I am a believer that you can make great art with affordable supplies.

There are those that believe you need to have the best of everything in order to make great art and be considered an artist.

First of all that is not true, second of all many of us cannot afford the upper end of artist level art supplies. What answer you get when you ask that question all depends on who you ask.

If you ask and the answer is you get is you need the costly brand supplies that may just discourage you from attempting that art and feeling bad about the fact that you can’t afford the pricey supplies.

Example of affordable art


This painting right here is done with a bic pen. Back when I was in school that was the cool pen to have and there weren’t many choices at that time.

That is also an amazing piece of art. If you type in Bic Pen Art into your google search you will find many amazing examples of art done with a pen that cost less than a dollar.

This artist did not need pricey supplies to do art. He needed experience and skill in his medium.

What can you do if you want to make Pastel art and have a budget.

First I would say I personally think that paper is a major important factor in many art mediums. I have seen people make amazing art with cheap supplies, but I have also seen people make bad art with good paint supplies and cheap paper.

So if you were going to invest in a better level of a supply I would say start with decent paper. You will find it will make a lot of difference.

Lets talk pastel paper

You can make your own pastel paper.

If you truly can’t afford good paper, or you are afraid to use good paper cause you aren’t sure what you are doing I have an affordable solution.

Buy some inexpensive watercolor paper, I prefer hot press paper it is a bit smoother than cold press.

Purchase a bottle of Liquitex clear gesso medium. You can use a nice size flat brush or a foam brush which ever you like.

I use watercolor paints to but a underpainting down on the watercolor paper first. Then put down a light layer of gesso going from left to right across your paper. Be sure to brush it out so you don’t leave strong brush marks.

Let that dry, or use a mini heat gun to speed up the drying process. This will dry clear so you can see the underpainting beneath the gesso.

Next add a second layer of the gesso now layering it from top to bottom and also brushing it out smoothly. I add 2-3 layers like this. Thin layers is better than one thick one.

What Kind of paper can you get if you want to purchase pastel paper?,

There are as many answers to this as there are artists. Everyone has a preference. My answer is if you can afford good pastel paper go for it. It’s worth it and you will see a huge difference in your outcome as you learn pastels.

Uart sanded pastel paper.

The paper I like most and have used even while I was learning is Uart 400 sanded pastel paper.

Pastels need a tooth to work well and this pastel paper is one of my favorites. I also suggest you purchase it in large sheets you can find at DickBlick.com and cut it down to workable sizes.

Consider working on small paintings at first so your paper goes farther and until you build up some skill. It’s much less intimidating.

Beginner Mindset

It is easy to think you can use cheap paper when you are just starting out. You may also think I’m not good enough yet so I don’t want to waste money on good paper. This is a common thought even among experienced artists.

What I can tell you from years of art experience in different mediums is that paper matters and if you get better paper you will see better results especially with soft pastels.

And when you see better results you will want to try harder to learn more.

There is nothing worse that seeing someone disappointed in their paintings time after time and you try to tell them get better paper and they don’t want to invest in it till they get good.

But as an experienced artist, you also know the paper is one of the things that will make them better.

Soft Pastels and hard pastels on a budget.

Yes, there are brands out there that are affordable in both soft and hard pastels. I say buy what you can afford and enjoy your art and when you can afford better buy better.

But in the meantime, you should not stop yourself from enjoying pastels as art because you can’t dive in at the top level of supplies.

There will always be people in art groups that will say higher end products are the only way to go.

But also know starting with the affordable end of art supplies is also very doable.

Hard Pastels

Hard pastels are great for detail and under-paintings. The best ones I have tried are Prismacolor Nupastels.

Nupastels are hard sticks that lay down nicely and are great to work with. They come in several different size sets up to the largest 96 piece set.

Nupastels 96 set

The 96 piece set can be found for around 80 dollars with smaller size sets being less money. If you watch around holidays you can even get the larger set for much less. Last christmas I got the 96 piece set for 51.00.

Buy the size set you can afford.

Soft Pastels

Soft pastels come in different ranges of softness. From firm soft to medium soft , to soft to ultra soft.

I personally prefer to do most of my painting with the firm to med soft and have a small set of buttery soft for the final top layer.

Now pastels can get very pricey when you buy into the big names in pastel making like Unison, Mount Vision, Great American and many more. And who doesn’t wish they had all those wonderful pastels.

I wanted to do pastels but I had a limited budget and was determined to try out less costly sets to see what quality they were and what I could paint with them.

I have been an artist for over 30 years and have worked in several mediums.

