Freelance advice

Shopping art supplies online: how to decide on colors

shopping art supplies online picking colors

As I’m writing this we’re still full on in a pandemic. Going to the shops is not easy over here so many people, including myself, resort to online shopping.
With art supplies this can be tricky. Deciding on colors of paint or pencils is difficult to do online. You want to see the colors. But sometimes that isn’t an option.

Here are a few of my tips to buy art supplies online!

This blog post contains affiliate links from Jackson’s Art (UK) and Splendith (NL). This means that if you order through these links, I get a small percentage. This way you support me so I can write more articles.

It’s really difficult to order the color you have in mind online. I’ve bought plenty of ‘wrong’ colors, that looked totally different online. Online shopping will always be a bit of a gamble. In no way can buying online outweigh buying in a shop, but in these times you might have to. I did learn along the way and here I will share my lessons with you!

Basic colors

If it’s your first time ordering art supplies online, or if you find it difficult to start, I recommend getting an introductory set. These sets often have a small range of several colors including primary colors. They’re the starter set to get you going.

I don’t recommend buying really large sets, as you will find that you won’t use them all. I heartily recommend starting with a basic set and adding more colors as you go.

My recommendations:

The mighty color wheel

Get a color wheel and get clear what colors you need/want. This depends on what you plan on making, because making landscapes might require more greens and blues, whereas painting portraits might require browns, blues and pinks.

If you’re going for a standard range, I suggest getting colors in the primary range: blue, red and yellow. Add different tones in those ranges, like ochre yellow, light blue and pink.

Then, go to the secondary colors: purple, green and orange. If you get colors in all ranges, you are sure you have a good selection to choose from. Don’t forget to add browns and black.

What I do is writing down what ranges I need. When I have in mind what I globally need, follows the next step…

Using color charts

Some great online art supply shops offer so called ‘color charts’. If you have a particular brand or medium in mind, you can order a chart that has a range of their colors on it.
Some have hand painted swatches, which costs about €14 but if you imagine it will save you from buying the wrong color, you’re saving money already 😉 Honestly, I wish someone had told me about the existence of color charts.

The best color charts are those who have hand painted swatches, but in general all color charts are better than no color charts.

Checking Google images

Sometimes color charts are not available so you have to Google your way to the right color. I have a few favourite brands for tools. I very much like Golden, Lascaux and Winsor & Newton for making my paintings. Often, art supply shops don’t picture very clearly what the color actually looks like. If I don’t have a color chart on hand, I do the following: I Google ‘brand + type + color’.

For example, if I want to have an idea what Naples yellow of Golden acrylics looks like, I type “Golden acrylics Naples yellow”, and click ‘images’. Now, several websites will show me the color. You will see immediately that different websites show different colors. If there are photos with the actual tube or jar on it, that helps greatly! You can then see what the color looks like approximately.

Trial and error

In the end, even if you buy colors in an art supply shop, it’s a matter of trial and error. Once you’ve tried it in your work you will find that you prefer certain colors and brands over others. But I hope these tips will help you a bit on making a start!

shopping art supplies online

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