As a professional painter, the right tools for the job make all the difference in my art. Sometimes different jobs call for different tools in order to produce our best work. Although regardless of what's on my easel, there have been a few tools over the years I've used that initially I never knew would become staples in my workflow.
Note: This blog contains affiliate links and purchasing through them supports our site at no extra cost to you.
In this article, I'm sharing with you my 5 essential tools that are surprisingly useful for almost any painter or artist
#1 - Palette Knife
Whether you're an acrylic painter or especially an oil painter, if you're still using a paintbrush to mix your paints together on a regular basis, you may want to pause and reconsider. A palette knife is an essential tool because not only does it prolong the life of my brushes, it also makes color mixing and matching easier and more accurate. They can also create fine lines and textures easier than brushes in some cases. I like use mine to create the perfect blades of grass on my paintings.
Beyond that, I find myself constantly using my palette knife collection throughout my workday in the studio. They are shockingly helpful for a wide range of tasks, even ones that are unrelated to painting. I like using this one for mixing colors on my palette and this one for detail work on the canvas.
Not only is this an important tool for me when I'm painting plein air, this rotating brush grip is huge for me when painting at home. When I'm in the studio I attach the brush grip to my easel and use it to hold paintbrushes that are still in use, but just not in that exact moment.
It's a way more convenient and mess-free option since I have a small work space and brushes usually roll around on the table and sometimes end up on the floor.
#3 - Clip On Lights
I have 3 of these clip on lights in my studio, 2 are clipped to the back of my easel and the third is used as a palette light. I feel that it's important to have a light with the same CRI as my overhead lights so that the paint mixing is as accurate as possible going from the palette to the canvas.
Because of how my studio is set up, I try to position the palette light approximately the same distance as my canvas is from the overhead lights. If you read my post about lighting you'll learn the importance of CRI and why I use 5000K bulbs for painting. The lights in the back of my easel are turned on when I need a good background for taking a photograph.
Presentation is important for social media posts and general photography in the studio and lighting might be the biggest role in how well your photos turn out.
#4 - Makeup Sponges
Believe it or not, these foam makeup sponges are extremely useful when it comes to painting. I use them particularly with oil paints for "erasing" or removing paint as well as oiling-out. To erase, I dip a corner of the sponge into my mineral spirits and am able to precisely remove paint.
To oil-out, after I apply my solution to the canvas, I use these makeup applicators to wipe off the excess before I continue working on my painting. These sponges can also produce some nice blending affects in drawing. I again always seem to find a use for them.
#5 - Shop Towels
Whether I'm using oil or acrylic paints I always have a paper towel on hand to wipe excess water or mineral spirits off the bristles. About a year ago, I found some shop towels laying around because I ran out of regular paper towels. I can't believe it took me so long to realize that a single shop towel sheet would last twice as long compared to a paper towel. These are key for me because I need something to wipe my brushes on, so it saves money, material, and is slightly more eco friendly since I'm not having to start with a new paper towel each painting session.
There you have it!
These are my go to things that as an artist I NEED on hand before starting any project, regardless of the medium. I hope you might one of two of these a helpful tool to add to your arsenal and thank you so much for reading.
Grow Your Painting Skills and Resources
Instant access to 1000s of royalty-free reference photos of landscapes and wildlife as well as step by step oil painting videos. Checkout My Memberships for more info.
I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.