the essential basic kit

As a painter, sometimes we are so eager to grow quickly, especially in the early years, that we tend to invest in too many tools, materials and gadgets. Worst yet, it’s easy to get confused and we end up investing in the wrong tools altogether!

I am not a fan of having every gadget under the sun, every paint tube in the rainbow and a tool for every single job but I have, over time, found that some tools are just worth it.

See also
Top Tools I wouldn’t be without

The essential basic kit


Student grade or artist quality?

Artist quality paints offer of truer and more intense colour for a higher price. This is useful when painting in glazes and layering using mediums. However, student grade paint production has developed hugely in the last few decades. The pigment is now truer in colour and if you are painting wet on wet, as I do, there is no need to add medium or filler. So there is really not a big advantage in using the Artists grade pigment.

I love Windsor and Newton’s Winton paint. The colours are richly saturated and it moves like butter :-)

What colours do you need?

Well, you don’t need every paint under the rainbow. You and I both know that if you want a particular colour you will probably not be able to put your hand to it and may even forget you have it. So a trimmed downed palette is the way to go.

And…we can mix any colour on the colour wheel from the following bunch of colours. I can prove this!

I use Evans for paint, great value and they deliver.

Windsor & Newton Winton 37ml Oil

Titanium white
Cadmium yellow pale or chrome yellow
Lemon yellow
Alizarin crimson
Cadmium red
French ultramarine
Cerulean blue
Sap green
Burnt Umber
yellow ochre – Nice to have but not essential

You will also need an acrylic for drawing out your composition on the canvas

Windsor & Newton Galleria Acrylic

Burnt Umber 60ml

You can also get them at any of the Irish Art suppliers such as Evans Art Supplies, Cork Art Supplies, Premier Art and Art and Hobby or at Dick Blick in the US.


Winsor & Newton Galleria Short Flat no 8, 12 & 14 (8 & 12 would be fine) pricey but, if looked after, they will last a long time.

Budget options. In Ireland, I recommend ArtnHobby (Create range) and Sostrene and Grene in Dublin and Cork for great value. These won’t last forever but the are cheap as chips.

Wipe out tool

This is super useful for signing your name. One larger canvas I simply use the end of a paint brush but on small canvases, this is the perfect tool.

Palette knife

Go to have one small and one larger.


Cleaning brushes

Brush cleaner/paint thinner

OK. I love Zest-it. And when I say love, I mean Love! (Turps is an awful thing that really has no place in our airspace. Nough said!) I use Zest-it to just remove the worst of the paint from the brush so a bottle of Zest-it will last a long time so start with a small bottle like this.

If you can’t get it in your part of the world try Gamsol or Winsor & Newton Sansodor will do.

When finished painting, I wipe the brush clean using zest-it then finish the job with Fairy liquid -not a cheaper alternative as they really don’t work.

If you are in the states you can use Dawn liquid soap or Murphy’s soap.

Brush cleaner container

I use these twin dippers. These dippers take a small amount so not too much fumes. Just use a little at a time. They also have lids which is good but are not as tight a seal or airtight as the one below. Oh and there’s room for water too.

Airtight brush cleaner

If you feel the effect of fumes then this one is a good choice. The gunk drops to the bottom and the clear useable liquid stays on top, so very little wastage. It seals air tight to stop any fumes escaping. Cons: It’s big so I just pour in just enough and no more.

Canvas boards or panels


I’m a big believer in starting small. We learn as much from one small painting as we do on a large canvas that might take us much longer to complete.

I recommend these small sizes for my workshops as well as for general use.

8×6, 8×8, 10×8, 10×10, 10×12 inches

You can also get them at any of the Irish Art suppliers such as Evans Art Supplies, Cork Art Supplies, Premier Art and Art and Hobby.


I like this range. N.B. If you are coming to my painting workshop, you will not need any larger canvases.


Ok, I should tell you that I often use a piece of plywood.  I get it from the local DIY store and my neighbour cuts it to the size of my space. However

I also use two other palettes, both work well.

This is a timber palette that I use. Sometimes I use two laid beside each other.

and this is an acrylic palette. It’s actually not a palette at all but works really well and it’s easy to scrape the paint off after use. Tip: Place it on a neutral coloured surface underneath, not white.

For workshops this tear-off palette is super useful

Kitchen paper towels 

I use these to wipe my brushes. Rags are a disaster and baby wipes are too wet and expensive. I also get mine in my local Aldi whenever I see them.

Baby wipes

Never be without the baby wipes.

No matter how good you are, there is always a spot of paint on your hands, your phone, your face. Baby wipes are perfect for such moments. I get mine wherever I see them cheapest.


Ring-bound sketchpad for sketching

Budget A4 ring bound 

Hard back A4 ring bound

Budget A5 ring bound

Soft sketching pencils

Here’s an assorted pack of 6 for sketching but one 2B will do.

Thin charcoal

One box will go a long way and are useful for any sketching.

If you’re coming along to my paint g workshop you will need a pen and notebook. I recommend using it as an opportunity to begin journaling.


A soft clean household painting brush – to use to remove dust or hairs (two many animals in my house) before varnishing. I never use this for anything else. This one is perfect

Retouching Varnish Spray – I never use Liquid varnish anymore. It drips and is more difficult to apply than the spray. I also only use retouching varnish. This is important because it can take many months for an oil painting to dry and using retouching varnish will allow the oil to continue to dry after application.

You must use a mask when spraying the varnish. This is the one I use.

also check out Top Tools I wouldn’t be without

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