My Favorite Painting Tools

In case you couldn't tell, I love to paint! As someone who started out drawing with graphite and colored pencils, I never expected myself to love painting so much. Early on, I found painting to be too difficult. It was hard to control, and it didn't give me the level of detail I wanted. Over time, my approach to art and the type of art I make has changed remarkably. I now love the fluidity and the semi-unpredictable nature that comes with painting, and I think part of that comes down to my careful curation of painting tools.

Over the years, I've tried many different tools, and I feel like I've really narrowed them down to a few favorites. This list doesn't include paints, mediums, or surfaces; it's solely focused on the instruments I use in my process. Let's take a quick look at the tools on my desk!

Palette Knife

My palette knife is probably my favorite tool. I first used one in a painting class when I was a Junior in college, and I've been using it ever since. For starters, it's the best way to mix paint. I don't know how I ever used my brushes to mix paint before, but I guess that explains fraying and paint-clogged bristles. If you don't have one yet, do your brushes a favor and pick one up. They're also great for mixing mediums and additives into heavy body paints.

Palette knives are also fantastic for applying thick layers of paint and adding texture to a piece. I like to use my palette knife to scrape away sections of paint, too. There are just so many different uses for them, and I've found them to be an essential tool when painting. The one above on the left is the first one I ever bought, and it's still my preferred style of palette knife to this day.

Old Gift Card

I really enjoy using objects in unconventional ways, and that's true in my artistic practice, as well. One of the things I use a lot is this old plastic gift card I got years ago. It's the flexible plastic kind, and it works really well for scraping and applying paint to canvas. I also like using the edges to add lines and texture to my work. I mix up what ever color I need with my palette knife first, and then I drag the gift card through paint before putting it to the canvas. It's such a fun thing to use, and I like that it's not something normally thought of as an art tool.

Flat Brushes

When I first started painting, I only liked using filbert brushes. I wanted everything to be perfectly blended and smooth. And, while they're still perfectly fine, my current preferred brushes are of the flat variety. I like the harsh edges they lend themselves to. And the blocky strokes they make are really speaking to me at the moment. I don't have any particular brand I like the most, but I always pick synthetics over natural brushes. (If I were working with oils, I'd pick natural bristles instead.) If you've never tried them yourself, I recommend grabbing a couple in your favorite size and experimenting with the different lines and stokes.

Neutral Grey Palette

I've been using this palette brand for 5 years now, and I still love it. Working on a neutral grey palette helps you see the true hue of the color you're mixing up, so these pages are perfect when it comes to paint mixing. And, while this one is disposable, I use it until so much paint has built up on it that I can't mix paint on it anymore. For example, the one above is still really fresh; there won't be much grey showing when I'm done using it.

One of these pads lasts me almost 2 years! I also like that it's flat; the compartment type palettes don't work well with my mixing style. Bonus: I can't break this palette like I can with a glass one. If you're in the market for an easily transportable and color-friendly palette, this one is great! I tape mine around a small masonite board for extra support, but I'm sure it works just fine as is.

Plastic Cutting Board

This cutting board was a move-in "gift" from some apartment complex we lived in years ago. I already had a solidly supplied kitchen, so I decided to use this with my art supplies instead. At this time, we were living in pre-furnished places, and I didn't want to get paint on my desk. So I put this under my rinse water jar along with a paper towel for drying my brushes. As you can see, this little thing has kept a lot of surfaces safe from my haphazard rinsing and drying. It's not cute, but it's so incredibly useful! Plus, I can leave a paper towel there overnight and get another use out of it the next day. I definitely love having this in my tool kit.


I hope my supply list gave you some ideas for what to include in your studio or inspired you to experiment with different tools to find the perfect ones for your practice! Do you have anything you think I should be using? Or a question about something above? Drop me a line through my contact page! I would love to hear from you.

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Thanks for reading and happy creating!