With my budget in mind and wanting as many colors as I could afford I set out to try some of the lower price pastel brands.

Faber Castell soft pastels

This is a 72 piece set of soft pastels and I would say they are more on the medium hardness of soft pastels.

There is a nice selection of colors and you can do a lot with this. Each pastel is about 1 inch long but this goes a long way in a small painting.

They are a student grade pastel but I like them and would definitely buy them again.

This set runs about 30.00 on Amazon and is a good starter set.

Mungyo Gallery soft pastel squares

This is a 72 piece set of soft pastels in squares and is a very nice set. They are made in India.

They are larger sticks, they lay down and blend nicely and come in this nice wood case. I would consider these also on the medium hardness of soft pastels.

You can find this Mungyo set on Amazon here. It runs 51.00 at the time of this post. I use these all the time.

This pastel painting of colorful clouds was done with this set of Mungyo pastels and a few of the Mungyo Gallery handmade soft pastels on uart 400 paper.

Mungyo Gallery Handmade Soft Pastels

These Mungyo handmade pastels are even softer than the set listed above. To me, they compare with some of the Name brand soft pastels.

This set of 30 goes for about 43.00 on Amazon and you can find them here.

Mungyo gallery soft pastels set 72

They are worth the investment to have a few colors on the softer side for the top layers of your painting. I recommend them they are great for a starter set.

I would buy this set again, it even comes in a larger set I would also purchase that whole set when I can afford it.

This Painting was done using both sets of Mungyo pastels, a few nupastels, and a few Faber Castell soft pastels.

So you see you can achieve great results with affordable products.

The pink clouds was painted on uart 500 paper.

This piggy was also done using the pastel brands mentioned above. It was painted on watercolor paper.

I painted in an underpainting in watercolors and then put on 3 layers of gesso. I then went it with all my pastels mentioned above and painted him up.

Painted on gesso watercolor paper with all the pastels mentioned in this post.

What should you start with and what does this all cost.

I would recommend the nupastels as a starter set. Buy the largest set you can afford.

And either the set of 72 Faber castell soft pastels or the Mungyo square soft pastels. They also come in a small set. This set of 48 is 30.00 on Amazon and you can find ithere.

For a beginning investment of about 60 dollars for 2 sets the nupastels and a small set of one of these two you can start on your pastel journey.

Add in some paper and you are on your way.

Now if you wanted all the ones I list above.

Nupastels 96 set 80.00

Mungyo Handmade soft 30 piece set. 43.00

Mungyo Gallery 72 piece set 51.00

Faber Castell 72 Piece set 30.00

Total for all this 202.00 and you would have a 270 piece pastel collection of pastels in different hardness and softness and lots of luscious colors to start your pastel journey.

And for paper you could do the gesso over watercolor paper and when you are ready you can upgrade from that to the Uart 400 natural at Dick Blick.

If you want to try the Uart 400 I suggest buying the larger sheet. Get the 21×27 sheet for 8.56. Cut it down to 8×10 squares and that would give you 6 sheets of 8x 10 paper to work with for each large sheet you buy.

That comes out to 1.42 a sheet.

If you buy the pre-cut sheets package on Amazon you will get 10 -9×12 sheets which isn’t much larger for 28.12.

That comes out to 2.81 a sheet. Just about double the price.

I prefer to paint on 8×10 as its smaller, I don’t feel so intimidated by paper size, I paint it faster and I use less supplies to cover the paper than I would if I painted larger.

And when you get good and want to invest in a wad of paper so you can paint through it without worrying about paper cost you can get the roll.

The roll of Uart 400 is about 170.00. It is 56 inches wide and 10 Yards long.

That’s 56 inches wide and 30 feet long.

Say you cut that up into 9×11 sheets. You would get 195 sheets of paper and the cost per 9×11 sheet would be .86 cents a piece. That’s very affordable.

Just think of all the art you could do!

What is the conclusion

I hope that first this post shows you that you can buy into this medium affordably.

And that with a bit of skill you can certainly do good art with affordable supplies.

There is no reason to think you have to have lots of money to be a pastel artist.

It takes desire and practice and learning to get good at any art. Invest in that and you will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish.

There are also plenty of free pastels videos on youtube that can teach you the basics, that will be another article so check back soon.

There are also several pastel artists on Patreon for under 8.00 a month you can watch their videos and learn.

I hope this encourages you to forge on ahead with your art dreams. If you have any questions you can always reach me on facebook.

I am always happy to help and answer any questions you may have.