4 Useful Homemade Accessories for Art

When you go into art shops and stores there are so many things you could buy other than the basics like the paper, the paints and the palette.  It can be really daunting because you begin to feel that you need everything and then you start thinking that perhaps drawing and painting is going to be too expensive.

It doesn’t have to be that way, it is nice of course to have all the accessories and gadgets on offer in these stores but you can still develop your art without many of them.  I wanted to share a few simple tools or accessories that you can make at home yourself that could make drawing and painting a bit easier.

A Drawing Board

A drawing board can be as simple as a piece of hardboard like this one seen below.  This type of wood is extremely cheap to get hold of, often you can ask for an off cut in an DIY store and get hold of one for a few pounds.  You could also look out for things with a hard back that you could use as a drawing board such as an old table top, trays etc.

Using a drawing board for drawing offers more flexibility to draw at different angles
Using a drawing board for drawing offers more flexibility to draw at different angles

Why do I need one?

Drawing boards are handy because they allow you to draw with your paper at an upright angle.  This can make the observation, measuring etc. process more accurate. They also make you more mobile as you can take the board with you wherever you like so you are more likely to move towards or around subject rather than drawing a subject from where the table is.

A Viewfinder

A viewfinder is basically a square or rectangle shape that allows us to frame a composition for drawing or painting.  They can be made without too much effort from paper, plastic or card. See my post What is a Viewfinder?

A viewfinder is a useful tool
A viewfinder is a useful tool

The simplest viewfinders can be made by just cutting out a square or rectangle from a piece of paper like this one shown above.  This type of viewfinder may not last very long as the paper will become damaged.  You may want to make a more durable version out of card or plastic.

Why do I need one? 

A viewfinder is useful for trying out different compositions, producing thumbnail sketches and framing images.  They tend to make artists more experimental because it is so easy to try out a composition or viewpoint just by holding up the viewfinder. They are just like using a camera where you look through the viewfinder to see a picture before you take it.

A Colour Isolator 

A colour isolator is simply a way of looking at colours in isolation so you can work out what the colour is.

Homemade accessories and tools for art
A colour isolator can isolate a colour making it easier to identify

You can make a colour isolator by simply hole punching a piece of paper like the one seen above.

Why do I need one?

Being able to identify colour is important for painting.  They are useful when you are looking at something that is all one colour at first glance like this plant which appears to be all one green at first glance.  There are in fact many different shades of green but they are hard to see, isolating colour makes them identifiable next to one another.

Acetate Grid 

A grid is useful for drawing, it is a way of mapping out a drawing or scaling up.  See my post What is Scaling Up? if you are unsure what this means.  Artists have used grids for centuries as a tool to help them with drawing and most don’t consider it cheating!  You can make one by drawing a grid on a piece of acetate.  You could also stick the grid into a viewfinder to provide a frame like the ones seen below.

Grids on acetate and within a viewfinder
Grids on acetate and within a viewfinder

Why do I need one?

If you are struggling with proportions, or you want to scale up a photograph or image that you are copying then a grid is a useful tool.

I am sure there are many other useful homemade DIY art accessories you could make, if you have any ideas do share with other readers!

4 Mistakes Beginners Make

I wanted to write a post about some of the common mistakes I see beginner learners make when they take up drawing and painting.  These are not so much mistakes creating the art but more mistakes that are to do with materials.  All these things are very easy to avoid by just knowing about them, so hopefully this post will stop a few of you from making them!

The Wrong Paper

This is a very common problem where learners buy one sketchpad and expect to be able to do everything in it.  Drawing sketchpads have cartridge paper in them which is not suitable for painting especially watercolour.  The result is that the paper buckles and warps as it is not absorbent enough for the water content of the paint.  See my post Which Sketchpad? for more advice.

Which Sketchpad?
Which Sketchpad?

One Brush For Everything! 

Most beginners have a few brushes but sometimes I meet a learner who has only one type of brush.  This will limit the type of strokes you can make and especially if the brush is small it will be slow to create backgrounds.  I recommend at least five brushes.   See my Art Materials  page for more advice and my post The 4 Most Useful Brushes.

You need more than one brush
You need more than one brush!

Wrong Palette For The Paint Type

This is a common mistake because the first type of palette you buy will probably be a plastic palette.  Acrylics dry fast and will stick to the plastic palette and end up very difficult to remove once dry.  Use a ‘Stay Wet’ palette or porcelain palette to solve this problem.

Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!
Acrylic paint used on a plastic palette is very difficult to remove once dry!

Not Experimenting

Learning to draw and paint is about observational skills, but part of it is also getting to know materials.  You can’t learn about materials if you have never tried them. Every term I meet a few learners who are not very keen to try out media.  Although I understand not everyone wants to go out and buy the whole art shop it is important to try things if you want to progress. How do you know if you don’t like charcoal or pastels if you have never tried them?

Give different media a try!
Give different media a try!

Forgetting The Background!

I see a lot of ‘floating’ objects in my beginner art classes.  Try to add a background or at the very least put the surface of the table, windowsill etc. in your drawing.  Adding a background gives the piece context and is an important part of the story.

A shadow where the pot meets the table tells the observer that the light is hitting the object from above for example.  Shadows are important for helping to make the object/subject look three dimensional.  I have written a post all about backgrounds called Why You Shouldn’t Forget the Background! do read this for more useful advice about the background and why it is important.

Also see my Art Materials and Art Problems Solved for more advice.