handed palette.

A surface to mix the paint on.

the classic wooden palettes make you look cool but are hard to clean
easy to clean, easy to can change the background colour to match the toned canvas (imprimatura), fragile
no need to clean
Sta-wet boxes to put other palette types in
old frying pans
cheap, easy to clean, feel very steampunk

glass palette

If you want to spend a little more the ParallelPalette looks interesting. It's The artist David Kassan ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for it in 2015.

Palette layout

There is no right or wrong way to lay out colours on palette. Matthias Schaller has photographed the palettes of many famous artists.

Palette knives Optional

palette knife

A blunt knife or trowel primarily used for mixing paint.

A stay wet palette Optional

masterson sta wet handy palette

For when I use acrylics I got a Masterson Sta-Wet Palette(sic). Surprisingly effective. It's basically a tray with a damp sponge at the bottom, some absorbent palette paper to mix your paints on and a lid.

A spray bottle / mister Optional


When working with acrylics it's good to have an atomiser bottle filled with water on hand. You can spray your palette and your canvas to keep the paints open (alive and workable).

Workable fixative Optional


Spray over sketches and transfer paper tracing lines to prevent smudges or have the lines bleed though paints placed on top.

Acrylic gesso Optional

acrylic gesso

Used for priming painting surfaces. I don't like painting onto a plain white surface so I mix some paint in first. It covers well so it also allows you to give up on a painting, cover it (mostly) and start again!

Mediums Optional

Mediums for acrylics

acrylic mediums

Allow you to dilute acrylic paints to make glazes without losing the consistency as you would with water. They can make paint thicker, thinner, textured, levelling, glossy, matte and more.

Mediums for oils

To change the handling properties of oil paints.

Paint fat over lean to prevent craking. Lean with thinners for fast drying for the early layers, fatten with oil for slow drying for the top layers.

Retarder Optional

acrylic retarder

A few drops of retarder will slow the drying time of acrylics considerably.

Foam brushes Optional

foam brushes

Because they're fun somehow. I use them for my oiling in.

A tripod Optional

a tripod

It's also really nice to have a tripod (or a phone stand / selfie stick). It can save quite a bit of time when taking and aligning canvas photos.

Lamps Optional


I also have a couple of lamps on stands to provide consistent lighting, but I'm sure you can get away without them.

A colour checker Optional (highly recommended)

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport or similar. In order to perform proper colour correction in the application it's best to include known standard colours in the photo.

I scanned the greyscale segments at the bottom on mine with the Colourpin and got the following:

#3e4241 #5d6262 #818483 #acafaf #d4d7d6 #fefcf7

Alternatively you could find some widely available things with consistent colours and ask some nice person with a colourimeter to measure them or similar ones available to them.


I've just found this cheap little Gray Scale & Value Finder which is perfect for colour balancing.

I scanned the segments with the Colourpin and got the following:


If their print quality is consistent you should be able to use the same values with your colour correction filters.

More brushes

stock photo by Lia Leslie

Because you let the first lot dry out, didn't you?!

More kitchen roll and rags

stock photo by Alice Achterhof


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